You’re Only As Good As The Company You Keep


With the recent happenings in my life I’ve been very aware of the people that I surround myself with. I’ve recently started uploading songs I’ve written and had a really nice response from my friends. Alongside this I was also featured in a video for vInspired that you can watch here. Again the response and reaction I received was fantastic.

It made me think though, my story isn’t unique. It’s not exceptional. It’s a story that I share with so many incredible people albeit with a few details changed.  Today, I’m going to mention very briefly some of the people who inspire me most.

First of all, Kate. A good friend of mine, surprisingly I haven’t her known that long but it feels like I’ve known her for years. Also you may well have seen some videos of us singing together online. She suffers with ME but not once have I heard her complain about it. Instead she works tirelessly (and often to the point of making herself ill) to help others. She’s putting packs together for parents of severely I’ll children, she’s a top class dance teacher and she mentors. These are just a few of the things she does. Well played, kupkake.

Danielle, another close friend who is not only one of the smartest people I know, but the most thoughtful, kind and ethical people I know. She recently secured a job with an amazing charity in Newcastle. Besides that she constantly supports me to be better, more confident and for some reason finds my bad jokes funny. If I could have half the brains you have, I’d be a happy chappy!

Victoria is a close friend of mine who not only inspires me by regularly overcoming the things that make her feel most awkward. She’s got the brains and the guts to do things that scare her and for me, that gives me the strength and courage to challenge myself and do things I’d otherwise never do.

Naomi is another one of my closest friends who battles through everything with gusto! She’s the person who taught me that even when things go wrong you have no choice but to battle through it. If you don’t do that, if you just give in, how will you be able to help those who depend on you?

Pete 1. My previous boss and the gent who gave me real world experience of helping people. Sustained goodness that is still going on now. I was but a mere cog in a complicated machine of organising but I was always made to feel like the most important cog. I was taught, supported, guided and mentored and I wouldn’t be anywhere without the time this man invested in me. Check out Citizens UK for more info on what the organisation does.

Pete 2 moved down here recently from Newcastle to gain more access to theatre and work. Let’s face it, moving to an entirely new city takes guts. Not only that, but Pete is one of those people who just exudes friendliness. I challenge you not to love the guy.

Rob, my bae. Another man who moved down here for work. In his dream job for a year. GUTS. Also one of the people who you don’t have to pretend around. He taught me to loosen up a little and enjoy life a little more.

Zahrah. Old 6th form classmate who I fell out of touch with until she got in touch about the work I was doing. Now she works at vinspired and is kicking arse there. Zahrah teaches me every day to just be real. Do what you need to do and love whatever that is. No one is as real as kiwi.

These are just some of the MANY people who inspire me. These are some of the people who make me a better person and I’m so thankful for it. Don’t forget to notice those around you and how they impact your life in a positive way. I wish I could list more but this is already an insanely long post. Make sure you appreciate those around you. They are the people who help shape the person that you are.

A

The Holiday Spirit

The holidays are coming! The Coca-Cola advert has been on the TV, John Lewis with their annual dose of heart warming, Sainsbury’s with their historical Christmas advert. It’s all kicking off.

Even in the office, we’ve been singing Christmas songs. Tinsel now adorns much of our furniture (much to my dismay). Christmas cheer has spread throughout the office. Madness!

We are, however, coming off the back of Black Friday and Cyber Monday which are two HUGE shopping days in the states which is a sort of unofficial kick off for the Christmas shopping season. Lots of people rush to the shops to take advantage of the slashed prices and even in the UK, Black Friday took over. People fought, rioted, stores were flooded with customers. Police were even called and shops were closed down.

There are a few views on this phenomenon from our cousins across the pond. Some think it’s a great thing that we can get so many deals so cheap. It’s crazy that these people can sell these amazing items so cheap right? Admittedly, yeah we all love a bargain but is causing riots in stores worth it?

Others see Black Friday as a day of selfish capitalism, furthering the power of the corporations where we’re told that to be happy we need these items and these corporations are “helping” us out by slashing prices for us! Again, I can see that too.

Another point of view is that people who look down upon those who went to shop and fight for goods for their homes are filthy peasants who behave like animals for luxury items. What about those who wouldn’t be able to afford it without the sale? Who knows?

I took advantage of a few little deals on Black Friday. Things I’d like to use to spread a little happiness. Admittedly I didn’t do the trip into the shops, I purchased online with a purpose. I want to focus on the positives though. Post-Cyber Monday, there was Giving Tuesday. A day all about giving back to those around you, your family, friends, community. This is a movement which is significantly smaller than Black Friday, and even it’s little brother Cyber Monday but gaining momentum. I don’t know if it’s because I’m in a giving sector, but it’s growing.

I’d highly encourage you to take part in the Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar. It’s exactly what it says on the tin. 25 acts of kindness in the lead up to Christmas day.

Also, recently I was featured in a video for vInspired, a charity that set me on a path of kindness and social action. We’re signing people up for the Thunderclap for tomorrow, so get stuck in and get involved if you can! Share with everyone and donate anything you can afford to. 🙂

These are just some of the little things that you can do to help others. Feel free to get in touch if you want more opportunities to help. I’m sure I can help you find a bunch of different opportunities!

Pillars of Friendship

There are several things that I consider to be essential to a good friendship. Some of which I’m good at, some of which, admittedly, I suck at. There are also loads of things that I think we should all be getting out of our friendships and I think I’m really lucky to have friends who stick by me and I get so much from, despite occasionally being a bit rubbish. Hopefully I’m able to give back a little as well!

In terms of the things that we should all be giving to our friends below are my most important.

1. Time

Give your friends a bit of time whenever you can and a lot of time when you’re able. Friendship is a give and take and it’s always going to be tough when you’re working, volunteering, studying etc. but it’s worth it. Time is something that we all feel like we’re short of but for the people that are most important to us we need to make a conscious effort to make time. This admittedly is something I’m a bit rubbish at. I work quite a few evenings and weekends and volunteer a lot of my spare time. I’ve recently been trying to make more of an effort to see people I love and if not see them, at the very least text or call them to let them know I’m thinking of them!

2. Energy

Energy is something that I lack generally. A normal day takes it out of me completely and by the time I’m done at work I just want to sleep. However, I forget that whenever I see the people I love spending time with, it gives me energy. No matter how tired and miserable I feel my friends give me energy and hopefully I do the same for them! 🙂

3. Support

Whether it’s support with a particular topic, or support with a piece of work or even just supporting the fact that they hate that celebrity for wearing odd socks, supporting your friends is important. When your friends really need your support, try to help in any way you can. After all, you only get what you give and when the time comes where you need support, it’s always nice to have someone in your corner. 

4. Appreciation

Being grateful for your friends is key. Don’t take them for granted and assume that they’re always going to be around. Appreciate the little things they do for you. The random texts just to see how you are, the stupid un-funny in jokes which somehow make you cry with laughter. Don’t just appreciate what they do internally though. Let them know that you appreciate what they do for you. Whether it’s by subtle little gestures like buying them a coffee or a little gift or just by awkwardly telling them outright “I appreciate you”. If you do that without blinking, eyes wide as possible, looking them dead in the eye and smiling showing all your teeth, they’ll love it. Trust me.
It’s all swings and roundabouts. You only get what you give. What goes around, comes around. These principles apply to family, friends and everything in life. I chose to apply these four things to friends though as today is the day I’m feeling extremely grateful for the people in my life. I’m a very lucky guy and I really do appreciate the people I have in my life. 
A

A Glorious Return

So I’ve been experiencing some pretty awful writers block recently which may be a result of my recent panic attacks and dip in mood. However, I’m feeling significantly better now and I’m keen to get back on the blogging scene!

I’m very lucky to have had a really good week and been able to do the things which often lift me out of my funk. I even managed to socialise four times in one week! Tuesday night I went up to Newcastle to stay at some friends new flat before they headed down to London for graduation. On Wednesday night I went for dinner with an old friend in Newcastle. I went for a lovely dinner with people I volunteer with/volunteered with on Thursday and got the worlds messiest burger. Friday I managed to head out with some more old and new volunteering buddies for a chilled out evening in a nice bar by work. Good food, drink and company. What more could I want? I also had a really great week at work, speaking to hundreds of young people about running their own community projects and receiving some fantastic feedback from the event organisers. This set me up for a dynamite weekend.

So far this weekend, I’ve been writing songs, rewriting old songs, listening to music, playing music, singing along with music and reading about music. It’s been a pretty music fuelled Saturday. But as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, music is something which I love, something which makes me feel better all the time no matter how low I’m feeling.

All the songs that I write though, aren’t just to cheer me up. I always try to write songs for people who might also be going through a rough time and need cheering up. Besides music and friends, the thing that always cheers me up the most is knowing that I’ve made someone happy, made someone smile and helped to change someone’s mood for the better.

As some of my Facebook friends know and some of my twitter followers know, I’ve uploaded a few of my songs for people to have a gander at. I received some really nice feedback saying that I managed to put a smile on faces. This was pretty ace for me. My mood was dipping, my body and mind were exhausted, but the fact that I managed to make my friends smile with the music I created means that I was able to combine the three things that cheer me up the most.

If you don’t believe that cheering someone up will make you feel better about yourself, your mood and life in general, I challenge you to give it a try. And just a bit of shameless plugging, please find the three songs I uploaded just below. Right there. If you’re having a bit of a lousy Saturday, hopefully I’ll be able to brighten it up for you! Enjoy, smile and have a good weekend.

A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3Fjci_OX2Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDP0CDO4UsU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RarOWXqrWTQ

The Three Amigos – Journey to the Best

So, what the hell do I want to do with my life?
I’m Jade and this is my story so far…

Having spent four years at university studying Music Performance, I thought it was a complete waste of time and money. I love music and believed that university was the only way to get into that industry. But when I wrote my dissertation I thought “hang on, I just proved to myself that I could get into the industry without doing a degree”. I spoke to lots of people in the industry, the majority of whom got to where they want to be without getting a degree first. I had to go through my degree to realise that this wasn’t the only way to get to where I want to be. I’ve spoken to loads of people who have been trying to get into the industry, they asked me how I got the job at the Think Big Hub and I really wanted to tell them that degrees aren’t the only way to get into the creative industries. It really gets me aggy thinking about it!

As long as you’re passionate, are willing to volunteer and  get the unpaid experience, it gets you so much further than if you just have a piece of paper. No one has ever asked me for that piece of paper. Unless you absolutely need a degree to go into a career you should consider alternatives. I’m not knocking university, I learned a lot about myself there and it was great for me on a personal development level, but career-wise, not so much. I did also get a lot of events experience there, which I may not have got my current job without. I have thoroughly mixed feelings about university. Degrees prove a certain type of intelligence. Lots of people are viewed as stupid if they don’t go to university, but people forget about the other types of intelligence. For example, hard work, grafting and moving up the scale.

Now that I’ve got some experience in the events industry it’s helped me a lot as it’s helped me get experience to move on to start a career rather than just looking for jobs. After however many years of “education” it took this 4 month internship to help me narrow down exactly what I’d like to do. I always knew I wanted to work with music but this has confirmed my choices for me.

So, Anisa, what the hell do you want to do with your life?

Well, I spent a whole year applying for uni and from age 5 I always thought that I wanted to go to uni to study maths. About two weeks before results day (or D-day) I sat down with my family who told me “you don’t have to go to university if you don’t want to”. In that split second I decided that I didn’t want to go which was really strange for me as I thought I’d always wanted to go. From then my plan of action was to look for apprenticeships and jobs but a lot of the jobs I was looking at required lots of office experience, so I decided to go for an apprenticeship. On results day I realised that I could have got into uni and I declined my uni place. I was a bit upset but I thought I could pay £18k for uni or I could spend time earning that money.

I got a call from Future UnLtd telling me that they had an opportunity for me, within a week after that, I had an interview with them and then another with Think Big and I found out that I had an apprenticeship. This was all really fast paced and from the 3rd of September I started with Think Big as a business admin apprentice. No one expected me to get an apprenticeship that quickly, myself included. It was a fantastic boost for me and my own confidence.

The youth sector wasn’t ever a path I expected to take but it’s given me experience in different sectors and while I’ve been set in my ways to go into corporate and mathematics, but this has made me an all rounder. I’m going to finish my apprenticeship and see how it comes. Things are always changing. Myself included.

So, Alex, what the hell do you want to do with your life?

Well, my life has had a series of twists, turns and unexpected events. I followed my family’s wishes and went through the education system. I was awful in my A-Levels and ended up having to do an extra year in college. Eventually I got into university and went to Birmingham City for a year. I hated it. I left and ended up training as a chef for a year. While I was working and studying, I volunteered.

This was a turning point for me. I have suffered with depression for a long long time and volunteering helped me and is still helping me recover. I fell in love with the sector and was lucky enough to volunteer with a gent named Pete and eventually got the job I’m in now.

It’s a short version of my story, but I’ll upload my full story of self soon. Much like Anisa and Jade, I never intended to work in the sector. Unlike them both, this, at the moment, looks like the sector I want to stay in. Experience is what I want, returning to my previous role in community organising as a full time employee is what I’m hoping for one day once I build up my resilience, experience and knowledge.

A big thanks to Jade and Anisa for joining me on the ol’ bloggosphere today! #Collaboration #TeamworkMakesTheDreamWork #DreamTeam

The Karma of Kindness

I talk a lot about kindness in people. There are some people who completely agree with everything I say about kindness and my opinion that everyone would be instantly happier if they treated everyone else with respect and kindness. It often starts a chain reaction of kindness and I feel like this is something that I’ve been benefiting from for a few years now.

From the day I realised that I was not a particularly good person was the day that my luck started to change. It feels like I transformed overnight. The second I tried to be a better man it was like happiness and kindness followed me around showing me how to make people smile. I know, I know, this is a bit wet and sickeningly sweet enough to give you diabetes, but I think it’s important to realise the importance of karma.

I volunteer a fair bit and I work in the third sector and the mission I’ve set myself and one that’s shared by all the charities and organisations that I’m a part of is to spread kindness. Through my hard work, I’ve got jobs, new friends and family and a much more positive outlook on life in general. This pays off. I mentioned in a previous post that I’m now surrounded by positive people and it’s incredible.

I’ve been working on this blog for a few weeks now and the people who share in my mission to spread kindness have been reading it and have got it up to nearly a thousand page views in no time! If I was a horrible person preaching kindness, I doubt many people would bother to read it or if they did, they would probably berate me for not practising what I preach! Through working hard to be kind, people have not only read, but they’ve shared this blog and helped me to come up with things to write.

My film crew 😉

I’ve been asked by the Youth Media Agency to join their network and have been searching for someone to create a logo for me. I posted up on Facebook and asked if anyone could create one for me and unfortunately none of my friends could, however, the people I’d met on my quest for kindness knew people who might be interested. In the end, a lovely gent, Chris, someone I’d never met, spoken to or even knew existed made a beautiful logo for me which you can see on this here blog (I also edited some templates and their HTML to include some of my own pages and links to my instagram and twitter accounts which I’m super proud of!). A huge thank you to Chris for doing that for me and to Naomi for introducing me! 🙂

Karma has been blessing me with multiple opportunities recently. Most notably I was chosen to be the case study for vInspired’s Big Give campaign. I was lucky enough to be chosen by the team at vInspired to feature in a video about my journey from school to my job now! It’s a fundraising campaign to raise funds for more programmes like Team v which has helped me in crazy good ways. I had some fantastic people helping out, friends from school, from volunteering and more. A big shout out to my favourite kiwi, Zahrah and Q for helping out with the shoot as well as the other vInspired staff for chipping in! Keep an eye out for the video coming soon. I even got to film some of my songs with Tristan, who was willing to get his gear back out, mics, lights, camera to film my self-written songs. Once I hit 1000 page views I might even post them up! 🙂

All in all, this post was a little bit about karma, a little bit about people I know and a little bit about the great things I’ve been able to achieve by being kind. So, be kind, genuinely kind and you’ll notice the kindness being returned to you in spades.

Also, you might even get to see views as spectacular as this.

A

Early Morning Weekend Working

Every time I hear that I need to work a Saturday the same thought goes through my head. “Ugh working on a Saturday, I just want to sleep”. What I seem to forget every time though, is that the weekends I work are usually the most fun. They’re usually the days where I get to do the people facing stuff, where I get to talk to people and support them with their projects.
Not everyone is in the same job as me, but I can guarantee that everyone has the early morning weekend work feeling every once in a while. Let’s have a little look at the symptoms of EMWWF.
1. The uncontrollable urge to snooze your alarm at least 17 times.
Don’t lie, we’ve all done it. I do it every time I have to work a Saturday. I think to myself “Alex, people are counting on the fact that you’re going to get out of bed today”. My logical, organisational and work brain is very easily over powered by my “shut up its Saturday morning” brain. If you’ve done this too, you may well have EMWWF.
2. Refusing to get out of bed before your alarm goes off (for the 18th time) even if you’re already awake.
Let’s face it, those extra two minutes and sixteen seconds of not-quite-sleep are going to be absolutely essential to your functioning for the rest of the day. I hear legends and myths that there once was a man who got up before his alarm. Perhaps it was once true, perhaps not, we’ll never know.
3. You will put your clothes on back to front, inside out and maybe even upside down three times before realising you had it right the first time.
“I don’t remember my jeans being this cotton-y. Oh right, that’s a t-shirt”.  To be fair, this is a daily struggle for me but it’s frequency and intensity are much worse at weekends…
4. You will be super grumpy leaving your house, on the train and walking to work.
Headphones in, music loud enough so that you don’t need to hear anything, head down and elbows out in the tube so that people know that’s your space. Anyone that speaks to you, smiles at you or acknowledges your existence will get nought but a grunt and a nod. Clearly a case of the EMWWF if ever I saw one.
These are some of the symptoms, but what about the cures? Remember, there’s something good that happens every day. For me I love the Saturday work days when I get there. For others an extra day of work might just be a chore, but think about the pay or the TOIL you’ll incur! Expect for something excellent to happen and it almost always will. Positivity attracts more Positivity. Look out for the cool person who’s super polite and appreciative of what you do. Check out that girl or guy you’ve totally got a crush on. Sing yourself a song or even start a dance party!
At the very least just think about the fact that you’re seriously earning that beer/meal out/take away/chocolate bar/entire tub of ice cream. But do yourself a favour, try to have a good day. If you’re lucky, you might even end up enjoying yourself! 🙂
A

Selflessness is…

Balance is key to a good, healthy, fun and happy life. The work-life balance is always one which is tough to get a hang of. The friends-family balance is just as tricky (at least I think it is anyway). Everything in life is a delicate balance, the see-saw effect means that too much of any one thing makes life a bit crap!

A lot of people I know have a pretty unhealthy work-life balance. I used to as well. One of my jobs from a few years ago would keep me busy from around 8/9 in the morning well into the 8/9 in the evening realm. I loved my job, but I ended up neglecting my social life and barely looked after myself. Needless to say I got pretty ill and ended up having to miss a few days of work. In my attempt to be selfless I ended up not being able to help anyone.

It’s taken me a few years to force myself to be able to fully adequately balance my work-life. I try as best I can not to work out of hours and to make sure I take back all my extra hours. It’s not always easy when there’s a lot to juggle and when you’re finding it hard to focus. My depression often makes it hard to focus, especially if I’m going through a particularly rough patch. What’s important to do here is to ask for help and to look after yourself.

Remember this: you can’t help anyone if you’re dead.

If you want to continue to be selfless and to help others, to look out for those that you care about, to stand up for those who aren’t able to, you’ve gotta look after yourself first. Go see a show, visit some nice sites, listen to some music, just do something to look out for yourself.

This might sound like a selfish notion, but I don’t see any problem in being selfish every once in a while if it allows me to go out there at my best and help people.

Selflessness, like every other part of life is a balancing act. Too selfish and you’re a bell end. Too selfless and you won’t be in any fit state to help anyone.

I hope for you workaholics, super socialites, recluses and never-indoors-ers this blog will be able to give you a nudge to make sure your life is balanced. I promise you it’ll be much more fun.