Be like Donovan – keep the thrill alive

Earlier this week, I was listening to an episode of Blood On The Tracks, the Colin Murray-fronted show, where guests bring their record collections and debate their favourite tracks in certain chosen categories.

In one particular round, the guests were asked to name their favourite act to come out of Scotland.

Fashion queen and former guitarist in The Fall Brix Smith chose Donovan.

If you don’t recognise the name or the above picture of Donovan, don’t worry.

In the 60s, he had a string of hits, such as Mellow Yellow, Sunshine Superman and Hurdy Gurdy Man, but his star waned in the 70s.

It transpired that Brix Smith knows Donovan and has his number, so Colin Murray challenged her to call him live during the recording.

He duly answered and immediately launched into an excited monologue about the new album he’s about to release, and if he can send it to her.

When the call finished Colin Murray was ecstatic to hear that Donovan was still enthusing about making new music at the tender age of 73.

Find a passion and stick with it

And that’s my point here. Try and imagine yourself in your 70s.

For many, this will be half a lifetime away or more. The thought of still doing then, what you do now AND still being excited by it seems unreal.

So find something you enjoy and keep doing it differently in order to avoid it getting dull.

Then maybe you, too, will be like Donovan at 73.

Let’s talk about death, baby*

A not-insignificant part of my week has been taken up discussing the aftermath of loved ones dying.

As part of our continual reassessment of the free advice guides we supply at Age UK, we run focus groups with older people to ensure we’re covering the right topics.

With information about money there’s little room for leeway, but an emotional topic like bereavement often requires more consideration.

Thus, I’ve run two workshops with small groups in both London and Norwich encouraging people to openly discuss their feelings and how they coped after someone close to them died.

Taboo subject

Death is an odd topic. Most of us hate speaking about it. In spite of its inevitability, it’s a ‘big’ issue that either manifests itself in complete avoidance, or else the phrase ‘Oh, you don’t want to talk about that!’

But actually it’s exactly what we should be doing. Not only before we shuffle off – in order to plan and get your affairs straight – but also after the event when those left behind are at their most raw and exposed.

Everyone we spoke to agreed that – no matter how hard it can be – talking about the person who’s died and also your own feelings is the way through it.

Confront – don’t avoid

If you’ve been through a bereavement, one of the most excruciating parts is when you first encounter others after the death and you know they’re worried about you crying and – in many cases – they visibly avoid you.

To some extent that’s natural because many of us haven’t been through a similar experience, but what we really want is for someone just to offer a few words of condolence, ask how you’re feeling and then treat them as normal.

Bereaved people don’t sprout horns or wings – they may just be a little more sensitive than usual.

So the next time someone you know loses a close relative or friend, do the right thing and just talk.
*With apologies to Salt ‘N’ Pepa

The ultimate explanation of why you need a strategy


I was reading the excellent Made To Stick by Chip & Dan Heath this week and came across the most brilliant analogy to explain why all organisations – or even projects – need a strategy.

“If you’re playing darts and your friend consistently aims too high, you can give useful feedback. But it’s the obvious location of the bullseye that makes your comment possible.

What if and your friend don’t agree on where it is? In that case, your communication will be unproductive and irritating for both of you – and if you were playing “business” rather than darts, the person with more power would win the discussion. A common strategic language allows everyone to contribute.”

I’ve worked on countless projects and in many organisations, where it wasn’t immediately obvious what the end goal was, nor the way we were going to measure it.

If you ever need to explain to anyone – even a boss – why a strategy is important, this is the way to do it.

CC photo via Flickr: John