5 Steps to Boxing Mojo

Fat Not Fit

A year ago, I realised I was looking, well… a bit different than I had in my youth. That I had a long way to go to reach my dream — 20 lbs to go in fact. Not only that, but I was headed in the wrong direction. My dream was getting more distant by the day.  How did this ever happen?

Apparently, it happened sometime when I wasn’t watching. Sometime when I was taking my health for granted and watching boxing videos on youtube, rather than getting out and doing the sport I love.

A year ago, I decided this could not continue and it was time to turn it all around.

Fit Not Fat

So what was I ultimately aiming for? To become once again the boxer of my youth! To pound 15 rounds on the bag and never break a sweat. Do endless press ups as in days of yore. Jog like the Flash. Strike fear in the hearts of boxers everywhere when I darkened the gym door. (Hm. I’m not sure it was ever quite like that…)

A Watershed Moment

What was the watershed moment that changed it all? I noticed an ad online and clicked on it. (Crazy, I know. But you know how marketers are always tracking your data and then showing you adverts in the sidebar they  think you’ll be interested in? Well, this time they got it right.) The inset included a story and photos of a 70 year old man – with the body I wanted to have.

If he can do it, I can do it, I thought. I’m competitive like that.

So I did.

5 Steps to Boxing Mojo

Here are the steps that worked for me:

  1. Admit defeat. Yes, watching boxing greats do their thing was fascinating (I love to study boxing strategy and technique). It might have been giving my brain a workout – but was not doing anything for my health.
  2. Find a gym. The gym that’s right for you. I’m no good at willpower. So I googled till I found a gym with the equipment that would make me want to go to the gym. And…location, location, location. It’s best if the gym you’re committing to is a short walk from either where you live, or where you work.
  3. Get a friend to drag you there. Having a friend to push me there the first time was helpful. Somehow, there’s a mental hurdle about showing up the first time.
  4. Go to the gym. Okay – going once a week is better than never going. And twice a week is better than that. But if I only aim for a couple of times a week, I find there’s always a reason to put it off till tomorrow — a tomorrow that never comes. Resolving to go to the gym 5 times a week, means… I’ll probably get there 4 times a week. So I pick up my resolve and my equipment bag, and go. For me, that works.
  5. Cut the carbs. Moderate alcohol. Reduce the bread and pasta. This was pretty painful for the first week. But after that, it got easier. I’m still open to treats from time to time, but I take care to let it be just that — a once in a while enjoyment. The memory of how tough it was to get through that first low-carb week keeps me on track. I don’t want to have to do that twice.

That’s about it. One year later, I’m feeling good — and like myself again. There’s real wisdom in Mens sana in corpore sano. And no reason to stop as we get older. Good health is a lifetime journey. I’m in it for the long haul.

Have you ever had a fitness watershed moment when everything changed and you resolved for a new future?

What do you do to stay fit? How do you find time in your schedule?

Top Secret

I was stunned to find that I’ve already been offered my first supporting artiste job! I’ll be on set today learning the ropes.

Usually the calls to set can be quite early. But I’ve even lucked in to a relaxing mid-morning start. Which is good news as I want to make a good first impression and punctuality is key. (I would have been up at 4am if needed, but didn’t have to this time!)

Top Secret

Maintaining content confidentiality prior to release is very important to producers. They want and need to prevent any content leaks from site — so no cameras, no mobile phones, no recording equipment of any kind on set. Also I won’t be able to describe anything that happens on set or any details of production. There are strict waivers to be signed to ensure this.

New Places, New Faces

I am looking forward to meeting new people – apparently supporting artistes come from all walks of life. What other careers allow for the kind of schedule flexibility needed for this job? Academics? Drama students? Carers? Pilots? I’ll soon find out.

Get Ready, Get Set…Wait!

My research also tells me that most of my time on set will be spent waiting for the great moment to begin. I’ll be given a mark to stand on, told what small action to perform…and then wait for that great moment to arrive. With lighting checks, organising what can often be large groups and many other kinds of preparation, I understand this can take quite a while.

Not to worry – it’s gonna be great!

Ben Meets Mike Storkey, Toastmasters International President

Last Wednesday, I met the President… Mike Storkey, President of Toastmasters International. And in my opinion, he trumps most other presidents!

An Afternoon at Toastmasters

I spent the afternoon of this hesitant spring Wednesday at a Toastmasters event in Docklands, one of London’s shiny business centres.

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. Clubs can be community based, themed (by language or profession for example), or corporate (clubs open to employees of a certain company).

Mike Storkey was the keynote speaker at this event and glided through his presentation with a pleasing Australian lilt, handling with finesse a wide range of questions in the Q&A that followed. He gave tips on how to launch new clubs, focusing on the challenges of launching corporate clubs in particular.

My Favourite Quote

When trying to persuade your head of HR to sponsor a corporate Toastmasters Club, he warned you’re likely to be asked,

“But what if we expend a lot money and effort to train someone to be an excellent speaker, presenter, leader…and then they leave the company?”

Mike’s recommended answer?

“But what if you don’t train them…and they stay?

A Focus on Leadership Development As Well

One clear message was that Toastmasters doesn’t exist just to help you improve your public speaking—though many people join for that reason. It’s there to build many different skill sets, amongst which leadership features prominently. Pathways, a new programme being rolled out across regions over the next two years, will offer a modern and effective way of helping you achieve diverse goals.

Mike made the point that because of the leadership development benefits that accrue, everyone should also consider becoming a club official: it offers yet another opportunity to build your skill-set in a safe environment. “Imagine,” he pondered, “you get old and decrepit and ask yourself the what if question: What if I’d taken the trouble to improve this or that skill? Where would I be now?”

The best speech Mike ever heard?

Of course he’d heard thousands and admitted sometimes finding it easier to remember a speaker’s face than their words. The most memorable speech for Mike, however, was one that left him thinking about things very differently: the speech given by Mark Brown at the Toastmasters’ World Championship in 1995, entitled “A Second Chance”.

Pausing, he added, “I think The Gettysburg Address was the best speech I ever read, because it was short and powerful.”

Why Ben Joined Toastmasters

I myself joined about two years ago and never looked back. As an author, I know it’s critical for me to have presentation skills – but indeed, it’s invaluable to for almost everyone, no matter what your walk of life. There are clubs all over the world. Take a look and see if there’s a club near you!

 

A Poem: POM – Book Your Australian Holiday!

POM – BOOK YOUR AUSTRALIAN HOLIDAY!

Who’d wanna be a wallabeee?

I wish I knew, said the kangarooo.

I love this land, chirped the cuddly possum,

Yawning, stretching on a bed of blossom.

So Pom, if you need a getaway,

Come to Oz and play for a month and a day.

Let’s meet the locals, who’ll make your stay

A Dame Edna-tastic holiday!

 

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Let’s start in Sydney, our biggest city,

Where the girls are ripped and the Bruces gritty.

A swim off Bondi late at night?

Great white sharks are friendly, right?

Tired of beer, mate? Try our great cider,

Then play dare by kissing a funnel web spider.

In search of a unique culinary dish?

Have you tried raw box jellyfish?

They drift In search of the mankini-ed swimmer,

Who they tickle all over, in time for dinner.

 

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A real Ozzie swills Fosters from a gallon syphon,

While wrestling his twenty-foot amethystine python.

Did you know a drop of wolf spider’s venom

Can amuse fifty lawyers at their annual plenum?

 

Up in Queensland, where the sun’s always yellow,

You may meet a charmingly laid-back fellow:

So be sure to stomp on that buried stingray…

It’ll say thanks with its tail—and make your day!

Then check that travel insurance clause

In case a redback crawls in your drawers.

In the rainforest? That’s where the amiable cassowary,

Rushes over to greet the sun-stroked unwary.

 

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When driving north, on the heat-baked roads,

You can count the two billion cane toads.

Here’s a ripper sport: tug a Taipan’s tail,

It’ll lick your fingers without fail!

Or swim a river with a salty croc,

Whose playful death-roll’s sure to rock.

Then there’s the stonefish, beneath the sand,

They say its venom’s super bland.

Want a buddy with Usain Bolt’s speed?

Introducing our giant centipede!

 

In the coral garden you’ll find a pet

With a beak as blunt as your rusty Gillette.

Known as the blue-ringed octopussy,

Squeeze his head hard to prove you’re no wussy.

Remember that cone shell you found on the beach?

Hold it tight—it’ll do strange things to your speech.

Tie a yellow-bellied sea-snake in a knot?

Try it. You’ll win Gold for projecting snot.

Then end your day with a fun party trick:

Play a game of spot the paralysis tick!

 

Dingo, wombat, bull ant, brumby,

Australia’s wildlife won’t leave you grumbly!

They’re here to greet you, make you feel special,

Cos our hospitals are empty and the examinations rectal.

So people: book your flights, plan your vacations,

But first…write your wills and warn your relations.

wombat-1511885

 

A Day at Amazon Academy

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I just spent a fascinating day at the launch of the Amazon Academy in London, on Wednesday. The location was the HQ of their new fashion label (yes, they do clothes too!) in Hoxton.

Amazon laid on a range of lectures and expert-led panel discussions to demonstrate what’s on offer which included KDP (Kindle), Alexa and Amazon Marketplace workshops. There were guest panels in the morning and break-out sessions with Q&A in the afternoon. It wasn’t just for authors – there were also experts who spoke on Amazon Web Services (for serious techies and programmers) and a new service that targets entrepreneurs in the food and beverage space. Professional, entertaining, friendly.

img_3774The company is forging ahead with interesting ideas and isn’t resting on its laurels. The event was a well-planned, precision-executed taste of corporate America before a taste of vegetarian (other diets catered for too) lunch.

Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, told an amusing anecdote about arriving penniless in London from India in 2001. He spent weeks working on a business plan which he took to the bank hoping for a £10,000 loan. He was turned down. He returned a few days later with a request for £20,000 for a car…which was approved. And guess what he used the money for? He quickly added that the bank has been paid back in full!

img_3771Lessons learned? The company treats its writers as valued customers. Despite its size, Amazon demonstrated a human face and will continue to trial the Academy concept.

As a writer, what did I take away with me? Lots of great tips!

In particular, I learned from the mouth of author/entrepreneur Mark Dawson:

  • have at least one free book on offer;
  • build a loyal following via interaction;
  • have a well though out and researched marketing plan before you begin to spend your budget,

and from the Founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, Orna Ross:

  • develop your own email distribution list as one of your key pillars in your marketing plan,
  • speed up your operation by using a database manager like Mailchimp and
  • don’t start spending money on advertising until you have at least three books out there.

So far, there have been two other Amazon Academy events on this side of the pond: one previously in Dublin and this one in London. And there will be one more in Newcastle coming soon! After that, Amazon will review feedback to see if they will do it again.

And I, for one, hope they will.

More Ben-isms

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I TORE UP the gym this morning. Time for a brief recuperative horizontalisation.

White spirit removes oil-based paint from your hands but white rum doesn’t—although it’s both white and a spirit. Explanations on a postcard, please.

Today I failed to change the world. Some things never change.

Dear US Intelligence Services – you want to extract information from someone? Waterboarding is SO last year. Simply have the target wait ALL DAY (in a house with no furniture), for IKEA to deliver, who don’t bother to ring to explain why they are running hours late, and then have the screws not fit and throw in an incorrect diagram or two for fun! Maybe deliver the wrong thing and miss out something too – that’ll be really funny! Or deliver something damaged. The target will crack much sooner and you won’t have breached the Geneva Convention. Probably.

I am proud to announce I am launching a beginners’ class in IKEA YOGA. Enjoy the double benefit of contorting your body in unbelievable shapes while building furniture! First session free but bring unassembled MALM bedside table. After four weeks, move on to my ADVANCED class (HEMNES day bed) and experience palm haematoma and trigger irreversible wrist arthritis! Stay-calm breathing exercises and how to swear in Swedish available as optional extras in 50% of classes (depending on whether parts have been correctly drilled, drawings make sense, etc.). IMPORTANT: don’t miss your class! We start promptly some time between 10am and 4pm but I reserve the right to start at 7.30pm, without notice…and to blame it on the traffic. Inbox me for full details.

I AM BLESSED. To a very few people, it happens every several years. To others, every other year. To some, as regularly as once a year! But the heavens are treating me differently this year. I have been singled out. Chosen. And I don’t even know what I did to deserve it but…(drum roll please)…I have my third cold!

Forgot to add the garlic croutons to my salad 😦
But there’s a heatwave forecast for tomorrow 🙂
Life is indeed a minestrone :-/
Pass the parmesan cheese 😉

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September Ben-isms

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So who hid a tub of Haagen-Dazs triple Belgium chocolate macadamia nut and Icelandic toffee brittle cappuccino Cornish cream with special reserve 1814 Napoleon brandy and smoked goat snot sprinkles ice cream in my freezer? And why is it looking at me like that???

There is a bike on the roof of the house opposite. Can only mean one thing: ET is staying there.

Sprained fingers? Torn nails? Bloody knuckles? .44 magnum. Sherman Tank. Nuclear weapon. How far would YOU go to open that recalcitrant pistachio?

As our favourite Vulcan might have said, “It is summer. It is cold. Therefore I have a summer cold. Entirely logical, Captain.”

Theory of the Day – older people are always complaining that time passes quicker as you get older but here’s my MATHEMATICAL PROOF they are wrong: if you become a father when you are 24, when you are 25, your son/daughter is 1 and 1/25th of your age (or 4%). If you live to 100, your son/daughter is 75 and now 75% your age. That means the young are constantly catching up so time must be passing faster for them. 😉

MY SOLUTION TO THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CRISIS: the Mexicans build a wall around the Donald (I think they’ll be happy to pay for it).

My Tesco “Baby Plum Tomatoes” taste of absolutely nothing. Is that three breaches of the Trade Descriptions Act?

I was sitting in a park in Soho last night, and David “Haymaker” Haye – former World Cruiserweight and Heavyweight Boxing Champion walked right past. I looked at him. He didn’t look at me. I stared. No eye contact in return. Nothing. He must have been scared… No other explanation possible.

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