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When life gets overwhelming, we start thinking of all the things that are wrong. Our job, finances, weight, friends, marriage — the list goes on.

Is it any wonder we feel bad when we pick up that many sticks to beat ourselves with? Worse, we get so used to picking them up, we don’t even know we’re doing it any more.

It’s just our life. How we are. Looking for what’s wrong instead of what’s right.

Every step along that road of self-loathing we take, change feels less possible and more distant. But, there is a way out. …


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Dear The Middle Class Membership Department,

I am writing to formally request that my membership in your club be rescinded. I never asked to join it, it came as a free gift with the family I happened to be born into.

One of those free gifts that isn’t really a free gift. Like the cheap shiny pen the equity release salesman gives your Nan as she signs away the capital on her house at a shockingly bad interest rate. But he was “a very nice young man”.

And that’s part of the problem. Us (you) middle classers are so “nice”…

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It doesn’t matter whether you are 4 or 44, if someone new joins the class / sandpit / office / team… make them feel welcome.

You were there once. You didn’t know how things work. You weren’t sure you’d fit in. You worried (wrongly) that others didn’t really want you to be there.

It doesn’t take much. A smile, a “hello”, a fist-bump and a very basic couple of questions, like for instance:

“How did you end up coming here?”

“What are you looking forward to doing today?”

Note, these are not the standard “How’s it going?”, which is too easy replied to automatically with a “Fine, thanks” and the conversation stalls.

The tiniest bits of acknowledgement, explanation, chat, or “checking-in” throughout the day will go a long way. Treat others as you would wish to be treated.

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A lot of self-improvement advice wants you to commit “all-in” to one single process. But how often does life teach us that, actually, balance and blending is important?

In the world of medicine, we’re given clear boundaries — don’t operate heavy machinery while on this drug, don’t consume alcohol while taking these tablets. Don’t mix.

Life boils down to which advice you take, and which you don’t.

I’m here to tell you, don’t mix your medicines, but when it comes to self-improvement, cherry-picking, then mixing and matching is a great idea.

One Ring Does Not Rule Them All

In ‘The Lord Of The Rings’, one ring can…

If you don’t wear sunscreen on a sunny day you will get burnt. A simple lesson, but one I learnt for umpteenth time yesterday. It reminded me:

  • What’s good for you can also be bad for you
  • Conditions can change quickly
  • Don’t react, instead prepare and anticipate
  • You have one body, look after it
  • You’re never too old to learn lessons

And if you, like me, are now thinking about the song “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrmann, here are some points of interest:

  • It isn’t based on a Kurt Vonnegut speech, it was written by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich
  • It isn’t voiced by an American, it’s Australian voice actor Lee Perry

But the advice still holds:

“Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.” — Mary Schmich

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There’s a picture on the wall of our kitchen. It’s with the two members of a little team I used to lead. Together we had a load of fun (and stress) working on some interesting projects. Without giving it away, there’s something about that photo that intrigues people.

We had a tradesperson at the house yesterday and they asked me about it. I told the story and realised — I have achieved a lot in the past. And I can do it again.

Every one of us has the equivalent of that photo on the wall. Perhaps it’s a story…

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Yesterday, I played my first game of club cricket in a decade. A beautiful ground, the sun shining, a friendly but competitive opposition — fantastic.

Sunday club cricket in the UK has a few traditions. Teams of mixed ages and abilities. Nothing riding on the result — no league, no cup, just a friendly game with the playing conditions agreed by the captains with a fist-bump.

People volunteer to umpire, score, even maintain the pitch between innings.

There is so much good on offer. Positivity, community, teamwork. I’d only met one of my team once before, the rest were strangers to me. Six hours later we were all chatting and laughing over a post-match drink.

The result? We lost in a close, keenly contested game. But that was the least important thing about the whole day.

Andy Taylor

I want to learn. I try to grow. I’d love to help.

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