Tag Archives: women’s writes

Did impatience kill HMV?

2 Apr

hmv pic

WHEN I first heard the bleak news that HMV was headed towards administration, flashbacks of bored Saturday afternoons and playing hide and seek behind the XXL Nirvana T-shirts flooded back to me.

Having always been a bit of a die-hard music fan, I spent a large proportion of my teenage youth there with friends trawling through CD’s and blasting out The Smiths via super-sized headphones until I became five years closer to developing tinnitus.

So I was immensely saddened to hear about HMV’s irrevocable decline, one which has made me question whether or not our need to have everything right here, right now, in the moment, could be a factor in the death of so many of our traditional retailers.

Although this weekend HMV suitor Hilco locked in talks with landlords in the hope of saving up to 140 of the 220 music shops, I feel like HMV can no longer stand a chance in the midst of our generally impatient society.

In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, where the mere thought of waiting in a queue to buy an album seems preposterous when we can download it in seconds with the click of a button, it’s no wonder that HMV has almost been given the death sentence.

Unlike the 90s, when tablets, Blackberry’s and internet shopping  were virtually unheard of, HMV wasn’t just a shop, but also a hangout spot for like minded youngsters who would bond over Bob Marley posters and obsessions with Take That.

HMV was killed by YouTube, Spotify and that oh, so glorious Amazon.co.uk. It was killed by Tubidy mobile and Sunday afternoon CD and DVD trolley dashes around the supermarket. It was also — dare I say —  killed by illegal downloading, despite today’s excessively threatening piracy laws.

We no longer need shops like these to interact with other humans or to discover our inner dub-step fan. We just don’t have the time to arduously paw through discs for that Spice Girls album that we’d end up so desperately trying to hide from our collections.

Today it would make more sense just to secretly buy it off the internet, whilst amusing ourselves with other important pastimes, like spying on Facebook—or snickering at Carol Vorderman’s latest fashion faux pas on the Mail Online whilst simultaneously discovering how many Percy Pigs we can scoff without developing type 2 Diabetes.

The sad matter is, we are no longer patient. Patience has been destroyed. In this day and age, patience is waiting the entire two minutes for our instant cook porridge to heat up. Patience is haranguing the bar tender to have our wine ready when we slide into our booths. We can no longer afford to be patient when it comes to technology.

All those CD and DVD collections which we once prided on and smugly brought our friends round to glimpse at the age of fifteen no longer has the cool factor like it used to. After all, why would it be when we’ve all got iPods the size of our thumb to store entire albums on?

In some ways it is baffling to think how HMV has managed to survive so long up until now in the first place. It is worrying to see some of our most loved and well known stores succumb to the retail wasteland.

However perhaps if the prices were a bit more reasonable, and the internet hadn’t become so convenient, then perhaps HMV wouldn’t be in this situation. For my teenage self I hope it can survive. I guess we’ll just have to use our last remnants of patience to wait and find out.


Positive Visualisation – Does it work?

1 Apr

Athletes swear by it, entrepreneurs use it to try and turn their dreams into reality and even Oprah is a big fan – but the real questions is – does positive visualisation really work?

For years we have been told about the miraculous benefits of using positive thinking to reach our goals. It has become a sworn-by technique used by thousands to try and reach success, a tried-and-tested method used by the likes of heptathlete Jessica Ennis  and self-made billionaires like Richard Branson – who claims to have made it to the top by literally willing himself to achieve the success he craved.

However a controversial new book by bestselling British author and journalist Oliver Burkeman, named The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, claims that positive thinking doesn’t actually work.

According to Burkeman, who writes for the Guardian, including the weekly column ‘This Column Will Change Your Life, living by the belief that positive affirmations will transform our lives could actually be setting us up for failure. His new book aims to debunk the myth of positive thinking as he believes that true happiness can only be achieved if we can learn to love failure instead of fearing it.

He also explores the notion that, when we believe good things will come solely from thinking well, is that this type of “very brittle and fragile kind of approach to happiness” is what leaves you much less resilient and able to cope when things go wrong.

In opposition of the boundless other self-help books and psychology articles that say using positive thinking techniques help to bring our dreams closer to us, Burkeman believes that our constant efforts to eliminate pessimistic thoughts could in fact be setting us up to feel emotions which end up creating more negativity – such as insecurity, sadness or acute feelings of failure.

He explained: “For some years I’d been writing my column in the Guardian, ‘This Column Will Change Your Life,’ which is a tongue-in-cheek look at what works and what doesn’t in self-help and popular psychology.

“Gradually I began to see that there was one major thing that many of the failed approaches to happiness had in common: positive thinking. By that I mean, specifically, the idea that you can make yourself happy or successful by sheer force of will – by deciding only to think happy thoughts, or deciding that your dreams will come true.

“What these entire approaches share is the notion that negative feelings and situations should be ignored or erased. Ultimately, that’s counterproductive – it makes things worse. Deciding to be optimistic all the time, especially if it doesn’t come naturally, is actually a rather stressful way to live.”

In some ways I can’t help but feel disappointed by Oliver’s argument. Having always been optimistic about the power of positivity – and also vaguely anxious about my upcoming driving test – I thought that perhaps I could use some visualisation techniques to try and boost my chances of passing first time.

Intrigued by Oliver’s claims, I revisited my bookshelf to find a worn-out book that my father gave me a few years back named ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ by Dr Norman Vincent Peale. It was a book that, if I’m honest, I skimmed when I was 19, thought about for a day or two – and then swiftly forgotten. However after having a recent conversation with a friend of mine who swears that her luck has improved by tenfold by using positive affirmations – I decided to buff up on the subject by trying out some research for myself.

After having a thorough read through Dr Peale’s original book, which sold more than 22 million copies after being first published in 1952, I noticed upon reading that there is no room for being cynical. It says that for the practice to truly work, you mustn’t allow negative thoughts to enter into your mind or allow yourself to be disbelieving. Having suffered a day of what had already seemed like one disaster after the other, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

Another thing that got to me was that it says that everything negative that occurs is often brought on – or even yearned for – by ourselves. I’ll admit, I found it profoundly difficult to believe the fact that I would have possibly wanted to get soaked in the rain, miss the train and then lose my favourite necklace on one day. But was it simply my pessimism, or cynicism, that was preventing the techniques from working?

Oliver said: “With all these techniques, the point is not that they could never work, but that they’re sufficiently dubious to be little use as a general approach to life. Some sports psychologists, for example, are convinced that positive visualisation works.

“Meanwhile, a study a few years ago showed that people who were rendered thirsty and then asked to visualise drinking a refreshing glass of water appeared to undergo a reduction in motivation, not an increase. It was as if they were less motivated to achieve their goal in reality because they’d already convinced themselves they’d achieved it on an imaginary level.

“One study mentioned in my book also showed that people with low self-esteem who repeat self-help ‘affirmations’ to themselves end up feeling worse, perhaps because the affirmations prompt them to generate counter-arguments. They say to themselves ‘I am a lovable person!’ and all their mind does is think of reasons why they’re not lovable.”

Although I found myself agreeing with his counter arguments theory, for some reason, something inside me still wanted to believe that there was something in the whole positive visualisation thing. After all, if it is being used by athletes, professional golfers and top entrepreneurs, then surely there must be something in it?

Dr Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, has also recently unveiled the results of an experiment, in which he discovered that just thinking about exercise can increase the strength of your muscles.

What was most astonishing about the experiment was the fact that the volunteers who carried out virtual workouts in their heads, as compared to the volunteers who carried out physical workouts, still managed to increase their muscle strength by 30 per cent by the power of their minds alone.

With this in mind, I reverted back to reading my old Positive Thinking book, and I found it insightful that it discusses how having one bad thing happen can have a domino effect on your life, simply because the first event often throws you into a negative mind frame. I’m sure we can all relate to those awful days where there seems to be an endless stream of bad things happening. It made me wonder if things could have turned out differently had I simply tried to be a bit more optimistic.

When I asked Oliver what he thought about this and whether he believed that positive thinking could only set us up for failure in the long run, he said: “The simple truth is that life is full of ups and downs. Bad stuff happens. That in itself needn’t be a catastrophe.

“But when you adopt a philosophy of happiness that is based on just trying not to think about those bad things, it’s inevitable that they will destabilise you much more when they do occur. The ‘negative path to happiness’ which I write about in The Antidote is the suggestion that we might do better to find ways to coexist with those bad things, to be open to them and to prepare for them.

“The key is in learning to find ways to coexist with both sides of the human emotional repertoire, the bad as well as the good. By having a friendlier attitude to uncertainty, insecurity and sadness in this way, we can chart a course to a far more fulfilling life than mere positive thinking could ever achieve.”

I’m not sure what to think now I’ve heard Burkeman’s argument, however there’s still that little bit inside me that thinks using positive affirmations is the best way to stay upbeat and uplifted when we so badly want to achieve something.  I fear that by not a least trying to give it ago, it could prevent a flurry of possibilities from happening.

Although I’ll definitely start to try and embrace my failures and be less of a perfectionist, I’ll still picturing me walking out of that car on the day of my driving test, elated that I’ve been given a pass.

There are some things that are bound to be beyond our control, so I think the key is just to go with the flow and accept that some things don’t always work out the way we want them to. Better to always look on the bright side.

How to survive Christmas…

24 Dec

A COMBINATION of stinking hangovers, monopoly wars and someone buying you a top labelled two sizes too big are just some of the things that we could expect to make Christmas a lot less jolly.

There might be presents, Quality Street and a good ole dose of Shakin’ Stevens – but like every Christmas episode of Eastenders – you can almost guarantee that something will end in disaster.

Whether it’s a death stare moment with the in-laws, a drunken uncle who crashes into your shiny new 50” plasma TV, or someone sobbing about the innocently-meant pot of anti-wrinkle cream they received as a gift – the chances of emerging on Boxing Day unscathed is virtually impossible.

You see, I’ve had my fair share of Christmas disasters to come to terms with myself. First there was the year when I dropped my father’s new phone into a mug of tea after claiming I could beat his Snake 2 score. Then there was the time when my mother made a disastrous attempt to cook duck instead of turkey – resulting in a rather non-traditional meal of Asda chicken slices to go alongside our sprouts.

However possibly the most memorable-for-all-the-wrong reasons moment, was when a cousin of mines drunken girlfriend thought it may be appropriate to karate chop him whilst wearing a full-blown martial arts get-up, (true story) resulting in him requiring a rather swift trip to the emergency room and a supremely bruised ego. They broke up a few months later and he has developed a relentless obsession with the gym ever since.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Christmas. I love the giving and receiving of presents, the frantic guzzling of wine and the obscure obsession with creepy-looking Christmas men who walk through the city centre on decorated stilts  –  making adults smile ludicrously and children scream in terror.

I suspect even the self-proclaimed Scrooges out there who think Christmas is all just a big money-grabbing scam have a secret fondness for the festivities, sneaking home to catch a Christmas special of The Royle Family on BBC One.

However it would be a blatant lie to say that surviving Christmas without some sort of catastrophe is going to be easy. In an ideal world, everyone would be grateful of their gifts, hard liquor wouldn’t cause people to pour out their past grudges and everyone would be patient on waiting their turn to try out the new Wii Fit.

Unfortunately this simply isn’t always the case, (I’m sure Phil Mitchell would agree) so it’s always good to have some sort of back-up plan to avoid everyone killing each other.

Perhaps one of my main pieces of advice would be to choose wisely when it comes to giving gifts. Yes, it is the thought that counts and yes, it is pretty damned rude for your best friend to scowl at The Idiots Guide To Finding a Non-loser Boyfriend book you bought them off Amazon, however please do refrain from giving gifts that could be considered either insulting, degrading or boring. No-one wants a car air-freshener for Christmas. It reads I’m cheap, you’re my own personal chauffeur and your car smells of a teenage boys football socks.

A few other survival methods include the following: feigning interest over stories from the 80s, using spirits as a sort of tranquillizer, cackling manically at your dad’s bad jokes, giving gifts in only cash to your teenage siblings, owning an ipad on of which you can watch your own festive TV programmes on, wearing a tightly secured hat when your niece asks if she can play ‘hairdresser’ with you, buying spare batteries, letting your gran have the last chocolate and finally – wearing earplugs.

Have a wonderful Christmas. And please, do try not to kill one another.

Hopefully then you’ll be able to make it through to the New Year.