The Delicious Dram

whiskey-315178_1280

When it comes to whisky-making, the copper stills used to distill the spirit are often very very old, sometimes hundreds of years old.

Over time the stills get a bit bashed and each develops its unique pattern of bumps and dents. The wild thing is, this affects the taste of the whisky that particular still produces. Some whisky makers now depend on that unique taste as a mark of their brand and would never change the still, no matter how old or battered, as that would alter the taste.

Similarly, as human beings, if our efforts out in the world aren’t bringing the results we’re seeking, then it might be a useful time to regard our own ‘bumps and dents’.

Whatever is happening in our world is often a reflection of what’s going on inside us. The natural human reaction when the desired results aren’t happening is to push through, keep going. We believe more and more action needs to be taken.

This belief is a fallacy.

Action is actually the end point in the sequence, not the start point, not the catalyst.  A much more  useful strategy when, despite all good plans and action, progress is still not being made, is to delve inside and find out what’s going on in relation to that particular circumstance.

Our actions come from our thoughts; our thoughts come from our beliefs, and our beliefs come from the myriad experiences and teachings we’ve received throughout our lives – especially in childhood – that have combined to form our particular ‘map’ of the world. Tweak one thing and the belief changes, change the belief it changes the thoughts, change the thoughts it changes the action and change the action you change the results.

That tweak changes the taste of our particular whisky, and the more we work in a positive fashion on whom and what we want to become, the sweeter, more pungent and delicious the dram we produce.

Slainte!

What a Ride!

 

FF with FBOne of the things that you don’t expect when you give up the day job is the massive internal, personal changes that start to happen as you start out on your journey working full time in your own business.

First there is the good stuff – the massive increase in passion and purpose. It’s perfectly normal to start working at 6am in your nightie in front of the computer because your brain is racing and you need to get it all downloaded and in print on the screen before it melts like the springtime snow.

As you ease out of your employee mindset (not easy when you’ve been one for thirty-something years) you gain a new sense of yourself, of the things you achieve, the things you create and the changes you make in peoples lives with the stuff you have to offer.

Then there’s the darker side; the self doubt, the financial insecurity, the worry of not knowing how this story ends. These thoughts are hard taskmasters but they are also a gift. They force you to develop resilience, to dig deep and really earn your stripes as someone who is bringing something new to the world that will benefit the world. This life game is not for wimps!

One of the mental tussles I’ve been going through is how to actually bring that stuff to the world in a way that makes sense for me and my clients. In other words – what’s my niche? I’ve been doing ok as a generalist coach and trainer but I knew my message and my vehicle for delivering all these goodies needed honing. My lovely coach Leonie explained that it was like giving birth and ideas, like babies, need an incubation period.

Well, just like an expectant mother – and just as wise Leonie had said – it has taken almost nine months before I got well and truly whacked on the head with the ‘obvious stick’! Let me explain; all my life I’ve been a Communication junkie. I worked in Corporate Communications for 25 years and carried on parallel careers in theatre and comedy as well as becoming a coach and an accredited NLP practitioner. After much reflection I realised that it was no different now, and my passion continues to be how we speak to ourselves, how we speak to the world and how we speak to each other.

So the upshot of it all is I’ll be channeling my coaching and training through the mediums (media!) that I know and love best:

  • More Than Words – Powerful presentation coaching.
  • The Funny Farm – Stand up Comedy for Beginners
  • The Joy Protocol – comedy shows
  • Personal and Business Coaching

It’s very exciting because as soon as I knew exactly how I wanted to do all these things, exactly the right people showed up in my life to make it all happen and it’s happening soon!

As Bill Hicks said, this life is just a ride, and what a crazy wonderful ride it is!

Top 3 Emotions of my First Week in Business

maggie1 Last week I finished up in my day job. After commencing coaching and NLP studies last year and working part time on my coaching, training and comedy business, I’m putting out my shingle for the business on a full time basis. I’m using my experience of 25 years in corporate communications, 23 years in theatre and 12 years in stand-up comedy to teach people and organisations how to be clinically, chronically happy.

This first week has produced some interesting insights, so here are the top three things I’m feeling in my first week of working for myself:

 1. Freedom!

I’ve been a faithful wage slave since I was 16. If you take away my four years of study/uni that’s 32 years of getting up in the morning and attending a workplace. Now my workplace is in the spare room and I am totally responsible for how I shape my day, my week and my entire future. The resulting emotions are a mixture of ‘Eeeeek!’, Yay!’, and ‘Really’? It’s only been a week so at night I’m still dreaming that I’m conducting wrap up sessions for my team at work or working through the day to day issues of the office. And then I wake up and realise that’s all in the past now.

 2. Freak out!

Closely related to Freedom, the freak-out in the first week is the gap between the comfort of the schedule of work I’ve mapped out and the knowledge that until the business gets traction then its income will be less than desired (which is actually ok and normal – unearned income is fine as it goes but unsatisfactory in that it doesn’t show me whether I’m doing it right). I’m having to absolutely live what I teach, manage my mindset and take appropriate action, which is all very cool because it’s what I ask my clients to do and if I only talk the talk and don’t walk the walk I’m not being a very good role model.

3. Fun!

I am having the best of fun. I get to be home with the doggies and make hubby a cup of tea when he gets home (he still insists on making dinner). I get the quiet and solitude of working alone when I need to and I get the creative juices going working together with my great partners in comedy and coaching, and I get to go networking regularly, meet new people and strike up new relationships – the best of all worlds. I get to manage my time as I want it and when I go for acting and comedy gigs I don’t have to second guess myself as to whether it would work in ok with the day job .

This ‘self-employment’ thing is an experience unlike any I’ve ever had. I’m sure it will be something of a rollercoaster, but at least when the time comes I won’t be left wondering ‘what if’. Whatever happens, this is a time in life that I would not swap for anything!

If you’d like to work with me have a look at www.maggiewood.com.au (new coaching site coming soon) and email me on maggie@elegantconceptsgroup.com

Making the World a Better Place One Laugh at a Time

dab-93947_640 A conversation with a group of friends on the notion of success in comedy provoked me to write down for the first time my mantra when it comes to comedy.

I’ve verbalised it often enough but never written it down before and it has been an interesting exercise. It goes something like this:

I measure my success by the amount of laughs I get, because for those 5, 10, or 15 seconds everyone who is laughing has forgotten their worries. If there are 50 people in the audience and I get 6 good five second laughs during a spot then that’s a cumulative 25 minutes when the world in that room was totally bereft of sadness, worry or depression. We’re succeeding alright, reducing sadness laugh by laugh. 

You see, to me, comedy isn’t just that time you’re on stage with an audience. It’s all those other times too when you’re with one person or a group of people and the opportunity is there to observe the topics at hand from the lighter side, to expose the absurdity of the situations and to laugh about them rather than to worry them or fear them.

The psychology of laughter is a fascinating thing. Laughter byypasses the conscious mind and directly hit the subconscious. Creating that pathway brings a fertile ground for new and fresh thinking, destroying prejudices and other types of barriers to open thinking and so helps to build new neural pathways created by new thoughts that in turn allow new ways of being to be explored.

The physiology of laughter is also fantastic. That great big intake of breath for a belly laugh increases the oxygen in the blood. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases our immune system. It eases anxiety, improves one’s mood and builds your capacity for resilience.

Because of what I do I’ve become accustomed to looking for the funny angle of a situation before any other option and if I feel that will help whomever I’m speaking with, I’ll use it. It isn’t for every situation, obviously.

As a Coach and an NLP practitioner I know that when someone is in a state of appreciation and gratitude then it’s impossible for them to simultaneously run the strategies of fear and doubt. I believe the same is true of laughter – when one is consumed by laughter that flame extinguishes all negativity, even if only for a brief period of time.

I’ve always been in awe of my fellow comedians, especially female comedians who experience some tougher obstacles to a career of funniness than the blokes. I feel it is one of the noblest vocations around and the people who do it are delivering a lifesaving service to our communities. With all its health benefits comics should be able to bulk bill on Medicare!

After all, we’re just trying to make the world a better place, one laugh at a time.

I Close My Eyes and Jump

angel-81392_1280Goodness gracious what a week!

I had always imagined that when days arrive that will change my life, they would be huge and dramatic. Maybe fireworks and heavenly choirs, marching bands and trumpets, a boom or two of thunder and lightning splitting the sky.

But what really happened was an unprecedented overwhelming wave of peace, and then deep, deep inside I heard a quiet, loving voice say very firmly “No, enough. It is time now”.

And the decision that had to be made wasn’t scary. I have no doubts about the way forward, and indeed it seems to be the most natural, normal thing in the world.

So, what actually happened is that this week I resigned from my well-paid job to devote my life to coaching and training, to helping people get happy (and therefore successful) quickly and easily, and to have fun doing it using a combination of comedy and cutting edge science (for those that don’t know me I’m also an actor and comedian).

Just to re-emphasise, on Tuesday I had a six-figure, relatively safe government job, and now, after I work my notice, in about 3.5 weeks time I’ll be working for my own business Elegant Concepts Group.

What I’ve done goes against all conventional wisdom. Women my age (52) find it increasingly difficult to get decent work in the corporate sector, and those who tread cautiously would say that it really isn’t the time to be striking out on one’s own.

However, here’s the crux of the matter; for the past 30-odd years – most of my working life – I’ve been suppressing who I really am in order to fit into the ‘corporate box’. I’ve been living a double life; appearing on stage either in theatre or comedy in the evening and by day I’ve been hiding my true passions to fit in with everyone else, and in the process I’ve been exhausting myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have also been disappointing myself for not standing up for whatever oddity I feel I must be.

I have often looked with envy at people who love their 9 to 5 jobs and wished for some of the peace of mind they seem to have. But maybe they too are hiding their passions in some way to fit in with what our society asks of us. I know that for me, as I’ve got older, it has been increasingly difficult.

And then I had the health scares of the past couple of months (see previous post) to bring me to very sharp awareness of the fragility and transient nature of our time here on earth.

The key has been a question of alignment. I’ve been out of alignment and not living my values, and yet that is what I ask my clients to do, to live according to their values. How can I ask that of them when I haven’t done it myself?  That non-alignment has probably been at the basis of my health and stress problems. I can hear my old Scottish mum’s voice in my head “Ye cannay be the servant of two masters.” And that’s why I’m now giving up on one and following, with such a happy heart, the other.

I have the advantage of a fabulously supportive husband, my lovely Steven, who in his own quiet way has been pointing out my fierce defence of this middling stance for some time. And now I’ve stepped out of no-man’s-land and made the commitment he is with me all the way.

So, here goes. The countdown is on. I have my methodology and content that I want, no – need – to deliver, my products for individuals and corporates are almost ready, and even in the past few days opportunities have opened up that I would never have even noticed before. The Universe responds.

I close my eyes,

I take a big breath, and

JUMP!

What Looks Like the End is Actually the Beginning

adelaide sunsetLast week I had a rare privilege. I got to see what it could be like if my life was coming to a close.

It was all a bit dramatic – I wasn’t feeling good after a bout of pneumonia and my GP took one look at me, slapped me on the surgery’s ECG machine and called an ambulance.

They strapped me to a gurney, wheeled me out into the car park and into the ambulance, hooked me up to oxygen and a machine that went ‘beep’.

I felt like a right pillock.

The emergency department was an education. Busy as hell, the guy two cubicles down was telling a mental health worker very eloquently and very graphically about how he was tired of his psychoses and how he would just like to kill everyone please. Shortly afterward he tried to ‘go out for a walk’. It took six security guys with ropes and chains (I kid you not) to haul him back and restrain him. They’d worked up a fair sweat by the time they were finished.

The man across the way was on the gurney because his hip had dislocated. His wife came in to see him. He sounded like a real gentleman until the doctors left and the good natured charmer turned into quite something else. If he had spoken to me the way he conversationally abused his wife it would have been his jaw that was dislocated. Just like Big Ben he had a face for every direction.

Who needs a telly when you have live drama happening all around?

Anyway, I digress.

There I was, now hooked up to another machine that went ‘beep’ and with a cannula in my arm for easy extraction of blood and the process of waiting began.  I had plenty of time to think. What if it was a heart attack, the thing they were testing me for? I had a family history of heart disease so I am in the risk zone. What if I had come close to it being the last day I saw?  I tell you, it fair pulls your life into focus and the things that matter most become very, very clear.

All of a sudden I saw the folly of my hesitation over certain things, the short-sightedness of my tolerance of other things and the stupidity of trading in dreams for security. When you’re at that threshold (or you think you might be in the hallway that leads to the threshold), here’s what mattered most:

  • The people I love
  • The dreams and plans I want to realise
  • The hope that I’d made some contribution to make the world a better place for my presence (which is really a combination of the first two)

That was it. Nothing more mattered except love, connection and contribution. Outside of the context of these three things money meant nothing – everyone looks the same in a hospital gown.

Love, connection, contribution.

Message received.

Nuff sed.

 

The Effort of Doing Nothing

Its good to have a place for some mental downtime
The Thinking Chair

My very writing of this blog post is one big ol’ piece of irony.

I’m actually contravening what I’m writing about, in writing about it! Let me explain.

The topic of this post is giving yourself permission to do nothing. Today is Sunday, it’s a sunny afternoon after a period of gloomy rainy wintry weather.

I’ve been working hard in the past few weeks with plenty on my mind to mull over. Today is an ideal opportunity to sit down and look at the blue sky, feel the (relative) warmth of the sun on my skin and just take the time to take a breath.

I know intellectually that this will be very beneficial for me; it will give me some headspace and recuperation, it will help me be calm and it will take me back into the now.

However, inside, there’s a slight feeling of panic at the thought of not doing anything, not achieving anything, not being productive. So instead of using this time wisely I’ve written this blog, attended to some correspondence and booked flights and accommodation for a trip. That’s all well and good but the truth is that  it could all be done tomorrow without suffering any setback.

I’ve become so accustomed to being busy that I’m losing sight of why I’m being busy. Busy-ness for its own sake is ridiculous – it’s a pup chasing its tail, its treading water – plenty of action but not much progress in the long run.

Mental downtime is essential for the proper functioning of our minds in the same way that rest helps the physical body recover. It’s not rocket science but, boy,  I do need to do a facepalm now and again just so’s I follow my own advice.

The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing and my thinking chair awaits.

Checking out for now to take my own advice.

Have a great week!

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