School’s out for Summer

Summer slows everything down, people are away, there’s a sense of school holidays even if you’re not a kid and don’t have kids, the evenings are long and light and when you can you’re lapping up your year’s supply of Vitamin D.

Life is ebb and flow, there’s time for speed and a time to slow down. Think of a garden; you don’t plant a seed and expect to see a tree the next day. The art of patience allows for a natural pace, the need for speed forces artificial pressure on a creative process. Think of Genetically Modified Foods. They grow quick and taste of nothing. In the film industry we use the three pronged model: quick, cheap, good. You can only have two of the three. Quick and cheap, but not good. Quick and good, but not cheap. Cheap and good but not quick.

Have dreams

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Even instant gratification takes too long” Carrie Fisher is quoted as saying. But she has Bipolar Disorder. “I would get really impatient. I was going faster than everything else around me, and it drove me crazy. You feel out of step with the world” She has achieved a lot, being talented and manic. Her 1987 book Postcards from the Edge hit the New York Times bestseller list and won her the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel; and she’s published three bestsellers since. More recently she’s turned her memoir Wishful Drinking into a one-woman play, as well as an HBO special.

But you don’t need to be Manic to achieve a lot. I’m from the School of Plod, you do a little and often and you can incrementally produce a large body of work. The art is in consistent application. It’s like saving money. You put in 3% of your wages and over time you have built up a substantial nest-egg. It’s called Compound Interest. Day one you put in £1, Day 2 you put in another £1 and you’ve already doubled your money. Day 4 you’ve quadrupled your initial deposit. The same with writing a book; two hours a day or 1000 words and in 80 days you’ve got your first draft.

where's your hideaway

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Carl Honore wrote In praise of Slowness, a book on the need to slow down. He speaks of how we have added speed to everything; speed-reading, speed-walking, speed-dating. He even passed a gym in New York offering speed-yoga. We believe ourselves to be time poor, so pack more in, we run faster and we feel like we have even less time than ever. We do nothing properly, we leap frog from one task to another. Marinade, savour, mull, languish, ponder, wander, contemplate, peruse, explore, lie fallow, are words we have ejected from our vocabulary and left to curl and wither under the heat of our soles pounding tarmac.

When you slow down you simply do things better. Eating, sleeping, making love, creating, inventing, designing all become better when slowness is your modus operandi. Understanding this has created the international Slow Movement, which started in Italy but has slowly spread around the world. Slow Food, growing, consuming in an organic sustainable way that celebrates pleasure and health. Slow Cities where people slow down, smell the roses and connect with one another; slowing traffic, putting in places for people to sit, read, take a breather and decompress, green spaces, art works for contemplation, poetry on the underground.

The Scandanavian countries are showing that you don’t need to work at the speed of light in order to have a kick-ass economy. They work reasonable hours and they are now among the top six most competitive nations on earth. They understand that in order to be more productive people need to be able to work fewer hours, to unplug, to sit in a quiet room. In order to be creative we need to switch off and re-charge on a regular basis.

So take timeout over Summer, use it as an opportunity to kick back and let your creative mind take over. Day dream, chill out and enjoy the view. Then in September you can come back to life and hit the ground running.

If the thought of September scares you, if you are wanting to get out of the rat race but don’t know how, I can work with you to find another way. Lou@createlab.co.uk

If you are coach and want to take your practice to the next level join us on our Quantum Coaching Bootcamp workshop. Warning: It’s not for the faint-hearted

Motivational Mondays: Building New Beliefs

We create a tapestry of beliefs in our lives, some that help us, some that hinder. We build them on the back of childhood experiences, learned behaviours, difficult setbacks, and proven successes. However, it turns out, we have much more control over what we believe than we give ourselves credit for, and when we do pull rank on our cranky belief systems, we find that we can create much happier lives for ourselves.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

“Belief has been a most powerful component of human nature that has somewhat been neglected,” says Peter Halligan, a psychologist at Cardiff University. “But it has been capitalised on by marketing agents, politics and religion for the best part of two millennia.”

But that is changing. Now in the new field of social neuroscience, focus has landed on our beliefs systems; how we develop our beliefs and how we view those of other people. It shapes how we live our lives, how we interact with others, how we feel, how well we perform, how productive and happy we are.

“In the West, most of our physical needs are provided for. We have a level of luxury and civilisation that is pretty much unparalleled,” says Kathleen Taylor, a neuroscientist at Oxford University. “That leaves us with a lot more leisure and more space in our heads for thinking.” Beliefs and ideas therefore become our currency, says Taylor. Society is no longer a question of simple survival; it is about choice of companions and views, pressures, ideas, options and preferences.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Cognitive neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe tells us in her TED talk ‘How we read each other’s minds’ that there is a region of the brain geared especially for understanding our own and other people’s thoughts, knowledge, beliefs, desires and emotions. It’s called the Right Temporo-Parietal Junction (rTPJ) and is located above and behind your right ear. It’s not hugely developed in children who find it very hard to comprehend that other people have beliefs that are different from their own.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

As we progress to adulthood we are more able to understand, and go on to make moral judgments on, what people believe and think by observing their behaviours, emotions and actions. However people with autism find it very difficult to understand other people’s beliefs, although those who are higher-functioning are often able to develop compensation mechanisms to bridge the shortfall. Indeed we probably all know people who seem to lack a degree of empathy when it comes to understanding us, and it could be that this area of the brain is under-developed.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Being able to step into someone else’s shoes works in two ways: The capacity of sharing and recognising an other’s emotion has been described as emotional empathy (Shamay-Tsoory,2011). The term cognitive empathy refers to empathy as a cognitive role-taking ability, or the capacity to engage in the cognitive process of adopting another’s psychological point of view (Frith and Singer 2008). Either forms of empathy require the use of imagination; the creation of images in our own mind that represent what we believe to be going on in someone else’s mind. In fact when neuroscientists observe the brain of someone asked to imagine someone else’s beliefs, they witness the rTPJ firing up.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

“And yet, what are we to do about this terribly significant business of other people? So ill equipped are we all, to envision one another’s interior workings and invisible aims.” Phillip Roth

Well, the scientists at MIT are now looking at ways to disrupt or scramble the rTPJ in order to change our entrenched beliefs or judgments and improve our ability to empathise with the beliefs of others. There is of course a moral dilemma associated with this, when it comes to Big Brother telling us what to believe or not.  We can all benefit from having a highly tuned radar for the plight of others: especially as coaches, teachers, aid-workers, politicians, novelists and parents, but most of us don’t need the interference of a scrambling machine to disrupt our own harmful beliefs and create new beneficial ones. The more we can develop and build up the muscle of our imaginations, the more we can empathise with the people in the world around us, and the less we will make divisions between ourselves and others.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

As Frank Borman, commander of the Apollo 8 mission, put it, “When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on Earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world, and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people?”

It is equally important to be able to have insight into our own belief system, because it has an enormous impact on our mental state and well-being. It is our foundation. We view and interpret the world through our belief system. When we harbour false beliefs that cause us harm, they stop us doing things we might otherwise succeed at, we judge others through a warped lens, we rush to conclusions without pause for thought. When we believe we can’t do something, we don’t try and we shrink wrap our experiences. Those that believe that there is nothing to be lost by giving something a go, naturally have a greater chance of making it happen. Beliefs are an extension of memory. When we have succeeded before, we bring that experience to our assessment of the present problem or challenge. When we have failed, we draw on that memory to undermine our current perceptions.

Peter Halligan says “A belief is a mental architecture of how we interpret the world […] We have lots of fluid things moving by – perceptions and so forth – but at the level of who our friends are and so on, those things are consolidated in crystallised knowledge units. If we did not have those, every time we woke up, how would we know who we are?”

 Beliefs are building blocks; they are the structure by which we understand our existence. They are handed down to us by our families, culture, and communities; they become entrenched, built up over time, like plaque, hardened and immutable. People’s beliefs can be manipulated through brain-washing, new messages repeated over and over in a stressful and emotionally charged environment. But equally they can also be disassembled and rebuilt in a way that is healthy and valuable, to create a more positive outlook. When harmful beliefs have become a bad habit we need to flip them over into helpful ones.

“Beliefs are mental objects in the sense that they are embedded in the brain. If you challenge them by contradiction, or just by cutting them off from the stimuli that make you think about them, then they are going to weaken slightly. If that is combined with very strong reinforcement of new beliefs, then you’re going to get a shift in emphasis from one to the other.” Kathleen Taylor, Oxford University.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Harvard Psychologist and author of Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert describes in his TED talk The Surprising Science of Happiness how our beliefs can be misplaced. When he showed the audience pictures of a lottery winner and of a paraplegic and asked who they believed to be the happier, the majority replied that the lottery winner would be happier. They imagined what it would be like to win a $million and equally what it would be like to be injured and left to live in a wheelchair. Their overwhelming belief was that it has got to be better to win the money. However Gilbert reveals that when lottery winners and paraplegics were tested one year after the happening of their fortune or misfortune, they were at equal levels of happiness. The audience’s belief and perception of imagined scenarios involving sudden wealth or disability were thrown upside down. The reality is that:

“Tis nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so” William Shakespeare

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Our beliefs influence our behaviour, effect our bodies and minds and can have a profound impact on others. With determination we can create beliefs that serve us well and give our lives the best chance of happiness. They are not rigid nor inflexible, we can challenge them and turn them around. We can synthesize them to work for us and not against us.

Work with Accredited Coach Lou Hamilton to bash down your false beliefs and create new beneficial ones. Lou@createlab.co.uk

Follow my daily Inspirational Illustrations on Twitter @createlab and Instagram create_lab

Motivational Mondays: Be Curious

Creativity is thinking outside of the box, it’s turning the box upside down or it’s doing away with the box altogether. Without curiosity our creative thinking skills remain stuck in a box.

Looking up when everyone is else is looking down is what creative thinkers do

Looking up when everyone is else is looking down is what creative thinkers do

Some people think only artistic people are creative but I believe that if you can form a question then you have the ability to think creatively. Creativity is curiosity, wanting to find out more, asking why or why not. It’s taking nothing for granted, it’s disrupting the norm and questioning what is ‘right’. Creative thinkers want to know why, how, where, when; they dig deep. The world is a fathomless dimension of exploration and discovery and each of us has but a short time to make the most of what we’ve been given.

As a filmmaker creating characters I have to continually interrogate their very existence, their purpose, their motives, their behaviors, their thoughts, speech and interactions with others. But you can only go so far before you inevitably get stuck or get to the point where you think you’ve nailed your characters and story. At that point you need to ask for the opinions and comments of others. Are you on the right track or have you backed an articulated lorry onto an airport runway? You need other people to give you the third degree in the same way that you have done to your characters. If they are really creative they’ll get you doing mental backflips, cartwheels and the tango all at once in the hope of getting you out of any place of self-satisfaction and complacency that you may find yourself.

On the RISE scheme (Northern Film & Media are working in partnership with Women in Film and Television and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art to nurture and develop six emerging female filmmakers over the course of a year) this is exactly the opportunity we have been given. To have our creativity challenged by industry professionals, and contorted into positions we would never have dreamed possible when we first started writing. You start with, ‘here are the characters and this is what happens to them’. Then you get (thankfully) script editor Kate Leys & film director Josh Appignanesi making you think more deeply –  why do they want that, why should we care enough to watch them, do you need that person at all, can’t you see it through someone else’s eyes, what if you got rid of everything you have written up to the midpoint and started the film there, are they the right gender? Etc etc. This is mind acrobatics in free fall.

It’s enough to make your head spin and your brain melt but give it 24 hours and those creative impulses start firing new sparks and making new connections. They have been disrupted enough to see new improved directions for your script to go. So you push your ideas to another level, keeping at it every day, reworking and reworking and reworking. Until eventually you get to someone like film distributor Julia Short who reads your treatment and goes ‘yes I get the story, get the relationships, get the underlying themes, get the journey and the transformation and yes be that ambitious, yes think on that cinematic scale, yes go for that casting and that budget, don’t hold back, ramp it up, why not go the whole hog.’ And your creative juices fire up several notches and off you go again.

Shift things about to create something new.

Shift things about to create something new.
“Melt” Wax Installation by Ruby May London

“You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.“ Jodi Picault

It takes 10,000 hours to master anything and unless we are challenged, questioned, prodded and cajoled we may be tempted to stop at 100 hours. We might think that’s all we need to do. We need those mentors and coaches and influencers and interrogators and investigators to help us get the best out of ourselves and our work. It’s not easy but it’s worth it to not end up with the half hearted, slapdash or dull.

Architect Frank Lloyd-Wright was self-taught. He didn’t know that buildings at that time ‘had’ to be rectangular so he created the oval, arcs and circles of the Guggenheim Museum New York. Steve Jobs bunked out of University, did a short course in calligraphy and created Apple. He didn’t know that you ‘have’ to go to, and stick at, University to get a good job or build a business. The art of Not Knowing is like always having a beginner’s mind, a mind hungry and curious.

Let go and see where your creative thinking takes you

Let go and see where your creative thinking takes you

Creativity is problem-solving without rules, it’s the spirit of curiosity in the face of the mundane, logical and routine, it’s the picking apart of the safe or commercial or obvious or trite, it’s throwing things up in the air and seeing where they land. Be fearless in your day and question everything and everyone. That’s how humans got to fly, it’s how we transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. The only people who aren’t creative are the ones unwilling to try.

Are you in the business of doing things normally and getting predictable results but actually really, you want to rock your world? Then get yourself a Creative Thinking Coach and transform your life or work into something you’ll want to tell your grandkids about. Email me HERE to find out more and lets get started!

For daily uplifts and inspirational photo-quotes follow me on Twitter: @createlab Instagram: create_lab or Facebook: Lou Hamilton

We all have the ability to think creatively at our core

We all have the ability to think creatively at our core

Motivational Mondays: No one is an Island

Humans thrive on sociability, on connecting and communicating. I live on an Island and I’m self-employed so I could be in danger of living in not so splendid isolation, except that I love people and I strive to keep my connections alive.

Connection to even one other creates our imprint

Connection
to even one other creates
our imprint

One evening we were rowing around the Island and a new neighbour spotted us drifting past the end of her garden. She hailed us over, brought us up onto her decking and welcomed us to her little corner of the world. People need each other and it takes little to reach out and connect.

Planes and social media keep us connected across the globe. When filming in the Gambia for a children’s charity we met an amazing woman Ali Criado-Perez who works for Medecins Sans Frontieres. We kept in touch and when she posted Blogs from Africa during the Ebola crisis our connection to the plight of people on another continent was deepened, our understanding of their tragedy kept all the more alive. Everyday I connect with new people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or monthly at Fabulous Women Networking events. and relish the inspiring anecdotes, stories and quotes shared.

Threads join person to person across continents

Threads
join person to person
across continents

Friendship and connection are as vital as the air we breathe, so much so that Social Skills Therapy is offered to those suffering from the isolation of mental health issues. When we filmed soldiers for our feature documentary A Brutal Peace, we discovered a critical part of their post-war survival is to meet regularly through the charity Combat Stress to help each other roll with the punches of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Without the camaraderie of shared stories over a pint by the bonfire, these men would fade into the recesses of unbearable memories and suffering.

In It’s a Wonderful Life Clarence says “no man is a failure, who has friends”

We also need to be able to be alone without feeling lonely, and the ability to do this comes from knowing that somewhere, out there, there are people who we care about, who care about us. And so when I sit on my Island in London I feel the invisible threads reaching outwards to all those thousands of people I have ever met in person or online and I celebrate whatever methods of communication that allow me to do that.

Feeling disconnected? Why not connect with me for a short course of life coaching sessions and together we can find a way forward. Or follow me on twitter @createlab or Instagram create_lab

If you’d like to spend a short break on our Island you can find details on how to book on www.distancetravelled.com

Alone but not lonely with invisible touch

Alone
but not lonely with
invisible touch

Motivational Mondays: Retreat to Reboot

Hustle and bustle, stress on hyper-drive, modern life is like speeding down the fast lane with no brakes. Early starts, no lunch breaks, working late, always online, in touch, on call. We no longer seem to have a switch off button or a do not disturb sign.

Slowing down

Slowing down

Whirring brains need downtime or they burn out, as so many people will testify, when they lie on someone’s couch recounting the collapse of their life. They find themselves in a cul de sac, a dead end that no amount of self-flagellation to battle on, can save them from. Our bodies have a tendency to tell us when it’s time to stop, although we sometimes we wish they’d brought up the subject earlier.

IMG_6361_2

So, applying the brakes before we pitch off the edge of the cliff clearly seems to be a sensible idea. So what are the options? I experienced a yogic retreat by accident once. I was filming in India and one of our missions was to film in a Yogic Ashram. After 24 hours of travel via trains and a jeep across the most dangerous State in India, we arrived at a set of huge iron gates. They swung open and we entered an oasis of gardens, tropical plants and dreamy looking swami wafting about in bare feet and white robes.

We were greeted warmly but told we wouldn’t be allowed to film after all. We were stumped. We’d filled in the prerequisite forms in Delhi, been granted the correct permissions, and now we were being told it was not possible. No explanation, just no. It was too late to catch a train to Calcutta so we were invited to stay the night which comprised of a wooden bunk, a toilet filled with mosquitoes the size of wasps, a dish of Dahl and no cutlery, a two hour chanting & meditation session and lights out at 8pm. Our companions were yogis, swamis and people who had paid to come here on a retreat to rid themselves of the impurities of modern life and the overstuffed baggage in their minds. It was not a choice I would have readily made.

The next morning we were told we could have an audience with the Chief Swami, to put forward our case to film. It was set for 3pm that afternoon so we had a few hours to kill before we could present ourselves. We wandered round the gardens, sat in the shade of trees, read books and very slowly we started to unwind. There was a sense of a weight lifting, our brains emptying, of peace and tranquility descending. After the razzmatazz of filming and travelling in India this sensation of letting go was gratifying.

Retreat restores

Retreat restores

By the time it was 3 o’clock, along with a trail of villagers bearing gifts, I approached the Chief Swami in a calm and accepting state of mind, on required bended knee and with kissing of his feet. He listened to our reasons for wanting to film there, shook his head and said “God would like you to come back and visit us and then he will allow filming.” Maybe my newly assumed yogic demeanor and aura of calm acceptance wasn’t completely convincing because when he looked at my face he quickly did an about turn “but there are exceptions to every decision and in this case God has changed his mind and has now decided to grant you permission.” We had ten minutes to film a yogi performing his postures by the Ganges as the sun started to set. As we raced to catch the last train and headed back to the chaos of Calcutta, despite the hiccups, I realized that I did feel reinvigorated, as if my brain had had the chance to reboot itself, ready to start again.

Assuming yogic calm

Assuming yogic calm

That’s a fairly extreme way to dip out of the hurry and rush of life but there are easier routes to restoration and respite. I am writing this from an idyllic little holiday cottage in Buckerfields Barn in Wiltshire, set in the picturesque gardens of Sonia Wright’s Plant Nursery. Just an hour and half from London and two nights away and I can already feel a sense of rest and renewal, ready to get back to work on Monday morning.

Change is good as good as a rest so why not find ways to give yourself a break.

  1. Take ten minutes, sit upright in a chair and close your eyes, breathing deeply and slowly. It’s amazing what even ten minutes out of your day will do to calm your mind and restore your spirits
  2. Find a local park and take a book to read in your lunch hour
  3. If you live in the town, head out to the country and if you live in the country head into town, even for a day trip or a night or two.
  4. Let out a room via airbnb or your whole place as occasional holiday/weekend lets, to help fund your own restful excursions. You can do this via One Fine Stay, Holiday Lettings or small boutique agencies like Distance Travelled.
  5. Head off to India to a yogic retreat if you are brave enough!

Feeling an oncoming burn out? Why not have a trial 30 minute consultation with Lou Hamilton to see if a course of life coaching sessions might be just what you need to find ways to improve your life.

Follow my uplifting daily tweets on @createlab or on Instagram create_lab

To find out more about why we had to film the yogi watch the trailer to our film Call of the Maestros or the full documentary here:

Stan the Man- Scoring Success

I spent Sunday morning in bed with Stanley Matthews and his autobiography The Way It Was. If ever there was a pioneer for positive mental attitude it was he. What a man. Stan the Man. Beloved Wizard of Dribble who saw his failings as stepping stones to success, a man who started with nothing but a rubber ball and a will to win and became famed for his performance for Blackpool in their FA Cup Final win in 1953.

victory in success

My partner is shooting a feature documentary about Stanley Matthews and I was intrigued by how much he had captured the hearts of generations. There have been other brilliant football players but arguably none so well loved. What was it about him that made him so successful and so popular? He was certainly single minded, his goal to win as part of his DNA as his studs were to his boots. But he was also generous spirited, understood the importance of teamwork, celebrated the successes of his fellow players and appreciated and learned from those on the opposition who aced him.

He was a respectful, courteous, modest, hard working and optimistic man who protected his family from the limelight. He loved football with a passion and saw it as a microcosm of life itself, reflecting on and sharing how to get the most out of it and the lessons to be learned from it. Eventually he was to tour the world spreading the ‘gospel of football’ as he called it.

His love affair with the game started as a lad but from early on his dad drummed into him to ‘expect  nowt’ and never be disappointed. His dad wasn’t given to outward displays of affection but his few words were wise and put the young Stanley in good stead. He taught him to keep humility in the face of aplomb and applause but to be confident in his ability through hard work and the right mental attitude.

Bend with the blows and bounce back

Bend with the blows and bounce back

He studied the game, he read every football book going, he pioneered good nutrition before science and sports were ever linked and he developed and practised his techniques every day until it was dark. He made it hard for himself, muddied the ground, put weights in his boots, and he raised his own stakes, tricking his brain and his body to think and act quicker, instinctively, intuitively. The tougher he made it for himself the better he got. With no guarantees, as in life, that it would get him where he wanted to be.

When he fudged his second International game as a relative newbie against Germany in 1935 he could have sunk under a barrage of self-criticism that made the surrounding press coverage look kind. “He did nowt against Italy and he did nowt tonight. He’s not good enough, simple as that.” But his dad took him aside and told him, that game’s done, no sense dwelling on it other than to learn from his mistakes and focus on the games to come.

Stanley took his dad’s words to heart and in his next match at Stoke he stormed it. He spotted his dad in the crowd and raised his fist to his head. A silent message of understanding that it was his strong mental attitude that won the day. It was that spirit of hard work and positivity that kept him on his toes throughout his career. It stayed with him to his retirement at 50 and beyond into his global mission and campaigning work to use football to help get kids off the streets and into lives that contained hope. He taught them to know what hope is made of.

None of us knows what is in store for us but hope is having a dream, making it our goal and training and preparing to make it happen. Who knows what the week will bring, but we can prepare for success with hard work and positive mental attitude. We can lay the ground work so when opportunity comes knocking we are pumped and ready, at the top of our game to grasp it with every sinew, pore, bone, nerve and muscle.

5 Top Tips to scoring success

  1. Know your goal. Picture it as clearly as if it’s real in front of you.
  1. Work out what actions you need to take
  1. Do something every day that will take you nearer to achieving your goal
  1. Embrace the things that trip you up. Understand how you can learn from them and use the challenges to make you better at what you do
  1. Practise patience but be prepared to act fast when the opportunity arises. Trust your gut instinct and go for it!

Put a Spin on it- and get Happier

Spin has unsavoury connotations. We think untruths and hidden agendas. But in fact if you put a spin on it, Spin can do wonders to the way you see things, the way you think about something, the way you interpret events, the way you face the future.

Put a rosy spin on your future

Put a rosy spin on your future

Spin can turn the negative into the positive and it can bounce you into a world of possibilities. In my Journal at the end of each day, I write three good things that have happened. Sometimes it’s hard to think of three, or any, but I put a spin on it and I always manage to conjure up the good stuff. Often little things and to others insignificant, but at the right angle you can find a rosy glow somewhere.

cropped-creating-success-cover-for-pic-post2.jpg

Someone said to me the other day “But isn’t that cheating?” My reply was “Well you can dwell on the bad stuff and feel lousy, or you can focus on the merrier moments and feel better.” I know which makes me sleep more peacefully at night.

So, the same is true when it comes to screenwriting. The process as any writer knows is not writing, but re-writing ad infinitum. So to keep up your interest and prevent sinking into a slurry of despondency at a set of new ‘feedback’ notes I grab my Inner Spin Doctor by the scruff of the neck and beg for a different insight.

This week, on tackling a new draft, I decided to think about my story as a re-telling of Peter Pan and Wendy, in a modern twist with Wendy at the helm. All the corresponding elements to my story are there. ‘Wendy’ cares too much for everybody, including crazy Nana, two Darling children and her husband Peter Pan who is stuck in the past with childhood trauma and won’t grow up.

It all comes to head when he has a midlife crisis and Wendy once again has to pick up the pieces except that this time in the fight against Peter’s demons (Hook, his dad who killed himself) she teams up with Tinker Bell the Lithium Fairy and together they save the day. Only now Wendy’s got the message and realizes she has to let go, force Peter to take responsibility and in so doing set herself free.

I wrote all this as a poem and the process of doing that made me understand with much better clarity what the crucial elements of my own modern day story are. The Spin I put on my writing process freed me to go back to my script with renewed vigor.

For those who fancy a bit of poetry on a Monday morning here you go:

The Hunt for Hook  by Lou Hamilton

Wendy’s Nan was poorly, Her Peter hard at work, She alone was there, To read the kids a book.

Nana barked away, In bed next door, Crazy grandma banging, Stick upon the floor.

Those Darling kids, With Wendy at the helm, Sat on Sofa-boat, Dreaming where to roam

Wendy’s Peter joined them, To fly the boat away, But he had troubles of his own, That Wendy had to slay

She gave him pills to keep him up, But sadness was too strong, He wanted to stay forever young, Like when Hook, his dad did wrong

Wendy steered with all her might, To keep the family straight, And knew that to survive, She’d have to find a bait

The Hunt for Hook is on she cried, As they flew across the skies, The Darling kids clung on tight, And Peter fed them flies

Then a spring popped out from underneath, The cushions busting bare, And there was Hook all tooth and claw, To snare them in his lair.

Wendy grabbed the Darling kids, But Peter pleased to see his dad, Was hooked with claw and blinded, By fond memories that he had

Wendy shouted “Hook killed himself”, His ghost’s in sofa form, Now come to steal his son back, In the midst of this cruel storm

Thrown about in ferocious gusts, The battle did commence, Wendy out to save them all, Before Peter lost his sense

Sofa-Hook was mighty strong, With twisted springs to spear, The Darling kids and Wendy, So Peter gave in to fear

Wendy screamed for Tinker Bell, Lithium sting in her tail, She heard and flew in armed, With needle sharp as nails

Wendy kicked back the springs, And held the Darlings tight, As Tinker joined the scrum, To snatch Peter from his plight

Sofa’s springs scratched and snarled, Hook’s claw tore Tinker’s wings, But Wendy caught the needle, To pierce poor Peter’s skin

Sofa crashed to the lake below, Flinging Wendy, Peter, Darlings free, Sinking Hook without at trace, To injured Tinker’s glee

Lithium had done the trick, Blasting Peter’s past with Hook, and the family safe ashore, Wendy gave not a backwards look

Back home Nana’s cursing loud, “I’m hungry” comes the holler, But Wendy’s had enough of Caring, It’s Peter’s turn to bother

The Darling kids are off to school, Peter’s forced to try, His boyhood trauma all grown up, and Wendy’s free to fly.

WHY we do what we do- Passion with Purpose

“Every being is intended to be on earth for a certain purpose.” — Sa’di, 12th Century Persian poet

Simon Sinek in his Ted Talk describes the theory of the Golden Circle. The Outer Ring contains something everybody can answer: WHAT do you do? The middle ring, most people can have a stab at: HOW do you do what you do? But the Inner Circle few people take the time to consider, let alone have clarity on: WHY do you do what you do?

It light your fire

It took me years to work out my ‘WHY’ but I know it now. I am a Coach and I am driven by the belief that through the coaching process I can help people change themselves and their lives for the better. I am able to give people a set of tools that helps them build fulfilling and meaningful lives by tapping into their own passions and talents, their ability to think creatively and their primal need to have a sense of purpose.

But how did I get to the point where I’d found my ‘why’? I had always been artistic so I made sculptures and videos, but I’d struggled to come up with ideas that were driven by a singular ‘purpose’. Then I got a job for QTV and Channel 4 making the BAFTA-winning 5 part documentary series DEATH on people with terminal illness. We filmed 12 people over a period of 3 years and it was an extraordinary journey. What we realised was that when people are dying they become very focused on what is important to them and how they want to spent the time they have left.

I also realised that I didn’t want to wait until I was dying, to work out what was important to me. I wanted to find out what would give my life purpose now. When the TV series went out, something amazing happened.  One of the people we’d filmed, who had chronic Chrone’s Disease, received enough unsolicited financial donations from the viewing public, that she could pay for the treatments she needed (and didn’t have access to via postcode lottery) to allow her a longer and pain-free life. The indirect effect of the film impacting on someone’s quality of life decided my Purpose. I would use my Passion for creativity to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

But films take a long time to make and I wanted to do something I could do everyday. I knew Creativity isn’t just tied to being Artistic. Creativity is about how we approach life, problem solving, using our imaginations, about communicating about how we think and feel. So how could I use Creativity or rather Creative Thinking, and give it Purpose? It was the early days of Life Coaching as an industry but I knew that by combining creative thinking skills and coaching I could help people lead better lives.

Since then, I have continued to make films about inspirational people who overcome the odds, and I have a successful life coaching practice with clients who are courageous enough to take the necessary steps towards a positive future. Everybody has the potential to think creatively and through the process of coaching I help shift them from feeling stuck into building and sustaining good lives.

Everyone thrives when they live with Passion and Purpose. Knowing who you are inside and what MOTIVATES you, helps you find your Purpose. If you find yourself singing U2’s song, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” then why not get yourself a Coach and take the first steps to a more meaningful life.

10 Coaching Tips on Finding your Purpose

  1. What are the things that make you smile?
  2. What would make you leap out of bed in the morning?
  3. Are you ever ‘pulled’ towards something and you’re not sure why? Trust your instincts and follow the trail.
  4. What Cause has made your throat tighten with emotion? Could you have a leaning towards helping them in some way?
  5. Is there a theme in the books you read, in the films you watch? Maybe you are attracted to something that could inform a new direction?
  6. Is there something that you lose yourself in, lose track of time, could do all day and never be bored or tired of it? Why not incorporate it into other areas of your life.
  7. You believe yourself to be ‘successful’ but actually feel hollow? Could you give some time to your community in someway that would give your life more meaning?
  8. Tie your hobbies, gifts and talents with something that has significance to others. Being appreciated boosts our self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
  9. What were your dreams when you were a child? Could you revisit some of those ideas, see if they still resonate with you
  10. List your values and see how you might better align your daily   activities with these values.

Walk the walk

Starting any business is tough. There are no short cuts, no quick routes up the mountain to success. It’s hard graft and takes patience and perseverance. You’ve got to have a passion for what you do and you have to learn to take the body blows, bust on through and still exude the love.

At the Pure Coaching Academy this week our  panel of graduating coaches had the chance in Dragon’s Den style to coach Young Entrepreneur Sol Wright. What they were all impressed with was the confident and determined spirit in which he is building his venture Selvage London. Nevertheless he was open and receptive to their input and together they pushed the ambition of his approach up a good few notches. He reminded us of that feeling we all had before fear and cynicism kicked in, the sense that anything is possible and that the world is our oyster. Here is entrepreneurship talking the talk and walking the walk. What an inspiration.

Selvage red flash

It’s what’s below the belt that counts- walk the walk in perfect fit jeans

In the cut and thrust of business it is the fresh new voices that stand out. Recently launched, Selvage London is founded by 20 year old young entrepreneur Sol Wright. This time last year he left UCL where he was studying when he realised that his childhood dream to be an architect was misplaced and what he really wanted to do was run his own fashion business. He transferred to a business degree at Regent’s University and identified a gap in the market- at 6ft 2 he found it hard to get jeans that fit. Not just ‘oh yeah that’s roughly the right size’ but ‘wow these jeans look amazing’. Sol did his research, and knew he could offer bespoke, personalised and tailor-fit jeans in the right price range initially for men with a longer term plan to cater for women. He sourced the denim from a factory in Milan and found a whole sale manufacturers in Birmingham that would do short runs. He created a business plan and approached an angel investor to raise the funds for his first 100 pairs, then he launched his social media campaign to generate interest in his target audience.

But who is his customer? Guys who care what jeans work with which shoes? Well sure, but as most women know their men may look divine in a suit but get them into weekend wear and their style radar falls to pieces. And as we all know, it’s what’s below the belt that counts. Women don’t want the man at their side looking baggy, slouchy and bunched up. These women have invested time, money and effort in their own appearance and just as they wouldn’t pair a worn-out rucksack with their Louboutins, they equally don’t want a hangdog droopy jeans guy on their arm.

So Sol has women in his corner to bring the guys up to speed. Armed with nothing but a tape measure and the Selvage online measuring guide they can kit their men in the perfect fit jeans. Of course the discerning independent thinking male with good taste also now has a platform to design his own jeans wardrobe to match his range of loafers, trainers or boots. Whether the bespoke look is initiated by women or the men themselves, Sol is on a mission to build his business by making men feel “the dog’s bollocks in denim”.

5 Top Coaching tips for the Start-up Entrepreneur

1. Do what you love, because you’ll be doing it a lot

2. Get yourself a Coach to champion you on through the good times and the bad

3. Build up your mental & physical fitness so you are on top form to weather the storms

4. Remember FEAR is not real, it is a consequence of our thoughts, so keep your thoughts laser sharp focussed on the Big Goal

5. Banish naysayers. They’re the ones not taking the risks and not reaching their potential. Surround yourself with people who celebrate success.

Create Lab Studio Hub www.createlab.co.uk

High-RISE steps to confidence

Walking in Central London this week I spotted a balcony near the top of a high-rise block of flats. Against a monotone backdrop was a row of hand painted flowerpots hanging one by one along the rail. There was a show of confidence in those bright spots of creativity giving a flourish to the day.

Flourish of Confidence

Flourish of Confidence

The theme was to continue. I was on my way to Northern Media’s RISE scheme, where six of us women filmmakers had gathered for a two day bonanza of creative and vivid input from a selected group of industry professionals including Film Producer Andrea Cornwall, Celine Haddad Senior Film Executive for Creative England and Film Distribution expert Julia Short.

We were here to pitch our projects and get a sense of how they would sit in the thoroughfare of global film production, release and distribution. It was a daunting prospect. But this was our chance to find our distinctive voices and learn to give punch to our pitch. After all, we’re going to expend a lot of passion on our projects, so they’d better be what cinema punters want in return for their hard earned cash.

We had to open ourselves up to understanding the nuts and bolts of what works, either critically or commercially. We had to define mood, tone, genre, target audience, references for comparable films, budget range and create a title that does what it says on the tin. Armed with that accumulated knowledge we were eventually able to nail that elusive 25-30 word pitch.

But there’s another ingredient we realised we needed to add to the mix. We need to talk with courage and conviction about our work; stand behind it, be passionate about it. We must be our projects’ indomitable champions. As women we fear appearing arrogant, but we must be bold if we are to compete in this industry.

600 films get released a year so if our projects are to have the remotest chance of being financed, produced, released, seen, and make their money back we must stand up and be counted. If it is confidence that makes the difference then so be it. We women will do whatever it takes to RISE up to hi-five success.

RISE: Northern Film & Media scheme supported by Creative Skillset’s Skills Fund and in partnership with Women in Film & Television and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art