Live Well For Less

21 years ago I applied for a job at Sainsbury’s, Cobham. I got rejected. Not even an interview. In hindsight, saying that I wanted to work just 8 hours a week might not have helped my case! I was entering the world of work, or at least I was trying to…

Fast forward two decades and I’ve been working night shifts in Sainsbury’s over the last two months, stacking shelves. Don’t give up on your dreams people. Good things come to those who wait.

Seriously though, I am always grateful for the opportunity to work hard and meet new people. When the store has closed I’ve listened to audiobooks through the 10 hour shifts. While I sadly can’t feed myself with all of the food surrounding me, I can feed my mind with words.

A Promised Land, Barack Obama. No offence Mr ex-President, but I preferred your wife’s book 🙂

Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman. It’s a big old book, but interesting in parts. Long story short, I bought 24 shares in Sainsbury’s following this. I now had skin in the game. Ooh yeah.

Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty – Helena shaved my head in January (lockdown haircut), and with my glasses on, I am looking a little like a monk. I can’t say whether I’m thinking more like a monk yet. No comment on the celibacy thing (my parents read this).

Zero negativity, Ant Middleton. Essentially, it’s Ant telling us what a top bloke he is. His wife also chips in to say the same thing! It does improve though. Get to work (even if it’s a low paid job) he says. Opportunities will come and doors will open. Your big idea may not come to you while sitting at home on the sofa, no matter how much you might want it to.

On my first shift, Little Steve is showing me the ropes. Little Steve, just for the record, is actually quite little. You may be familiar with Little John, who’s actually rather large. Now that that’s clear, I’ll continue.

“Little Steve and Simon are on non-food and pet food tonight.” Even the manager refers to him with this prefix. But don’t think Steve gets out of stacking the high-up shelves. We get stools for that. What Little Steve lacks in height, he makes up for in cheerfulness. It’s like he lives by the values of a Royal Marines Commando, “Cheerfulness in the face of adversity”. Adversity being the 10-hour night shift that lies ahead of us. Little Steve’s got my back, and I’ve got his and our mission is to stack like hell on aisles 18, 19 and 20.

I learned that fabric conditioner is big business and that people buy something called ironing water. Well I presume Sainsbury’s don’t just stock it for fun. Have I been going wrong all these years, filling the iron up straight from the tap? To my clothes and iron, I apologize, but I think you’re doing ok.

“Next we’ll work in the pet food aisle,” Little Steve says.

“Well I like pets…” I say.

“It’s not that exciting.” 

Cheer up Little Steve.

While it’s true, moving pet food around might not be that exciting, it’s moderately more interesting than stacking the shelves with bleach and Fairy liquid.

I can’t get over how much food choice there is for cats. No less than 44 varieties of Felix cat food are available. Felix is a fussy little bugger. And Greedy too. The boxes are flying off the shelves.

“The cats eat better than us!” Little Steve says. Remind me not to accept an invitation to dinner at Little Steve’s house. Thankfully there is no chance of that happening anytime soon. 

I’d like to say the ten hour shift passes in a flash. But ten hours is quite a long time. So I don’t. I do stack several boxes of Flash though. I clock out at 7am and just manage to keep my eyes open on the drive home. I walk the dog as the sun rises, a quick breakfast (or do I call it dinner?), then it’s time for bed. Ready to hit the gig economy again that night.

The next time I’m rejected, I’ll hear Michelle Obama feeding me some positive vibes, “When they go low, we go high.” Little Steve, you just go as high as you can.

#zeronegativity #mindset #livewellforless #catslikefelixlikefelix #becoming



Friday 29th May

A child approached me at the PYO kiosk “Is rhubarb vegetarian?” He said.

His Mum despaired, “This is what happens when they don’t go to school.”

“Yes and it’s vegan too” I said to the child unnecessarily adding fuel to the fire. That’s one hipster in the making.

But maybe the child did have a valid question. What if he was actually asking if the rhubarb plant itself was a vegetarian? This week on TV I watched Alan Titchmarsh teaching Britain to Grow Its Own. He recommended the nation feed our plants with Organic fish, blood and bone fertiliser to boost their growth.

Well that fertiliser sounds about as un-vegetarian as you can get. Perhaps the rhubarb plant was a pescetarian (not a vegetarian) and was partial to a filet-o-fish, composted down to boost its yield. So maybe the kid was right, and we should be questioning the diets of our fruit & veg plants. School is overrated innit.

Thursday 28th May

“DAY 2 – Simon is working in The Ice Cream Parlour.” (I really hope you read that in the voice of the Big Brother narrator, for extra effect).

I’d graduated from the PYO hut to The Ice Cream Parlour. This was like an MBA in retail and I was being paid for the privilege! Harvard you can keep your Sales & Marketing. I was out in the real world, with real customers and real-time sales. Did I mention this was real?

Yesterday I’d been trusted to sell two SKUs (rhubarb and asparagus don’t you know). Today I’d been trusted with an extra 24 products to shift. I must have made a good impression on Day 1. At this rate of growth I’d be managing the whole 75-acre farm by Day 4.

I wanted to show that I had this. All I had to do was keep my cool. And with the industrial freezer pumping out a tonne of heat in my wooden shack, on one of the hottest days in May, this was easier said than done.

A rotund man came to the Ice Cream Parlour and asked for “Strasberry” ice cream. It was barely 11am and already I was being tested. I might have been new to the ice cream game, but I was fairly sure that Strasberry wasn’t a flavour. I raced through the 24 signs in the gelato freezer and confirmed to myself we had no such berry.

Given we had both Raspberry and Strawberry on offer, I thought this would be easy to clear up.

“One scoop of Strawberry?” I said

“One scoop Strasberry” He said, doing nothing to resolve the question in my head.

“This one is Rasberry Ripple,” pointing at the swirled, creamy goodness. 

“I take Strasberry.”

You know when you ask someone three times and still you don’t understand them. Totes Awks. The unwritten rule is to then hazard a guess at what they said. Maybe this is a British trait, but you simply cannot ask them a fourth time. You just nod your head, say mmhmmm and hope in hell that you’ve got the gist.

The raspberry ripple and strawberry flavours were in the tubs next to each other. He was definitely looking at one of them. Maybe I should have scooped across the two tubs to create a Strasberry Ripple. It could have been the start of something great. Like when Worcestershire sauce was first spilled on a bit of cheese on toast. The rest is history.

I took a shot in the dark and went for a single scoop of Strawberry.

That shot in the dark came good and I passed the Ice Cream Parlour module with distinction*. The man got his Strasberry ice cream. And all was well with the world.

*not officially

Wednesday 27th May

A jolly chap approached me with a grin on his face “Has anyone ever told you, you look like Justin Rose?!”

“Yes” I said, “But it’s usually Tom Cruise I get told I look like.” Not trying to brag. I’m just stating fact.

He took a picture of me in the PYO kiosk. Each to their own. Perhaps I can start a side hustle at work offering look-alike photos. A kind of Madame Tussaud’s meets Fruit & Veg experience.

I asked him if he wanted me to swing the stick of rhubarb for the golfing shot. No, he didn’t. I’d taken it too far. I’m sat in a hut all day by myself; got to spice up the day somehow!

He then told me about a look-alike he’d seen on holiday and stopped for a photo. He couldn’t remember who it was a look-alike of. Good story.

Ahhh I didn’t even tell him my name! It would have made his day/week/year?

His daughter had no idea what was going on. So I filled her in. “It’s not every day you get served by an Olympic gold medal winner…. doppelgänger.” She didn’t seem that impressed. Whatever.


Secret Diary of a Job Hunter

Have you lost your job this year? I’m sure like myself, many of you have. Or maybe you’ve been furloughed? These are uncertain times for everyone. 

New challenges and opportunities will arrive too. We can be certain of that.

Rub it in Tesco why don’t you

You heard it in the news in April, “Supermarkets frantically hiring new staff!” Great I thought. I’ll get a job in the supermarket. I’ll actually quite enjoy it.

I applied to Iceland as a delivery driver. They didn’t get back to me. I’d already told my friends to expect ice creams delivered personally by me. Soz guys.

Then I set my sights higher in the supermarket game. I went for Tesco. I failed the online assessment. Balls.

In the following week all the adverts on Spotify were for Tesco delivery driver positions. Way to rub salt in the wounds! Cheers Tesco. 

(Spotify, for the record, I’ll think about coming back to Premium when I’ve got a job. No need to keep reminding me.)

Am I punching out of my league to apply for Ocado? Friends will surely take delivery slots over free ice creams. But there will be no false promises from me this time.

Welcome to my Bush!

I’ve now had a couple of jobs (or is it gigs?) through Task Rabbit. “Welcome to my Bush!” said the African lady as I arrived at my first gardening job. I didn’t know where to look. 

As far as overgrown bushes go, I’d seen worse. A couple of hours later and her garden/bush/whatever was tended to and I was now a Tasker in the gig economy!

Sure, the money is not great. But. The satisfaction of finding your own work and creating something of value is hard to beat.

Maybe you’re a fan of the gig economy. Maybe it’s affecting your business in a bad way. Whether you are a fan or not. It is reshaping the career landscape. We must adapt for change.

Luckily you’re a human. So you’re a master at adapting. Congrats.

Oh and Deliveroo if you’re reading this. I’m still waiting to hear on my application. I’m pretty good at cycling. I once left London, and seven punctures later ended up in Paris. Don’t worry, I wasn’t delivering pizzas.

Just Do It

A great book I read recently is Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. You might think Nike was always a successful, big business.

Nike had to start at the beginning too. It could have failed at many points along the way before we’d even heard of it.

I started a side hustle last week. I wrote a post “The Dog Runner” on my website and put an advert on my car window. My Minimum Viable Product or MVP is now live. And in the spirit of Phil Knight, I Just Did It. It probably won’t come to an IPO, but hey, I began.

Do you ever overthink things? I know I do sometimes. It’s the Analyst in me. Say you want a new career, but you have no idea what you want to do. You won’t think you’re way to a solution.

You need to try new things out, talk to people and get some experience if you can. 

Maybe you’ve dreamt of being a writer. By all means take a course and read books on it. But please just put a pen to paper. And. See. What. Happens.

Whether you’re at work this week or not. Have a good one and stay alert.


Blog Productivity Skills

The 15 Minute Journey

I’ve given myself 15 minutes to write this and publish it. I’ve started the timer and time is ticking away. The aim is to see for myself and to show you what can be achieved in a short space of time on a daily basis. So I start the timer on my phone for 15 mins and turn off all notifications, distractions and start writing away.

There are things that take more than 15 minutes to complete for sure, but there also things that with a small, consistent, regular effort that will produce big results over the long run.

So this is my 15 minute journey. To see how I can learn and improve skills, by spending 15 minutes on them everyday.

Like some of you I imagine, I start things with the best intentions. Studying for exams at school, I would get all my textbooks ready, write out revision plans with a view that I would do well in these exams (this time). I’d maybe start with a big revision session and burn out within a day or two. Now I did ok at school, but if I’d approached it in a different way, tackling it in a small amount each day, I believe the results would have been far better. It would have been less stressful too, knowing that I’d made a small effort each day. Instead, I had a lingering feeling that I hadn’t done any revision that day and so I stopped myself from doing fun activities because of that. It was a downward spiral of inaction.

Back to the present day, and within the last two weeks, I’ve focused on doing 3 things every day for at least 15 minutes a day. Slightly random yes, but these three things are: handstands, online poker and building a website Don’t ask me why, but I’ve been trying to master the handstand for the past two years; reading books about it, watching Youtube videos and even going to handstand clinics! My handstands ok, but not great, I can freestand for a few seconds. Handstand videos to follow…

Online poker I took up at the start of 2019, but again I have read books and watched videos (no poker clinics yet!), but not played it consistently over the year. Poker is a game of skill, strategy, psychology and risk management. Although the rules are simple, to become good at it and win over the long run requires learning and developing each area of the game. But it also requires a consistent effort to practice, track how you are doing and feed this back into how you play. Equity curve tracking my P&L to follow…

I’m also building this website a little bit at a time. Yes it’s crap at the moment, but it’s a start and the ball is rolling. A couple of years ago I took out a book in the library about how to build websites in html and CSS (coding languages). I spent several hours in that library learning a few basics and started to think (dream) about different sites that I could build and how the business idea was going to make me a fortune. I took the book away from the library and barely touched it again. I’d burnt myself out by trying too much too soon. Much better would have been to chip away at it and keep things moving. Better website to follow…

This has taken me a bit longer than 15 minutes, but I’ve moved from just thinking about it to just doing it.

Where are you at on your 15 minute journey?