Elizabeth playing on Story Stage

We had a great hour yesterday playing on Story Stage. Beth wants to touch the screen all the time (a heavy iphone user!) but once she had got the mouse under control, she really got into it.

Interestingly for me, it wasn’t the clicking and moving that I liked the most, it was her voicing all of the actions. I have snagged a couple of minutes of what we did, but all the time she was telling me what should happen, what happened next, and making up alternative endings! She got really excited when she saw what we had recorded and narrated over it all over again!

NB – apols for the audio quality…it is my first snagit video capture!

Taking personal responsibility

For some time I have been carrying a rant around in my head. Unfortunately for one person, who shall rename nameless for her protection, I did let out a short blast of this rant recently and it was at that point that for everyone’s safety it would be better for me to write it down before someone tips me over the edge!  Now, before I get into it, I am not trying to be political here, this isn’t a Big Society thing, it is much more personal than that.

One thing that I hear, pretty much constantly, are derivations of “can you get me…”, “if I had this, I could do that…”. I could carry on. My boss in my first job, said to me “don’t ever come to me with problems, only ever come to me with solutions”. Now, cheesy as it sounds now, it really made a huge impression on me, and stopped me running to the boss every time my pencil nib broke.  And over the years, it has made me really think before I ask for help – can I do this myself?  If that question was in the forefront of everyone’s mind, don’t you think we could make this a better place to live?

Some examples.

Getting to understand new technologies.  When I first wanted to get into the emarketing and social networking areas, there were not any real experts.  For Google Adwords, there were two of us working on it, with an initial budget of £50, that we had to make work – it was the blind leading the blind.  But, the things you learn that stick in your head the best are the areas where you make mistakes.  I won’t tell you what we are spending now on Adwords, but it is a great deal more than £50 a month! The Social Networking thing – there are ‘experts’ out there on it, but really, the best thing to do is to get out there and to do it!  With social networking in particular, if I told you how to do it, you would either start to sound like me (eek!) or you would get bored and give up.  Get in there, find your niche, learn from the many many mistakes you will make and get on with it.  If you are a leader in business, then one of the best quotes that sums this up comes from Sir Stuart Rose, Chairman of M&S, who when he came into M&S, said that he had given the buyers “enough rope to hang themselves, but not enough to hang the company”.

Take this into a completely different context. And possibly a very controversial one. Unemployment (see, told you it may be controversial!) There seem to be people who will do anything to keep money coming through the door once they are unemployed, people who are happy to wait for the perfect job, there also seems to be another group who are happy to make excuses about why they haven’t got a job.  I have heard three people in the latter category recently blaming the lack of ‘training’ as to why they haven’t got a job.  Can I ask, openly and quite possibly naively, who is going to provide that training?  How about approaching local companies and asking them to do some free work experience?  How about doing some volunteering?  As someone who employs people, more often than not I am not looking for qualifications, but much more about relevant experience.  I got into the job I am doing now completely by accident. I was never going to be in sales, hated the concept, my degree was in journalism and was keen to do that.  But I got bitten by the sales bug whilst a student – I had to make ends meet so started selling advertising as a commission only sales person.  The best sale ever, was for a £10 advert – I got it from dogged determination and bugging the hell out of a restaurant in Southampton.  I didn’t know how to sell, and to this day haven’t had any formal sales training, but unless you try things, how will you ever know if you like it or are any good at it?

We have experienced a very difficult couple of years with the economy in the dire-straights that it is in; and I can only think that it will get a bit worse before it gets better!  The strange thing though is that it seems that the banks have become the scapegoat for this.  Now I do think that they have a lot to answer for, but I don’t think it is entirely their fault.  The levels of personal debt today are dangerously high; and it takes two to tango!  Yes the banks lent the money, but you had to accept the offer!  Yes house prices got very high due to unsustainable LTV mortgages, but you had to say yes to crippling monthly repayments! I think that credit card companies sending blank cheques though the post is wrong on so many levels, but you can always rip them up.

How many of you live in a street that doesn’t have any litter in it? Who’s job is it to tidy it up? And if it isn’t done today, are you still going to be angry about it tomorrow?  There was a house clearance a few doors away from us the other day, and the mess they left was appalling. The next day, we had an open-day to our house and the impression that this mess made would not have been good.  Yes, it wasn’t me who made the mess, but why on earth should you wait for someone else to come up and clear it away?  It took no more than ten minutes to clear it away, and it wasn’t an issue any more. You can waste more time and energy moaning about something, than getting it done.

There is a real danger in molly-coddling any person who you need to perform.  If you give them everything on a plate from day one, they will get used to that service, and once it is taken away they suddenly find that they have to swim on their own.  I have some Educational Consultants, who go into schools and sell our reading series.  Right from the beginning, we have been giving them the resources they need to sell, and freedom. The vast majority of them are very entrepreneurial – they have their territories, and look at them as if it were their own business.  If they are short of appointments, they go and  make some, they don’t get on the phone to me and complain. If they are in danger of missing target – they do everything in their power to sort it out.  Because they see their territory as their business, their levels of customer service are incredibly high. I get proposals for new projects, ideas for sharing new ideas, volunteers to lead training.  Just the sort of positivity that – if you could bottle it and deliver it to everyone in this country, we would suddenly find that things looked a lot brighter.

Ideology and policy over personality

Life is funny, those like me who are interested in politics have long wished for a time when it could be more engaging and get people who up to now have not voted, voting. Then, all of a sudden, we have it – and people are concerned that voters will go for personality over policy.  (Personally, I would like to give the electorate the benefit of the doubt!)

In my view the debates have created a fantastic platform for the parties to put forward the policies that they have. It has also allowed for more focused debate on specific topics, such as education, economy and business. I think, though, that it is in these smaller debates that the parties have let the electorate down. The education debate was such a shambles, wholly down to the way the candidates behaved themselves that no proper policy was discussed.

Incredibly no-one has actually said how bad the economy is going to be in the next parliament – probably because the first honest politician would be the turkey voting for Christmas. But let’s be clear, it doesn’t matter which party gets into power or whether it is hung, there will be swathing cuts that will be incredibly painful for everyone in ever sector.

Now, I am not in the camp of people who say that we fought wars for our democracy therefore you are morally obliged to vote. I will be voting and will always do so but the democracy that was fought for allows for people to decide for themselves whether they should vote. To get people to vote we need our polititians to be engaging, relevant and have a clear understanding of what their voters need. Have we had that with the whistle top tours of marginal constintuencies? I think not. Will we ever see the 24-rolling news channels complaining about it? Definitely not, as the soundbite it provides is just what they are after. Wouldn’t it have been better for any of the prospective leaders to have set up camp in the middle of a town and stayed there for half-a-day? Talk to and engage with their voters, listening to and talking through their solutions.

So tomorrow I will be voting, I have been enthralled by the soap opera, but a soap opera it has been. We have had the highs, lows, humour and that inate ability to miss a few days and still know what is going on.  What is quite interesting is that even though I have watched every debate possible, listened to every leader on radio phone ins, tweeted with polititans and journalists, who I will vote for has not been swayed. At the end of the day, you vote for ideologies and policy not personality and I am sure that most people will do the same.