Category Archives: Uncategorized

Funerals, Reflections & Relationships

Last week I attended the funeral of a good, long-time friend who died just before New Year. 

The crematorium was packed to overflowing and many familiar faces were dotted amongst the crowd of people who had come to pay their last respects.  The service contained some real heartfelt tributes and as usual, we all learnt things about our friend we didn’t previously know. 

The tributes were glowing: he was dedicated, hardworking, reliable, a loving husband and father … but one phrase amongst these tributes hit me harder than anything else in the service; it was the simple phrase,

If only he knew how much he was appreciated and loved by others.”

And that set me thinking.

I had known him for nearly 30 years, yet how often had I told him that I valued his friendship and counsel?  How often had I said, “You’re a good friend” or “I appreciate you” or “If you ever want to chat, I’m here.”

Now I know it’s very easy to become introspective at funerals and think about the ‘what ifs’ and ‘If onlys’ of life, but I do think those few challenging words are very significant: to me  and to everyone in friendships or relationships.

We all need friendships and relationships to function at our best. Many will be long-standing; some will be more recent; some will be brand new.  Whatever their status, a key factor for their success is our input (the one thing we can control), both in terms of quality and quantity.

Why do we have relationships?

We’re human beings and we need personal contact: without it we’re potentially heading for potential health risks and psychiatric disorders/imbalances.  If it were not so, why is solitary confinement used as a form of torture to break down resistance and extract information/cause harm and suffering?

The nature of relationships will vary depending on their context e.g., personal relationships will be different to business relationships, but the core requirements are pretty consistent regardless of their context.  Three common scenarios are:

‘I’m in it for what I can get out of it’:  most of these are doomed to problems and failure, and are not actually true relationships. 

‘I’m in it for what I can put into it’: these are far more likely to work if the action is reciprocated by the other party(ies).

‘I’m in it for how we can support and help each other‘: these are the most likely to survive and thrive through good and bad times.

Face-to-face contact

An important part of a relationship is face-to-face contact.  Many of these face-to-face interactions carry far more value than we realise since many non-obvious factors like expression, body language, touch etc, reinforce our words and actions. It’s at these times that we can really build each other up and make the other person feel valued and important.  It may be a natural part of our relationship or we may have to work at it.  Whichever is true, it is important.

Attending my friend’s funeral has reminded me of the importance of these ‘personal’ moments and of my responsibility to help make my relationships successful.

If we are successful in just this area, we will have made a difference to other people’s lives and, I believe, made a difference to our own life too, because as our behaviour changes in one area it will almost certainly impact many other areas of our life at the same time … and surely that can only be a bonus.

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Forget the Hype: businesses are not interested in retaining exisiting customers

We seem to live in an age where what you say is really important: say the right things and everyone loves you; say the wrong things and you rapidly become a pariah!

For me the importance isn’t so much what people say, it’s more about whether they apply their words:  do they actually do what they say?

Business gurus have told us for years the importance of retaining current customers as ‘They are much easier to gain repeat business from than new customers’ etc.

I have had two experiences that fly in the face of this within the past 3 weeks. 

Two different companies ‘guaranteed’ to supply services for my business and to acknowledge this agreement in writing. 

  1. The first company did neither and did not make any response to e-mails, telephone calls, a fax or written letter (plenty of promises to call back within 45 minutes etc, just no action), despite my clear indication that I would be pursuing a refund in the event of no response: I got none,  so my bank retrieved the payment.
  2. The second company sent me acknowledgement in writing but then became seemingly uninterested in responding to my e-mails,  telephone calls or fax.  In addition, this technology-based company has an online formmail system that returns a string of errors when you try to use it.  So, a  good old ‘snail mail’ signature required letter has been sent so we’ll see if that elicits a response.  In the event of none, you’ve guessed it,  my bank will be busy again!

What I find amazing, is that I am not alone in these experiences.  Several friends in business have experienced the same response and reclaimed their payments.

Now I would have thought that in an economic environment that is not overly healthy or generous, we would all want to retain customers.

Clearly not!

So, is what these ‘gurus’ say important and will I listen to those gurus in future? 

Yes, it is and yes I will … because I know the importance of a loyal (and satisfied) customer base. Most of the ‘gurus’ I read are actually ordinary people who have built businesses from scratch and learned, often the hard way, the importance of backing up what they say with what they do.

But there are clearly too many who either ‘speak the speak but don’t walk the talk’, or who don’t know about this important principle or who simply don’t care, and for them, I fear the future is not Orange!

Incompatibility Between Avast! Free Antivirus & Window XP SP3?

I recently tried a couple of free antivirus software solutions having paid for one for several years which has now got too clever (you can’t get just the antivirus; it has to scan for malware, be a firewall, wash your underwear, the usual story) and clashes with most other protective software on my PC.

I found AVG free version to be good, but it’s huge, takes up loads of space and tries to make itself the centre of your universe .. “Do you want to use AVG as your default search engine’ etc.  It’s also pretty slow loading and within one reboot repeatedly displays a banner telling me that mscvr80.dll can no longer be found so I did a bit of research on St Google and Avast! free version came up highly recommended.  It seems to be just an antivirus and does what it says on the can; well mostly.  After a couple of scans I noticed that my desktop was erratic loading from reboot or when the PC was first switched on: sometimes it loaded but most times it showed me desktop icons but no taskbar, quick launch bar or start icon, and in that state it remained locked until a reboot, when sometimes it sorted itself out … until today.

Today I spent 7 hours searching for every solution I could that may account for the desktop not loading properly.  My PC almost lived in safe mode and I tried system restore (several times), various C: prompt commands (from web articles), antivirus and antimalware scans, but no result.

In desperation, I tried what I should probably have done first, I uninstalled Avast! free antivirus, et voila, everything worked fine.

This incompatibility with Windows XP, especially SP3 is rarely mentioned but by chance I noticed that a couple of people had reported similar problems with their desktop not loading after installing Avast! antivirus. At least one article mentioned that it was the Avast! software itself that had become corrupted.

I don’t know or understand the reasons, but I do know that if you’re having problems with your desktop loading in Windows XP and have Avast! antivirus installed, it may be worth trying to uninstall the antivirus software first as you could save yourself 7 hours of frustration (and no work!)

Our Life Experience is Never Wasted

Since the middle of 2009 I have been visiting schools on a voluntary basis to talk about a whole range of different subjects: my work, pain, drugs, clinical trials, music. 

What has become apparent is how much of the information I had thought of as specialist is applicable to students in their studies, today.  It’s been a bit of a surprise rediscovery.  For example, my background in clinical trials has allowed me to share a wealth of knowledge with Year 7, Year 8, Year 9, GCSE and A-Level students.  What’s more, I’ve also had opportunities to provide input at higher education (degree) level.

So where does this leave me with respect to all the other activities I undertake, personally and as part of my business?

Add it to my portfolio!

What I am learning more and more is that we all have our own unique life story.  No-one else can tell it: it’s ours!  That story is extremely valuable to others, both in terms of our knowledge and our experience, however little we me feel we have! 

When I take time to look back and look at my experiences (good and bad) I’m amazed how often the help, advice or opinion of someone else has helped, either for providing a solution or for clarifying my thinking.

Our experiences are never wasted.  It is usually the bad ones we remember most and that come back to haunt us, but there are many good experiences which have etched their impact into the metal of our lives.

So, why should it be any different with our career?  All of life experience is valuable for how we learn and interact with others (or don’t).  If we add our total experience together, we will be amazed at what we can offer: it’s usually more than we ever realise. 

After all, it’s free added value!

The Importance of Personal Contacts

I have pretty much lived clinical trials, clinical research & drug development for 18 years of my life! So, when I was made redundant in 2007 I decided to try something new as a career. I focused on my drumming & percussion workshops for schools, businesses, community groups … and I discovered the importance of previous experience and exposure.

I am reasonably well-known in a few circles locally for my percussion and drumming work, but my workshops, though plentiful had been voluntary input to a couple of schools for friends who were teachers: I worked full-time and did the workshops as favours. These were extremely well received and over a period of 5 years or so I made many visits.

Unfortunately, around the time I left work, there were major changes in the teachers (specifically, head teachers) at the schools where I had worked. My friends retired or left the profession and so many of my contacts evaporated overnight.

The last 2 or so years has been spent building links with new schools, but with many competitors already established, it has not been easy.

And through all of this, the old adage that “It’s not what you know, but who you know” has shouted in my face many times. Sure, I’ve had breaks and done workshops, and the future is looking bright, but it is difficult to express the frustration and sometimes blind panic that ceases hold when the very thing you’re wrestling with is what puts bread and butter on the table, clothes on your back and keeps your car on the road.

So what have I learnt?

In three words, “Never give up!”

I’ve learnt more about myself, my strengths and my weaknesses during this time than at just about any other period in my life. And I intend to work on these as I move forward.

But if you’re a teacher, or a manager who is looking for creative drumming & percussion workshops to spice up your lessons or build your times (and you’re based in the UK), I can help! 🙂

Ethics & Integrity

How we deal with people is crucial to our success (and theirs) in all areas of life.

Life without integrity is like a lighthouse without a light: everything’s fine until darkness falls or the storms break.

Simple Solution: IE8 Information Bar Not Working

I recently logged on to the Windows Update site, only to receive the message,

Install the ActiveX control required to view the website
The website will not display correctly on your computer without this control. To install it:

1. Right-click the Internet Explorer Information Bar. It’s located just below the address bar.
2. In the right-click menu, click Install ActiveX Control.
3. In the Security Warning dialog box, click Install.

Unfortunately, there was no ’Internet Explorer Information Bar’ showing below my address bar in IE8.

This was strange, as I had only visited the update site a few of days previously when everything worked fine. I use Windows XP Pro as my operating system and I run ZoneAlarm Pro firewall and BitDefender 2008 antivirus software.

I searched Google for answers and as usual there were lots of in-depth analyses and a load more questions back … but no answers.

So, I put together a few bits I’d gleaned from the discussions (I am not a computer expert; quite the opposite), did a bit of experimenting by trial-and-error and managed to solve the problem.

The answer was very simple and involved only 3 or 4 clicks with the mouse. Here it is:

I remembered that I had been frustrated by how slow IE8 was running so I had been into the Tools > Manage Add-Ons menu and switched off accelerators etc. However, one Add-On I’d also switched off (disabled) which was the cause of my problems was the MUWebControl Class. So I switched it back on again (enabled it) by right clicking on the word ‘Disabled’ and then choosing ‘Enable’ from the dropdown box … and voilá, everything worked fine. Problem solved.

I understand that this may not work for you but if it does, you will be saved a lot of time and frustration.

Trust me; I’ve been there!

Hope this helps!