Monday, May 23, 2016

Potting Shed Podcast Season 2: Episode 20

Have you ever been impatient for seeds to grow in your life? In this episode I'm talking about our tendency to force outcomes, and how we need to be patient instead.

Books referenced include the Frog & Toad stories by Arnold Lobel, and Rob Bell's How To Be Here.

Don't forget my latest book Sight Lines: Clearer Vision, Closer Dreams is available to download from Amazon.

If you're not subscribed to The Potting Shed Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher or any other means then feel free to listen directly below!

If you'd be willing to leave a review of the show the links are here for iTunes and here for the UK Podcast Directory.

To listen to the show via stitcher the link is here.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Going off-road...

It's time to get off road!
The main way I stay fit (ish) these days is running. I’ve incorporated it into my daily commute, but I also love to head out off-road and just run.
"Personally I’ve never enjoyed running on a treadmill"
It’s a great way to clear my head, give my brain some space to let ideas percolate, and be connected with the natural environment.

I used to do more running than I do now, and it’s a habit I want to get back into. Personally I’ve never enjoyed running on a treadmill in a gym, although I can understand why many people do. I much prefer feeling the wind in my face, listening to the sounds of nature and getting muddy.

Above anything else it's the sense of unplugging that I appreciate the most. Running from screen time, alerts, social media updates and the general distraction and white noise of 21st century life. Time on my own, away from traffic in its many forms is good for my soul.
"Above anything else it's the sense of unplugging that I appreciate the most."
Get off the treadmill!
On the physical side, it’s well documented that off-road running has many benefits over treadmill running. Fresh air aside, the different surfaces and uneven levels cause you to vary your stride pattern and generally take shorter steps – this puts less strain on your knees but also is good for your balance as you work different muscles.

Overall your technique will improve as you strengthen your ankles and have a better core workout. You're also likely to encounter more challenge in the form of uphills than the level treadmill, so it's likely to be a better aerobic workout too.

Treadmills often provide too much cushioning, causing you to overstride – conversely running on hard surfaces such as concrete and tarmac can cause more impact stress.

Trail running seems to strike a good balance in terms of resistance without undue stress - you're likely to get fewer injuries.

Variation is a good thing, something that treadmills don't provide! So taking yourself off road is a good way to avoid monotony.
“Adventure may hurt you, monotony will kill you”
While I was Googling the benefits of trail running, to help with ideas for this post I came across this blog, with it's great tag line “Adventure may hurt you, monotony will kill you”. That really struck me. Isn't it true that so often in life we look on the adventurous path as the one with the most risk, when perhaps the monotonous "safe" path is the one that's silently killing us?

The landscape through which I love to run...
Perhaps in your life you feel a little like you’re on a treadmill, in which case my question this week is how can you take that area of your life off-road?

It might not be a big thing, like handing in your notice, but it could be changing the environment in which you go through your regular routines.

Is there someplace different you can go to inject some fresh air into your art, creativity or regular routine?

Do you need to do something different with your technique perhaps? Work some different muscles, take some different strides?

Whilst I maintain that routines, rhythms and habits are good for us, in my own experience it's easy to get stuck in a rut, whether that's blogging, podcasting or anything else. I took my writing off-road earlier this year when I took the step to pause my weekly blogging habit to focus on finishing my latest book.
"How can you take your life off-road?"
Likewise with my podcasting at the beginning of the year I switched to finite seasons rather than just doing weekly or bi-weekly shows infinitely. In both cases I felt my technique and motivation improved straight away, and it was good to do something different. In fact it was pretty liberating. In the same way, when I used to work in an office in the New Forest it was liberating to don my running gear, slip on my trainers and go for a lunchtime run. I was always more productive in the afternoons when I'd been running at lunch.

So taking this post off-road, to finish I want to share a piece of prose I wrote way back in 2009 in an earlier incarnation of Musings for the Potting Shed. This is the account of one of my favourite runs from when I used to live in Southampton. Enjoy!


Wake up - it's dry but overcast. 
Perfect for running. 
Have a banana and a cup of tea while I wake up.
Kit on, slip into my trainers (elastic laces for triathlon), put on my watch. 
Out of the front door, right and downhill to the bottom of the road - remember to start the stopwatch. 
Past the bus stops and the row of three shops on my left, then turn left, over Tanners Brook and up the steep hill to the General Hospital. 
Pass the Hospital on my right, uphill all the way, then across the traffic lights and past house after house on my left. 
Southampton Municipal Golf Course is on my right, through the trees, but I press on, still uphill, the tarmac giving way to gravel then sandy paths as I enter Lordswood
It's cool and shaded amongst the trees and rhododendrons, the air is moist. 
Dodging puddles it's uphill all the way to the motorway bridge, I know I'm close when I can hear the barking from the kennels. 
Left before the bridge instead of straight over, and past the giant mansions before sweet downhill on the wide sandy paths, flanked by row upon row of pine to each side. 
Nodded hellos to early morning dog walkers, jumping puddles, adrenalin pumping, endorphins bringing a smile to my face. 
Sharp right at Tanners Brook then pounding along beside the brook, full of yesterdays rain, right again at the first footbridge then left over the second footbridge and up the steep gradient to the main road. 
Through the underpass, footsteps echoing, then along alleyways between the houses. 
Into a small wood until bursting into bright sunlight on the other side, warm on my face and shoulders. 
Right, nice and flat along the road, past two roundabouts then left and downhill, lifting up the pace back to the front gate. 
Five miles and brilliant.


*************

Thanks for taking the time to read Going Off-Road. If you've enjoyed it please share it with your friends on social media! Why not subscribe to The Potting Shed Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher for expanded musings and much more (direct RSS feed is here). 

Don't forget my new book Sight Lines: Clearer Vision, Closer Dreams is now available to download from Amazon, along with my previous book Life Space: Give Your Dreams Room To Grow.

I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to comment below or email me at stricklandmusings@gmail.com, and please sign up to my mailing list.


My Random Musings

Monday, May 16, 2016

Potting Shed Podcast: Season 2, Episode 19

In this episode I'm talking about how we can get the energy flowing again after blowing a creative fuse.

Don't forget my new book Sight Lines: Clearer Vision, Closer Dreams is now available to download from Amazon!

If you're not subscribed to The Potting Shed Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher or any other means then feel free to listen directly below!

If you'd be willing to leave a review of the show the links are here for iTunes and here for the UK Podcast Directory.

To listen to the show via stitcher the link is here.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Embracing weird.

Keep Austin Weird!
It's a common theme in the news. Local shops forced to close down due to an influx of national chain stores taking over the high street. Go to most major cities, even many smaller towns and you'll find that the same brands and names predominate. It seems almost Darwinian, survival of the fittest.

And yet there are places where variety is prized over homogeneity. Market towns and craft districts where individual retailers and artisans have opened up shop and where there's not a national chain in sight. Hotbeds of diversity, where the bottom line tends towards relationship and quality rather than quantity and profit. There's a vibrancy you don't find in a mall.
"There are places where variety is prized over homogeneity"
In Austin, Texas, a movement sprung up to resist the tide of commercialisation and homogenisation of the city. At its heart was the slogan "Keep Austin Weird", which began to appear on bumper stickers, on tee shirts and around the city. The point was about the city embracing its uniqueness rather than becoming a clone of many other major cities. It was about celebrating difference and diversity rather than enforced conformity.

The truth is that we're all a bit weird aren't we? We might try to cover it up to fit in to socially accepted norms, but the danger of covering up or holding back is that we can end up trying to be something we're not. Like a cloned high street we can surrender parts of our identity.
"The truth is that we're all a bit weird aren't we?"
We're all a bit weird aren't we?
It's our quirkiness that makes us stand out, that often attracts people to us. When I interviewed Alex Pellew and Martin Amor for The Potting Shed Podcast they touched on this very thing, especially with regard to entrepreneurship. Customers value passion and people, and not everyone wants to engage with big business.

Their point was that you don't have to become something you're not - like an aggressive contestant on The Apprentice - to create something great. So embrace who you are and be true to that.

The other day I asked for suggestions on social media for where I could locally get some balsa wood for a craft project I was doing with my daughter (if you really want to know, we were making a big Blue Peter badge, and the balsa wood was for making the ship logo).

I was pointed in the direction of a local specialist model train shop. I'd never been before but one Saturday afternoon in the torrential rain my son, father-in-law and I took a trip there. The shop was amazing! It felt like a converted house - it's certainly the same size, and in the front room were shelves and displays stocked with amazing model trains, scenery, track and accessories. My four year old took great delight in counting the trains (until he lost count).

Through the back the shelves were rammed full of magazines and books on the subject. I was led upstairs where there were further stockpiles of accessories and raw materials - including the balsa wood I needed. Even on a rainy Saturday afternoon, although we were the only ones in the shop, their phone kept ringing. Plenty of people are passionate about model trains.
"I think weird is the new normal."
I'm not into model trains, but I admire the passion of the people running that shop - it feels like they're living the dream! Their success comes from occupying and embracing a very specific niche.

Embrace your passion - even model trains!
If we want to live the life we're meant to, we need to keep weird. In fact, I think weird is the new normal.

It's often the weird bits that we're most passionate about - or to put it another way it's the things we're most passionate about which can be seen as weird.

But weird is not something to be afraid of - difference is not scary, it's uplifting! I know it's true for me that I'm most energised when I'm doing or talking about something I deeply believe in.

So follow your passion, embrace your weirdness!  That's where the energy is  - in fact it struck me that when you move energy (e) in how you're wired you end up weird. I'm not suggesting you turn up to work tomorrow dressed as a Roman soldier or Stormtrooper. BUT even in the small things you can add your own twist, insert your passion, and do it your own way.

Stay weird folks! Or, as Oscar Wilde said "Be yourself - everyone else is taken."
"Weird is not something to be afraid of - difference is not scary, it's uplifting!"

*************

Thanks for taking the time to read Embracing Weird. If you've enjoyed it please share it with your friends on social media! Why not subscribe to The Potting Shed Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher for expanded musings and much more (direct RSS feed is here). 

Don't forget my new book Sight Lines: Clearer Vision, Closer Dreams is now available to download from Amazon, along with my previous book Life Space: Give Your Dreams Room To Grow.

I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to comment below or email me at stricklandmusings@gmail.com, and please sign up to my mailing list.




My Random Musings

My Random Musings

Monday, May 09, 2016

Potting Shed Podcast, Season 2: Episode 18

In this episode I'm talking about how we can get our dreams, gifts and passions blazing.

Books mentioned included The Idea In YouHow To Be Here and The Four Hour Work Week.

Don't forget my new book Sight Lines: Clearer Vision, Closer Dreams is now available to download from Amazon!

If you're not subscribed to The Potting Shed Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher or any other means then feel free to listen directly below!

If you'd be willing to leave a review of the show the links are here for iTunes and here for the UK Podcast Directory.

To listen to the show via stitcher the link is here.


Friday, May 06, 2016

Singing to your seeds

We love Frog and Toad
I read a lot of children's books these days. Not for any lack of suitably grown-up titles to read, as I get through plenty of those too, but because I do a fair amount of reading with my own children (currently aged 4 and 6).

It’s fair to say that there is a wide range of children’s books available these days, probably more than when I was growing up. But not all books are created equal, and in terms of quality there’s a pretty wide range. Like many parents I’ve found myself reading some pretty marginal kids books – titles that are frankly a bit rubbish. 
"I read a lot of children's books these days..."
Not every story seems to have a clear beginning, middle or even end! Plenty of titles seemed to have been cobbled together to complement TV series or some kind of product. We have a word for books like this – twaddle – and it’s a constant battle to rid our house of twaddle, especially when the kids have picked armfuls of twaddly titles from the library!

There are plenty of great books out there though, from older classics to more modern favourites. And just because a book is very simple doesn't mean that it’s childish – some of the most powerful stories are the simplest. There are times I've been really moved by the emotions stirred in even the simplest of tales as I read to my kids.

A current favourite in our household, which are most definitely not twaddle, are the Frog and Toad stories written by Arnold Lobel in the 1970s. We've got a big hardback edition that’s ideal for reading together on the sofa.
"Toad cannot believe that his seeds don't sprout immediately..."
Our seed storage box
It’s Spring as I write this, and over the last few weeks we've been diligently planting various vegetable seeds either directly in the ground on our allotment, or into pots in our cold frame to sprout first before hardening off and transplanting. 

So when I picked up our Frog and Toad book over the weekend it felt like a good idea to read a story about a garden.

In the story Toad admires Frog’s garden. Frog declares that it’s hard work but worth it, and shows Toad how to plant seeds in his own garden. Toad cannot believe that his seeds don't sprout immediately (even through he’s only just planted them), and he watches all day for them to come up. At night he’s concerned they might be too scared to grow, so he sits up with candles and reads them stories. The next day he sings songs to them! 

Unsurprisingly none of this has any effect and after trying to stay up for days encouraging his seeds to grow he finally falls asleep, only to be woken the next day by Frog to point out that the seeds are finally sprouting. Toad agrees that gardening really is hard work, although I suspect Frog’s idea of hard work is somewhat different to Toad’s!
"..it’s all very well to laugh at Toad... but how often do we try and force outcomes in our own lives?"
The thing is, it’s all very well to laugh at Toad wearing himself out trying to get his seeds to grow, but how often do we try and force outcomes in our own lives? How often are we singing over our seeds, rather than letting them grow at their own pace? I'm definitely guilty at times of not trusting the process, not letting my ‘seeds’ grow naturally – we can all try too hard to make outcomes happen. Basically we’re often impatient, like Toad!

I recently read Rob Bell’s book How to Be Here – not a kids book and not twaddle. It’s an encouragement to live a great life, to try things and take positive risks. In many ways it’s about being brave enough to plant lots of seeds in your life – seeds which will help you grow into the person you’re made to be. One section which really spoke to me, and which both Toad and I could learn from, is learning to surrender outcomes. Essentially this boils down to doing what you can, creating what you feel called to create – and then letting go – surrendering it. Not forcing an outcome.

This is not easy. Especially when we've invested time and energy, heart and soul into a project or a person! For me I've planted seeds to do with blogging, podcasting, writing, songwriting and making, to name but a few. I've definitely been guilty of trying to force outcomes – singing over my seeds – rather than let nature take its course. 

We’re not defined by how quickly our seeds grow, what’s important is that we bear the right fruit in our lives, whatever that looks like. We can’t compare our seeds to someone else’s because theirs will grow differently.

There’s a Bible verse that encourages me when it comes to surrendering outcomes. It’s from the wisdom book of Ecclesiastes and it says “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.”
"We’re not defined by how quickly our seeds grow, what’s important is that we bear the right fruit in our lives"
So don’t stop planting your seeds, whatever shape they take – by all means prepare the soil and water them too. But then let’s let them grow at their own pace, and stop singing over them like Toad. Otherwise we’ll just end up wearing ourselves out.


*************

Thanks for taking the time to read Singing To Your Seeds. If you've enjoyed it please share it with your friends on social media! Why not subscribe to The Potting Shed Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher for expanded musings and much more (direct RSS feed is here). 

Don't forget my new book Sight Lines: Clearer Vision, Closer Dreams is now available to download from Amazon, along with my previous book Life Space: Give Your Dreams Room To Grow.

I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to comment below or email me at stricklandmusings@gmail.com, and please sign up to my mailing list.


My Random Musings

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Potting Shed Podcast, Season 2, Episode 17

In this episode Luke is discussing the power of storytelling, inspired by a trip to Disney World.

The podcasts mentioned are The Public Speaker, episode 338, and Home Ed Matters.

To enter the competition to win Lorien Atwood's book please sign up to my mailing list. The winner will be announced in my May 2016 newsletter after 6th May 2016.

Don't forget my new book Sight Lines: Clearer Vision, Closer Dreams is now available to download from Amazon!

If you're not subscribed to The Potting Shed Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher or any other means then feel free to listen directly below!

If you'd be willing to leave a review of the show the links are here for iTunes and here for the UK Podcast Directory.

To listen to the show via stitcher the link is here.