Friday, June 10, 2016

Interview with Luke Perry

Recently I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Luke Perry, a public monuments sculptor based in the Black Country.

He's got a fascinating story to tell about how he ended up doing what he's doing, and how he connected with his family history of chainmakers!

I also had a fantastic young assistant helping me with the interview!

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, June 03, 2016

Greening the Grey

Don't do this to your lawn...
Confession: I’m quite a fan of gardening programmes. It’s probably a form of escapism, but they’re so relaxing to watch, so comforting in a way! Especially Monty Don on BBC’s Gardener’s World, with his soft voice, calm manner, cups of tea and golden retrievers.

Whilst watching a gardening programme the other week a phrase caught my attention: ‘Greening the Grey’. This is the slogan of a Royal Horticultural Society campaign to encourage people not to pave over their front gardens with hard 'grey' materials, like concrete, asphalt and block paving, but to keep them green instead, or to be more creative when making them more functional.

I can understand the main reasons why people pave over their drives. It provides more car parking and needs less maintenance for starters, but there are some negative cumulative impacts to more and more of us doing so. It's pretty lifeless for starters, removing habitat and becoming a barrier between soil and sky.

I'm an environmental consultant these days, but I started out as a civil engineer, so I appreciate both our traditional 'grey' infrastructure as well as our 'green' infrastructure. We need both, but we need to even out the balance, and there are ways to make our existing infrastructure more sustainable.
"Watching a gardening programme the other week a phrase caught my attention: 'Greening the grey'..."
There's a real push these days to increase our green infrastructure, to green the grey, on both small and large scales.  Urban creep, such as all those paved gardens, increases rainfall runoff which can contribute to local flooding. There's also the urban heat island effect - hard materials retain heat for longer leading to hotter temperatures both day and night.

Conversely green infrastructure provides habitat, urban cooling, and rainwater storage, infiltration and treatment. There are also documented health benefits when we spend time in green areas compared to living in a concrete jungle. Overall our ecosystems need more green and less grey for the health of all involved - there's more life when there's more green, something I'm passionate about.
"Overall our ecosystems need more green and less grey for the health of all involved..."
Green is good!
We had some building work undertaken last year and it's fair to say that our front lawn took a bit of a battering from our builders. It got buried beneath demolition rubble, got used for material storage, got dug up and got clogged with cement.

By the end of the build, although we had a shiny new extension (on the footprint of previous hard areas before you ask!), we didn't have much grass left at the front.

In spring I raked it all over and sowed new grass seed, and even when this had grown there were still gaps in which I've had to sow further seed.

It's been satisfying seeing it come back to life though, especially one hot and wet week in which it grew about five inches in height after I'd applied lawn feed the previous weekend. It would have been easier to pave it all over, less work, but I'm glad I've coaxed it back to life. It's worth it even just for the steady supply of dandelion leaves for my daughter's guinea pig.
"Perhaps there are parts of our life which we've chosen to pave over"
What do you need to re-seed?
There are plenty of times in life when we might feel like on old lawn - churned up or trampled on by events or people in our life. Perhaps there are parts of our life which we've chosen to pave over rather than deal with the maintenance needed.

Perhaps our hearts have become hard or cynical through rejection, disappointment or abuse. Barriers have grown up which have suffocated the life out. We've gone grey.

Maybe it's a dream, or a relationship, or a skill that we've paved over to make way for something else, but in the process we've lost some of the life associated with it.

I don't know what it is for you. Maybe you don't have any grey areas. Whatever it is, there's always opportunity to sow new seed or to apply some feed. It doesn't take much to green the grey.
Ironically I noticed my first grey hair the other day, which came as quite a shock. Although the fact that I've made it to my late 30s without noticing any is quite an achievement in my opinion. Now I have noticed quite a few more!

The good news it, grey isn’t the end. Life begins! And like the greening of our grey infrastructure, there's plenty of green, plenty of life that can be added. So don't pave over you garden, literally or metaphorically! Sow some fresh seed and feed your existing green shoots. It's time to green the grey!

"Sow some fresh seed and feed your existing green shoots. It's time to green the grey!"

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

Thanks for taking the time to read Greening the Grey. 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
Cuddle Fairy

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Door keepers and cat flaps

Are you miaowing by the door?
One of our cats seems to have forgotten how to use a cat flap. Actually this isn’t quite true. She’s perfectly able to use a cat flap. She just doesn’t want to use our new one. Let me tell you the story to explain how this came about.
"One of our cats seems to have forgotten how to use a cat flap."
Once upon a time we moved house. This house had no catflaps, but it needed a new back door anyway so we made sure a cat flap was installed in the new door. And it was good. And our cats used the catflap to go outside. Actually there was a slight problem in that other neighbourhood cats occasionally also used the cat flap to invade our house - marking their new territory (our kitchen) as they went along. This was not so good, but I digress.

One day we decided to have an extension built, meaning that the back door cat flap would no longer lead outside but instead into a conservatory. The conservatory had a new, special cat flap. A cat flap just like the old cat flap, except it would only unlock for cats whose microchip number was programmed in. This was to stop unwelcome cats coming in. And it was good. And it opened and closed for our cats, and one of our cats took to it fine and was happy going in and out.
"She'd rather meow by the new back door waiting to be let out."
But Flo, our older cat, won't/can't use it. We've pushed her through it from both directions, so she knows she can use it. But no. She'd rather meow by the new back door waiting to be let out. Frankly this is a little tiresome, but it's her loss - she doesn't get to go outside to chase birds or sit in the sun as much as she wants to.

You may be wondering why I'm sharing such a mundane story. You may not even like cats. But the reason is this - we, too, can have a 'doorkeeper' mentality when it comes to our lives, especially when it comes to out gifts, talents and dreams. We can be waiting for someone to 'make' us - to open the door to stardom, fame, a record deal, a publishing deal - whatever it is. A doorkeeper mentality places the responsibility of opening the door to success on someone else.
"We can have a 'doorkeeper' mentality when it comes to our lives."
That's a big door... look for a smaller one
Chris Anderson talks into this in his book The Long Tail. He talks about hits and misses. We all want to be a hit right? But hits are rare, and certainly in the 20th century the music industry (as an example) did largely operate on this doorkeeper approach to success.

Record executives were the gatekeepers, due to the cost and difficulty of recording, publicising and distributing music at the time. The handle was too high for 'normal' people to open the door themselves. Ditto publishing and many other industries.

But times have changed, meaning that this model is less relevant. Thanks to technology and the internet, the tools for producing and distributing your own music, writing, art, brand, message - whatever it is - are within reach. At the click of a button you have access to an audience across the world.

What does this mean for you and me? Well in the first instance, we need to take responsibility. If we want to enter the brave new world, explore new territory in our life, it's no use sitting miaowing at the door waiting for someone else to make it happen. We'll be waiting a long time. Instead, we need to look for the cat flap - a door we can open ourselves to get out and enjoy the fresh air of our dreams. The size of the door isn't important, what's important is the space it enables you to get to.
"Stop miaowing at big doors and look for the little doors instead"
Are there doors you’re waiting by that you can’t open by yourself? There is another way. Pick a smaller opening and use that – perhaps that's about going niche, finding a place in what Chris Anderson calls the Long Tail. Success isn't all about being a hit. So let's take a lesson from our cats. Stop miaowing at big doors and look for the little doors instead - you are more in control of where you go than you may realise!



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

Thanks for taking the time to read Door Keepers and Cat Flaps. 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.



Cuddle Fairy

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
Cuddle Fairy

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.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Broken circuits

Have the lights gone out?
Ever feel like whatever you're doing has stopped working? Or maybe the lights have gone out?

Perhaps you're lacking energy for a project or dream you've been working on - like you've suddenly lost power?

Every now and then, for now apparent reason, one of our lightbulbs breaks. Maybe it's just come to the end of it's life. Maybe there was a sudden power surge. Whatever the reason, the result is always the same - no light.

When the filament breaks, the circuit is broken and the connection is lost. The lights go out.

It's funny how such a small thing can have such an effect, but it shows the importance of maintaining the circuit.
"Every now and then, for now apparent reason, one of our lightbulbs breaks."
Similarly, when your appliance breaks, it's tempting just to chuck it out isn't it? It can seem too complicated to be able to fix. But what if the problem is just something tiny? What if it's just a blown fuse? Just like the blown lightbulb, when a fuse blows it breaks the circuit. It's a tiny thing compared to, say, a washing machine - so small it fits neatly into the plug - but small components are just as important as big ones when it comes to creating a working circuit.

Fuses are a form of protection, a defence mechanism really, there to prevent damage (or injury) if there's a surge of electricity. When it comes to our lives, I do wonder whether sometimes it's the small things that cause the lights to go out, that frustrate our goals and dreams - like the filament in a lightbulb or the fuse in the plug.
"Perhaps something's overloaded your system and you've blown a fuse."
Circuit breakers...
When we moved into our current house about five years ago it needed a lot of work. It had been
empty for 6 months, There were no carpets, the kitchen units were falling apart, the windows were single glazed, there was no central heating, and the electrics were in need of some attention.

As soon as we had any electrical work done, the old fuse box needed to be replaced with a set of circuit breakers. These perform a similar function to fuses, although instead of a fuse that needs replacing each time, when the circuit breaker trips all you need to do is reset the switch.

In that sense it's a much more resilient system, but even so it doesn't take much to overload the circuit. A blown light bulb sometimes trips the lighting circuit. When we were having some building work the builder's power tools would also trip the circuit breakers if plugged into the wrong circuit!
"When something in your life goes bang, don't give in to the temptation to chuck your dreams out."
Do you need to change a fuse?
Perhaps something's overloaded your system and you've blown a fuse in your life. Maybe it's disappointment, or hurt, or frustration. That doesn't mean that area of your life is suddenly worthless - your dreams, or craft or gift. Just because it's not working you shouldn't give up on it.

All you need to do is complete the circuit again. Maybe you need to recognise areas of your life that regularly go bang, and install metaphorical circuit breakers - something you can easily switch back on.

When something in your life goes bang, don't give in to the temptation to chuck your dreams out.

We're all wired uniquely, our lives a myriad of components both bug and small. Often it's the small things that cause us to lose connection with the big stuff.

Isn't it usually the case that the most effective and long lasting change in our lives comes from the small stuff? Like Sir Clive Woodwood's principle of seeking marginal gains, improving one hundred things by 1% rather than changing one thing by 100%.

Maybe we simply need to change some fuses in our life, install some circuit breakers for when we're overloaded, so we can get the lights back on and the power flowing more easily. Perhaps it's time to check your wiring, and get any broken life-circuits reconnected again.
"Maybe we simply need to change some fuses in our life..."
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Thanks for taking the time to read Broken Circuits. 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 - until early May 2016 you'll be in with a chance of winning Lorien Atwood's "Meditations of the Heart" colouring book if you're on my list! 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Starting Fires

A recent fire in our garden...
I've always enjoyed lighting fires. Not arson, I hasten to add - there's just something satisfying in laying up a fire and then seeing it gradually take light.

Growing up I had plenty of practice in fire-lighting, as we had a big open fireplace in our lounge which would often be lit on winter evenings.

I have fond memories of sitting cross legged in the lounge folding sheets of newspaper into zig-zag concertinas on to which I'd then place kindling and small logs before lighting.

The secret, I found, was to set fire to the newspaper in as many places as possible, as this gave the kindling the best chance of taking light, and therefore the fire the best chance of getting going. I learnt my lesson about trying to get a fire going with not enough kindling, or with logs that were too large or too wet. In truth, there's definitely an art to getting a fire burning well.
"I've always enjoyed lighting fires. Not arson, I hasten to add..."
Three key ingredients...
Like any good recipe, you need a few key ingredients for a decent fire. The classic "fire triangle" is fuel, heat and oxygen.

Without any one of these your fire will struggle, and I've learnt my lesson on each ingredient. In the past I've smothered fires with too much fuel, not allowing enough oxygen, and just ended up with a meekly smoking pile.

Alternatively I've not used enough newspaper or kindling to spread the heat. I've used wet wood which just dribbles and smokes, leaving me red-eyed!

I'd add to these three requirements that you also need suitable preparation - you need to lay it up first - and patience, as a blazing fire doesn't happen in an instant.

The reason I'm saying all this is that whatever your side-hustle may be, whatever your passion or craft, I think it's a lot like lighting a fire. Skills aren't acquired overnight and our ambitions or dreams rarely blaze into being fully-formed. Instead we need to start small, lay up some suitably sized kindling that we know will take light, before adding larger or more complex elements to it.
"...whatever your passion or craft, I think it's a lot like lighting a fire..."
I began to think about this comparison a few weeks ago. We'd been tidying our garden, and I'd been sorting through my wood stack - I tend to collect useful pieces of scrap wood for my various making projects, but along the way I'd also acquired plenty of not so useful pieces. So having taking a big load of old chipboard to the tip, I was left with a pile of scrap wood to burn in our fire-pit.

The Jubilee beacon... took a while to light!
My children were desperate to toast marshmallows, and were most disappointed to learn the lesson first hand that fires take a while to light!

Even at public displays it can take longer than planned for a fire to get going. For the Queen's Jubilee a few years ago a big beacon was to be lit on a nearby hill to us. We went and looked at it in the day and it was just a big pile of brush and branches (or at least that's all we could see, maybe it was laid up better underneath).

Unsurprisingly that evening it took a long time to light, by all accounts. We were watching from our upstairs windows in our house, and thought we just couldn't see it when the appointed time came (cue disappointment all round). However, by an hour or two later we could finally see it as the blaze eventually got going.
"What lessons can we apply to our passions and projects from lighting fires?"
So what lessons can we apply to our passions and projects from lighting fires? Well, in the first instance don't try and do too much too soon - overloading a fire smothers it. Don't put all your firewood on in one go - pace yourself! Perhaps you need to split your logs into smaller chunks? If your goal seems too big and overwhelming, can you 'chunk' it down into smaller sections which might 'burn' more easily?

Secondly do allow enough space for your fire to grow. Actual fires need oxygen to circulate, to fan the flames - so can you get your dream out into the open? Is there a way you can create a vent for your work? Perhaps this might be about going along to an open-mic night if you're a musician, or exhibiting your art somewhere, or submitting poems... whatever your passion how can you go public to give it room to breathe and fan the flames further?

Light several places at once..
Thirdly, perhaps you haven't got enough heat! I think this is about working to deadlines - is there some way you can apply some extra heat in that way?

This could be linked to going public - or committing to a regular routine (for instance my promise to you is that I'll write a new blog post each week). How can you heat things up?
"Is there a way you can create a vent for your work?"

In the meantime, have patience, keep folding up your metaphorical newspaper and light several places at once - you never know which part is going to "take" first...

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Thanks for taking the time to read Starting Fires. 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 - until early May 2016 you'll be in with a chance of winning Lorien Atwood's "Meditations of the Heart" colouring book if you're on my list! 
My Random Musings

Interview with Lorien Atwood

This episode I'm joined in The Potting Shed with 'compulsive doodler' Lorien Atwood, an illustrator behind an internationally popular series of 'grown up' colouring-in books.

You can follow Lorien on Instagram as @lorien_illustrations and the Facebook groups she mentioned were Colouring in Truth and Colouring with God.

To enter the competition to win Lorien's book please sign up to my mailing list. I'll announce the winner in my May 2016 newsletter.

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.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sight Lines - The story behind the book...

This week I devoted a whole episode of The Potting Shed Podcast to my latest book Sight Lines: Clearer Vision, Closer Dreams.

I share why I wrote the book, and go into a bit more detail about what it's about.

You can download the book from Amazon, and I'd be really grateful if you did!

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, April 15, 2016

Disney's folly and the power of story.

The famous castle...
My family and I spent some time recently in Florida, and one of our highlights was visiting the various Disney parks. We had a great time at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Blizzard Beach and Epcot – in fact I don’t think we could have squeezed any more Disney time out of our holiday! (My amazing wife should consider a career in holiday planning, she’s so good at it).

My children are of an age where they are entranced by Disney films and get caught up in the story (in fact I still do too). So as much as we enjoyed the rides, our highlights from visiting Disney were meeting our favourite characters, having photos taken in front of landmarks from the movies, and generally just immersing ourselves in the whole experience.

To this end we had taken plenty of dressing up and had various themed tee-shirts printed – something we had fun wearing and which elicited plenty of fun comments from the various cast members (Disney staff) around.
"My children are of an age where they are entranced by Disney films..."
I wonder whether the popularity of the parks is an example of the power of ‘story’. I read a fascinating history of Walt Disney before we left, and a hallmark of the various Disney cartoons over the years is the strong emphasis on the narrative. We get sucked in to powerful stories, and we can relate to the emotions displayed on the screen. We laugh, we cry (every time when watching Frozen) – we identify and we remember.

The inscription at the entrance to Magic Kingdom
Stories are powerful things which transport us and connect us together. Visiting the Disney parks there’s a powerful sense of shared experience, especially when you’re dressed up!

It’s funny how the things we most readily remember or identify with Disney are the feature length animated cartoons that have been produced since the 1940s. You’ve probably got a favourite few. Perhaps it’s Jungle Book, or Aladdin, or the Lion King, or the Little Mermaid, or Frozen.

Perhaps Disney’s strongest legacy is the rich history of animated films. But funnily enough, this was the idea for which Disney was ridiculed in the early days.
"Stories are powerful things which transport us and connect us together."
Disney’s early success was through short cartoons, maybe ten minutes long, which were well received by film goers in the 1920s and 1930s. He won Oscars for his characters, even then, but he had a vision for creating a full length animated film. This vision would take him years, and would require Disney studios to invent groundbreaking new ways of animating. It was so complicated to realise Walt’s vision that Snow White took much longer to produce than planned.

The media began to lose faith that this would happen. The idea for a feature length animated film became known as “Disney’s Folly”. Journalists tried watching ten animated shorts back to back to try and imagine what a feature film would be like, and published their lack of belief in the result. It seemed that no one apart from Walt Disney could imagine what a full length cartoon movie would be like.
"The idea for a feature length animated film became known as 'Disney’s Folly'..."
We love Mickey!
But finally in 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released, a gripping, beautifully animated story displaying the whole range of human emotion and character. This was truly a game changing moment, and Disney’s folly turned into Disney’s triumph. Now it seems hard not to imagine watching animated films, they are so central a part of our culture.

So what can we learn from Disney? Well, we can be reminded that stories are powerful, and that no matter what field we’re in, we can utilise the power of story to better communicate our ideas. We can also be inspired to write the best story of our own lives, taking heart from Disney’s folly – just because no one seemed to believe in Walt’s dream, that didn’t mean his dream wasn’t worth pursuing.

It’s usually the visionaries that see things that the rest of us can’t. And if those around you can’t see your dreams in the same way you can then you’re in good company. By the end he had won everyone over. He just needed to create the best story he could and that drew people in. So don’t let anyone rob you of your dreams – the world needs your vision.
"It’s usually the visionaries that see things that the rest of us can’t."
Seeing our dreams more clearly is the subject of my new book Sight Lines: Clearer Vision, Closer Dreams. Do download a copy now for more inspiration and encouragement to develop a more compelling vision for your dreams. 

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Thanks for taking the time to read Disney's folly and the power of story. 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). 

I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to comment below or email me at stricklandmusings@gmail.com 

If you want to stay up to date please sign up to my mailing list, and do check out my book Life Space on Amazon.

My Random Musings

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Potting Shed Podcast, Season 2: Episode 14

In this episode Luke expands on why routines, rhythms and habit are good for us, as well as big news on his latest book Sight Lines which is now available to download here.

Luke mentions The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Feriss and How to Be Here by Rob Bell, along with an episode of the podcast James Talks.

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


Sunday, April 03, 2016

Potting Shed Podcast - Season 2, Episode 13

This week I'm reflecting on the interviews over the past few episodes for Maker Month, and why I ran Maker Month in the first place. Also I share an update on how close I am to releasing my new book!

Listen in 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, March 25, 2016

The Idea In You

This week in The Potting Shed I was joined by Alex Pellew and Martin Amor, authors of the fantastic book The Idea In You.

They've got loads of great insight into how we can develop those ideas we all have inside of us.

To check out their fantastic Creator Community click here.

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.