Unlikely inspiration

There’s a podcaster I admire. He has a massively successful podcast with his wife, called Notes in Spanish, helping people to learn Spanish. I first discovered them years ago, when I started learning Spanish at an adult education centre. I was set to take a GSCE in Spanish and needed all the help I could get.

They made learning Spanish so fun, listening to Spanish Marina quietly correcting English Ben. Their focus is very much on going for it, making mistakes, enjoying the process. You got an insight into their life, their views and beliefs, and life in Madrid.

It turns out Ben’s written a book on how to start up an online business. He talks through how they grew a chance experiment – trying out creating a 10 minute podcast for the fun of it – into an online business where they could both quit their ‘real’ jobs and pay off their mortgage super quick.

Dream big

What I loved about reading the book was the way it inspired me. Ben’s quite a straightforward, slightly cynical guy, very down to earth. And in this book he talks about all the business self-help books he read to help him in growing the business, guided by ‘Gurus’ as he puts it.  He talks about the importance of dreaming big, writing down your goals.

How a random goal you had a few years ago, his was (and I paraphrase massively) ‘I want to work fewer hours, spend more time with my family, do my own thing’, can come true.

I love it because I didn’t really expect him to quote Tim Ferriss or Tony Robbins, massive superstars in the entrepreneurial start-up/self-help/let’s maximise productivity world. Yet here he is, with his own particular self-help theory of saying ‘why not?’ whenever faced with doing something you don’t know how to do, but that interests you.

His enthusiasm and passion for finding something you are interested in and enjoy, and putting loads of time and hard work into it, learning loads along the way, is massively inspiring.

It made me think hard about what I want. And reminded me to just get on and do things. Stop procrastinating and thinking of reasons why not and just make stuff happen. As I always say, one tiny step at a time, which is exactly what he and Marina did.

I can’t emphasise enough how important I think it is to find people that inspire you. Read about them, or listen to them speak, or speak to them if that’s possible. There’s a reason they inspire you, there’s a spark there that you relate to. And there’s nothing like that burst of energy you get from someone making you think that maybe you too can dive into something exciting.

If you’d like to book a career change coaching session with me, contact me via LinkedIn or email at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


Looking Forward to Autumn

I do love Autumn. An excuse to start hunkering down. A whole ‘new’ wardrobe of long forgotten jeans, shirts, jumpers and shoes. And slippers! 

Here are a few things I’m looking forward to doing in the coming months.

Reading MORE books – I have Dolly Alderton’s Ghosts and Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club next on my book pile. And audiobook versions of Claudia Winklemen’s Quite, and Caitlin Moran’s More Than a Woman. I feel and hope that they are all going to be warm hugs of books. I just finished Emma Gannon’s Olive which I loved. It was the reading equivalent of cuddling up on the sofa with a cup of tea. So when you actually read it on the sofa with a cup of tea, even better. 

Films – with Halloween coming up, it’s the perfect excuse to find some spooky films to watch. On my list I have Coco, Hocus Pocus and I feel like rewatching Edward Scissorhands. And quite honestly, right now I want comforting old PG classics like Back to the Future, Parenthood, Father of the Bride

Popping into a café on my own, for a read and a coffee. I haven’t done much of this at all this year, with the restrictions in place. But it’s such a joy, to just take a moment, read, people watch, see life passing by. 

TV – I am so excited to watch the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing…and whichever new BBC dramas are on their way. I’m looking forward to watching some Netflix documentaries, the one on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, The Social Dilemma, the new David Attenborough series A Life on Planet Earth

Cooking – I got into some serious cooking during lockdown, opening up unused recipe books and experimenting. This is the perfect time to try out some more new one-pot dishes, hearty, warming, delicious. And maybe the odd cake here and there. Nothing really beats a cup of tea and a bit of cake. 

Lighting candles. I love it when the evenings get darker and I want to create a cosy feel, there’s something magical about candlelight. It feels like a little ritual, lighting my candles and enjoying the glow. 

Walking – at last the season of wrapping up warm and heading out for some leaf kicking! I want to spend as much time in nature as possible, just enjoying being outside. After the seriously restrictive lockdown here in Spain and then hot summer days where you can’t easily walk around, I’m so happy to be able to comfortably walk and walk and walk…

Playing card games – another thing that helped me through lockdown – I’ve realised one of my happy places is playing a game while listening to music at the same time, singing along. Something about that combination makes me so happy. I guess you could call it ‘in the zone’, concentrating, being present. Perfect for when it’s crappy weather outside but you don’t want to watch TV all day.

There we go. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my plans for Autumn and things to look forward to and enjoy. Maybe it’s encouraged you to think of your own. Have fun!

If you’d like to try career change coaching with me, contact me via LinkedIn or at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

True Rest

I read an article today about the lost art of true rest. It struck a chord with me. Because just this week, something’s been nagging at me. Even though I’m a big supporter of not doing too much, taking proper breaks, resting when you need to rather than powering through – I’m starting to feel as though every second of my working day is filled with something.

Yesterday as I went to work, walked around at lunch, walked home, walked to the gym, walked back, prepared a snack, cooked, tidied up, got ready for bed – during all those moments I was listening to podcasts. 

Now, I’m the biggest fan of podcasts. But sometimes as I walk along I feel as though I have a thought trying to push through. On the whole I’m quite good at stopping the podcast to have a think. But I’ve started listening to a new BBC drama series which is seriously spooky and gripping. So I’m racing through the episodes. And it’s bringing with it a sense of urgency. Yesterday I felt that I was pushing down those thoughts trying to come up. And actually it means I’m not giving myself thinking space when I need it. 

In this article the writer talks about a few types of ‘real rest’, and one of them is to walk outside in nature without a device. That struck me, as I pretty much always stick a podcast on when I’m walking outside. There’s just so much to take in and get through…

And I realise that’s not necessarily a good thing…feeling like you need to get through stuff. That list of podcast episodes piling up, all the tv shows coming out that I’m adding to my mental to watch list, and I’m wondering when I’m going to find the time to watch them all. All the books I’m desperate to read and want to ‘get through’.

It’s all mental clutter isn’t it? It’s all gentle pressure, adding to that feeling of always being on, always doing.

I so rarely just walk along quietly, not listening to a podcast. Just taking in the sounds of the park, the birds, the city sounds in the background. 

The other day I was waiting in a little courtyard to meet a friend for a cup of tea. I went out with my tea, and just…sat. I looked up at the sky, and sipped my tea. I felt the coolness of the air and listened to the sounds around me. I let myself think whatever random thoughts I was having. When my friend arrived, she joked that she didn’t want to disturb me, I looked so peaceful. She was right. That’s a proper rest. Not doing anything other than sipping a tea and thinking.

So I’m going to try and do that more often. Sit without any distractions. Step outside without plugging into a podcast from time to time. My aim is to delete all but around three podcast episodes so that I don’t always have this long list to scroll through and make decisions about. I can always add something back in if I really want to listen to it. But I feel the need to ease back on the clutter a bit.

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PS After I finished writing this article I went to leave the flat. I automatically reached to put my headphones in…and took them out again. I told myself that I could at least try starting my walk without a podcast. If I felt desperate I could always plug in. And do you know what, I survived. And it was really nice. The little voice in my head was free to chatter away, with time and space to do so. I arrived at work feeling calm and ready to go. 

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I help people going through a career change. If you’d like to start on your career change journey, book in for some coaching sessions with me. Find me here on LinkedIn , or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

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My biggest lesson from 2020 so far

One of my favourite writers is a lady called Alexandra Franzen. In an recent email she included some writing prompts, one being ‘My biggest lesson from 2020 so far’. It got me thinking. What would I say has been my biggest lesson so far? In a crazy year where we’ve all learned a lot about ourselves, my most important lesson is probably remembering just how important love and connection to my family and friends is. It’s certainly what keeps me going every day. 

But there’s another thing that came to mind, and perhaps what I need to remind myself of the most. Something to help me in these post-lockdown limbo times.

And it’s this: The world keeps turning. Things change, and we move on. 

The last time I was in the UK, it was in February for a wedding and a friend’s birthday. The night before I left to return to Spain, it was cold, dark wintry. 

When lockdown started in March we had rainy, cold spring days, I remember being confined in my flat wearing jumpers and slippers. 

Then suddenly it was summer, and I no longer needed a jumper or extra layer. As we were quarantined for so long here in Spain, we didn’t have the usual exposure to the changing seasons. I have no views of trees out of my windows, only other buildings, right up close. So there was nothing to use as a gauge. Only the way the light fell, the feeling in the air, the intensity of the sun. Just as we were emerging from our flats for the first time, we were into the start of summer. And there was the sudden realisation that so much time had passed. 

Right now most of us are feeling stuck, in limbo. Post-lockdown we’ve been going about our daily lives, but with this constant feeling that things aren’t right, we’re waiting for something to happen, something to change. As I write this now, I’m trying to take on a feeling of acceptance, although it’s hard. Acceptance that things are probably going to stay like this for quite a while, this limbo time. 

And life goes on. We have new routines. My weekly quiz with my parents has become a regular fixture in our lives. If I can’t visit them every couple of months, as I used to, then at least we can ‘spend time together’, in a different way. 

Sporadic calls with my young nieces have taken on a new significance. They are literally growing before my very eyes. Wobbly teeth, new glasses, a haircut. Stretching out, centimetre by centimetre. When I see them on the screen – my desire to hug another human has never been stronger.

I’m sending more cards, being apart from friends is making me feel more nostalgic. I’ve rediscovered the joy of creating a birthday card using old photos, from uni days, school days, holidays, time spent together. 

My birthday, which I’ve just had, felt particularly special this year. I felt so loved. Each text message, video call, card or present sent in the post felt meaningful. The idea that someone had gone to the effort of selecting something for me, buying it, wrapping it. Posting things. It reminded me that these people care for me, they want the best for me, they are thinking of me, they want to bring me a little joy. There is so much kindness. Even though we can’t be together, we are connected in a special way. 

I have a feeling the winter months are going to be particularly hard. Darker, rainier, colder days don’t always inspire much joy and lightness. Feelings of gloominess and isolation may well increase. Even so – all I ever really want to do in these months is light some candles and hibernate and read. There’s never been a more fitting time to do just that. I’m trying to tell myself that it’ll be ok. 

I guess the seasons are a way of reminding us that life is changing and moving forwards, even if we feel stuck and that our lives are on standby. Maybe it feels like things we wanted to do are just impossible right now, like change career, meet a new partner, move house, travel – it all feels incredibly risky or unlikely right now. The economy is not great. Meeting new people, let alone getting close to them feels quite unrealistic. We’re either not allowed to travel or we know that if we do we could go into lockdown or get ill or whatever. 

But, time is moving on, and we can create change in our own lives, even if we’re still mainly within the same four walls we have been since March. We can move with the seasons, adapting our cooking, changing our wardrobes, changing our routines, lighting candles, reading more.

We can still take things step-by-step, exploring career change by reading, listening and talking; online dating; searching for a new home; dreaming of travel. Everything at a slower pace. Knowing that one day we will be out of limbo.

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Career change can still happen during this uncertainty! If you’d like to start on your career change journey, step-by-step, rather than wait until things are ‘normal’ again (so when will that be?) book in for some coaching sessions with me. Find me here on LinkedIn , or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash

Comfort in the now

It feels like we’re living in time suspended. Neither here nor there. On the surface things are quite normal. I get up, go to a coworking space to do my work, say hi to ‘colleagues’, work, come home. After work I go to gym classes, I go to the supermarket. I drink lots of tea. I see my friend Louise on a Wednesday to eat and watch Selling Sunset together. Yes, it is utter rubbish. I watch films at the weekend, go for walks, cook. I’ll meet a friend for a coffee.

But, of course, things are not as they were. I can’t remember the last time I went out for dinner with friends. Or perhaps I can, it was way back in February, with friends visiting from Canada with their kids. We had a typically Spanish late night dinner, around 11pm, sat outside, with the kids falling asleep around us. It seems, and was, a long time ago.

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to queue for a drink at the bar, jostled in amongst others in cheery spirits, talking to randoms. Or maybe I haven’t forgotten. I just miss it. 

I miss hugs from my female friends. And I miss sitting together on the sofa, drinking tea, chatting.

I’ve been to one evening get together with a group of friends, since March. It freaked me out, everyone greeted each other with a hug but me. I felt myself backing away each time someone leaned in a bit too close. 

I’m turning down any invitation to be with more than one or two people or with people I don’t know. I can’t cope with people who don’t understand social distancing. I feel that my introversion is rising. 

My world feels small. 

I haven’t returned to visit my family in the UK, since February. This is the longest I have gone without seeing them – ever. Pre-covid, I would return for a visit every month or two. The longest previous gap was three months. Currently it stands at 7 months, and counting. I’m hoping that a visit at Christmas will be possible, that we’ll find a way to make it happen, safely, but I know I can’t count on it happening. The thought of visiting brings me immense joy, but with it, feelings of anxiety. 

It’s a strange thing, a big global event like a pandemic happening, and not being in your own country. It heightens the ‘otherness’ of where you are, of how you feel. I listen to UK radio, watch UK TV, read tweets and articles written by UK based journalists and writers, listen to their podcasts. I watch the BBC news. I’m a part of it, I know what’s going on, how people feel. And yet, I’m not there. 

I feel displaced. 

I listened to a totally unrelated podcast interview the other day, where someone greatly suffering had the realisation that others feel the same way she does. She’s not the only one. It was a significant realisation for her.

As people have pointed out, we’re not all in the same boat, at all. Some people are suffering with unbelievable difficulty and tragedy. Some people are dealing with serious levels of stress, uncertainty, fear, awfulness, every single day, with or without a pandemic in the background. It doesn’t compare. 

But we are all struggling through something, in our varying ways. All of us. Maybe there’s some comfort in that. Or maybe there’s some comfort in realising that it’s ok to not be ok, all of the time. What we’re experiencing isn’t ‘normal’, so we’re not going to feel ‘normal’. 

I suppose what we can do is try to look for the good in the now. And take comfort from that. I’m not in quarantine, I’m free to go for walks. I have friends I can see, I have a boyfriend to give me hugs and hand squeezes. I have a weekly virtual quiz with my parents, full of laughter.

And keep looking forward, keep looking forward, keep looking forward…

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.

Photo by Nicola Fioravanti on Unsplash