How To Do Everything And Be Happy

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Doing Everything, Being Happy – WTFHIBD episode 8 (part 1)

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Last week, thanks to facebook showing a reader one of my old WTFHIBD posts as part of her ‘memories’, I got an email suggesting that it was “high time” I updated everyone with what I’ve been getting up to!

Well I couldn’t really argue with that, could I?

So over the next few days I’ll be answering that age old question ‘What The Flippin’ ‘eck Have I Been Doing’ …only I’ll be doing it in three parts, because there’s quite a lot to cover.

So today we’re going to talk about Boxing Day…

Boxing Day

It was June 2016 when I last updated you on my life. June! 2016! Where does the time go?

In that last post I confessed that my regular Boxing Days (click or tap here if you think I’m talking about December 26th, because I’m not) had fallen by the wayside – with disastrous consequences. You can read about that here.

But sixteen months on and I’m happy to report that not only am I having a regular Boxing Day, but most weekends are also spent doing fun things – be that be planned, or spontaneous.

As a consequence last year was the first time ever that I ran out of space on my Trophy Board, and had to add an extension! See here (or tap the Trophy Board pic to the right).

This year I had to add the extension even earlier, and there’s only a tiny bit left in the corner for the last three months of the year.

At this rate I might have to start clearing down the board every six months!

But the most important thing is not how many ticket stubs I’m collecting, how many theatre programmes, or how many restaurant cards, but how much happier I feel. And I can honestly say that whilst my mood might fall and climb during the course of a typical week, the general trend is ever upwards compared to this time last year… and many, many previous years.

But less about me.

How have your Boxing Days been going? Why not let me know in the comments (if you’re reading this on the blog or social media).

Come Back Next Week…

…When I’ll be telling you about my Now List. Until then…


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My third novel, My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend, is just 99 pennies for a limited period. Yes, novel! I write fiction too. Perfect if you’re looking for a light, laugh-out-loud entertaining read.

Click or tap here to visit amazon or type BuyTheBook.TODAY into your web browser.

 

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Looking after my heart – WTFHIBD episode 7, part 3

boxing day

This week I’ve been telling you how I’ve been applying my ‘happy’ principals to my life, in a feature that I like to call What The Flippin’eck Have I Been Doing…

Yesterday I talked about my NOW List, the day before that GOALs – but today let’s talk about Boxing Day…

(If you’ve got no idea what I mean by Boxing Day, other than assuming it’s got something to do with the day after Christmas – it hasn’t, at least not in this case – click here.)

Boxing Day

Up until March I was still having a Boxing Day every four weeks or so, not necessarily on the 26th, but usually around the end of the month. Then for reasons that I went into earlier in the week (see here) it didn’t seem right to take a day off from trying to find gainful employment. I couldn’t afford the time. At least that’s what I thought.

In retrospect, that was probably a mistake – because those two months of solid stress (whilst simultaneously trying to give the appearance of being a laid back relaxed kinda guy) took it’s toll. At times I felt very ill indeed, including one incident when inexplicable chest pains made me wonder whether I might be having a heart attack.

Turns out I wasn’t.

Still, it was enough to make me sit up and think, and this month I’ve had not one, but two Boxing Days – and boy howdy do I feel better for having them.

There’s something about waking up with an entire blank day ahead of you – a day when you can do whatever you like, given the opportunities available – that can revitalise your spirit in a way that a planned day of recreation just can’t. It’s the spontaneity I think, or the freedom. Maybe both. And the less spontaneous a person you happen to be (or the less free), the more powerful that effect seems to be.

So for instance, on Saturday I got up late, took a trip to the local petting zoo, then drove into London and had dinner in South West London with Felicity Kendall sitting at the next table, before coming home and opening a bottle of Champagne. I woke up on Sunday feeling lighter than I have done in a very long time. And Saturday was a day that I will remember for a very long time.

But enough about me

How about you? Are you still having Boxing Days? Care to tell me what you’ve been getting up to? Feel free to drop me a line, here or on facebook, or post a comment below.


TTATCM sidebarFor just TWO more days my SECOND novel, The Truth About This Charming Man, is only 99p for your kindle, smart-phone, tablet, or computer. If you like the way I write, chances are you’ll like this. Visit BuyTheBook.TODAY to find out more and buy the book… today.

 


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NOW that’s what I call WTFHIBD episode 7… part 2

nicole kidman

This week I’ll be telling you how I’ve been applying my ‘happy’ principals to my life, in a feature that I like to call What The Flippin’eck Have I Been Doing…

Yesterday I talked about GOALs – click here to read that post – but today let’s find out what I’ve managed to tick off my NOW list over the past year.

My NOW List

So, since the last WTFHIBD post, it’ll probably come as no great surprise that most of my energy has been spent concentrating on goals, rather than my NOW list. Or to put it another way – I’ve been desperately trying to make a living, and ‘enjoying myself’ hasn’t been my primary focus. Which I admit is probably a mistake, and one that I’m endeavouring to rectify going forwards – because even if making a living has to be the primary focus, I’m firmly of the belief that it too should be FUN, and anything but desperate.

That said, somehow I have managed to tick a handful of items off the NOW list in the past twelve months. Let me walk you through the highlights…

Theatre

I love theatre. I get as excited about the theatre as most people do about going on holiday. For me, going to the theatre feels like a holiday! Unsurprising then that I made it the theme of my latest novel, and about two years ago I made the conscious effort to see at least one item of live theatre every single month.

Now that’s easier said than done – and somewhat expensive – but in the last twelve months I have managed to see at least one production a month, sometimes more, and all without breaking the bank.

(Very occasionally I blog about the shows I’ve seen – as well as movies and books – over on my other blog)

dawn french

Nell Gwynne

 

private lives

“A different wine with every meal”

This has been on my NOW list for the longest time. I’m not even sure how it got on there in the first place, or why the idea appealed to me so much, but at the back end of last year I got treated to a five course dinner, with matching wines, at the Jugged Hare near the Barbican. And it was everything I hoped it would be. Despite having a stinking cold, we rolled out of the restaurant satiated and very merry.

Well worth adding to your list if the Jugged Hare are still running the promotion.

Hidden London

It’s well known that beneath our capital city are numerous tunnels and tube stations which for one reason or another have long since been abandoned. Every now and then I’d come across pictures of these eery places on the internet, and eventually decided that I didn’t want to look at pictures… I wanted to see it for myself.

After a bit of googling I discovered that The London Transport Museum very, very occasionally do tours to the abandoned sections of London Underground network, and so three weeks ago I donned a fluorescent jacket, and disappeared under Euston station for an hour or so.

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Going forwards

 

In a few weeks I’m finally going to have a go on a segway, but in the meantime you can keep track of my NOW List adventures by LIKING the How To Do Everything And Be Happy facebook page.

But enough about me

How about you? What NOW List items have you checked off? Feel free to drop me a line, here or on facebook, or post a comment below.

And pop back tomorrow to find out whether I’m still having a Boxing Day once a month.


TTATCM sidebarFor three more days my SECOND novel, The Truth About This Charming Man, is only 99p for your kindle, smart-phone, tablet, or computer. If you like the way I write, chances are you’ll like this. Visit BuyTheBook.TODAY to find out more and buy the book… today.

 


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Faith, Hope & Clarity (The Truth About Peter Jones) – WTFHIBD episode 7

piggy

Yes folks, it’s time, once again, for your favourite self-help ‘guru’ to fess up and tell you how I’ve been applying my ‘happy’ principals to my life, in a feature that I like to call What The Flippin’eck Have I Been Doing…

I’m going to break this into three parts, so come back tomorrow and Wednesday to find out about my NOW list, and BOXING days, but for now let’s start with GOALS.

My GOALS

Since I last penned the last WTFHIBD post, I’ve spent most of my goal-related energy concentrating on just one of the three goals I set myself (so much so, that I can’t actually remember what the other two goals were). That goal was this:

My total writing income exceeds my outgoings
Deadline: June 2015

So how’s that going, I hear you ask.

Let’s put it this way… not as good as I’d like.

Now that’s not entirely surprising. My potential for disappointment really knows no bounds. I’m the kinda guy who having found a £10 note on the floor, would be wishing it could’ve been a £20 instead… I’m definitely a glass half empty kinda guy. The first time I got a major book deal, my agent – having told me it was a generous offer for a first time author – was (rightly) appalled when I threw all my toys out the pram and declared the offer an insult! So, even if my latest novel was sitting somewhere near the top of the charts (any charts!) chances are I’d still not be satisfied. But it’s not at the top of the charts. Nowhere like it. And my income consistently falls short of my monthly outgoings – worse still ‘writing’ makes up only a fraction of that insubstantial income.

I’ve been in this situation for a while. Six years in fact. That’s the last time I raised an invoice in my previous guise as banking consultant. I walked out of a corporate office with a years money in my savings account, and hoped that would be the very last time I donned a suit and tie. But now that pot of money has all but gone. And a few weeks back, faced with this grim reality, I stopped writing my third novel… and started looking for full time work.

Here’s what I quickly discovered about job-hunting; it’s horrible. 

In many ways Job Hunting in the 21st Century is very similar to Online Dating. My life became one long dull routine of signing up to websites, completing profiles, uploading my CV, searching for jobs, and sending out messages. And just like my dating experience, I soon discovered that today’s online job market has it’s equivalent of Cam Girls (agencies), Scammers (agencies) and Spammers (agencies). There’s even a job hunting app where you swipe right for interested, and left for not-interested! And just like my dating experience (and the dating experience of most men) it seems to make absolutely no difference whether you actually have what the job poster is looking for because (just like the dating experience of most women) their mail server has probably collapsed under the deluge of applications thereby making it extremely doubtful that an actual human being will ever see your message… let alone reply!

I’d like to say that just like my dating experience I figured out what actually works, and became a master at online job hunting – there’s probably another self-help book in there somewhere. But the reality is I became very depressed, and pretty difficult to be around. Every day was a constant reminder that in the only way that really counts (ie. being able to pay the bills), I’d failed my goal. Which means I’d failed as an author. I was being forced to give up on that career. Worse still, I was already failing at being able to be anything else.

Well-meaning friends tried to cheer me up. They pointed out that it was pretty impressive that I’d “lasted this long”. They said phrases that included the words “a good innings“. You can probably imagine how much better that made me feel.

And then – just when I was at my most desperate, when I had begun to pick and choose between which bills I absolutely had to pay, and which I would have to let slide into arrears – a miracle happened. Or, to be more accurate, a cluster of mini-miracles; minicles you might call then, or miraclets – whatever they’re called, they saved the day.

Firstly, after making a silly sixty second video-promo for my latest novel – The Truth About This Charming Man – Amazon decided to put the book in their June Summer Promo. Financially it probably won’t make a huge difference, but it was nice to know that someone, other than me, thought my book was worth plugging (and if it’s June 2016 as you read this then it’s still only 99p if you fancy taking a punt. You can watch the sixty second video below (or here)).


Secondly, thanks in no small part to other friends and fellow writers, odd bits of freelance work started to land in my inbox. Not huge amounts, but enough to give me a paid-break from the hell of job hunting. My sanity started to return.

And finally, the phone started to ring: Someone had heard me speak at so-and-so event, would I be able to come to their group? XYZ Society had been let down by a fellow speaker – would I be able to fill the slot? {Insert name of WI group here} was celebrating their birthday in July / August / Sept… and they’d like me to come and entertain them…

Word of the 45 minute talk I give telling the story of how I came to write four self-help books, and the follow talk up explaining how I met Kylie Minogue (sort of), had reached some sort of tipping point. At the start of this month I found myself doing not one talk a week, but two, or three, sometimes two in one day.

facebook cover photo 2016

I always knew the talks were popular – after speaking I’d generally sell more physical books for £7 than I’d ever sell in a week on amazon for £1.99, but still the penny didn’t drop. Not until an out-spoken, feisty white-haired lady, walked right up to me a week or so ago and told me straight; “why are you bothering with the writing,” she said, “you should be putting all your energies into doing this.”

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it earlier.

Going forwards

So does this mean I’m giving up on writing? Not even slightly. My talks are about my writing journey – so starting next week I’m picking up that third novel again and I’m going to have it finished by the end of the year. But, the lion’s share of my energy is going to be spent moving the thing that I’ve always thought of as a ‘side-stall’ (ie. public speaking) front and centre.

You’ll already find a page on facebook dedicated to my speaking-adventures – if it looks like the sort of thing that might amuse you, or others, click the FOLLOW or SHARE buttons… maybe BOTH!

And if you belong to a group or society and you’d like me to come along and amuse you for an hour with tales of my writing adventures then drop me a line – either here or on facebook – but for the first time in a long while I’m going to take my own advice; I’m going to do the thing that actually works, in preference to the thing I’d like to work. Wish me luck.

But enough about me

How about you? What GOALS have you been working on? How’s that going? Feel free to drop me a line, here or on facebook, or post a comment below.

And pop back tomorrow to find out whether I’ve ticked off any items on my NOW List, and whether I still have a Boxing Day once a month.


TTATCM sidebarFor three more days my SECOND novel, The Truth About This Charming Man, is only 99p for your kindle, smart-phone, tablet, or computer. If you like the way I write, chances are you’ll like this. Visit BuyTheBook.TODAY to find out more and buy the book… today.

 


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Turning failure into possibilities – WTFHIBD episode 6

bright-ideas

Blimey! Has it been 9 months since I wrote one of these WTFHIBD things?? Where does the time go? Actually that’s kinda the point of these WTFHIBD posts; to tell you exactly what I’ve been spending my time on.

Let’s start with GOALS.

My GOALS

2014 turned into something of a damp squib for me. Whilst a lot of good things happened, on balance it was pretty much ‘the year of disappointments’. People often tell me I’m too tough on myself, but as summer rolled into autumn all I could see was failure, failure, failure… in every aspect of my life.

But around January, and as I sat down to set my GOALs for the year I somehow managed to summon some of the fight that I’d lost in previous months, and although my 2015 goals didn’t look a whole lot different from previous years, perhaps I altered my approach to them, because even though it felt like I was starting again, at the same time the only way was up; I’d already failed at everything – it would be hard to fail even more. Success was actually the easier option.

wide_small

I BECAME ‘SELF-HELP GURU TURNED NOVELIST’

Having watched my debut lad-lit, rom-com novel  – The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl – climb the charts in September… only to come crashing back down to earth again… I took the somewhat odd decision to start sending it out to agents and publishers again. On the one hand this seemed like a bad idea; I would be trying to sell a book that was already published. On the other, I could point at lots of nice reviews, the fact it did rather well during it’s first promotion, and my previous non-fiction successes. Surely that would make me, and the book, an attractive proposition?

Amazon 2015-07-09 at 12.28.14Well, six months later and I had indeed got myself a new agent… and in turn a publicity deal with amazon!

The book underwent another edit, the cover got brighter, and after a little help from Kylie Minogue (sort of), amazon made it part of their July 99p Summer Reads promotion. It’s back up near the top of the charts …and it’s doing ok! Better than ok!

If you fancy a chuckle, as well as keeping me in the book business, now would be a very good time to spend a quid at the world’s biggest bookstore.

I STARTED MY NEXT BOOK

One of last year’s many failures was a five part serial that I wrote for a particularly well known woman’s magazine. After a full sixteen weeks of consideration, the fiction editor of magazine-that-cannot-be-named decided that it wasn’t really ‘real-world’ enough for their readers, and that she was going to pass up the opportunity of publishing it.

In the same week however, my new agent decided that actually it was a cracker of story – and could quite easily be expanded into a full length novel. My next novel. And so, Facebook pals have been subjected to almost daily word count updates, whilst readers of my other blog have been perplexed by various posts about how I use excel spreadsheets to write

selfieI STARTED GIVING MORE TALKS

One of my few successes last year were the number of talks I was asked to give.

Whereas previously I’d been giving the odd talk to Women’s Institutes and Town’s Women’s Guilds – suddenly the U3A, the Rotary Club, the Trefoil Society, and numerous independent clubs and societies started to invite me along based on recommendations from those who’d heard me speak elsewhere.

As the year ended I realised that public speaking is pretty much one of the things I love most… and so I came up with a second talk (entitled: How I Met Kylie Minogue) and offered it to all those folk who were kind enough to invite me along the first time. The result is I’m now doing a talk at least once a week (this week I’ve done three!) – and whilst it’s hardly a living, it has relieved a little bit of the pressure I’ve been putting myself under to make a living from writing alone.

If you’d like me to come and talk to your group or society – drop me a line

My NOW List

foggsLet’s move on from GOALS. What have I been doing for fun? (Not that writing isn’t fun – but you know what I mean…)

The NOW List is chock-a-block with exciting things that I’d absolutely love to do… sadly, most require time, money, often both, and I have neither.

That said, whilst I still haven’t managed to visit the Cook Islands, or visit Rome again, or anything that requires a plane trip, I have ticked off many items that I could do relatively cheaply, in around my local area. And some of those things included…

  • A visit to Mr Foggs of Mayfair. A strangely wonderful place.
  • My quest to find the strangest, experimental theatrical performances once a month – in the past few weeks I’ve seen improvised puppet shows, naked people rolling around in food, and a disturbing monologue about fantasy movies…
  • A visit to a junk shop that I’ve driven past many times and always wanted to go inside
  • A day at the beach with my very own luxury beach hut at my disposal
  • An evening at one of London’s Roof Top cinemas

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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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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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?