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Boats, Bubbles, and Becoming Me; WTFHIBD episode 5

scubaYou know it’s about time I wrote another WTFHIBD blog post. After all I made a deal with my brother; regular WTFHIBD updates! So here we go again. Let’s start with my NOW List

My Now List

I’ve managed to tick off two NOW List items since I my last update; and I can’t really take credit for organising either of them.

For Christmas Jules – my long suffering assistant – bought me a Scuba lesson! Scuba is something that I always wanted to try as a kid. I remember begging Mum to let me join a club or something… and the barely concealed relief on her face when she told me I had to be at least eighteen years old. Then I turned eighteen. But now that I was big enough and ugly enough to send myself to scuba club… it just never happened.

I even had friends who learnt to dive and still I never got around to looking into it.

But… put it on a NOW List, make that NOW List public, and you’ll be surprised what can happen.

wiltonLike ‘HMS Wilton‘ for instance.

Not far from where I live there’s an old battle ship (a coastal mine sweeper to be precise). It serves as HQ of the Essex Yacht Club and for the longest time I’ve wanted to get aboard and look about. Not much of a problem you’d think – except that it’s not open to the public, and until recently there was no way of sending the Yacht Club any kind of message from their website!

Then one morning, a few weeks back, Della went for a run down there with Maggie her white German Shepherd and happened to bump into someone just locking the Yacht Club gates. Ten minutes of “oh what a lovely dog!” and “do you ever open this boat to the public?” later and she had arranged a personal tour from the chairman.

Goals

Last time I wrote a WTFHIBD post I mused about the importance of being true to yourself, and how it’s all too easy to get swept up in other people’s expectations of who and what you should be.

I’m ashamed to say that I’m still having thoughts along those lines all these months later. But after some significant soul searching it does feel like I might finally be getting to the bottom of them – like I might be recapturing some of the energy and drive that set me off on this journey in the first place.

TGGGTGTG drop shadowPart of the reason for this might be because I’ve made significant headway with one of the goals that came out of the Vision Exercise I put myself through a while back; ten years after Kate made me sit down and start writing it I’ve finally published a work of fiction – my debut novel (The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl) came out in paperback and as an ebook a few days ago. I am officially a novelist!

I was a little nervous about putting it out there, but so far I’m delighted with the response.

But enough about me

How about you? What have you been up to? What NOW List items have you managed to tick off? What goals have you set yourself or achieved? Feel free to drop me a line, here or on facebook, or post a comment below.


 

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Beating fear – advice from ‘future’ me

fearBack in January  I wrote about how I’d come up with a new way to figure out what Goals I should be setting myself for the coming year. I called it my ‘vision exercise‘ and I like to think of it as a sneaky way of by passing all that usual wish-list malarkey whilst at the same time delving around in the sub-conscious to find out what’s really important to us.

My ‘vision exercise’ resulted in three rather ambitious goals one of which was this:

 I am writing FICTION
(rather than NON-FICTION)

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed writing every one of my self-help books BUT they rather came about by accident – my first love has always been fiction.

Now obviously, if you’ve read ‘Happy‘, you’ll know that for that to be a proper goal it should have a deadline attached to it, and perhaps even a penalty, but as I started the year I realised that a really good first step on the path to achieving this goal would be to actually finish the novel that I’d been fiddling with for the previous ten years.

Followers of my author blog already know that I’ve claimed my novel was ‘finished’, or ‘almost finished’, several times. Here in 2011 for instance. And here. And, oh dear, here too. But the truth is I knew I could never claim it was actually finished until it was out there and in print. So I set myself the following goal:

My novel
(The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl)
is AVAILABLE in two formats.
Easter 2014

Well I’m sure you know what happened next.

Easter came and went and the novel was nowhere to be seen.

People asked me where was it, and I told them that

  • it was with my agent, or
  • another publisher was taking a look at it

And whilst all those things were true, it wasn’t quite the whole truth, because I actually could have made the Easter deadline. If I’d put my mind to it. If I’d really wanted to. But I didn’t.

Why?

Because I was scared.

This novel has been a long time in the making. It was a journey that Kate set me off on just after we’d met. She believed in me. She believed in the story. She thought the book would do really really well. Basically there’s an entire decade of hopes and dreams wrapped up in those words.

But if I publish it…

  • maybe no one will buy it?
  • maybe people will buy it but maybe they won’t like it!
  • maybe they will like it, but not that much.
  • maybe this will be the first and last novel I ever write!!
  • maybe this will be the last book I ever write.
  • maybe this will herald the end of my writing career.

People often think that I left credit card banking because my first book, How To Do Everything And Be Happy, took off. That wasn’t the reason at all.  I left a well paid career behind because I realised, yet again, that life’s too short to be doing things that don’t make you happy!

I had a half finished novel on my desk, a half finished self help book, some money in the bank, and dreams of what life could be like – if I put some effort in – I took it all and made the most crazy decision of my life. In short I took a leap of faith.

I only realised recently that I’m still mid-leap. I’m still terrified to see it through.

I’ve spent my life being terrified.

When I was younger

  • I was terrified of asking girls out
  • I was terrified of failing my exams
  • I was terrified of youth club
  • I was terrified of travelling, of going places where I didn’t know anyone, of being vulnerable.

Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time and tell that kid a few things! I’d say…

  • Ask that girl out!
  • Forget about studying!!
  • Go to flippin youth club!!!
  • Travel the world!!!!

I was telling Della this just the other day and she suggested that whilst it is too late to go back and change the past (and more to the point, impossible) it’s not too late for the future to come back and change the present.

3back-to-the-future-original

I got to wondering what future me might say were he to appear right now. And I came to the conclusion that he would tell me the following:

Publish the damn book!

“But what if no one buys it?” I’d squeak.

“They will,” he’d reply.

“But what if only a few people buy it?” I’d counter

“Then tell more people,” he’d say.

“But what if no one likes it!!” I’d roar.

“Well, some will, some won’t – publish it anyway…”

And I think he’d go on to tell me to write more books, take more risks, throw myself out there even more, try even harder, to reach for the blinkin’ stars.

Then I got to wondering, is this ‘future me’ …successful?

Maybe this is advice from a successful ‘future me’. Maybe a less than successful future me would tell me something different? But when I thought about it some more I suddenly realised, no, unsuccessful me would probably say exactly the same thing!!! Unsuccessful me would be thinking “if only I’d taken more risks, tried harder, pushed myself….”

TGGGTGTG drop shadowSo finally…

The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is here. In two formats. And if you happen to be reading this before the 19th of September 2014 then it’s currently less than a quid for your kindle enabled tablet or smart phone! That’s got to be worth a punt, surely. Click here to visit your favourite online bookseller.

I’m still terrified of course. I have no idea what people are going to make of it. I have no idea whether I’ve lived up to the high expectations Kate had of me. And I have absolutely no idea whether this will herald the start of my career as a novelist, or the end of my career as an author. But at least now I’ll get to find out.

What about you…

Are you being held back by fear? Why not share your thoughts with the class in the comments box below, or on facebook. Be great to hear from you.


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Being true; WTFHIBD episode 4

apples

It’s been a while since I wrote a WTFHIBD. Truth is I’ve been putting it off.  Contrary to how it seems, I’ve never really been a big fan of the lime light, not if that means sharing my true feelings with the world. True feelings are a private thing. To be kept inside. Hidden away. Revealed to no-one. Perhaps not even me.

But, I made a deal with my brother. Regular WTFHIBD updates! So here we go. Let’s start with my NOW List

My Now List

Much of last year was spent throwing myself into my career – finishing the three ‘How To’ books I was contractually obligated to write. The Now List never really got a look in, other than the occasional easy-to-accomplish item. But I never set foot out of the country. The Cook Islands remain undiscovered – at least so far as I’m concerned.

That said I paid a visit to Kew Gardens, I did spent a week in Devon, and whilst down there I did try my hand at archery. I also visited the Houses Of Parliament. And I tried (but ultimately failed) to see a play a month (though I did manage to see at least three stonking productions).

Goals

My Goals were more interesting. In some ways I achieved a great deal.

I now have four non-fiction books available in three formats (ebook, paperback and audio), and rarely a week goes by without one of them spawning an article in a magazine somewhere, an invite to give a talk someone, or a cheery note from a reader who felt moved enough to tell me they got something out of the words that I wrote. That’s a nice feeling. It makes me happy.

Of course, it would be even nicer if all this meant I didn’t still look at my bank balance with a degree of dread – but hey ho. Can’t have everything. Says the man who wrote the book suggesting that maybe you can.

The Vision Exercise

It were thoughts like those that caused me to have something of meltdown in the summer of last year and put aside a day to re-write those goals that seemed to be ‘wanting’ on the happiness front. In reality I simply sat myself down and spent four minutes imagining how I’d like my life to be, if money and commitments weren’t an issue, and one minute distilling those thoughts into a ‘vision’.

You can read what I came up with here but the vision exercise had quite a profound effect on me. It started me thinking that even though I’m doing a job that I very much enjoy, do I love it? Could I, when push comes to shove, be happier?

Around the time I was having these thoughts I went to my first swanky ‘publishing’ party at Kensington Palace.

I’m not a big fan of parties. There. I’ve admitted it. They tend to make me feel awkward and uncomfortable. I find myself relying on my theatre skills to shroud myself in the appearance of someone who’s having a good time, whilst inside I’m sweating buckets and counting the minutes till I can get out of there. My smiles, my handshakes, my nods and laughter – they’re all just techniques I’ve learnt to ‘fit in’.

As if that wasn’t stressful enough, hours before I was due to jump on a train I saw a facebook post from a fellow author suggesting that most people were going to be ‘dressing up’. It was, after all, the palace for God’s Sake! So I panicked. I dug out a beige suit (the one that I got married in when I was at least a stone or two heavier), a plain starchy shirt that I used to wear to the office, and a pair of never-worn-before smart brown shoes.

A few hours later, as I stood in an enormous hall, struggling to hear anything over the deafening roar of several hundred people making small talk, I started to feel like I didn’t really belong amongst these people. That despite wearing an official badge to the contrary I was going to be ‘discovered’ at any moment, declared a fraud, and man-handled by security out of the party before being thrown onto the streets of London. In my ill fitting suit. And shoes that were absolutely killing my feet.

Meanwhile various rock stars, standup comedians, and reality TV celebs rocked up when they wanted, wearing what they wanted, and contrary to the no-guests policy – with whoever they wanted. And I realised something profound. They were being themselves. Or at least a version of themselves that they themselves liked. And I came to the swift conclusion that I’d probably be an awful lot happier if I quit trying to fit in, trying to be the person I thought people wanted or expected me to be, and instead – just be… me. And if that didn’t work, well, so be it. I’d rather security escort me from the premises for being me – the real me – than for trying to be an ‘acceptable’ me.

Since the party I’ve thought about this a lot. Who am I? Really? What do I do? What do I want to do? Am I doing that thing? And if not… why not?

The answers are both complicated, and simple. But they’re a place to start.

In the meantime let me step out of the spotlight and turn it instead on you. Who are you? Really? What do you do? What do you want to do? Are you doing that thing? And if not

…why not?


 


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From Invisible To Irresistible

SDSW drop shadow colour small

Last week we talked about Goals and how to identify what yours should be using the ‘Vision’ method.

When I do this exercise in workshops there are a handful of Goals that come up time and time again. I blogged about the number one Goal of all time a few months back, but there’s another popular goal that easily takes the number two slot.

Even in this day and age of social media and online dating it seems that more people than ever find themselves sitting at home on a Friday night, with nothing more than a packet of crisps and a cat to keep them company. For some people that might sound like absolute bliss, but I’ve met many others who were hoping for a little more. At the very least someone who would sit between them and the cat, share the crisps, or bring their own bag for the occasional swapsie.

If finding and starting ‘a new relationship‘ made it into your Goals List then you’re in luck! Over the next few weeks I’ve got not one, but two books coming out on the subject.

How To Start Dating And Stop Waiting, my long awaited third How To book, will be released in paperback, audio and as an ebook, on the 14th of February this year; Valentines Day. If you enjoyed How To Do Everything And Be Happy, if you’ve ever found any of my advice useful, if you’re fed up with being single and would like 2014 to be full of love, lust or romance… well, this might just be the book for you. Subscribe to this blog (top right hand corner of this website – it’s FREE), or LIKE the facebook page, and I’ll be sure to remind you know when it’s available.

Fed up with being invisible?In the meantime, do you remember how I met Kate? (You can find out here, or listen to the radio interview I gave to BBC Broadcaster Matthew Bannister below). When I tell people the story of how I met my wife they nearly always get the short version. The one paragraph version. But there was quite a bit more to it than signing up for a flirting course and sitting myself next to the prettiest girl in the room. I also underwent something of a self imposed image makeover. I did anything I could to turn myself into a ‘accidental relationship’ waiting to happen.

Now, I’m not about to start handing out fashion advice or makeup tips. That’s not my bag. What definitely is my bag however is a slew of ideas based on my own experience and/or scientific research, on how you can influence and improve how people perceive you. Think of it as a step-by-step personal re-branding exercise, all wrapped up in a mini-book.

From Invisible To Irresistible is the shorter, quirkier, but none-the-less completely gorgeous companion guide to How To Start Dating And Stop Waiting. Through a series of twelve anecdotes I highlight (and fix) those underlying problems, that make otherwise attractive, charming people invisible to those they’d like to date.

Chapters include:

  • Changing Your Mind – How you can think yourself more attractive, and why a little back-to-front logic might work wonders.
  • Changing Your Image – Why it might be a good idea to cut off your hair (or grow it back again), how to shed pounds without spending a fortune, and why hiring a professional image consultant could be a waste of money.
  • Changing Your Environment – Why sitting at home in front of the TV isn’t a dating strategy, why some of your friends are holding you back, and why it’s vitally important to have the right sofa.

How I met Kate

Finding a wife wasn’t quite the breeze I always assumed it would be. It required a little effort, some planning, and a somewhat unorthodox approach to problem solving. You can find out more in this short audio snippet taken from a BBC interview with Matthew Bannister. Click the big play button in the middle of the image (or here if you’re reading this in an email).

You can listen to the full length interview here.



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Vision Exercise: How to work out what your GOALS should be!

holidays in spaceWelcome to 2014!

2014! Who’d of thunk it!? And may I be the first to say; Holidays In Space – what’s the flippin’ hold up!?

Shouldn’t there be a Moon Base Disney by now? Somebody, somewhere, needs to put that on their Goals List!

Which leads us rather nicely onto the topic of today’s post. Goals.

I’ve written quite a lot about Goals in the past (here for instance), and if you’re a long time reader of this blog, or you’ve read How To Do Everything And Be Happy, then you’ll know that in previous years I reset my Goals every January. But not any more.

2013 was an interesting year for me. The re-release of How To Do Everything And Be Happy by Harper Collins in January, the plethora of Happiness related workshops and talks that followed, and the impending release of my second How To book (How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim), all meant that I was suddenly busier than I’ve ever been. And whilst it was all very exciting, initially, by about June I was flagging a bit, and life didn’t seem quite as *fun* as it had done previously. The rather vague & dreary goals I’d set myself in January seemed a far cry from what I really wanted. Something had to be done.

So, me being me, I set aside a day to tackle the problem in the only way I know how. I sat myself down, and planned to spend the entire day brainstorming all the things that make me really happy – and later distil those down into new, inspiring goals.

After just five minutes I’d finished. Here’s what I’d written:

Today is another day, sitting in the sunshine,
writing fiction,
whilst my beautiful ‘wife’ reads her book,
and then goes and makes us a sandwich.

This was something of a surprise to me on several levels.

For starters I hadn’t expected to be able to capture the essence of what I want out of life so easily, so quickly, and so succinctly.

Secondly I really hadn’t expected to see a ‘wife’ in there (that really was a shock)!

But thirdly, after a moment or two of letting the thoughts settle in my head, I realised that out of this “vision” I could tease out some very specific goals; namely that whilst I love helping people to do everything and be happy, what I really want to do is write. Preferably fiction. Preferably in the sunshine. Preferably somewhere other that dear old Blightly. And preferably with someone very special. Oh, and a sandwich would be nice.

Now, that was back in the summer and you might be curious to know how what’s happened since – and maybe I’ll tell you, perhaps when I write another WTFHIBD – but for now let’s turn the spotlight back on you.

What do YOU want? Imagine you could see three, four or five years into the future – if all your wildest dreams could come true, if money, kids, or commitments weren’t an issue – what would your life look like?

Between now and next week find ten minutes (you’ll only need five) when you can be alone with your thoughts. Spend 60 seconds imagining your perfect future, then write down what you see. Use the remaining time to tease out two or three goals. (If you need a little inspiration, take a look at the video below. It’s a smidge over 3 minutes. Turn up the volume on your computer and click the big ‘play’ button. Or click here to see the video on YouTube)

This time next week we’ll start tackling some of the more common goals that people come up with, beginning with love, romance & relationships – specifically, how to attract all three into your life!

In the meantime feel free to post any questions, comments, or thoughts in the comments below, or on facebook, or twitter.

If for any reason you can’t see or hear the video, drop me a line.


Turns out you can reserve a place for when Holidays In Space become a reality.