Tim O'Rahilly Life Coaching

Archive for 2011

Keeping The Magic Alive

During my long career as a primary school teacher, there were many occasions when high levels of tact and diplomacy were required. This was ever so when dealing with those age groups where the children were starting to question the reality of Santa Claus. There was always the awareness that some knew to their core that he was real, while others had lost the magic and their truth was founded in logic. Of course in between were the doubters who could not quite bring themselves to let go – just in case!

Parents would ask how to deal with the difficult questions, often feeling that honesty should prevail. Like a true Coach I would return the questions, “What do you think?”, “How would you feel if……” etc. Of course the perennial concern was the problem of not wanting to lie to the children. Everyone is convinced that at some point in the future they will be faced with an angry teenager declaring that “Because you lied to me about Santa, you lie about everything!” Ask anyone who has had teenagers. That will be the least of your worries! On the other hand can anything really out do waking up on Christmas morning to wide-eyed children gleefully shouting “Santa’s been!”

Modern life is chipping away at childhood and its magic in so many ways.  I say,  perpetuate the magic as long as possible! I firmly believe that as adults we need to experience moments of awe and wonder whenever we can. How will we learn to do this if, as children, we have not experienced magic in our lives? The Santa Claus period should be seen as an important positive element in our education and development as well rounded human beings. Keep the magic alive for as long as possible. All too soon your lanky, skinny-jeaned offspring will be replacing the letter to Santa with a list of vouchers required, while calmly announcing that they are spending Christmas with the boyfriend’s family!

Back in 1897 one little girl expressed her worries and this lead to one of the most famous editorial responses ever from a newspaper. Her original letter to the editor read as follows:

Dear Editor

I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says: If you see it in the paper it’s so.

Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

115 West 95th Street

Virginia sent this to Francis P. Church, the editor of a New York city newspaper, The Sun. On 21st September He published the following thoughtful and passionate response:

“We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication above, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The New York Sun:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

All minds Virginia, whether they are men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! How dreary would be the world be if there was no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Santa Claus!

You might as well not believe in fairies!

You might get your Papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus.

The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn?

Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there.

Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world. You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart.

Only faith, fancy, poetry love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real?

Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives, and he lives forever.

A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Let’s perpetuate the Magic and as adults let’s remember the joy of it.

Now, does anyone have an email address for the Tooth Fairy?

A Most Remarkable Concert

This blog post is something of an indulgence to the musical geek in me. Today marks the 203rd Anniversary of a concert given by Ludwig Van Beethoven, the nature of which has fascinated me for over 30 years.

While a student teacher in 1975 I heard Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy for the first time and fell in love with it. Knowing nothing about the piece, but recognising a strong hint of the great 9th Symphony, I quickly wrote a note to my good friend Leslie Howard in London. Yes, dear reader, I am so old that I can remember writing letters, on paper, requesting information from a learned human being! Leslie is a world class Concert pianist and musicologist, and so by return I got information not only about the piece itself but about the remarkable context of its first performance.

Beethoven hired the Theater an der Wien in Vienna for a mammoth concert given on 22nd December 1808. The event lasted over four hours, consisted entirely of Beethoven Premieres and was directed by the composer himself. Conditions left much to be desired and since the heating had broken down the audience and performers were extremely cold. Despite this, and the fact that the orchestra were seriously under-rehearsed, the audience were treated to the first performances of the 5th & 6th Symphonies. Beethoven took to the keyboard for the premiere of his 4th piano concerto and there were first hearings of the aria ‘Ah, perfido!’ and two movements from the Mass in C. The composer then gave a sample of what the public most admired, which was his amazing ability at solo piano improvisation. Let’s not forget that Beethoven was of course profoundly deaf by this time.

As if all this were not enough, to end the evening he pulled together all the forces present, to perform what was described as a “Fantasia for the pianoforte which ends with the gradual entrance of the entire orchestra and the introduction of choruses as a finale”. The cold and exhausted audience had one more hurdle to overcome. One of the performers made a mistake which caused Beethoven to halt the performance and restart the whole thing!

Despite the difficulties it must have been a remarkable evening and I still long to hear a live performance of that one little-performed piece. The notion of giving a vocal finale to an instrumental work, casting it as a set of variations, the smooth and relaxed character of the tune itself, these are all ideas to which Beethoven would grandly return fifteen years later in his awesome 9th symphony.

Twitter For Writers

 

As you know, respected readers, I love reading feedback from my blogs and I use it to influence future blog topics too. I have had requests for a great many subject specific blogs; Twitter for teachers, for academics, for coaches, for teenagers etc. One area of interest to several correspondents has been Twitter for writers/authors and for that I know a writer who could give the subject a better treatment than I could. What is more Gentle Reader, you have met him before!

Back in September I wrote a blog about inspirational, aspirational young people (Our Promise for the Future) and Sean was one of the young people that I highlighted then. Sean is a driven and aspiring young writer nearing completion of his first Young Adult novel. As a focussed user of Twitter he is an obvious choice to write about it and I proudly welcome him to the growing list of guest bloggers on here.

Guest Blogger: Sean Wills

If you spend any time at all browsing through the blogs of editors, agents, and other publishing industry professionals, you’ll come across the same piece of advice for aspiring authors time and time again: build an audience before you’re published. Having a viable ‘platform’ before you secure a book deal may not be strictly necessary when you’re starting out as a professional writing career, but it definitely is necessary if you want to have any chance of making a living at it.

You can never start your platform-building efforts too early, and the most important tool you can use to gather an audience is (of course) social media. But remember, as an unpublished writer, you have nothing to sell. Even if using social media as a direct-selling method for your book was a good idea (and it isn’t!), you can’t do that until the book is readily available.

What you’re selling, then, is yourself – your opinion, your humour, your reviews of the latest books or your thoughts on the publishing industry as a whole. In return, readers are willing to devote a little bit of time every day to following your updates and sharing your name with their friends, increasing your built-in audience for when your book is finally ready for sale. If you get the right audience behind you, there’ll be no need for you to ever direct-sell to them; they’ll be eagerly awaiting the release of your book from the moment you announce it.

Apart from a blog, the most important part of any writer’s social media strategy is a Twitter account. Almost all publishing professionals use Twitter these days, very often to communicate with potential clients. Look up well-known agents and editors who work with writers you’d like to emulate, then follow them on Twitter. You’ll quickly realise that there’s a vast conversation going on between these people. Tapping into it can be a valuable source of information, netting you everything from early news of upcoming opportunities to tidbits on current publishing trends that you probably won’t get elsewhere. If you have absolutely no idea where to start, find some big-name publishers in your area of interest and see how many of their editors maintain blogs. From there, you should be able to bounce from one blog to the next (look for blogrolls!) until you find the right people.

Eventually, you’ll want to get involved in the conversation. Remember, again, that you’re not trying to sell anything at this stage. If somebody tweets about a subject you’re interested in, reply to them. Don’t try to calibrate your tweets in an effort to get re-tweeted; just be yourself. Fakes are a dime a dozen on Twitter, and you’ll be remembered more for having a genuine opinion than you will for desperately trying to get in with the right people. There are many, many writers out there who built up an audience by reviewing books or writing pieces for well-known websites or even just being a social media ‘personality’. Twitter is an absolute must if you want to go that route.

Eventually, of course, you should try to get noticed (you’re platform-building, remember?). This is where FIRE comes in. Make your tweets Funny, Interesting, Relevant, and show your Expertise. It also pays to know about what’s happening in the industry at large. Guaranteed hot-button issues include bias in publishing, bestselling memoirs that turn out to be fiction, and whether e-books are going to kill print publishing. (Warning: be prepared for a drawn-out argument if you decide to jump on that last one…) This is where having a blog connected to your Twitter account comes in handy, since a well thought-out blog post about an important topic can get a huge amount of attention. A single tweet from an industry professional with thousands of followers will get you a lot of new readers!

It’s also worth pointing out that Twitter is an absolute must for self-published writer. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, self-publishing means forsaking the marketing budget and skills of a traditional publisher. It’s entirely up to you to market your book, and that means using social media effectively.

Apart from boosting your audience, getting involved with Twitter can be a fantastic way of socialising with other writers. Working on a book or a novel can be a lonely experience, and it’s heartening to know that there are other people out there going through the exact same trials as you. One of the first things I learned when I went in search of other writers online was that I wasn’t the only one crazy enough to think writing is a viable career – there are tons of other people doing the same thing, and they’re all eager to talk about it. So get out there and join the conversation!

You can follow Sean at his personal blog, or follow his reviews at the Intergalactic Academy.

Make The Impossible Possible

Guest Blogger: Safaa Aldulaimy

This was the main concept of the recent TedxBaghdad event. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a well-known global organisation that is spreading around the world. TED is now in 98 different countries and it is getting even bigger every day. The theme of the global TED is ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ and the aim of this event in Baghdad was to bring inspiration and hope to the community, focusing on remarkable stories, and creative people and leaving Iraq with hope for a brighter future. The X means that this is an independently organized TED event, and for those who attended it was a life changing experience, and independently Royal.

I had the pleasure of attending this event on 12/11/11 along with 600 other delegates from different countries and cultures. There were people from Holland, USA and many other countries. It was amazing to see 600 young Iraqi people, sharing the same goal of building a new future for Iraq. We spent 8 hours being filled with hope, talent, inspiration and love.

The event featured so many impressive presentations; in fact they were too many to write about in just one blog, so I will mention some of the best talks from the event, and some of the exceptional speakers who delivered them.

First of all I must mention the remarkable person who was the creator of all this, Dr. Yahay Alabdeli. His dream is to bring inspiration to the Iraqi people. Living in Amsterdam Yahay always wondered how to make a worthwhile contribution back in his country. Yahay worked hard to get the license to bring TED to Baghdad and he describes  how he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the email of approval. He said “This can’t be true. I had a black out. I had to print the e-mail, because I couldn’t see clearly. I closed my eyes and visualized what would come. It was a life changing moment. I told my wife: I’m going to do this.”

Next we have MANHAL AL-HABBOBI, an Iraqi architect. His rendering of the General Secretariat for the Council of Ministers in Baghdad was chosen from the entries of over thirty world-renowned architects to win the WAN Award 2011. Manhal always had a passion for the art and beauty of the Mesopotamian civilization and he told us the story behind his motivation for his great achievement.  “ I was in Italy when I heard about a massive series of bombs in Iraq. I was very sad and devastated.  I almost lost hope, and then my friend’s 6 year old daughter came to me and said, Don’t worry, you will recover, because Mesopotamia is 5000 years old!”.

Next I must talk about the very impressive story of American Philanthropist, JEREMY COURTNEY, the Executive Director and co-Founder of the Preemptive Love Coalition. The goal of the coalition is to help Iraqi children with heart disease.  Jeremy started raising the money from selling an Iraqi father’s handmade shoes and he has now helped fund lifesaving heart surgeries for 180 Iraqi children. Jeremy puts his whole idea in few profound powerful words, “Violence unmakes the world, Love makes the world, Love unmakes Violence”

Another great story is ALI MAJID, a plastic surgeon based in Baghdad. Dr. Ali was affected by a medical case that made him determined to do something about the challenges he was facing. He invented a simple but very functional device to help overcome the problems and difficulties faced in oral surgery.  This device is now working properly and while still under development, he has high hopes that it will soon be in use as a life changing invention.

Having people from other cultures in the event moved something in me. I wanted to know their opinions and hopes for Iraq and what they thought about it all, so I talked to some of them. They all had positive thoughts and hopes for my country, and they were impressed by the work and talent of these Iraqi people and by the efforts they had put into this event.

I’ve always had faith in Iraq, and in its people, but now I am very sure about it. I know that Iraq will soon be a center of knowledge and optimism once again.  This whole thing made realize that I am not alone in this belief and that there are others wanting Iraq to be a place of peace again.

It is time to show the world that young people are not as some see us. We can work miracles, and this is a message that we want to send to the world. Whatever you think of us and whatever happens between us, we will always strive to make the impossible possible, and we will always work together full of hope for Iraq.

Saffa Aldulaimy, 13/11/11

I am both proud and delighted to feature another guest blogger from among the remarkable young men that I wrote about in my September posting ‘Young People: Our Promise for the Future’. Safaa has recently graduated from university in Damascus, Syria and now he is back home with his family in Baghdad. Last week it was clear to me that he was getting excited about the TED event but that was nothing compared to his bubbling optimism at the end of it. Safaa said that he wanted to write about the experience and so I asked him to consider contributing a blog here. I was moved by the result – so full of hope and optimism for the future of his country.  

Twitter Thursday #12: The Perfect Tweet – How

In the previous Twitter blog I looked the reasons why your Tweets need to be perfectly written. In this post, I’ll go through the techniques that you need to master if you want to craft the perfect tweet.

1. Be a Beacon of Excellence.

If you’ve been using Twitter for any length of time, you will have already started to become a selective reader. With no hope of reading all the messages streaming into your timeline, you will have started to scan the column for the avatars (pictures) or usernames of your favourite profiles. Even then you will not read everything written by your best friend or biggest client (although maybe you should). We are not Twitter auto-bots clicking on everything ‘just because’. Try to notice what it is that entices you to stop, read, and click on the link.

This same filtering applies to new followers. We notice their Tweets because they are new, but only if they write well will they become an addition to our mental list of worthy Tweeters to follow closely. Of course if the quality of their engagement falls off, we may lose interest and unfollow them – even if only in our heads. You need to be excellent to get noticed, but you need to be consistently excellent to stay noticed. The best beacons shine out in all directions. Your well-crafted Tweets need to get re-tweeted in all directions too.

2. Know Your Audience.

Apply FIRE to everything that you do on Twitter. Remember that you are writing for an audience of critical readers. This may seem obvious, but you are not the target of your own Tweets – your online community is.

Twitter itself is not your sales counter. Do not attempt to be a Twitter salesperson. Likewise, be wary of too much self-promotion. By all means provide links to your own content and use Twitter to drive people to your website, but be subtle. Any attempts at direct sales or blowing your own trumpet too loudly will lead to you being thought of as little more than a source of spam. As Jim Rohn says “Don’t blow your own horn, or you might just miss the music”.

3. Optimum Number of Characters.

Of course we are all well aware of the 140 character limit for Tweets but there are two very important additional considerations here.

Firstly, for your messages to be re-tweeted you need to allow enough space for the re-tweet details to be added. This may take 20 characters, so your message is now down to a total of 120. Secondl,y if you are adding a link this may need another 20 characters so you need to refine your message to be well-crafted and only 100 characters long!

Of course there may be times when the ability to re-tweet may be risked for the sake of good copy, but beware; if this happens too often, your community will stop trying, or worse, your perfect Tweet maybe deformed by “txt spk” before being sent on. Of course as a re-tweet, everyone will assume that you wrote the abbreviated version!

4. Grab the Attention.

You need to grab your follower’s attention, making them want to read your Tweets and click on your links. Remember, obvious selling should not be an option. Most people hate the idea that they are being sold to, especially in social media, so be artful and make it look like you’re doing something else.

No matter how consistently good you have been, your followers still need a good reason to read your work. Take a look at your Twitter screen. Things happen fast, and you will be faced with multiple Tweets, therefore multiple choices at any one time. More so if you are using groups and column feeds. Your follower need only refresh the screen once and your tweet is gone from their attention for over.

Remember that even if your only intention is to get people to read your latest blog, you have to ‘sell’ the link. You also need to be aware that people don’t buy products, they buy benefits, so what is the benefit (reason) that will get them to click on your link?

It is worth noting a couple of strange Twitter behaviours here. Firstly, well-written Tweets may well get re-tweeted even if your follower has not clicked on the link or read the content themselves. Take it as a compliment that they trust and believe in you that much. Secondly, by the same token I would warn against ever re-tweeting a link which you have not checked first yourself-unless of course you wish to be a friend to spammers everywhere!

5. Perfect Spelling.

Maybe this is the school teacher in me, but I believe that the next three points are fundamental to professional, readable Tweeting. I make no apology for this but if any of it scares you then number 8  below will hopefully throw you a lifeline.

Like it or not you will be judged on how you write and how you spell.  This may seem patronising, and you will say “but so-and-so has 2 million followers and they can’t spell”. This  may be true, but if ‘so-and-so’ is a celebrity, people will follow them no matter what they say or how they say it. You and I, dear mortal being, do not have that luxury, so let’s make do with excellence instead. Please consider typing your tweets into your favourite word processor first and spell-check them. Avoid ‘txt spk’. You may think it’s cool, but it can make you appear at best lazy and at worst in possession of a limited education.

6. Flawless Grammar.

  • Make sure that every Tweet and every sentence in a Tweet starts with a capital letter.
  • Give every proper noun (name) a capital letter. Please note that Twitter and Tweet are names.
  • Leave one space after every full stop.
  • Use apostrophes properly and learn the difference between its and it’s, your and you’re and also their, there and they’re.
  • Don’t type in UPPERCASE as it will look like you’re shouting.

7. Impeccable punctuation.

Whatever your personal feelings about accurate punctuation, it is the feelings of your followers that matter. Enormous numbers of people get very irate about incorrect punctuation. I’ve covered some points already, but in addition to correct sentence structure, use commas and speech marks correctly and avoid using too many exclamation marks. Also use hyphens and semi-colons sparingly but effectively.

A good self-check is to read your tweet aloud to yourself. Are the natural breaks and breathing spaces punctuated.

8. Find a Twitter Buddy

Be honest with yourself regarding spellings, grammar and punctuation. If you are at all unsure of your own abilities (and perhaps if you’re not), then seek out a Twitter buddy. This person will take on the role of your very own copy-editor, checking over your Tweets, where possible before you post them. A fresh pair of eyes will often see things which we have missed ourselves.

9. Shortening Links.

Twitter will automatically shorten URLs if you include them, but the bulk of the link will remain intact. In order to shorten the link as much as possible it is worth using one of the third party applications. For the serious user I would recommend using bit.ly for very clear reasons. Not only does Twitter handle bit.ly shortened URLs very well, but there are added benefits too. The stats pages are great and can provide a wealth of useful information about the use of your link. Scroll down the page to show your shortened links and then click on the ‘Info page +’ next to the link. This will open a new page of very clearly presented information about the link.

10. FIRE up your Content.

All this may seem like hard work when twitter is supposed to be ‘instant’ and ‘fun’. It can still be fun, but a little consistent work now will pay great dividends and the effort will soon become second nature. You will gain respect within your network and this will add to your online social capital.

Above all don’t lose sight of your twitter content. Make sure it passes one or more of the FIRE tests. Is your Tweet Fun, does it Inform or Inspire, Is it relevant and/or is it Expert information?

Guest Post: Jamie Dunn

I am pleased to welcome Jamie Dunn as my guest blogger for November. Regular readers will have met Jamie in my blog about inspirational young people written to refocus opinion after the September riots across the UK. Jamie Dunn is a 19yr old entrepreneur from Birmingham. This remarkable teenager is already Managing Director of his own company, called Made By Young People. Jamie is an international speaker, a Youth Ambassador and has been recognised with a prestigious Youth Excellence Award. It is well worth reading Jamie’s story on his website, from his first business at the age of 12 to his current venture challenging and inspiring fellow teenagers to succeed. In this blog Jamie highlights a void between the young people who our Media would have us believe are the norm and those like himself who I believe should be shouted from the rooftops as beacons for the future.

Frankie Cocozza + Media = Damned Generation

Posted on November 7, 2011 by Jamie Dunn, Entrepreneur.

I never normally watch X Factor, but have been hearing a lot about the progress and story of, “Frankie Cocozza.” After reading about him in the national papers, hearing about him on Facebook, Twitter and through all my friends I thought I would spend an hour of my Saturday and Sunday seeing what all the fuss is about. I’m no Simon Cowell or have any experience in picking out a talented musician but I was disgusted to see and hear that this individual had made it all the way through to live shows and get national exposure.

He isn’t a great singer, he isn’t even a great entertainer or after reading about him, he doesn’t seem like a nice guy either. Now this all could be the way that the show and the media is making him out, but it does raise a very scary thought to me, “What kind of example is this setting to me and my generation?”

Frankie comes along and within a few months he is on national TV glamorizing binge drinking, sleeping around and not even working hard to improve his musical “talent”. The media have placed so much attention on him and made him an over-night star. Good for Frankie, bad for the millions of young people out there. I’m 19 and the same age as Frankie and after watching the show I now feel like giving everything up and auditioning for some form of reality TV, get successful over-night and then release a book about something, it evidently worked for a lot of celebrities out there and is working for Frankie, why wouldn’t it work for me?

We as a country are to blame for the high unemployment rates in young people at the moment, and the situation surrounding Frankie is the perfect example of why. The media is placing so much emphasis on the likes of Frankie, binge drinking footballers and tax dodging MP’s that we are forgetting the impact that this has on our nation’s young people. We are setting the precedent that it’s ok not to work hard, to not bother and to not improve ourselves because success is so easy. We see footballer’s getting paid millions a year, great, but how did they get there? Instead of showing the flash cars, why don’t we show the other side to that, the 4/5 hours day training, the mental drain and the solid life commitment from the age of 12 to do what it takes to become professional and then maintain it? We don’t show what’s needed to get an end result, we just show the flash cars and the success. This is why young people are disillusioned and think success happens over-night, because that’s simply all that we see and we are seeing it now with Frankie.

Me and my peers are currently being labeled as the “Damned Generation” and world leaders, politicians and activists are all searching for the answer to saving our generation, the truth is that we don’t need saving, we just need to be seeing and hearing the right things and with the media controlling the thoughts and actions of the majority of teenagers in this country is it any wonder that many young people now aspire to lead a life like Frankie Cocozza?

It’s not Frankie that is failing, it’s us as a nation.

Read all about Jamie and his work at http://www.jamie-dunn.com/

Jamie’s company website http://www.madebyyoungpeople.co.uk/

Twitter Thursday #11: The Perfect Tweet – Why?

One of the best things about writing my regular Twitter blog has been the questions which it generates. Indeed, the series has developed partly to respond to emerging themes in the feedback I’ve received. This current posting is a good example and comes in response to a host of queries about the finer points of writing Tweets. I’ve had questions about the importance of spelling, grammar, punctuation, number of characters, content, readability and when to include links. They all come down to the same issue: how to write the perfect Tweet.

I have argued previously that Twitter is pointless without engagement. Even your closest friends and followers may soon tire of your broadcasting if you have not made the effort to build your own interactive online community. In order for this to happen, as my regular readers now know, there are four guiding principles that I use for all Twitter activity. Yes, it’s FIRE again! Are your Tweets Fun, Informative, Relevant, or Expert? By testing against these principles, your Tweets will reach their two main goals, namely READABILITY and RE-TWEETABILITY.

Whether you have purely personal, social or business aims in mind, Twitter is now fast becoming the most effective platform from which to engage with real people online. These may be friends, colleagues or clients, but twitter has given us the means to engage with them all. We can start accumulating social credit with our community of loyal potential advocates.

Of course these same advocates can soon become jaded followers or even influential critics. To avoid this you need to know your readers and always give them the very best Twitter experience. Your Tweets should be given the same care and attention as a poet does to a well-crafted verse. Only then can you be sure that all your followers will read your words and want to pass them on.

By the way. How about a quick maths lesson to finish? Let’s say you have 1000 Twitter followers hanging onto your every word. Even if they only have an average of 500 followers each, if they read and pass on your messages then you have a potential readership of half a million people! Food for thought?

In my next Twitter blog we will look at how to craft the perfect Tweet:

· Be a Beacon of Excellence

· Know your Audience

· The Optimum Number of Characters

· Grab the Attention

· Perfect Spelling

· Flawless Grammar

· Impeccable Punctuation

· Shortening Links

· Get a Twitter Buddy

· FIRE up your Content

Walk This Way

When we are constantly being told to take more exercise, it’s easy to make excuses about not having time or about the gym being too expensive. There is one form of exercise, however, which takes little time and does not need to cost anything. Many health experts will tell you that walking is in fact a perfect form of exercise. Not only is it an easy way to get fit, but you can do it anywhere, any time, and there is no special equipment needed.

The health benefits are many and varied. By walking you can build protection against heart disease and diabetes, high cholesterol and even some cancers. Walking will certainly help to maintain a healthy weight, boost your immune system, your energy levels and assist in managing stress.


Develop the walking habit and you will soon realise that it has become part of your daily routine. Best of all is that you will notice the benefits quickly and be feeling so much better for it. Try to walk every day for a month, or at least five days per week. Research tells us that any new activity done consistently for four weeks will result in a firmly embedded new behaviour.

My four-week plan will show you how to build walking into your everyday life so that time should not be an issue. Here I am going to add a plea to mums and dads everywhere. As a schoolteacher of over 30 year’s experience, I was always amazed at the number of children being driven to school over short distances every day. Here is a perfect opportunity for reducing the growing problem of childhood obesity as well as building great lifelong behaviours. Leave the car at home and walk your children to school. Even if you live a longer distance away, why not drive to a point half a mile from the school, and then enjoy the last part of the journey walking together? You will both be benefiting so much! If there are other children in your area why not arrange to all meet up at a fixed time in a certain place then all walk to school together. These so-called ‘Walking Buses’ have proven very popular in some schools and when well supported can have so many positive benefits. Apart from health, there are social, environmental and financial benefits too.

Do consider the safety aspects e.g. ask the PTA to fund a set of high visibility vests. In my experience, more accidents occurred among the badly parked cars outside the school gates than ever did on the roads to school.

Having covered the old excuses of time and cost, there is of course the greatest British excuse of all, the weather! Stop whingeing! I have seen octogenarian walkers in Florida where heat and humidity do deter any walking at times. Their solution was powerwalking around the air-conditioned shopping malls. Guess what? British shopping centres are warm and dry! If however, you prefer the outdoors than it has been shown that on average (regional variations apply) if you were to walk at the same time every day, you would only get rained on 10 times in any one year. So get out and enjoy the outdoors whenever you can. In fact I am writing this blog on a mild Autumn day surrounded by the beautiful multi-coloured trees in Ashridge Forest after my first walk of this new week.

 

So let’s get ready.

First of all, wear weather-appropriate clothing that is loose and comfortable. Layering can work both ways to help control your temperature. Check out your hat collection too. You need something to keep your head (including ears) warm in winter. A wide brimmed hat will protect against summer sun and keep the rain out of your eyes on the 10 days that you’re going to get wet! Walking boots are not essential but your footwear needs to be supportive, comfortable and well fitting. Trainers will do perfectly.

We should not forget safety. Reflective strips, armbands, or a high visibility vest will help keep you safe on dark nights and on winter days.

Don’t forget to keep well hydrated. Drink water before and after short walks but for longer excursions a water bottle might be useful to carry with you.

Now let’s get going.

WEEK ONE

Experts recommend that we should try to do some exercise for at least 20 min every day. Our goal for this first week is to walk for 30 min every day in addition to any normal daily activities. Either warm up first by marching on the spot for a few minutes or just walk slowly for the first 5 min. Then increase your pace for 20 min, slowing down to cool off the final 5 min.

30 minutes may sound like a lot, but it’s only 2% of your entire day. Many people spend more than 15% of their day sat in front of the TV. If you can already walk for 30 minutes without any discomfort then aim to do it every day. But if 30 minutes is really too much at the beginning then split it into two 15 min walks.

Start thinking how to build walking into your day. For example the journey to school, or to the office or workplace? How about a lunch time walk? Or a walk after-dinner. Another option might be to split your weekly shopping into several smaller journeys. Walk to the shops and back but use a rucksack to carry groceries, not bags in your hands.

WEEK TWO

Your goal for the second week will be to increase your walking time by 10% . Yes, that’s just three more minutes every day.

Try to monitor your speed. You should be walking briskly enough to breathe harder and become a little bit warmer. A good test of this speed is that you should be able to hold a conversation while walking along. If you cannot manage to talk properly you may be going too fast but if you’re singing your favourite songs out loud as you walk you’re probably going to slowly.

Add power and speed to your walk by using your arms. Bending them at the elbow and swinging them back and forth as you walk will burn more calories.

Make small changes at home. Use the stairs whenever you can. Walk around while you are chatting on the phone. How about hiding the TV remote so that you have to get up to change channels. You could also walk around during commercial breaks. When you go out how about offering to take the neighbour’s dog for a walk!

WEEK THREE

Your goal for the third week will be to add another 10% to your time but also try to build more walking into your everyday activities. Park further away from work and walk the last bit. Get up and walk to see colleagues instead of sending texts or e-mails when they are in the same building. Use stairs when you can or walk up escalators but try to avoid using lifts.How about cancelling newspaper or milk deliveries so that you can walk to the shop in the morning to collect them?

WEEK FOUR

Your goal in week four will be to add another 10% to your walking time, so you should now be walking for at least 40 min every day. More importantly, in week four, try to add some inclines to your walk. Walking uphill for short distances will add considerably to the effort needed. Not only will you burn more calories but you’ll increase strength and stamina. It has been shown that walking uphill will make your heart work harder and burn at least one third more calories than a level walk. If there are no hills around, then walking on different surfaces is better than nothing because soft surfaces like grass, sand or pebbles take more energy and will help to improve your strength.

LOOKING FORWARD

By adding just 10% to your walking time every week you will be walking for an hour by the time you get to 10 weeks. By this time you will start to lose weight too.

Check your posture, making sure that you stand tall with your chin parallel to the ground and your eyes looking ahead with your shoulders relaxed.

You also need to get your technique right. Ensure that your heel touches down first and then roll through the step from heel to toe pushing off with your toe.

Now you can also start to increase your pace for a few minutes during each walk. The length of your stride should stay the same; just try to take more steps per minute.

Now you can think about setting monthly goals. You could increase the length of time or walking speed. How about planning a challenging weekend walk or two? Of course if appropriate get the whole family involved. Also see if there are any charity walks that you could join in with.

By now you may have got the exercise bug, so you might start looking at other forms of exercise to add to your regime such as swimming or dancing.

As you continue, motivation will become really important. Try not to give up just because you have missed a few days. Vary your routine by walking different routes or walking at different times of the day Find out if there are any organised walks in your area. How about dragging a friend along with you or even form your own group of walking buddies. Of course you can listen to music while you walk too, but take care if there is traffic around!

Most of all have fun and let me know how you get on.

Guest Post: Do You Suffer From 'Pathological Altruism'?

For a while now, I’ve been considering inviting guest bloggers to contribute to this site. Today I read a post written by the wonderful Edna Murdoch, the Director of the Coaching Supervision Academy, which struck a chord with me. Edna has kindly agreed to my reproducing it here, and so I am proud to welcome her as my first guest blogger!

More info on the CSA appears at the end of this post.

 

I am intrigued to discover that this autumn, OUP are publishing a scholarly volume of essays on the theme of Pathological Altruism.  The NYT says that: ‘The book is the first comprehensive treatment of the idea that when ostensibly generous “how can I help you?” behavior is taken to extremes, misapplied or stridently rhapsodized, it can become unhelpful, unproductive and even destructive.

I thought immediately of coaches and of our naturally generous disposition – somewhere in the midst of our businesses, we are ‘helpers’.  As such, we need to keep our balance and not lapse into rescuing.  ‘Rescuing’ is a term in Transactional Analysis, which indicates that we are over-doing the altruism, going the extra mile to an unhelpful degree.  What happens as a result, is that we distort the professional relationship and lose presence, awareness and clarity.  If you want to know much more about how this works, see the superb article on the Karpman Drama Triangle by Miriam Orriss on the CSA website (Resources).

So we come back to the importance of Coaching Presence – the ability to stay ‘empty’ and present to all that is going on between coach and client – as well as attending to the content of the session. I find in my own coaching and in supervision with coaches, that the difficulty of paying attention to ‘all of it’, without over-trying, is a recurring theme. I also know that when we ‘get it’, that the essential catalyzing/transforming aspect of our work as coaches, is the relationship, we tend to take more care of interpersonal  dynamics and especially, of our part in those. Creating spaciousness in relationship, so that all parties can breathe and where the practitioner is not caught in over-helping, is an essential skill.

Research in professions akin to coaching indicates that it is not our tool kits, our wonderful range of skills, but our ‘being with’ the client that makes a difference.  If you are interested in why this is so at a biological and chemical level, do have a look at a marvellous book called  ’A General Theory of Love’ by Lewis, Amini and Lannon.

Finally, the Buddhists make a nice distinction between ‘compassion’ and  ‘idiot compassion’. An important question might be: How do I know when I am moving form the energy of appropriate compassion to idiot compassion?  What in my body/mind system alerts me to knowing that I might be crossing this frontier?  What practices support me to stay out of excessive altruism – sometimes disguised and working hard for the client! Interestingly, research shows that empathetic nurses burn out and leave the profession more quickly than do their peers who remain aloof.

Let’s protect our energy and our skills and avoid ‘pathological altruism’.

Edna Murdoch 2011

A very important point made Edna! I am reminded of some words of wisdom given to me by a good friend many years ago. Brian is an entrepreneur and self-made millionaire who was very altruistic himself but he warned against “being so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good”!

The Coaching Supervision Academy (CSA) is a leading UK-based provider of coaching supervision training and practical supervision support. They have a great website for coaches at http://coachingsupervisionacademy.com/  The CSA was formally established in 2001 by Edna Murdoch and Miriam Orriss. Both practicing coaches, they discovered a distinct lack of supervision options, so decided to solve the problem themselves. Having spent a day working with both these ladies, I hold them in very high esteem for their professionalism, friendliness and their passionate support of coaches!


Twitter Thursday #10: Twitter Management Tools

You will not be using Twitter for long before you start to feel overwhelmed by all those tweets. There are several third-party twitter management tools out there, and I’ve had a lot of questions asked about them. So let’s take a look! Here are some of the most notable tools:

HootSuite.com: This is a great tool for managing multiple Twitter accounts as well as Facebook, LinkedIn and others. You can set up personalised columns for these feeds, and you can also compose messages before choosing which social account to post them to.

CoTweet: This comes in a standard free version and a paid premium version, and is aimed at the business market. CoTweet manages up to five Twitter accounts, allowing brand and keyword monitoring using Twitter search. There are useful workflow management capabilities for use with a group of co-users.

TweetDeck: This is your personal, real-time social media browser. It connects you with all your important contacts across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google, Buzz and others. It’s also great for managing multiple Twitter accounts.

There are many other Twitter management tools such as EasyTweets, Seesmic, splitweet, Tweet-visor, Echophon for Firefox users and Silverbird for Chrome users. There is also MarketMeSuite, which I will return to later as it deserves special mention.

The extremely helpful Tweetdeck welcome screen.

My ‘dashboard’ of choice is TweetDeck, so that’s the one I’ll look at in more detail. It is also important to note that as of May 2011, TweetDeck has officially become part of Twitter after Twitter recognised its potential by purchasing the company.

Iain Dodsworth, a London-based programmer, set his mind to organising everything that was happening on Twitter. the result, in 2008, was TweetDeck, which comes in the form of a ‘dashboard’, allowing users to monitor in real-time what others are saying. Particularly useful for power-users, TweetDeck provides a platform from which to monitor and track all the real-time conversations that matter most to them. This makes true engagement with other Twitter users much easier.

The principle feature of TweetDeck is that the user can create groups and so extend the Twitter service. Through these groups, it is possible to check the Tweets of a subset of the user’s followers. These groups appear as columns on the screen, and they can be used to display Friends, News, Mentions, Business tweets or whatever group heading the user chooses to set up.

Additionally, TweetDeck now has the ability to synch groups and settings between the Desktop standalone version of the program and the free iPhone app. Thus you can access the same TweetDeck information at home or on the move.

I mentioned MarkMeSuite earlier. This is another Social Media marketing dashboard designed with business users in mind. As a great bonus, its premium service is now completely free. This application not only allows for Twitter management, but has a wide range of other tools, allowing such things as brand management and unlimited team members (multiple users). It is well worth a look for serious business users.

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