Category

Achievements

Expectation

When I was about 13 or 14, I went to this intensive training weekend with a company that I cannot remember the name of. There were around 10 of us, I was the youngest, and we sat and listened to two trainers teach us how to achieve success. It sounds very far-fetched, but it has stayed with me to this day. It focused a lot of visualising what success was going to look like. Remembering all of the little things that you can see, hear and touch when you realise what success is.

I have noticeably been silent on a lot of what has happened this week. I am incredibly proud and humbled by all of the things that we have achieved this year and I have no idea how we got here. When I said that we were going to be the best student publication in the country, I was being naïve. I wasn’t lying because I believed it, but I still might be the only one who thought that we had a chance.

For me the nomination was always enough. At least, that is what I thought until I got to the awards ceremony and sat on my chair. As the night went on, I thought we would do the impossible and I have been kicking myself for the last few days trying to figure out what went wrong. I visualised what success and failure would look like – I dreamt about it and prepared myself for it. But in the end, losing on the night took all of the breath out of me.

The truth is that I am disappointed – upset, that we didn’t quite do enough – but that is the problem with expectation. I feel guilty for even feeling like this, because I am so proud of how far we have come. It is this strange inner conflict, of both complete happiness but a nagging sense of incompleteness that confuses me. I didn’t really know how to react and so I went with what I knew – I felt inadequate.

What is most annoying is that there are so many positives to take from this. All in all, the awards that we won were actually the ones that we deserved and the ones we put the most work into. Best Publication would have been a nice cherry, but in my heart of hearts, I know that we just weren’t consistently good enough. It is a hard thing to swallow, knowing that it wasn’t quite enough, but if I had it all worked out now, who knows what the outcome would have been?

The positive learning curve from this is that I am not quite there yet. Hell it hurts more than a lot of things that I have done, but it is the reason why I need to wake up early in the morning and keep going. We managed to do the best that we have ever done at these awards, and I need to realise how big a deal that is – regardless of my selfish motives and my ego.

Putting that all aside, I cried with happiness. I actually weeped and it didn’t feel like a bad thing. It felt like a wonderful thing to let the emotion out. Knowing that life never really works out the way that you know it, to have these pieces of glass, to go beyond the expectation, is one of the best things I have ever done.

It is with this that I finally put it to bed and realise that it is time for the next challenge. I have done everything that I can do here and it is finally time to say goodbye. For the millionth time, it is time to look back fondly, rather than turn my back.

Expectation is a bitch. But this is enough for now – there are more first places to come.

A Little Time Off

It’s been just over a week now since I left the best job I ever had. It feels weird to think that, let alone say it. When I was still there, it definitely didn’t feel like the best job, but the last seven days or so have given me some perspective. I wake up in the mornings not routinely checking my emails, clearing my Facebook messages or wandering onto the website to see how everything is going. I have started to make time for breakfast in the morning, I don’t wake up panicked and I actually have time to read on the bus without falling in and out of sleep.

I miss parts of it. Of course I miss the inevitable sense of importance and being able to work with fantastic people on a daily basis. I miss being at the beginning, middle and end of the story, watching the whole journey happen – and knowing that there was a small part of it that was down to me. The feeling of accomplishment that you get from doing a good job and working with people who (hopefully) feel valued is second to none. I miss watching the names and faces of those you start with, grow and prosper. There are so many fantastic individuals that have made me smile and gasp in awe this year, many of them close to home, but also a number that I can already see on the horizon doing their thing already.

It would be impossible to thank everyone that has been a part of this. There have been times along the way, probably more than I expected, when I needed to lean on someone for help and they have always given me the time I needed. I am not going to say that those people should know who they are, because many of them are reading this – and I wanted to express a heartfelt thank you. Feeling empowered in the position that I was in is only boosted knowing that I represent and sponsor the values of others walking alongside me. Like-minded individuals marching fervently towards change.

It has been a privilege to hold that baton for nigh on 12 months, but batons are meant to be passed. In truth, even though it was difficult at first, it has been refreshing to find myself again. It also amuses me slightly that at a moment’s notice of focusing on me I am back at this keyboard and typing it all out. I guess this gives me a platform to transform myself. A constant that I can turn back to for more challenges and puzzles that I am craving now.

It does feel empty at points. A numbing feeling looking back at some of the best experiences and achievements of my university life, knowing that it is not only the end of that, but nearly the end of another chapter. I look back at them fondly, but it hurts knowing that they are past and the future looks a little more uncertain.

However, I am taking a little rest to start with me. That is the reason why I have not been so diligent in responding to messages this month or have taken time out of other commitments. This phase of hibernation is slowly drawing to coming to a close with this succinct message, but it has been nice to have some time away from most responsibilities. As time like this, as much as I hate the mundane, it feels good to have a tidy house, a decent schedule and time to relax. It is something that I have missed immensely, and felt guilty about for too long. No one should begrudge themselves a little time off.

With the last few months of a staple life to go, before things take a massive upheaval, I can honestly say I feel calm for the first time in a while. I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen, but having fought against the impossible last year and managed to achieve some of it, I can’t wait to see what is in store.

The thrill is in the chase right?

Opt In

It was a bit of anti-climax. It isn’t the same putting your vote in the post, amongst those who are making their way to the polling stations now, huddled into those familiar wooden booths. It is a technological vaccuum where even the advances in everything electronic won’t stop you from taking a black pen and putting a black ‘x’ in the designated box. And it is totally yours to choose.

The beauty of voting in a General Election for the very first time is that it is like crossing the threshold. A threshold that has very rarely changed in the last few hundred years, that has built the nation and brought it to its knees. And it all invariably starts with you walking into that familiar wooden booth, and marking your choice. It was a very exciting moment for me personally, having been heavily interested in politics since I can remember.

However, I can’t help feeling like the tokenism behind voting should have more value than it does. Amongst many of us, it is as much about telling people that you are going to vote, as well as actually doing it. An exercise in democratic responsibility, as well as a vanity project. It is a curious juxtaposition between generations that have kept their political views to themselves, and many of us who are bold enough to post our explicit political views all over our social media profiles. It is a positive notion, I must admit, that so many people want to be more involved, but I am worried that we sometimes don’t see how important this actually is.

I know there is no need to point fingers at the engaged, when there are many others that have no interest or time for the way in which this race pans out. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Also, there is no right or wrong reason to vote – it is a very personal dimension and there are a plethora of reasons why an individual might choose one box over another. Yet, do we take the time to understand who and what we are voting for? Can we ever consider the implications of such a decision on one ballot paper on one day?

It sometimes makes me feel like it is an ‘opt in’. You tick a box (or rather cross) and suddenly you align with a certain viewpoint, a major issue or a charismatic leader. You endorse the way that they work, who they believe in and you give them the right to decide a part of your future for five years. It is the terms and conditions at the bottom that we miss – the small print that surfaces months after the wooden booths are taken down, and the pollsters go home – the devil, as someone said to me today, is in the details.

So cross that box. Smile at the fact that you made a little piece of history. But realise that this is just the beginning, and that it is time to start holding those to account after the banners have been taken down. It will be a very exhausting night. And for a few groups of people, it will be a celebration amongst all the chaos…but the real winner should be you.

Because this should never just be an ‘opt in’ – this is a statement of intent. This generation will not be deceived again, not this time.

 

Undergraduate of the Year

The last few days have pushed me back on the 30 day challenge, which is a bit disappointing, but I’d rather take the time to do it properly than rush it through. The title of this post is not some thinly veiled attempt at self-indulgence (I mean, that is what this blog is for) but actually a real thing. I was nominated this year for the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year awards. Believe me, I was as surprised as you are.

The whole process was gruelling. Having to go through various assessments and questions, identifying this competency or that one, but this time it wasn’t just to be satisfy a graduate recruiter. I could actually talk about what I love doing: innovating. I love the process of creation. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was my favourite film as a boy, and Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka still makes me stare at the screen like a schoolkid. The sense of imagination and excitement from completely impossible things made me realise then that just because something doesn’t look normal, does not mean that it isn’t brilliant.

Although as you get older, fear creeps in. The drop to failure gets higher and higher, as does the height of responsibility. You start to overthink things. And I guess this last week has made me realise how much of my own stress is self-made. However, yesterday it was nice to put on a new suit and talk to people about the things I was interested in, the companies I have founded and what my ideas are for the future.

I wasn’t grovelling to employees at a firm I wanted to work for, but I was being asked about my thoughts on things – and this time it wasn’t being marked out of 10 on a clip board. There was a mutual respect. And the calibre of talent was staggering. One guy who won one of the awards was so good that he got invited to Obama’s second inauguration ceremony…I mean, my jaw literally hit the floor.

And no, I didn’t win. I was nominated for Future Business Leader by Mars Global and the girl next to me won. Initially I was disappointed, but when I looked at the sheer delight on her face, I was happy to see it go to someone who wanted it so much. For me, just being nominated was a token of how far I had come. After seeing things go my way (and not on some occasions) it felt calming to be given recognition for just being me.

I am forever grateful and humbled by the opportunities and achievements that have already come in abundance in my life so far. It is a culmination of my parent’s backbreaking efforts, my long suffering friends, colleagues that I have learnt so much from and strangers that challenge me every day. I never forget how lucky I am, and you can’t always win them all.

Although I did win, in my own little way

Fear Of Missing Out

I got in quite late to the summer internship game. You could see people scrambling for CV clinics and after-hours dinners with associates desperately trying to get that business card to use on their applications. The whole process seemed quite inhuman – a game that was constantly being played between graduate recruiters and students that weren’t really sure what they were getting themselves into. The promise of quick money, security and a lifestyle to match was dangled like a carrot in every presentation I went to.

And then I would walk out and see other students protesting about the real state of affairs: the falling pay of lecturers, the lack of a minimum wage for low paid staff and food banks becoming more prevalent in the surrounding areas. It created a terrible inner-turmoil.

I am not a particularly empathetic person, although I am trying harder to listen. It’s easy to get sucked in by false promises and fancy titles. Even being at Warwick is drastically different to what I expected and it looks nothing like the prospectus. I am no fool. I wasn’t expecting miracles, but maybe I was looking for something that would make more of an impact, especially when the world for many of us is just beginning. Are the next 10 years of my life just about setting up the next 30? Would I really be brave enough to go against the tide of things, to really push myself to take a risk?

The short answer is no. A frankly honest and emphatic no. The truth is, the reason that many of us feel the need to source and strive for these opportunities so early on in our lives, is for the very real fear that we could end of with nothing. After spending all of this money, the countless hours putting together essays and assignments, as well as the constant struggle that is dealing with one of the most emotionally fragile periods of our lives…we could go back home to our loved ones “supposedly” empty handed. Progression can be a positive step in the right direction, but a shackle around the ankle if we don’t climb high enough.

And the world is just waiting to drag us down. You don’t have to stare at your phone for long to see how difficult life is for other people that you have never met. Dodging ignorance and explosives at every turn, in the most remote parts of the world, just to get into school praying that it isn’t targeted by a militia. Education is not a struggle for us. We are the privileged ones. The overachievers. We don’t get things wrong or make the wrong call. We do better than our friends, and achieve more than our parents because of their sacrifice. And still, we complain that the world isn’t big enough – that another firm rejected us, or we simply couldn’t secure the job we wanted.

I am spoilt. As are many of you. I was very fortunate, after much effort, to be able to secure a placement for this year – I am so grateful that I played the game and won. An achievement that I did not think I could realistically get to. But I haven’t forgotten the struggle or the understanding that it was a challenge. A part of me is extremely frightened of going into the world of work – the idea of actually stepping into the next stage of life.

Though I know one thing for sure. That there is more to life than a job. And a career is built around the people that benefit from your generosity and not the other way around. It seems the richer you get, the less you value the wealth you actually have – because you forget what richness is. Spend 10 or 12 weeks living in that flat, making your mark on wherever you are going and really push yourself to succeed.

But realise that real success is giving back. And when you finally have the power in your hands, don’t keep it all to yourself. Share it. Never forget how lucky you really are.

Shed Perspective

2 years ago, I wrote the post Shed Light which has probably been my most popular blog to date. The reason why many of you will have kept up with me until now. Since then I have been trying to find answers which is what I set out to do. I have never stopped being hungry in asking questions and trying to further my understanding.

Knowledge precedes understanding, but understanding precedes perspective. Everything must be seen in context. I wrote that post on Diwali which is the most auspicious day in the Hindu calendar marking the journey that Lord Rama makes from one side of India to the other, to get home. The day after Diwali is Bestuvaras which marks the start of the New Year, which in this case is 2071. It is fitting that after the day of illumination, it should be followed by a new beginning. The chance to change perspective.

I was fortunate enough to go to India this year and spend some time with some amazing kids. Many of them were disabled – born without limbs, deformities, psychological defects and even blind – and it was a privilege to see their perspective on life. Within a week of coming back to England, I broke my leg and had a chance to see what it was like to be in their position. After seeing how well they dealt with their hardships, I realised how ungrateful and selfish I was.

I wallowed in self-pity. I became agitated because I couldn’t do the things I wanted to. I blamed myself for my situation and made it seem like I was the only person suffering. Through the trauma, I spared no thought for those worse off. “I was hurt…this was horrible…fuck everyone else” and in this way I became the one thing that I made a commitment not to be in 2012. Ignorant.

Weeks down the line now, I realise how ungrateful I was. It was a natural reaction to what happened, but I am disappointed that I didn’t open my eyes. There is a magic in positive thinking that is underrated. There was nothing I could do about my situation, other than to change my perspective about it. I would have to change my lifestyle, but not necessarily for the worse, as rather than running, I have been able to spend more time with the people that matter most.

So this is my commitment to the next two years. Every time I feel like my eyes are closing in dark times, I need to remember in my mind’s eye those kids that found solace in themselves. Knowing that adversity is the catalyst of progress, not the restriction of it. From now on, I am going to take the blinkers off and realise how good it is to appreciate what I actually have.

This year as a resolution to yourself, regardless of whether you are Hindu or not, use perspective as a positive. Tell yourself how lucky you are each day to be alive. Smile at what you love about yourself. Message the people that love you – don’t wait for them. Hold out your hand for those that need it. Look at what is in front of you and relish the challenge. Take risks. Walk (or in my case hobble) forward.

And if you ever feel like your eyes are closing, read this post again to remind yourself of how great it is to feel the light hit your pupils for the first time each morning. Then get up and live.

Rhyme

 

I have always been jealous of poets. If you gave me a piece of paper and asked me to write a love letter, or an essay, or a blog then I would bring something to the table. I would not hesitate. By the time you finished reading this sentence, I would already be biting my lip deep in thought, scrawling down some ideas with a chewed biro. But I have never grasped poetry.

When students were burning their anthologies after they finished their English exams, I kept mine. I was never a devotee of Shakespeare but even my numbskull worked out he was a genius. I read Shelley’s Ozymandias 10 times the first time I saw it because it taught me about hubris. All of these words might not mean anything to you but they broadened my mind. Yet metre, rhyme and verse seemed to be ancient – relics of a middle-aged white man’s canon that I had no means of accessing, other than through old textbooks at school…

…then years later, sitting in a café in East London I was too young to appreciate, I heard someone rhyme on a microphone. I was not a fan of rap, nor its connotations, but this was different. This person wore a Trilby, read out of a Moleskine and rolled up the bottom of their jeans. The words rhymed, but they didn’t talk about daffodils or a rose by any other name, but about their Mum and leaving home. The words danced. And I closed my eyes and I felt the hair on the back of my neck move to the beat.

Spoken word changed the way I thought about poetry and hip-hop. It breathed life into something that I could never revive. But I never felt the confidence to write a single line, so I just listened and absorbed the words of George the Poet and Akala. Anthony Anaxagorou and Dean Atta. Kate Tempest and Dizraeli. Sarah Kay. Names are not important, but these talisman and women made me believe that finally the lines need to be written.

And so this is a call to those of you that like poetry or spoken word. Speak to me. Give me some advice. I have no idea where to start, but I know that the evolution of writing for me, ends in rhyme. If you have written, performed or just appreciate something then please start a conversation with me. From Khalil Gibran to Doctor Seuss, I am a sponge.

I made a bet with someone to write at least one poem and to share it with them. I now have a month left to fulfil it. If it is good then I have confirmed that I will perform it to an audience. This could be the start of something big. Watch this space.

The Day That I Met The British Prime Minister

A few days ago, I was fortunate enough to receive my official photograph with David Cameron, the British Prime Minister. And duly, like most of my generation does these days, I blasted it all over my Facebook and Twitter. Inevitably, people started to ask me questions about how I had managed to find my feet at the doorstep of Downing Street. And even more inevitably, here is the story.

It started months and months earlier with a casual meeting with a very impressive man called Dean Atta (Google him – he’s an amazing poet) who invited me to do some work with the Spirit of London Awards. I had long admired the organization for promoting young people and the positive things they do against the tidal wave of negative news that we face every day. It started off with a few small design jobs, before I managed to get the opportunity to design the official flyers for the event that was then promoted in the biggest young magazine in the UK, Live Magazine.

And then I got a very interesting phone call from the Damilola Taylor Trust, who invited me to their annual reception at Downing Street where Dave would be popping in. At first, it was a bit of a shock. And then I thought that it must have been destiny to cap off a fantastic year. Then it got even more interesting. I was also invited on the same day to go to Parliament, to watch Cameron give a speech on the Leveson Enquiry as it was the day after the report was issued. I was going to be at a Parliamentary Lobby anyway for the campaign I am leading on (#presschange4youth) to hear the conclusion of the argument.

So those 6 hours were pretty surreal. Jumping out of my Economics lesson and rushing all the way to the Commons. Then being confronted by some pretty aggressive protestors – many of them covered head to toe in tin foil (don’t ask…). Getting smoothly through security and sitting in a very lavish room and listen to Lord Leveson gives his announcement live. By this point I had to push my way out again and try to get into the visitor section of the chamber to hear Cameron speak. Couldn’t get in and so had to watch the speech on a big TV in another lavish room (lots of nicely decorated rooms in Parliament!) And then I walked out, walked down Whitehall and only a few police man stood between me and that famous door.

DSCN0755
The opened door of 10 Downing Street.

Once I got in, it was extremely humbling. To see that shiny door(which the idiotic policeman wouldn’t let me take a picture with), and walk over the threshold is one of those moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life. There are not many moments in life when you feel like you have made it, but that was definitely one of them. I had the chance to mingle with some extremely important people. Meeting Tasha Danvers, the British Olympic Athlete, and Richard Taylor, the father of Damilola Taylor were amongst the highlights. It took me a little time to drink in the surroundings, and then it was announced that the Prime Minister would be here any minute. I straightened my tie and walked to the front of the queue. No one was going to stop me.

In truth, he was an extremely kind and funny man. We chatted about Leveson and joked about his own performance at the Commons a few short hours earlier. It must have only been for a minute or two, but it felt like a lot longer. And he was a lot taller than I thought he would be. But I met him. And the Queen. All in 2012. And it was all caught on a very good camera. It is difficult to describe these memories as they seem to be etched in your brain, but you can’t convey how momentous that occasion was. It was simply surreal.

The most frequent question that I have been asked is how I possibly managed to wangle that? Honestly, it seemed to just fall in to my lap and so it was all the more fantastic. I believe that we are all given these opportunities in life even if we don’t see them, but they come up and give us the choice ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This particular triumph is about 20 ‘yes’ decisions down the line and I have seen the fruits of all that effort now. You must be prepared to take risks. To put yourself out there. But most importantly to tirelessly make the effort so that you can appreciate life’s little victories. I think the next stop is the White House. Watch out Barry, I am coming to getchya!

DSCN0757
Only photo I could actually take myself…