Once in a while, I come across a book that speaks directly to my soul. Yesterday I read such a book. I would urge you to read this book. The messages in it were so powerful, I could not put the book down. I had to read all 177 pages in one sitting. The book is called The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Read it.

I learned the art of negotiation today…well actually just the basics. I went on an negotiation and influencing skills course as a part of my new role as a training relationship manager. We negotiate every day sometimes without realising we are doing it. I would say up until today, I’ve never really applied any sort of formal process to trying to get something, be it money, resources, or time from anyone. My usual habits is to walk into a meeting lay my position on the table and hope for the best. But there is much more to the game then this. And I’m looking forward to putting my skills to work…perhaps I’ll start with a pay raise…

I met Helen for lunch today at the Varsity Pub. She used to work with me in Leamington, but has moved on to greener pastures. We met up to catch up with the gos. I’m impressed with her new direction. She has given up smoking, is dieting, and running again. We tallked about a great many things, but I want go into any of it here. I experienced a bit of sycnronicity while at the Varsity. Last night I was researching courses on creative writing and then today, just as I was leaving the pub, a brochure caught my eye. On a whim, i picked it up and took it back to work with me. Later, I flicked through the brochure only to discover…a creative writing course starting tonight at Warwick University. I called up admissions and got myself registered on the course. So far the course looks promising.

I’m feeling sound right about now…I’m sat in my ugly pea-green lazy boy chair with a cup of Joe and some Tom Petty cranking in the background…Ace.

“I used to live in a 2 room apartment….neighbors knocking on my wall…”

It was hard getting mentally back into work after having such a grand four day weekend. Something about them there four walls closing in on me makes me want to scream….Hey but work is part of the game we play so as my airborne instructor used to say, “Drive on Airborne, Drive On!”

Besides, I can’t complain especially when my friends and fellow soldiers are sucking it down in the desert fucking with a people who don’t want to be fucked with. The sooner we get the hell out of there the better.

Peace

I decided to take a path I have never walked before. The path led me through a big playing field bordered by houses and a cemetery. I always get a sense of my own mortality whenever I come across a cemetery. I see the rows and row of neatly lined grave stones and think how many of those people got what they wanted out of life. Did they get to the end and say damn, I can’t believe it’s all over and I haven’t even done a fraction of the things I wanted to do. I never took that trip I always dreamed of. I never wrote that book or painted that picture or kissed that girl. And now I will never ever get the chance because here I stand on the doorstep of my end with no more time left to do the things I always talked about doing.

I learned on the broken stoned fence and stared at the graves. In front of me was a freshly dug grave. One I image they were going to be putting a coffin in soon. It was dug to the right dimensions. The hole was covered by a piece of plywood. One day that hole will be meant for me. What will I have done with the time I have been given?

There was one particular grave that struck my interest. Nick C was the name written on the black marble headstone. He was born in Dec 1954 and died in 2002. On his grave stone was written, “He who dies with the most toys wins and he certainly won.” Or something to that affect. There was also a smaller stone set about midway down casket. From where I was standing, it looked like it said, “oops.” I was intrigue to know who would right “oops” on their grave. And what could it mean? I decided I need to see this grave up close, so I hopped the fence and walked over to it. As it turns out the stone actually said “coops.” Of course I don’t know what that means either, but from what the family has written on the headstone I can only assume that this person had a happy life.

I made my way home along a route I never been. Even though I knew I was in no danger of being lost, I still had that feeling of wondering where will this road lead. Should I turn back and take a road I know? What if this road leads me somewhere I don’t want to be? Even as these questions raced through my mind, I still couldn’t help but continue to walk forward into the unknown. I eventually connected with a road I knew and walked on home stopping for a brief moment in “Leap Wood.” What a magical name? The sign read, “To the Friends of Leap Wood.” I paused by the little stream running through Leap Wood just to collect my thoughts.

Here is something I wrote a while ago, but I can’t remember if I ever posted it on the old soulcruz weblog. I decided to post it again because of all the reality dating shows kicking around on the television at the moment.

Somebody help me out here. What the fuck has the world come to where men and women have to turn to reality dating television shows to find a date. MR Right is ITV’s latest dose of “aphrodisiac television.” 15 desperate women will compete for the affection of some can’t get a date on his own putz. The Sunday Times described him as a cross between James Bond and MR Darcy. Admittedly, he is a rather good-looking guy, but looks must not be everything if he has to get his women from some overzealous TV producer. He’s got looks and money and proper grooming. He was a British army major. He was equerry to Prince Andrew.

Have guys forgotten how to talk to women. Or have the ladies become so independent and picky that no guy is MR Right for them. Perhaps, we men have become the wimps that the likes of Susan Faldi has declared. We’ve lost our caveman instincts to go out and club the woman we want on the head and drag her back to our cave and make her a baby making sex toy who happens to be able to cook and clean and pour a beer with a good head.

Or maybe the “flirt coach,” Tracy Cox has it right in that we are on some sort of self-actualization trip looking for the perfect relationship with our ideal partner. The truth is this ideal partner doesn’t exist. Never did and never will.

But what about the sad sacks who watch these programs. Talk about not having a life. How do they expect to find a partner sat in front of the Television helping to glean some nugget of hope from the silly cows who willing strut their stuff on national television trying to win the affections of some dope who if he were any sort catch wouldn’t be appearing on the show to get a girl.

What is so hard about modern dating that has men and women flocking to get on these shows or participate in text chat or join singles club and comb the Internet looking for love.

Supposedly young men are facing a crisis of masculinity while young women are confident, solvent, go-getting wonder women.

Petruska Clarkson believes men are in retreat and in serious trouble.

Are men in retreat? Are women all that confident and go-getting?

Everyone seems to be looking for love in all the wrong places. You need only stroll down the magazine isle of your local WHSmiths or Barnes and Noble and scan the front covers of the so called “Lad’s magazines” or the women’s magazines to be struck by the open me headlines that fill the front cover with titles like, “100% Sexcess Rate: How to get her from the street to the sack,” or “Sex: be better than the average guy,” Do these article really hold the secret to finding and getting MR or MRS Right.

Have we forgotten how to communicate with each other without a long checklist of pick up lines or smart things to say to attract the opposite sex? You know, you see a girl that catches your eye, go up to her and start a conversation.

I think what has happened is that we are so busy thinking about the long term outcome of any potential relationship that we never fully connect with the person in the present. Instead taking a keen interest in the person at the precise moment in time, we are constantly thinking about future events while we are talking. Thoughts like, “I wonder if she puts out” or “Man will I get to fondle her breast one day” or “Does he have a high paying job” or “Is he successful in his work” or “He seems to good to be true—he must be gay or married.”

I say simply talk to the girl. Ask lots of questions. Probing questions. Light questions. Heavy questions. In short just ask questions. Engage in the seductive art of conversation. Conversation is like ballroom dancing – sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow. But never dominate the dance.

My computer war is starting to turn in my favor. I am typing this note from deep inside my bunker from a fully functional wireless Internet connection. The fortunes of war began to turn my way after an enemy mole was discovered deep undercover working at PC World in Coventry. Due to misinformation and general lack of care, the mole sold me the wrong gear, then when I brought it back on Sunday, told me I would have to buy another £60 piece of equipment to sort the problem. Luckily the part was not on hand and wasn’t due in until today.

On my way to the front lines I had fully determined to return the bogus piece of kit and take the loss (a false loss I might add, the guy told me I would have to pay a 10% repackaging fee). I went into the PC World trenches fully prepared for a bloody fight, but the soldier on duty turned out to be extremelyt helpful. He happily exchanged my dubious piece of kit for the right specs and all had to do was pay the difference in price between the two units. This turned out to be only £15. Give that soldier a medal!

I am now wireless. Ye ha!

My little computer war continues. For those of you trying to email me, you may have noticed that my emails are bouncing like bad checks. I found out today that the hard drive at my ISP crashed and they have been having trouble restoring the data. They have informed us that the battle continues and they are doing everything in their power to combat the problem. Of course, I’m still stuck without my primary email account. Anyway, if you need to reach me, then do so at claylowe@yahoo.com

I’ve been having a devil of time trying to get my wireless network up and running. At the moment all the devices seem to be recognising each other, but my laptop refuses to connect to the Internet as provided by my desktop PC. On Friday, when I first set everything up, it worked for all of 5 minutes and then bam…something happened and I lost connection and haven’t been able to connect again since. Then to make matters worse, I was up until 4 a.m. trying to fight of some nasty computer viruses. So needless to say computers are not my friends at the moment.

I was away for most of the week running some courses at Bricketwood. We had an absolute blast. I even went so far as to don my old army battle dress uniform to add a little army style attitude adjustment for the outdoor activities sessions.

I also got to spend time with a mate of mine I haven’t seen for quite some time…well almost exactly a year. We had some pretty deep conversations about life and the pursuit of happiness. I’m feeling more motivated then ever. Even more so considering I spent all of yesterday at the Ordance Survey’s Outdoor Show at the NEC in Birmingham. I had a chance to listen to Mike Harding, Alex Huber, Sir Chris Bonington speak. Absolutely awesome!!! I’m a bit rushed tonight or else I would go in to more detail. The bottom line is though, if you are not doing the thing you love to do [work-wise and life-wise] then you are wasting your time, and time is something none of us can afford to waste.