There is no them, only us

Like most people, having never been to a real prison, my knowledge of the prison system was limited to the often depressing news about them and their residents. That changed last week when I had the privilege of visiting Portland prison in Dorset with the youth offending rehabilitation charity, Key4life. There I met 30 young men who were serving time at this forbidding looking prison perched on top of a windswept cliff overlooking the English Channel. It felt isolated and on the very edge.

It is easy to think of offenders as being different from us – outsiders, poorly educated, drug-addicted, violent, dangerous and well….just criminal. But spend a day with them and you will find that we are more alike than we think.

They want their lives to be better
They want to provide for, and protect, their family
They want to do meaningful work
They get frustrated about things they can’t control
They want to be respected and valued
They want to have a voice and to be heard
They want their lives to have meaning
They miss their friends and family
They grieve for those they have lost
They want to love and be loved
They want to have a place to call home

They sound a lot like you and me…perhaps we are more similar than we think.

If you think we are more alike, visit the Key4life website at

You are good at your job

I am good at my jobHow hard is this  to say out loud? Acknowledging that you are good at something can be difficult – what if people disagree with you, what if you are wrong, what if they laugh at you?

I was working with a client recently who was clearly a very talented and dedicated individual. Without question they were good at their job. When I mentioned this in passing they were extremely reluctant to acknowledge the truth despite all the evidence. This got me thinking that despite all the evidence to the contrary people often lack confidence.

So what is the evidence that you are good at your job?

The signs of being good at your job are easy to see, you just need to look for them. Here are a few:-

  1. Your team respect you and work hard for you if you are a manager
  2. Your boss respects your opinion even if they disagree or override your views
  3. You get a good appraisal
  4. You have been promoted
  5. Your clients give you good feedback and come back for more
  6. Your peers respect you
  7. You got a pay rise recently
  8. You are happy at work (happy people are good at their jobs)

These are all simple things but each one is a vote to say

“You ARE good at your job”

Following in the footsteps of genius

Piazza Unità d'Italia
Piazza Unità d’Italia, Trieste Italy

PS-and-JoyceOn 20th October 1904, the famous Irish author James Joyce arrived in Trieste in north eastern Italy. Almost exactly 110 years later yours truly, a fellow Irishman, and his partner arrived in the very same city. While there I discovered that I shared a surprising number of similarities to Joyce. Both of us helped our clients to develop their communication skills, both taught Italians and both were authors. I also seem to have a very similar build to Joyce or at least his statue on the Via Roma as it passes over the Canal Grande. There the similarities end.

James Joyce Statue, Trieste
James Joyce Statue, Trieste

Joyce was a genius and is recognised as one of the most influential writers of the early 20th Century. His novel, Ulysses, is considered one of the most important books of modernist literature although its publication was troubled – it was banned in the US under obscenity laws and copies of his books were burnt by the US Postal Service. In his own country Ulysses while never formally banned, wasn’t published until the 1960’s. Self publishing on Amazon Kindle is tame by comparison!

Ital Svevo Statue, Trieste
Ital Svevo Statue, Trieste

In Trieste Joyce worked as an English language  teacher at the Berlitz Language School  and during the early part of his time in the city he met Ettore Schmidz, better known as Italo Svevo, author of the classic novel La Coscienza di Zeno (The Confessions of Zeno). Joyce considered Svevo to be a very talented, but underrated, novelist and encouraged him to continue writing. He eventually helped Svevo to translate Confessions into French where it was published in 1923 to great acclaim. Joyce not only helped Svevo to write and learn English but they became great friends and the main protagonist of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom, was partially based on Svevo.

There is also another very important difference between Joyce and me. When he arrived in Trieste, he left his mistress Nora Barnacle on a park bench outside the train station while he looked for somewhere to stay. While looking, he dropped into a bar for a quick drink and somehow ended up getting arrested along with some drunken English sailors. He was rescued by the Irish consul, before going back to the park to pick up his mistress who had waited all night. I expect she wasn’t very pleased and I am sure that my wife would have had something to say if I behaved this way.

With my visit over, I hope that some of Joyce’s genius has rubbed off and I can inspire my clients to achieve great things in the same way Joyce inspired and helped Italo Svevo.