Archives for the Month of July, 2012

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

A Flash from the Past

Years ago when I was back at school, I had two very different English teachers.

The first was Ms. H, a quiet, unassuming and knowledgeable young teacher. She was my favourite teacher because she encouraged me to improve my writing through my assignments. For a long time, I wondered if she wanted to become a writer herself and just before I left school, I found out that she was writing a novel in her spare time. I remember feeling pleased upon discovering this information and secretly wished her well.

The second was Mrs. W, a very knowledgeable and exceptionally opinionated teacher. In many ways, teachers with strong views can be an inspiration and Mrs. W was exactly that to me. Mrs. W was a retired journalist who had worked at a number of the famous newspapers in London. She seemed the most worldly-wise among all the teachers at my school.

Death Sentence?

At the tender age of 15, I figured that whatever Mrs. W said was worth listening to. This rule worked well until the day I mentioned I’d like to be a writer and she replied, “Forget about becoming a writer, you’ll never be good enough.”

The rule of listening to Mrs. W had been hardcoded into my brain and what had been heard could not be unheard. At first I felt shocked then angry at the certainty with which she uttered her judgment. And when the shock and anger fizzled out, I decided I would have to find my own way. She may be right in her conviction, but I had to at least try to do my dream justice.

And so I dabbled with writing short stories for a while and, being a complete novice, quickly got lost. The next baby step I could take was a joint honours degree in English and French to keep my dream of becoming a writer alive.

Dormant Dreams

Eventually, with the distractions of life and reality, I fell asleep, along with my dream of becoming a writer, much like Dorothy did in the poppy field on her way to see the wizard.

When I awoke, I’d become an IT professional, first a developer, then a development manager then a consultant.

In the last 4 years, I’ve made at least 20 attempts to write a book. Fiction or non-fiction, it didn’t really matter. To be a writer, I needed to write. For me, a successful outcome would be a book I wrote.

Back to the Future

Twenty five years later after that fateful conversation with Mrs. W, my dream became a reality.

On Wednesday, 6 June 2012, two days after the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, my first book was born: ‘The Dream Team Nightmare’, a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure aka Fighting Fantasy style game book where you, the protagonist, plays an Agile Coach tasked with helping to get a failing Agile team back on track.

The value of experiments

Thanks to my previous attempts (aka experiments), I’d finally produced a work consisting of elements of fiction AND non-fiction. What’s more, it’s the first ever game book in the Agile Community that I know of. And better still, in writing ‘The Dream Team Nightmare’, I imagined into existence a series close to my own heart called ‘Agile Adventures – When the journey matters as much as the destination’.

Dream BIG, live it little by little

So what’s my biggest take away from my 21 attempts in recent years at living my dream of becoming a writer? That we have everything we need to overcome the challenges we face to live our dreams. The key is to stay faithful to your dream, go easy on yourself and live a bit of the dream every day.

What’s the smallest step you can take right now to help make one of your dreams come true?

Beauty and the Beast

Some years ago, I went for lunch with an old friend who worked (and still works) for Microsoft. At the time, by way of introductions, he gave me one of his latest business cards. On it was written, ‘Change the world or go home‘.

Meet the Blue Monster

Holding that one business card in my hand signified my first encounter with the ‘Blue Monster’, a life changing event that I would remember always. Why? Because at that moment, I fell in love with an idea. Truly, madly, deeply. The kind of love you find in ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The kind of love so powerful that begins its life as a children’s story, before becoming a Disney cartoon and then finally transforming into a Broadway musical created to move the world.

I was still clutching onto the business card when I got home because I wanted to share it with my friend TJ (Thoughtful Jim).

“So what do you think?” I remember asking eagerly, hoping that he would join me in the noble and worthy cause of ‘changing the world or go home’. Since resigning wasn’t an option for either of us (we both needed to work to pay the bills), I reasoned that the only option was to change the world through the work we do.

As usual, there was a long pause between telling or showing TJ something and getting a response.

Eventually, TJ replied. “The sentiment is noble indeed, but what would happen if everyone did what the card told them to? Everything would turn into chaos.”

“What would happen?!?” I said, my voice shrill with excitement. “We would change the world, bit by bit. One baby step at a time. It doesn’t take a lot when each of us is willing to do our bit. Just imagine!”

Remember the Blue Monster

That fateful day, TJ and I came to a mutual and silent agreement that we would each of us make of the Blue Monster what we will.

And to this day, the Blue Monster still has a special place in my heart. Over the years, the Blue Monster has even acquired a special place in our world. I know this because of the continued resonance of his creator’s subsequent work, judging by the way books like ‘Ignore Everybody’ and ‘Evil Plans’ have become successes.

Lessons from the Blue Monster

Thanks to Hugh McLeod sharing his thoughts on how we should ‘Ignore Everybody’ and have ‘Evil Plans’, I’ve learned to let out a caricature chuckle “Mu-HA-HA-HA!!!” in my head whenever I’ve pushed the Envelope of Assumptions just that bit further and nudged the Wall of Fear of Change by a micro-inch.

Become an ‘Investor in People’

We can each of us make a difference, no matter how small or how insignificant it may seem to others, so long it matters to us. Just as I choose my restaurants by voting with my feet, I choose to support and sponsor the people who inspire me with their beliefs and actions. Why? So that together, we can shape the future we want to be part of. A future for our children to be part of.

Look around you. Who do you support and what does that mean for our future?