Legs, air and pain- the female rider trials and selection

The original article can be found here: http://ulvteam.co.uk/legs-air-and-pain-the-female-rider-trials-and-selection/

The current holder of the women’s World Human Powered Speed Record is Barbara Buatois. The French cyclist set it in 2010 and has yet to be dethroned. So, spots on the team needed filling. The ULV Team had to find its female riders for their next attempt in September. British women to take a shot at the title.

They put the word out in 2015 and set the when and the where for those who fancied their chances. Be ready for trials at Liverpool Hope University, February 2016. Five women stepped up and made the trip to the city to see if they had what it took to take ARION 2 to a new record in Nevada.

The riders

Catherine Lineker

Yasmin Tredell

Kirstie Maxfield

Jordan O’Mara

Lucy Ryvar

The judges

A pair of sports scientists, Dr Peter Angell and Dr Simon Marwood, from Liverpool Hope, would be their taskmasters. The ULV engineers were also on hand to show support and cast an eye over the candidates. Two of these women would become their teammate.

The lab

On the day, the trials took place in the sports lab at the university. The room being used had that hospital feel to it. Typical laboratory white was everywhere. Combined with the air conditioning being pumped through the vents, it made for a cold setting for everybody. The sick bucket in the corner, the finishing clinical touch. Throwing up from exertion had been taken into account.

The warm up bikes were taken to and the girls started working their legs and lungs, combating the chill in the air. Peter ran through the procedures. He could not put enough emphasis on how hard the riders had to push themselves this day.

Power through every stroke. No stopping. All out.

The tests

The equipment consisted of a specialized bike, an oxygen mask, heart monitor and weight. A lot of data would be gathered for analyzing- power, speed, cadence, heart rate, O2 efficiency… The tests to find this out- brutal in their nature.

Ramp test

The riders start on the the bike with an output of 25W for three minutes. This increases by 25W/minute. When cadence falls below 50rpm, resistance drops and riders go all out.

Wingate test

This is 30 seconds of pure power. Once the riders cadence hits 90RPM, a weight equivalent to 10% of their bodyweight drops to add resistance and they must pedal as hard as possible. Riders get two test runs of 10 seconds each to prepare for the real thing.

Lastly, the riders had their body composition measured. Dimensions, weight and body fat percentage. Power and stamina are crucial but so too is weight. The power to weight ratio needed to be considered for the sake of speed. A good balance is demanded between all these elements for rider selection.

The trials

While the engineering team took to their coffee orders, the trials began. Each rider took their turn to don the mask and listen to the words:

Go until you can’t go any further…and then go some more.

If this instruction sounds open to interpretation, it should. The riders weren’t allowed to know how long was left or how well they were doing during the test. Everything was down to the rider’s own training, self awareness and understanding of their own body’s limits. As well as their mind’s.

Music played in the background and the riders enjoyed it’s effects on their mindset. When it came to the trial, focus was purely on breathing and reps per minute. Each woman was determined to give it all and it showed. Gasping breaths, cries of pain and collapsing on the floor. All this, the scientists and engineers witnessed as these five women put their bodies through the grinder to earn the chance to take the ARION bike to new record territory.

The engineers couldn’t help but marvel at the effort going in and the numbers being produced by these athletes. One engineer, Rory, found out personally, as he brought out his lycra to understand what they were asking of their prospects.

His thoughts on the tests and his performance?

Horrible. And nowhere near those five.

He’s happy to stick to the mechanics.

The decision

In the weeks following the trial, the team took to the data and discussed how exactly they were going to make their selection. Ken Buckley, ARION rider and coach, weighed in with his expertise and experience, and the sports scientists at Hope were kept in constant contact throughout. Until a decision was finally reached, yesterday.

Without further ado, 2016’s female ARION riders will be…

Yasmin Tredell and Jordan O’Mara!

Break and build better

Original post found here: http://ulvteam.co.uk/break-and-build-better/

When I go on news websites, I make a point of looking for some good news. This isn’t always easy. Spend more than a few minutes on your news site of choice and you’ll soon find yourself sucked into a vortex of anxiety, depression and fear. Finding the positives can be hard.

So, where do I look?

The science sections. The technology tabs. I look there for proof that there are people still out there, pushing us forward. Not dragging us backward. It’s the same reason I’m addicted to TED talks. I like being encouraged. I like knowing there’s more going on than people just being crappy to each other in one form or another. I like knowing people are trying to do and be more. 

This is one of the reasons why the ARION project attracted me so much. It was a bunch of people right here on my doorstep personifying what I was looking for every day. Let me explain what I mean. 

I think we can safely say the term ‘world record’ doesn’t quite carry the same sense of elitism it once did. Google weirdest world records and have a look. 

But true records, like the human powered land speed record, these are real classics. Real endeavours beyond stuffing your face full of hot dogs and watery buns or injecting steroids into your arms so you can claim to have the world’s largest. This record demands the combination of everything a real record should- brains, brawn and cutting edge technology. 

Records are a representation of the very best of what we can do. Attempting to break records means we’re trying to get better. And ultimately, breaking them means we’ve succeeded. For now. 

The whole thing is founded on the belief that we can and will do better as a group of largely lost and confused individuals on a big rock in space. That we’re not just content to sit back once something has been done. It’s one of the most redeeming qualities we have. 

Cynics, at this point, may scoff.

What’s the point? It doesn’t mean anything. Break a record? It will just get broken again. It doesn’t make any money. It’s not really profitable. In fact it costs money. How does hurling yourself down a runway move mankind forward?

That depends on what you choose to see when you look at something like the ARION project and the human powered land speed record breaking attempts. Some will choose to see a fruitless and vainglorious endeavour. I see something else when I look at the people involved and the world ARION exists in.

I see something inherently good. 

I asked Dave Collins, ULV Team rider, what the community was like. Was it competitive? Keeping everything about their team top secret? Was it like Wacky Races out in the desert? All trying to sabotage each other? Did anyone paint a sign which took someone off a cliff? 

No. While everyone wanted their team to win, there was the undeniable wish by all that the record be broken by somebody out there. Teams were helping each other out when they could. Ideas and experiences were shared. The community is exactly the same when you look on social media. In groups like World Human Powered Speed Challenge on Facebook, progress, concepts and designs are posted for all to see. Why? Because in true rarity- people genuinely want to see others do well and want to see the field advanced. 

Then I spoke with Rob McKenzie and Rory Curtis from the engineering team. I asked about how they found the likes of sponsorships and contributions from company bodies. Was it a battle to get help out of them?

No. Their sponsors were fantastic and absolutely intrinsic to the successes ARION had last year. Even more so, this year. Already, Pentaxia have machined the shell plug so moulds can be created. Sigmatex have provided the carbon fibre to manufacture the shell and components. Friends of the University of Liverpool stepped up and gave a grant for testing purposes. Tygavec provided resin infusion materials and Sample & Hold let the team use their 3D scanners for rider analysis. And it’s only January. There’s still much more to come from their other sponsors. 

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The two conversations highlighted what makes the ARION project so appealing in terms of benevolence.

Contribution.

Contribution is the integral factor. People and companies contribute to the project and in turn, the project contributes to the field and then it flows back again. It’s cyclical. 

The engineers contribute their education, skills and ideas. Their Masters degrees exemplify this academically and the success of the bike on the track shows them to the world. Every Watt of power they see converted to real speed is something for the students behind them to begin with as they take up the mantle. Any worthwhile or groundbreaking developments they make in engineering will feed through into industry and academia. Their knowledge shared for those seeking similar pursuits in speed or maybe even to the benefit of completely unrelated fields. We live in an age when creative use of existing knowledge, principles and technology is bringing us a constant stream of innovation in application. 

The riders contribute to the world of athletics and sports science. They set the bar for the next generation of athletes. They show people what can be done and inspire those in the wings. 

Their coaches will take their successful methods and apply them to others under their tutelage in the future. Sometime, somewhere, another rider will reach their best with the help of those holding the stopwatches in the gym over the next seven months. 

The sponsors use the collective power of their products and capital to help the project reach a new pinnacle. The individuals in the companies who are passionate about seeing their products, technology and financing put to test then get to see what people can do with them. And so do others. Interest is returned. 

The success of ARION 2 can never be 100% guaranteed. But 100% contribution from everyone involved, can.

And that is encouraging to me.

Lessons from the desert

 

Original post found here: http://ulvteam.co.uk/lessons-from-the-desert/

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Earlier this week, I sat down with Dave Collins of the University of Liverpool Velocipede Team while he relayed the experience of his team this summer, as they set out to break the land speed record for fastest human powered vehicle. Masterminded by the engineering students and staff from the University of Liverpool and backed by heavyweight sponsors, Rathbones, the project has been two years in the making. The vehicle, ARION 1, is a carbon shielded bullet, plastered in national colours and sponsorship logos with a 104 toothed chain ring as big as my torso. The riders, Ken Buckley and Dave Collins, were there to convert the engineers’ design into a new entry in the record books. And where else better to try their luck than in the state of Nevada? Dave brought me in from their arrival in the United States…

This year’s attempt in the desert was preceded by 5 days in San Francisco. The riders keeping themselves delicately balanced between fatigue from over training and sluggishness from disuse. Optimising themselves for the upcoming max power outputs they’d be gunning for. The importance of fresh legs could not be overstated and even saw the riders upgraded to business class for extra leg room on the flight over. Sadly, for the engineers, minds and digits needed only economy.

Battle Mountain 

From San Francisco, it was a 12 hour drive out to where the fight for the world record would take place. Battle Mountain. This is not a track from Mario Kart, I have confirmed. Battle Mountain is a small desert town found in northern Nevada. Population, just over 3000. Each year, it hosts what is officially called the ‘World Human Powered Speed Challenge’, along its flat, southern highway. 

Trials 

First, the qualifiers. 2.5 miles in which to hit 50mph, the required speed. This was new ground for the team who’d yet to reach such numbers back home in the UK, on the runway at Bruntingthorpe. If and when they passed, the 5 mile course would be opened up for them and their true record attempts could be made. It is within this 5 mile stretch the riders build up to maximum speed over a 200m trap. 200m to make all the work that has gone before, count. No pressure, right? 

Time in the seat 

The first round of runs quickly made something very apparent to both the riders and engineers- 3 weeks’ worth of time in the bike was just not enough preparation. All the power in the world couldn’t make up for faith in technique and confidence behind the wheel. There was a steep learning curve ahead for both Ken and Dave. Early crashes dented confidence and slipping into poor headspace was all too easy. The carbon casing could take the knocks but that couldn’t stop basic human instinct from taking over and flushing riders with adrenaline and hesitation. And yet, despite this, both Ken and Dave made the cut. Both made it over the 50mph mark and secured their place amongst the other internationals, all vying for title of fastest man. 

Broken records 

Adapting quickly, it didn’t take long for the team’s numbers to shoot up from the fifties to sixties. Dave reached the 60mph point first with Ken quickly following, in what was to become a repeat pattern of friendly competition. Each rider’s achievements spurring on the other. 60mph. 64mph…67… Impressive numbers given the less than favourable conditions. Impressive enough to break the old British world record when Ken hit 69mph. The team was warming up nicely. Their surroundings, however, were lagging behind. 

Wind, rain and snow 

High speeds in the desert conjure up images of melting tyres on cracked concrete. Not quite, this September. Unusually bad weather took to the valley. Rain stopped several runs and it became a game of ‘if and when’ the teams could hit the track. Frustrating for so many who’d made the journey out there; seeing their time slots fall by the wayside thanks to elements outside their control. Still, not many of us can claim to have seen snow on top of a mountain in the middle of summer in the Nevada desert. A bizarre sight to behold. A natural phenomenon caused by the swinging diurnal temperatures and high elevation of the land. But it wasn’t rain (or snow) which presented the greatest problem to the team. By far, the most dangerous condition before them was the high wind streaming through the valley floor.

The crash 

It was these winds which shook the team midweek. Earlier crashes were disturbing but this crash was different. High winds and a cruising speed of 55mph threw Ken and the bike worse than ever before. The rider emerged unscathed but the bike was far less fortunate. ARION 1 was in bad shape. 

Around the clock 

“They were an absolute credit to the project. Solid effort from those guys.”

These are the words Dave uses to describe the ARION engineering team who worked round the clock for 3 days, in order to get the bike back in working order and ready for more runs. Taking turns in shifts, every member played their part to keep Britain in the running. It’s during times like this that the glory shifts. From the power of the riders to the skill of the engineers. Never felt more than when Dave and Ken stayed up late to provide relief and moral support to their team members under pressure to bring ARION 1 back to life. Legs rendered useless until their heroes with the toolkits broke their own personal best that week. It would prove to be time well spent. 

All or nothing

The bike was pieced back together. The cracks filled and sanded. The aerodynamics restored as best they could. Lastly, the front tyre was swapped for a more stable model. Slower but steadier, giving both riders that extra ounce of confidence they needed to go all out on the final day. And confidence was key. The whole morning was spent psyching themselves up for their last chance. Getting used to the new tyre, grappling with the altered feel to the gears and handling. Both riders now had a point to prove. Both wanted to do the project and team justice. Both wanted to truly earn their places on ARION 1. 

Britain’s new fastest 

Dave broke 70mph on his final run. An incredible moment. Britain’s newest fastest man. At least, for a while. Word of his success reached Ken. The gauntlet had been thrown down and now his last run demanded steel legs, steelier nerve and a downright disregard for any kind of timidity. By all accounts, it was all out. As of September 2015, Ken stands as Britain’s fastest man as he surpassed 75mph.

“It was the perfect result. For everybody, the whole team, really.”

Dave, our second fastest, is certain in his words. By his reckoning it was good for all. Both riders broke the old British record. And both riders have stood as the country’s record holder. Ken, the longest standing rider of the project, walked away with the title, something that sits right in a karmic kind of way. The engineers can now lay claim to developing the fastest man powered technology in the country and saw their efforts pay off despite a nerve wracking couple of days in the week. The ARION team is now Britain’s fastest. They have their Nevada State Police speeding tickets to prove it. Britain’s fastest.

But not yet the world’s. 

ARION 2 

Right now, the world record title is held by Canadian Todd Reichert and the AeroVelo team. 86.65mph is the new brass ring for the team at the University of Liverpool to target. And they are aiming. 

Read any motivational meme about success on social media these days and you’ll notice a pattern. Recurring themes. Similar accounts. Success comes from effort. It comes from not giving up. It comes from learning from your mistakes and your victories. All the lessons from the desert are being taken on board by our team; rider experience and time on the bike, handling ability in unfavourable conditions, gear changes, tyre selection and crash recovery methods. How to be more efficient. How to work best with the riders. How to go faster.

Both riders are convinced they can do better. They walked away wondering what 2 or 3 more days could have brought them. The engineers, too, are full of their own certainties and hunches about the potential that awaits them in the lab. The year ahead promises renewed efforts from all of them. Mentally, physically and technologically.

We hope you’ll join us for the sequel…

Law isn’t enough

Once again, it’s open season on training contracts for a fresh batch of hopeful graduates and dogged paralegals. Meanwhile, as of June this year, qualified solicitors saw 3,312 competitors join the field over the last twelve months, swelling their ranks to 132,864 according to SRA figures. How are you supposed to stand out?

Law is easily one of the most competitive professions out there. From the get go, it’s you against everyone else. Competing for grades, university places, LPC placement, training contracts, paralegal jobs, training contracts again, newly qualified positions, associate promotion and partnership. And that’s just the struggle you face in your own firm. You’re of course competing against the other firms and their lawyers in the market place, for business. 

Firms need more from their employees these days. Even if some haven’t fully realised it yet. Top university marks or surpassed target hours are increasingly becoming minimum requirements. Technical proficiency in an individual is expected as a given. Smart leaders are seeing that this alone won’t cut it in today’s modern legal field. Excellent business aptitude needs to balance out legal skills in terms of what the field demands. 

This means you need to be more. You need to be more than a lawyer. You need to be a business man or woman, too.

Yes, this sounds like a lot to be asked for. And you’re rightly thinking you’ve already done a hell of a lot to get where you are. You’ve worked your backside off through whatever avenue it’s taken to get you where you are. The studying. The fees and debt. The long hours. Or maybe you’re reading this and have all that to come. 

And here I am telling you that won’t be enough? With brutal honesty, I say no. It won’t be. If you want to elevate yourself in this industry or even get your foot in the door in the future, you need to be prepared to face the fact that law isn’t enough anymore. That it is no longer a privileged profession with its practitioners immune to the demands of world progress. 

So with that said, I ask you the following questions: 

Can you handle a firm’s social media account?  

Can you offer advice on industry software package options?  

Can you lead change in the form of a business improvement project?  

Can you truly manage those around you as more than just billing machines?  

Can you market yourself and the firm like a true professional?

At first glance you may furrow your brow. Social media, IT, management, marketing? There are whole departments built for those things. True. There are. But to be devoid of knowledge, understanding and ability in these areas will see you fall behind. Let’s look at each area and see why.

Social Media

There’s no escaping this. And if you’re reading this article, perhaps you’re ahead of many others. But almost all of us could do with better use of social media practices, beyond the basics. Many simply sign up to an account on LinkedIn or Twitter and leave it to gather virtual dust, but they’ve at least ticked the box.

What you should look into
Search engine optimisation (SEO). Content strategy and creation. Writing for social media. These are the things you should be reading up on and seeing how you can apply even the basic principles of them to help you and your team achieve the growth or visibility targets you may have been set. 
Questions to ask yourself
How can you make your tweets as visible and as engaging as possible? What does your audience want to know? Can you contribute to your field of peers? Show you’re exceptional in what you do? Create content that makes people sit up? Can you make yourself stand out? 
Why you should
Profile raising- for both you and your firm. Increased credibility. Personal brand development. Reputation as a subject expert and a person of value in the field. Use in marketing strategy to increase client base. Develop new revenue streams with current clients through better visibility of services. The list goes on. 

Industry software

This is the stuff you use everyday to conduct your cases and manage your business. The software behind the scenes and upfront on your screen. Most people don’t give it a second thought, seeing it only as the platforms on which they must make their targets.

What you should look at
Extranets. Portals options for your firm and clients to work together with. Case management options- Thomson Reuters, Peppermint, Lexis Nexis… Client Relationship Management tools- InterAction, Sales Logix, Sage CRM… Find out the options available to you on your current systems and speak to your IT department about what can be done.
Questions to ask yourself
Is what we’re using now good enough to meet your needs and the needs of your client? What’s out there in the market? What are your competitors using? What are your clients using? Can we take something and adapt it? Can we work with providers to make something even better? Can we use our current systems in more innovative ways? What products or packages can you and your IT department create that could bring value to your clients and their needs? 
Why you should
Technological advancements in the legal field don’t look close to slowing down. Clients use of technology certainly won’t. Firms need to be able to match what clients demand. Being knowledgeable about this area of business puts you in a strong position. It sets you apart as an expert or at least someone to consult should a technological tendering process come into being. And combining your legal expertise and client understanding together with technological know how increases your chances of coming up with valuable offerings for both current and prospective clients. What managing partner wouldn’t look at you with joy if you managed that? 

Leading change

This is a big one. Change essentially means improvement. No one looks to change for the worse. In order to keep surviving and thriving amidst the market forces, change is inevitable. Whether it’s a mini project in a team or a firm wide improvement initiative, knowing how lead the charge from the front is a crucial skill.

What you should look at
Change management practices and theory. John Kotter’s works e.g. Leading Change or Our Iceberg is Melting. Project management. Lean Six Sigma training and qualifications. Kaizen. Culture change theory. The difference between change management and change leadership. Handling resistance to change in an organization. Stories and examples of change from other companies.
Questions to ask yourself
How could my firm change for the better? What could be improved with the resources we have available? How can I inspire others to change for the better? What do I need to know to manage a project? Can I gain a qualification at the same time? What lessons can I take from the rest of the business world to change the business and drive innovation?
Why you should
Change in a business is unavoidable. Law firms are no different. Leading change, inspiring others, that’s a guaranteed way to shine and prove your value to your employers. Delivering results of cost savings or increased profits, even more so. Beyond that, you help create a better place in which you come to work everyday.

Managing people

In the traditional law firm structure, management positions can often come from time served and promotion through technical ability. Neither of these things automatically translate to a good ability to manage anyone else. Sometimes it appears as if candidates have been selected at random or fallen into it by default, ability be damned. Good management so often falls second to legal work and target reaching. It behoves you not to fall into this category. 

What you should look at
Look into what courses you can take. Internally or externally. Go to Waterstones and browse the business section. There’re a wealth of books on this subject. Some will be useless, some will be fantastically thought provoking and influential. If you’re a cheapskate or you’re young and working off your overdraft- visit your library (they do still exist, often with a coffee shop inside). Cultivate even a modicum of self awareness and watch how you’re behaving and handling people and situations. Steadily apply what you learn to your working life and the intricacies of your firm.
Questions to ask yourself
The current management system works, but is it necessarily the best way it can work? Can I do more than tell people what to do? Can I be someone approachable enough so that problems are brought to light for solving rather than festering and bringing the team/firm down? Could I help retain staff through my own leadership style? What can I do to get the best out of the people who work for me, besides threats and expressions of displeasure? How can you best use the individuals in your team?
Why you should
Treating those beneath you as mere battery hens for billable hours will not serve the you or the firm well in the long term. The whip will only get you so far. Staff will look elsewhere if they’re unhappy. It may take time but they will likely move. Likewise, being indifferent and isolating yourself from those under you will inspire its own negative effects. 
Standing out as the person who brings a team up to best performance through their own efforts will be lauded. Establishing a team fraught with low morale, high staff turnover and poor productivity will bring the spotlight down on you eventually. And that’s not the kind of heat you need in your career. 

Marketing
One of the most important abilities to have in a market that is overrun with competition for business from other firms and competition for personal progress from other lawyers. The package you present to people and the outside world, how you sell yourself, can be the crucial difference in a world full of options. 

What you should look at
Speak to the people in your marketing department, if you have one. These guys are professionals too. Often with years of experience in client relationship management, business tendering or PR. Listen to them. What you think is a good idea or best practice might not be. They will have their own methods and procedures to follow sure as you do for your cases. 
Remember that expertise in one field does not qualify you in another. Bear this in mind and check your ego at the door. Learn everything you can from these people. Let them help you raise your game so you can come out an even better lawyer.
If you don’t have a dedicated department, exploit your network and connections. Have conversations with professionals who can point you in the right direction. Take advantage of things like blogs and articles from industry experts on the matter.
Join local business networks and use them correctly. Don’t just go for the free food and drink. Don’t just talk to people from your own company. This may seem scary but it’s something you can build up to gradually. Take a networking course if you can find one. People aren’t as scary as you may believe. Nor are people as boring as you may judge! Go and talk. Learn how you can cross sell expertly to clients to promote firm growth for others. It’s not all about you and people will appreciate that if you display that attitude.
Questions to ask yourself
Do I know how to market myself and my firm in the best way possible? Who do I know who could help me do this? What is/will be my personal brand? How do I build and maintain this? What blogs can I check out about this? What networks are in my area that I can join? How do I cross sell to clients and connections? 
Why you should
Increased selling opportunities. Client number growth. Work diversification. Better self branding for future career opportunities. Value in the eyes of employers as you bring in more work and become a name in the firm and industry. 

End the stereotype 
I’ve just covered, in very broad strokes, what it takes to be a more competitive legal practitioner today. Of course you can’t change everything you are and what you do overnight. That’s why I posed a lot of questions- for future reflection. And gave some examples of activity to undertake- for you to try out. Little and often, incremental changes to how you conduct your professional life will add up, believe me. Don’t switch off as soon as you sit down at your desk. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming a stereotypical ‘lawyer’ and close yourself off to anything other than the cases in front of you and the clock in the corner. Create a new stereotype. Create a new definition for the profession. Take your career higher.

Finding the ‘millionaire mind’…

“People ask me if I’m ever gonna get a real job. I just shrug. If I won the lottery, this is exactly what I’d be doing. I spend all winter snowboarding then surf in the summer. I’m already a millionaire in my mind. I’m never gonna be one in real life. But I am up here. That’s what you want in life, isn’t it?”

Taffy

I’m coming up to 30 and I’m not yet where I want to be in life. This is not a unique position to be in. In fact, I imagine most 29 years olds are in the same boat. And 30 years olds. 31 year olds… Any age. I’d like to change this.

In truth, I don’t completely buy the whole ‘you create your own circumstances’ spiel spouted by so many positive psychologists and motivational bloggers. Personally, I think that’s the cry of the privileged or those completely ignorant of the realities of the world we live in. Those miraculous underdog champions the media so loves to show off are proportionately few and far between. Many will always struggle and fail to better their position, now matter how much they work. That’s just life.

Yet, despite admitting that, I sincerely believe there’s a lot you can control. More than most of us realise. And the harsh reality I’ve just acknowledged does not mean you shouldn’t try to better yourself or position. It does not mean it’s impossible.

The quote at the top came from the bearded mouth of my very first surf instructor. Frizzy haired. Tattoo sleeved. Belly out. Smile on his face.

I put it down on paper as soon as I got the chance, for fear of forgetting. It was beautifully simple. Like good wisdom is. And it’s been on my mind since returning from Cornwall. 

How he’s living- that’s what I wanted. It’s what I want.

The simple premise- to live life as if you were already a millionaire.

How exactly do you go about doing that? How do you achieve the level of contentment this guy showed?

I figured you do it by asking the question:

If I was a millionaire, what would I be doing with my time?

  

Now, once you’ve gotten past the mental picture of jet setting, partying, penthouses, a shopping spree, infinity pools and perhaps a Scarface sized mound of coke, what would you be doing? If you had the time and the freedom. If work or whatever wasn’t in the way.

I started thinking about it and began to boil things down.

Writing. Exercise. Physical activities. Learning. Photography. Reading a shed load. Seeing or doing random things I’ve never seen or done before. Saving the world.

What I’ve just described might not seem all that exciting to you. Thats what you’d do if you a millionaire?! Yes. Don’t get me wrong, I’d party and travel and all that, but you can’t do that 24 hours a day for the rest of your life. Not without medical assistance. The stuff I just listed is what a great deal of my time would be spent on.

So, I became determined this week to start moving towards this millionaire feeling I so desire…

Writing- two blog posts written (including this one). An hour and a half set aside a day to work on the first edit of my film script.

Exercising- a shake up of what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months. A nice change up of routine to keep me interested and improving. Lunchtimes during the working week to break up the day.

Physical activities- sadly, there’s no surfing around Liverpool but there’s good indoor climbing.  A session with a mate proved to be both a good laugh and a decent workout on my skill level.

Learning- this thing keeps popping up on my Facebook feed- the best free online courses. You may have seen it. I always kept saying to myself I’d look into it, marking the site for future reference and never getting round to it. This week I made myself look at it and signed up to a couple of courses. Just a couple that take a few hours to complete, to get me going.

Photography- on an excursion round Liverpool I have planned for the weekend, the iPhone will be out while I look for what I think are decent shots. I’ve also pulled out the photography textbook I bought a few months back and only got halfway through.

Reading a shed load- one night a week. I can give myself one night a week. Without any writing, exercising, learning, going out with friends, watching nonsense TV or browsing social media. And just read a book. I read fast. I can clear a lot of a novel in a few hours. Finish one I started down in Cornwall.

Seeing or doing random things- the Jackson Pollock exhibit at the Tate. The Mayan exhibit at the museum. A free ticket to a Ladysmith Black Mambazo performance mixed with a ballet…sounds a bit nuts but sure, sign me up.

Save the world- okay so capes, utility belts and armour are out. But a growing interest of mine is green business. I wonder if combined with writing, there might be something there to help with. I’m signing up to a sustainable business course on one of the free online providers to get me up to speed. 

Relatively small actions. I won’t be completing my script, I won’t be setting a new PB on my pull up count, getting a new degree, selling my prints, reading a library, visiting one of the seven wonders or ending global poverty. But I’ll be spending more time, knowingly, in that millionaire mindset Taffy talked about.

The numbers in my bank account won’t have changed. Actually, that’s not true, the amount will have decreased after some of the above activity. But isn’t that the point of money, finding value in its use? And wouldn’t I be spending it if I was a millionaire? I certainly wouldn’t be hoarding it for bragging rights. So with this little bit of spending on the exhibits, the climbing, gym membership etc, I’ll be catching a glimpse of what I’m after.

And this, I believe, will be the trick. To claw my way to a position where my time spent on my millionaire activities outweighs the time spent not. A continual increase until the balance shifts, one day. And I’m living the life I want. With or without the 7 figures in the bank. Sure, there’s more to go. Like turning what I love to do into an earning function and finding somewhere to live that’s more suitable to my interests (the coast, it would appear). But this is just the first week. Only lottery wins make the overnight millionaires. This is a good start. Recognising I’m doing what I want to do is the key.

Why wait for a financial situation that may never come when you could live and feel something akin to it, immediately?

What would you be doing if you were a millionaire?

What can you do right now?

Idle musings on life and surfing…

 No doubt this type of piece has been done before by others, but my recent foray into the world of surfing combined with idle musings in a cafe in Perranporth, Cornwall, set off a scramble of comparisons between these two things which I wanted to write down. Not least because the perspectives which kept pushing to the front of my mind seemed to make a great deal of sense to me and have since turned my attitude in a better direction than it has been the last couple of months. But mostly it’s because I’m just made up to have found something I’m seriously passionate about and want to write about it for a bit.

So on that rainy Saturday morning, with an extra coffee and a slice of homemade Victoria sponge at the ready, I scribbled these down. They’re not in any particular order. My mind doesn’t work that way. But first some basic principles- waves are the opportunities and good things in life. Situations, relationships, jobs, friendships, times. Surfing is catching them and riding them out. The sea is just life. Easy. I wasn’t really stretching the imagination that morning.

Here we go…

Wade out to meet the waves. Constantly. It may be tiring. It may be difficult. But it’s the only way you’ll find the good stuff to surf on.

Be patient. This might be the biggest and best lesson to learn. But also the most difficult one. Sometimes it takes a while for a great wave to come along. Sometimes it can take really long. In fact, even just a vaguely surfable wave can take its time. The ability to be patient in the water. To float comfortably, waiting and watching, is worth learning. Otherwise you’re just burning energy and emotion with anger and frustration at something which is basically out of your control. Most of your time will be spent waiting. The best you can do is to put yourself in the best position you can while you wait.

Don’t panic if things start to go bad. It will only make things worse. You may drown if you’re not careful.

You will get thrown off your board. Enjoy it as much as you can when you do. Find the positive, even if it’s minute. Enjoy the fact you’re alive and can fall at all. Even better, learn from it when you do. What went wrong? How do I try and avoid the same mistake in the future?

Accept the fact that if you’re thrown from a good wave- you may never know why. Driving yourself crazy over it will eventually stop you from finding other good waves. Be ready to move on as soon as you can.

If you’re thrown- get back out there. And smile when you wade. Laugh. It helps.

You can’t catch every good wave that comes your way. But as you get better you can catch more of them.

Don’t wait too long waiting for the perfect wave. You’ll miss good ones. And probably the perfect one too. Waves can be hard to predict. Sometimes you just need to go for it. You may be pleasantly surprised.

You will have good rides. Amazing rides. Some will be short and sweet. Some will be incredible and go the distance. Enjoy the hell out of them when you catch them. Enjoy every second. And if they die out or you fall off suddenly, remember you enjoyed it at the time. Take what you can.

The more you surf, get stuck in, fall off- the quicker you learn, the longer you’ll ride in future and the more happiness you’ll have.

It’s cool. You’re alive. The fact you can feel and do things is actually amazing. 

You will get battered and bruised when surfing. Don’t let it deter you.

Others may steal your wave, get in your way or hit you. Deliberately or not. There are all kinds of people out there whose actions are beyond your control. How you handle them and what they do is entirely down to you. Be cool.

If you let it, the sea will take you where it wants you to go. Sideways. Way out. Into rocks. Places you don’t want to be. You may not realise it is until too late. But as soon as you realise it is, it’s down to you to get yourself out of the situation as best you can. This may take a while and exhaust you. Be smart. Shout for help if you really need it. Otherwise, end up adrift or washed up.

Keep any eye out for lifeguards. The people who are there to help you. Make sure they’re in your life.

If you see someone out there in distress, lend a hand. Do what you can without putting yourself at too much risk. If in doubt, get professionals involved. It’s their job, after all.

The sea does have nasty surprises- jellyfish, sharks, stingrays, rubbish, pollution. These things may hit you out of nowhere. Don’t obsess over them coming your way but be ready to handle them if they do.

When you fall off, do what you can to protect yourself. Keep your hands up. Keep your head safe as it can be.

Promising waves can turn out to be disappointments. Either because of your actions or just the way the wave went because of its nature. Likewise, seemingly unspectacular waves can be beautiful surprises. You won’t know until you catch it. Keep learning and getting better at reading them, though. Improve your odds. It’s a numbers game, after all.

Search for better waves. Sometimes this may mean going further out. Find that balance between being bold and being out your depth. Remember that at some stage you have to take more steps out or stay where you are. If the latter is your choice then don’t complain about lack of better waves or being bored.

Seek advice. Other people have surfed before. Some are wise and have much to teach. Others less so, despite age and appearances. Use your best judgement. Ultimately, find out yourself.

There will be hotties out there with you. Smile. Say hello. You never know where it may lead to.

Have fun falling off. Or at least take it in stride. Getting pissed off does nothing but make you feel worse and does nothing to change or help the fact you’ve fallen off. This one is also hard to mind sometimes. It can take time to learn but is worthwhile if you can pull it off consistently. 

Find the right suit and the right board. Be comfortable with your chosen skin and platform. Be confident in them. Know them and catching waves will be all the easier. The wrong choices of what you take with you into the sea might make it near impossible to ride well. Trial and error but worth the search.

Surfing can look so easy. People can make it look so easy. Some are naturals, yes. They may find waves easier than others. Others have worked bloody hard to be as good as they are. To look that effortless. But you haven’t seen all those times they fell off. Don’t be overly concerned with other people’s rides otherwise you risk becoming a spectator and you’ll never get anywhere yourself. Except perhaps to a state of jealousy, frustration and disappointment. You’re here for your rides. Your waves. Sure, learn what you can by watching sometimes, but make sure you’re trying too. Get better. Get as good as you can in your own way.

Enjoy people’s company but be comfortable on your own too. Not everyone surfs at the same time. Talk to people. Talk to strangers. Be careful who you discount. Sometimes you will be out there on your own. At least for a while. Don’t worry about it. Even if it seems scary.

Go where the action is. If life isn’t providing you the waves you want where you are, taking you where you want to be- move. If you can. As soon as you can. Save up. Bide your time. Take the plunge elsewhere. Why keep wading into waters that don’t suit you, your abilities or your desires? Life’s too short. Go after what you want.

Take a break. Surfing is knackering. As much as you want to, you can’t do it 24/7. Not without some form of amphetamine and even then the waves won’t always be there. It’s draining. Mentally and physically. Be smart. Rest. Eat well. Stay hydrated. Enjoy a beer. Good friends. Good lovers. Books. Netflix. Whatever. Keep yourself together, reenergise and get back out there when you’re ready.

Accept that some days there is no surfing. You’re ill, injured, conditions are bad, you’re out of cash, out of work, unexpected events in your life have derailed you etc. Do what you can during this downtime. Learn. Recuperate. Chill out. Practice other stuff that you enjoy or may help you surf when the chance next arises. Keep ticking over. Exercise. Stay sharp for when conditions improve. And they will, don’t worry. You just need to keep an eye out and be patient.

Keep your mind and body in pretty decent shape. You will be able to paddle for longer. It will make catching waves easier. You’ll surf better and enjoy it even more.

Remember that most of surfing is paddling out and trying to catch the waves. The rides themselves are comparatively short. But they can be really worth it and make the effort and the waiting all the sweeter. 

Practice surfing. As much and as often as you can!

Choosing your change- A climbing lesson

Pick your mountain

Your reasons for change will perhaps have the biggest influence on the type and scale of change your organisation goes for. Of course sometimes there’s no accounting for the whims of men, but for the most part, a business will react proportionately to either the threats they face or the individual, benevolent desires of their leaders i.e. growth, leaning out, culture change etc.

What follows are some other things to consider, along with your reasons for change, when choosing what route you and your business should take.

A single summit

One change. One peak to reach. You know just what you’re aiming for and what you hope to see at the end of it. This is appealing, especially for those new to organisational change, limited in resources or faced with a very specific threat.

But don’t be fooled. Just because you’re attempting one change doesn’t necessarily equate to an easy ride. The same goes for climbing. Just because it’s one mountain doesn’t mean it’ll be quick and easy. Even a single change project requires proper, in depth planning and understanding of what’s about to be undertaken.

However, having just one change in mind can have it’s benefits. Focused intention, direction and use of resources, mainly. A single change gives clarity which can be a big help to employees undergoing it. Their leaders have told them why they’re changing and now they know exactly what it will be. This contrasts quite heavily with wanting to change several things at once.

Though it should be noted that changing one thing often uncovers other unforeseen projects and areas of the business that need tending to if the original change is to work as well as it should. Leaders should be ready for this happening and decide on their course of action in advance.

Do you deal with things as and when they come up or do you expand the single project into a preemptive web of change activity? Do you decide to climb more than one mountain?

A range of peaks

The desire to climb a range of mountains is audacious and has the potential to establish their climbers as heroes. Achievers of something great. So too, those who successfully accomplish a host of big changes within their firm are revered as great leaders.

But attempting a range of changes brings with it even more challenges which need to be factored in by those considering it.

Everything involved in attempting a single change is multiplied not only by the number of changes being carried out but also by the interrelation of all things within an organisation. Little, if anything, happens in isolation within a business. Carrying out multiple changes at once can seriously muddy the waters if not managed well.

Strict leadership is needed to ensure all changes are being looked after at the correct pace. A problem or stall in one area can easily have a knock on effect on other changes being carried out.

If multiple peaks of change are what you’re striving for then incredible planning is needed before you step out the front door and constant revision is vital as the reality of it all plays out. Priorities can become confusing when so much is being altered within a business and there can often be contention about which area deserves the most attention.

Handling this requires a mix of logic and judgement. Some changes will have a natural order that needs to be followed i.e. change B can’t happen before change Aor change X needs doing if we want changes Y and Z to ever happen. Map these orders out and follow them. If faced with a multitude of changes that don’t rely upon each other, review which changes will bring the biggest benefit and soonest and work through the list.

The effects of a range on your team

Setting your sights on more than one change will inevitably take it’s toll on your employees, as would climbing mountain after mountain quickly fatigue an expedition. As discussed in the last post, change has a way of invoking a variety of reactions from people affected by it. Not all positive. How will your people feel when change is demanded of them again and again and again?

There’s a good chance of either a growing desensitization to it all or just outright frustration and anger. Even the most fervent supporters of change have their limits.

For prolonged change you need your quick wins and a steady supply of them. Take the time and deliberately plan to celebrate each victory you come across on your journey. How else will people know you’re making progress? It fosters belief in the idea that change is happening successfully and that it’s actually worth all the trouble. And for those involved in the project’s implementation, they need to see their efforts rewarded. They need their fires stoked if they’re to set upon the next project right away.

Beyond the achievement of quick wins, the creation of a change culture would be the ultimate solution if you desire a business and staff that operates under the banner of continual improvement.

Following footsteps

There is nothing new under the sun. A debatable and cliched proverb but a useful one to bear in mind when choosing and planning change in an organisation.

A lot has been tried before. A lot has worked and even more hasn’t in the world of change. Chances are someone, somewhere, has attempted the same thing as you’re intending or at least something very similar. And the accounts are probably at your fingertips if you go looking. Which I suggest you do.

Most mountains have their recommended routes for ascent. Many have more than one. People often died finding them. Forging your own path could be an extremely costly endeavor. In business, it’s not so different.

Knowing what has and hasn’t worked for others and applying the principals to your unique set of circumstances and people is a wise move. Don’t discount something because it occurred in a completely different industry to your own or in a different time. Human behaviour, the most tempestuous of change elements, varies surprisingly little across time and space. Seriously good ideas can usually cross boundaries.

Consider your limits

You need to consider your resources. Your financial capability, time available, skilled employees and staff levels etc. While resource is worthy of a post in its own right, it’s worth touching upon here. Having a general sense of what is feasible to achieve and what isn’t will affect the type and volume of change you go for.

You should be asking questions. Are you a novice in the change game or an expert? Do you need help from an outside consultant or does your management have the skills needed? How big can you go? How fast? Have you managed to change successfully in the past? How much money do you have free in the budget?

If your resources were better suited to climbing Snowdon rather than K2, would you still book a flight to Pakistan?

And yet I’m not one for excessive pessimism or placing undue limitations on vision. Factoring resources is one thing, shutting down your dreams before you even get out of bed in the morning is another. Both human beings and organisations are achieving things all the time with regards to both innovation and scale.

The word ‘impossible’ bears serious skepticism. Just because you can’t change right now doesn’t mean you never can.