The Next 10

The Next 10

So the MK Dons have been in Milton Keynes for 10 years!

Things have moved so very quickly and all hats off to Pete Winkleman for the fabulous job he has made of it. A stable club on and off the pitch with a solid business model. As well as this Pete is passionate about the city and its prospects. I don’t think the club could be in better hands, well done Pete!

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7 Ancient Wonders of Milton Keynes

7 wonders pre-dating the founding of Milton Keynes.

7. Wolverton Works – Builder of Royal trains

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolverton_railway_works#Twentieth_century

6. Grand Junction Canal – Built between 1793 and 1800 in support of the Industrial Revolution.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Junction_Canal

5. Saxon Hundred – Ancient administrative centre of MK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Milton_Keynes#Norman_conquest_and_the_medieval_period

4. Bradwell Abbey – The Priory built circa 1154, declined during the Black Death

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradwell_Abbey

3. Magiovinium – Roman settlement on Watling Street.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Milton_Keynes#Roman_Britain

2. Ichthyosaur Fossil – Found in September 1982 during excavations of Caldecotte Lake.

http://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/library%5fservices/displayarticle.asp?ID=35480

1. Bletchley Park – Code named “Station X” during WWII this code-breaking establishment successfully deciphered the German Enigma machine led to the shortening of the war.

http://www.bletchleypark.org/


And on THAT Bombshell…

10 Lessons from TV’s Top Gear.

By David & Jack Rees.

 

10. Whatever the raw materials (Porsche or Skoda), life is what you make it. (DR)

 

9. If you’re headed to the North Pole, don’t ask Jeremy along! (JR)

 

8. Be yourself, even if others don’t get it. (DR)

 

7. Don’t take a speed boat if you want to catch a plane. (JR)

 

6. You can go further than you think (on one tank of petrol). (DR)

 

5. If you need to go a mile, get there in a Eurofighter (JR).

 

4. Breakdowns happen! (DR).

 

3. A robin reliant is not space-worthy.

 

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously. (DR)

 

1.The Stig is never who you think he is.

 

 

 


Mastering the moment

As an early riser I am usually the first one up and about in my house. There I was sitting half-awake one morning with everyone else asleep watching the previous night’s football highlights, when all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a scurrying movement across the floor. Town life means limited exposure to wild animals of any sort, particularly in my own house! So I was quite surprised by what I saw. To be quite honest I wanted to suppress the knowledge of what I had seen, because I know I had to do something about it – laziness I know! Up to this point, on the few occasions that a mouse has entered our house, it had been swiftly dealt with by our cat (who probably brought it in anyway!). But the cat is no longer around and I realised that I faced a daunting task: catch the mouse! Although my internal dialogue did fight the urge to hunt down the rodent and before finally making the decision I did toy with the idea of ignoring the fact that I’d seen it scoot off to work hoping it didn’t surface again later in the day! But he did, within minutes! So it was time to prove that I was a man and not a mouse!!

Through this incident I did observe something about myself. Whenever something sudden surfaces in my day I begin to clock-watch. Internally I’m counting every second and measuring the impact on the next task. In this case, the next task was cycling to work. Would this mouse-hunt take five minutes or five hours? Would I need to ring my boss and explain that “the mouse is making me late!” I needn’t have worried, thankfully, it only took about twenty minutes to figure out his scurrying pattern and to find the right plastic carton to trap him in! Afterwards I released** him into a small copse near the house with explicit instructions not to return (seems to have worked). I’m pleased to say that I mastered the moment.

Like millions of others, I enjoy watching TV series The Apprentice. In the UK-version 16 hopefuls battle it out for a chance to work for Amstrad supremo Lord Alan Sugar. Every week the contestants are required to take control of business-related tasks of varying complexity. The key to winning each task is mastering the moment. If the project leader fails to master the dynamics of the task and of the workforce, failure most-likely beckons! The competitive nature of the show and the unfamiliarity of each task makes true mastery almost impossible. The teams tussle, tensions rise, tempers flare and in the end time runs out – makes for great TV.

Looking back, taking decisive action to master the moment has applied in all walks of my life, for example:

when, as a young teen, I learned how to handle the dynamic forces influencing a sailing boat.

or mastery of shaping a golf shot to take into account all the prevailing factors at a given hole.

or sensing the need to ebb and flow when leading a church service.

or steering conversations during business meetings towards cultivating productivity.

There is something deep in the human psyche that seeks to master the conditions around us, as well as those within us. In his book “The Way of the Wild Heart” author John Eldgride says that each man has the question engraved deep in their souls: “Have I got what it takes?” Mastering the moment answers this question. Yes, I have what it takes. No matter whether the task at hand is sailing, golfing, leadership or catching a mouse, mastering the moment is a key to success.

**No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog.


Dream house in the mountains

Ty Nant, self-catering cottage on the edge of the Snowdonia.

Ty Nant is a holiday cottage in Snowdonia that my wife and I recently renovated. Neither of us had any previous experience of property renovation on any scale. In fact the closest we’d come was reading books on “how to build your dream home” and watching the TV programme Grand Designs!

It all started with a “what-if” conversation in the summer of 2007, while we were on a canoeing and climbing holiday in the area with our children. One lazy afternoon we were discovering the tea-shops of Beddgelert and noticed a number of holiday homes, one or two of which were for sale. A few days after we got back to ‘reality’ we researched house prices and rental income on the internet. This revealed that property prices in the area were 50% below the UK average, and rising fast. After phoning my financial adviser we calculated that we could afford an interest-only “buy-to-let” mortgage. We headed back to North Wales in October to begin the search, which lead us to the remote and idyllic village of Nantlle (rhymes with antler). A Victorian slate mining community nestled in a glacial-pass six miles from the summit of Snowdon. The house we chose jumped off the page as soon as we saw the details and that curb-appeal has never worn-off!

Agreeing the mortgage lead to our first set-back. During 2007 the financial institutions were in meltdown, most notably the collapse of Northern Rock in September. Getting approval for the loan was straightforward, however getting our hands on the cash proved to be very difficult. According to the surveyor’s report the property was in need of significant modernising throughout. This meant electrical rewiring, the installation of central heating, damp-proofing and a brand new kitchen extension. The mortgage company approved the funds, then immediately placed a 100% retention until the works were complete. This of course was ludicrous as no work could be carried-out without the funds! Eventually we emailed the CEO of the mortgage company and within a day common sense had broken-out and a more reasonable retention figure of £6,000 was agreed. By Easter 2008 we were the proud owners of Ty Nant (Cottage by the Stream) in the historic Welsh county of Gwynedd.

The cottage’s previous renovation, in the early 1970’s, had not been sympathetic to its original character. Sadly, this meant that the slate floors had been concreted over and much of the original features were now behind plaster. It was a priority to see what could be restored and what needed updating. Restoration started with removing the plasterwork in the lounge and the 1970’s tile-surround electric-fireplace. Doing this revealed a slate lintel belonging to the original inglenook fireplace. Without doubt this was the most joyous event of the project, reclaiming the original historical character of this Victorian terraced house.

As it was not possible for us to stay on-site for any length of time, it was now essential that we brought in a trustworthy builder. We chose a local sole-trader who was working in Abersoch, an attractive fishing village nearby. His skill and sensitivity in dealing with the local materials impressed us greatly and we are thankful for his contribution to the look and feel of Ty Nant. He told us that one day he answered a knock at the door. It was an elderly gentleman from the village who had grown up in the property. As this demonstrates the people of Nantlle are warm and friendly.

The largest expense was adding the modern kitchen extension. This also lead to a boundary dispute which turned out into our biggest set-back. Work stopped on the build for a number of weeks during the winter of 2008. After lengthy emails, site visits by both parties and an independent inspection by a RICS surveyor we ensured that all matters were resolved before the build began again. Building the new kitchen meant demolishing the old Ty Bach (outside toilet) and those bricks now form part of the exterior brickwork of the new extension as well as the fire-places in the lounge and dinning room.

In autumn 2009, with the heavy building work behind us, adding the décor, furniture and soft-furnishings brought a luxurious and welcoming feel. The next step was to try it out for ourselves, so six of us spend a cheerful Christmas there. With the turkey cooking, the champagne flowing and the fire roaring it was a day of celebration! We felt just as blessed when the ground turned white with snow on New Years day 2010.

Ty Nant is now a successful holiday rental business attracting visitors from all around Britain and Europe to the stunning views, beaches and historic towns that Snowdonia has to offer.


Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Hark the herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled”

Joyful, all ye nations rise

Join the triumph of the skies

With the angelic host proclaim:

“Christ is born in Bethlehem”

Hark! The herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored

Christ the everlasting Lord!

Late in time behold Him come

Offspring of a Virgin’s womb

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see

Hail the incarnate Deity

Pleased as man with man to dwell

Jesus, our Emmanuel

Hark! The herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings

Ris’n with healing in His wings

Mild He lays His glory by

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

Hark! The herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!”

“Hark the herald angels sing” Christmas Carol was written by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley founder of the Methodist church, in 1739. A sombre man, he requested slow and solemn music for his lyrics and thus “Hark the herald angels sing” was sung to a different tune initially. Over a hundred years later Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) composed a cantata in 1840 to commemorate Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. English musician William H. Cummings adapted Mendelssohn’s music to fit the lyrics of “Hark the herald angels sing” already written by Wesley.

Text from the Web.


It’s a wonderful life

It is often hard for us to see the impact our lives make. Sure, it’s far easier for us to see the impact that others have on the world around, particularly if those people are famous as a result of that impact. Take great world-renowned leaders such as Churchill, Luther-King or Gandhi; Inventors like Bell, Edison or Fleming; Scientists such as Newton, Galileo or Einstein; Writers like Hardy, Bronte or Shakespeare; Or leaders of great religious movements like Whitfield, Edwards or the Wesley Brothers. But what about the rest of us, those who live ‘ordinary’ lives?

Maybe a movie can help us to see how our ‘ordinary’ lives have an extraordinary impact on the world. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a 1946 film directed and produced by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. The story unfolds around events in the life of George Bailey, played by Stewart. It beings one snowy Christmas eve with a clearly distressed Bailey contemplating ending his life. As the reasons for his distress become clear we become ever more aware that, due to his selflessness, George Bailey’s life has not turned out as he wished. For example, when he was young George saved his brother’s life by rescuing him from a frozen pond. Sadly, as a result George lost hearing in one ear. George’s dream is to travel and see the world, however his selflessness holds him back at every juncture. It takes a visit from his ‘Guardian Angel’ Clarence Odbody for George to see the true value of his life. Having wished he had ‘never been born’ Clarence takes George on a journey to see what life would have been like without his selfless interventions. Without George the town is a distinctly darker place and he begins to see how his life has impacted those around him. For example, George did not save his brother from the frozen pond, which in-turn meant his brother did not enlist as fighter pilot in the war and failed to win the Medal of Honor for his saving of many lives.

In fact, the bible shows an important key in helping interpret these events. Writing to the Christians in Rome, church leader and planter Paul writes “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”

Contained here are three noteworthy statements:

1. First we learn that this principle applies to those that “love God.” Christians are called to have a different view of the events of their lives, as these events are God ordained. Peter puts it this way, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

2. We also learn of “His Purpose.” God’s over-riding desire is to get the whole of creation back on track from its fallen state. This is a work of Redemption. According to DeVern Fromke, quoting Habakkuk, in his excellent book “Ultimate Intention” God’s desire is “for the earth [to] be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.“

3. Finally, the phrase “all things” which covers the entire range of events we are exposed to in our lives. A famous bumper-sticker in the US uses the cruder “[stuff] happens!” The writer of the book of Hebrews put’s it in the context of a father disciplining his children: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

These three principles can clearly be seen at work in the life of Joseph:

 – rejected and sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.

 – thrown in jail for a crime he did not commit and repeatedly forgotten.

 – released to serve the king and become prime minister, all in one day!

 – and in doing so saving his entire family, including the bothers that rejected him.

After these ordeals, the older and wiser Joseph turns to his brothers and says “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”


A King of Love (a song)

A King of Love

 by David Rees

 

A presence so undefiled,

always unspoiled and pure.

Who dare approach The Holy King?

Apart from our Saviour’s blood.

 

A King of mercy, a King of love.

In very nature, God as man.

You gave up heaven, become nothing.

obeyed the Cross, our Redeeming King.

 

A Cross of kindness, a Cross of love.

A selfless life, a selfless death.

You showed us love, so unfailing.

A life poured out, the Suffering King.

 

Jesus Christ, granted new life.

Perfect Judge of the hearts of men.

Now ascended, and now seated.

Our sympathetic Priestly King.

 

As we remember, your loving kindness.

As we crown you the King of Life.

Extend your glory, and grant us mercy.

In us reflect, this life of love.


Failure: a springboard for success

The golfer Sandy Lyle won two major championships during his career, the 1985 Open and the Masters in 1988.

I vividly remember watching his final round at Augusta in 1988.  Most people recall his mercurial bunker shot on the eighteenth which secured the win. However, it was what happened on the 12th that left a greater impression on me.  During a recent interview celebrating the 20th anniversary of the win, Lyle told the Independent newspaper “[on] the 12th tee I saw that Bernhard Langer, who was in the group ahead of me, had hit an eight-iron. I saw his caddie put it back in the bag. So that’s what I hit, but it ended up in the water, and I took double-bogey.” At the turn Lyle held a two-stroke lead, but this was a significant set-back, his advantage had been wiped out and he was now tied with Mark Calcavecchia.

It was what Lyle said in an interview after the win that stuck in my mind, his reaction to the set-back has stayed with me since. “I was now part of the chasing pack” he said. Instead of lingering on what he had lost, he moved right-away to focus on what he still had to gain. There was still plenty of time to put things right, and he made up for his loss eventually beating  Calcavecchia by one stroke thanks to that bunker shot at the last.

Twelve years later, in 2000, I took the chance to set up a dotcom business. My venture was based around providing Accountancy, Book-keeping and Consulting (ABC) services to SMEs. You may recall, we were all dotcom crazy back then! I invested considerable time researching the Business Plan and was approached by a partner who was an established Independent Financial Advisor.  However, the venture ended at the embryonic stage and never saw the light of day. I passed on the Business Plan to a friend who runs a successful book-keeping practice and thought that was that.

However, the reasearch was not wasted as I landed a job as Project Accountant for the development of Amway‘s European web platform. This has been followed by 10 very successful and productive years. It has also introduced me to some incredible people across the world, in fact the greatest success is the genuine friendships I have made in every corner of the world.

It is quite clear to me that the first experience was a set-up for the second. That without the supposed failure then success would not have followed.


Light the way to productivity

I have noticed at various stages of my life that the old biblical adage is true “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint.”

I have always possessed an inbuilt desire to understand what my future holds, driven by a deep sense of destiny and of personal purpose. In fact this desire has been the motivating factor in many of the decisions I have made throughout my career (The right ones and the wrong ones!).

When I was younger I would be able to follow most new strategies or visions without much hesitation or reflection. Like a pinball within the organisation adopting different (and often contradictory) working practices. This was borne from an unquestioning trust in the ability of good leaders to lead in the right way; the right strategy, at the right time implemented in the right manner. I have since grown in my leadership and learned to question these three factors more and more.

However, I realised recently that at least the vision guaranteed that I was a fully engaged worker! Whether it was setting-up a new database when I was nineteen, or implementing Enterprise Performance Management systems Europe-wide more recently. The vision kept me aligned and productive!

This was made most clear when I compared it to my experience in organisations which suffered from strategy-block: you sense there’s one in there somewhere, but it ain’t showing itself! This becomes a depressing time for everyone involved! I know full-well what it is to work in an office environment where the workforce has “cast off restraint.” It’s not quite like Obi Wan’s famous quote in the movie Star Wars, but not far removed: “Mos Eisley, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

So, it’s fair to say that vision and purpose are important factors in helping people become more productive and engaged within any group or business.