How is your year so far? Have you come out of the holidays ready to go? Sure of your direction and what you plan to accomplish this year?
I wish I could say I was. More than previous years, I am having a slow start. It’s as if my compass needle is wavering, not firmly pointing in a clear direction.There are a number of reasons for this, perhaps you may recognise some of them in your life.
My visit to England was enjoyable on many levels, but at the same time, it has left me unsettled on several of those levels.
The major factor was the realisation that it would be the last time I would see my mother. While with her, I had the feeling that despite a number of health issues – all symptoms of old age, but some quite painful – she had been “hanging on” for my visit, her 90th birthday and to spend Christmas Day with my brother, his wife and daughters.
That premonition proved accurate, she was admitted to hospital two weeks ago. It does not look good. As I write this, I am waiting for my brother to call from the hospital on his cell phone so that I can talk to her. That may not be possible.
Perhaps I am not in the right frame of mind to be writing a blog post today, but I find writing about my slow start to the year therapeutic and I hope that sharing my thoughts may help any of you with similar concerns.
Last week’s bitterly cold weather was a harsh reminder that as fit and strong as I might be now, do I still want to be living in rural Canada, sawing and splitting mountains of firewood and caring for horses in a few years when I reach 70?
I have been dissatisfied with a lot of the internet marketing / social media / networking activities that I have been spending time on; from a return on time invested, a recognition that a lot of what we are tempted to believe is essential if we want any form of on-line business is actually not. Not only not essential but in some cases, dangerous in that it can lead us astray and tempt us to waste time on busy work. A disenchantment with the number of self-proclaimed “experts” who suggest “faking it till you make it” and other deceitful strategies.
A realisation that a lot of what worked on-line as recently as 2 years ago is no longer effective. A wake up call that I need to follow the same advice I have been giving to others, follow time-honoured marketing principles that have worked for years and still work today even if modified to use modern technology, trends and media.
Why has my visit to the UK left me unsettled?
It was the first visit for over 5 years, the first since I turned 60, the first since my heart attack, the first since my brother, my step-daughter, their families and many other family members and old friends had settled there permanently.
I went alone, Sue had to stay at home to look after the animals, keep the house warm and struggle with the power failures after the ice storm. Being on my own, I had more time to walk, observe, think and reflect than if we had been together.
Although I only lived in England for the first 5 years of my life, there are many similarities with Rhodesia / Zimbabwe / South Africa because of their former close ties with Britain. In some ways more than with Canada.
Living in Canada for nearly 10 years, I had forgotten how comforting many of those similarities can be. I had a sense of “coming home” from driving on the left of the road, the architecture of many houses – predominantly built with brick and mortar, face brick finish or plastered, not frame construction, no siding. Clay roof tiles, not shingle or steel. Still a number of old-style shops, butchers, green grocers, small hardware shops. Independent fish and chips, pizza, bakery and pie outlets.
Yes there are malls, with chain stores just like here, fast food franchises. McDonald’s, Starbucks and several other international brands are noticeable but not as prolific as here. Sadly, Tim Hortons does not appear to have reached across the Atlantic. There are a number of local coffee houses but none with coffee as good as ours.
Houses heated with radiators and open fireplaces, not forced air. Heating turned down at night so that inside temperatures require a heavy duvet or comforter, bedroom windows left slightly open for fresh air.
Little things like 220V electric current and 3 pin plugs and sockets (receptacles). Light switches that are on when down not up. Motor vehicle makes and models that we do not see in Canada, Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall, Fiat, Alfa Romeo. More standard transmission than automatic, more diesel now than petrol (gas). Mostly small vehicles for narrow roads. Inconsequential as all of those may be, they are sharp reminders of what was normal for three-quarters of my life.
It’s not all better on that side of the Atlantic, cost of living is higher, most notably fuel both petrol (gas) and diesel double the price we pay here in Canada. Prices of some groceries are higher, some lower, many things with prices in pounds similar to ours in dollars which makes them almost double ours.
Narrow roads, high volumes of traffic, short days are all on the negative side. English pubs with good cheap meals, warmer weather and surprisingly, plenty of wide open countryside close to towns and cities all on the positive.
Could I enjoy living there? Yes I believe so. Would I miss Canada? Yes there is a lot I would miss and many good people I have met.
Am I planning to move there? Not in the near future, we have animals to consider. We do not want to move for the wrong reasons, certainly not because the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. One of the reasons we moved to Canada was that we thought it would be easier to replicate a similar lifestyle (if not the climate) to that which we had in Africa. With no money and no time to waste, our options were limited to a choice between the UK and Canada and many of our assumptions about Canada were incorrect.
We are under no illusions that life in England would be much easier or more enjoyable than it is here. However considering the benefits available to older people in the UK, the balance will tilt progressively in favour of the UK as we get older. Sue’s son and family will be moving to Scotland later this year. With a new baby to consider, my younger son is now less certain of staying in Zimbabwe, he and his family will almost certainly move to the UK. That will tip the balance further.
The visit allowed me to look at my various business activities through a critically clear lens. Brilliantly clear because of the breadth of the Atlantic, far removed from my desk, my computer, my clients, telephones, the compelling need to cut or split wood, feed and groom horses. I was able to communicate with Sue every day by email, phone or Skype so I knew she was ok during the bad weather. That left plenty of time to wander around old buildings and spend early, solitary mornings with a pot of tea, a note pad and no distractions.
The examination exposed much that I am not happy with, much that I am not enthusiastic about. Conversations with my brother and some of his clients identified a need for a service I can provide that I had not marketed, believing that I did not have a competitive advantage. It turns out that the very factors like age, pre-internet business experience and a high regard for providing excellent customer service, which I saw as a negative in some aspects of on-line business are in fact more of an advantage than I had considered.
Once again I find myself plotting a change of direction. It’s going to take a while to put all the bits in place and more importantly decide how they fit together and what needs discarding.
This blog will continue much as it has for the last year, future posts will keep you up to date with my new activities. I started this blog 4 years ago with the intention that it would be a vehicle to make money on-line – that’s one of the things the experts said was essential!
It has brought in a little income, but not even enough to feed the horses never mind the cats. It has been a wonderful adventure that has helped me develop the discipline to write two posts a week (most weeks), allowed me to meet some amazing on-line friends and gain practice at writing. It has helped me make new business contacts and been a good vehicle to promote my consulting / coaching services. It has also brought me into contact with many outstanding bloggers from whom I have learned more than I could have imagined.
Perhaps the biggest benefit from all that is the understanding and acceptance that not every one who has a different viewpoint to mine is wrong, ridiculous, obtuse or stupid. That is something that has taken me a lifetime to accept.
Leave a comment, share how your year has started.