This river-bank is where I walk our dog every day!
Yesterday I confided in a friend that I was feeling a bit low and he suggested that I list 10 things that I am grateful for so I thought that I would share this with you. After all it is my blog so I can do anything that I want to with it!
My Wife & Family
When I was younger, I was very career orientated and slightly ambivalent about getting married and having a family.
Getting married and having children is not an easy road to go down when you consider the high incidence of divorce and marital problems.
However, I must have chosen my life partner well (after a courtship of 6 years!) because we have been married for 33 years and we both have a deep love and interest in our two children and two grandchildren and their partners.
I know that on my death-bed I will think that my greatest achievement in life was having a wonderful family life. I am so proud of the younger generation in our family - I find it incredible that something so good came from me and my wife's love for each other.
I even resisted having a dog until around 2 years ago, when we took in my daughters dog because she was returning to work.
Now this dog is my inseparable companion - as I write this she is sleeping on her back with her legs in the air at the entrance to my office so she can track my every movement.
I often say that 'Jesus had 12 disciples, but I only have one - our dog, Poppy.'
Where I Live
I live in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire in the UK. Compared to many other places in the world, I live in a stable and prosperous country at a time in history when we are not at war.
Many people come to Stratford to enjoy the attractions of the town and to visit the Shakespeare Trust properties and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. They even express a desire to live in Stratford, so compared to some other places in the UK, it is a relatively nice place to live.
We live just 5 minutes walk from the River and the town centre so I don't have to use a car very often. Between Christmas and the end of March I used less than a tank of fuel in my car so my carbon footprint is also relatively low.
I have worked from home for the last 14 years, since July 2001, so I have no commute because I work from a home office.
My current office is at the front of the house so I can see pedestrians and cars passing in front of the house which always gives me a point of interest.
I get up at around 6 - 6.30 a.m. (- no alarm clock -), wash or shower and have breakfast and take the dog for a walk by the River until 8.30 a.m.
I start work at around 8.30 a.m., have coffee at 10.30 a.m., I stop for lunch at 12.45 a.m. and return to work at 2 p.m.
My wife brings me a cup of tea at around 4 p.m. and I take the dog for a walk at around 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. by the River Avon.
We both return home for supper and then after supper I often work again. Sometimes I break to watch a programme on TV if there is anything good on.
Because I work in my own office, sometimes I have background music playing whilst I work.
I don't go on many holidays because I love my routine - why take a holiday from doing what you love to do?
At weekends we visit family, do the garden, read and play around with Photoshop or even do more work, although I am slightly more relaxed about how I use my time at weekends.
My House & Possessions
Our house is in the road where my wife was born and our family at one time or another have owned 4 other houses in or near this road in the last 60 or 70 years, because I am including my grandparents.
We therefore have a great affinity with the road and Stratford-upon-Avon.
We live in a 1930's house with spacious room sizes and a good-sized garden which means we have more privacy than any of the new housing developments being built.
I personally dislike the high-density housing schemes because they reduce the quality of life for the occupiers - no privacy, susceptible to noisy or irritating neighbours and claustrophobic room sizes. So I am grateful that we live in a roomy house where you can at least 'swing the proverbial cat'!
If there were a house fire, after making sure all the occupants were safe, I would grab my computer and one picture.
The picture was inherited from my grandparents and it is special to me because my grandfather used to say, when I was a small child, that it was him walking in the woodland scene. Of course, this was a lie but I do think of him with fondness every time I look at the picture.
I am not a consumer of physical goods - clothing and possessions are relatively unimportant to me. I only ever visit shops to get my hair cut and buy groceries. Retail would be dead if it relied on my trade, as my clothes will testify.
We do have a Tesco Express shop within 50 yards of my house - very convenient for getting things we forgot to buy on our weekly visit to the super-market.
I absolutely love internet marketing. It is the hardest thing that I have ever attempted to do because there are so many skills and nuances to it and it is evolving quickly. We are still in the pioneering stage.
I do think that internet connectivity is one of the greatest inventions. All knowledge is accessible from my desk top and most of it is free. It's like having an Encyclopaedia on steroids.
This means that we don't need to travel in order to enjoy other places and cultures - it can all be seen online.
One of the unexpected joys of my work is the discovery of Photoshop.
I haver always had a deep interest in art and being able to create my own stylised art work base on photos and images is deeply satisfying to me.
There is also great joy to be derived from the knowledge that I have the tools to communicate globally from my home office through, text, graphics, audio and video. Incredible!
The younger generation will take all this for granted but I definitely don't. One of the biggest considerations in buying our current house was access to fast broadband - my broadband is 150 mb/second - the fastest package currently available in the UK.
I started with dial-up internet and a tiny hard disc of a few hundred megabytes and it is mind-blowing how far and fast computers and the internet have progressed in just a few years.
My business has been designed specifically not to rely on suppliers, stock holding, credit, staff recruitment, high overheads, fixed location etc. This means that I can move my whole business anywhere, any time.
Some of the great joys in life to me are:
- books and literature
- computers and the internet
I've often thought that I could survive quite well in prison if I could access these (although I don't want to test that particular theory!)
Most of these pursuits are low-cost or free to access. I can't understand why anyone could ever get bored whilst they have access to these jewels of civilisation.
These are some of the things that add quality and soul to my life.
I am fortunate in that from around the age of 38 I have been essentially debt-free. 25 years in banking gave me an understanding of both good and bad debt.
I could perhaps live a better lifestyle if I geared myself up with more debt but I like the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing that I don't owe money to anyone.
I can't understand why people mortgage their lives to have some brief pleasure today at the cost of going into debt. The older that you get, you realise that having more possessions becomes a burden - you need to find space for them, insure them, dust and maintain them etc. It is much better to travel as lightly as possible though life in my opinion.
Buying and owning something gives relatively brief pleasure before you are left wanting more - it's like an addiction and it is much better to climb off the wagon of addiction by doing without.
Being debt-free is about security and peace-of-mind. My mind is occupied by other things than how and when to make the next payment on the debt I incurred in a moment of impulsiveness!
Access To Services
We often take for granted access to services like hot and cold running water, electricity and gas, telephone and broadband, waste disposal, shops, schools, doctors and hospitals etc.
It is only when you see other people trying to live without these services that I truly understand how lucky I am. I watch a TV programme about a tribe in Kenya who live a good but hard life without most of the things we take for granted.
I often think that as the regions of the world get connected to the internet and they see how other people are living in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US that the people migration problem will only grow unless we can find ways of improving their living standards too.
However, I would add that some of our values and standards like greed for money, lack of family cohesion and consumerism are not terribly desirable and many so-called third-world people are probably happier with a simpler way of life..
Access to services, however, allow me to spend time on higher-value activities rather than for example, spending hours a day fetching and carrying water. So I am grateful that we live at a time and place in history where access to essential services is almost taken for granted as a right of every person in the UK.
Creativity & Legacy
I would like to leave a legacy of work and creativity. I am grateful for the opportunity to do that with my work.
For many years I was involved in Banking which is in the service sector. Whilst, of course, I was helping businesses and individuals, I did not find a great deal of satisfaction in this job. (Thank god I got out before the financial melt-down in 2008!)
My current line of work allows me to communicate ideas and knowledge which is far more satisfying to me than offering a service which most people take for granted and is transitory in nature.
In my current occupation, I can point to a website, ebook, video training or podcast and say that I did that and I helped someone to improve their life in some way with my training programmes, thoughts and ideas.
I can also leave a legacy of work that potentially can help other people when I am dead and gone.
Living in Shakespeare's Stratford reminds me that leaving a legacy of work that can potentially survive long after you are dead and gone, is a more satisfying than offering a transitory service that is consumed at one moment in time and then quickly forgotten.
I can also help more people through my current activities.
Zig Zeigler said that 'you can have anything you want in life if you help enough people to get what they want in life'. I believe that is true most of the time.
Creativity is a funny thing.
I often don't know what is going to be produced until I start 'putting pen to paper'. Ideas seem to flow from the ether. Sometimes it feels as if I have very little conscious input of what turns up on the page.
For example, I didn't know what 10 things I would be grateful for until I started writing them down!
Who would have thought that a young man like Shakespeare from a simple country market town would become the greatest playwright the world has ever known? I find this idea inspiring.
I set great store on my ability to think for myself and to express myself freely. Of course, with great freedom comes great responsibility.
It is important to use freedom responsibly to improve other peoples lives rather than to destroy them.
That's why I dislike most politicians, lawyers, all religions, media, educators, police - anyone who is trying to spin their ideas and ideology at me or trying to impose their will.
I like to distance myself from them and to think about the underlying motivation for them wanting to control my opinions, thoughts and deeds.
The freedom to think for myself and form my own opinions is probably the most important thing to me.
This can also be the thing that brings me into the greatest conflict with our society - not doing the socially acceptable or conventional things that are expected of me.
For example, everyone at my school was expected to go to university. Whilst I had offers, I chose to start working instead because I had no clear idea what I would do with a degree in English Literature (- I do regret that particular decision by the way because my children made me understand that there is much more to university than studying!)
Working from home is also unconventional - I do not need the company and distractions of co-workers and the thought of playing office politics frankly disgusts me.
Answering to a boss would also be difficult for me now if I disagreed fundamentally with their strategy or ideas - this is why I left a highly paid job in banking.
I simply could not do what they wanted me to do because even if 'my body stood up, my mind sat down' when it came to their fundamental business strategy - a strategy that has led to the current problems in the banking industry.
It's easy to see with hindsight but at the time I relied on my own gut-feeling to make that decision.
So the freedom to make choices is something that I am very grateful for - most people do not have this freedom because they have to conform with other peoples ideas in order to put food on the table.
I value my independence and freedom above all else and would defend it to the death (which will hopefully not be necessary!)
That is my list of 10 things that I am grateful for - I could go on because I didn't list 'health' which is fundamentally important. In 25 years of corporate life, I only had one day off sick so perhaps I am taking my health for granted!
These are the first 10 things that came to mind as I was writing. Leave a comment below this article and tell me what you are grateful for.