Tag Archives: Inspiration

The hottest man in the room

http---www.pixteller.com-pdata-t-l-405035I’m a little ashamed to say this, but like any teenage girl I’m not averse to looking up hot men on Google, especially if they happen to be tall talented A-list actors.

That’s how I know that one of the top searches which invariably comes up as you start typing the name of a male celebrity is “wife”. (That’s also how I know I’m not the only one looking).

You can try this at home now, pick three high profile British actors, say Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, or pick your own favourites, and you’ll see “wife” come if not first, at least second of the searches.

Why anyone would check this up is beyond me – just in case they’re not married and you still have a chance?? – but it got me thinking, especially as I looked up a famous motivational speaker earlier today.

I was looking up Sean Stephenson , because I’m a huge fan of motivational videos and as I watched him speak on YouTube over breakfast this morning, he struck me as one lovely person. As I listened to him talk about how we can all overcome our excuses to make your life truly special, he positively radiated kindness and intelligence.

Yet if this man’s looks immediately set him apart from the crowd it’s not because of his pretty face; actually quite the contrary. Due to being born with brittle bone syndrome, Sean is three feet tall and he’s spent all his life in a wheelchair. He’s not obvious A-list material and still he’s a charismatic, perfectly charming guy.

So yes, guess what came up when I typed Sean Stephenson on Google?

“Sean Stephenson wife”

That’s right ladies – the hottest man in the room isn’t always who you think he is.

Click here to see Sean in action in a cool video and on that note, enjoy the rest of your day!

 

Cheering on the success of others

P1060554 low resTwo weeks ago I went to the London Marathon.

When I say “went” – it runs past the end of our street and I’d forgotten about it like every year, until I was reminded by helicopters hovering over the house while I was having breakfast. So I finished my muesli in haste and went out with bed-hair and no make-up to see what was going on.

Outside was a glorious sunny Sunday, and streams of visitors in team t-shirts poured down from the train station onto Deptford High Street, all fresh and chirpy, ready to cheer on their friends and family with all sorts of banners and balloons. I felt seriously under-dressed.

Walking along the road with the merry crowd, excitement was building up in the air, the type of joyous anticipation you find in stadiums and concerts, or at carnivals or fireworks.

As I joined a group of onlookers to watch hundreds marathonians run past at what seemed to me the speed of light (and I’m not even talking about the pros, who were probably half-way to Central London by the time I left the house) I had a nice surprise.

Among the mixed crowd of sports enthusiasts, families, and locals like me who just stood staring, slightly incredulous, I spotted a group of older children leaning on the barriers waving arms, clapping and shouting encouragement: “C’mon guys! … you can do it!”…you’re doing great!!”. Many adults were also having a fantastic time, some watching in wonder with a big grin; others shouting and whistling almost as loud as the kids.

The beauty of it was that none of those people were cheering on anyone they knew – God knows if they even got to see the people they painted banners for, since over 30,000 people were running. Rather they were encouraging the entire sweaty colourful lycra flow and rejoicing for every single person in the race, from the pros that came first, to the fit amateurs that came later, down to the breathless and out-of-shape that came last.

A cynic would say that it’s a bit pathetic to run a marathon if you aren’t fit and seem in danger of collapsing less than 3 miles into it. But of course anyone who has run a marathon, or accomplished any sort of noteworthy achievement, will remember that they all started from zero, sometimes looking a bit pathetic themselves.

So what the non-cynics were cheering on wasn’t the performance as much as the effort, the collective endeavour – with respect and admiration for the great, and perhaps respect and compassion for the not-so-great (who in truth deserve our admiration too, for having the sheer balls of running in the first place; I wouldn’t!).

I felt overwhelmed by a warm fuzzy feeling, and comforted by the happy fact that given half a chance, we humans will wholeheartedly rejoice for the success of others… even though we often feel compelled to jealousy or sneering, or putting them down if it makes us look better.

So as I looked at the cheering kids thinking that they will be the colleagues, bosses, partners, parents and citizens of tomorrow, I hoped they’ll remember how good it feels to cheer on the success of others.

Not least because by putting our petty grievances to the side and encouraging the success of those around us, we are really cheering on ourselves – both as individuals and a species. By encouraging our fellow human beings to be all that they can be, we push the limits of what is possible for us to do (to infinity, and beyond!). We also give ourselves a chance to become a positive and supportive person.

And since positive supportive people are everyone’s favourite people, we’re all the more likely to get all the encouragement back.

See, how we’re all linked to each other- you, me, and everybody else?

I eventually left the crowd and went to buy a coffee with a spring in my step, all warmed up by the April sun and the knowledge that what goes around comes around.

And it’s all for the best.  

Turner & the Sea (How to become great)

Turner & the sea RNM poster

I recently went to the excellent Turner & the Sea exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (down the road from our house), an exhibition of paintings by JMW Turner of – you guessed – the sea.

I am not much of a painting specialist, but this exhibition was hugely inspiring on many levels, which is why I wanted to share it with you:

First of all, the art was stunningly beautiful, and anyone could see why Turner is considered one of the greatest British painters. From his early works which were vividly descriptive scenes of sea wreckage (and must have been quite the sensation at the time – imagine nowadays someone painting scenes from a plane crash) to the poetic impressionist seascapes of his late career, it was a breathtaking display of imagination, beauty, and extraordinary skill and precision which never ceases to amaze me in old figurative paintings… another reminder that in spite of technological progress, we haven’t got much in terms of intellect or skills on the guys who lived centuries before us.

But the show was also interesting in other respects. It displayed Turner’s works along with paintings that might have inspired him: masters of previous centuries as well as contemporary competitors – younger painters that copied his style and became famous by emulating, and ultimately improving on it.

So it was a brilliant way of understanding how inspiration happens, and also what makes a good artist. As we learnt about Turner’s personal and professional circumstances, we were reminded that genius doesn’t happen in isolation, and that it is in fact shaped not only by the artists’ personal vision but also material contingencies such as fashions and market demand. We were also reminded that success, in art as in anything, requires not only talent but hard graft and a good dose of business acumen.

I discovered that Turner wasn’t born by the seaside as I might have assumed, and his ancestors weren’t fishermen. His father had been a barber and wig-maker in Covent Garden, and much of Turner’s trade had been learnt on the banks of the river Thames.

Because his family wasn’t well off, young Turner had needed to make money quickly, and so as his marine paintings proved popular at the time, he pretty much created for himself what marketers today would refer as a “niche” from which to make a good living.

And pretty good he was at marketing too, and PR – creating fame for himself by exhibiting in London’s biggest show at the Royal Academy, and later on in his own purpose-built showcase gallery.

Like all great successes though, he didn’t do it alone – he enjoyed great support from his father, who was his biggest fan from an early age, and went on to be his studio assistant for 30 years (an arguably bizarre father-son relationship, but support nevertheless).

In the end, the part of the exhibition that fascinated me most was an extensive display of Turner’s sketches and studies – notebooks upon notebooks and small format of drafts and ideas for larger paintings.

Here you took the measure of the artist’s capacity for work, but also his obsession with his craft. It shows us a man who was fascinated with the sea and must have spent hours by the coast or on sea journeys obsessively watching and tirelessly sketching, capturing his ideas again and again and again until they became perfect.

But there was also sheer genius, in the precious moments where art worked its magic and left you enchanted and speechless. As I stood contemplating small sketches of three or four brush strokes on plain paper, for a few seconds I actually saw a violent tempest, or a peaceful sunrise. Or did I? I rubbed my eyes and saw only a few brush strokes on letter paper again.

At that point, I truly appreciated how an artist’s life and and experience results in that amazing ability to create such pure emotion with such few brushstrokes, so that the viewer is not longer looking at a fixed scene on a canvas, but at an actual live scene from the past through someone else’s eyes.

So, much as I was impressed by the paintings, I was truly in awe of the man behind them. Because what we come to see as works of arts represent a lifetime of hard work and sweat, clever business planning,  and the sheer love of your craft that will keep your going even when things aren’t going your way.

As I wiped the ocean spray off my glasses and returned home, this is what remained with me: enormous inspiration resulting from having met a great artist, a visionary and a great mind – as refreshing as a day at the seaside. There are worst ways to spend an afternoon.

If you happen to be in London, the show is still on until 21st April at the National Maritime Museum.

February: No Imaginary Conversations

P1060427 low res

I tend to live in my head a lot (you don’t say!) so in February I picked a challenge that I felt would make a big difference in terms of stress and general wellbeing/sanity: limiting imaginary conversations.

If that sounds crazy, let me clarify that I don’t hear voices or anything – I just daydream lots.

In fact, I go by entire hours paying only remote attention to what is going on around me, because I’m too busy fantasizing about things that have happened, may happen, or I wish would happen, and as I’m not a visual-type person, I get a lot of internal dialogue.

While some are pleasantly entertaining, others are downright toxic.

Remembering a good moment or planning future holidays probably doesn’t do much harm, but unproductive conversations typically include:

  • decision making: arguing my case endlessly about a real life decision
  • doubt: going over past or future situations wondering if I could have done it better
  • venting anger: usually things I would never dare say in real life to whoever annoys me
  • justification: if I feel guilty about something that happened; entirely pointless and usually unnecessary
  • worst case scenarios: need I explain? I bet you get them too

The Buddhist tradition calls our endless train of thought the “monkey mind” – it goes from one thing  to the next without concentrating on anything, being at best distracting, at worst unproductive and frustrating. I tend to think of it as a washing machine, because whatever the idea, it never comes just once – it just goes round and round, over and over again.

The plan:

The rules for February were simple: if I caught myself having an imaginary conversation of any sort, I was to snap out of it immediately and focus on the present moment.
This was never going to be an easy one…

What actually happened:

I mentioned this challenge to my colleague William, who is also bit of a dreamer, and I loved his candid response:

“Why would you ever want to do that? it’d be 90% of my life gone!”

Indeed.

While refocusing on the present wasn’t actually hard in itself (in fact, it was surprisingly easy) I found that the present wasn’t necessarily always as appealing as it sounds. There is nothing glamorous about being stuck in a public transport, or in line at the post, or in a dreary conversation.

What I’ve learnt:

I’ve learnt several things

  1. It is tremendously helpful to be able to stop toxic worrying, panic attacks and guilt trips when you spot them. Not only does it dissolve the nasty thought literally into thin air, but also it helps you realise HOW MUCH unnecessary anger/ guilt/ worry you have in a day – and how much time you could save by avoiding them altogether.
  2. On the other hand, I would agree with my colleague that daydreaming actually DOES improve your life. As any dreamer knows, thinking about something is pretty much tricking your brain into feeling you’re actually there – so between packed public transport and Benedict Cumberbatch…
  3. Lastly, this is something I keep finding over and over again:We all have, as we say in French, “the flaws of our virtues” – what makes us great most of the time is also what makes us not so great in other respects (the way self confident people might sometimes be too proud, or caring people too overbearing). And so I strongly suspect that the time I spend in my head, while allowing for needless worry/ doubt, is also where I get all my creative ideas; in fact, some of my happiest moments when I actually ENJOY life to the full are moment spent thinking and daydreaming. Eventually, like it or not, I might have to accept that I need to spend a lot time up there, even if it makes me a little neurotic. 

    Perhaps it’s just about training my monkey to behave.

Top tip for those who might give it a go:

Go for it – you may not be able to stop over thinking, but you’re guaranteed to learn a lot about yourself. Good luck & let me know how you get on!

 

2014 – A Year of Living with an Open Heart

P1020734 low resThis January, as we receive wishes for health and happiness from our nearest and dearest, we will be encouraged to wonder what 2014 might have in store for us – what events, challenges or successes will greet us as part of the journey?

As we look at a new year ahead, it is also a perfect time to decide what WE want to bring to 2014.

Some of us may have made resolutions to improve our lives in various small or large ways (my boyfriend decided to actually have a lunch break every workday, which seems very small but think what he could do with an extra 5 hours a week? I’m excited!). 

I’m a big fan of setting new goals for a new year – after all, what better time to reset the counter and start afresh than when we contemplate a new full set of 365 days?

Of course, it’s always easy to let our good intentions slip after a few weeks, so I have found one powerful way to sustain change and action throughout the year, which is popular with life coaches, is to decide on an INTENTION, or one word that represents what you want to do this year. It should encapsulate everything you want to feel or be or achieve this year, and more importantly it should make you feel super-excited about it.

For example a friend of mine has just completed a Year of Magic and is now starting a Year of SunshineSounds more exciting than saying ‘I will eat less carbs’, non?

2013 was my Year of Creativity, which meant that I would try and keep a creative practice and dare to share things – this is how I started this blog; I also did a creative writing course, took lots of photos and wrote poetry. Creativity also represented an intention to do things my way, rather than follow instructions. And I loved it.

2014 builds on what I learnt last year and will be dedicated to Living with an Open Heart. For me it means various things like daring to say what I think, doing more of what I like and less of what I don’t like, taking a bit more risks, being more kind and patient with those around me and generally living in openness and positivity.

Cheesy for sure, but as a French woman I would argue that you can’t have too much cheese! I’m excited at this new intention that will hopefully sustain me throughout the year.

One of my first projects will be to “tweet from the heart” and find my voice on social media. Second is to spend less time worrying about work, when I am not at work.

What will your year be?

If you need inspiration you might want to try Selina Barker’s “Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014” free PDF. For more detailed planning, I’ll be buying Leonie Dawson’s “Create your amazing year 2014”.

Wishing you a wonderful 2014 full of beautiful intentions – and of course health and happiness and all that…

With love,
Cecile

You’ve come a long way

P1050214 low resAfter months of complaining I’ve got too much work in the office, I’ve finally been allocated my ‘own’ intern. Which is amazing – not only because he’s a rather good looking, well-educated young man (which doesn’t spoil things) – but because working alongside him has helped me realise quite how much I know about my job.

“Well, that’s reassuring” my boyfriend said, “because you’ve been there five years. You’d have to be pretty stupid not to know how to do it”.

I take his point. But I’m not the most confident person, and I don’t go around patting myself on the back after completing a project. I think how to do the next one better, and look to learn new skills from my talented colleagues.

Besides, I work in a team of one (well, one and a half now with the intern) so it’s not easy to monitor progress. It’s only through working with someone who’s new on the job that I’ve come to know how much I’ve learnt since I started on the job myself.

The thing is, days come and go and we don’t always notice change as it happens; like you might not notice you’re putting on weight because you see yourself everyday, until someday you get a reality check because you can’t close your jeans. Anyway, weeks, months might go by without us feeling we’ve changed much. And if we fail to celebrate our own achievements, we might be the last ones to notice how much we’ve grown.

I remember the first symphonic concert I attended when I first moved to London. Working with musicians was only a distant dream back then, and as I sat in the cheap seats at the back of the hall, I remember how impossible that dream had seemed. Then a few years later, I found myself in that same hall, sitting in the front stalls as a guest of one of the performing soloists, and that felt wonderful. I’ll never forget the first time I went backstage to greet the artists; even now, as I come back to the hall in a professional capacity as part of what are almost routine projects, I have to pinch myself when I see I’m the one who prepared the concert programme.

I think back to that first night of longing for a far fetched future, and think what a long way I have come – little by little, and almost without noticing it.

If you remember your first day at your job, or running a project you’re currently working on, I bet you’ll also realise what a wizz you’ve become at it. There’s so much you know that nobody else does, and so much you’d have to teach to someone who was doing it for the first time.

If you remember the very first time you dared dream the impossible – to get that dream job, to go on that round the world trip, to date that perfect guy, to start a family …

It all started with a longing for something you thought you’d never have. Then everyday you held on to it, and you worked hard, and you learnt, and it was tough. Sometimes you might have hated it, and others you felt like giving up.

But you didn’t, and look at you now.

You’ve come a long way.

 

READ ON Other similar posts you might like:
You’re an inspiration to the world
You’re okay, really
Living life at your own pace

You’re an inspiration to the world

P1050508 low rseThe thing that has surprised me most since I started blogging a few months ago, is the number of friends who said they were inspired by my blog.

Not specifically by the writing itself, but different things:

– One friend loved the clear and elegant design of the site.

– Another was impressed with my “technical skills” in setting up a website and social media pages from scratch.

– Someone said how brave I was to share my writing publicly (she is herself a wonderful closet writer).

– Someone else still said she was inspired to see me posting on a regular basis while having a full time job.

Of course I would be lying if I said I didn’t get huge encouragement from such positive feedback. My friends’ kind comments went a long way to keeping me writing.

But the thing is none of those specific things seemed at all special to me. In fact, they seemed very banal, and as I explained to everyone:

The design of my site is a template.

I set it up using a “for dummies” PDF guide and countless video tutorials.

It did take courage to start sharing my writing – but since I am not very courageous, I couldn’t have done it without the support of my 30 Days Challenge friends.

I sometimes barely manage to do a post a week. Sometimes it takes such willpower that I don’t do anything else. I haven’t been to the gym in ages – I put on five kilos.

So this tells me something important:

If we consistently fail to acknowledge, or underestimate the things that we’re good at (“if we can do it, surely anyone can?”), who knows how many people are totally inspired by our seemingly banal skills, and what we see as our routine daily lives?

Therefore:

It is virtually certain that you are an inspiration to the people around you, in some way or other, for reasons you may not realise.

It could be that people admire your effortless style, or your sense of humour.

Maybe you have a special talent for bringing people together wherever you are, and you always bring the party with you.

Or maybe you are quiet, and have a wonderful aura of calm and balance.

Your colleagues might think you’re a genius organiser, or a born leader. Unbeknownst to you, they might admire how sorted your career plans are.

Even at times when you feel your life is a mess, it is not impossible that others will have noticed your grace, your courage, your honesty going through tough times.

Or someone might just wish their house was kept as well as yours.

Whoever you are, someone somewhere will be in awe of you. For being you.

Just as you are.

I love the poetic notion that each of us was put on this Earth for a very good reason. 

It takes all sorts to make the world go round.

We need you to be yourself and shine.

Go on. INSPIRE US.

 

READ ON Other similar posts you might like:
You’re okay, really: what it feels like to love yourself
We are one
The importance of Being You

Do what you want, not what you feel like

P1050115 low resFollowing the instant enlightenment provided by last week’s “fuck it therapy”, my days were brightened even more this week by another poignant truth, courtesy of glaswegian coach Ali Campbellsuccessful people do what they WANT, not what they FEEL LIKE.

The reason this resonated so much with me is that I‘m one of those (you might say annoying) people who are very much into feelings – not only my own, but everyone else’s too. On the upside, this means I am usually atune to other people’s needs, which makes me considerate and empathetic. On the downside of course, I tend to do things according to whether I feel like doing them or not, so more often that I care to admit I find myself checking my private email at work, watching TV instead of doing chores, or eating biscuits instead of dieting. 

Which would be fine if I made a point of enjoying those more restful activities – and I often do – but too often they leave me with an unpleasant mix of guilt for being lazy and shame at my lack of willpower. My Mum summed it up best when I was little: “shake off your laziness and go do something.”

That’s when this new mantra comes in handy. By reminding myself to do what I want, not what I feel like, I get a double-kick up the proverbial backside:

1. It reminds me that the end goal (being great at my job, having a lovely house, being able to button my trousers) is actually something I aspire to, not something anyone else is forcing upon me. It makes me feel grow-up and capable – plus by the same token it gives me permission to discards other things I don’t want.

2.  It also reminds me that by taking the lazy option, the only person I’m letting down is myself… which is not a very nice prospect.

Empowering, uh?

This is not to say that you should never rest, or watch telly, or take a break from work. But it’s basically a gentle reminder that you’re in charge of your own life, and whatever choice you make throughout the day will affect the end result. So instead of bemoaning having to do chores like I often do, I should rejoice that they are a way to my end goal, and enjoy the process that leads me to it.

Incidentally, this has also helped me understand why wise people say you should know what your values are. Perhaps you crave truth, or authenticity, or beauty or calm? I used to think it was just an abstract thing, but I’m begining to see that if you truly WANT any of these things, the choice is yours at any minute between them and the lazy option.

I know what you’re thinking… simple, but by no means easy.