Take the stage…

I often mention my job in my posts, but only in passing, usually in the context of it being a nine to five office-based one. I have also probably mentioned how I am becoming less and less engaged with it the older I get and the more engaged I become with my other life, namely the outdoors, fitness, this blog, you lot and general well-being. I used to think that one of the few talents I possessed was in managing to hide it from the people who pay my salary and generally bluff my way through each day. Unfortunately this is not the case. My current job is, by a bloody long mile, the most corporate I have ever had to circulate in. Without dragging my political beliefs into this (a sure way to gamble with respect) it’s not an environment I enjoy or thrive in and has accelerated my disinterest, and combined with a seemingly never-ending plethora of unnecessary meetings, I am well and truly adrift. Put simply, it is not my arena.

A few weeks ago, I had an ‘end of year review’ where supposedly anonymous colleagues tell a supposedly neutral colleague confidentially what they think of me. The neutral colleague then has to break the news. It may come as a shock to the reader that I emerged as a generally all-round smashing chap, except for one thing – I don’t speak enough in the pointless meetings I have to attend. What a flawed character I am. The shame. Anyway, so my line manager (horrid term), decided that, instead of respecting my nature for how it is, I should pick a subject of my choice and be forced to deliver a talk on it at one of these hot-air meetings. I could have told her to stick it, dug my heels in, kicked up a stink – but no. I’m rarely one to back away from an opportunity to step outside my comfort zone, so I accepted. In honesty, mostly when I push my comfort zones it’s physical, so this would be interesting; me in front of a good few people, both in the room and on video call.

I saw this as an opportunity in more ways than one. My first thought was to talk about something that I feel informed about, and enthusiastic enough about so as to come across as engaging and confident. My second thought was to talk about something that would spark conversation and shed light on a me that they didn’t know. I have to be careful there because a bit advice I tend to give out is to keep a little bit of yourself back, just for you, that no one knows and can touch, so the extent to which I was willing to go to had to be carefully thought out. I definitely didn’t want to talk about myself for twenty minutes, prattling on about marathon training and heart rate zones, so I decided to write about well-being in the workplace. Trying to avoid another rant here, but I thought about writing about little (big) tips (or hacks as they’re known amongst millennials and people who fake American accents, yet live in Doncaster) for people who either don’t want to discuss their problems openly (despite what the company says is possible) or whose struggles are daily and reaching out to helplines all the time is not feasible. I focused on three things that I hoped would be beneficial tips to people; breathing techniques, screen breaks and exercise. I won’t bore you with the details, but whilst I was out of my comfort zone in one sense, and feeling like I was rambling at a room of blank faces, the reality, it turns out, is that I came across as very articulate, knowledgeable and confident. More surprising was the feedback that my voice and demeanor was very relaxing – who knew. I always thought I had a voice like a goose farting in the fog. And now, just when I thought I had pushed myself and got the experience out of the way for good, my apparent success has bit me in my derriere. I have been asked to deliver the talk again – twice. Could be the start of a short career as an unmotivational squeaker, coming to a village hall near you soon.

Bullshit Bingo and the art of talking

In my working life, I am almost a polar opposite to my private life. At work, like most, I am required to dress smart, and have to pop into meetings, where there are buzzwords aplenty. I like to play a game called Bullshit Bingo, where you tick off as many acronyms and buzzwords and phrases as you can until you get a full row. Hours of fun, unfortunately. In my private life, I’m a shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops kind of guy, but with a huge outdoors attitude. I’ve pondered it before that perhaps I need this contrast in order to appreciate what I enjoy.

Working in a sterile office environment is a strange experience, especially like yesterday morning when I got to work after I’d been out training with my Bergen and an hour and a half later, I’m sat talking about marketing strategies, but with a satisfying ache in my shoulders reminding me of what’s more important to me and what hard work really is.

Occasionally in the office, people break out of their professional shells and reveal something really interesting about their outside work self. That’s where real relationships are forged I think, especially at work. That common acknowledgement that goes beyond the seemingly aloof world of business. Granted, there are some dull people, as well as people who just live and breathe their job, though I respect them all the same as I don’t know what they are going through or have been through to get to that point.

I work with many different nationals and cultures, which leads to great conversations, mutual banter too. On Monday this week, I found out that two people whom I have frequent conversations with (not about work I should add!) are both outdoor enthusiasts too. One is a well travelled Bulgarian girl who has been to more countries than I’ve had hot dinners. It turns out, she’s going to North Wales in May to sample Snowdonia because she misses the mountains. I then mentioned my Mountain Leadership Training, and she practically volunteered herself and her group of friends as guinea pigs, and asked for advice about the best paths and summits to tick off.

Talking about your own country to people from other countries reignites the fire that made you fall in love with the hills, fields and mountains in the first place. Almost like you’re seeing it for the first time through fresh eyes. They probably feel the same way as they tell you about their own country.

Given the point at which my life is at the moment, talking about things I love take my mind away from everything for a few minutes, especially if it’s a mutually enthusiastic conversation. A kind of therapy, without being in the outdoors.

I suppose the conclusion is, like with the old adage that you shouldn’t judge anyone as you don’t know what they’ve got going on, you should make the best efforts to chat to people as they may help you and in turn, you may help them.