I’ve been a beekeeper for nearly 20 years, and I’ve never experienced such losses as I have this winter. At the end of the 2022 season, I had four healthy hives, but now I have only one – called “TRUTH”. Two of my strongest hives – JUBILEE (which was named in the Jubilee year of 2012 and flourished last year), and GRACE (which had been a very strong hive for the past three years) suddenly died off between February and March.
It’s been very disheartening to see my bees struggling to get through the winter and even more discouraging to hear about the losses experienced by other beekeepers. A friend of mine who has kept bees for 20 years and maintains over 100 hives lost half of his hives this winter and had 18 hives vandalised.
The loss of so many hives is devastating, not only for the beekeepers but also for the environment. I put it down to a very frosty, cold and wet winter and spring. I suppose it’s climate change in action. Whatever the reasons, it is making me do a radical re-think of how I can maintain and grow my colonies of bees in future years. I have to re-learn to split my remaining hive into two to ensure I have the resilience of two hives – a fundamental principle of small-scale beekeeping. Let’s hope the weather starts to get warmer and dryer in the next few months.
At this time of the year, many of us are accustomed to creating New Year’s Resolutions. If you think hard, I’m sure you can come up with at least half a dozen things you want to achieve this year. Maybe more? Write them down, and hey-presto, there you are! Your New Year’s Resolutions.
Yet we all know it’s not that simple!
According to some research from the US, 80% of people give up on their New Year’s Resolutions by the second week of February. In less than six weeks, most people might as well not have done the exercise in the first place. Yet, according to James Clear (author of the excellent book Atomic Habits), it can take anywhere between two to eight months to develop a new habit or behaviour.
One of the challenges is that we all overthink the resolutions without feeling ourselves into what they might mean to us. It’s the difference between thinking you’re overweight, so you need to go on some newfangled diet rather than feeling yourself into the benefits and deliciousness of a new body shape and imagining yourself into the new you.
There is an old saying attributable to Lao Tzu (with similar ideas found in other ancient traditions) that “the longest journey is from the head to the heart”. It’s a phrase I’ve heard before but have only just begun to understand its true meaning.
If we genuinely want to create the personal and social revolutions we want in our lives rather than just spinning around in circles for a few weeks and reverting to our old patterns of behaviour. In that case, we need to continue to step along that path of the longest journey from the head to the heart and do more of the things we are passionate about and which fire us up.
It’s particularly true if our change involves other people (which any revolution is bound to do). Speaking from the heart is far more likely to initiate and sustain that change in others. They’ll switch off pretty quickly if it is all intellectual head-stuff. What do you do to shape, hold and focus your attention on your New Year’s Resolutions, so they don’t dissolve into old habits by Valentine’s Day? Please share. We can all learn about this stuff, whatever our belief system.
It’s interesting how the messages and symbolism at this time of the year rapidly move away from those celebrating the birth of Christ back towards more spiritual and pagan ones celebrating the start of the New Year. Maybe there’s a new religion of wokeism which is being forced upon us so we (in the West) are all trying so hard to be more inclusive and less tribal. It has certainly gotten me thinking about what it’s all about…
Sometimes we forget that Advent is the start of the Christian calendar. Christianity picked up and absorbed many pagan rituals when it was being designed to be scaled up and rolled-out across the Roman Empire in the early years of the first Millennium. The iconic symbol of Mother-and-Child is central to the Christmas message and has almost been trademarked by the Christian church. Yet we have so many other symbols used at this time of the year….
For the Northern Hemisphere, the 21st Dec is the shortest day of the year, when our ancestors before us breathed a sigh of relief as the days start to get longer. The Egyptians worshipped the Sun God Ra and put the Sun at the centre of their belief system and lights and candles remain powerful metaphors for a new light of renewal through the dark days of winter. (And although those middle-class folks in the Southern Hemisphere might celebrate the middle of their summer with barbecues they always seem to be up for a party whatever the time of the year!)
Janus heads up the Roman Calendar and has two heads. He was the Roman god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces. Looking backwards and forwards at the same time. And then we have all the other symbols picked up from Siberian shamans, such as reindeer and flying sledges – probably all dreamt up by someone high under the influence of a narcotic plant.
Add to that Father Christmas and his red-and-white image pushed by CocaCola, Holly, Ivy, Carol singing, Turkey (unless you do that at Thanksgiving), Christmas Puddings, Mince pies, boundless supplies of sweets and alcoholic beverages and we have a right-royal mash-up marketing material to make us all over-indulge and reconnect with friends and family (with all the stresses and strains that it brings to make a “Perfect Christmas”). So, I expect most people believe in one way or another that this time of year is one of renewal and re-connection, even if you are not religious.
If you believe in the Son, Happy Christmas, and for the rest, have a Joyous New Year as the Sun brings more light into your life!
And if none of this resonates, it’s a good time of the year to reflect on what has passed and what the future might hold and be truly amazed that we all exist on the leading edge of life. It’s also good to be grateful for all the things that the earth offers up to us and for the love we can give and receive to sustain our future on planet earth.
In my experience, operational leaders and visionary leaders are two different types of people. You want both types on a senior leadership team. Too many of the first and the team gets bogged down in the detail. Too many of the second and the team ends up in LALA land.
The thing that can balance up either one is a shared purpose (or strategy). I particularly like using Amazon’s Narrative approach as a way to find this for common ground. More at:
As we pass Midsummer’s Day 2021, it is a good time to reflect on what we have achieved so far this year, be honest about we are now, and set some stretching goals and objectives for what we are aiming to achieve for the rest of the year.
For many, the past eighteen months have been very different from anything that has happened to us in the past. Some of us have lost loved ones. Others have lost jobs. Yet others have been forced to take really tough business decisions that we never expected we would have to make.
In contrast, for some lucky folks, these times of change have presented new opportunities to change direction and grow. I have often found in life that the greatest opportunities present themselves in the times when things seem darkest. Just as the dawn precedes the coldest part of the night.
Through all these ups and downs in life, the one thing that I have found most useful throughout any period of change is to take one week out every 3 months to reflect and re-orientate myself. To give me (and those close to me) an opportunity to a complete a frank and honest self-assessment of what’s I’ve done that has worked, what I want to celebrate, what I want to change so that I can focus my precious time, energy and effort over the next 12 weeks into the things that I love.
It sounds a bit “corporate” , I suppose, but IT REALLY WORKS!
I have three broad areas that I create new agreements on where I want to focus. I take one sheet of A4 paper for each. The three areas of objectives and agreements that I have are:
The well-being of myself and my close family
The wider community
For each of the three areas, I pick one (or a maximum of three) objectives that I want to focus on in the next three months. The trick then is to write them down! It is well known that one of the major factors that separate successful people from less successful people is that the former write down their goals and objectives and are crystal clear on what they want to achieve. I would suggest that success is impossible without a clear set of written objectives which are time-bound and specific and meaningful to you as the ultimate designer.
Further, given that we live in such an interconnected world, most of these objectives will require the energy, input and skills of others to achieve them. So another key factor is creating agreements with yourself and others as to how you will achieve those objectives.
This all sounds simple, but many people find loads of excuses not to do this type of exercise on a regular basis. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it! Personally, I’ve tried loads of apps and pieces of software – but at the end of the day, I always seem to come back to pencil and paper – which I then type up into a final draft which I print out and refer to daily.
Like any discipline, it requires practice, practice, practice. However, if you take these ideas and adapt them for your own needs, I’m sure they will give you a more successful three months ahead, where you find more meaning and purpose for yourself and those around you – whatever challenges present themselves.
In future articles, I will outline how I define these objectives and agreements in more detail and how I’ve created a personal support network of “circles” which help me achieve my objectives. I would love to extend an invitation to you to join one of these circles. Please message me if you are interested or leave a comment below if you have other tips and tricks you would like to share on how you set and achieve your objectives.
It is August and the holidays are here! For many, July and August are the months for rest and recuperation and spending time with family on holiday. For those that live in the northern parts of the Northern hemisphere, it is a time for getting some sun on our skins before the longer winter months kick in again.
For many, it is also a time of reflection. For although the calendar year starts in January, September is the start of the academic year and August is the gap before the start of the new year. I have found that many businesses are tuned to the academic calendar – either directly (like a University or School) or indirectly (because many of their employees have children who set a cycle in the family geared around their academic needs).
So it got me thinking. Most of my great ideas have come from a time when I am not thinking about day-to-day stuff. Those magic, “Eureka!” moments when a problem you have been working on suddenly becomes solvable.
By not being hampered by the grind of meetings, actions and to-do lists, we can solve old problems and creating new ideas. Finding a gap in the year’s day-to-day grind to think big, think outside the box or just not think at all and let nature take its course often relaxes you in ways you can’t achieve at other times of the year.
There is an old saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as long as we speak. And so it is with the summer break. There is a gap in proceedings where we can listen. Not just listen to those who we work with. But listen to ourselves. Our inner mind. Our inner bodies. Our inner spirit. We can refresh each other with the rest and easy living that we often over-ride in the rest of the year.
So, back the Art of Business Conversation. For my own part, I have been working on a new way to look at businesses through the conversations we have. The Art of Business Conversation, if you like. As simple as ABC. Except it isn’t, is it? It is quite complicated.
There are several different types of business conversation (which I aim to explore more in future posts). The most intense are often wrapped up in emotional outbursts or things unsaid.
The key is to find space within the conversation to reflect. On an annual cycle, this time of the year gives us time to reflect on the longer-term relationships we all have with the businesses and people we work with. Either as employees; business owners; customers; suppliers; that funny, over-used word “partners”; or simply the friends and relations that weave in and out of those conversations.
And that is where the idea of Zen comes in. Zen is the space between. Zen is the effortless flow. Zen is the silent, observant onlooker onto our busy world of nothingness. Zen is the state to get into before returning to the ABC of business, academia and all those things where we sequence stuff and continue our practice of the art of business conversation.
So, enjoy the break. Listen to the silence. Observe the subtle messages coming from the conversation with yourself. Say nothing and say everything. Come back refreshed and energised to take on the new challenges that you discover in the hidden moments of this August recess.
I’ve always been fascinated by colour and believed that men and women see colours differently. So I was both interested – and not surprised to see what researchers have found on the subject. It proves that men and women not only prefer different colours, they also see more hues of colour than men. Men, on the other hand, prefer shades. Perhaps it goes back to our ancestors, where women were more attuned to gathering different types of fruit and men were looking for subtle shadows of beasts behind a bush. Who knows? Makes you think, though!
By the way, my favourite colour is blue! But I was surprised that no men liked purple! It was my favourite colour once as a teenager. Before I turned to red – and eventually to blue. I wonder if others have changed their preferences through their lives?
Oh, and just for fun, why not put down your favourite colour in the comments box below – and we’ll see if the research is borne out by those who read the blog.
Last Thursday, I had a meeting with a business colleague. We had only met once before – but somehow the energy felt really good between us. Conversation flowed. Ideas bubbled to the surface. Creative spirit abounded.
During the conversation, it became apparent that I had talked in our previous meeting about intuition. I had forgotten this – but it is something I have recently become very interested in. In summary, it’s the idea that the world is far too “mental” and that many have lost touch with their intuitive guidance system – based around the heart. I’m also a strong believer in the idea that everything is connected.
And so it was, just by chance (as happens when browsing the internet) I came across this video below:
I don’t know too much about the organisation behind the video – but just love the overall theme, messages and visuals. It somehow helps us to remember things we have forgotten or lost – so we can get back into the life-force and remember who we are.
Today, the Parish of Goudhurst and Kilndown in rural Kent (which is where we live) came one step closer to achieving what most others in the UK have access to…..
It wasn’t fresh water. That has been flowing freely from boreholes and the local reservoir at Bewl Water for quite a while.
It wasn’t gas. Goudhurst used to have gas – but the Gas Works blew up in the 1948 – a few weeks before all gas works were nationalized. Coincidence or dodgy insurance claims, no one quite knows.
It wasn’t electricity. That has been delivered to all of the Parish since about 2006 when the folk in Bedgebury Forest came onto the Grid.
It wasn’t being connected to the mains sewage. Our house still has a septic tank at the bottom of the garden.
What it was that we came one step closer to getting half of the Parish – perhaps more – onto Superfast Broadband.
The next stage of the scheme is due to go live next week – in time for the end of June go-live for four of the cabinets in the village to be fibred-up to Superfast Broadband. And the spectacle today was watching the fibre being blown down the plastic ducts that have been laid under all the key roads in the village.
The event went off without an audience – large or small. Simply two engineers diligently waiting whilst the meter showed how far the end of the fibre had been blown. The fibre wrapped over the right arm to give it control as it entered the plastic duct pipe.
Looking forward to the fibre being lit next week. Come on, light my fibre – or something like that!
As we come to the end of the summer break, for most of us, school, university or work starts afresh. I say, for most because, like with all generalisations, there are always those who break the rule. An increasing number of friends seem to be moving into “retirement” or “semi-retirement” – breaking the pattern of a life-time by taking more time off. Two of my children are starting University – a break from the long years of study at school to the less structured, more fun time at Uni.
And the little word “break” got me thinking. It seems to have so many meanings. It runs to many definitions in the dictionary – both as a verb and as a noun. It can be:
destructive (as in – “break a glass”)
illegal (as in “breaking the speed limit”)
liberating (as in “break out of old patterns”)
exciting (as in “breaking news”)
disappointing (as in “break my heart”)
the point of profit (as in “break-even”)
time to eat (as in “breakfast”)
very confusing for someone not fluent in English (as in “break a leg”)
For such a little word, it has so many different subtle meanings and so many different ways to combine itself with other words to mean so many different things!
Yet, with all of this, I always see the start of September as the opportunity to break from the past and focus on the future. For some reason, even more so than with Christmas or Easter. Perhaps we are all subconsciously programmed by the school year – whether as students, former students or parents. Yet there are those who will always break the mould and find other beginnings and endings in their year and not agree with me.