Business Trip to Birmingham

I arrive at the bus station an hour and ten minutes early; urged out the door of the flat by that overly proactive tendency to move. I figured I would sit and write somewhere before my journey – a 9 hour coach trip to Birmingham – to get my thoughts straight. I passed my usual Starbucks just as it closed, so continued on to Costa.

I stopped there long enough to catch another episode of the Life Design Diaries podcast I’d just stumbled across, and found myself reflecting on my own tendency to strive – which was discussed on the show. That urge to push. To never be satisfied (Hamilton fans, I appreciate you). It’s a tendency I have a little resistance to if I’m totally honest, yet one I act on impulsively.

It keeps me generating ideas, trying things, and exploring new directions. The flipside of that is that it grinds against my over-analysing and often crippling self-reflecting of the path I’m on.

A nice term I came across on the podcast was prototype thinking: keeping in mind that your project in its current form isn’t the end result. You’re prototyping, experimenting through action, learning and adapting as you go. This is something that I struggle with. Like, a lot.

It’s something that held me back from taking action on my blog for a long, long time; I occasionally struggle with it still. I stall myself because the blog doesn’t look exactly the way I’d like, or the categories don’t seem to work very well, and I can’t settle on a style for my feature images. Yet all these things are dynamic and are guaranteed to change over time. Blogs evolve and I can tweak as I go, so I tell myself to just accept that and let it be as it is now (in its slightly awkward teen phase).

It’s often that idea of just wanting the finished version now that makes me judge the point I’m actually at. This extends way beyond blogging, too. My business overall, and even my lifestyle: I feel myself striving to get it to the point I want it rather than accepting and being grateful for its currents stage. The particularly annoying thing is that having that focus on the end-goal – and that you aren’t there yet – is almost guaranteed to hold you back from getting there at all, or at least any time soon. Instead, knowing your goal and appreciating both this hypothetical end-point and your current position is way more likely to foster am attitude that leads to action rather than annoyance.

I wander further and have ended up at a little café next to the bus station. I sit down to catch the tail-end of a conversation that a family are having – the psychological effects of modern technology and how it’s impacting us millennials. The younger girl vehemently defends herself, recounting her early days of Nokia use where all a phone really did was let you play snake and text your two friends that you see at school anyway.

I felt almost comical walking in at that time. Sitting down I took off my headphones, got out my laptop and put my phone on charge. The guy was going on about how he knew more about these issues than the people facing them – which I don’t doubt could be the case – but I couldn’t help but snigger to myself. Knowing what he’d probably assume of me, the resident cliché, and knowing that I literally have sleepless nights thinking about these issues.

The role technology plays in our life fascinates me, and of course being a blogger and digital marketer it’s a big part of my life. The very reason I was sitting waiting on that bus was to get to me Birmingham to meet some of the team of digital marketers I’m working alongside (in case you missed it, there was a scene cut and it’s been a couple of days since I started writing this post).

I arrived in Birmingham at 6:30am after a 9 hour coach ride (luckily I had the podcast to keep me company, and caught the occasional nap). From Brunel Street I made my way along the canal to where I would be staying that night, a nice little flat I found on Airbnb. It was right by a reservoir in what seemed like a pretty nice part of town.

I got a couple hours of actual sleep, and made my way to the Canal House where a few of the team were meeting for lunch before the main event of the day. It was funny, walking in to the place and seeing the real faces behind the profile pictures – people I’d been talking to for a month or so already. I already felt like I knew them. I suppose I did know them, despite never having met face-to-face. The connections we make, whether online or off, are just that – connections. Friendships. Relationships. You come to understand a person, and your geographical relation to each other makes little difference.

One thing that came up during our discussions was my blog. A few of the team read it, so knew a little more about me than I’d anticipated. Yet, what did I expect? I put a lot of myself out there – out here – and I know it’s there for people to read, so why am I always surprised when people do?

It really adds to that sense of familiarity too, when someone I meet has read my writing. We immediately have a talking point for one thing, and it cuts through a lot of small-talk and social niceties if they know how I think, what I believe in, and can just talk to the real me. I’m trying to be more the ‘real me’ regardless of who I’m talking to or where I am, yet it’s not always easy.

What is the ‘real you’ anyway? I had this conversation, quite unexpectedly, last night. In between business chat and drinks, I got in to a pretty deep conversation with someone over the bigger picture of working online and life in general. We chatted ethics, self-awareness, family, identity, and the bigger visions we have for life.

I often feel like being the introspective, self-aware type that I am, I pull myself apart to better understand what’s going on beneath the surface. Yet, what does that leave? If you take apart a machine, you’re left with a mass of wires, nuts and bolts – none of that is the machine, and while you might get an understanding of how the thing worked, you have to put it together for that to happen again.

In many ways I am rebuilding myself. I’m changing the way I think and act, assessing my beliefs and attitudes moment-to-moment. I’m designing the life I want to live, but that’s nothing new. We’re all the authors of our own story, the architects of our future: many of us just don’t know it, and so we’re on auto-pilot. We think we’re just watching all this roll by as if life is some passive spectator sport.

So then what do you do when the ball lands at your feet? Do you wait for someone else to pick it up, or nudge it away? Or do you take your shot? Okay, I won’t get carried away with the motivational rhetoric. It’s about time I made a move to the bus station anyway, but first to find the Wi-Fi password and get this published.

4 thoughts on “Business Trip to Birmingham”

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