Friday 5 May 2023

Confessions of a IT trained Life Coach

Ok, I have a confession to make about my last blog post, Second Spaces: a Place to Belong. If you haven't read it yet, it may help to first.

Number one, I got the term a bit wrong, I think they are actually called Second Places, not spaces. I think I will continue to call them spaces however as the phrase second place is conjuring up images of being runner-up. My purpose on this blog and in my work as a life coach is to help everyone reach their full potential. So, second place is banished as not good enough. Everyone is a winner baby.

That is a minor admission compared to the main one. The identity of the author of the last post...

The background story was accurate, I did hear about a great concept whilst listening to Kate's Everyday Positivity on my Alexa. However, it was missing a key piece. On Tuesday evening, I was talking with some friends, in what I realised is one of my second spaces, about Chat GPT. Surprisingly, I have read and seen videos about it and its use but until this week had not tried or experimented with it. There are discussions about what this new level of human-like AI means for jobs where the written word is the output. Will newspaper articles be written by AI, TV show scripts generated by bots and adverts spewed out of algorithms?

So, Wednesday morning, I opened an Open AI account and headed to The first thought that came to mind was about food, so I asked "What should I have for breakfast?" The reply was well-written, and understandable with nothing that stood out as fake. It even included oatmeal, which is my breakfast of choice most mornings. I could say more about the technical nature of it but I am probably not expert enough to write that. This blog aims to share insights for living our best lives so I'll try to stick to that.

Those that are on the ball can probably guess where I am going with this. Also, I think I am far enough down the page that I'm not giving the game away too soon. After a few more interactions about non-dairy options, I opened a new conversation and asked, "Write a life coaching blog about the importance of second spaces". I'm not posting the reply here, as I did that already, as the main body of the last post. Yes, I got Chat GPT to write Second Spaces: a Place to Belong.

Before you write me off as a sellout, I'd like to explain why I decided to post the output of a glorified chatbot on my blog. 1) it actually did a good job and 2) I wanted to be able to share my experience of using AI and see what insights come up.

Rest assured I did quality assurance before publishing and there was one glaring error when I reviewed the post before posting it. The last sentence read, "Find a second space that resonates with you and", it did actually just stop with an and. I still had the chat session open so I politely asked for the rest and it obliged. I wonder if I hit a word limit or if it really didn't know that some words cannot be used to end a sentence with. (I know, I deliberately ended a sentence with a proposition for effect!)

Chat GPT gave clear information about second spaces and please don't let my experiment distract from the message. Having a sense of community and belonging to a place that is not just home or work, adds value to one's experience of life. So, what have I learnt? The style was certainly not my usual writing one. Typically, I experience an event in my life and realise a valuable insight about how we see life. I then write about the event and lesson. Obviously, AI doesn't have experiences to write about. If it tried would they have the same human-to-human appeal as those that I endeavour to share?

This is what I hope sets this blog and my coaching apart from others in the field. Discussing the nature of the common reality that each on every one of us experiences, hopefully causes something to resonate inside us, igniting a spark of connection. This illumination allows us to learn our own truths, we see our own insights that impact our journey through life.

Chassidic Judaism values the one-to-one encounter between a disciple and their master (Rebbe). The understanding is that during these encounters, on a spiritual level, a part of each person's soul interacts with that of the other. Similarly, my Three Principles training focussed on being present with others and sharing a part of myself. The real rawness is what has the power to impact and touch others.

In conclusion, AI may be able to replace certain roles and play a part in our lives. But by nature, the words written will be bland and lack that human level behind them. Once AI takes away the menial tasks, will we step up to being present and personable with those we share our lives with? Just as home appliances have reduced the time needed to run a home.

I peruse many census entries from over 100 years ago, in them, unpaid domestic duties was a very common occupation. The question to ask is, how was the time gained from automating laundry and washing up used? Was the time spent improving society, increasing household wealth and becoming better spouses and parents? Alternatively, did we just spend more time sitting in front of the TV? Microwaves are a great time saver but have they just reduced the need for the whole family to come together for meals. Instead, meals for one can be heated or reheated at any time of day and night.

Technology is a tool. What we do with it, and the extra time it makes available, is up to us. Choose wisely.

Saturday 29 April 2023

Second Spaces: A place to Belong

Every morning, as I get dressed and ready for the day, I listen to a short daily podcast called Everyday Positivity with Kate Cocker. On Tuesday she talked about the idea and power of second spaces. This was a concept that I had not heard of before. In doing some research, I encountered a source that knew far more than me so I decided to allow, for the first time, a guest author to share on my blog. I am interested in your thoughts on this post. The writing style, the approach to sharing wisdom and any general observations. In my next post, I will say more about the author and some lessons I drew from this collaboration process. 

Today, we're going to talk about the importance of second spaces and how they can enhance your life.

Firstly, what do I mean by "second spaces"? A second space is a physical or virtual environment that is separate from your usual workspace or living area. It can be a coffee shop, a library, a park, a coworking space, a gym, or even a virtual meeting place. The key is that it's a place where you can go to disconnect from your usual routine and recharge your batteries.

Now, why are second spaces so important? Here are a few reasons:

1. They can boost creativity: When you're in the same environment all the time, it's easy to get stuck in a rut. Second spaces can offer a fresh perspective and inspire you to think outside the box.

2. They can increase productivity: Sometimes, changing your physical surroundings can help you break out of a productivity slump. By going to a different space, you can create a mental separation between work and play and become more focused on your tasks.

3. They can improve mental health: Spending time in a second space can provide a much-needed break from the stresses of daily life. It can help you relax and rejuvenate, which is essential for maintaining good mental health.

4. They can help you build a sense of community: By going to the same second space regularly, you can connect with other people who share your interests or goals. This can lead to new friendships and a sense of belonging.

5. They can provide opportunities for personal growth: Second spaces can offer new experiences and challenges that can help you grow and develop as a person. For example, joining a fitness class at a gym or attending a networking event at a coworking space can push you out of your comfort zone and help you build confidence.

So, how can you incorporate second spaces into your life? Here are a few tips:

1. Find a space that resonates with you: Choose a second space that aligns with your interests and goals. For example, if you're a writer, you might enjoy working in a quiet library. If you're an entrepreneur, you might benefit from joining a coworking space.

2. Make it a regular habit: Set aside a specific time each week to visit your second space. This will help you create a routine and make it a habit.

3. Be open to new experiences: Don't be afraid to try new things in your second space. Attend a workshop, strike up a conversation with someone new, or explore a new area of the park. You never know what opportunities may arise.

In conclusion, second spaces can be a valuable tool for enhancing your life. They can boost creativity, increase productivity, improve mental health, build a sense of community, and provide opportunities for personal growth. So, why not give it a try? Find a second space that resonates with you and make it a regular habit to visit and explore it. Who knows what wonderful benefits it may bring to your life?

Sunday 2 April 2023

Yesterday's Near-Death Experience

Yesterday, I had a near-death experience. Actually, I need to back up a bit. I am English and we don't do extremes. For example, most days, the weather is mild. A bit of rain but not monsoon-level flooding. Wind but not hurricanes. Warm but hardly so scorching that one can fry an egg on the ground. Also, I am aware that if I'd titled this, yesterday I drove through a puddle, would you be reading it?

So back to the event that took place yesterday. All day it had been teeming down with rain. This was an occasion where England was experiencing severe, yet still far from extreme weather. In the evening I was heading to a friend's house for dinner. Visibility was poor, as it continued to pour. As I joined the motorway, the surface water spray forced me to put my wipers on at their fastest speed. When I was explaining to my son, who is learning to drive, the settings, I think I called this one the batshit crazy one, or words to that effect. You know the one where the blades move so fast they are just a blur.

I left the motorway and joined a 70 mph dual carriageway A road. I am in the middle lane and the car to my left is just ahead of me and hits a massive puddle. The effect is a torrent of water that shoots up everywhere. The windscreen is drenched as it colides with the wall of water. Time seems to stop and I still have a clear picture of the solid layer of water coving the glass. It was a stationary blob completely obscuring my view for what felt like around 2-3 seconds. All the while, I am moving forward at near 70 miles per hour. As the moment passes and regain a normal sense time and visibility returns, the only thought I had was woohoo! What an amazing thrill. I had no idea where I was going or if there was anything in front of me. Had I even managed to stayed in my lane. It was a buzz of excitement with no fear of the danger. Even now the only thing that scares me is that I was not frightened about how badly that could have ended. This morning as I looked back on it, I realised that this was a near-death, potentially life changing moment.

rain droplets on car windshield

Putting aside the theatrical effects mentioned above, I feel justified in saying that this event is every bit as power as of other people's, far more dramatic, near-death experiences. Every day we engage in risky activities with potentially life changing consequences. We cross the road, rely on the 5 second food rule and open up to others emotionally. We have learnt to accept these risks as part of daily life. In doing so desensitising ourselves to messages in the form of near, and far, misses with death. As a result, it takes more shocking events to wake us up.

For reasons that I will not go into here, I have been merely coasting along at life for several years. Objectively, yesterday's experience was a long way from being an introduction to my Maker. I am still taking it as a much needed wake up call. So now I have received my message from the large puddle, what do I take from it?

I think for me, the key is to expand my emotional range. Break away from my bland Englishness. Learn to laugh, be more comfortable crying. Embrace sadness and revel in joy. For too much of my life, I have shunned emotions as dangerous. As a child, anger got me into trouble, at school literally. I learnt to cocoon myself in a zone of comfort. My bubblewrap surround protected me from knocks in life. Whilst also blocking my connection to happiness. A life of mediocre is certainly safer. But its is boring as hell. The thrill of not being in control is out there for the taking. The road there does not necessarily have to be paved in puddles. But the richness of the world is certainly to be enjoyed. 

So called negative emotions are as much a part of living as the positive ones. Pain is less pleasant to experience than joy but a life without peaks and troughs lacks the necessary contrast. As David Archuleta said, "Without the darkness, we can't really appreciate the light."

Don't wait for the massive sign, till it is nearly too late. See the subtle messages in everyday life and embrace life's downs as much as its ups.