Using Redundancy for Development

Mon 30 Nov – Sun 6 Dec 2020

There’s a train of thought very much cemented into the English-speaking world. It’s based around individualism: the idea people make their own destiny, and success or failure is their own fault. That responsibility for development (or non-development) of a person sits with them alone rather than wider society.

You can particularly see it in the thinking of the Victorian period with classic books such as ‘Self Help’ by Samuel Smiles published in 1859. The centrality of individualism was taken on by both liberalism and conservatism. In the twentieth century it was threatened by the rise of communism, socialism (and fascism to an extent) but has risen again with the decline of the Soviet Union.

So we are largely stuck with the idea that whether we do well or badly is based alone on our own effort. That it is not the fault of society if we are poor or uneducated or disadvantaged and that ultimately we ‘fail’. This crazy idea we all have an equal chance in the race even though we don’t all begin from the same starting line.

Clearly people do make their own lives. But we are all constrained by many factors beyond just personal ability or commitment. Some may say the point of redundancy is to improve ourselves. It’s not that simple because people deal with redundancy differently and have different opportunities around them.

I’ve been redundant for three months now and I can’t pretend it didn’t hurt – to be ‘put on the scrapheap’. And not to know if I will work again or if I will have another good role due to my age and health. Perhaps I’m arrogant but why should I take lesser employment to what I had?

This whole redundancy period has certainly not been wasted. However, in the last week I have particularly focused my time and attention on using internet opportunities to enhance my own development. And in doing so I am using advantages I have like being IT-literate and my little bit of redundancy money to fall back on.

Steve Jobs quotation

Personal Development

Languages

This stays my key area for development and delighted to say I carried on with my 100 day challenge via Duolingo; I’m up to about 130 consecutive days of usage jumping between different European languages. I am especially playing with basic Russian and Greek again because they are so wonderfully challenging. 🙂

Also trying to do my daily Drops specifically around German plus Toucan giving me random German words to learn. And with a subscription to Busuu, I’m trying to ensure the ongoing development of my Spanish ability. 🙂

Tech

As part of my personal development, I’ve decided to take on a new 100 day challenge. This one is about tech and I’m using the brilliant no-cost resource that is Free Code Camp. I am challenging myself to do at least one lesson each day. They are quite basic and I’ve deliberately gone back to the beginning which is concerned with fundamentals of HTML.

Health and Efficiency

My key aims in this area are to be able to keep on doing exercise, avoid injuries getting worse, and lose weight. The last is something I keep on trying with limited success. But as with most development, it’s that old guiding principle of ‘keep on keeping on.’

Fitness development

One of the main blessings of the internet is the amount of free webinars available. Often they end up with people selling a subscription or purchase. But they are also often useful for development in their own right. I would also encourage checking out free courses on Coursera and Class Central.

Last week, I watched a free webinar from coachparry.com about ‘Faster Beyond 50’ – running faster after the age of 50 and avoiding injury. I haven’t subscribed to the main offer yet but I found this introductory webinar really useful. Key suggestions were:

  • Take time to recover between runs
  • Go at a comfortable speed
  • Walk if you need to instead of running – you can catch up on time
  • Do strength training as well
  • Be consistent

Separately, I did take out a low cost subscription to bloomyoung.com and have done several of their 20 min exercise sessions. There are many different types of sessions including some using resistance bands. Pleased to be using these after having bought them at the start of first lockdown. My plan with the gym still closed is to use these sessions on non-run days for strength training.

Jog-runs

a form of exercise

Important to have recovery time so only 2 jog-runs last week. First one was on Wed mid-morning. Not 100% sure that my knee was OK but all went well. 🙂 Just 2 km and a slow pace but perhaps I should be slower not to aggravate my injuries.

Out again on Sat morning after two rest days. Consistency means that I need to do my jog-runs regularly and slowly increase the effort. So distance up to 2.1 km (10% increase) and did it deliberately slow which felt fine. 🙂

Weight

man weighing himself

The exciting development is that I have lost weight and am just over 13 & a half stone. The lightest I’ve been since June! Feels good and is due to exercise alongside controlled eating. It’s not easy and several times I’ve been tempted to binge but I’m trying to stay with it. 🙂

Details on jog-runs and weight here.

Sleep

Do nothing cat

Another big development is that as I am currently not a wage slave, I am letting my body wake when it naturally wants to. This does often mean I’m waking up about 8.30 am. That’s quite late for me but reflects the darker mornings and means I’m not tired during the day.

How much does the work world we create screw up the ways our bodies are supposed to naturally operate? Interesting as well that I still have dreams occasionally about my old workplace and very stressful things like losing my mobile.

Books and Reading

‘The painted bird’ by Jerzy Kosinski

Decided to read this classic cult book largely because the film is out and it’s had some fascinating reviews. It’s a book written in 1965 with an intriguing foreword about how the author was persecuted for it. It feels like autobiography but it isn’t. Rather it’s the odyssey of a young boy through eastern Europe during WWII.

Overall, it’s pretty horrific. It reminds me of a written version of one of Hieronymous Bosch’s presentations of Hell or Purgatory. Nightmare things happen to the exploited boy in this book, stuff that’s really uncomfortable and disturbing to read. It’s a book that leaves you stunned and still wondering how much is true (Primo Levi strongly recommended the book) as well as why someone felt motivated to write this if it is just a story?

‘A coin in nine hands’ by Marguerite Yourcenar

A much easier book to read following on from ‘The painted bird’ but still not a completely easy read. Yourcenar is a wonderful writer whose novel ‘Memoirs of Hadrian’ is one of my all-time favourite books.

‘A coin’ is a collection of inter-connecting stories about nine people in 1933 Rome. They are partly connected by a coin passed between them. There’s a story about an attempted assassination of Mussolini though fascinatingly that is a side story rather than the main element. A fascinating book including incisive glimpses into poverty at that time.

Plus a great afterword by the author where she reflects on what changed when she rewrote in the 1950s, the original novel she first wrote in 1934. A fascinating glimpse of the development of something.

Rows and rows of beautiful books

Velvet Page

The final one of this year with the possibility of no new ones next year. 🙁 But a complete disaster on my part in that I forgot it was happening. Only realised after it had finished on Thurs evening. Sincerely hope it is back. Nothing lasts forever but it is OK to hope things don’t end.

Art and Culture

Not that much art and culture in my life last week particularly compared to other weeks. This reflects that last week’s focus was on personal development.

However, art and culture isn’t just about distraction from everyday humdrum life. It is also about changing how we think about, look at, and understand the world. As such, it also helps with our own development.

‘Brunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles’

This was my big cultural event last week. I watched this wonderful animated film in both French and Spanish – so helping my language development. It’s the story of the making of the film ‘Tierra sin pan – Las Hurdes’ by Luis Brunuel. Information about the film can be read here. Itself a study of old Spanish rural life though the story behind the making of this famous film is fascinating in itself.

Sustainability

Extinction Rebellion

Limit spending

Frugal living continues though obviously I did spend some money on development like subscriptions to busuu and bloomyoung. Though I have been taking opportunities for reductions through events such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals. Hopefully this is productive and useful expenditure.

Go secondhand

Back to the charity shop. Took round three bags of stuff sorted during lockdown 2.0. Managed to spend £1 each on a pair of shorts and a pack of cards. 🙂

Grow plants

Spider plant

My plants are doing OK. Though, as Dave points out, winter is the time when they are not going to grow no matter how much I want them to. Rather I need to make sure I don’t give them too much love by over-watering in the hope that is what will make them flourish. Sometimes less is more. 🙂

Friends and Family

Joe

Two great friend catch-ups last week. First, with my old mate Joe. He is a good tech guy but also lives a fascinating mobile lifestyle – I’m a bit envious. He’s also an eco-warrior and I totally share his concerns around climate change. I would really recommend him if you need support around Tech for Good – workingwithjoe.co.uk

Tech for Good

Peter

Second, excellent catch-up was with another old friend, Peter. He is a priest who I met when I used to go to church more regularly and who supported me through a very difficult personal time – basically when I was having a breakdown. Now he’s pretty much tied as a carer. But also a wonderfully caring and intelligent person who it is a delight to spend time with. 🙂

Mum

Didn’t see her in person last week. Basically me, mum and Dave are in a social bubble. I wanted to see Dave once he came back on Mon from his work event in Blackpool. But I also wanted to make sure I didn’t pass anything he might have caught onto mum. So stayed at Dave’s and kept in touch with mum by phone whilst my brother also checked in with her – she’s OK. Glad to say Dave has not developed any symptoms so I will be able to see mum next week.

The Week Ahead

  • The development focus carries on in terms of language learning and my new tech 100 day challenge. I’m also still trying to write a novel – up to about 87,000 words. 🙂
  • Physical development also carries on. I’m still trying to lose weight by eating less and doing short online exercise sessions.
  • Jog-runs will continue based on the principles outlined in the webinar. Should get 2 in next week – slow and relaxed with slight increases in distance each time.
  • Am reading a deep classic sci-fi book by Brian Aldiss which I should get finished to write about in my next blog
  • Going to check-in with mum but currently got no friend catch-ups lined up yet
  • Will have a bigger focus on art and culture next week. Me and Dave have booked to see at least one exhibition.
  • Christmas is coming and I need to start making preparations. In terms of saving money and sustainability, I’m really wondering how many cards I’ll be sending this year.

And Finally…

The negative force that is nationalism

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