Category Archives: Musings

Counting Your Blessings

It’s important every now and then to stop, think, reflect and take stock. In these moments of reflection it’s equally important to count your blessings.

A quote I came across recently inspired such a reaction in myself. You may or may not be familiar with the Netflix series Marco Polo. But one of my favourite characters 100 Eyes, a blind monk, stated (and I’m paraphrasing)

“An unhappy man will always find reason to continue his cause”

This wildly profound sentence, in one fell stroke, encapsulated a very specific period in my life as well as its aftershocks, the rippling effects that, at times, I still find myself grappling with.

What is often missed is that your blessings are often more abundant that perhaps you care to see or admit, as most reside in the realms of expectations and comfort. They’ve always been there, they will likely always reside there and thus we are often blind to them.

The problem is that they may not seem to be enough, seem to be important enough. Not at least until they are challenged or removed from our lives entirely, often unto the gates of eternity, never to return to us again. In this solemn abyss lies regret and sadness, spectres of self-reflected guilt and loss.

Taking stock can help remind you and shed light on how truly fortunate you are, how small your problems really are, remind you that the light will always follow the dark and that your blessings can be as universal to the world as they are personal to you.

So, what are my blessings?

  • Family – Past and Present, there will likely never be anyone or anything more important than your family.
  • Friends – Coming a close second to your family, so much so that at times the lines become blurred, these are people you cannot live without.
  • Health –  Rich or poor, your health is paramount to your quality of life and is fundamental to your very existence.
  • My Mind – I’d be lost without it. The double-edged sword that is both one of my greatest assest whilst simultanesously being my greatest challenge and adversary.
  • A Roof – I’ve been fortunate enough, and continue to be so, to have a roof over my head. Protection from the elements and somewhere safe to rest my head.
  • Food & Water – Access in abundance if I so required, a privallege not afforded to everyone.
  • My Senses – My gateway to the world, all as of yet intact, allowing me to experience everything this beautiful planet has to offer.
  • My Imagination – A source of great comfort and adventure, as much as it is, at times, a scary place to wonder alone,
  • The Ability to Think & Question Freely – One of my greatest joys is thinking, something so remarkably simple, yet almost unrivalled in its intrigue.
  • Emotion & Expression – Imagine your life without emotion and the ability to express or read them, how empty the experience would be.
  • My Memories & Experiences – A library of lessons, an ever growing training manual and a show reel of every utterly great moment.
  • The Promise, that Good or Bad, There is Yet More to Come – It’s not over yet. There is still so much to see, learn, experience and do, and it’s all out there, waiting for you.

Take heart …….

I challenge you to stop  and pause, to think and reflect, to see what you’ll discover.

(Image(s) Via WallQuotes)

Steve Says …. Let Me Entertain You

On the 18th of June Hypno-Comedian Steve NanaWusu once again stormed the stage  at The Pearl Theatre, Shanghai.

Much like his last favoured outing, this highly anticipated follow up came loaded with a few surprises and a host of mesmerising new material, including what can only be described as some Derren Brown level mind magic. This time round the audience witnessed a cornucopia of intense sub-conscious reactions to Steve’s hilariously engineered prompts and ques; from telling one participant that he was a complete Adonis registering at a solid 30 out of 10, leading to some memorable moments of puppy love and declarations Steve’s wife would never find out (a quick congratulations to the newly wed couple!), to the polar opposite of complete repulsion whenever another participant simply shook the host’s hand. From one individual who was surrounded by a swarm of imagined hungry mosquitoes to another who was convinced his name was E-I-E-I-OH and was nothing but upset if his name was to be mispronounced.

One highlight of the show was the inaugural Steve Say’s Spelling Bee that involved such antics as a woman who needed to pee the more she spelt any word that reminded of her current predicament as well as another individual who couldn’t remember the word or number 7 (who counted on his hands to 10, only to point to his seventh finger to reassure the audience it was in-fact still there). However this event was slightly overshadowed ‘Macaroon Butterfly’ along with another two guys who dug deep to reveal their inner-divas, who, each in-turn brought the audience to tears with brand new levels of sass, cat-walk possess, Miss World-esque interviews and a truly inspiring acceptance speech.

What genuinely makes each show are the brave and open volunteers willing to lay down their inhibitions and (sometimes) dignity on the altar of our entertainment. At any given moment anyone is capable of achieving different levels of trance, although at all times the brain is still entirely in control. This was evidenced by the star of the show, the formally self-titled ‘Macaroon Butterly’. Having received the unanimous vote as the evening’s top performer he took to the stage for an unforgettable performance in which he was told he was utterly in love with Steve’s assistant and (having been instructed he couldn’t touch her) he was to deliver all this overwhelming emotion at once in an exceptionally sincere scene inspired by one of the world’s greatest love stories: Romeo and Juliet.

Aside from this Oscar-worthy performance it was Steve’s final act that left the audience collectively searching for their jaws, having simultaneously hit the ground. Through a series of subliminal messages and some very simple mathematics (requiring everyone to take out their phones …. including me) and through a series of free choices, random audience members invariably added two numbers together to reveal the date the show was delivered on. The clincher? The very same number had been safely secure and sat in a sealed with a randomly chosen audience member. How? I’ll never know, but heck it was impressive!

Still not convinced you missed out? Don’t just take my word for it, here are a few post show impression from the crowd:

Julie – ” I’ve been to several of Steve’s shows and each one has topped the one before. He is an amazing showman and the ‘control’ he has over the volunteers is incredible to see. The show is always absolutely hilarious!”

Jess – “An amazing performance as always by Steve (and those hypnotised of course!) Not one part of the show failed to make me laugh, and his newest material had me in stitches. Such a unique and memorable way to spend a Saturday evening!”

Sinead – “Steven’s show was such an exciting experience. This was my second time attending and it was still hilarious, keeping me on the edge of my seat a each act was topped by the last. It was a truly wonderful evening. I look forward to more shows from this talented guy!”

Fortunately for all those who missed this spectacle are being given yet another chance to enjoy an experience you’ve not quite ever encountered yet at The Pearl this August, with Steve confirming his next show will be arriving on the 13th of said month. So keep you ears to the ground, ticket information is on its way.

How to Nail a Job Interview

We have expressed before the inevitability of job interviews, but it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Having read a little and having undertaken a few interviews of my own recently, what follows will be a truly outstanding guide to nailing an interview …. hopefully.

Making a Great First Impression

Undeniably one of the most crucial aspects of any meeting, not just interviews, is making a good first impression. The human mind determines a great deal about a person at a blistering speed at a sub-conscious level. You may not know why, but within seconds you’ll already possess a fair idea of whether you”ll get on with a person, as well as a good measure of their confidence and attitude. Essentially people instinctively form an opinion about you, before you’ve even had the chance muttered a single syllable.

Punctuality

It seems like the most logical place to start. Basically you need to be, as a minimum, on time. But it’s much better if you turn up a little early, were not talking about turning up an hour before hand, 10-20 mins prior is the ideal time to arrive, allowing for any unexpected circumstances in your journey, giving you enough time to find the interview’s venue and a little time to calm and gather yourself. I feel as this one is a bit of a given. Time management is important in pretty much any manner of employment and displays a lot about your organisational skills, attitudes, desires, drive, motivation and a whole lot more.

Dress to Impress

Have you ever heard the saying, there’s no such thing as being overdressed? Now, you could make the argument that wearing a three-piece suit or a dinner jacket to collect the bins would be over doing it a little. But just imagine what a scene that would be and how quickly, in this day and age, that would go viral. Launching the wearer to the dizzying heights of internet stardom, landing guest appearances with Ellen DeGeneres and all that good stuff, but I digress.

When it comes to interviews however, make sure your clothes are clean, tidy, ironed (pressed) and that you’re well presented. It’s something very simple, but it’ll make a world of difference. Imagine you’re interviewing two candidates, one turns up well turned out, crisp edged suit, neat hair with excellently groomed facial hair (we’re using guys here) and well polished oxfords on hit feet. The other arrives in a slightly stained heavily creased shirt, unkempt hair, a tie hanging loosely around his neck and scuffed, dirty shoes. Who would you choose?

Eye Contact and a Firm Handshake

This is a little more to do with body language and the projection of confidence. I’m not asking you to try and stare down your potential employer, but maintaining a solid amount of eye contact is generally a big plus.

The same holds true for your handshake, you’re not out to prove who’s the strongest or who has the firmest grip. Here you want to take a more measured approach. Whilst there isn’t much worse than a limp handshake, a bone crushing one does come in at a close second. Pay attention to who it is your about to shake hands with and from their you should be able to determine the level of tenacity with which to engage in the hand shaking frivolities.

What to Say and How to Say It

No, I haven’t got a script or outline that can 100% guarantee you a job every time it is employed. However there are a few things you can do to improve you chances and stand out from the crowd (preferably in a more positive then negative manner).

Research

Want to look engaged, switched on and intelligent in your interview? Want to be able to ask the right questions at the right time? Of course you do. How are you going to achieve that? By doing your research. I understand the task can seem a little daunting, especially if you’ve delivered your CV into the hands of a plethora of prospective employers. But a slightly more than a quick 5 minute browse of the company’s website can provide real insights in the ethos and direction of said company. Here is were you can really stand out. If you can display an understanding of the company’s goals and ambitions, whilst simultaneously showing how you could fit into/successfully integrate into the company’s culture, well then, that’s a real win-win.

Add Value

Do what you can to demonstrate what you’ll bring to the table. At all possible avenues demonstrate how you can add value to the company, tell them just how much of an asset you’ll be. Now this shouldn’t be taken as a call to shout “ME! ME! ME!” for half an hour. Instead discuss how you could solve problems (better yet issues you may have uncovered in your research), but don’t do your up-most to tear your soon to be employer’s strategies down and preach about the correct method of tackling a problem.

Show your leadership abilities and potential, highlight the manner in which you identified and overcame problems and conflicts before, in the past. Discuss programmes you could implement and markets you could engage with and so on and so forth.

Ask Questions

Form a few go to questions before you enter the ring. Don’t just grasp at anything however, but instead aim to ask pertinent questions, things that would really benefit you to know if you got the job or questions that would generate interesting conversation. After all, an good interview (in my opinion) should resemble a more natural conversation, with all that to-ing and fro-ing, as opposed to a more one sided inquisition. Here once again is another place your research comes into play, allowing you to ask more ‘intelligent’ questions about the company, your interviewer and the industry you’re looking to work in.

Most importantly of all though … don’t as questions to which the answers are obvious or freely available, it looks pretty bad if you ask a question or two only to discover the answers were there all along on their website for example, it doesn’t look good at all.

DON’T Self-Deprecate

This is possibly one of the worst things you could do when trying to convince someone that you’d make a fine edition to their team. I understand being honest in an interview or perhaps even express doubts or concerns (although a lot of people would suggest you avoid those too). But divulging nothing but negativity and constantly commenting on how you feel you can’t do this, you can’t do that, or you don’t understand this, or you don’t think you’re capable of X, Y or Z …. you get the picture.

It sends an overwhelmingly bad image, one of low confidence, an inability to do or try new things or meet challenges, throwing up huge glaring red flags for anyone general let alone your new boss. But lets be frank, after a brief discussion of all the things you can’t due, the chances are they won’t be.

Instead focus on everything you can do, be positive and have a little faith in yourself. A sprinkling of self-belief can go a long way, and hey … chances are you’re more than capable as it is.

Avoid Canned Answers

It’s one of those things that stands out a mile away, your gut tells you when someone is delivering a rehearsed bog standard answer to your question, and be honest with yourself, it switches you off you completely glaze over. If it’s true for you, why wouldn’t it be so for everyone else? Canned answers are boring, they highlight a lack of imagination, whilst almost always containing stereotypical buzzwords the interview is likely to hear 100 times during their process. Moreover, they hardly provide any element or spark of personality that your interviewer is looking for. Sure they want to know more about your experiences and qualifications, but they are also looking for clues as to the kind of person you are, so let that shine through.

I’m not saying go in unprepared, instead design a loose framework around the questions you expect to be asked, and maybe even a few more and talk more naturally around those points. You may need to pause and think every now and again as you would in any other conversation, but at least you aren’t coming across as some kind of monotonous robot.

Be Yourself

On an exceptionally corny note, I believe it’s important to enter that interview as you and you alone. Of course you want to present the best possible version of yourself as you can, but it needs to be you. People can instantly see through a disingenuous representation of character, so just be you. You’re great … right? Besides, it begs questions, such as why do you feel the need to try and be someone else, and other such detrimental questions.

Post-Interview

As a quick way to round this all off. After the interview there are a few little things you can do, but they are only small and should be treated as such.

Send a short thank you message, reiterating your desire to work at that company and in that very team. Thank your interviewer for taking in time to see you and express how much you enjoyed meeting them and how you look forward to hearing from them soon. In my experience I have generally always heard back from people I have sent this little message to, whether it was negative or positive, they still took the time to let me know (which can be a lot more than some employers do).

But make sure you keep it short, they don’t need an essay on the merits of your interview and a detailed step-by-step guide to your passion for manufacturing luminescent ball-bearings, or whatever it was you were just interviewed for.

So good luck and get out there, interviews don’t have to be all that scary.

 

The Inconvenience of Inspiration

Everyone who claims to be or considers themselves to be creative (and even those who don’t) are perpetually in search of that elusive light bulb idea. That one eureka moment that will propel them towards any manner of recognition or success.

Whether its your next painting, poem, blog post or business idea, inspiration is what we crave. I’m no different in this unending quest, but I appear to have developed a much more love/hate relationship when it comes to the notion of inspiration and I’ll tell you why.

I do happily get the odd flash of genius/inspiration, but every time I do so it always seems to arrive at the most inconvenient of moments. I’m sure I’m not alone in this frustration, whenever you don’t have a pen to hand to jot your idea(s) down, whenever you’re attention is truly needed elsewhere … etc. For me, all my ideas seem to form in the shower,  in this scenario there’s no possible measure for me to record these scraps of information or ideas that consistently float gently, seemingly on some invisible wind, in one ear and rapidly out the other. It’s almost like the giant ball of cash at the end of Crystal Maze (if you remember that, or know what it is … google it) except I don’t get to keep the money.

And here in lies the real inconvenience of inspiration. Much like that wonderful dream you were having you can never remember what you were thinking of. Despite all your best efforts, no matter how hard you try, you can never recall a thing not one tiny incy wincy morsel. These ideas your mind generates, these little gems possess, much to your own detriment, an incredibly short life span. So short in fact that by the time I’m out of the shower nothing remains but a faint glimpse, a feeling that for a moment I had all the ideas I’d ever have needed. But as quickly as they had appeared, they had vanished and I’m forced to resign myself to the fact that those ideas are gone forever. Although you may again, one day, conjure up something similar, it’ll never be exactly the same or sometimes even that close to its predecessors.

All is not lost, some of these ideas do emerge at the right time. Maybe that’s just how it goes, perhaps it’s destined, it’s meant to be or it’s fate. If you believe in all that than you can take some real comfort in knowing the ideas you are meant for will find you when you’re ready for them. For the rest of us, it’s just a matter of frustration after frustration until we hit a little streak of luck, and all the ideas we do need rush over us like a wave of brilliance just at the very moment we decide to pick up that pen.

[Image(s) from: Pixabay]

R.I.P: Here Lies ‘Seductive’ Banana Eating

Oddly not the strangest story to have been seen emanating from the Middle Kingdom, especially considering the recent crackdown on the more ‘vulgar’ aspects of the great wide web. It appears China has taken steps to ban the suggestive mastication of bananas online.

Avoiding the string of going bananas puns that have accompanied the various other write ups of this somewhat whimsical affair, we will delve in the heart of the story (ish).

Closing the lid on all sorts, from homosexuality (taking down a popular online homosexual romcom) to celebrities spreading foul language, the quest for purity throughout China’s internet continues.

Nationally the interest in live streaming is growing rapidly month on month. With hundreds of, mostly 20 something females, broadcasting their daily lives to hordes of, mostly male, viewers. Allegedly its a ratio sitting somewhere around 3/4 in the favour of the less than fairer sex. As you can imagine, the prospect of watching a pretty girl seductively devouring a phallic shaped fruit has done wonders for these said streaming stars’ fan bases.

These hostesses, depending on their popularity, can rake in between RMB 10,000 to RMB 100,000 a month. Comparably that’s £1-10,000 by encouraging their viewers to purchase them virtual gifts.

Reporting an article, written by Beijing Today, the Shanghaiist quoted:

Beijing Today describes the business from one young woman’s perspective:

Ding at first was hesitant to take up camming. During her first week online, she was criticized by her agent for “not communicating enough with her online followers.” Since then, she adjusted her style and won a large following. Her peak show drew more than 600,000 viewers who were eager to watch her change into expensive clothes she bought from South Korea.“My followers are mainly young men who are very vain,” Ding said in an interview with Paper.cn. “The rest are just people who want to hit on a young and beautiful model.”

Unfortunately the government hasn’t been so keen on the idea of so many hormone driven adolescents becoming so readily corrupted by health concious streamers eager to meet their recommended daily dose of potassium. Leading to the inexorable move to ban such raunchy behaviour.

What is truly unknown and, as of yet unreported, is the potential damage this strong course of action will cause to the lucrative banana trade. It is likely that both the production and purchasing of the fruit will be severely hampered, potentially putting thousands out of work! But, then again, this is pretty unlikely.

So, whilst for now this depravity and debauchery has been put to rest, how long will it be before these girls resort of chomping on other long and curved food stuffs? Or perhaps even more extreme measures to keep those hot blooded males entertained? Soon will the ban need to extend to the general prohibiting of food and it’s consumption via webcam? Only time will tell!

Job Interviews: The Good and the Bad (Not so much the Ugly)

It’s an almost unavoidable fact of life, like death or taxes. At one point or another you will have to face the prospect of enduring a job interview or two.

As it is, my tenure at the English Training Centre which has hosted me and my first job in China has come to an end. Which leaves me in the often tedious and sometimes ego/confidence/soul destroying avenue of job hunting. This road, which most of us have walked before, is traditionally and inevitably full of ups and downs, twist and turns along with sudden and mysteries drops, sharp cliff faces and self-erecting walls.

It is a stressful period in anyone’s life as much as it is an anxious one. We all know anxiety operates like a parasite, requiring a host to latch itself onto before it can grow and fester. Finding a new job is the perfect home for such a pest.

One of the things I dislike the most about the entire process, if you mange to get this far, is the dreaded job interview. Sitting in front of a person or panel in either an awkwardly informal or rigidly formal atmosphere whilst every word you mutter, every move you make is observed, scrutinised and judged. It’s not all together that pleasant. But, at the same time it is a perfectly understandable and therefore necessary evil.

What follows is a list of some of the good and some of the bad points of going through an interview:

Looking Sharp

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Dressing to impress has become a staple of job interviews. Donning a well made suit (or perhaps jeans, a shirt and waist coat if it is indeed a little more casual) not only infers a whole host of good impressions and connotations to your potential new employer. But it also just simply feels great. Dressing well is known to provide that little confidence boost we all need from time to time. Standing with good posture wearing the right outfit we all feel invincible, which is ideal. Especially considering the likely fact your nerves will begin to crumble as you draw ever closer to the wonderful cornucopia of scrutiny that is a job interview.

Worry, Stress and Anxiety

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As alluded to earlier, interviews aren’t always great on the old ticker. They are a minefield of over worrying, stress and building anxiety. It’s a cocktail of pure evil! Of course there are those people out there who just swim through them as if conducting a leisurely swim at the local community pool. I am not however, one of those people. I am constantly drawn to what could go wrong, or worrying about saying the wrong thing. Despite always allowing myself ample time to arrive at the interview’s location, I constantly fret about being on time. The quick tips and tricks on the internet are no place of solace, all they do is add to the worry. Am I now shaking this man’s (or woman’s) hand strong enough to indicate strength and confidence, or does it just appear as though I’m trying to cut off all circulation to their favoured appendage? Does my tie colour portray or express the right image? And God knows what else that runs through my mind.

Meeting New People/Sharing Experiences

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It’s always interesting meeting new people, whether that be your competition for the once in a life top job at the incredible competitive cut-throat company you’re sitting in the lobby of, or the interviewer themselves. On top of that, interviews are one of the only socially acceptable times where you are in fact encouraged to talk about yourself and nothing but yourself. As a species humans are notoriously infamous for their love of talking about themselves (unless you’re a parent, in which case all you do is talk about the wonderful achievements of your children). Understandably there are those who don’t like meeting new people or talking about themselves, but we are trying to keep things positive here.

Rejection

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No one likes to be told no. But it hurts even more when you’ve placed all your hopes and dreams (and possibly next month’s rent) on getting this job. After you put in hours after hours of research on the company, perfected your answers to all those awkward interview questions, look up videos about sailing through an interview and having gotten so close to the finishing line you could almost taste it, yeah it really hurts. It’s one of the biggest fear factors behind interview stress, what if they say no? What does that mean? Am I not good enough?

But fear not, there could be a hundred possible reasons why they didn’t choose you. Maybe the position closed, their budget or need changed, maybe someone else was just more qualified. Or yeah … maybe it was just you, but there are plenty more jobs out there, don’t give up on hope, don’t let them win!

There you have it, some of the good things and a little of the bad. Let me know how you feel about interviews and everything that entails in the comments section below!

[Image(s) from PlayBuzz, AskMenMyBodyTutor, CaliberMag, Ted]

 

Shanghai in Bloom

Spring arrived in a rather unspectacular fashion this year. The weather has been uncharacteristically spotty with intermittent rain piercing deep blue sunny skies and and sunny skies occasionally breaking through intermittent rain.

But the coming of spring generally signals the onset of the Cherry Blossom (Sakura) season. As Katsumoto said in The Last Samurai, you could spend your entire life in search of the perfect blossom and it would not be a wasted life …. or you know, something along those lines.

For me that perfect blossom came in Gucun Park, Shanghai. What follows is my amateur (and I have to emphasis amateur) photography celebrating the beautiful blossoms.

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So, let me know if you’ve had the chance to witness the blossoms this year, or at any other time. Where were you? Who were you with? And if you had any hints and tips for a photography newbie let me know in the comments below!