Do You Need A Daily Routine?

Do You Need A Daily Routine?

Sometimes my days will start with the best of intentions. I’ll sit myself down at the computer in the morning, make myself a cup of coffee, check my email. A few hours later, after several hours of flicking through Reddit, Twitter and Hacker News (in addition to fielding screaming capitals URGENT) emails from colleagues, I’ll have forgotten what I even sat down at the computer to do.

It’s not that I have nothing to do. In many ways, it’s just the opposite. I have too much to do, and not enough time to do it in. I feel overwhelmed.

Particularly for freelancers like myself who work remotely, how we spend our time is a vital strategic decision. There’s no manager standing over my shoulder ordering me to get back to work, or to drag my attention away from my smartphone.

It’s easy to make lots of fancy commitments. It’s easy to say “I’m going to go to the gym”, “I’m going to do thirty minutes of Yoga every morning,” or “I’m going to get into meditation this year.” We need a trick for sticking it.

Daniel Lippman, the co-author of the Politico playbook, wakes up at 3.30am to start writing. Then he has breakfast, does some schmoozing at the Four Seasons. He’s usually done his first TV interview before he’s had lunch. And he does it before he’s set his alarm clock or had a coffee.

Lippman’s routine reminds me of another great, Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway described his writing ritual as starting just as the sun began rising, then working straight through until whatever he had to say was said. He likens completing his morning of writing to making love to someone you love–being both empty and fulfilled at the same time. Upon completing that morning’s work, he would wait until the next morning to begin again, going over his ideas in his head and holding on to the anticipation of starting again the next day.

Both Lippman and Hemingway have ritual in common.

The key to success, for Lipmman and for Hemingway, is the daily ritual and the slow, deliberate progress towards their goals. There’s no heroic efforts, just doing the same things, day in and day out. Great people care about the quality of their work and they build that quality into their schedule.

Even if we don’t have anything as glamorous as a morning TV show to run, we need to become experts in time management too. Not just a “to do list” of whoever is nagging us today. That approach isn’t focused or deliberate enough.It needs to be a process that we have down whether it’s a busy day or a quiet day.

What’s the first order of business for you when you sit down at your desk? For many of us, we can’t resist checking our emails or social media. But doing this gives other people control over our agenda. Both drain our focus, and put us into a reactive mindset, which it can be hard to get out of even hours later.

Far better to start your day with a quick planning session, before technology has a chance to get in the way. Take a blank sheet of paper (this really does not seem to work if you use an online tool such as Evernote, for some reason), and ask yourself this:

“Today is over and I’ve had a wonderfully productive day. What is it that I’ve achieved?”

The reason this works so well is because it drags your focus away from urgent stuff, like making sure invoices are chased up, sending emails and managing your calendar, from important stuff like planning the next six months of content, setting up lead nurture campaigns or completing a white paper. You only have so many mental cycles in a day, and you should use them wisely.

This is the thinking behind Stephen Covey’s Four Quadrants for Time Management. The better you get at focusing on important things before they become urgent, the more you will achieve.

Covey’s approach, on its own, doesn’t get you very far though. It’s good at telling you what to do, it’s not so good at making you do it.

This is where David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” routine comes into play. Take the list of things that you’ve just written and now break them down into composite tasks, starting each item with a verb. Instead of just writing “Blog post”, write down every action that will lead to that blog posts being written. You might end up with: Research market, write bullet points, finalise draft, incorporate royalty-free images.

Countless studies have shown that the more specific you can be about your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them. There’s something quite addicting about Getting Things Done too – you always have a “next action” to move onto, so you avoid the analysis paralysis that often comes with taking lots of decisions.

Next, it’s important to prioritise your list. If you just have a long list of things to do, you’ll have no incentive to get started on any of them, and you’ll end up feeling terrible. You should start your day with the item on your list that is going to consume the most mental energy, and try to end with something fun. For me, I love connecting with people but find hours of solitary writing quite tedious, so guess what gets done first? Then, when I need a bit of a pick me up in the afternoon, I get to build connections, which is one of my favourite things to do.

This whole process should take you less than ten minutes to complete, and studies show that it’s best done when you have lots of energy, so before 10am.

The whole thing will take you less than 10 minutes to complete. Yet it will continue to pay dividends throughout your day.

You’ll be amazed by the changes that starting your day with a mini-planning session will reap. You’ll start taking better decisions as you’ll be taking decisions at a time when your mind is fresh. You’ll also avoid that feeling of not knowing what to do later in the day, when you’re struggling for energy.

Now, with all that off your plate, what are you going to be able to achieve?

How To Tell Your Colleagues You’re Gay

How To Tell Your Colleagues You’re Gay

Coming out at work, it’s terrible isn’t it? On your first day on the job you do up your tie, check that you haven’t left Grindr open and leave your gayness at the door. Before long, the “partner chat” starts to begin. Most of your colleagues love for some inexplicable reason to talk about their kids, or the place that they’ll move into when they’ve had their kids, or the person they’d like to have their kids with. And all the while, you stay quiet, not really knowing how to broach the subject. Blithely dropping “my boyfriend” into conversation all seems a bit casual, and what do you do with the gaping hole in the conversation that follows? Will coming out adversely affect your career prospects, particularly in a conservative workplace?

With all the uncertainty around coming out, it’s no surprise that many of us choose not to bother. According to a 2014 study conducted by the advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, 53% of LGBT employees in the U.S. are closeted at work. There are also only a few openly gay company executives in the UK and the US. Tim Cook is the only openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and not all of us work for companies as trendy and progressive and cool as Apple.

But why is coming out at work seen as such a big deal, and how can you tell your colleagues you’re gay without making a massive deal out of it? It’s easy to imagine your sexuality being turned into the butt of jokes at work, but how do you approach that? How do you let people know that you’re openly gay, but that it’s just another facet of your professional identity? If you have leadership aspirations, how do you square those with being openly gay?

All of these concerns are understandable, and the mood music around diversity issues is definitely a little tricky right now. We’ve just had the Google Diversity Memo, which openly discussed the idea that “biological suitability” may make different people more suited for different roles. You might be the first LGBT person to come out in your workplace.

The first thing that you can take heart from is that the workplace is likely to be more friendly to gender and sexual freedom than society at large. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 91% of the Fortune 500 provide protection in their own policies on the basis of sexual orientation, and 61% protect employees based on gender identity. While this may feel like cold comfort if you know that you are the first person to come out in your company (or even in some cases your industry!), but you can at least know that you’re unlikely to be coming out without at least some sort of safety net.

If you are the first to come out in your company – great! You’ll now be able to bring your full identity to work with you, and leave the uncertainty of having to manage what you say behind you. When I came out in my first role, I was the first person in the company to do so, but I was able to take a role in educating the workforce on LGBT issues, and it ended up being a really positive thing for my career.

Far from being a negative experience for me, it’s actually helped me stand out. I’ve learned about networking groups such as LGBT Interbank and London LGBT Professionals, and have found myself part of a much wider network than I previously thought possible. I used to see being LGBT and involved in leadership as a contradiction, but now I see them as one and the same thing.

One of the really negative trends in recent years has been the tendency to reduce everyone to labels. “Oh that person is trans, that person is bi, that person is genderqueer,” without really getting to know that person. My networking with LGBT professionals (and with straight allies) have helped me and them remember that we are all people at the end of the day, and that we have lives beyond the labels we give each other. Learning from the experiences of others has really helped me develop as an LGBT leader.

For that reason too, there’s a lot to be said for just standing up and being counted. By being a visible LGBT presence in and around the office, you’ll be making it easier for other people to come out, and helping your colleagues better understand LGBT issues. It may feel daunting to be the first one, but all change begins with one person, and you’ll be doing your part to create a more productive and positive work environment for everyone.

But what can you do to make the process of coming out easier? Here are some top tips:

Know Your Context

It sounds obvious, but yes, you do need to understand what your work environment is before you take a decision to come out. Although the situation is rapidly changing, some work environments and some industries are going to be less friendly than others. You may well get a different response to coming out in the construction industry to working in media.

Coming out in management consulting may be a different experience to coming out in sales or banking. If you work in one of these industries or one of these companies, you likely already know about it, but it’s worth checking yourself first. In the long run, if a particular company is homophobic, you may decide against working with them in the long run.

‘What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the assumptions on which he habitually acts.’

George Bernard Shaw

Tip one should be to absolutely do your research about the kind of environment you are likely to be coming out into. Will you be the first person to come out? Are there any protections for LGBT people, either through the employee handbook or at the state level? Success in all walks of life is about knowing the terrain you are likely to be fighting on.

Find Allies You Can Rely On

Second, you absolutely want to find other people you can go into battle with. Be on the look out for other LGBT employees, and colleagues that seem to be gay-friendly, as well as friends and mentors in and around the workplace. Many of them will have been through the exact same thing that you have, and will be in a position to teach you about their experiences and help you. They’ll also be a great help if you run up against any challenges as an LGBT individual in the workplace.

I’ve worked with dozens of really fab mentors over the years who have helped me with everything from coming out to joining up with networking events, to making the right decisions in relation to my career. Sometimes these things have explicitly involved my sexuality, other times it’s just been nice to have another voice who knows what you’re going through.

Having people around who understand what you are going through, particularly those who don’t expect you to do things like do unpaid “internships” in return for their advice, is a great way to validate your plan of action moving forward. You should be open to talking about your experiences, particularly after you’ve come out, as you’re in a great position to act as an example to others who haven’t come out yet.

Come Out Early, Come Out Often

If you have come out, don’t feel that that’s the last thing you can ever say on the subject. A great way of coming out without making a huge deal out of it is to mention a past relationship. You don’t have to fight too hard to find the words, just find a way of bringing it into conversation.

People will understand, and it’s a million times easier than sitting down colleagues and having the chat which has a real “the birds and the bees feel to it”! So if the topic does turn to what you are doing at the weekend, or where you are going on vacation and you know the lie of the land, you should feel totally comfortable just dropping it in! These are natural and normal opportunities for you to come out at work.

Where you go from there is totally up to you. Some people like to openly embrace their LGBT identity as part of their working identity, and that’s totally cool. Others prefer to hang back (and anyway, prefer to keep their private and their work life separate). Others are sadistic and enjoy teasing new colleagues with “are they / aren’t they” type tricks!

It’s also for you to decide where your particular boundaries lie as an LGBT individual. I always used to hate it at the pub personally when Friday afternoon conversation turned to “gay lingo”, which straight men seem to have a strange fascination with; or questions about whether I was a top or a bottom.

I like to think that these stemmed from misunderstandings about “where the line” is, but if you think someone has pushed their questions too far, feel free to politely tell them. You might also want to think ahead of time about how you might handle some of these conversations if they do come up, particularly in situations like the pub where the expectation is that things are going to be quite relaxed!

Post-Coming Out

After you have come out, you may find that a lot of things already become a lot easier. But being anxious about how people are going to react is always going to be a part of the LGBT experience. It’s always going to be one of those slightly awkward things, although it does seem to get easier the more you do it (depending on environment).

Taking the lead with your sexuality and gender identity at work can be a really positive development for you, and will help others who are thinking of coming out. You have the right to feel comfortable about yourself at work and be a more productive leader.

What’s stopping you from coming out at work?

What I Learned From A Year Of Freelancing

What I Learned From A Year Of Freelancing

Early this year, there was some “streamlining” at a company I was working for, and I got laid off.

I didn’t much fancy getting back into the world of Full Time Employment, so decided to begin a freelance career.

Over the last year, I’ve had to learn a lot: from getting introductions to people, to handling client relationships, to getting the pricing right.

It’s worked out pretty well. I’ve managed to stay happy and healthy (which were my two major concerns), I’ve taken vacations to Thailand, Cambodia and Gran Canaria (and achieved a lifetime ambition of seeing Angkor Wat), and am in a better position financially than when I was full time.

The Advantages

Starting a freelance business in London definitely has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you have a massive pool of potential people that you can work with, within a stone’s throw of your apartment.

On the negative side, that apartment usually comes at a cost. Flatshares in central London are upwards of $1,200 a month, and even that’s for something fairly basic.

Ultimately it came down to practicality though: after years of navigating corporate politics, I was burnt out. I needed a change.

The Money

In my industry (technology marketing) the premium that agencies charge is very high, and a lot of the time, the agencies don’t really understand the business they’re working with very well. That gives an opportunity to undercut them whilst still making good money.

That means that a lot of the time, you have the scope to charge what the market will bear. What’s more, if you learn how to deliver a new service (I got good at doing customer persona creation this year), you can increase your rate significantly.

Pick and Choose Your Work

I’ve experienced working as a small cog in Big Software Co. and I can say that it’s not really for me. It’s very easy to get pigeon-holed into being thought of as “good at one thing” — and end up doing that all the time.

I decided last year that my ideal scenario would be to have 2 or 3 anchor clients where the work would not differ too much from month to month, and supplement those with a couple of clients who I would work with on more short term projects.

This has kept the work that I do pretty varied. I do a lot of copywriting, and sometimes websites in HubSpot as well, but also do persona development. Software businesses are often at very different stages of development, and will have different strengths and weaknesses. Some won’t really know who their customer is, and others will have a good understanding of that but need help producing content.

Pick and Choose Your Clients

After a couple of years of working with the corporate equivalent of UFC cage fighters, I knew I wanted to choose the people who I worked with carefully. I decided that I would only work with people who I really liked and saw as a fit for the kind of work I wanted to be doing.

At the same time, instead of having one boss, I now had five! I had to negotiate the contracts with them, structure proposals, and manage my workload so I was able to deliver everything. I’ve never had to leave a project halfway through — but the pressure to deliver great work (your reputation is on the line after all), keeps you very sharp.

The Disadvantages

Being a freelancer definitely comes with its own set of disadvantages too. Some of these things can be managed — but others are simply part of what it is to be a freelancer.

Balancing additional requests is hard

Knowing when to charge is a real art. Sometimes you will want to price an additional request for work at a lower rate, knowing that that client will be worth more later on. You then have to balance that with the rest of your workload, to ensure that your other accounts stay healthy and profitable.

This can sometimes put a lot of strain on you, and be quite disruptive to your personal life.

Lots of additional business responsibilities

The business side definitely takes some getting used to. Negotiating the right amount for your goods and services at the start of a contract is difficult — especially when you have to predict how long a piece of work will take.

Get it wrong at that stage, and you are setting yourself up for misery down the line as your account becomes unprofitable.

I’ve found it a lot easier to get clients than I expected it to be as introductions have really worked well for me, but there are still occasional issues getting clients to pay on time.

When you’re a Full Time Employee, a lot of this stuff is handled for you, so you have the freedom to just get on with your work.

Constant networking

You always have to be on the look out for your next opportunity — and a lot of the time that means pressing the flesh and meeting people.

Inbound marketing is a myth for freelancers. I don’t have a whole marketing department who can produce sales content and ebooks for me, and am too focused on my existing clients to be blogging daily.

Inbound marketing also means that you have to embrace lots of tactics like email ‘newsletters’ that just feel kind of scummy for what I’m trying to create.

You’re always at work

I learned this when I went away to Thailand and Cambodia. I booked the holiday during a relatively quiet period for work — but by the time the holiday had come around, I’d picked up a couple of new clients.

I didn’t want to turn down the work, but it did mean that there were a few days in Bangkok and Chiang Mai when I simply didn’t leave the hotel room.

Luckily, my clients have been pretty reasonable in their requests. I haven’t had many of the 10PM emails — although it may just be that I am used to them by now.

Freelancing also makes it very hard to switch off from work. This is something that I’ve generally found difficult anyway, but with freelancing you definitely feel guilty or pressured if you haven’t moved a project forward in a couple of days. You start to wonder if you’re going to get an email about it from the client. Work becomes a more or less constant part of your life.

No security

When you’re a freelancer, you can be fired at a month’s notice (or less), and be worrying about how you’re going to cover rent that month.

While you can mitigate that as I have by building up a cash buffer, getting fired is a real risk in the early days.

As a freelancer you don’t get sick pay, in-work benefits, or paid vacation time. And often you feel guilty about pricing them in.

Hard to grow your business

As a freelance consultant, growing your business is incredibly hard.

The best way I’ve found of doing it is to start doing higher margin work — clients are unlikely to pay great margins on blogging and social media work, but will pay more for customer journey work.

The downside of customer journey work is that you have to make the case to the client that it is a worthwhile use of their budget. It almost always is, but the client does not see an immediate return on their investment as they would with a blog post or a new website.

Passion matters

In the last year, I’ve had more fun than I have in the last five before that. I feel like the passion I have for web development and marketing is back.

For the two years before that, I’d been wondering if my heart was really in it, and “scanning the exits” for other things to do.

Since I got my freelance business off the ground, all that has changed. I feel like I’m working on my own thing.

I do feel a million times more in control than I was. If I want to travel the world (I’m going to be working out of Berlin for at least some of next year, holla), if I want to charge very little to develop a relationship, I can.

Freelancing is one of the best things that has happened to me, and I’m surprised at how well it is going.

Time will tell if this is for me in the long run. In a year’s time, I could be looking at new career options again. But I hope not.

It’s easier than ever to be an LGBT football fan – but still not easy

It’s easier than ever to be an LGBT football fan – but still not easy

I didn’t choose to be gay or an Aston Villa fan. I attended my first football game at Villa Park in the late 1990s, and I knew I was gay even then. Was it the muscled torsos, moustaches or the long shorts? None of the above, really, I just knew I liked guys.

It’s safe to say that at the time a football ground was not a welcoming environment for a gay man. Homophobic taunts were common both on the pitch and off, the game was still living with the dire legacy of Justin Fashanu’s side, and no-one seemed ready to discuss sexuality in football at all. Any time that sexuality was discussed, it was through the prism of the tortured soul struggling to live a lie in his personal life.

To walk into the gleaming glass and brick stadiums of today, you’d think that everything has changed. Football is run by suits who are at pains emphasise the “gameday experience” – or what used to be called “a beer and a pint” – and you’re more likely to see a spilled latte than a fight in the stands. We haven’t quite hit the heights of Yankee Stadium and its $2,500 cushioned seats, Michelin star food, and jet-engine air-conditioning, but sometimes it doesn’t feel far off. Any of us who have endured a rainy away day at the Baseball Ground might be forgiven for wondering what’s happened to football.

Society is in a different place too from when I first stood on that wet and windy Villa Park terrace. 1997 saw the arrival of a Labour government, which slammed shut the pernicious legacy of section 28, “inalienable right to be gay” and fretting about AIDS – and brought in a new era of LGBTs serving in the armed forces, an equal age of consent and gay couples adopting.

And all of this found its way onto the terraces. Outright homophobia in the stands isn’t quite a thing of the past, but it now brings opprobrium on those who still practice it. Most people now have a gay mate or even a gay mate that they go to the football with. As many as two-thirds of people now say that same-sex relationships are “not wrong at all”, up from 59 per cent in 2015, and 47 per cent in 2012.

The area most resistant to change, in fact, appears to be the stuffed shirts at the top of the game. Football Association chairman Greg Clarke told The Times last month that he didn’t think top-level football was “ready” for a player to come out.

Peter Tatchell’s appeal for the FA to report The Sun to the Press Complaints Commission for calling Ronaldo a “Portuguese nancy boy” fell on deaf ears and former FIFA President Sepp Blatter commented that gay fans should “refrain from any sexual activities” if they visit the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

This is a generation that neither really understands, nor wants to address the issue of sexuality in sport, but thankfully it is a generation that is now passing out of the game.

However, while there is still tacit approval from the top of the game, homophobia will remain a problem. My biggest memory of playing five-a-side football five years ago was a barrage of homophobic abuse every time I took a player on, with the referee doing nothing to address it. Even while I was at university, I was told: “You can’t be gay, you play football.”

And while homophobic abuse has been mostly eradicated from the stands, it still hurts when you hear it.

I’d have hoped, also that we would have more than one out footballer, Liam Davis, playing in the UK at the moment. One would have also hoped that he would be playing at a higher level than Gainsborough Trinity, six divisions below the Premier League. People will ask why the issue of openly gay footballers matter, and say that there is too much pressure put on players to come out. My answer to that would be why shouldn’t it?

Before we see a real change, I sense that football is going to have to undergo a culture change. British football, which has always been just as likely to praise a thundering tackle as an intricate bit of skill, might need to change the way it looks at itself. The idea of a “man’s man” footballer has started to give way to a greater appreciation of more technical prowess. Yet the idea that football is essentially about success and domination still lingers, and none of the gay footballers that are in the Premier League have felt able to come out during their playing careers.

Thankfully, that culture change is now starting to take place. The Rainbow Laces campaign, controversial at first, is now a standard part of football culture. You can even buy your own.

Pride Week 2017 also saw the first ever #CALLITOUT event, held at Manchester’s National Football Museum. The event, organised by alliance group Pride in Football and funded through the Premier League Fans Fund, aimed to mark the rise of the LGBT fan movement and offered an opportunity to debate issues surrounding homophobia in the sport. People were also given the opportunity to openly discuss and challenge the alienation of LGBT fans at the Russia and Qatar World Cups, how police are tackling incidents of homophobia, and hate speech in football.

Like much of the wonderful social change that has happened in recent years, the battle to rid football of homophobia is taking place from the ground up, turbocharged by social media. It could still be some time before football feels like a genuinely open and inclusive place for LGBT fans, but for the millions of LGBT fans around the world who love the game, that change can’t come soon enough.

Conscious Uncluttering

Conscious Uncluttering

I’m halfway through preparing to move to Manchester, and I’m declaring stuff bankruptcy. Over the past year, I’ve seen the stuff I own take control of me. When I moved into my house, I wondered how I would manage to fill the space I had. No such worries now: my room is full of unused toiletries, plates, digital ephemera, ludicrously a robot hoover and books that I’ve been meaning to read forever.

Over the last year, the room has been a metaphor for my lack of clarity in life. In every corner there are items that are out of place, decaying, or otherwise falling into a state of disrepair. Until yesterday (when I emptied it), I had a cupboard of dread out on the landing full of stuff that I couldn’t quite bring myself to throw away but for some reason hadn’t needed at all for the last six months. I’ve long since abandoned my inbox as a lost cause.

In clearing out my room there are a few things that I’ve come to realize about time and space. First, clutter is incredibly costly. Last week Apple increased the storage limits on the iPhone from a measly 16GB (an amount of storage that would have cost $30m in 1980) to 64GB. The base model 32GB iPhone costs $719. If you have occasion to need 128GB, you face paying an additional $100. A quick check of my phone tells me that I have 32GB of photos stored. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone deciding to downgrade the storage on their iPhone, so as things stand I face paying a lot for the privilege of having them.

The worst of it is when your possessions start arguing. In the past month, my Sonos has fallen out with my XBox One in a big way. At first, it was only minor disagreements: the occasional stutter on my Sonos when watching Netflix. I thought at first that separating them would do the trick: my Sonos was for a while sitting directly above my XBox One, which led to the Today Programme becoming occasionally unlistenable.

On the plus side, it would mean that I missed most of whatever Diane Abbott was saying. Now, they flat out refuse to work together. Any attempt to even have the XBox and the Sonos plugged in at the same time will inevitably fail. Sonos will stutter, as if to say, “um awkward” before refusing to work. NOW TV is a bit flimsy at the best of times, but becomes literally impossible when it’s competing with the Sonos for network space.

In the last year as a consultant working from home, I’ve also struggled at times to stay focused and on task. It’s September now, and I moved to Brighton in February. When I arrived here summer was something distant, now it’s almost over. Although I’ve made progress in my life and on my business, i’m mostly just keeping the accounts I have ticking over. I planned to go away over Christmas, but I haven’t really put the necessary planning steps in place to make that happen.

I’m lucky to have a lot of freedom about where I work: with clients dotted around the globe, I’m able to work more or less wherever there is a good internet connection. But I’m still working around 60-80 hours a week, and studying so I stay on top of my game. The rest of my free time is spent either seeing friends or binging on Netflix. I’ve recently started to learn the joy of being careful about my time and my choices: that I can work for half the time I do as well.

See, here’s the thing. In trying to bring a sense of order to my outside world, I’ve managed to achieve more focus and clarity internally too. Life is hard enough without having to sift through your life’s clutter to find what you need. I’ve resisted decluttering my life for eight months, but now I’m a convert to minimalism.

Justin Bieber’s new track is an anthem for growing up as a millennial

Justin Bieber’s new track is an anthem for growing up as a millennial

I’ve been wanting to write about this song for a while. It’s the track I jam to in my bedroom, it’s the song I sing at music practice, and it’s the first song I really connected with on Purpose.

Not that Purpose is a bad album, it’s actually surprisingly decent for a Bieber album. But *Love Yourself* is the stand out track.

Thematically it’s very similar to J Cole’s “Love Yourz”, but where Love Yourz goes for a more straight up hip-hop treatment, *Love Yourself* is stripped back.

It’s what separates it from the other tracks on the album, and most of what’s in the top 40 at the moment.

A lot is written about the Millennial generation, but very little of it covers what it’s actually like to live in it. This track does that. When we’re talking about songs that define the middle of the second decade of the twentieth century, we won’t be talking about Jess Glynne, we’ll be talking about this.

_For all the times that you rain on my parade
And all the clubs you get in using my name_

One of the strongest openings to a track in recent times. Throughout the song, there’s a quick switch back and forth between talking about the individual and talking about the group, because today they’re one and the same thing.

Relationships today are played out in public – in the clubs, in Facebook and on Twitter – and the perception of the group matters. It makes relationships a minefield, and never ever about just two people.

*You think you broke my heart, oh, girl, for goodness’ sake
You think I’m crying on my own, well I ain’t*

Here’s some quiet defiance. Nowadays you’re not allowed to suffer. You’re expected to be always on, always available, always upbeat. Everything that happens is a “learning experience” or has made you “twice the person” you were.

Inherent in Twitter and social is a need to present a facade to the rest of the world. It’s not a place to admit you’re vulnerable.

_”And I didn’t wanna write a song
‘Cause I didn’t want anyone thinking I still care, I don’t”_

And we’re back to image. Biebs is denied the catharsis of writing a song because of what the act of writing it would say about him.

It’s Carly Simon – but inward looking.

_”But you still hit my phone up”_

It’s the reality of today. Dozens of Facebook notifications, hundreds of Twitter mentions, thousands of Grindr chats. The expectation that you can be interrupted at a moment’s notice, and that to not reply is to go cold.

_”My mama don’t like you and she likes everyone”_

This line is a reference to his track with Cody Simpson, “Home to Mama”.

“Because I’ll take you home to mama
Let you meet my friends
Because you don’t come with drama”

Again we’re back to the group and opinions of others. Nowadays meshing badly with the group makes any relationship a no-go.

Also, we understand who Bieber is. We know his back story. The real power is that given all that – given the global mega-stardom – that what his mum thinks still matters.

_”‘Cause if you like the way you look that much
Oh, baby, you should go and love yourself”_

Could it have been “fuck yourself”? Yes. Should it have been “fuck yourself”? No.

When the song came out, a few commented that it would be interesting to see which line he performed on tour – whether this was about radio play.

I don’t think it is, and it’s the right decision. There’s lots and lots of very good “fuck you” songs – and throwaway anger would have been out of keeping with this track.

We’ve all been there. As we battle with difficult times in our lives, often the focus is on pleasing other people. Sometimes the search for accolades and recognition (even in the form of likes and comments) feeds the struggle.

But you come to a realisation after a while that it doesn’t mean anything to you – that the highs don’t mean so much anyway – and that instead you need to focus on is appreciating yourself.

But isn’t it the opposite you might say? Isn’t the ‘selfie culture’ about narcissism? No, it’s about validation. It’s about being able to tell a story to ourselves that we matter. That in this cacophany of noise we mean something. But in doing it we build barriers. We exclude when we mean to include.

And really we need to get back to appreciating ourselves again.

_”And when you told me that you hated my friends
The only problem was with you and not them
And every time you told me my opinion was wrong
And tried to make me forget where I came from”_

Because identity is so bound up in the group, if you reject someone’s friends, you’re implicitly rejecting them.

The track really is beautifully simple. It’s the same melody, repeated and rearranged.

This track benefits from not having a large crew of writers. Often when there’s a big crew of writers, you don’t get a sense of where the personality in the track is. That’s not the case here.

But with Love Yourself, you’re looking at a track with longevity. A track that will define its era much more than the EDM we’ve been fed in recent times.

And much like Britney’s “Piece of Me” it’s hard to separate the music from the artist’s current situation. This will be the track that marks the transition in Bieber’s career through from baby faced twink through brat to bona fide pop star.

It’s going to be interesting to see how he follows Purpose, once all is said and done.

Not all of the album is this quality. Some of it has the tendency to veer back into bland pop and blander production.

But he has hit on something. A track that is of its moment and connects. I like it. I like it a lot.

Social Contact is vital to Mental Health

Social Contact is vital to Mental Health

I met with Keith Winestein at Time To Change’s #SoMe event this week. I’ve known Keith a while – he was one of the first people to really think about how platforms like Twitter can be used for social good.

We seem to be hitting one of those times again when social platforms are being asked to prove how relevant and good they actually can be.

It’s true, a lot of people in particular have tried Twitter and been turned off.

I’ve always thought that for all Twitter (and often is) used as a broadcast channel, it’s still a great way of people connecting around causes.

The most interesting interactions on Twitter happen between groups of people with 200 followers, not between celebrities and their fans.

The concept of #SoMe is to take the best bits of Twitter –  the connections – and apply them to the real world.

Volunteers with lived experience of mental health issues contributed “profiles” of themselves. We then picked someone to have a conversation with.

really excited to be here [@I_W_M](https://twitter.com/I_W_M) for [@TimetoChange](https://twitter.com/TimetoChange) ‘s [#SoMe](https://twitter.com/hashtag/SoMe?src=hash) event [#mentalhealth](https://twitter.com/hashtag/mentalhealth?src=hash) [#timetochange](https://twitter.com/hashtag/timetochange?src=hash) [pic.twitter.com/leLSQiwxd1](http://t.co/leLSQiwxd1)
>
> — vineeta (@vineetaseh) [October 8, 2015](https://twitter.com/vineetaseh/status/652101635469131776)

I had a conversation with Sharon, a Biopolar sufferer who had set up her own [Facebook page](https://www.facebook.com/BIPOLARIISUFFERER) to connect people with Bipolar with each other. The conversations are incredibly powerful and human.

The stigma around mental health issues is gradually being removed – this week the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit a [local Mind centre](http://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/duke-and-duchess-of-cambridge-to-shine-spotlight-on-world-mental-health-day/#.VhegxBNVhHw) – but it’s still quite hard for people to open up.

Yet when we do – we often find that conversation changes everything. It gives new perspectives. It unlocks empathy. It solves problems.

#SoMe, like Social Media, is a great way into these conversations.

Everyone stands together in a circle of love and trust. We glimpse a rainbow: we have dignity in mental health.”

Marian [@Krysan1](https://twitter.com/Krysan1)
>
> — #Winological (@KeithWinestein) [October 9, 2015](https://twitter.com/KeithWinestein/status/652427113564381184)