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Lifelong Learning versus Personal Development

It’s hard to get away from personal development social media and websites these days. Motivational quotes are posted at all hours on facebook and twitter, in the hope that a particular quote will strike a chord with someone somewhere. I have struggled to find myself within this personal development world. I have a written a few personal development blog posts in the past, but I’ve always known that it isn’t for everyone, and some people are actually quite tired of seeing motivational blogs. Again, turn on twitter, facebook or linkedin, and it seems everyone is having a go at it these days.

I have had a strong interest and passion for personal growth since listening to a Jim Rohn CD 6 years ago, and whilst wanting to be part of the field, I have never wanted to come off as another personal development blog. It seems slightly modest to suggest one has all the answers, and to give people instructions what to do. I know I have come off like that in the past, and have always felt uncomfortable writing like that. However, last week I finally felt like I had found myself, or at least a place I wanted to be.

It happened whilst reading the Wikipedia article on ‘The Great Courses’. For those who don’t know (and I’m sure there are a lot of you), The Great Courses are a company that produce lecture series, from the top lecturers in America. When I last checked their website, they had over 600 courses, on many different subjects. I’ve been listening to their courses in my car for over a year now, and though some are better than others of course, on the whole they are a joy to listen to, and a wonderful learning tool.

So, there I was on The Great Courses Wikipedia page, where it states “Most series are developed for adult lifelong learners”, and in that sentence I discovered a term that I connected with. I’m not a fan of labels, but a lifelong learner is something I felt like I was as soon as I read it. I have an insatiable desire to learn. It has grown stronger as I move through my thirties, which I hope makes up for the lack of desire to learn during my academic years.

Lifelong learning has a different connotation to me than personal development. I won’t be running away from personal development at all, and I fully embrace it, but lifelong learning has a much more open meaning. It hints at a continuing fascination and enthusiasm for the world. It can of course be geared towards a development goal one has, but it does not have to. It can be learning for the pleasure in learning itself. It can be learning because you have a keen interest in a particular subject. For instance, The Great Courses lecture I am currently listening to is ‘The Irish Identity’ by Marc C. Connor. Now whilst I’m enjoying learning about the Irish revival, and especially of the literary titans of W B Yeats, James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw to name a few, I do not expect to personally benefit from this knowledge in any way. However, I am enthralled in learning about this period of Irish history, and it is opening my mind to literary works and figures, I would not have come across without it.

The personal development world on its own will show you how to become more confident, richer, healthier and a better speaker. These are all fine to be pursued but they won’t necessarily help you discover who you really are and what you really love in this world. Lifelong learning can help you with all the things personal development will do for you, but in can also bring you pleasure in learning itself, and help you in any areas that are not easy to display.

Whilst lifelong learning does not have to have a means to an end, I am certain that it will lead to personal growth. And this happens in spite of the fact you are not looking for it. Your world opens up with every new thing you learn. If I come back to the lecture series I am currently listening to ‘The Irish Identity’, just by listening to this series, I have opened up a world where I have discovered J M Synge, Lady Gregory and The Abbey Theatre. And once I read more of the works of these people and places, my world will continue to open up still.

One of my favourite books is ‘How to read a book’ by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. The aim of the book is very clear from the outset; it wants to make you a better reader, but in the modern sense, it is not a personal development book. The reason they want you to become a better reader is not so you can become richer or more successful, but to increase your understanding of the world. To help you learn what the great thinkers of history wrote about a certain subject and how those ideas can help you in this life. After I had listened to the Jim Rohn CD, I bought a copy of How to read a book (which he recommended) and the book sparked an interest in reading classic literature, that has been with me ever since. Not only is it a great joy to read the great books (as well as increasing your understanding of the world), but I genuinely believe that what also comes with this level of understanding, is a greater sense of happiness. As with the lectures I listen to, the great books can open up your world right in front of you.

Of course, lifelong learning does not have to be about great books and lectures. It can be musical instruments, languages, sports, cooking, travel, wildlife and photography. Not only am I invested in learning a foreign language (Polish) but I am also learning the guitar from the very basics, despite having played for over 20 years. Lifelong learning through activities is also a way to expand the horizons of your world, and bring you a profound sense of discovery and joy.

Personal development will always be a part of my own journey, because I would be telling a lie if I said I did not want to create a more financially secure future, with more time to focus on the things I want to focus on. However, I know that where I am in life materially is absolutely fine, and that further material gains, do not necessarily equal a happier future. The world is something I can reveal and create through my love of lifelong learning, and whether intentional or not, it is the best personal development one can invest in.

Believe me, when a man has squandered his true joys,
he’s good as dead, I tell you, a living corpse,
Pile up riches in your house, as much as you like-
live like a king with a huge show of pomp,
but if real delight is missing from the lot,
I wouldn’t give you a wisp of smoke for it,
not compared with joy.”

– From the play Antigone by Sophocles (496-406 BC)


The Photography World – Where have I been?

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but if you listen to contemporary science, it says out of sight, out of mind. Regular exposure to someone or something is what makes us fall and stay in love apparently. Now I don’t know what really happens, but I do know that somethings just won’t leave you alone, no matter how long you’re gone.

Photography hey, I still love it. Yes, it’s been hard to recapture the excitement and enthusiasm I first had for it after a trip to Paris in April 2010, but nearly 7 years on, and I still keep coming back. 

I used to blog and post photographs regularly, but in the end, I just fizzled out. A travel photographer hasn’t got to worry about any of that. They can keep blogging as long as it takes them to run out of places in the world to visit, but for other people, the constant inspiration is hard to consistently find. I live in Newbury, Berkshire, and whilst I have nothing but good things to say about my hometown, it’s not exactly Venice. It has a nice canal though.

I checked my Adobe Lightroom Library and it shows that between September 2015 and September 2016, I took no photos at all. Photography was not really in my mind at all then. I’d become interested in other fields such as personal development, which though I am still interested in, I have learned to pursue along with my passion for photography.

Things started to change for me around the middle of last year, when I began working with a local architect to produce images for their website and marketing materials. I wasn’t sure at first if I wanted to go back down the photography route (and if I could make money doing it) but I have done several shoots for them since, and it has been an absolute blast. I relaunched my KelbyOne membership (photography training site) last November, and my drive and passion for photography has come back intact. All the work I have done since September has been business, but I am keen to rekindle my artistic photography work as well.

I am thrilled from the feedback on my Facebook page (and the new followers) that people still enjoy my photography, and I want to be on here as much as I can, sharing my thoughts and of course, providing lots of photos. I have included a selection of my recent architectural shots here. I hope you like them!

All the best,


Blandys & Xanadu-9Blandys1Blandys & Xanadu-10BlandysHomefront


Coaching is for the Whole Company, not just the Top

Jubilant peopleThere is a little known fact that at Lincoln City Football Club, only the best players receive any coaching prior to the next game. The less regarded players turn up to the games and are expected to pick up from the senior players, what their role for the game is. Now that fact is little known because of course it isn’t true. No football club would be run in such a manner. And yet how many companies can look at themselves today and state that their businesses are not being run like this?

No professional footballer, rugby player, basketball player, golfer etc. is good enough to not require coaching. Andy Murray is currently the number one tennis player in the world and I am sure is a better tennis player than his coach. So why bother with one? It’s simple; because a coach’s expertise is knowing how to evolve a certain player’s game, analyse the performance and provide guidance and motivation along the way. They can see what the player needs to work on, more than the player themselves. At the elite level of sports, the margins of winning and losing are sometimes so small, that the role of a coach in being on the right side of that margin is an important part of success.

Great business leaders have coaches as well. In fact, great success stories in any field, have coaches and mentors. I know of a hugely successful National Geographic photographer who still attends training workshops of another legendary photographer. It all points to the fact that training is necessary for improvement and achievement. It is a genuine mystery to me that there isn’t a habit of coaching all staff at any levels of a business. A company, like a sports team, has the staff (players) on hand to make the company a winning team, or a bunch of underachievers. The success of a company lies it in staff. Doesn’t it make sense to invest heavily in this asset? Or are they not confident in the players on board to invest in coaching?

Of course, a managing director or department head needs to look at their staff and assess if they have the right people for the job in hand. When a new manager comes into a sports team, some players are let go, and some are brought in, but you can’t just begin the coaching process until you have just the right people you want. The coaching process has to be present and consistent throughout an organisation’s life. If it wants the staff to perform, it has to invest in their development, and not just the technical side of how to do the job, but in the emotional side of who they are, and what they need to perform to an excellent standard. I know that not everyone is open to the coaching process, but again, we can’t shut the door on the process, because it won’t work for some people. If the alternative to coaching is to just hope they do better, without identifying their goals, strengths and skills, then good luck to a company that runs with that philosophy.

It’s time to abandon the philosophy in business of only the higher levels of employees receiving business coaching. Yes, some employees will be self-driven and will rise above other employees regardless of training. But we can’t bet the success of the company on chance. How can developing and coaching employees at all levels be a great risk? Fear of loss on the investment I guess. Costs need explaining. Make the company a runaway, profitable success, and the costs tend to not look so important.


The Problem with Giving Advice to your Younger Self

hand press on expert advice button on virtual screen

Oh to be 18 again. I had no idea then, the difference I could make in the world. Man, if I had known then what I know now, wow, I’d be like a millionaire probably. I’d be so popular too! I’d have never wasted all that time mastering the art of evading police capture on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. And what was I thinking going out and having fun every Friday night?!

We can only make great changes if we accept where we are, what we’ve done and plan for the future from there. However, what seems increasingly more common on social media these days, is the phenomenon of asking what advice you would give to your younger self. It was even the number 1 trend on Twitter over the weekend #WhatIWouldTellA15YearOldMe.

Now one of the problems with giving advice to your younger self is obvious. You can’t do it. But even if you could, do you really think it would change anything? No, it wouldn’t. I say that with great confidence. And the reason it wouldn’t is because all the wisdom you have gained in life, was available to you at 15. The problem is it meant nothing to you then, and you probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. I must have heard over 100 times before I was 15 that ‘you get out of life, what you put into it’. I hated it then and only grudgingly accept it now. Of course it is true to a large degree, you will reap what you sow. But it took me another 15 years to really understand and appreciate the sentiment.

You are wiser now because you have had to go through life and learn all those valuable lessons. It does not mean much to be told them. You have to experience them. For instance, people skills aren’t developed by telling someone to listen well, to not be intimidated by others and to talk in terms of their interest. These are all sound techniques to develop people skills, but they have to be learned by experience. The advice was always there, but there was nothing connecting you to it.

So do yourself a favour. If you take all the things you have learnt in life and want to give advice to a version of yourself, give it to yourself TODAY. It is the only version of you that counts. Today you are the 15 year old version of you, the 18 year old, the 21 year old, the 30 year old and so on. You are everything you have been through and learnt. Don’t wish to be able to give advice to your younger self, when the advice you give yourself today is the only advice that can change things for the better. Your 15 years from now self will thank you for it.


Your Secret and Unique Code to a Happier Life

code word as a password to combination puzzle box with rings of letters

“I’m a twenty-digit combination to unlock” – I Keep Mine Hidden by The Smiths

The tears were streaming down their faces. They were hugging each other in the isles. They even needed a few extra moments to compose themselves before leaving. Yes, we all miss a good wedding on a beautiful summers day, but this was a screening of a film called A Monster Calls last Friday night. The emotions of the cinema-goers that day were very real too.

I will refrain from a full critical analysis of the film, but I will say that it did not have the previously mentioned effect on me. The emotion was indeed high; what film about a boy’s struggle to deal with his mother’s terminal illness wouldn’t be? I questioned myself afterwards to conclude if I really do have a heart of stone, but luckily, I think that is a negative. Whilst the film does indeed try to be very philosophical, the key lesson I took from the film was actually whilst watching the audience. And it was simply this; that my truth is not your truth and your truth is not mine.

When we watch a particular movie at the cinema, we bring to it our whole life experience up to that moment. This goes for every single moment of our lives. A strong, emotional film such as A Monster Calls can remind us of certain experiences along our life’s journey and tug on our heartstrings. But of course we all have different experiences and different emotional sensors, and so a film of any kind cannot hit us all in exactly the same way. It takes the right code of emotional impact to unlock all that happiness, pain, sadness and beauty that can cause people to become a teary wreck in their seats.

The code to unlock all our emotional sensors, including happiness, is unique to us, and so we have to find it out ourselves. It is a humbling realisation for someone who wants to coach and train people in personal development. Fortunately, there are many traits and consistencies of success and happiness, but if there was 1 exact code, we could all punch it in and everything would be fine right? Well there isn’t, and that is why my truth is not yours. It is why relying on persuasion is often doomed to fail. What makes me happy, may not make you happy and what I think is true, is not necessarily what you see as true. Our best chance of helping others is if we get to know who they are and realise the struggles and challenges they have had. Only then can we help them unlock their code together.

The only way we can help ourselves become happy or successful is to go through life as inspiration directs. Find that book today you think you need to read. If something is telling you to watch a certain film, go and watch it. Contact that person your brain keeps telling you to. Inspiration, or a ‘gut feeling’, is a mysterious topic, but wherever it comes from, listen to it and let it guide you. Some things will work and some won’t, but along the way you will discover more truth about yourself. The unique truth that can lead you to a better life.