Are you a creative, imaginative adventurer that every day rides the rollercoaster that is life?
I’ve had my fair share of trials* and tribulations in my years, yet I never, ever give up. Our time in this world is short, and therefore every moment is precious.
As a fiction author, entrepreneur, business consultant and positive psychology practitioner, I use my character strengths to shape my life in the way my childhood imagination believed it could be.
This website is my open journal of those ups-and-downs, my 62/62 Life is Short Challenge (bucket list – scroll down for details) along with advice for a life of your creation.
(* quite literally a legal trial)
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I must have heard the saying ‘surround yourself with high vibe people if you want to move forward’ so many times in the past,
When I set myself Challenge 7 – helping a Girlguiding group to get their badges – I had intended to volunteer a few hours
I wasn’t sure if Challenge 48 would ever happen unless perhaps I won the lottery, but I guess if you write a goal down,
Life is Short Challenge
Summary of Life is Short Challenge
Over the 62 months, I'm aiming to raise directly, or indirectly, £1million (or currency equivalent) for various good causes. That's a huge £16,129 per month, or on average about £537 per day.
I've mentioned indirectly, as some activities will be about raising awareness of existing fundraising or using hashtags in Mum's memory to encourage people to sponsor someone or make a donation. All too often we get emails or social media posts from friends who are undertaking challenges and need sponsorship, and we think 'yep, I'll go online and sponsor them when I get home/get paid/whatever', so encouraging people to do this on certain dates will be a prompt.
Several of the 62 challenges also involve me making a personal donation, including a percentage of profits from my publishing company, or donating my time to help with grant applications. In the past, my job roles have included writing successful grant bids for six-figure sums for capital projects, which will come in useful for a couple of the challenges that I've included.
There will be different charities helped throughout the 62 months, and I'll be regularly posting updates of progress against the target here on this blog and also on social media.
While the circumstances of my mother’s death have never really been determined, I was astounded to discover last year that accidental road deaths aren't covered by designated funds such as Victims of Crime or Criminal Injuries Compensation. No amount of money can bring a loved one back and compensate for the loss, but having to find the money yourself to pay for counselling support in times of extreme trauma doesn't help those left behind who are struggling to deal with the aftermath.
Many counselling services are available to help with loss through terminal illness, but the volunteers are not trained to help with the emotions that seem to arise when, in your mind, a loved one has been taken by the inattention of another human behind the wheel - or even by the loved one themselves if they were responsible. As you move through the stages of grief, it's hard not to get stuck on the 'angry' stage in the aftermath of a traumatic crime.
Organisations such as RoadPeace are actively trying to find ways to raise awareness of the impact on victims, and that is why some of the fundraising activities I am doing are to support them.
The full title of this challenge is to Achieve at least 1000 re-tweets, and/or hashtags, to promote a fundraising day on my Mum's birthday. I've called this 'Virtual Cocktails for Diane'.
Challenge 3 was chronically the first challenge I attempted, as I launched my Life is Short Challenge on 6 April 2016, two days before the first of my mother’s birthdays after her death. I fell short of the 1000 hashtags of my #virtualcocktails campaign (where you donated the cost of a cocktail to a charity of your choice and posted with the hashtag). I intend to re-establish this once a year on a Friday in April.
When I first started my challenges, I’d just lived through my first Mother's Day in the UK without my Mum. The run-up to the day was unbearable for me, and far worse than Christmas, for there was a constant unwelcome stream of reminders right there on my computer screen and phone. I subscribe to a lot of email newsletters, especially from retailers. For more than two weeks, nearly every email in my inbox had the subject lines of 'Have you forgotten your Mum?' or 'It's not too late to get something for Mum'.
Heavy in grief, especially after a sudden tragic death, I very nearly replied to an awful lot of poor marketing executives with 'my mother's dead, **** off with your stupid reminders'. If ever there has been a time that I mass unsubscribed from email marketing, it was during those two weeks. Yet email marketing systems, especially the ones used by big retailers, have great segmentation tools for customising content if marketing teams take the time to set them up correctly. Ever been asked to 'Tell Us About You' and then asked to tick skin colour or your interest, or your birthday for an exclusive offer? Well, that's segmentation in action.
Every single person in the world will experience grief at some point in their life, and the loss of a parent is something most adults will face. So wouldn't it be great if you could tick a box to say 'no mother's day (or father's day) reminders thank you very much? Come to think of it that could also extend to Valentine's Day! Email marketing is one of the most intrusive methods of communication for sales, and subject lines like 'Have you forgotten Mum' are not at all well-conceived. So come on marketing people - get the ball rolling on proper segmentation and build better relationships through email - otherwise it's just lazy use of the tools that email marketing software companies are providing to you all in the product you've bought.
I once slept in my car in a Tesco carpark. In that same week, I also slept in a borrowed tent on a YHA camping ground. Just over a year later, I was back to looking for a safe place to stay until dawn when my accommodation fell through in the new city I'd moved to on the other side of the world. Homelessness can strike so many, and for so many different reasons. Could I have stayed with a friend? Quite possibly; but that meant swallowing my pride and admitting how I'd ended up in that situation through bad choices.
It saddens me as I walk past the dozens of people I see every day in London sleeping rough. Giving a few pounds to every one of them isn't feasible, and only helps short-term. Plus how do you pick a person to give a few coins to, when you know you can't help everyone in the doorways of that street? I have been helping some individuals who I have got to know (those outside my supermarket, lunch venue or station). I also buy the Big Issue every week.
That week that I was homeless, I discovered that there were very few options for help if you were single without children. Resources are stretched, and priority goes to families or the elderly. Young, single people are the most disadvantaged, as are middle-aged men, and although my time without a roof was short, I did have the unfortunate task of trying to prepare for a job interview after a night camping in a tent. How do you get a new start when you are three steps behind, to begin with? Donating my time to help at a place to give people a head-start in a new future is something that I hope will make a small difference - much more than the donation of a few coins for a coffee.
Challenge achieved in 2016!
In 2015, the same year my mother was killed, hundreds of thousands of people's lives in Nepal were impacted by the earthquake. Schools were destroyed, and so I created Challenge 6 to rebuild a school through sponsorship of my Challenge 38 (Everest Base Camp trek).
I raised enough money to donate to Nepal Youth Foundation who were rebuilding a school near Kathmandu. I was able to visit in October 2016 and you can read more here.
Challenge achieved in 2017!
I was only a Girl Guide for a year in the late eighties. My best friend had moved away, and my parents thought it would be a way to make new friends. I achieved my first badge with the help of a girl called Cecily, who was a year older than me. One week later, at the age of 11, she died of an asthma attack. I never returned to the group. Yet, even in that short time, I learned some skills for life. I can start a campfire, and I know how to make damper to eat. More importantly, I learned the motto 'be prepared'.
When I set this Challenge in early 2016, I’d intended to volunteer to a local group to help on a specific badge that I had skills in, however, with a shortage of Leaders and a long waitlist to join the Guides division (10-14 years old) after leaving Brownies in my area, I helped form a local unit and have lead 1st Richmond Guides since January 2017. Our girls have been awarded several badges since, and in 2020, they will also receive their first Theme Awards and possibly even Bronze Award.
From about age 8-12, I wanted to be a teacher (I’d upgraded to Headteacher/Principal by age 12). I never pursued it, as I doubt I could do it every day, but I would still love to teach English to young children abroad, and perhaps do a special writing project with them.
As I've been to Indonesia twice as a child to stay with a Timorese family, this would be my first teaching challenge destination, as I still remember the language. I’d also like to teach in South America and Africa. Originally, I had three challenges of the 62 (one for Teaching in Asia, one for South America and the other for Africa), however, in the 2020 reboot, I’ve combined these into one challenge.