Tuesday, 27 February 2007

A Life Changing Event

Last week my life changed - I got something I have been waiting years for - a dishwasher.

Now you might think I am exaggerating when I say that this was a life changing event - or maybe you think my life is full of trivial events for this to be categorised as life changing. Well, getting married and the birth of my children were life changing events, and yes there is no comparison in importance between my family and my dishwasher - but in terms of quality of life, getting a dishwasher is definitely up there in the top 10.

I was, I think, spending an average of one hour a day washing dishes - but it's not just extra time I gain with a dishwasher - it's peace. Eating my dinner is now so much more relaxing knowing that I don't have to wash a pile of dishes at the end of it - which improves my digestion, which improves my health. And the kitchen is now so much tidier without a pile of dishes either waiting to be washed next to the sink, or in the sink, or drying on the draining board. I feel more organised - making the dinner is more enjoyable - and all the dishes are so much cleaner - not that I was a bad dishwasher, but I can't compete with a machine.

As we get older and we can gradually afford the luxuries of life, let us not forget what it was like to struggle. I remember our first family car - it was actually given to us so that the owner wouldn't have to pay to scrap it. It was a white Fiat Panda with holes in the door because of the rust - which we taped up with parcel tape! There was a hole in the water pipe which resulted in the hot air blower not working after 15 minutes, once all the water had drained (at least I think that was what the problem was). I remember driving it on what should have been a 4 hour journey to visit my family at Christmas - it took us 8.5 hours. We were beeped in the slow lane of the motorway because we were driving too slow. Driving up hills we would have to stop several times. On the return trip it was minus 4 degrees outside, and with the heater broken and the holes in the doors getting larger, we ended up with hypothermia. We considered not going home at all but driving straight to casualty - it took us hours to defrost - no joke - we spent the night huddled up in duvets, drinking lots of hot drinks to stop the shivering. When we got our next car, a brand new Daewoo Matiz - we felt elated. We really enjoyed driving up North the next Christmas, beeping at all the slow cars on the motorway! But now we have two cars and my husband drives a much larger car - he wonders how he ever managed to drive the Matiz and jokes at when he took his driving test in it - with two large men in the car, he was loosing points for going too slow, even though he had his foot to the floor.

Gradually life's luxuries creep in, and bit by bit we start to forget what it's like to struggle. I try to keep those images of more difficult times big in my memory - the energy I can draw from them is invaluable. I need to remember that boredom, soggy sleeves, miserable rainy outlook, wondering if my life of drudgery would ever end. Like I need to remember that summer job cycling to work in the early hours of the morning in the rain, to pack vegetables all day long, with painful blisters up my arms due to a reaction from the pesticides, and the time I was struggling to buy nappies and baby food, and the time a family member was having life-saving surgery, and the time I had debt hanging over my head for the first time in my life, and that humiliating interview, and the time I failed - really hard times, that one would sooner forget - but it is a wiser man that chooses to remember these times and to draw deeply from their experiences. Remember that feeling when you are really ill, and would do anything just to feel no pain, to be in good health once again? What a shame that when the pain subsides and the good health returns, we so easily forget how wonderful it is.

Just a little word of advice for any of you out there wondering if you really need a dishwasher (or whether your wife does) - if you can afford one, stop punishing yourself/wife and go buy one - squeeze it in to your kitchen somewhere, even if it means loosing valuable cupboard space - the benefits are huge - don't believe these people who say they don't make a difference - if you are the sole dishwasher in your house, and spend time cooking proper meals (not living off cardboard trays that you shove into the microwave) a dishwasher really does make a difference. The time to load and clear a dishwasher is minimal compared to the time spent washing, so what are you waiting for?

Now finding a reliable plumber to install the dishwasher....that's another story!

Friday, 16 February 2007

Strategy

I've found myself thinking a lot about the importance of strategy recently. With limited time, a good strategy is an important ingredient to success.

I believe I learnt about strategy as a child, when playing 'Connect 4'. I became champion of champions and particularly enjoyed winning a round of 3 against a young man you was truly determined not to let a child less than 1/3rd his age beat him at what he thought would be a piece of cake - my reward, a well earned bottle of Coca Cola!

My strength lay in my freedom to think in detail about the moves, without the hindrance of more pressing issues that play on one's mind in adulthood. I had the patience to consider carefully what would happen if I was to: place my piece there, then he would go there, and I would go there and he would go there - and so on - and no that wasn't a good idea, since he would get that row of 4 at the end of the game - so let's try a different route - my poor opponents would be bored silly, but you could rest assured that I would always win in the end.

I don't have that much patience now - even I would get bored. I have so many ideas now that I am often tempted to just get a move on and throw myself into my code and chuck out new functionality as quickly as possible - but in reality I would probably only tie myself in knots should I follow such impulses. Fortunately I have dishes to wash and clothes to dry which help me to slow down a notch and consider carefully my strategy.

There's no point spending time developing great functionality that attracts thousands to my site if I do not first make sure the performance of my website is optimal - and there's no point spending time on a big marketing campaign until I have got a few steps ahead on the functionality - my half baked ideas would simply be copied and I would be left far behind. Everything has its place, down to the tiny details when considering the better way to write a line of code. Sure I get things messed up a little along the way - but keeping a big STRATEGY reminder at the front of my mind - which I can picture just floating above my desk - I believe gives me an edge that is essential if I am to compete with the big guys.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Always Time to Stare

Following on from my previous post about the lack of time, let me remind myself of this beautiful poem, which really needs no commentary:

"LEISURE"

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

By Wm. Henry Davies.



Here's a photo I took of one of my favourite places, St Ives, Cornwall.

What I will say is, that if you read the above poem and just think to yourself "that's that really twee poem that I learnt at school", then maybe you are missing life altogether and perhaps you should stop and realise that your life is just passing you by - it's not something that is going to happen some day in the future, it's something that you should be experiencing right now.

This poem often resurfaces in my mind when I am taking a moment to appreciate something beautiful. In this chaotic world we live in, I have learnt that even driving to the supermarket can be an exhilarating experience when I remember to concentrate on the beautiful things around me. To live life feeling alive, that has to be success.



Monday, 5 February 2007

Little Time

I hate myself for saying that I haven't got enough time. I always recall Anthony Robbins speaking about time, stating the obvious fact that we all have exactly the same amount of time - it is actually the one thing that remains constant.

But we do all have different levels of responsibility.

My biggest struggle in my quest for success is not deciding how best to design my websites, or working through pages of tricky coding, or generating ideas for new functionality. And it's not keeping my paperwork and book-keeping up to date (although I have a strong dislike of these tasks). I was always a nervous flyer and hesitant to give speeches, but when working on an international project I would bite the bullet and overcome my anxieties. All these things were, and are, easy, easy, easy, in comparison to the struggle that I meet with each day.

The largest mountain I have to climb is the constant juggle of motherhood and 'homemaker' (or 'housewife', as it is still politically incorrectly referred to in the UK) with my work.

My family is the most important thing to me - by far - but my work is tremendously important too. These two aspects of my life do not sit comfortably next to each other. They sit at opposite ends of the table, staring at each other in confrontation, both fighting for more space. This fight started eleven years ago when my daughter was born, and intensified two years ago at the arrival of my son. The fight is often inside my head, where I am constantly looking for justifications to my actions and for better solutions to my organised chaos. I have become proficient in the art of multi-tasking, but am resigning myself to the conclusion that there is no real solution, other than to 'make do'.

Many people have big opinions on how mothers should be living their lives. 'If you aren't prepared to look after your children, then don't have them,' is a common one. Well, I do look after my children. My son is actually with me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and has been so pretty much constantly since he was born. In addition, he has only slept 2 nights through since his birth, and if I consider the uncomfortable pregnancy, that makes nearly 3 years that I haven't had a good night's sleep. Since there are so many distractions in the day, I do a lot of my work at night, which means it is an early night if I get to bed before 1am in the morning. On average, I'm getting 5 hours sleep each night. Friends ask me why I haven't got bags under my eyes - well, I can see a few wrinkles actually. But the truth is, I am so excited about my work right now, I don't want to go to bed, and often jump out of bed in the morning to get a little extra done before the day begins.

Being a mother with a career is tricky, but it does have some advantages. In fact, I wouldn't be where I was at all now if it wasn't for my children. It was the birth of my daughter that made me reassess my values, completely change my direction in life and retrain for a career in IT. Then it was my baby son that gave me the freedom to remain at home and work for myself - had he not been around, the pressure to go and get 'a proper job' would probably have won in the end. And with two angels to cuddle whenever I am feeling down, how could I possibly complain?

I just have to be ultra efficient. If I can complete everything in half the amount of time, then I can do twice as much - simple!

Sunday, 4 February 2007

What is Success?

Success is fulfilling your potential, achieving your intended purpose.

Since my blog is about success, I thought it appropriate to begin with my definition of success. I'm not claiming to be original in this idea, but it is the conclusion I reached after several years of pondering.

I chose to blog about success since it is a subject to which I think I have something to contribute. Am I successful? Well, I think I am on the right track - so in that respect each day is a success. But I don't think I have fulfilled my intended purpose just yet.

I think everyone has an intended purpose, but not many people fulfil theirs - many people fail at life. Some people are intended to be great politicians, to bring about peace and stability in the world, but never achieve anything more than lies and deceit. Other people are intended to be famous inventors that may change all our lives for the better, but end up rich and with blood on their hands developing the latest weapons. Some people are meant to be wonderful parents, but spend their lives neglecting their children. Some people are intended to be nice, but instead they are grumpy most of the time.

Everyone has a different stick against which their level of success will be measured - and I don't know what anyone else's looks like, but I have an idea about mine. I was born into a relatively stable family, into one of the world's richer countries. I have been given a free education, health care and good nutrition. I have good health and I think a high level of intelligence. I am not starving, persecuted or under attack. I am not a minority and I have freedom of speech. I have a wonderful husband and two adorable children. Now I find myself living in Devon, surely one of the most beautiful areas of the UK. I do not have to worry about natural disasters. You know I have blessings too numerous to count. This is a concern to me. I have been given so many advantages - so I must now achieve something wonderful if I am really to succeed.

Hmmm... I thought this blog would be just a little bit of background information about who I am for those who care - seems I have more to talk about than I realised. Time is precious though, so I must go and do something constructive right now, will write more tomorrow....

Frankie