The Focus

I can often find myself getting lost in myself. My brain can be a infinite abyss of complex realities and unending reasonings.

That is, as you can imagine, only multiplied in times of extra stresses, confusion or uncertainty. And lately, that has felt a little bit like where I’ve been.

Firstly, let me just stress that I am so blessed with the worlds’ best wife and children. I am by no means ‘going through it’. In comparison to many in the world today, I’m living the dream. But every now and again, the minor stresses that I deal with eat away at the joys.

And its times like this that it’s good to stop and re-adjust the focus. This song, recently released by UNITED, is one that really spoke to me in this way.

So often, I feel guilty of loosing focus in the moment of a stressful week or an uncertain bill to pay. So much so that even when I do try to refocus, I miss the most amazing point of all. If only just for the 7 odd minutes of this song, I began to realise that the re-adjustment wasn’t about my focus – but it was all about realising how intensely focused God is on me. Just like He does on all of his children.

And as the universe around us screams of His greatness, it fails to compare, nor does it distract God from His ultimate desire – us. And that’s more than enough to bring my focus back each time to meet His gaze.

But what measures could amount to your desire?
You’re the one who never leaves the one behind.

I’m not a big fan of the aesthetics behind this lyric video, but the song and the lyrics are just phenomenal.

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Business Growing Pains: Business superheroes and supervillains

I think one of the most interesting and exciting pays off business is the fact that everyone, in one way or another, has it in them to stay a fresh venture.

Truth is, not everyone gets the chance though. Which makes it all the more important for those with power to help those who take the initial leap of faith in business.

Sadly, contrary to what the government would publicise, there is little support for new businesses out there. Don’t misunderstand that, there is a lot advice or there. A lot of advice. Some nuggets of pure gold, others are more in the region of fecal nuggets. Far be it from me to judge that advice, and that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about actual support.

In order for me to define support, I need to explain it in the context of giving. If my dog wants dinner, I can support his needs by providing from my larder supply of dog biscuits. Needs met, dog supported. If I wanted to support my dog’s quest to catch and eat the neighbours cat, I’m helpless. I may want to help. But the cat isn’t mine and I’m in no physical state to catch agile kitty. There’s no way I can support my dog here. One has to have, in order to give. And the support that I’m referring to here is in this context (not dogs and cats specifically, just to clarify!).

Ever heard the phrase ‘those who can, teach’? (‘…those who can’t, teach p.e.’). And ever considered how selfish a superhero would be to gain super powers and not use it to help people who need his/her support?

You’ve probably guessed where I’m going with this. But I risk believe after 9 years of business, there is a massive responsibility for those who have been largely successful in business to help fuel the next generation of businesses. And there are a thousand and one business superheroes out there ‘sitting on their super powers’ – the ultimate act of selfishness.

I’m referring quite specially at the national and multi national companies that rule the business world. When they were first starting out, they were able to utilise new markets long before substantial and hindering red tape was ever introduced. I mean just listen (or read Alan Sugar or Steve Jobs) early business history. They jumped upon market gaps that literally would not exist in today’s world.

That’s not to say there aren’t business opportunities out there, because there are. But when these opportunities arise, business principles and instincts are capped and hindered by politics that today’s successful never had to endure. And I think that’s why those who have the resources should support the newer startups…

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Digitalisation: Switching your library to the cloud

I think that one of the most exciting developments of the 20th century is the cloud. For anyone who doesn’t know what the cloud is, it’s a number of things. Firstly it’s a backup for your data. Second, and this is my favourite one, it’s a centralised way to store files we all use. For example, music. Spotify, Apple Music, the list goes on. They store the songs and you pay a subscription to access their files in a library so vast – you’d never have enough storage to assemble yourself.

As a TV and film addict, naturally my physical archives reflected this. In my early days, this was in the form of drawers and drawers of VHS’s, taking up a significant portion of space in my bedroom and living room. Then came the arrival of dvd. Aside from being able to skip through films, play films on my computer and fit longer playback on a single disk – it had a significant other advantage of VHS. Size. Slowly but surely my VHS collection shrunk to half the size, while doubling the actual content.

Flick forward a few years and a similar process began changing my dvd collection into blu-rays. But before I got too far into the transition, the cloud hit hard, and before long another medium for TV and film was born.

Now I like to own the entertainment that I enjoy, especially when I plan on watching it several times over. So while I love Netflix, Amazon prime, NOW TV and the likes; they don’t completely replace the old fashioned way of assembling a personal video collection. Enter iTunes…

Back when iTunes was first starting out as a digital supplier of music, Apple probably didn’t realise the scope that it could actually achieve. Perhaps this is most evident in the very name of the service. But by the time iTunes was offering TV shows, films, audio books and such, they were clearly beyond the point where they could change the name. But either way, once iTunes had set itself up to be the virtual TV and film library of the future – I started to comprehend the space that would be freed on my shelves. The ease of selecting my programming, and ability to watch the videos on multiple devices were also massive bonuses.

So, now I write this, probably about four years into the digitalisation of my entertainment library. I thought, as we move further and further into the cloud -based age there may be some tips I could share. Things I’ve learned along the way.

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I don’t know

Following the events in Manchester yesterday, I am at a loss for words. I’m not sure if, as a parent, I can’t help but get a snippet of what the parents of the victims must be feeling. I’m not sure if it was because it was an attack taken out on my home country. I’m not sure of a lot of things.

I felt myself recalling a song that reflected the truth that I can’t do anything, but I can trust God. I’m not belittling the work that anyone has done in the wake of this event and I’m certainly not trying to make myself seem like a victim here – but rather – sending my prayers to those who were involved. Since that is just about all I can do. I certainly cannot begin to reason or explain why things like this happen.

I looked for a lyric video to the song that my insides sang, but I sadly couldn’t find one. So, as that’s something I could produce – that’s what I did do. But, as perhaps expected, Youtube blocked it due to copyright infringement. So Instead, here’s a few images and a link to listen to the song for yourselves.

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Farewell, hotmail. You were my first email.

Why I have to leave hotmail. A not so simple explanation.

The simple explanation
Don’t worry, this isn’t on political, religious or charitable reasons. The reason is quite simple, I’m blown away at the volume of emails that aren’t getting through to me. Not getting redirected to junk, but literally thrown aside at Microsoft’s’ discretion at any given time without notice given to the server or the (non)recipient. What follows is a long and detailed account of how I came to realise this issue existed, as well as my ultimately futile exploits to resolve the matter. There’s no need to read them all, unless you feel compelled, but I do urge you as one email user to another – if you use hotmail: change supplier for your own sake as well as people trying to contact you.

I have been a hotmail user for as long as I’ve had an email address – and to this day still use the first ever email address as my primary source of web mail – and its a hotmail address. So it genuinely pains me to change things up, but I have completely exhausted all other options. This post is a means to try and explain the problem, my multiple attempts at fixing the issue and Microsoft’s belligerent and arrogant responses to my heart-felt desperation to fix the problem.

I would urge anyone using hotmail addresses (this includes any emails containing the following; @hotmail, @live, @msn, @Microsoft, @outlook or @Skype) to seriously consider moving services across to another provider. Generally speaking, the much better alternative is Google Mail(Gmail) anyway.

The not so simple explanation
The problem of not receiving emails had been present for a very long time. But naturally, as a user of one of the world’s most well-established Webmail softwares, the obvious culprit to missed emails that never arrived was clear – sender error. So over the years that had been my most common assumption towards such occasions…

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Rise

I realise that this blog lacks a certain level consistency. I’ll start a theme and leave it open-ended. I’ll talk about heart-felt inner battles and follow that up with a sarcastic review of my latest cinematic experience. Like I say. Inconsistent. But perhaps it is, always, honest and it is in keeping up with my life. Perhaps equally inconsistent. Perhaps not.

But as we enter into the Easter Bank Holiday, it’s something I really wanted to talk about. My past inconsistencies and failed attempts at success. I make no apology for drawing parallels to the Easter message of Jesus. The true meaning of Easter probably needs no further elaboration for you to complete the analogy. While Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after his brutal crucifixion three days prior, I think so too, our past dreams and failings can rise. And I think that Jesus’s supernatural return, could actual be part of the catalyst to bring our dreams back into play.

Jesus will have about as much an impact of your life as you’ll let Him have. And while there are countless claims to ultimate success and ultimate peace out there, I really don’t think any of them can actually compare than that of what Jesus can do. And so easy as it is to put Jesus into pictorial, historical and theoretical scenarios logically, there is one arena that Jesus branded out of place. And that’s today. Society says Jesus is historical. Jesus says “I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. His friendship, his resurrection skills and ultimately his eternal ticket out of h-e-double hockey-sticks.

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Business Growing Pains: The Money Bin

Eight years and nearly eight successful self-assessment tax returns. I’ll admit, it was a bit of a learning curve to start with. The terminology alone used by the HMRC is a hurdle the size of Everest. The text may as well have been hieroglyphics to any self-respecting new self-employed individual. Gradually, with the help of Google and business friends, over time this got easier to understand. Eventually I had a system in place where each years’ tax return was a doddle. So-to-speak. Paying back the tax, not so much, but at least I knew where I stood with the strange terms coined by the HMRC.

Enter 2017. This year, things needed to change due to the nature, gradual growing success and time availability for my business. I needed to open a business bank account, I needed to register for VAT, go on as a Limited Company and I needed to move my websites to a dedicated server. Lots to do in a short space of time. As it happened, I concluded that all-at-once was impossible – so I staggered the processes to ensure successful implementation.

But these hurdles, and more, have brought some serious drags in my time and energy as a business owner. Things that should be easier and things that are complicated immensely by big-dog-companies (who should have a responsibility to make easier for younger businesses). Sadly, its the aforementioned big-dog-compamnies that maintain and add-to stresses and obstacles for the underdogs. But if I can share my experiences to help others that may suffer the same obstacles – then perhaps this is all a little more worthwhile. And I’m starting with the biggest dog of all. The bank.

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Business Growing Pains Prologue

There’s no doubt in my mind that starting my own business was the right move for me after an eight-year stint selling asparagus to upper-class Sainsbury’s customers. I loved my time there, but it just didn’t utilise my skillset. In fact it leaned quite heavily upon putting me in a directly customer-facing environment. Somewhere I can’t say I thrive. That being said, let me strongly reiterate that I think jobs like this are highly respectable and even an essential part of life. I have far greater respect for people working in jobs like these, than those who wait around on the Income Support for the ‘perfect job’ to fall into their laps. I digress.

Customer one-to-one was the pain of my life back then. In my current line of work, there is very little face-to-face customer interaction. It’s beautifully suited to me. And usually, if there is customer face-to-face, they are genuinely nice people. Yup, the customer pains are long-since a thing of the past. But running a business brings new pains. And this month has been no exception. In fact, a combination of things led me to feel like a polar bear in a desert sand storm. Or, as Delboy once put it, like a turkey who just caught Bernard Matthews grinning at him.

I was amazed at how little down-to-earth advice was out there for Joe Sole Trader. And that’s why I’m writing a few posts about just some of the struggles I have had to battle. I’ve got a few lined up at the moment, each looking at one of the most frustrating times I’ve had in small business. Maybe there’ll be even more in the future. It’s a record for me. And perhaps, someone somewhere, won’t have to go through the slaughterhouse in quite the same manner I have.

As I draw towards the closing of a relatively profitable financial year for the business, I find myself straining to walk through a metaphorical swamp of jargon, fob-offs, technicalities and antiquated systems that can only be navigated by the ancient politicians who invented them (or folk who have been forced to waste far too long learning the language). It’s reminiscent of the pains I felt all those years ago of those frustrating snobs who didn’t want their Lemongrass sourced from Spain on political grounds.

I cannot believe how antiquated the business world is. We are living well into the second millennium and we are still at the mercy of a system built by people in the first one. I hope that these stories may help anyone that reaches the same stage I am now at. Warnings, really. What to expect. And how to avoid them.

So, on then, with my Business growing pains.

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McDonalds Monopoly Winning the WIN WIN

Without further ado – here’s the quick way to check if you have a winning ticket at this years’ McDonalds Monopoly.

  • Brown – Old Kent Road
  • Light Blue – Euston Road
  • Pink – Northumberland Avenue
  • Orange – Marlborough Street
  • Red – Strand
  • Yellow – Coventry Street
  • Green – Bond Street
  • Dark Blue – Mayfair (obviously)
  • Stations – Liverpool Street

Also, this year, save 10 of any stickers to get yourself a NOW TV pass. That’s just good sense.

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