Am I happy with my life?

Mon 28 May – Sun 3 June 2018

Don't let small minds...A perfectly decent week though I am having one of my existential crisis. I’m getting older and time is ticking. How many years have I got left? Possibly 20 or 25 but how many of those will be in good health? Having seen my friend Brian go this year and one of my best friends James very recently, I’m just thinking – am I making the most of my life?

Am I doing (and not doing) what I want? Can I look back on my death bed, assuming that’s how I die, and say that was a life well led doing what I wanted to do? The answer is probably no. 🙁

If I could do what I want to…

Overcoming fearWhen I think about the things that would make life better, it is so much around really just doing more of what I don’t have the time to do. I don’t want to win an Olympic medal. But I would love to travel, to properly learn coding, to speak loads of languages, to lose weight, to get a better body, to read more, to do art again – once upon a time I was a good artist.

What am I going to do? I don’t know. The only thing I think I can do at the moment is just let it lie there for the time being and see what happens.

Personal Development

The importance of personal development

So many of the things I want to do with the rest of my life are linked to personal development. For me, we should continually improve, learn and educate ourselves as we go through life. And yet this is so often the area of my life where I seem to make least progress week by week.

Don't cling to a mistake

Looking back over previous blogs, I regularly talk about failing to do Duolingo every day and my success in doing coding practice regularly is pitiful. It all does come down to time; that I just don’t have enough to do the things I really want to do.

The joy of languages

Good thing to report on last week is that I did make some real progress on language learning by doing Duolingo more regularly. 🙂 My real crap day for not doing it was Wed which was probably to do with being a busy work day. I often find that in the evening, the best thing for me to do is go off to lie on the bed and play with languages as well as do some reading.

I’m sticking with my stalwart languages of French, German and Spanish plus Portuguese which is definitely my weakest of the four. But also dabbling in Italian (this is like Spanish, French and Portuguese – the Mediterranean connection). Plus also Polish and Russian for the fun of it. The latter is particularly difficult because of the cyrillic alphabet.

The electronic stuff

overwhelmed by noticesOnly a little bit of learning done around coding. I sometimes think I should give up reporting on this and even trying to do it on a regular basis. Doesn’t seem to happen. But why give up on a dream? It could still happen.

Emails take up lots of my spare time and I have had a good week making progress on keeping work and personal ones under control. That makes me happy but is it the most useful use of my limited time? Emails really are like the electronic version of Japanese knot weed – an incredibly invasive plant species.

Innovation and Creativity

Time for change – a sabbatical?

motivational pictureHave you noted the way I call this section ‘Innovation & Creativity’ but it’s almost 100% about things linked to work. Like I’m trying to convince myself that work gives me fulfilment and makes me happy. Possibly that is true – perhaps it has to be as I need money to live, I’ve got a job that some people would murder for, and most of my colleagues are brilliant.

But I can’t be 100% sure that it makes me happy and I’ve always said that we all have shelf-lives; it may be that I need to make a big shift in the coming years. I am seriously thinking about re-scheduling my postponed sabbatical that was supposed to have happened earlier this year.

Digital Design Principles

Possibly the most stimulating thing I did last week was attend and speak at the launch of the Digital Design Principles by CAST at Newspeak House. All wrapped up excellently on the internet by the brilliant developer Super Being Labs – see the webiste here. Basically CAST has created a ten commandments of how to do tech for good projects well and create digital tools that really help people. An enthusiastic audience with a great sense of common purpose – getting charities to use tech to do good and deliver better services.

My speech was about the value of projects following these principles when developing projects and presenting them for funding. I also spoke about the need to find out who else may have done similar and to look at how the service can make money to support its own ongoing upgrading.

Great to see so many good people including Darshan from Super Being Labs, Dan and his colleagues from CAST, and my old job-share Nissa. The event was recorded on Facebook Live and can be viewed here.

Carlos Miranda

Also a great meeting with Carlos Miranda on Tues afternoon. After my 5k jog-run, I popped to my gym for a shower and sauna. Then off to catch up with my mate Jamie who is so brilliant at ensuring we keep in touch and meet up regularly. Day finished off with a catch-up with Carlos. We met at the dinner at Holly Branson’s a few weeks ago. He updated me on the three exciting businesses he runs or is involved with, all with a social mission:

  • I.G. Advisors (a strategy consultancy bridging the gap between fundraisers, corporates and philanthropists);
  • Social Misfits Media (helping charities, nonprofits and social enterprises create and implement dynamic social media strategies);
  • Lightful (a media and campaign management platform that raises more awareness, support & funds for causes).

Tech for Good

A good opportunity for anyone looking for funding around doing tech for good in Kenya, South Africa or Nigeria.

Plus a great report I part-commissioned on Social Tech Eco-Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Health and Efficiency


2 sessions last week.

  • Tues morning I did a good 5K getting my best time since I started doing these 5kers. 31.18 which is nearly a minute faster than my previous times.
  • Then Sat morning. Lots of disruption on my run course. I went out early (7.30am) but still lots of places sealed off around Green Park and St James Park due to the dress rehearsal for Changing of the Guard. Did my 5k which wasn’t great (32.30 mins) and decided to carry on jogging to do an old-fashioned 10K. This was hard work. Not a disastrous time but not one of the best I have ever done. Still, pleased that I went for it.

runners making progress


3 sessions (Mon, Fri, Sun) though only achieved as Monday was a bank holiday.

  • Mon was a gentle one focusing on upper body and core to save my legs for next day’s jog-run.
  • Fri morning turned in a longer than expected session of about an hour and a half. Ultimately I had the gym to myself so I extended and changed my routine bringing in exercises I wasn’t anticipating doing. Again stimulating rather than being too challenging on my legs so as not to injure myself with (long) jog-run the next day.
  • Sun I decided to push my legs a bit as well as doing upper body. My legs were aching after the previous day’s jog-run and some pain in my right knee – my old injury. Didn’t cause myself discomfort but made sure I was pushing my leg muscles and joints to develop.

Books and Reading


Sir Terry PratchettA lovely bit of Sir Terry Pratchett read last week. I adore his Disc World series. They are fantasy comedy novels with social commentary that are genius. This one is a reflection on class and countryside life. I’m pretty sure that this was written at the height of Downton Abbey mania and it’s a cross between that programme and Upstairs Downstairs.

This book particularly amused me as it played up all the stereotypes of the countryside that I have – dull, incestuous and inward-looking. I’m a city boy. Give me the nightmare of urban living any day. Apart from forests, I like trees and woods and  forests.


autumn in londonA book by Ali Smith who is a much lauded contemporary woman author that I have never read before. And this novel is particularly acclaimed. It draws in aspects of the aftermath of the awful Brexit vote. But it’s much more than just a reflection on that.

It is a short but surprisingly complex and multi-faceted book looking back on lives and covering relationships across generations. It plays into my feeling of whether I am really happy in my life and if I would look back on it fondly without regret if something happened. Perhaps I think about things too much to ever be really happy – certainly that was one of my ex-partners used to tell me. 🙁

Dr Who audio adventure: ‘The Cradle of the Snake’

I finally reverted to one of my favourite things which is listening to Big Finish Dr Who audio adventures. Walking about I like to listen to Radio 1 (sometimes Radio 2 though I find this a bit cheesy) but I also like to find time to fall into my Dr Who comfort zone. Fondly remembered characters and the reassurance that things always work out. This one is a continuation of the stories from the Peter Davidson era about the Mara – a chaos and evil (represented by a snake tattoo) that takes over people. Silly fun but it makes me happy. 🙂

Close up purple orchid

The Week Ahead:

It’s a really busy one next week with more work stuff to be done than I am paid for.

  • I really need to think about where I am heading and what I can do to make myself happy taking away this feeling that I’m going to be left regretting a lot of the things I did not do
  • Mon is all internal stuff at work and then I have a Leadership Team away day on Wed followed by my own team (Influence) away day on Thurs
  • Tues afternoon I am part of a panel doing a tech for good personal development workshop for the Association of Charitable Foundations
  • Fri morning is internally focused again but the afternoon I can look forward to catch-ups with my external colleagues Dan Sutch of CAST and Babs Evans an old friend who is now Head of Grants at The Henry Smith Charity
  • Target of gym just twice – Tues and Sat morning. And an intention of a 10K jog-run on Sun morning (weather permitting)
  • I will finish the current reading book for the Velvet Page book club (The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth) by the time the group meets on Thurs evening at Waterstones in Piccadilly and start a new book
  • Carry on with Duolingo and keep emails under control plus try to do some coding practice…

And Finally…

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