What I learnt from escaping to Umbria

A little about me, Events

Umbria

Last weekend I had a mini escape from my whirlwind world, to the idyllic Tribewanted getaway; Monestevole in Umbria, Italy. Escape the City were running a weekend long workshop and it didn’t take much convincing to book my spot. Knowing Escape it would be exactly what I needed, even though I wasn’t exactly sure what that was. Romy one of my fellow escapees writes wonderfully about some of the experiences we shared here, and I also wanted to share some of the things I learnt.

You are the average of the people you surround yourself with

Do not underestimate this one. Being surrounded by open, like-minded, inspiring people all weekend, made me feel centred and invincible, like I could take on the world and I was going to laugh until it hurt while I did it. The right people energise you, support and encourage you and make you feel like all your crazy ideas are possible. The wrong people drain you, make you doubt yourself and your ambition and stir up all of your deeply buried insecurities. Think carefully about who you choose to spend your time with and be ruthless. This reminded me of something I’d heard of from Tim Ferriss, an 80/20 emotional inventory. What are the 20% of things in your life that are causing 80% of your stress, worry or sadness? What 20% is causing 80% of your joy and excitement? Can you avoid that bad 20% and plan more of the good 20% into your life? I did this recently and its shocking to see where the bulk of my frustrations come from, and it helped me refocus my energy. (Bad mornings=bad days, so one of my goals is to wake up 1h earlier each day).

It is the little things

Umbrian life was simple. We slept, we ate, we drank, we stroked the kittens, we chatted and plotted, we laughed, and it was perfect. The big group trip of the weekend was to the local Chestnut Festival in Preggio. We ate chestnuts, drank 1 euro red wine and laughed uncontrollably at the guy with the phallic, homemade instrument. We all have a tendency to overcomplicate our lives until it becomes unclear why we’re doing what we’re doing. Happiness and contentment are always within touching distance if we stop for a second and remind ourselves whats truly important.

Frequently mentioned over the weekend was #smallsteps. Each tiny step we take in the direction we want to go in adds up to a life long journey of endless miles of memories and achievements. We all made a commitment to making a number of small and not so small steps and promised to hold each other accountable to them.

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Get some perspective

Before I left for Umbria I felt trapped inside an exhausted mind and body with no idea what I wanted or even needed. Thankfully, a wise chapter in The One Thing by Gary Keller, had reminded me to plan my rest/break/recovery time first. So back in September, I knew having just pulled off TEDx Brixton the weekend before, I’d need some space to process and rest, so I booked my spot on Escape to Umbria. Thank god I did. Inside my normal life I was feeling uninspired and stressed by work, tired and overwhelmed with TEDx finishing. From Umbria I saw that this was just the way I was feeling at a point in time. I had the space, the people and the right questions to process everything that had happened and think about what was next. I urge you to think about when you might need some space, some perspective and block that time out now. Its hard to find the time when you’re in the middle of it all. Also, know the difference between a restful break and one that leaves you more tired than when you left! (My next break will be a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat in January!)

We all need warmth and validation

Sometimes I like to think that I’m emotionally strong and stable and independent. I’m all good on my own and I’ll get on with my life just fine, with or without the support of others. Up to a point that’s true, but trust me… when you’re welcomed warmly and openly into Monestevole by Adrienne, the general manager, when you hear someone else share your story positively and impressed, when someone tells you that your ideas are interesting and that they could help you maybe, when you’re told you can do whatever makes you comfortable and don’t have to explain yourself here, when you get a fist full of personal post it notes telling you how awesome you are, that warm feeling of being accepted and validated is incredible and like no other. You can’t recreate it on your own. Lucy, one of the escapees, described it as the moment when your ‘shoulders drop‘. You relax, you open up, you stop trying so hard to do it all yourself and you let others in. There is such power in finding a place where your ‘shoulders drop’, where you are free to be vulnerable and honest and yourself, and then miraculously accepted and even liked! In our busy lives I think we forget that this is what most of us spend our whole lives in search of, a place to be our whole self and be unconditionally accepted for it.

You already know the answers

This one came up in a number of forms, through various discussions over the weekend. Over and over again when we all tried to explain what we wanted and some of our thoughts of how we were going to get it, we apologised for our vague, incoherent ramblings. And time and time again everyone else responded by noticing the remarkable coherency of our dreams and plans. It felt as though our answers were basically fully formed, but they only revealed themselves when we were asked the right questions.

Linked to this were the discussions we had over dinner about some of our experiences as Samaritans listening volunteers. The rigorous training you receive as a volunteer focuses on the art of active listening and the fundamental principle of self-determination. You’ll never understand fully another person’s situation and therefore can’t offer them any advice, only reflect back whats been said to you, to help them come to their own understanding and plan. This is an act of empowerment and it applies to all of us. We know what we have to do, sometimes we just need an encouraging sounding board and the right questions to bring it in to our consciousness.

It never stops

We all varied in ages, experiences, backgrounds, industries, passions, achievements. Yet not one person felt that they had reached a point where they had achieved everything they wanted to. We were all impressed and inspired by each others stories, what we’d all achieved so far, what our plans for world domination were for the future, but each of us down played it and felt like we had infinitely further still to go. Rightly so in many ways. As a wise lady and fellow escapee Shari, from MP Cosmetics writes, ‘Anything that does not grow is dead‘.

I’d encourage all of us to be proud of everything we’ve done to date. Own it, shout about it, sure. We’ve all come so far and achieved so much. But we can’t stop here, we’re not done yet. We have so much more to give to the world. We need to keep growing, creating, giving together until there’s nothing left to give. The more we do, the more we can and must do. This might sound competitive, ambitious, tireless and it is, but we are not competing with anyone else out there, we are only competing with ourselves, to be the fullest, truest versions of ourselves. Do it. Do it afraid, but just do it.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.Marianne Williamson

Thanks Escape the City, Monestevole, Tribewanted and the wonderful, wacky bunch that joined me in Umbria 🙂 ❤

@rimapatel7 on Twitter

@poppetino on Instagram

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How to Start Your Own Business – An Evening with Female Entrepreneurs

Events, London

Female entrepreneurs

‘The Future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams’ – Eleanor Roosevelt

Esc the city launched its first event in the ‘She Series’ last week, which Adele reassured us was not a women’s event, at least not like the ones that we have become accustomed to.
There was a real buzz of energy and excitement in the room as we heard from Emilie Holmes (Good & Proper tea), Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie (Mallow & Marsh), Victoria Eggs (Victoria Eggs), Lizzie Fane (ThirdYearAbroad.com) and the girls from Broad Minded.

Escape the City’s thoughts
Initially against the idea of ‘women in business events’, a dinner with the ladies from broad-minded convinced Adele that there is a need for opportunities for women to get together and inspire and motivate each other. What makes the She Series different to other women’s events? These ideals:
– Passion and talent are gender equalizers
– It’s not a competition. Not against men, not against other women. There is space for everyone to succeed
– Get your map, compass and supplies in order! (map=your network, compass=you core values and supplies=information and allies)
– The aim is not to turn us all into business women, CEOs, stay at home mothers, adventurers or a juggler of all of the above. It’s about finding out what you want and working together to get there.
– There are no rules. Think outside the box.
– These events are here to excite, engage, inspire, motive, unite women, but they are what you make them, so get stuck in and give as much as you take.

Victoria Eggs (Victoria Eggs)

Victoria Eggs designs premium quality home ware and gifts celebrating Britishness, all handmade in the UK. Founded by its namesake in 2011, Victoria Eggs evokes a true sense of British spirit through playful and punchy designs which bring a smile to the face. Fine Art graduate Victoria has been awarded many critically acclaimed accolades, including winning ‘Gift of the Year 2012’. In addition to featuring in publications such as The Sunday Times, Living Etc, Marie Claire and Time OutVictoria Eggs is also stocked in Selfridges, Southbank Centre and West Elm UK. The Aprons have even made their TV debut on ITV’s This Morning!

Some of her key bits of advice:

– Define your Unique Selling Point
What are you really selling? Think bigger than your product/service.
Who are you selling to?
Brand positioning– are you high end or low end?
Margins– ultimately you have to be making some money to continue operating
Manufacturing– gets a great supplier and have back-ups just in case!
Be realistic– if your product is handmade and takes a day to make what happens if you get an order for 100?
First impressions count.
Marketing
o Trade- make their life easy, include a call to action
o Customers- social media is a must, engage with them
o Press- make an impression. Be the purple cow
Keep in touch with key suppliers, customers, contacts
Be persistent!
Have fun and be flexible: be prepared to change some of your initial ideas

Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie (Mallow & Marsh)

Harriot studied Fine Art and photography before leading emerging market research for a headhunting firm. She then founded De Bouverie, a fine jewellery website making independent designers more accessible. As a business, this became the learning ground for almost every mistake in the book, and is what she now refers to as her ‘MBA for Entrepreneurs’. She was then light heartedly challenged to make marshmallows and founded Mallow & Marsh, which has gone from strength to strength and is now carried in selected Sainsbury’s stores. Since the launch Mallow and Marsh has been ranked in this year’s Startups100 and Harriot has been shortlisted for Management Today’s 35 women under 35.

Advice from Harriot

Be prepared to fail; it really is how you learn. Accept and embrace it.
Don’t over think it. It’s so tempting to spend weeks, months, and years meticulously planning your idea. Don’t.
Stop talking and start doing! ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now’- Chinese proverb
Cut your budget in half. Check out the Lean Start Up by Eric Ries for proof, or come along to the Escape the City Start-up MBA.
Feedback is critical. Be a sponge and adapt.
Micro test your idea– give your customers what they actually want not what you think they want
– Be the best, be remarkable.

Lizzie Fane (ThirdYearAbroad.com)

Lizzie studied in Italy as part of her degree course and, based on the problems and wonders she experienced, she founded ThirdYearAbroad.com in 2006 to support other students through the process and give them a place to pass on advice. The site is now the UK’s biggest network of students who study or work abroad and new high-growth products are designed for the target audience, such as YearAbroadInsurance.com and a Careers Platform. Lizzie is an Academic Associate of The Higher Education Academy and Communications Director for Speak to the Future: the UK’s Campaign for Languages.

Key bits of advice from Lizzie

Solve a problem. What bugs you? Don’t complain, fix it!
– If you don’t know how to do something, learn.
Don’t underestimate yourself or overestimate others
– There are so many resources out there to help new entrepreneurs not least your old university’s business/start-up/ entrepreneur societies.
– Also check out Smarta.comaskstarting.com and hang out at Google campus

Emilie Holmes (Good & Proper Tea)

In 2012, Good & Proper Tea founder Emilie Holmes decided to take off her corporate advertising hat and don a trader’s apron, bringing her obsession for tea to the people of London and beyond. Leaving a successful career at Ogilvy & Mather, Emilie had a vision for tea done right. She parlayed her corporate advertising savvy into establishing a new “classic” brand that restores quality and craft to this quintessential component of British culture. She bought herself a stylish 1974 Citroen H van, had it fitted out for the tea trade, and opened her side window to London’s tea lovers. And the people of London are better for it. Emilie makes a mean cuppa.

Key bits of advice from Emilie

You don’t have to do it right, you just have to do something!
– Be prepared to change
Question every decision, based on your initial goal
– ‘Cash is King’- you’ll hear it repeatedly in the world of start-ups but it’s true.
Get some perspective. Talk it out with someone you trust.
– There is no such thing as ‘I don’t know’ Google is your friend.
Switch of from external negative forces.
– There is no how to manual, each person’s journey is different, that’s the beauty of being an entrepreneur, so get out there and just does it!

A little on Broad-minded

Broad Minded are a group of women who have formed a network to support and encourage each other as individuals and professionals. There three main aims are to:

Inspire: Regular dinners with inspirational speakers and the chance for us all to share ideas and network. We feel there’s a real opportunity here for us to create a voice for women of our age and position.

Educate: The opportunity to sign up for talks or courses on anything from managing your finances to leadership skills to presenting skills.

Motivate: An out-reach program through which we go into schools and universities to offer talks and the opportunity for mentor matching with students.

Click here to for their Facebook page.

Penny Wing & Ollie Codrington – How to Start & Sell a $15 Million Company

Events, London, People

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What man actually needs is not a tension-less state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.’- Viktor Frankl

As always another fascinating Esc event last night (if you didn’t take a detour via the Eton boys entrepreneurs club) led by serial entrepreneur Penny Wing and her recent escapee partner in her new venture, brojure.com; Ollie Codrington. If you are looking for a simple 10 step program explaining ‘how to start up and sell and $15m business’, you may be slightly disappointed. Granted, Penny Wing has built and sold 3 successful group travel businesses from scratch and sold each of them in turn, the most recent having sold for $15m. However, that was through her own personal circumstances that led her to be in a position to take advantage of opportunities when they came knocking, which are difficult to distil down to a formula for others to follow and replicate.

Instead, I personally learnt about more practical insights about the nature of successful entrepreneurs and the wealth of wisdom that both Penny and Ollie had to offer based on their own journeys.

Key thoughts:

  • Do something different. Be creative, be brave, think outside the box.
  • Failure is inevitable. The secret is to fail fast, fail often and fail as many time as it takes to succeed
  • There is no harm in having the intention to aim high
  • Do not underestimate yourself- ‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are usually right’- Henry Ford
  • Micro test your ideas
  • You can’t be good at everything. Surround yourself with people who are good at what you are not
  • Do your research
  • Don’t sell; solve problems

As a brief summary, Penny started out as an engineer with an educational background in math but through pure chance, was sat on a plane next to someone who owned a travel company and who happened to think that Penny’s frequent travel (she had lived in 36 different places before the age of 21) meant she was suited to a job in a travel company. By the end of the flight she’d been convinced to join his company and never look back. She spent 8 years in the industry working for someone else, honing her skills and understanding of the industry and then started her first company in 1988, in her living room, with $30,000 in savings. Three businesses later, each more successful than the last, she is on to her next venture brojure.com with Ollie, who coincidentally, she met on the Start-up MBA course run by Esc.

What struck me as the root of so many of her successes in her many roles was the bold and courageous actions based on Penny’s belief in herself and the willingness to do things differently. From the get go she approached things innovatively, refusing to follow her competitors by creating lengthy proposal documents when pitching for business. Instead, trying something new, she created simple visual one pagers, which appealed far more, stood out from the crowd and secured her loyal multinational customers.

One creative new idea led to another. From a need to be able to create these visual pitch documents wherever and whenever she wanted to, she hired a software developer to create a program for her. She then realised that these ‘brochures’ could be used by a multitude of different businesses; wedding planners, photographers, event planners, yacht brokers even, so decided to set up a software company, brojure.com to sell the program, despite no previous technical background.

You don’t always need to have the exact relevant skills to create something successful. For one, don’t underestimate yourself. Whatever your background, you will most likely have transferable skills that are highly sought after in any new venture. Whether that’s the ability communicate professionally, be organised, manage a team, build great relationships you are more skilled than you think you are!

On this note, an interesting point was raised about the benefits/disadvantages of MBA programs. Adele shared some of her thoughts having spoken to numerous escapees over the years. The choice to complete an MBA is personal and down to the individual, but question your motivation first. Do you want to do an MBA because you don’t know what you want to do yet and in effect is another form of procrastination? Do you have that nagging fear that you don’t have the skills to do what you want to do? Is it worth the time and money if you aren’t sure what specifically you are going to get out of it? Are there alternative ways to get the same information but from a less costly/time consuming resource? I like to think so personally. I feel that I learn in a far more constructive and efficient way by simply speaking to people, reading great books and experimenting in small ways with my ideas. One other thing, I think, is that to be truly entrepreneurial you need to do something different, be creative, be brave and there are so many people doing MBAs, perhaps it’s no longer a differentiator.

If you really don’t have the required skills for your idea, no bother! Surround yourself with people that do. Penny’s strengths are in starting a business, growing them big, growing them fast and then selling them. She has no long term desire to run one company; she prefers to focus of winning big, high value sales contracts. Recognising this she started looking for a partner to run the business. Cue Esc the city and their brilliant start up MBA program. Interestingly both Penny and Ollie may not have been there. Penny was initially discouraged as she seemed on paper to be over-qualified, and Ollie was reluctant to come along as he didn’t have a business idea. Well, Penny convinced Adele and Adele convinced Ollie and as fate would have it they were on the same course and have been working together on brojure.com ever since. If ever there was a case study for there being no rules in life and for doing something different, this would be it.

Ollie- ‘I Can’t remember wanting to be anything but be a lawyer since I was 15, until I was one.’

Ollie was a lawyer as of 4 years ago, but knew someday he wanted to run his own company. The problem was that didn’t have an idea. His quote above stuck with me as often we have an idea of what we want to and hold on to it so tightly. When we eventually get there it may not be what it first promised or what you were actually looking for in the first place. This, to me, highlights the value of micro testing your ideas. If you want to be a lawyer, go speak to a lawyer first or shadow one for a week. Figure out what you’d be doing every hour of everyday and the realities of the job before you commit to a degree or training focused on Law. Similarly with any other venture, if you think you want to be a chef, cook, write recipes, go volunteer in a kitchen, start a food blog. All low risk, low commitment, but will allow you to explore an idea before fully commit to it in an expensive, ‘can’t go back now’ way.

What do Penny and Ollie attribute to their success? One of the things that came through strongly is to focus on your strengths and what excites you. Ultimately you can’t be good at everything nor can you be passionate about every type of task involved in your business. Penny is excited by aiming high, going after the big million $ contracts and is great at it. So why should she also invest time running part of the business and targeting the ‘low hanging fruit’, the small business owner, tasks she has no interest in. She recognises the value in it, but acknowledges it just isn’t what she wanted to focus on so brought on a partner, Ollie, who was excited, and good at doing just that instead.

There is also no harm in aiming high. You have nothing to lose by having the intention to aim big. By leaving yourself open to all possibilities you are more likely to spot opportunities that you may have otherwise shut out. Case and point, brojure.com’s focus is service industries looking to pull together great visual material to show clients/customers. However, Ollie had a friend who had a friend who worked at British Gas, Centrica, and thought there was no harm in an introduction and a chat. As it happens, British Gas regularly pitch for work using presentations (who knew?!), but there is a lack of consistency across the various different pitching teams. Brojure.com may well be just the solution to their problem. The power of speaking to people and a ‘what’s the worst that could happen? attitude’ can’t be underestimated and clearly paid dividends for Penny & Ollie.

Another thing to note is that failure is inevitable. Both Penny and Ollie have failed as has pretty much every entrepreneur I have ever heard from. The lesson here is to fail fast, fail often and fail as many times as it takes to succeed. Also, consider your risk appetite and personal circumstances. Everyone’s different; one person’s shaking hands with a stranger may be another person’s skydive. Just honestly assess occasionally if you feel you are being too risky or too risk adverse.

When asked what they would change looking back on their journey so far, both agreed that they needed to have far more software industry knowledge than they first anticipated. They wished they could have ‘seen the road ahead more clearly’. They recommended spending time with people who know what you want to know and learning from them and getting experience in you desired field or industry in any way you can. Penny remarked that today there is a lot of pressure to grow businesses fast and to make as much money as possible as quick as possible, but maybe there is some value in slowing down and doing a little more research.

As an aside, Ollie brought up a really interesting point around status. As a lawyer he enjoyed being able to walk in to a room and others valuing his opinion and presence. There are a lot of added benefits to do with security, ego, and self-confidence that come from having what is defined as a traditionally successful profession. Even those closest to us find it difficult to accept when you do something less well defined/non-traditional sometimes; Ollie quoting his mum; ‘But what do you do? What are you going to be?’. ‘I’ll be your son?’ He suggested. Sometimes people just won’t get it and that can take a toll on your confidence, particularly if it’s someone you care about. Ultimately though, Ollie realised ‘we all want to be able to look back and have fantastic stories to tell our grandchildren’, to inspire and excite, no matter if we fail or succeed, we’d just like to be able to say we tried and had a great time in the process.

What becomes clearer to me every time I go along to an Esc event or any else new for that matter is that difference between success and failure boils down to people who do and people who don’t. If you never stop learning, experimenting, challenging yourself, finding out what excited you and that you’re passionate about, you will always eventually find things that make you happy and fulfill you.

Hey, look, no-one said it would be easy or without some tough decisions, but it’s dawning on me at least, that it really is as simple as getting out there and doing.

Resources:

Penny and Ollie

http://brojure.com/

https://twitter.com/brojure

https://www.facebook.com/brojure

Start up MBA:

http://startupmba.escapethecity.org/

Books:

The lean startup- Eric Ries (how to start a business in the leanest way possible)

Creativity Inc.- Ed Catmull (how to create a truly creative and collaborative working environment, based on the incredible story of Pixar. I want to work for Pixar!)

4 Hour Work Week- Tim Ferriss– (A must read for all escapees. Whether you want to start a new business, become more productive in your current job, do something different, challenge you assumptions about how you work, there is something in here for everyone)

Me:

Post also featured on Esc the City blog:

http://blog.escapethecity.org/2014/07/01/notes-night-start-sell-15-million-company/

https://twitter.com/rimapatel7

Patrick Drake- How to get on TV and start a food business

Events, London, People

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‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’ – Chinese Proverb

This post is perhaps chronologically out of place. Unbeknown to me at the time, this event would be the one that put the last 2 years in to focus and gave me all I needed to take my next step on my escape and never look back. It was the very first Escape event that I’d been to and the only reason I decided to go is because I saw it in an escape newsletter and had a spark of an idea. A dear friend at work always dreamed of opening her own deli and I thought that perhaps this would give her a nudge in the right direction.

As it happened, while I sat there listening avidly to Patrick, talking through his journey it dawned on me that it was the first time I had heard articulated what I secretly thought in my head but was too afraid to say out loud for fear of ridicule or rejection. Also, I’m pretty sure that I had not yet consciously acknowledged these ideas and hearing them repeated back to me finally hammered it home. Life is too short to let fear hold you back. You can’t waste a single week, day even, doing something that doesn’t excite you and the only regret you will ever have is not starting sooner. I’m already feeling that one!

Patrick spoke about his path that led him from being a city lawyer to creating a hugely successful TV show, becoming the head chef of fantastic food delivery service Hello Fresh and, in the process, finding love. It all sounds like a perfect fairy tale, but what stuck with me was, actually, it was anything but. There was a definite trajectory and in hindsight you can connect the dots as to what allowed him to take the opportunities when they eventually came knocking.

As a lawyer, driven by a passion and curiosity for food he worked evenings in restaurants and in his work canteen for free, learning, on the job, the skills he would later need. He took an opportunity to attempt a TV show in LA which didn’t work out quite as planned, but the lessons learned proved to be invaluable. A bold meeting with culinary genius Heston Blumenthal, meant that he was invited to spend the day in the Fat Duck kitchens with the chefs, later learning that he was the first person such a offer had been extended to. Creating youtube videos of himself making dishes and honing his presenting and editing skills would also prove useful. All of this motivated by a love of food and faith that by following what you love eventually a opportunity will present itself and you will be in the right place at the right time to take it up.

This led him to a point where he received an email from a woman who spotted him on youtube and invited him to Italy to work on a TV show. He knew immediately that this was what he had been working towards and dropped everything and flew out the next day and never looked back. That was the show that proved to be incredibly successful worldwide and that woman turned out to be the person he is now with today. Next came the invitation to work with a couple of people on this exciting new start up – Hello Fresh, which is now the market leader in its field. It’s easy to suggest that all of this came about by some sort of luck or good timing, but to say that would be wrong. Having been to a few Esc events and experimenting with my own escape there is a definite patterns in successful stories:

1. The passion – without this you will not be motivated to persevere through the tough times. A truly big idea that excites you, backed by passion and hard work is a powerful combination that is hard to stand in the way of.

2. Faith in what you are doing – at the time, Patrick, and others I have heard from, didn’t know exactly why they were doing everything, except that they were excited by it and wanted to learn, often offering themselves up for free out of curiosity, for the experience. It reminds me of the Steve Jobs quote I have mentioned in a previous post:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.”

Sometimes you just have to trust in the process and trust in yourself that you will be able to achieve whatever you set your mind to.

3. Very little is impossible – you might say that you don’t have enough time or money or skills or confidence, but ultimately none of these need be prohibitive if you are really focused and determined on what you want. ‘Where there’s a will there is a way’ as they say.

4. If you don’t ask you don’t get/what is the worst that could happen? – A general point of taking more risks in life. We are all naturally risk averse, but sometimes the greater risk is in not asking and then having a regret later in life. For me fear of missing out or regret outweighs the fear of taking a risk every time.

5. Just start, start right now! Take whatever small steps you can immediately. Later, tomorrow, if/when I have enough time/money all effectively mean never. Ultimately, you’re only regret will be looking back you may wish you had started earlier. I certainly wish I had started a year maybe 2 years ago on this particular path.

6. Authenticity is key – If you communicate with authenticity and integrity, people will warm to you and want to help you if they can. If you can in some way help them too even better.

I feel like write ups of events like these are going to start getting a little repetitive, as words of wisdom seem to have similar themes!

Patrick also recommended a couple of books, some of which I have read and reviewed in the links below. Of the ones I have read, they have provided even more fuel to the fire and filled me with determination to persevere no matter what. It’s interesting to see where the themes in these books cross over with the the ideas expressed in Patrick and others’ talks:

Think and Grow Rich- Napoleon Hill (a classic for the foundations of success)

http://humanafterall.co/2014/06/11/think-and-grow-rich-napoleon-hill/

4 Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss (a must read for anyone looking to drastically change how they work and need practical advice)

http://humanafterall.co/2014/06/16/4-hour-work-week-tim-ferriss/

Get Lucky – Thor Muller & Lane Becker

One Thing- Jay Papasan & Gary W. Keller

Others worth a read:

The Chimp Paradox – Steven Peters (great for understanding our brains a little better and getting the most from it)

Creativity Inc – Ed Catmull (a really inspiring story about how Pixar, the animation studio, sought to create a creative, collaborative workplace)

Check out Patrick Drake here:

http://www.hellofresh.co.uk/

http://kylieandpatrick.com/

https://twitter.com/patrickdrake

@patrickdrake

Me:

@rimapatel7

How to travel and write for a living – Caroline Sylger Jones

Events, London, People

retreat

‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path; and that will make all the difference.‘ – Steve Jobs

The beauty of escape the city events is that you never know what you are going to leave with. I brought a journalist friend along to ‘How to travel and write for a living’ because I knew it would benefit us both in some way. Although not a journalist I’m also drawn to travel, well-being and having just started up a new little blog, writing too, so I was sold. As always, I learned so much over the course of a couple of hours and left with so many exciting ideas.

Caroline Sylger Jones has had a fascinating and varied career in travel journalism and kindly offered herself up to questions from eager escapees. Having completed a BA and MA in English Literature, written for numerous international publications including all the broadsheet newspapers and glossy magazines such as Tatler and Condé Nast Traveller, had two books published by Footprint Books (Body & Soul Escapes and Body and Soul Escapes: Britain & Ireland (see www.hutonahill.com/books) and set up her own successful retreat review website Queen of Retreats (see www.queenofretreats.com) – her wealth of knowledge and advice was highly sought after and keenly received.

The session was structured as a Q & A, with some really interesting questions and insightful answers for anyone looking to learn more about journalism and how to escape into a more authentic life.

Key advice for all aspiring writers:

– Be honest with yourself – can you really write? If you can, have faith that talent will out – people always want to be inspired and editors of any kind are always looking for great writers.

– Get the basics right – grammar, spelling, structuring a story – then arm yourself with tangible skills – find an evening/weekend class, take a journalism diploma, etc.

– Get lots of experience – develop your style by writing regularly in your spare time, look for an internship, pitch things to local papers, free magazines, collaborative blogs etc. to develop your portfolio.

– Find a niche – for Caroline this was writing about spas, well-being retreats and healthy holidays. By finding a niche you can stand out from the crowd and people will eventually seek out your knowledge.

– Be authentic – Caroline still has a core belief that retreats can truly help a person get the most out of their life – esp today, when everyone seems so stressed out – which helps her write with integrity. Find something you are passionate about and are good at, deliver it with integrity and people will notice.

– Take time to find the kind of writing you want to do – Caroline likes to write slow, thoughtful reviews or personal experience pieces rather than newsy stories. What would you like to write?

– Remember people are opportunities – You need to go to parties. Talk to people. Make lots of contacts. Most of the commissions Caroline has got are by her being proactive – so build and maintain authentic relationships wherever you can. (Adele from Esc had a great bit of advice here too – rather than seeking out advice or help from others, think about what you can do for them. If you help someone in some way they are far more likely to return the favour).

Summary of responses to specific questions:

Q: Journalism sounds like a tough industry to get into, is this a fair assessment?

A: It is getting harder! There are a diminishing number of magazines and newspapers around for a writer to write for and to get their name known, says Caroline. It’s also harder to get a book publisher, and people still want you to write for free online a lot of the time, and it’s easy to get lost online too – there are far, far too many blogs and online magazines. You need to find ways of making yourself stand out. Be picky. Take your time. Learn your craft. Do something different.

Q: How have you maintained financial security whilst being a freelance journalist?

A: Ultimately this industry is portfolio-based, so you’ll want to have your fingers in lots of (related) pies – so as well as writing about spas, retreats and healthy holidays for papers, magazines and websites, Caroline also works as a spa copywriter (writing press releases and web copy for spas and retreats) and a retreat consultant (helping people set up or improve spas or retreats). Her website www.queenofretreats.com helps ‘sell’ each of these parts of her work as well as offering a fantastic array of in-depth, honest reviews of spas, retreats and healthy holidays to help readers can find something appropriate to their life situation.

Q: How do you get copy writing work?

A: You need to be able to write, spell, check grammar, proof read and create professional copy to order and deliver work on time. Get your first client – ask around and see if anyone you know needs help with their web copy, for example. Build a portfolio. Get good testimonials. Then you can start to ‘sell’ your writing – peopleperhour.com works for some people – but for Caroline, word of mouth is everything.

Q: Should you keep your job?

A: The short answer is yes. Write and learn the skills needed in the evenings/weekends until you have built up the confidence/portfolio to attempt your escape and give it the best chance of success. A part time job is always good in the beginning!

Q: Any hints/tips on submitting/pitching for work?

A: Buy the publication you want to write for, have a good look at it and only pitch something you think is right for those readers. Be professional. Call the organisation to ensure you get the correct person to send your pitch to. Email them and make the pitch pithy but short. In Caroline’s experience, if they’re interested they’ll get back within a week. If you don’t hear, chase them once only, one week later. Then leave it – life’s too short to pursue unless your pitch is sensationally amazing. If it is – call them once. Then leave it. Never take being ignored personally – editors are stressed out a lot of the time.

Q: What can an aspiring travel writer do in the next month?

A: Be honest with yourself about what it is you want to achieve and why. Start a writing course. Write as often as you can. Look out for internships, writing circles and mentors to look over your work. Start building genuine relationships with people who can help you and see if you can help them in some way first.

Q: You run a successful website, www.queenofretreats.com. What are the best ways of growing the readership of a site?

A: Mainly, write for others so you can get inbound links – as well as her regular journalism, Caroline writes spa round ups for everyone from the Guardian to Positive News, and regular columns online for The Huffington Post, Healthista.com and Welldoing.org, all to help spread the word about www.queenofretreats.com. Newsletters can help too.

Q: You’ve been writing about spas, retreats and healthy holidays since the late 1990s. What are your favourite spas?

A: It depends on how she’s feeling and the size of her bank balance at the time, says Caroline. She likes Gaia House in Devon for an affordable meditation retreat. Kamalaya in Thailand for a lush holistic break. A retreat can mean anything you need it to – she’d just spent a weekend in St Mawes in Cornwall staying at a self catering retreat where she had daily treatments with a fantastic local therapist. In the UK she tends to avoid spas in hotels unless they’re exceptional and/or pampering (She likes Limewood in Hampshire and The Scarlet in Cornwall) – she’s not keen on massive destination spas as she thinks they’re trying to do too many things and are too commercial. She prefers smaller places that can treat everyone as an individual.

Q: What makes a great retreat?

A: 1. The people. You need first class, experienced teachers, welcoming hosts and brilliant overall management. Not everyone gets it right. 2. A beautiful setting which meets the needs of your guests and matches the claims made in your marketing. 3. Organisation. Leave no detail unaddressed!

Resources:

Caroline Sylger Jones:

http://queenofretreats.com/

https://twitter.com/QueenofRetreats

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Queen-of-Retreats

Jobs in journalism:

http://www.gorkanajobs.co.uk/

http://www.journalism.co.uk

http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/

http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/

Writing courses:

http://www.citylit.ac.uk/

https://generalassemb.ly/

http://www.faberacademy.co.uk/

http://www.curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/

Other resources for travel & travel blogging:

http://school.escapethecity.org/essays/can-become-paid-travel-writer/ – Great essay by Mark Johanson is an American travel writer and the former travel editor at International Business Times.

http://www.meetup.com/TravelMassive/ – A massive meet up for travellers in London. The next event is 26th June 2014 at Guanabara, I will be there, come and join us!

Note: a little bit of esc the city magic: whilst browsing the esc community boards I spotted the following post:

http://www.escapethecity.org/users/7638

I responded and got speaking to Prash. Prash is setting up a fantastic project, where travel bloggers will have a collaborative platform to share great travel experiences. He will also be attending the meet up mentioned above. In the meantime feel free to get in touch with Prash directly or me, check out the website and fill in his survey. The site will be going live soon and I can’t wait to both write for and read the posts on localoids to help me on my adventure!

http://localoids.com/

@localoids

Some great blogs to inspire:

http://www.nomadicmatt.com/

http://www.travmonkey.com/

http://chrisguillebeau.com/

http://www.giveliveexplore.com/ (Matt from Esc’s site!)

Me:

@rimapatel7

12 Angry Men, Garrick Theatre

Events, London, Theatre

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‘The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same’ – Steve Maraboli

I should go to the theatre more. I had an outing to see Twelve Angry Men a few weeks ago and it was bloody brilliant!

As one of my favourite films it was a complete no brainer to go see it on stage whilst it was in London. A simple but compelling drama of a jury of 12’s deliberation of a 16 year old’s guilt or innocence in a murder case, it is a classic tale of justice, questioning assumptions and addressing your own prejudices.

I always thought that the story would lend itself perfectly to the stage and it really came alive. One thing I loved in particular was the stage, I didn’t notice at first, but the entire central table was on a revolving section, so you could see all the characters from every angle through out the production. The wealth of experience on stage was great to witness.

The run has come to an end in London, however, watch the film for sure and keep a look out for other productions. I’d certainly go again given the opportunity.

@rimapatel7

Ruby Wax on Mental Health

Books, Events, General ramblings, London, People

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‘A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?’ – Albert Einstein
(runner up for quote for this post- ‘One is very crazy when in love’- Sigmund Freud, I’m not sure that there has ever been a bigger understatement made in the history of mankind)
Mental health and well-being is a subject extremely close to my heart. I have seen the devastation and debilitation that mental illnesses and also less severe mental stress/pressure can have on an individual and their lives. From acute stress and anxiety on a day to day basis in the workplace to depression, eating disorders and mood disorders in my circle of dear friends, to the full spectrum in my volunteering with the charity The Samaritans.
I had the privilege of attending a panel discussion held by my workplace, at which the fabulous Ruby Wax was a guest panelist. She spoke honestly and fiercely to a room of eager listeners about her experience and her work into understanding mental illness. I hope that there was plenty of food for thought for the decision makers in the room, because there is a vast divide between the ideal working environment which is truly inclusive and supportive of all and the corporate machine that is in place currently. Change is hard, but I hope that the event really inspired the leaders to lead in this area, where so many big companies are woefully behind.
I’m keen not to waffle on as I am no expert here. However, I want to raise awareness and understanding so here are a couple of things that I think are key and then some places I know where you can get further information for yourself and for others you are worried about:
1. Mental illness is not the same as general day-to-day stress. Of course this is still not great and we should all endeavor to minimise this, but there are medically diagnosable mental health issues which cannot be treated without the help and support of medical professionals
2. Illnesses that fall under mental illnesses: Anxiety disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, impulse and control disorders, personality disorders, adjustment disorders, dissociative disorders.. the list goes on.
3. 1 in 4 people will suffer with some form of mental health disorder in the course of a year
4. The economic cost of mental illnesses is estimated to be £62 billion each year
5. When you have a illness of any other region of your body aside from your brain, it is your brain that identifies a problem and tries to respond. When your brain is suffering from some form of illness it is unable to identify this, there is no brain to monitor the brain! Which is why suffers may not recognise the symptoms for long period of time or not thing there is anything wrong with them
6. To treat a mental health condition, a professional should be consulted, it is virtually impossible to treat otherwise
Please find support in the following places:
Mind:
@MindCharity
Samaritans:
Mental Health Foundation:
Ruby Wax:
@Rubywax
Ruby Wax- Sane New World (seperate review on this fantastic book to come!)

Punchdrunk- The Drowned Man, a hollywood fable

Events, London, Poetry, Theatre

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‘I am gone quite mad with the knowledge of accepting the overwhelming number of things I can never know, places I can never go, and people I can never be.’- Sylvia Plath

I suffer from a severe case of FOMO generally in life. The  experience of The Drowned Man left me feeling desperate to see the little details I missed… The scenes for which I was else where, the notes in the diaries, the trinkets, the books, letters, I wanted to see it all, there wasn’t enough time! My experience must have been a paltry fraction of all the possible realities I could have been immersed in. It was a true lesson in making the most of the moment you are in, finding your own path, creating your own story. Who do you follow, do you go this way or the other, should I open this door, can you move this prop from here to there? For me it hinted at the realisation that there are no rules. In life, in art. Scary, liberating too. Finding yourself alone in the room full of wigs, or the vast space filled only with a intimatingly large table and 2 chairs…  you could have done literally anything, complete freedom and yet paradoxically the freedom initially left me feeling paralyzed with fear about what to do!

Later on I relaxed and allowed myself to not over think it, to push what I thought were the spectators boundaries and it all became very fun and quite funny! Perching behind the bar, I had the best view of some mesmerising full cast numbers, venturing ‘back stage’ I got to see a glimpse of one of actors strip down to his birthday suit and some of the actors phase out of character. Occasionally I stopped and just watched other people, what they felt was and wasn’t appropriate… a great place to people watch… where people think they aren’t being watched. Not creepy at all! I even got a little dance with one of the actors. Exhilarating when you push your own judgements of what can and can’t be done.

The actual production was masterfully crafted. The sets, props, the maze that was temple studios, the choreography. It is all in the detail, and not a detail was left unaddressed.

It is in it’s last couple of weeks, so I’d get yourself there if you can. If you want to feel your heart race, if you want to face the unknown directly in the face, if you want to push the boundaries of reality, go. I dare you.

If you don’t already have it I would keep an eye on the yplan app, that is where I got my tickets and they were cheaper than directly bought:

http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-drowned-man-a-hollywood-fable

http://yplanapp.com/

http://punchdrunk.com/