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?


 

Meeting Your Heroes

steve wright

Things have been a tad crazy round here lately.

For instance, on Wednesday I was supposed to be writing a new WTFHIBD post for this blog but instead author Della Galton and myself were special guests on ‘Steve Wright In The Afternoon‘, on BBC Radio 2, talking about our book How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim

It was kinda momentous! I’ve listened to Steve for more years than I care to mention – in fact there was a period in my late teens where Steve inspired me to consider pursuing a career in broadcasting. This in turn led to me torturing hospital patients  in various Essex hospitals via hospital radio. If you happened to be in St John’s hospital during the late 80s, or Basildon Hospital in the early 1990s, I apologise profusely. Fortunately for everyone, like my ambitions of becoming an astronaut, a train driver or a fireman, I gave up on those dreams – Steve Wright on the other is still going strong.

Apparently Steve was keen to get us onto the show after reading the title of our book, and though the interview is quite quick – just over five minutes long – we still manage to discuss the concept of the book, how hunger really works, the mysterious oil diet, Della’s fat-free cooking principles, how to survive social eating, why diets don’t work, and why making lots of small changes does. Phew! But I’d have been happy just to shake the man by the hand.

If you’ve examined my Now List in any detail you’ll notice I have a section entitled ‘Sometime, maybe’ for those things that seem incredibly out of reach, but after Wednesday my dreams of having dinner with Imogen Heap, working with Steven Moffat, or appearing on Saturday Kitchen seem just a tiny bit more obtainable.

You can still listen to the interview over on the BBC website (or click the image below).


To listen to other radio interviews (and audio content) about How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim click here

How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim is available, now, in three formats.

Goals, Ghosts, & Supper Club Hosts; WTFHIBD Episode 3

With barely 10 days left of 2012, I figured it was about time I gave you a What The **** Have I Been Doing update. This is the ‘regular’ feature – well, sort of – where I come clean on what I’ve been spending my time on and show you how I’ve gone about applying the concepts in the book to my own life.

Boxing Day

I’ll confess that I’ve built up a bit of a Boxing Day backlog these past couple of months. I did manage to squeeze one in a couple of weeks back and it was bliss.

I didn’t do much really – quite a lot of it was spent larking around on facebook – but the sun suddenly made an unexpected appearance so I wandered down to beach and rearranged some of the pebbles. I also jotted down some ideas for what could, one day, be a novel. Whether anything will come of that you’ll just have to wait and see.

Anyway, I have two Boxing Days ‘in the bank’ so I suspect I might be using those over Christmas. It would be nice to have a Boxing Day on the 26th of December (a Boxing Day on Boxing Day!) … but my publishers (Harper Collins) tell me I’ll be busy giving interviews that day!!

My Now List

You will be pleased to know that since my last WTFHIBD update I have managed to tick several things off my Now List!

In September I spent a few days in Cornwall, and whilst I didn’t manage to make it to St Michael’s Mount, or the Minack Theatre, I did make it back to Fowey. On the way back I drove through Devon and decided that I really ought to add that to the Now List.

IMG_1079I finally managed to visit a pop-up restaurant. Our host, ‘Food Urchin‘, treated us to pit roasted lamb. He quite literally dug a massive hole in his back garden (a few days earlier I hasten to add) and created a kind of rudimentary oven in which he roasted a whole lamb for several hours.

The rest of the menu looked like this:

Cold mezze consisting of
homemade Taramasalata, Baba Ganoush,
Hummus and Tzatziki
with Grilled Haloumi and Flatbreads.

Kleftiko, Roast New Potatoes
with Capers and Red Onions, Greek Salad.

Palate cleanser (of some description)

Poached Pears
with Filo, Praline, Pistachio and Vanilla Ice Cream.

It was fabulous!

twibAnd last week I finally saw the stage production of The Woman in Black – a play that I’ve wanted to see for the longest time. And Blimey O’Reily it was jaw droppingly fabulous. I’d go back tonight if it wasn’t sold out already. Easily the best play I’ve seen this year – possibly this decade. Possibly ever.

And as I sat there marvelling at the ingenuity of the story telling, whilst at the same time keeping an eye out for anything that might make me jump three foot in the air, I remembered why I started a Now List, how doing this stuff is the ice cream sundae of life, and how I skip dessert way too often in preference for a slightly larger main course. Madness.

Next year I’m making way more of an effort to work my Now List.

My Goals

After my last update I had a bit of a melt down.

Things were moving in the right direction – generally speaking – but it felt a little like I was on a runaway train – thundering down a track, without anyone at the helm. Do train’s have helms? Anyway. Life seemed to be getting away from me. So I booked a Goals Day, sat down with my Goals and my master to-do list and reviewed everything.

By the end of the day I’d re-written my three primary Goals and re-structured the list. To give you an example here’s how my primary goal used to look.

“I am supporting myself
doing the things I love & enjoy,
and no longer worry about bills.”
December 2012

And here’s how it looks now

“I am supporting myself
doing the things I love & enjoy.”
December 2013

I know what you’re thinking, it’s virtually identical to the previous goal. Except that it isn’t. That line in the original goal (‘worrying about bills’) was impairing my ability to focus properly.

If you’ve read How To Do Everything and be Happy then you’ll know that it simply isn’t possible to not think or worry about something. The very act of NOT thinking about something requires your brain to conjure up images of the thing you don’t want to think about, so you can ignore it. It was as if I was constantly reminding myself to worry about the damn bills whilst I attempted to earn a living out of the things I love and enjoy. Way to go Jonesy. Talk about putting myself under pressure. I can’t believe I didn’t notice it before.

Since re-writing that Goal things have got significantly easier. Or they seem significantly easier, which I’m pretty sure is the same thing. I’m back in control.

audible coverThe new paperback version of How To Do Everything and Be Happy is printed and should be in shops everywhere on the 17th of January. There should be a feature in about me and the book in tomorrow’s Guardian newspaper, and Harper Collins tell me that I have no idea just how much publicity I’ll be doing this time next month. And when it’s all done I’m going to celebrate. You did get the invite didn’t you?

I had a nice chat with Harper Collins in the USA. They’re publishing the paperback in June 2013. The ebook is available now of course.

My second book (How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim) has been finished for a while and is sitting with my agent whilst I put the finishing touches to my third book (How To Survive Online Dating). Both should be available, in some format, next year.

A new monthly version of my Happiness workshop starts in January (I’m calling it Happy Club – why not come along) and my assistant is booking me talking gigs up and down the country. It’s all good.

But enough about me. How’s life with you? Drop me a line or post a comment below. I really want to know.

Bills And Book Deals; WTFHIBD Episode 2

So, last month (ish) I confessed that my Now List has taken a temporary back seat whilst I pursue my primary goal, which is:

“I am supporting myself
doing the things I love & enjoy,
and no longer worry about bills.”HowToTakeControl-drop-shadow
December 2012

You might remember that this goal reflects my long-term ambition to change my career, and earn a steady wage from something I can feel proud about. Well I’m delighted to tell you that in the last month I’ve taken quite a significant step forward to achieving it (and when I say “quite”…)

On August 31st I officially signed a deal with publishers Harper Collins to relaunch the book that got me here in the first place. Essentially How To Do Everything and Be Happy has broken into the mainstream.

What does this actually mean?

Well firstly the book has a brand new funky cover. (Hello Sue Capes – you may now run around the house screaming. By the way, there are loads more reader quotes inside the book so if you were kind enough to give me permission to use your quote, you’ve probably got a mention.)

Secondly, the e-book should be available EVERYWHERE, for every e-reader on the planet, from all good e-book retailers. I don’t want to hear any more of that “I don’t have a kindle” nonsense… if you have a kobo, a sony e-reader, a nook, any kind of smart phone or tablet, you can get the book. Check out the Buy The Book page.

Thirdly, it’s still only £1.99 (or your local equivalent).

And last, but by no means least, a brand new paperback version – with all the lovely second-edition extras & goodies – will be on shelves, in bricks and mortar book stores, on the 17th of January 2013 though you can pre-order it now from your favourite online retailers (amazonother options). Be prepared for half a zillion pictures of me in bookstores up and down the country on the facebook page in the New Year.

To celebrate the re-launch of the paperback I’m planning on having a book-launch thingamy. I’m not a huge fan of book launches, or indeed any social gatherings (you seem surprised?), but even I’ve got admit that this can’t go by without something to mark the occasion. And so long as I’m left in charge of organising it please consider yourself (and a friend) invited, because I could never have got this far without you!

So does this mean I’ve achieved my goal?? Am I no longer worrying about bills? Pfff! Not quite. But I’m a good deal closer, and I’m still working on it – but to find out what else I have up my sleeve you’ll have to check back for next months WTFHIBD.


The official announcement in The Bookseller

Walking the walk; WTFHIBD Episode 1

click for bigger image Last week I promised you a new monthly-ish feature on this blog entitled What The **** Have I Been Up To, whereby I come clean with what I’ve been spending my time on, and show you how I’ve gone about applying the concepts in the book to my own life.

Now, there will be those amongst you (mentioning no names – Simon, Amaia, Jayne…) who are no doubt expecting to see pictures of me sky diving out of aeroplanes, swimming with sharks, or bungy jumping off rock faces. I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. Not only are those activities reserved for the completely insane (the glider ride was as exhilarating enough, thank you very much) but even if they did appear on my Now List, for the past six months, maybe longer, the list has remained relatively untouched.

Of course, I’m still having regular (ish) Now List Days (afternoons in my case) but for the most part my Now List Day activities have been spent either researching or arranging things that haven’t happened yet. I can’t remember when I actually ticked something off.

What then have I been spending my time on, you may ask?

Goals.

Allow me to give you a potted career history of Peter Jones.

Back in my early twenties, a series of poor choices and lucky accidents resulted in me becoming self-employed and working for most of the UK’s Credit Card banks as a freelance business consultant. I was (and I suppose, still am) an ideas man, and a fix-it man; wealthy men would ask me how to make even more money using the tools they had at their disposal, and I would tell them. Though it pains me to admit it, the credit crunch is partly my fault – not my idea, but I was most definitely pulling the levers and pressing the buttons that made it happen.

It wasn’t a bad way to make a living – the money was nice – but whilst I enjoyed the problem solving, and the company of the people I worked with, as the years rolled by I became less and less comfortable working in that industry. By the time I met Kate I wanted out, and much of our time together was spent trying to find ways to use the few skills we had between us to find an alternative career. We tried everything from website design, to property investment. None of those things really worked. And when she died, it felt like my dreams of escaping credit card consultancy died with her.

Of course, if you’ve read the book, you’ll recognise that as a “running away from” strategy. It’s little wonder that it didn’t work. You’ll also know that when Kate died my focus changed. Instead of trying to dig myself out of the pit I’d spent almost twenty years getting myself into, I concentrated on using my solution-finding skills to seek out the very thing that I seemed to be lacking; Happiness. Some ideas worked. Most didn’t. But I read a lot of books, made a lot of lists, and tried anything and everything I could think of.

One day a good friend of mine (hello Tina) suggested I ought to write down some of the quirkier ideas. Several months later I found that I’d accidentally written a book.

Around that time one of my banking contracts was drawing to a close, so I took the somewhat risky decision to dedicate the next few months to getting my strange work of accidental non-fiction published. If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, or my author blog, you’ll also know that not only did I achieve that but that the book has subsequently been quite successful. When I say ‘quite’, I am of course being extremely British about the whole thing. I’m using ‘quite’ in the same way that some Americans might use the world ‘wildly’. By Christmas of last year my sales were such that I’d started to wonder if I could actually get away with not returning to my previous life – whether I could achieve the impossible, fulfil a child-hood dream, and become a full-time author.

So, in January I set the following as my primary goal:

“I am supporting myself
doing the things I love & enjoy,
and no longer worry about bills.”
December 2012

Pretty soon into the new year I realised that I’d managed to set myself the most challenging goal ever. To achieve it would take some major effort on my part, and that some things might have to take a back seat. One of those things was my Now List. However, I can honestly say I think that was the correct decision. If I had to choose between a life writing books – the thing I love and enjoy – or two weeks swimming with jelly fish in Australia, I’ll pick the former every time. And besides, it’s not actually a choice. I can swim with Jelly fish next year, or the year after – but I might never have another chance, or at least this chance, to change my career.

I wish I could tell you now that I’ve done it, that my writing-related income now exceeds my outgoings. It doesn’t. Not quite. Which is why putting this blog post out there feels ever slightly foolish – almost suicidal – however I can tell you that it’s within my grasp.

In March I was one of the many authors that took part in the prestigious Essex Book Festival. A few weeks later I signed a three book deal with audible  (.co.uk | .com), the world’s largest supplier of audio books. The second edition of How To Do Everything and be Happy came out in June. The next book – How To Eat Loads and Stay Slimis currently with my agent. And I’m half way through writing the third book. I am quite frankly stunned at what I’ve managed to achieve. Not proud – just stunned. Pride will follow shortly I’m sure, but right now I’m still reeling on a daily basis from how much you can achieve if you set your goals correctly, and put some effort in.

There are so many more things that I’m absolutely bursting to tell you, but… {big sigh} can’t. Yet. But don’t worry – I will. If only so that I’ve got something to write about next month. Ish. In the meantime lets take the focus off me – I’d love to hear about some of the goals you’ve been working on and what you’ve achieved. Use the comments box below.

What the **** have I been doing?

Last week I received an email from my brother. Here’s an excerpt:

Will and I were talking about your book and we both agree that while the book is good, the blog is rather boring!

I don’t mean that to be cruel, but I would expect a guru like yourself to be posting some ‘bonus’ material or better yet a continuation of YOUR story! If you’re truly a guru then don’t you want your followers to be lead by your shining example?

A monthly feature I would like to see is ‘what the **** have I been doing?’. A more subtle title might work – but seriously, the only thing I remember seeing is the zoo keeper thing. I think that’s great, but if I don’t see some sunset in Skiathos picture, or a picture of you swimming with jellyfish sometime on the blog soon I’m going to start losing my faith in my guru.

Come on Peter Jones, author extraordinaire, and happiness guru, inspire me!!

It’s a funny thing. I’ve noticed that people tend to gravitate to different elements of the book. You can see this as you flick through the reviews on amazon. Lots of people like Boxing Day – that’s why it’s at the start of the book – whereas some think I’ve re-invented Saturday. Occasionally someone will comment on how they like my approach to Wishes, and Goal Setting – where others think they’ve ‘heard it all before’. And some folks, like my brother Simon, get all excited about Now Lists.

Indeed, Simon was the original inspiration for the Now List. It was Simon who told me to rent the movie the Bucket List. And it was Simon who – a year later – asked me if I ever got around to creating a Bucket List of my own. All this whilst he travelled around the world, adding items to his list, and ticking others off, on a daily basis. Simon doesn’t just tick items off either, he takes photographic evidence – and uploads that evidence to his website 366pictures.com

In Simon’s mind this blog should be something similar – entry after entry of me time ticking another item off my Now List. And maybe he has a point.

So, as requested, this time next week sees the start of a feature cheerfully entitled ‘What the **** have I been doing?’ or WTFHIBD for short. You’ll be able to see all the WTFHIBD posts by clicking the WTFHIBD category over on the right, or typing peterjones.wtf into a browser. But I’m afraid my brother – and all you Now List fans – might be in for a disappointment, because I can tell you right now that’s not what I’ve been concentrating on these past six months. But to find out more you’ll have to come back next week.

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