How important is hope? Read this to find out

Sat beside me was my Grandmother, Barbara who had reached her 100th birthday, and 101st year. The sharp smell of sparkling wine, sugary sweetness from an assortment of cakes and fresh paint (the home has been renovated recently) hit me straight away. We were in a care home that she has been living in for over 11 years. Teacakes, balloons and party frocks were all out; even a card from the Queen too. Later on, the karaoke machine strained with the hits from yesteryear; Doris Day, Abba to Ella Fitzgerald.

The event was to remind me how important the word ‘hope‘ is…?

Since Barbara became unable to live independently, my parents could not devote, manage or cope with the 24/7 physical challenge the situation presented. Dare I admit, they understand their limits and I understand fully.

I too confess visits to the home a challenge. I have been irregularly for the past few years. Partly because I want Barbara to remain the woman from my childhood, my Grandmother. One memory I have is one around her home playing hide and seek. Only to narrowly miss running through the freshly cleaned glass door. Her leading the hysterical laughter that followed.

Age has taken its toll, particularly on her senses. It has been several years since Barbara lost her sight (we are mere shadows and fantastical blurs), 95% of her hearing and comprehension of time.

For the grand event, we were joined by a lovely family, the local mayor, his wife and young family for the grand event. The comparison between a young 6 week-year-old and her breath-taking. It was a stark reminder of how fragile our lives, time and relationships are today. Moreover, the importance of our own hopes for the future.

Barbara was born during the First World War, saw the Great Recession, World War Two, the rise and fall of Communism, Thatcherism, the Information Age and much more besides. Perhaps knowing what the outside has to offer now would be too much, but I am sure she would take it in her stride.

As a woman in her 70s, she was such a personality. Pictures of her as a girl and young woman were an amazing glimpse back-in-time. It was not only the strange circle of life impressive, i.e. how we start out being cared for, then end up, potentially, in the same situation.

Scanning around the room, it was easy to forget where I was. A lady called Molly grabbed my arm and I never realised until I touched her arm how frail she was… She asked for the song ‘Green, green grass of home’ but insisted she could not sing because of her Asthma. I mentioned this on the microphone that started everyone off.  We sang out of respect, affection and importantly hope, for those who lived at the home but also the incredible Staff. The people who work in the home were fantastic. They made my Grandmother’s birthday special. I hope she enjoyed her 100th birthday as much as I did.

My most cherished memory was a soft whisper of “I wish to be able to sing”. Happily, Barbara is still with us. This time with her and the other residents reminded me that we can still have desires, dreams and wishes even when our bodies fail us. For me, most poignant was a realisation that hope could be the only thing that had kept her alive.

Impromptu duet sessions on the karaoke machine with my Uncle, serenading the puzzled, captive and refined audience “Delilah”… Surrounded by individuals with amazing life stories, what a day.

Hope is so very human; an essential ingredient to bond us together and keep us alive.

Pictures to follow… Add your thoughts on what you believe hope is important for…
Edited some grammatical mistakes only.


A to Z of the best free learning resources and tools?


The resources and websites listed below are just a sample of the learning resources that are available.  It is focused on online educational resources but and features business training and insight.  If you know of any I have missed please let me know, so that they can be added.


  • 12Manage – e-Learning community on management; online encyclopaedia on management models, concepts and ideas
  • 99u – short video ‘talks’ from business leaders (see also the better known TED below)
  • 100 awesome blogs for your business education – blogs come from such influential voices as business school professors, successful entrepreneurs, and other authorities
  • 100 best management learning sites – Presentation on Slideshare
  • 2WayTrust – a few free resources on leadership and improving performance
  • 5min Business – coaching, economy, marketing, sales, etc, videos tagged with “business”


  • Management – management resources
  • ACAS – e-learning: from conflict resolution to handling redundancy. Recommended
  • ALISON – essential skills training online, free to individual learners
  • AllBusiness – Simple solutions, powerful advice  – videos, podcasts, etc (mostly free)



  • BBC learning – a selection of free online learning on popular topics well beyond the workplace
  • Bean Counting 101 – free online accounting course for non-accountants
  • Bookboon – free online books on a range of topics. Recommended.
  • – Strategy game that puts you in the role of a CEO of a toy company
  • Businessballs – Free career help, business training, organisational development – inspirational, innovative ideas, materials, exercises, tools, templates – free and fun
  • Business Bookmall – Free Business Textbooks
  • Business Management Daily – free reports on business, management, leadership, communication, etc

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What are you curious about?

I thought it would be a good idea to ask you about what you are curious about.

You are the audience, critics and sharers, so feel free to use the poll below.

Feel free to comment and add your own.

Curious cow looking at you

Curious Cow wants to know more.

20 Realistic New Year Resolutions (with a progress report)

Back on 1 January, I made some promises to myself.  I wanted to update you on my progress.

Make more of my time.  Partially improved, now with a better morning routine.

  1. Spend more time with family.  This has definitely happened with one holiday and regular trips to see my parents.
  2. See more of old friends.  Not completely there yet but I have reached out to more people.
  3. Achieve my MBA.  Enrolled on the final two modules starts this May.
  4. Visit a new country.  No, though I did visit Venice, Italy for the first time in 20 years.
  5. Go hill walking more.  Fail, not a sausage.  Renewed effort this summer.
  6. Book Mountain Leader Training.  As above, need the experience.
  7. Read one book each month.  I have read 9 books since Jan from cover to cover and have another 3 in various states. I am rather pleased with this.
  8. Ironman Distance Triathlon.  Training has stalled massively and this may need to be on next year’s list.  A weakness I know but sometimes it is worth knowing what can be achieved.
  9. “Screw it, just do it”.  Mantra has been with me throughout my career transition.
  10. Eat more healthily.  Achieved through until March when it has gone downhill. Another to start afresh and with renewed vigour.
  11. Give up cookies. Linked to the above, only twice have I broken the seal.
  12. Review finances.  Completed and I have other new tasks to do because of it.  It has meant we are now paying down our mortgage more quickly and making more with less.
  13. Grow chillis.  They are growing fast and need to be repotted.
  14. Start a new university course.  Completed my first module in April 2016 and the next one starts this November.
  15. Garden more.  Easy habit and well prepared for Spring / Summer 2016. We have garlic, cabbage, beans, tomatoes, chillis and much more besides.  All really easy to grow.
  16. Throw out old things.  We have managed one cupboard and I have given up console gaming.
  17. Go camping.  Not achieved yet but looking forward to summer.
  18. Secure a new career.  In progress.  6 months to go.
  19. Cycle 100 miles.  I have planned for one better.  Land’s End to John O’ Groats in the UK for this summer season.

Next up, make 35 challenges before I reach 36 years of age.  I can’t remember this one but it sure makes a good next blog post.

What about you?  What progress have you made on your goals for this year? If you have written some, how about just start writing…

What could you do to become more confident?

Simply, you ‘fake it, until you make it‘. It is isn’t something difficult, magical or costly.  You pretend to be the person you want to be.

The reason for this particular post today is because I too read very similar advice.  In life, be it school, college, university, my first job onwards, I believed I was in the wrong room.  I can recall classrooms, lecture halls and conference centres full of brighter, funnier, more charismatic people.  I even thought that there was something everyone else knew that I did not. Every other day I would remiss back, feel inadequate for no apparent reason.  It would feel like someone had knocked the air out of my lungs as I spoke. I knew this had to change and needed a tool to help.

Now I’m not asking you to fake it with the important people in your life, not at all. They need to see the real you 100% of the time.  However, they could still help you on your improve.  Allow them to uncover emotions, help or challenge you.  Also, avoid any misconceptions about being something you are not.  You are already that person but you are going to play this little game. You are going to possess the confidence you have dreamed about.

I used this same technique just today.  Imagine you were at the same careers fayre I walked into.  Everyone dressed to impress, CVs in hand and greeting each other enthusiastically. Furthermore, try to picture a room where hundreds of endless one-to-one conversations had already begun. I proceeded to walk around the room reluctant to join everyone else. Luckily, I remembered the advice.  Fake it, until you make it. 

I decided that I was going to be a successful business person, with oodles of passion, endless wit and an attentive focus. You may all imagine something different and I would encourage you to make it personal.  Whatever makes it easiest, particularly the first time.

Fair 2014

At first, I was awkward.  I spluttered out some terrible, cheesy and corny questions to emotionless recruiters.  However, I tried again. This time, they came back more enthusiastic am my confidence grew.  The next time became an open, fun and two-way affair. It began to pay off.  I became more passionate, witty and appeared focused.  I spent no time worrying about asking the right question but used all the enthusiasm, empathy and confident body language to imagine the influential business person I was faking to be. By the final conversation, with only a few business cards left, I was exhausted but elated.

If you are just a first-timer, I recommend you try it in similar scenarios where you are less concerned about the impact.  For me, this one worked. Moreover, practice.  Practice it in work, the hairdressers or when you next go shopping in town.  Wherever you feel would suit you. You may find, after a while, you start to enjoy your little act. Encourage it. When you become better at it, the fun can really start. This perhaps, actors have a lot to teach us. If at first you don’t succeed, then use every knock-back as another chance to step forward.

It may bring that confidence you once felt you lacked.  It may also enrich, challenge and develop you.  It will give you hope, ever so slightly, to be that better person you want to be.

Try it for yourself.  Try it in the bus queue, coffee shop or museum.  Try it tomorrow.   ‘Fake it until you make it‘.  Use it as your very own confident quote.

You will eventually make it. Let me know how you get on.

Believe in being better

I have worked both as a leader, follower and manager and understand the importance of relationships to make things happen. What do I mean by this? I believe in:

  • being able to stand up, when all around you appear lost.
  • doing the right thing, on a difficult day.
  • allowing the plaudits to be taken by those around you but stepping forward to represent when things go wrong.
  • focusing selfless commitment, the moral courage and determination to see things through, no matter the personal cost.
  • becoming a better person and in gaining greater knowledge so that others around can also benefit.
  • knowing that I do not have all the answers.
  • looking beyond the mountains in front of me to see the clearing beyond, and notwithstanding,
  • developing a better version of me.

These are things I stand for and will be judged against.

What do you believe will make you better?

mark in afghan