What the Dickens? A hand-written thank you!

For a while, we had been on the look-out for a small plaster bust of Charles Dickens to sit alongside our collection of his works.  A finishing touch.
We spotted one on the online shop for the Charles Dickens Museum in London and duly made the purchase.
It arrived quickly and was securely wrapped. We are very pleased.
What was a surprise was to find inside the package a hand-written thank you. Not a printed invoice or payment slip, a simple:
 "Thank you for purchasing your item from our online shop.  We appreciate your support. Kind regards, Charles Dickens Team."
A nice little twist in these hard times.   A personal touch that's so missing these days.  Must send for some notelets.
Now where's that fountain pen?

Crowdfunding: Using social media to back projects

Just came across an interesting creative arts project that needs funding to ensure its success. No different, you might think, from any other project but what I liked was the funding model.  More in a moment.
The project is called The Parisianer and the idea is that 100 artists/illustrators will share 100 pictures capturing the essence of Paris.  At the end of this year there will be an exhibition, a book and posters of the artwork.

To succeed the project needs financial backing and rather than chasing grants or money from other sources it uses the concept of CrowdFunding fuelled by social media.  People share details of the project on their social networks and if they are so minded contribute to specified subscription ranges. When the project is realised they are sent the items listed for the respective price bands.
If insufficient funds are raised and the project does not go ahead any monies contributed are returned. Progress is recorded on the website to show how much has already been raised and how many days remain for contributions.
The service is provided by KissKissBankBank and it is encouraging to see the number and variety of creative projects being financed in this way.

Of course, I signed up. I definitely would like to have that book.

The project also got me thinking - what captures the essence of Paris?
The monuments? The cafes and restaurants? The Bridges?  For me, walking along the Seine would be high on the list.  What captures its essence for you?

Like to know more? Check out this link to The Parisianer project.

Live successfully! Advice from the 1930s

Stored in their original cardboard posting box for 75 years, twelve books of the Live Successfully! educational course show that personal development literature was going strong in the 1930s. What was the advice given then? Is it still relevant?
That will be the focus of a series of posts on this blog over the months ahead.

Cardboard box with 1938 postmark over George VI stamp
The course was published by Odhams Press, an innovative business that eventually succumbed to financial pressures and ceased trading in 1969.
The constituent books are still in circulation though, fetching £5 each at some online booksellers. Most are uncertain about the date of publication.  There is a copyright reference, G638, that may mean something specific to those in the publishing trade.  However, the postmark is clear evidence that they were around in the 1930s - a decade characterised by devastating economic decline, still referred to as the Great Depression.  

Some of the keynote texts of personal development literature appeared at that time, providing how-to advice and optimism. Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People was written in 1936, and Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich appeared in the same year as our postmark, 1938.  The optimism of those texts would be challenged further with the outbreak of World War 2, a year later.

Back to the series:

Twelve books make up the course.  These are:
1.   How to discover the real you
2.   You need not feel inferior
3.   Conquering fear and worry
4.   Memory, Concentration and Habit
5.   How to control your nerves
6.   Sex and you
7.   How to make friends and be persuasive
8.   The secret of self-expression
9.   Making a success of your job
10. How to develop your personality
11. How to acquire knowledge and culture
12. Life plan for success and happiness

Each book is accompanied by a Try These Tests! supplement presented as a page folded in two and sealed on the open long edge. The idea is that having finished the book the reader is challenged to answer questions relevant to the topic printed on the front and back page then to break open the seal to reveal the answers to the questions printed inside the fold.  Neat. In this series all but one of the seals are intact. That may reveal something about the original recipient's priorities back then in 1938 or perhaps having read one decided the course was not for them.  

I'll let you know which seal was broken in a future post, so do click back from time to time.

Continuing relevance?
It seems to me that the course titles are of continuing interest in the personal development field so I thought that it would be interesting to select some to see if the advice shared 75 years ago still applies today.  And that's the plan, occasional posts on thoughts on books as I read them. 

Have you read any of the classic texts such as those mentioned? Are they dated? Or still relevant? What book or course would you recommend? Comment below.

Pay whatever you like

When travelling, it's a custom in our family to pick up a souvenir or two of the places we visit and usually these take the form of prints, drawings or ceramics. Nothing too expensive mind but we do aim to go for the highest quality at the best price.
Stopping at the stall of a local artist on a recent trip we were surprised to see a notice stating, "Pay whatever you like".

An interesting and unusual concept. Engaging him in conversation, he explained that he wasn't alone in taking this approach.  He pointed out that some musicians, restaurants and even hotels were offering similar "payment" arrangements.

This seemed a long way from the story I once heard about an event where the price of the cold, soft drink rose in line with the temperature in the stadium.  It is also quite commonplace for the price of hotel rooms to rise in relation to the importance of events going on in their area.  The inevitable law of supply and demand.

The artist's approach was also interesting in another respect. He readily shared payments he had already been paid for items on that day.  Some of the sums seemed very small, others compensated by being relatively large.  He seemed happy either way.   Suffice to say that the money we offered must have satisfied as he threw in an extra couple of pictures. 

This got me thinking though... How common is this approach in business?  Is it basically another take on payment by results - the no win/no fee strategy of television claim advertisements?  Or a variation on payment as percentage of profit? 

Questions: Do you offer a product or service? Do you begin with a price in mind or let your customers pay whatever they like?

I'd love to hear from you.
Say whatever you like.

Need an Icebreaker for an upcoming meeting? Share some Starburst!


Hadn't realised just how much fun a packet of Starburst could be as an icebreaker with small groups.
Each wrapper is printed with a dare/task that you must do if you pick that sweet. There's nothing too strenuous and it's good fun.
Alternatively there are four colours in each packet, and depending upon which colour is picked so each group member can be asked to reveal something about themselves....
I recently co-facilitated a session with my colleague Beth... She allocated these tasks to each colour:

What Starburst tasks/dares would you pick? Got some? C'mon share!


Asking for business

On a day trip to Carlingford, County Louth spotted this handwritten notice on the glass door of the  Oystercatcher restaurant.... Simple, fun, effective.....

Looking for the bird

There are lots of trees near our home and the morning air is filled with the sounds of birds that inhabit them. Many different varieties are regular visitors to our garden and bring with them their instinctive pecking order. Recently there have been some brightly coloured newcomers that we did not recognise and decided to look up in a reference book of birds.
While the book might be a helpful reference for experienced bird watchers it's not so practical for us as the pictures are in black and white. More practical is a no longer updated reference point on a BBC website page It not only shows colour pictures but provides a sound recording of each bird.
Listening to those recordings brought to mind a piece of advice i was once given on how to slow down a busy lifestyle and be in the moment. The advice was simple: When you hear a bird, look for it.
Now that's easy for the large doves that think they own our property and for the magpies that cackle noisy warnings of approaching cats. It's a different matter for those smaller birds singing from those nearby trees. They are not that easy to find and it can take five minutes or so before eventually spotting one.
The advice is sound. The search is relaxing and takes your mind from everyday concerns for a while.
Got 5 minutes? Why not spend them in the "hear" and now?

Note: This post first published on my Improving with Age blog..

Better looking at it than looking for it

We had some electricians at home recently.  They were fitting extra power points and  we talked about where the new sockets would be positioned.  That decided we also agreed that rather than remove some existing sockets we would leave them in place in case they were needed.  The electrician sparked something in my mind when he said, "Better looking at it than looking for it!"

That got me to thinking about applying that notion to working life; to office equipment in general and desktop organisation in particular.  How much time do we spend looking for one item or another that if it was close to hand might actually make us more time-effective?  Where do we keep that stuff?  On the desktop? In a drawer?  And if it is shared office equipment, are we quick to return it to where we got it?  That brings to mind another piece of homespun wisdom, "A place for everything and everything in its place?"

What items of office equipment do you think should be close to hand when you are working?  What do you think you are better looking at than looking for?

Curiosity in the workplace


A friend of mine, a former co-worker, turned natural curiosity to advantage and avoided a potential embarrassment.
What would you do if you saw an envelope labelled like this on a desk?
I couldn't resist it for long and so approached him and said, "I have to ask...what's in this envelope?" He asked me if I was sure I wanted to know. Then he said that before he showed me I must agree not to tell any of our co-workers. I agreed.
The envelope contained... A book of ballots! One of his children had asked him to sell some at work and that was something he really didn't like doing. So rather than ask around, he avoided embarrassment by posting this envelope near his desk where it would be easily visible. Colleagues saw it and approached him.
Of course I bought some, kept quiet and by the end of the day the envelope was down, mission accomplished.
Clever? I think so. I wonder in what ways middle leaders could arouse curiosity in their workplace. How might it be used in problem-solving? To support learning?
Curiosity, just the ticket!
Feel free to share ideas. I'm curious.


Entrepreneurs in the workplace

Entreprendre: It's a verb that had given us the word entrepreneur with all its many connotations of business success. It is reported that George Bush once complained that the problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur although the truth of this statement is contested here. The noun has come to mean many things since it was first coined back in the early 18 century. See Wikipedia article here
I like the French verb entreprendre. It breaks nicely into two parts, between and to take. To take between.
For middle leaders, managing their teams and being managed themselves the verb seems appropriate. Taking between.
Does that make middle leaders/managers entrepreneurs?