Charity is a lucrative business

swimathon

Earlier this year, I took part in a Swimathon at my local pool organised by a company called Swimathon.

For a small entry fee, you get to swim for X distance over a period of time (in this instance, 3 hours maximum), alone or taking it in turn as a team and you ask people to sponsor you and the money raised go to a specific charity.

The purpose of those events being to raise money for charity, I personally did it because I had started swimming and setting myself a challenge seemed a good idea so I elected to do the longest distance solo, which was 3 miles/5 km.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think I will ever do one of those challenges, I didn’t like the pressure it put on me to swim swim swim in preparation and it has put me off swimming ever since I did the event (and continue to pay for a swimming membership I don’t use anymore grrr).

Still I am pretty proud I did it (200 lanes in 2.3 hours was my result I believe, not bad for a middle aged, unfit overweight smoker).

After the event, they published the results and when I was browsing them to see where I fitted in the whole lot that had taken part (not the last by any stretch phew!), I noticed how many people had done it, and my mind started to twirl away, trying to get my head around the entry fees income and the event running cost.

Something didn’t add up.

So I emailed them asking for details about their figures, also bringing to their attention their website was skewed in some of the results display.

I eventually got a nice email back (the email address from the website didn’t seem correct, but that’s another story), thanking me for bringing the display problem up to their attention but I didn’t get my answer on the finance question. I wanted hard figures, I got “Well there’s the cost of the medals and tshirt we send to participants to take into account and there’s staff to pay and a (apparently not so good) website to run” etc.

Medals, bought by the thousands, are pennies to buy, T shirts probably a little but still nothing when bought in bulk by those people, staff, yes of course, but how many do you employ and to do what?

Stuff (life) got in the way and I didn’t reply to the email.

This week though I decided it was time to revisit and replied to that “medals cost” email explaining what I was after. The person who answered me was still very evasive so I asked if they had official financial figures published anywhere please.

No reply.

This morning, after doing my maths exercise on Elevate, I decided to look for myself.

And yes, right there, on their website, are their financial statements.

Here’s a screenshot of the interesting bit:

Adding up all the salaries that seem a bit over the top for running such an event (any above £40 k for instance), using the lower number of each brackets, and only of the “Group” (not a clue what “Association” means), this is how much of the event has “raised” for the rich:

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Now, I am confused again, those figures still don’t add up. How would my mere £12, times thousands of participants, go even anywhere near to cover that?

Bet they charge the charity the event is being run for too. I haven’t got the heart to look through the reports to check though.

No more swimathon for me.

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The Solution to your Problems

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A boss of mine, many years ago, said to someone, “I don’t want to hear about problems, I want to hear about solutions”.

I remember at the time this wasn’t well received by his staff. Some felt he didn’t care what was going wrong, others felt it was his job.

For some reason this phrase always stayed in the back of my mind…up until now.

Now I understand this gem of advice and how, subconsciously, I have been applying it to my life in the past few months and with good results.

Since I have started this quest to discover myself, and develop what needs to be, I have looked at “problems” (I don’t call them problems anymore, rather challenges) that may arise via the solution angle.

Luckily, I haven’t encountered many such challenges since, but you could say the news of being put on notice at work might qualify perfectly.

How I dealt with it? “Ok, what options could there be to get out of this uncertain situation?…Look for a job? Ok, let’s look for a job.” And, as you will have read in my previous entry, there was a very successful outcome.

Last night whilst reading a new book, a thought popped into my mind out of the blue that I really needed to look into my mortgage situation.

Currently only paying the interest on my mortgage, I suddenly realised the term was diminishing each year that passes and eventually I would need to pay back the whole lot if I carried on paying only the interest, which I have now been doing for 6 years.

I was anxious for a little while: how am I going to repay such a debt? Would I be able to afford a different (repayment) mortgage, would I be eligible even? Would that mean I would lose the spare cash that has been so handy funding my fun these past few months? Would I need to move to a smaller house? Could I even find anything decent for so little money? And on and on for a little while.

Then I decided to look for some solutions.

Eventually I found that remortgaging my house with a repayment mortgage was the best option, plus it would only add about £100 more to my current monthly payments, which I can easily afford and I should be eligible to get a few months in my new job. I could even push myself a bit and reduce the term of my mortgage and thus pay my mortgage off early, if I could spare another £100 a month, which should be feasible, although I can always get a mortgage with the possibility of overpayments so I don’t need to commit to a higher mortgage straight off.

From thinking I would have to sell my house and nowhere I could afford to move to, to finding out I might be able to pay the mortgage off earlier, all by looking for solutions rather than just thinking about the problem.

This morning I had the realisation this was how I have been dealing with challenges of late. A couple of examples:

I was having problems remembering my diabetic medication (I was never good at remembering to take pills, hence why I stopped the pill years ago) so I looked for a solution and soon found a medication reminder app that fitted my needs perfectly.

During my daily Elevate routine (Brain training app I use), I realised I was failing the maths exercises because I didn’t know my timetables by heart. Solution: learn it. So I looked up the best way to learn the full timetables and downloaded a flash card app, created the flashcards I needed and now learning it.

This morning whilst browsing Facebook newsfeed, I realised that I didn’t want to hear about problems anymore, only (possible) solutions.

Seeing posts about recent events in Paris and the refugees situation which has cropped up again, in the US this time, made me realise how tired I am hearing of the problems, I want to hear about solutions. Maybe ultimately this is why I got tired of Facebook. It’s all about exposing problems, never about coming up with solutions.

That boss was damn right. I too don’t want to hear about problems, only solutions.

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The misconceptions about “thinking too much”

I have heard people say this plenty: thinking too much isn’t good for you.

As a deep thinker, I have always had a problem with that statement, and this week, I have finally understood why (I think!).

I had an interesting little situation happen to me this week.

Following on from my previous post where I wrote of my joy to have found what feels like the perfect job for me, I resigned on Wednesday, 11/11/2015 and all felt perfect. My boss was gutted to see me go “you are my best one” was his first comment with a very sad face, then, as I excitedly told him about my new job and why it felt so right to me, he became very happy for me and agreed it was the best choice. (he knew I was looking by the way)

He then sent quite a heartfelt email to the whole IT department announcing the news which started with:

“It is with a mixture of pride and sadness that I have to inform you of the departure of two of the Service Desk team – xxx and [Me].  Both have secured good roles to progress their careers elsewhere.”

Then a few people messaged or came to speak to me about this news and it was all in all quite a high day – I was glad when the day ended mind as I try to keep clear of emotionally charged events these days, at least the ones that involve other people. (emotionally charged events happening within me, myself and I are perfectly acceptable however)

Thursday was a very different story.

They had still wanted to see me for my consultation meeting (apparently they were interested in my input) and there I found out should I have stayed, I would have had a £5k pay increase – near enough what I will be getting in my new job. (they have an interesting way to save costs via a restructure I tell you – our salary, on the Service Desk, have all been increased by £5 or £6k!).

I got this real uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach and spent the following couple of hours trying to get over this feeling.

Suddenly, from being absolutely certain I was doing the right thing, I wasn’t so sure anymore.

For the rest of the day, I focussed on the reasons why I had made that decision, which wasn’t financially based, to be able to put it at the back of my mind and get on with the day.

When I got home though, it was clear I had some thinking to do. And so thinking I did. That’s all I did. I laid on my sofa, in silence, and just concentrated on the event of the day and my reaction to it.

Then my mum phoned, and I told her what had happened, more thinking as I was bouncing stuff off her (although she completely got the problem, she has never really had more than one job so she couldn’t advise anything as she hadn’t experienced what I was going through. Which was just what I needed then. Someone to listen, not someone to tell me what to do)

Eventually, I realised exactly what had happened. Fear had taken hold of me.

Fear of the unknown, fear of leaving the known, which suddenly seemed very appealing as it came with a financial reward with no extra cost for me (ie still doing the same job but being paid so much more for it).

What bugged me too was that I always say I am more concerned about job satisfaction than money. And there, faced with this news, clearly all I could think about was getting all this money for doing nothing different.

I realised that it was a case of the comfort of “better the devil you know” against the challenge of doing something new, with unknown consequences. Of course I could try and imagine, be positive about it etc, but ultimately, I wouldn’t know until I did it. All I knew for sure was that it was going to be a challenge – easy or difficult I can’t know.

Once I realised this little episode was fear driven, I could see it more clearly. Especially since I have recently realised that worrying about the future is pointless as it will never happen, as you imagine it to be anyway.

So then, I decided to go to bed early. I hadn’t slept more than 4 hours a night the previous days and I keep a tight eye on my sleep, having suffered sleep deprivation before, I know the effect it has on my psyche.

I fell asleep dead early, woke up at 4 am as I usually do these days and went back to sleep for an extra 2 hours before getting up.

And I got up completely free from all the crap that had happened the previous day and back on track to knowing, through gut feel above all, that I had made the right decision. And I hear gut feel is a real good thing to listen to.

I don’t believe I would have got to that stage without, 1, having a good old think about the situation to try and be clearer why I had had that reaction, 2, sleeping on it.

When I woke up Friday, I was back on track, totally happy about my decision, totally excited about what the future might bring, totally focussed back on work again, totally looking forward to picking up my new car on Saturday (which I bought last Sunday to celebrate the good news – some people get champagne, I get a car ;-)), totally excited about my upcoming trip to Amsterdam in two weeks, my trip to Fuerteventura for Xmas, and meeting up with a friend who lives quite far (a good excuse to drive my new car) in a couple of weeks. Totally excited that I was leaving my work and totally excited that I was going to start my new job on the 1st January.

I was living my life to the full again – phew!

The other chap who had resigned a week before me (and was xxx in the email quote above), is still weighing all the options and unsure whether to retract his resignation – you can see the strain this is putting on him on his face (and inability to focus at work). I feel for him. He should stop listening to whatever everyone is telling him he should do, take a long hard time to think properly about it, decide and move on. But no, apparently, thinking too much is bad for you.

I’m so glad I think “too much” 😉

Lifestyle change ultimate reward

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As you will know if you follow this blog, I made some “drastic” lifestyle changes in my life since about June, so about six months now.

The lifestyle changes were targeted at two areas of my life: my food diet and my mind diet.

I mentioned in my previous post how it seems the food diet lifestyle change has already showed some amazing results (loss weight), recently, I have become aware this period of introspection/contemplation I have started is changing me into the person I always wanted to be: happy in my own skin, whatever is going on around me.

I mentioned previously my company is going through a big restructure currently, where jobs are either at risk or will change from they currently are, with lower benefits and salaries.

I also mentioned how the news had affected me: very little.

Still, I paid attention to what was happening, and decided to start looking for a job last Sunday, I had thought my career was the next thing on the list to tackle anyway, no time like the present. No pressure though.

So I spent a few hours Sunday morning finalising my CV and applying for jobs, I found eight to apply for which matched my current job and salary expectations, not a bad start I thought.

Within hours of sending out my CV I received a phone call from a guy from an agency (on a Sunday!) (incidentally the same agency who placed me where I am now some seven years ago), very excitedly telling me when he saw my CV ping in and took a look, the spec of the job I had applied for was exactly what I do now, but on top of it they had wanted someone who spoke French too but had given up on the idea.

He sends me the job spec, I see what he means!, ask him to forward my details.

What followed was a bit of a whirlwind week, where I took two telephone interviews and then the second interview (face to face) which took place yesterday (Friday), I met with or spoke to seven people all in all (eight with the receptionist, who was absolutely lovely).

Luckily, I wasn’t well from Wednesday so I wasn’t at work – nothing drastic just a skin irritation that makes movement a bit sore. That meant I had all the space to process what was happening without any pressure.

Everything about the interview process went like a dream. Every conversation I had was stimulating and fun, whether over the phone or in person. So much so the interview yesterday ended up being three hours, and clearly much longer than they had anticipated. I engaged fully with every person I met and time just flew.

This was definitely a company I wanted to work for and people I wanted to work with. Absolutely 100% without a shadow of a doubt. (This has never happened to me before). And they had made no attempts to hide the fact that they wanted me too, from the very start too. eg I found out within 20 mns of the phone interview they wanted to bring me in asap for a second interview – which shocked me at the time as I knew the manager I had spoken with was going straight into a video conference where he would be speaking to children of employees in Canada about something or other (found out at the interview the equipment hadn’t worked or they hadn’t turned up, he wasn’t sure what had happened, so I realised how that response had been so quick in the end).

I first met with the manager, whom I had had a great telephone interview with, and whom I had already “met” online – had looked up his Facebook page to see what kind of a person he was (luckily he had an unusual name so easy to find): happily married young family man, active, loves his young boys, beautiful wife – was kinda fun knowing exactly what he looked like before I met him, and we had quite a grueling session – he had a page with a list of probably about 20 questions – I had a few but pertinent just as grueling questions for him too, yet it felt like an “interesting chat”, both enjoying the challenge we were put under and also sharing our passion for Service Desks and customer service along the way. Then I had three further meetings/testing with various individuals which went just as smoothly.

The three hour interview actually felt like fun to me, meeting such interesting individuals, and it also gave me the opportunity to share my passion for my work with others who clearly had the same passion for it too.

Most of all, I was me. Throughout the whole process I never once hesitated in my responses, every flew, I also became animated when we moved on to subjects that were particular favourites of mine (there were many!), and so did they (become animated).

My potential new manager even provided me with the right word when he asked me what area I may need to work on, I explained the situations I had found myself in the past where I realised I needed to handle things differently, struggling to find the right word, and he came up with “A little pushy maybe?” – Perfect! Yes, I can be a “little” pushy when I deal with other people (particularly the ones who aren’t doing their job right). I think he may have liked that “bad trait” of mine ;-). I was very impressed how well he could read me.

I had a stimulating experience with every single person I met during my second interview.

So I came home on Friday feeling a bit on air and eagerly awaiting the phone call. I wasn’t stressing over it, at all, just eager to see where this was going to go. I had a faint thought I might be overqualified for the job but it came and went.

I feed back to the Agency when they call me, I feed back to my mum too and decide to relax on the sofa, reviewing the morning in my head, just for fun. I was sure never going to concentrate on anything with all these good thoughts/feelings I was experiencing and I treated myself to being mindful of the experience.

The call came late afternoon, I had a feeling something had been amiss due to the amount of time it was taking but I had reasoned the HR boss person was off that day (she had explained at the phone interview I had with her) so may be no decisions could be made in her absence.

The agency guy launched straight into their feedback – extremely positive in all areas the interview had covered – then he said they are offering me the job BUT.

Now, they were advertising for quite a junior ish role in IT Support (hence why I had that fleeting thought I was overqualified), however the salary range was quite good, so I had said to the agency, if I went for it, it would only be at the top end of the range. He said at the time, he would absolutely push me to the top range not a problem. But I wasn’t sure if he had communicated this to them yet so the salary mark was always up in the air. I am not motivated by money, but I know my worth.

Well apparently I don’t know my worth…

So they were offering me the job BUT with “Senior” in front and with a salary £2k above what I had (been worried about) asked for! He also mentioned they wanted to make me Senior because they felt with my experience and work ethics I would be a great role model/influence on the more junior staff – junior staff that I had met as the final part of the interview, a more casual chat over coffee, and again, a great chat with them. Even got them interested in Mindfulness 😉

Funnily enough, as well as this fleeting thought that I might be overqualified, I also had a fleeting thought maybe they would offer me more and/or a different job…

So there you have it, five days after I started looking for work, I got myself a new job, that pays over £4k than what I earn now. A job I have the feeling is perfect for me, in so many aspects I won’t bore you with the details.

Funny what starts to happen when you become true to yourself. Because in my opinion and from my observations, this is what happened there. Because I have started to deal with my failings, I have become more confident about my true self and values, my mind is no longer tied up in convoluted thoughts, and I am able to properly listen to other people, engage with them, observe and learn.

Now I am no longer distracted by stuff that may be going on my head, I am able to be present in the moment, and it’s true what they say, the present is a wonderful place to live in 🙂

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