Categories
Life Musings

Happy Rain Day!

Did you know it is Rain day today? You might do if you’re in the US. Or, especially if you’re in the UK, you might think I’m stating the bleeding obvious. Considering that many days here are rainy days!

At times it feels like the amount of rainfall we get is ridiculous – whether it’s in Scotland or in Manchester. Addiction to water must be a huge epidemic within the universe of plants.

Personally I have a mixed relationship with rain. One half hates it: the unpredictability and disruption it causes and in some cases how it can screw up your mood. Not to mention "getting soaked like a soggy kitty".

On the other hand, listening to the rain from indoors, is strangely soothing. There’s something nice about droplets of water in the air falling. Almost like a call to relax but not over any loudspeakers.

Unsurprisingly it’s not celebrated here in the UK. Otherwise it would be the longest celebration of something ever.

In the US however, where it is less rainy, it is a special day. So much so there’s even a Rain Day festival in Waynesburgh, Pennsylvania. All started with local pharmacist William Allison being told by a local farmer in 1874 it always rained on his birthday.

The street festival that happens today began in 1979 and in the last 145 years – it has rained for 115 of them.

Back in the UK, at least we can take comfort of how rain is a powerful destresser and, according to one study, a concentration enhancer.

We should see it as a positive. Difficult since the British mentality is predominantly negative, but you have to start somewhere.

Categories
Musings Sport

What can Formula 1 and Formula E learn from each other?

Ever since its dawn in 1950, Formula One is the pinnacle motor racing series with petrolheads and casual observers alike.

Equally, I reckon since the 1990s and especially during Michael Schumacher’s well-deserved dominance between 2000 and 2004, it developed the stigma of "oh it’s just cars going around in circles".

Partly thanks to the sophisticated aerodynamics that make overtaking tricky, partly the expensive and complex hybrid engines, partly the budget inequality between the big three teams – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – and the other less funded teams such as Racing Point and Haas.

Formula E on the other hand is a new kid on-the-block. Aiming to bring motor racing, the potential of electrical automotive technology and a concern for the environment together.

It’s now a serious rival to F1 with many major car manufacturers ranging from Audi, BMW, Citroen via their DS Automobiles brand, Nissan and Jaguar taking part on street circuits in five continents including Saudi Arabia, Mexico City, New York and London.

Recently, Formula E’s chairman and CEO Alejandro Agag talked to the press before F1’s Austrian Grand Prix claiming that much of F1’s issues stem from the teams’ self-interest and little regard for the sport as a whole.

Watching Formula E in comparison to F1 is like watching a demo of a 16K connected holographic TV. So ahead of its time with cutting edge onscreen graphics, heavy emphasis on fan interaction both at the circuit and on social media.

Especially with fanboost where people can vote for their favourite driver and whoever gets the most votes can use the extra burst of electrical power lasting a few seconds to gain an advantage or overtake.

The close racing is another plus. The finish to the Mexico City ePrix in February was the most incredible finish I ever seen to a motor race and I’ve been following motorsport for more than 20 years.

Compare this to F1 and aside from branding changes, it looks like not much has changed in the last 10+ years. It’s the motor racing equivalent of an ageing uncle reluctant to accept the original iPod is no longer hip and trendy.

However in fairness, since Liberty Media took the reins in January 2018, the sport has been catching up with greater social media engagement, wider fan participation, richer multimedia content in terms of video and the Beyond The Grid podcast (a personal favourite of mine).

Plus, a major regulation overhaul is due for 2021 with the aim of shrinking the budget inequality via a budget cap of $175 million. Ferrari and Mercedes currently spend around $410 million and $400 million respectively contrasting with Racing Point who have a $120 million budget.

This also extends to introducing equality for F1 revenue and prize money distribution. Currently it’s heavily tilted towards the big three.

The cost of Formula E cars by comparison is near 1 million Euros. However it should be clearly stated Formula E is a single-make series unlike F1, since the teams use the same power unit produced by McLaren.

So perhaps not a fair like-for-like comparison in simplistic terms.

Another advantage Formula E has over F1 is recognising the remaining relevance of free-to-air coverage. In many territories F1 is now exclusively behind paywalls of subscription channels and in the UK it could become another one from 2020 if Channel 4 doesn’t renew their contract.

Formula E is shown on the BBC in the UK and worldwide via YouTube live. I believe free-to-air is still important to entice new followers and inspire those pondering a career in motorsport.

The jury is still out whether or not all of these changes will make a difference.

I would agree with Agag to an extent that the teams shouldn’t have an overarching say on the sport’s direction. Democracy within any business is a great thing providing it is balanced with strong leadership and a clear vision.

I love both of them personally as a lifelong motorsport fan but I can see challenges in both. F1 with its historical issues as well as deciding what it should be in the future; Formula E with it’s long-term sustainability concerns after shedding $140 million in losses over four years.

Who takes the chequered flag in the race to be the dominant motorsport? The race isn’t over yet.

Categories
Life Musings

Getting back into something and going for it

I’ve changed a lot as a person over the years. I’m more confident, cooler-headed, organised, disciplined and resilient in tough times, with a more positive outlook on life.

All of which I’m proud of. However what I’m not proud of is, due to various circumstances and wrong choices, letting some of my bigger interests drift.

This in turn has created levels of self-doubt and questioning who I really was. Despite putting on a brave, "shut up and get on with it" face among family and friends.

Letting my serious hobbies (presenting, voiceovers, podcasting and blogging) [although I still aim to turn into serious careers eventually] drift apart, felt like a part of my soul was dying.

Not to mention real-life got in the way and once you have an independent life (amazing as it is) then you have to survive as well as live.

Of course, I have discovered many new hobbies and interests too in recent years. So it isn’t quite the "end of a happy life" post as you may think.

In recent months, rediscovering blogging and podcasting has felt like getting the good parts of the old Matthew back.

The most difficult step came recently while preparing July content for this blog.

Why?

I guess one flaw – of many – I have is being a perfectionist. Obsessed with creating that perfect blog post and even a slight flaw can transform my view of it from being fantastic to s***.

Which then bred the "waiting for the right moment" routine.

Classic case study of perfectionist procrastination.

Procrastination is the bogeyman of productivity and for someone who aspires to be a productive person it’s a source of inner frustration.

Interestingly, according to many articles and research on the subject, procrastination isn’t defined as laziness nor is it exclusively about perfectionism or being overwhelmed.

It can stem from overconfidence, fear of being successful, failing to convert from a dreamer to a doer; as well as having – what I like to call – the magpie effect. Easily distracted by literal and metaphorical shiny things.

Thankfully it can be tackled and there are many solutions out there which merit their own blog post.

For me, I think how I partly curbed it was reaching the "f*** it" stage and like switching on a diesel generator, I’m gravitating towards changing for the better.

Besides having a hobby, according to experts, is good for the mind, career and your character.

It’s still work in progress. It will take time. No doubt there’ll be hurdles along the way.

But at least it’s a start.

Categories
Current Affairs Musings

Oyez oyez oyez! Calling the world’s town criers

Did you know today is International Town Criers Day?

If you’re in Chester or London then a town crier has probably already proclaimed that. Otherwise, like me, you’re probably intrigued and befuddled.

"Town criers? They still exist?" you ask.

Yes they do, but not as prevalent as centuries ago. In fact, the only regular Town Crier in the entire world* can be found in Chester [Tuesday to Saturday at midday in the town square].

I only found out about this special day by conducting a google search while searching for July blog post ideas. Yes I am that creatively bankrupt.

Self-deprecation aside it’s fascinating such a day exists. Before social media there was TV news; before TV news there was radio news and newsreels; before radio news and newsreels there was newspapers; and (you’ll be glad to hear this) before newspapers there were town criers.

Town criers – also known as bellmen – would stand in the city square and begin their cries with "Oyez oyez oyez" [pronounced as "oh yay"] which means "Hear ye" in Ye Olde English. Then they would launch into their cry with important announcements such as bylaws, the latest news and any other important information.

They then finished their cry with "God save the King/Queen" depending whoever was on the throne at the time, before attaching their message to the door post of the local inn. Hence the reason why newspapers are commonly referred to as "the post".

This was a very important duty considering much of the population was illiterate during medieval England.

Alongside their news presenting duties they were also tasked with peacekeeping, assisted in any hangings and dampened any fires before the curfew.

They were also paid by the cry – between 2d and 4d per cry. An early example of freelance public speaking there.

Attacking a town crier was viewed as a treasonous act – especially useful when any tax hikes or unwelcomed laws were announced.

Town criers were also common in other countries such as India, much of Europe and Canada. Their existence shrank once newspapers became common and as literacy rates rocketed.

Here endth the quick history lesson.

Personally I think it’s great that Chester still has its own town crier. Learning about historic traditions opens our eyes to how far we have progressed as a society.

It also adds a certain charm to a city. For Chester – a lovely, classically designed English city that I visited when I lived in Manchester – it adds to the medieval architecture and quintessentially English vibe.

Comparing town criers to how we breathe and consume information nowadays, I sometimes wonder where we went right and where we went wrong, especially in these interesting times.

* At a minimum, the United Kingdom

Categories
Life Musings

Welcome to part 2 of 2019. Remember those New Year resolutions?

Do you remember your New Year’s resolutions?

"What?"

New Year resolutions. You know, the promises you make to become a better person usually on New Year’s Eve? Like with getting fit by going to the gym, to stop smoking or even to give up drink for a few months.

Ok. How are you doing with that? Are you keeping those resolutions? If yes, then that’s great and I’ll see you in next week’s post. If no, then all I can say is…

Congratulations…your resolution is halfway to becoming a complete failure.

Ok, that’s a little harsh but logically speaking it’s true. Bear with me for a minute.

When you speak about that resolution, do you just say "I want" or do you say "I want … by the end of 2019"? If it’s just "I want…" then that, along with lack of motivation, not measuring progress and perhaps being overwhelmed are common reasons for your resolutions failing dramatically like my chat-up lines.

However don’t despair, you’re not the only one who struggles to keep them. Only 20% of people who make them are successful in the US according to US News; and in a YouGov survey, 22% who make them in the UK also succeed.

Most fail by mid-February where the passion fizzles out and old habits rise again.

Perhaps that’s why in the UK, the majority of those who make new year’s resolutions are 18-24 year olds.

"So how do I become part of that exclusive 20/22 club?""

Perhaps you could start in February? "Come on Matthew you’re losing your marbles now! You’re five months out of date!"

No no no. Hear me out.

January is a depressing month and frankly not a real beginning to the year. You come out of the festivities wondering where it’s gone. When you reach February, Christmas and New Year are long gone.

Don’t take my word for it, even NBC’s Craig Melvin starts his New Year’s resolutions in February. A way to "ease into them" as he puts it.

Anyway, enough of talking about January and February, we’re 5/6 months past that (or 6 to 7 months to go depending how you view it). There’s still time to turn it around.

Break that new year resolution into chunks like cutting that chocolate cake into smaller pieces. Tweak your new year resolution towards being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-limited. Or make them SMART – a popular goal-setting tool, especially in business. I never heard the end of it when I studied business management.

"How do I make my goals more likely to be achieved?" Do these and another important thing…call them "yearly goals" rather than new year resolutions. You’re more likely to treat them as an all-year aim than a resolution where you’re likely to forget by the end of the first quarter.

Rome wasn’t built in a day; Fernando Alonso didn’t win his second Le Mans 24 Hour race recently by acing it in the first three hours.

So get up, tweak that resolution (or goal) and go for it! You never know, by New Year’s Eve you’ll have pulled off a huge turnaround worthy of a Hollywood movie.

Nothing is impossible…only you make it impossible!