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Father to son

18 Jun

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

My father died over 30 years ago.. he simply fell off his bike and died from a heart attack on the way to work one day. So although he was at my wedding, he missed the divorce – and he never saw his grandchildren, or saw what a success they would be. But I know he would have loved them, fiercely and passionately.

He was a conflicted, loopy, crazy guy – we didn’t have phrases like PTSD to describe it, but he came back from serving with the Royal Engineers in the Tunisia campaign of WWII isolated and introverted. His first wife left him while he was away fighting for his country, which hurt him deeply. He was a great engineer, the son of a mining engineer also tragically killed in a mining accident in the coal mines of Merthyr Tydfil. And I suspect that’s why I became an engineer too. It’s in the blood, you see.

My brother and I will live with the image of a man with a tousled comb over (wildly out of control in the seaside breeze) dancing (we assume, it wasn’t obvious) in bright orange swimming trunks – or floating peacefully in the local swimming baths (which, it has to be said, is a bit of a shock if you’re not expecting it).

I remember clearing out the attic to discover he had been hoarding used beer cans in case they became valuable. And clearing out the shed, where I discovered a small stash of offcuts of copper that he’d been saving to take to the scrap merchants.

I remember the day that he went visibly pale when I came home and announced who I was dating… it’s always a high risk scenario when your son dates the boss’s daughter.

I remember the day we spent together rivetting a new floor pan onto the clunker of a car that I had just bought.. and the look of shock and horror that barely disguised his laughter when I drove the car through the front fence and into the front garden.

And I remember with fondness and thanks the day that I put my head on his shoulder and said ‘thankyou’ to him. It was the last time I saw him alive.

He failed, completely, to teach me any form of sports… those genes had to wait to be passed to my brother… but I was content to watch him play for his local cricket team, or to play a little bit of ‘whack the ball with the bat’ in the local park.

He cheerfully cycled 2 miles to work and 2 miles back every day.. and when, aged five, I decided I didn’t like school dinners, he cheerfully cycled the 4 mile round trip back home again every lunch time to make me lunch. I had no doubt that my father loved me.

He wasn’t keen on change – we suspect that he’d seen enough change in the war to see him through – and quickly discovered that ‘that was a nice meal for a change, dear’ meant ‘please never cook this for me ever again’. We would holiday in the same place every year until the hotel closed or changed hands, or something happened to cause him to fall out of love with the place.. and perhaps in his sense of keeping things the same was born my own desire to change things up – in his desire for uniformity was born my rebel cry to make things different, to yearn for adventure.

Only recently have we discovered the love letters he wrote back home to my mother excitedly looking forward to coming home and being together – letters full of tenderness and anticipation.

Like most men, my father had his faults, his inconsistencies, his weaknesses and his addictions. But he also had his strengths, his wisdom, his authority – and I knew I could rely on him to back me up, to be there when I needed him – and I knew I could rely on his love.

I hope I can bring my sons everything my father brought me – and then to surpass him – to build on the shoulders of a giant to be an even better example to my children as to what a real man is, and what a real father is. And already I see that they will be even better than I.

I wanted to post a song here. Cat Steven’s ‘Father and Son’ is for some reason too raw and painful for me to love. Its inclusion in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy II’ nearly leading me to walk out early, it’s that uncomfortable!

Peter Gabriel’s ‘Father Son’ is perhaps too gentle for the fierce love I feel towards my father – and towards my sons. Queen’s ‘Father to Son’ has more of the bite and energy that I feel – that sense that I will carry on where my father left off – and a rallying cry for my sons to become greater, better, more powerful, kinder, more loving, more successful and even better human beings than I am. Each of us carry the torch for a while, and we pass it on to the next generation for them to build a better, kinder future for themselves, and for those around them, and so for the world.

But I think I will leave you with one of my all time favourite moments in concert – worth listening to for Ged Lynch’s amazing ‘falling through the drumkit’ drumming – worth thinking about to consider what better world we might have if we would just talk to each other – but definitely worth the beautiful interaction between Peter Gabriel and his daughter Melanie in the song ‘Talk to Me’ – skip to 4:46 if you must.

 

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

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A vote for hope

7 Jun

compassion

Tomorrow the United Kingdom votes for its next government in what may be the most important election in my lifetime. The democratic system in the Western world has seen some shocks in the last twelve months – and perhaps this time the shock may be one that benefits this planet and moves us forward rather than taking us backward into darker days.

So far I have stayed quiet, watching what others have been saying, taking note of other people’s opinions.. and hoping and praying.

This time, I will be voting Labour. Not particularly because I want to vote Labour – it will be the first time I have, as I have usually favoured voting outside of the two party system – but because I am choosing to vote against a government lacking in compassion, in love, in those shared values that make us human. I am choosing to vote for a future where there is hope, rather than one of despair. And for me, Labour show me the possibility of that future, whereas a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a return to the dark ages of modern politics.

For too long, this government have chosen to support the wants of the few over and against the needs of the many. Their approach to the NHS, to the disabled, to the disadvantaged, to the elderly, has been inhumane. Theresa May’s willingness to tear up the Human Rights Act – a bill of human rights that is one of this country’s proudest achievements – is irresponsible and dangerous, and would take humanity back centuries.

Their protection of the rights of the few, prioritised so heavily over the needs of the many, is anti-humanity and actually works against the prosperity of the nation as a whole. They gamble the future of this nation and the future of its people to line the pockets of a few powerful individuals.

We are ‘threatened’ with a Labour party that would apparently ‘take us back to the seventies’. And perhaps we need to remember those days. Those were the days when we had a National Health Service that worked. A police force that was respected. Where we were still grateful to be a country that was no longer at war. Where the ordinary people were finding their voice.

I have nothing against people becoming prosperous. I cheer on those who become successful. But I do stand up against those who use the power that wealth brings to take more and more for themselves while they forget the simple values of kindness, mercy, love, compassion.
In our continual pursuit of wealth we have forgotten that money is there to be used, not to be owned. We have forgotten that people matter. We have fallen prey to the thought that power is in the hands of the wealthy, the elite. We have listened to those who have the most to lose and to those who control the media that tells us what we should think. Our attention has been diverted to a false enemy when the actual enemy and danger to our humanity is far closer to home.

We have an opportunity in this election to vote for our true values. To vote to take humanity forward, not backward. To vote for love, compassion, hope, integrity. To vote for this country to be an example of what a nation can be – a demonstration to the world of what is possible when a country looks to what it can bring to the world.

So when I rock up at the polling station to vote tomorrow, I will definitely vote with my head. I will vote with my gut. I will certainly vote with my heart. And I will vote with hope that we can change our future.

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

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Crooked Trails

19 Jul

canyon bridge

A friend of mine sent me this quote many years back, and I have always loved it – and tried to live my life by it. Until recently, I had not realised it was part of a larger quote, which really sent fingers of excitement running up and down my spine when I read it. And I thought you might enjoy it too!

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”

(Edward Abbey)

Now that’s a huge and fabulous dream….

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

 

PS I’m helping a friend out with some renovation work at the moment, so much as I would like to post, it’s proving a bit tricky! Normal service (whatever that is) will be resumed as soon as possible!

The future and Europe

8 Jun

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I’ve been watching the UK Referendum with some considerable interest and concern, as you might expect. (For my international readers and anyone who’s been hiding out under a rock for the last couple of years – the UK is about to hold a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union (which we’ve been part of for 40 years) or whether to leave).

I’ve watched the various arguments unfold in the media and online, and if I am honest, at times I’ve been swayed by arguments in both directions. I’m not a man to argue figures, and whether we will or will not be worse off if we leave. That’s not the point, for me.

I do remain unconvinced by the arguments about the amount we contribute to the EU and how much we get back.. whether it’s £350M or £160M after rebates and contributions to UK projects. For me, whatever club or society we are part of, whether it’s a chess club or a buying syndicate, we pay money in to get benefits out. I believe the benefits we get are worth far, far more than the relatively small contribution we pay in.

The arguments about the European Court of Human Rights – let’s get rid of that one early. Leaving Europe will not affect our membership and subscription to the ECHR. And it must not. Sure, the ECHR may occasionally get it wrong. What court doesn’t? But let’s not forget that we were the country instrumental in setting this up after years of war crimes and atrocities – it’s something that we as a country and as Europeans need to be proud of.

Fears over open borders? We are an island, for heaven’s sake. If people get here, they get here by sea or by air, or through a well policed tunnel. We are in a better position than anywhere else in Europe (apart from Ireland of course) to police our borders. And know this – our country is made richer by immigrants who pay more in taxes than they take in benefits. People who contribute to the quality of our lives by taking jobs as doctors and nurses – who are prepared to study and work hard to succeed. And thank them for doing inexpensive jobs well. Your cheap hand car wash? Thank the Lithuanians. Inexpensive vegetables? Thank the Poles. My local chip shop is run very capably by a lovely couple of Romanians who have that opportunity because they were prepared to work the long hours that it needs to be successful.

I am sure that we are subject to some ridiculous laws and decisions by bureaucrats in Europe. But the European Union actually IS a democracy. European laws have to be passed by European elected members. We’re not innocent of this ourselves, you know this – in the UK we have a whole series of bureaucrats in power that we didn’t actually elect. You thought ‘Yes Minister’ was fiction? Hmm…

If there is a real problem with the EU seeming to have too much power it is that we as a nation are being ineffective at the negotiating table. And if we’re crap at negotiating for what we want as a nation now – then we’re going to be even worse if we leave. Switzerland took over ten years to negotiate an agreement with a Europe that was keen to reach an agreement. You think Europe will be keen to negotiate with a country that’s chosen to turn its back?

And let’s make sure that we’re voting on the right things – let’s not make this a proxy vote against a disastrously selfish and ill-advised government. This decision won’t go away in a few years, like this Conservative government surely will…

We have the right of veto on European legislation, and contrary to popular opinion, the vast majority of UK legislation is just that – legislation that we created in the UK. Only a small minority of our laws are actually created in the EU.

Yes, there are some stupid things that the  European Union does. But we’re part of that problem – we can’t just blame it on ‘them’ – we need to work to make the EU more effective, more efficient, and, yes, perhaps more democratic.

The EU freedom of movement doesn’t contribute to terrorism, by the way. You can’t argue that it does, in any sensible or logical way. So stop it.

I’ve seen posts from people who seem to blame everything that’s gone wrong in this country the last forty years on the EU – as if we can lay the blame for everything at the feet of someone else – and then make it go away by leaving the EU. That’s crazy. It’s like blaming everything that’s gone wrong since the 70s on the moon landings or on the release of The Sweet’s “Blockbuster”.

It seems that every reasoned and rational report I can find says that we as a nation will be worse off financially, practically and with less of a say in international politics.. so tell me again why we’re doing this?

I’m certainly not convinced by that jingoistic sabre rattling that says ‘We are an island nation – part of Europe yet separate from it’. We are truly an incredible nation, a nation justifiably proud of our achievements. And that means we can hold our heads high in a European Union that is more than the sum of its constituent nations. The only reason we can continue to be seen as great is if we continue to play full power on a global level – and leaving Europe will significantly reduce the platform from which we speak.

The arguments weave backwards and forwards – sometimes (but increasingly rarely) I find myself seduced by the arguments of those who would leave the EU… and yet I find myself drawn back to the logic and rationality of the arguments of those who urge us to stay. The clearest thinkers that I know, and the clearest thinkers that I hear from, seem to be agreed that the only sane and sensible choice is to remain in the EU. None – not a single one – of the economic arguments, or the debates on sovereignty from those who would see us leave seem to stack up or to stand up to close scrutiny. They seem to be based on wishful thinking and hopefulness, on fear and on misplaced national pride, rather than on truth.

But that’s not the point, for me.

The world has changed. Arguing on the basis of what was, forty years ago, is irrelevant. At a global level we face threats far more coherent and dangerous than petty squabbling about trivia. We need to wake up and see where we’re heading at a global level… because we’re all in this together, folks. There’s no way off this ball of rock that’s hurtling through space.

And that means that many decisions can no longer be made at a national level. We need to resolve the energy question. We need to resolve global warming. We need to deal with the fact that our resources are disappearing (ever wondered what happens to the helium we gaily use in our party balloons – and what else we use it for?) We need to deal with global security… ‘national security’ is pretty much irrelevant nowadays.

We need to start to work together on a global level. That means being part of something bigger. And right now, for the UK, that ‘something bigger’ is the European Union. We bring our strength, our talents, our wisdom, our insights, our resources to bear on the issues that face humanity. We allow ourselves to look outwards, not inwards.

And this is a time to look forward, not back. This is a time to look towards a future based on co-operation and co-existence, about forging a future together where we collaborate to create something better for all of us. Being part of Europe makes that easier, not harder. Being part of Europe allows us to contribute at the highest level.

The European Union is a demonstration of what’s possible when sovereign states start to work together. It shows that different countries, with different cultures, different priorities, different objectives can work together. That’s pretty much unique, people. And we helped create that. We are part of that. Let’s not run away from the task at hand because it’s a bit tough today. Or because we’re afraid. Because global co-operation is the future.

This is what Winston Churchill had to say when he addressed the Congress of Europe in 1948:

“A high and a solemn responsibility rests upon us here … If we allow ourselves to be rent and disordered by pettiness and small disputes, if we fail in clarity of view or courage in action, a priceless occasion may be cast away for ever. But if we all pull together and pool the luck and the comradeship – and we shall need all the comradeship and not a little luck … then all the little children who are now growing up in this tormented world may find themselves not the victors nor the vanquished in the fleeting triumphs of one country over another in the bloody turmoil of war, but the heirs of all the treasures of the past and the masters of all the science, the abundance and the glories of the future.”

I’ve looked at the issues. I’ve looked at the pros and the cons. I’ve talked to people that I trust. And I’ve discovered that I do care. Passionately. Absolutely. It’s time to stand up and decide that we’re not going to be dictated to by Europe any more. We’re not going to look out across the English Channel and see them taking from us all the time.

It’s time to realise that being part of a Europe that collaborates, lives in peace with its neighbours and has the vision to contribute to the world stage at the highest possible levels is important. It’s time to decide that we’re going to stand up and make Europe even better, even more relevant, even more influential. And we only get that with a seat at the table.

For me, the future is global. The future is humanity working together for the benefit of all humanity. So let’s stand up and be part of that. Let’s help shape the future. Because that way, we all win.

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

Walking with Heroes

14 Aug

storm

A while back, I spent a lot of time exploring the idea of the Hero’s Journey and Mythic Archetypes… and it feels like a good time to dust some of that off and share it here for a wider audience. (My clients and newsletter subscribers got access to this programme on line, but I felt it was worth reviewing it and sharing a bit more widely).

The Hero’s Journey describes the key elements of every good story – how our hero leaves the realm of the ordinary world when she receives the call to adventure… a call which he initially refuses, but through a meeting with a mysterious adviser, steps into a new world full of tests, trials, allies and enemies.. and eventually make their way back into the realm of the ordinary, forever changed and with a magical gift that will transform the world.

We see the echoes of this story in many of our fairy tales, in the great sagas of our time. It is of course, the story of Star Wars:

In act one we find our hero Luke Skywalker, stuck on the ordinary world of farming on Tattooine, when he receives the call in the form of a mysterious message stuck in R2D2s memory. On a quest to understand the message, he meets the strange and mysterious Obi-Wan-Kenobi, who takes him under his wing and introduces him to the power of the Force.. initially refusing the call, he finds his bridges – and his farm – burned and he reluctantly heads off into the unknown. He meets new allies along the way, and encounters new enemies, yet confronts death and returns triumphant – transformed by the ordeal from simple farm boy into Jedi warrior and ready to take his place in a new world.

The same story runs through Lord of the Rings, our hero replaced by an unassuming hobbit, who encounters Gandalf the magician and the Fellowship on his journey to save Middle Earth.

I am sure you can find your own echoes of it in your favourite stories and sagas…Aladdin… Cinderella… Arthur and Merlin… Jaws… the Wizard of Oz… The Lion King… The Hunger Games… The Matrix… E.T. and so many, many more.

(I love this comic book version – click through to see a larger view)

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Disney themselves made this the core of their storywriting when Chris Vogler summarised Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” in a famous memo which became the backbone of the Disney’s storywriting process. The characters change, but the one great story remains.

And the reason why the story works is that it’s the story of each of our lives, in some way. It resonates with the truth of who we are, that for each of us there is an adventure ready to unfold… or an adventure that each of us is already walking. It might be a romance, or an ‘against the odds’ struggle, yet for each of us, when we recognise it, the story rings true.

The characters in the play have their own story to tell, too… the famous psychotherapist Carl Jung created the concept of an archetype, suggesting there were twelve broad patterns of behaviour:

  • Sage
  • Innocent
  • Explorer/Seeker
  • Ruler
  • Creator
  • Caregiver
  • Magician
  • Hero/Warrior
  • Outlaw/Revolutionary
  • Lover
  • Jester/Fool
  • Everyman

Carol S Pearson took this work further in her programme for individuals and for businesses, and in her amazing book “Awakening the Heroes Within”. I can only scratch the surface in this series, but I hope it will provide an accessible introduction that motivates some of you to dig deeper and pick up her book.

I love this work because unlike many of the psychological tools available today (Enneagram, Belbin, Myers Briggs and so on) this one doesn’t seek to put people in a box so much as become aspirational.

When I first did the analysis to show which the primary heroes were active in my own life, I found that the area I was weakest was as the Warrior – I was not good at enforcing boundaries and fighting for what I saw to be right. I could look at that and decide to change it… not to change the core of who I am, but to strengthen an area that I saw weak.

And as I did the work, and looked at the stories for each of these Heroes, I could see the unfolding of some stories that mirrored my life experience and helped me to understand the context, what to avoid and to see what would come next if I continued on the journey.

I and the people I have worked with have found the ideas wonderfully helpful.. and so I thought I would open it up, share it all on the blog, and let others find what catches fire for them..

So, over the next few weeks, I’m going to publish the episodes of the ‘Walking With Heroes’ programme to the blog every few days. There’s a lot of content so I don’t want to give you indigestion! I hope you enjoy it – and I suspect that at some point, if you’re paying attention, one or more of the characters will resonate with you and you’ll suddenly realise ‘’”That’s me!”

And at the end I will share the tool I have used to work out where people are on the Hero Spectrum – to see what’s working in their lives, and perhaps understand a little more of what’s going on…

Enjoy the journey…..

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

Everything is working out perfectly–10 years of craziness and chaos

25 Jul

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Just over ten years ago I set out on an adventure that was to change my life. That day I woke up, cropped my hair short and loaded the new Bon Jovi box set onto my Mp3 player and then went out on a run before breakfast… and as I ran I looked back on my life up to that point – and forward into the new dawn that lay ahead. A new vista of infinite possibilities lay in front of me. Little did I know that life wasn’t going to follow my expectations. Although perhaps I should have guessed…

But let’s rewind just a few short months. In 2004 I was working as a well respected and well liked programme manager running global IT initiatives for a major multinational, Unilever plc. I had a five figure annual salary, industry respect and the commitment and appreciation of my team, my peers, and my superiors. I was doing what I had trained to do, working in an exciting, dynamic technology environment, living on the edge of technical achievement. I travelled the world, implementing new technologies, running training courses and contributing to industry think tanks and technical peer reviews. And loving every minute of it.

My personal life was a little less perfect though – I was still recovering from a painful divorce, although I still had the love, support and close friendship of my two sons. My personal Christian faith had collapsed a few years earlier – yet I felt I had a huge amount of freedom to determine my own destiny.

In mid 2004 a harsher reality hit our technology world. The head of my organisation was ousted by those around him, and the shape of our business began to shift. Those of us who had been favoured suddenly fell from grace. As part of the subsequent reorganisation, I was offered the post of chief desktop architect – a seductive title, if it wasn’t for the fact that the previous chief desktop architect used to work for me. I was being offered a subordinate’s job. Suddenly, I faced a fearsome choice – and an opportunity. I could press for redundancy, and begin a new life.. or settle back down in the organisation and see what the future would bring.

I wrestled with the options in my head for days. I talked to my closest friends, who were very clear that they felt I should leave on a new adventure – because they could see the excitement in my eyes when I talked about it. Yet I still had the responsibility for two teenage sons – getting them through university, getting them started in life. I turned the possibilities over in my head, unable – or unwilling – to come to a solution.

While away on business, I went to the movies, watching ‘Wimbledon’ – the story of a tennis player with one last chance to be a winner… someone who felt that his best days were behind him and yet still had one chance to win… if he would own the title of ‘winner’. Around me at the movie theatre were posters – the movie ‘Hero’. A soap powder ‘Bold’. And finally, the tag line to an upcoming feature stopped me in my tracks: “In 2005, a hero will arise”. What more guidance could I be looking for? (I would point out that the movie in question was none other than ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’)

My mind was made up. I went in to my boss, who reluctantly accepted my resignation, asking me to work another 6 months to complete the project in hand. And I did. We delivered, on time and under budget, an installation that was subsequently rolled out to 150,000 computers world wide. And in the meantime, I had four leaving parties (the benefits of being an international traveller based on two continents and in three offices), rafted the Grand Canyon and lived it up in Las Vegas. Sadly my ex wife was taken ill during those months, too, and my two sons came to live with me, giving me an even greater sense that I had done the right thing.

And so, on that fateful day in June 2005, I bade farewell to the corporate lifestyle. I had no idea what I was going to do… but I knew that I was going on an adventure – a journey into the unknown, discovering what was possible.

I think these moments happen for all of us in our lives. We dismiss it sometimes as a mid life crisis, but for all of us, in some way, the Destroyer will rear his head – we look back at what we have done with our lives, and decide that we want to build something else. For some that manifests as getting rid of all that’s old and dull – throw out the Mondeo and buy an Alfa. Dye your hair bright blue. Learn to ride a motorcycle. Have an affair. Or change your career.

You see, we have to destroy in order to create. We have to tear down the security and safety of what is, in order to step into what could be. We have to clear the ground, the things that hold us back, getting rid of the comfort of what we know in order to take the first steps on an adventure into the unknown. We cannot hold on to the past while attempting to create a new future… the Universe demands that we let go of our safety net. It’s like stepping onto a rope bridge over a canyon… we can choose to stay on the safety of one side of the canyon, secure with rock under our feet. But if we want to step into something new, if we want to get to the other side… then we have to take a step onto that bridge, to step out over the chasm, unsure whether the rope will support us. As we step further out, then the bridge sways more. The wind might catch at us. We can go backward to safety – or press on into the unknown. As we step further out, then the bridge sways more wildly. Uncertainty increases. And yet we press on, hopeful of reaching the other side. Sometimes it is all we can do to put one foot in front of the other, feeling our way forward. Yet no matter how scary the crossing might be – the bridge will hold us… we will get to the other side.

One thing I did know… as well as being bloody good with technology (computers had been woven throughout my life from college onwards, back when there were no books, just typewritten notes) I was also damn successful with people. I had taken raw material and helped forge experts, industry leaders and technologists. One of my crew, a secretary when she started working with me, went on to be head of Information Technology for a major fragrance company. Another two created a very successful technology consultancy. Others found their voices and their careers blossom – so rather than diving back into technology or consultancy, I decided that I would find a way to work with people – to bring out the best in them.

And so I began to explore the options available. At first I started as a coach – working with people to help them realise their goals and make the sort of changes I had wrought in my own life. On top of this, I trained as a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) a psychological technology that restored power to individuals, allowing them to make massive changes in their lives. I added a qualification in hypnosis, simply because no-one understood what NLP actually was.

A gruelling three week programme saw me obtain the coveted title of ‘Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming’ – certified to be able to run my own NLP trainings and adding depth to my ability as a public speaker. I worked with other companies to coach on major programmes, and became an expert in practical demonstrations of the power of the mind – board breaking, iron bar bending, and the fearsome firewalk and meditative glass walk.

And the more I explored the power of the unconscious, unlocking the power of human potential through helping people to rewire their conscious to achieve the results they wanted, the more I became aware that there was more to our own personal power. There seemed to be a supernormal aspect to our beings, that what we saw in this physical realm was only a faint shadow of the true power open to each one of us.

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I travelled to Peru, walking the Inca trail to Macchu Picchu and heard a still small voice speak to me as I looked down over the ancient city spread out below me. I rafted down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and found myself learning deep lessons and stories from the rock around me, as we went deeper and deeper into the layers of stone etched out by the river – as we bounced and span through rapids and over rocks and waterfalls. I grew a beard and shaved my head. I learned to dance, learned to ski and to snowboard, took a course in fire eating, studied to be a bodyguard,threw myself out of a perfectly good aeroplane, got my second dan karate black belt…

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I moved town, with my children, to create a gap between my old life and my new. I made new friends. Learned new skills. Had fun.

I ran coaching programmes for sales staff, communications programmes for help line operators, worked with individuals and companies….I was regarded as one of the people who could really make a difference to people’s lives. People loved what I was doing and the encouragement I brought. I worked on inspirational leadership events, working with attendees to get them through some of the challenges they faced in the seminar programmes.

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Life was good, working out perfectly – or so it seemed…

 

And then disaster struck.

I guess I had seen it coming for a while… but I just worked hard and hoped things would turn round. In early 2008, it became clear that my business was not sustainable. There simply wasn’t enough money coming in to keep me and my family afloat.

With a heavy heart, I decided to start to look for work. I began by approaching technology companies, looking for roles like my previous one. Confident that I had the skills and the understanding to step right back in where I left off, I approached company after company. And met a brick wall of indifference. Too long out of the business. Not up to date.

I set my sights lower. And still no success.

Then I hit a new problem. I was over qualified for lower positions. So they wouldn’t hire me either.

I sold my beautiful car to raise funds. I borrowed money on credit cards to pay the bills, to help provide for my family. I took part time work as a greeter in a kitchen and bathroom showroom with a hundred mile round trip to work every day. The company went bust, and I didn’t get paid. I did display installations for supermarkets. I would have done anything to keep my family together, to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. In those moments I tasted true desperation.

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I took to walking by the river in the early hours of the morning, before anyone was awake in the house, fingers clutched round a cup of coffee, looking desperately for answers. I was certain I had set out trying to do the right thing. I had followed my dreams, listened to my heart, looking to work with people, trying to bring more love into the world – yet here I was… lost, alone, afraid, stuck, and in trouble. And it was there, in those dark moments in late winter, that I found a new faith, a new depth of being, that would sustain me through the dark days to come. My youthful Christianity had been transformed into a new belief system and world view, based less on rules, and more on love. My finances may have been falling apart… but my heart was beginning to heal.

Eventually, when I was down to my last few pounds, I got a job working as a call centre operative for a UK communications supplier. And I hoped that the worst was over. By now I was around £40,000 in debt, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs had started to pursue me for taxes I didn’t realise I had to pay.

When a friend offered me a job working for a technology startup in the Midlands, I jumped at the chance. For six months I lived in his garden shed while we started to build the technology for a new web service. To enable the move, I sold my house, at a loss, and added another £20,000 to my debt – finally finding a rental flat in north Birmingham. In that time, my mother suffered a serious stroke and was hospitalised, unable to speak – dying in hospital some nine months later after struggling through her rehabilitation, never really regaining her mobility or her speech.

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Yet in all of this, I felt there was light at the end of the tunnel. When this new project worked, we would be wealthy. We talked of company vacations in Trinidad. I would be able to repay my debts, and start out again.

I was wrong. Again. My friend decided that we had been following the wrong technical solution, and reluctantly let me go. Two years later, I was back at square one… out of work and still looking for answers.

I had one card up my sleeve left to play. Early retirement. Very early retirement. I had had some very good years at my final position with my previous company – because I was retiring so early, I wouldn’t retire as wealthy as I might have done, but I would at least be comfortable. Having got my creditors under control, I decided on two things. First, that I would retire, so that I didn’t have to deal with the uncertainty of unemployment ever again, and second, that I would take a year out to travel the world.

I used a small lump sum to buy some cheap flights around the world, and to buy a rucksack and a good pair of boots. I invested in a couple of tours, and a couple of courses I wanted to attend. I spent the next few months planning an itinerary that would take me to many of the places I had dreamed of visiting since I was a child – places that were so far away and wonderful, that had lit up my childhood imagination.

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And in July 2011, I set off. I came back for a month once I had finished the US/Mexico leg of my trip, poking sticks in volcanoes, exploring American’s National Parks, learning Hawaiian shamanism, savouring the exuberance of Cuba, climbing Mexican temples and chasing down Mayan legend.

The next leg of my trip took me ten months – round Australasia and Asia, into China and across out through Tibet & Nepal. My budget was tight, so I lived on ramen and red peppers, banana pancakes and street food. I slept in hostels and dodgy hotels, and made friendships that have lasted to this day. When I was down to my last ringgit, I worked Chinese New Year in exchange for a bed for the night. I took buses rather than trains, motorbikes and tuk tuks rather than taxis.

And I saw so much. And I saw places that made me glad to be alive, sights that filled my heart with joy. I saw things that made me ashamed to be human – reminders of atrocities past too horrible to consider, yet too important to forget. I lost my passport and credit cards and got stuck in Cambodia. I lost my passport again (d’oh!) and got stuck in China.

As I wandered, I found myself learning to listen to the whispers all around me – to develop a new understanding of Spirit, and of the nature of humanity. I found myself deeply and permanently transformed. Perhaps I was still uncertain of my role in the world… but certain that there was more than I saw with my eyes. I decided that only I could be the arbiter of what I held to be true – and that only I could be the architect of my own destiny. I began to carefully look into what I believed – and what I didn’t. I had few preconceptions – open to the thought that there might be no deeper reality to this world, yet somehow convinced in my heart that there was something other behind this reality.

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I stood under a waterfall in Mexico near the temples of Palenque, and heard a voice from beyond my own knowing speaking directly to my heart. I watched as lightning lit up the sky above the Rio Grande in Colorado USA, and began to understand a little of what I longed to teach. I sat still in a Buddhist temple in Cambodia and allowed truth to be unfolded to me. I found deep peace walking by the Tongariro River and felt the power of the creation at the Aratatia Waterfalls in North Island New Zealand. I found a new peacefulness practicing Tai Chi overlooking Hong Kong harbour under the guidance of ‘Mr Peacey Mind’. I went through a moment of transformation as I walked through a lava tunnel in Hawai’i, after marvelling at the iridescent power of the lava flow on Big Island. I looked into the skies above Mauna Kea and glimpsed something of power that lay beyond the stars. I looked up at the stars and marvelled as I lay out under the night sky in the Red Centre of Australia, under an Arizona sky, from the decks of live-aboards in Halong Bay, Vietnam, and on the Great Barrier Reef. I looked out to see from a simple wooden pier in Fiji and found a new hope growing in my heart. I learnt, studied and read in countless coffee houses, buses and train journeys, and I learned to listen to both the stillness and to the chaos – to see beyond what seemed to be happening to what was really real.

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All great things must transform into something new, and so, exhausted with travel, I returned. My ex mother in law was ill, and I wanted to see her before she died, and I was missing my family terribly.

For a while I stayed with family and friends, until one of my friends offered me a baby camper van, and I travelled the country and lived in my little camper for a few months… eventually scraping together enough money to get my stuff out of storage where it was being held ransom by the storage company and rent a small flat, back where I had started out five years before.

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A friend of mine worked as a DJ at a local dance organisation, and offered to give me a lift there.. arriving early, I was soon put to work sweeping floors by the event organiser, who excitedly declared ‘I’ve always wanted a minion’. I started to help out more and more, becoming an invaluable part of that organisation and supporting their web site and by travelling across the UK… the appearance of two ‘Despicable Me’ movies transforming the concept of a ‘minion’ into a small yellow thing with goggles and dungarees, and a fondness for bananas.

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Slowly, I began to rebuild my life. Although I had reached an agreement with my creditors in early 2009, I knew that unless I could create considerable wealth rapidly, I would never be free of my repayments, and so, reluctantly, I elected to make myself bankrupt. I expected that this would eliminate the final payment to my creditors but, to my surprise, due to a change in the law, my repayments actually quadrupled, causing me to shrink back into myself, bringing new limitations and restrictions. I found myself severely restricted as to what I could or could not do..causing me to drastically rethink my relationships and my lifestyle.

And finally, as I write this in the middle of 2015, I have now been discharged from bankruptcy. My debts have been written off, and I feel a new sense of freedom again. Sadly, due to a disparity between business law and personal law when it comes to bankruptcy, repayments continue for another two years or so.. but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I rage sometimes at the seeming injustice that means that a company director can go bankrupt and escape any real penalty for his error, able to go back into business almost immediately, while a personal bankrupt is stripped of his financial freedom for three years. And yet I know that the decision to pursue bankruptcy has created a step change in my life – shaking up a world that had perhaps become safe and predictable.

And yet, in all of this, I AM STILL HERE. The experiences I have had over the last ten years were not the ones I expected – but they are the ones I needed. Many of them have been hugely painful, stripping me back to the core of my own truth and my own being. I have come from having everything to understanding what it means to have nothing. I have learned what it means to have no roof over my head, to live wild, to have nothing but the gear in my bag. I have been in situations where the only choice is to walk, as there is no money for a bus – where I have been counting the change in my pocket to work out if I can afford to eat. I have stared despair and disappointment in the face… and have decided that they shall not have power over me. I know that I made the choices and decisions that were right for me, at the time… I had adventures and experiences that made me rich in all the ways that truly count. And now I am living with the unexpected outcomes of those decisions with my head held high.

I’ve learned that it’s actually impossible to make a wrong decision. Why would you? How could you? It might not be, in the light of what unfolds later, be the best possible choice – and yet, in that moment of deciding, you made the best decision you could given the information that you had. How can it be anything else? And even when we do make decisions that take us off our path – the Universe is self healing. It will find a new route to take us where we need to go – if we trust it to.

A friend asked me yesterday if I would I do anything different, if I had the chance again? Some days, I do look back and imagine that my life would have been easier if I hadn’t leapt into the uncertainty of self employment. But it would never have been so full, so exciting, so rich.

I hope that I would still do the brave thing, the risky thing. I hope I would still launch myself into an uncertain future rather than living in the ‘what if?’ I hope I would still choose to live from faith and love rather than live from fear. And perhaps the only thing I would do differently would be to live bigger, to dream more, to be more certain, more confident, more bold. Because perhaps the only mistake I made was to shrink down and be less than I truly am.

And I can see the blessings of the decisions I made. So, so many blessings. A tough, demanding career that laid the foundations for me to retire early and have adventures that I would not have dreamed of. A career path that had me at the front of the technology revolution and that gave me huge insights into the path of progress.

I have two incredible sons that gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams, and the space to find myself again. I had freedom from the need to find employment that helped me work with my dance teacher friend to help her build her business. I have friends that have supported me at every turn. Over the last few years this life has not perhaps been what you might call ‘comfortable’. But it has been rich, and rewarding, and beautiful. It has been full of incredible and wonderful friends. It has stretched me, and challenged me, and caused me to grow. It has brought me wisdom, and character, and depth. It has allowed me to explore meaning and truth, power and reality, faith and reality.

It has given me a new simplicity to living: being glad for simple joys and pleasures – a walk by the river, a bike ride in the country, sitting and watching the rain. It has given me a new empathy for the homeless, for those that are struggling, for those that are a little lost.

It has opened my heart and made me more sensitive to something ‘other’ – something deeper, something more real. 

And although I thought I would become wealthy and prosperous, I have been reminded that actually I am already still easily in the top 5% of incomes around the world – and been reminded that true wealth isn’t found in an income stream or a pay check,

And above it all I find myself deeply, deeply at peace. At peace with myself, and with Spirit. At peace with others. At peace with circumstances. I may be frustrated at times – yet in all of this it comes back to a deep inner knowing that, as my Hawai’ian Huna tutor taught me – everything is working out perfectly. What seems to be imperfection is actually perfection.. what seems difficult is actually a space where miracles can – and do – happen.

So now what….?

Baby steps. I am still finding what I want to do unfolding every day, as I learn more and as I learn to listen, to meditate, to take time out to hear the still small voice of my own heart. I have laid down my writing for a while to see what develops, and I will start to let that grow again – letting go of the need to create money and responding to the call to share my heart. I’m going to learn listen more closely to the voice of Love, because Love brings all the madness we need to unfurl ourselves across the world. I’m going to look for opportunities to share what I do know, where those might be helpful to others. I’m going to find ways to be a mender, to do what I can to bring healing into a world that truly needs it.

And I will carry on learning and growing, following my own path wherever that might take me. For me, there are no such things as mistakes… as one of my wise sons said years ago – there are no mistakes – there is just.. what happened.

And there is always, no matter what we have done, and no matter what mistakes we think we might have made, there is always hope.. and peace.. and Love.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

 

Starting out all over again . . .

7 Nov

Parachute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I often wonder why I put ellipses after so many of my titles (that’s ….. if you didn’t know). I think it’s because for me it’s not so much what’s been said, as what comes next. What might be said, what might happen. We live, it seems, in a world of potentiality, where everything can change in a heartbeat, where our future spins on the turn of a card, on the moment of decision.

In 2010 I took the decision to go round the world… the story of that epic trip is told elsewhere on this blog, in a series of posts that took me from the US to Hawaii to Mexico… through Australasia into Asia and back over 12 months. That experience was one of the most incredible and transformative of my life.

And having come back, life seems to lack some of the craziness of adventure again. I’ve got a huge bucket list of things I want to do, places I want to see, adventures I want to have. Perhaps it’s time to go do some of them.

"A ship in harbour is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for,"

– Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper.

There are some adventures I didn’t expect (or want) to have… financial crises, a debilitating lack of personal confidence.. some were welcome surprises, like my involvement with a Blues Dance organisation that’s taken me to crazy places and allowed me to meet wonderful people.

So this post is all about putting my intention out there – for more experiences, more amazing stuff coming into my life. It’s not about the house, the car, the possessions… but it is about the experience, about what we bring into the world. Maybe that adventure will be about my impact on the world. Maybe it will be about travel. (I doubt I’ll be gone for 12 months at a time though!) Maybe it will be about experiences that deepen me as a human being. It’s about saying ‘bring it on’. It’s about showing up for what might happen in my life if I let it.

As a friend of mine reminded me a while back:

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways – Jack Daniels in one hand and  chocolate in the other – body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming ‘WOO-HOO, what a ride!!’”

– and perhaps that’s what I am looking to attract into my life.. to say ‘YES’ to whatever is waiting to happen.

Time for an adventure? Hell yeah!

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

 

(oh, yes, that is me jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane)

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