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…completely by accident.

Ever have one of those moments in the night where you’re doing those last few things before bed and you find out something that a) you didn’t see coming, and b) you didn’t really think you needed to know in the first place?

That was me Monday night, at around 1am, as the remnants of the caffeine I plunged a couple of hours earlier was running through my system after some late evening website updates. I’ve had the last 48 hours to process what happened and I think I am, more or less, not over analyzing it anymore (which I do with everything!)

Checking my e-mail (as one does right before bed), I find an e-mail not meant for me, but my ex-girlfriend!

Any regular readers out there (if there are any – ‘Hello!’), will know I’ve been dealing with a broken heart for these last six months. Recovery is slow because this one was very important to me (not that I’ve had that many intimate and meaningful relationships)…but I kind of thought M was the one, really.

So yes, back to the e-mail: it was an airline check-in confirmation. For only that same afternoon (remember it was 1am, which meant the flight was due to leave in just over 12 hours). Immediately my body and mind go into overdrive, wave after wave of anxiety crashing into me (bloody coffee being the catalyst!), unsure of what was happening, but pretty sure I was having some form of an anxiety attack. Having never been diagnosed as one who could suffer from them I can’t be sure, but I know my body best and I know what I felt. Major life transitions, genetics and worries about future attacks are just a few causes that can be explored by a licensed physician.

I remember buying planes tickets to the Rocky Mountains for us both so we could attend a wedding together last summer, but M didn’t come, so we postponed her ticket and she paid me back (no problem there). But this wasn’t exactly how I thought I was going to find out she was using it. No sirrree!

After the eventual and very present feelings of dis-ease with this (a term that I found best defined in this book, by Lou Marinoff), I managed to come to some resolution about what action to take. Surely I couldn’t ignore it – what if M needed this confirmation? Therefore “doing the right thing” meant sending it to her. Which I did. Obviously hurt feelings and damaged hearts exist between the two of us, and we’ve hardly said “boo” to each other in the past four months, but I’d still be there for M if needed…I only hope she still believes that.

Now this brings me to the area of my coping skills, and like with everything else I’m trying to focus on with this blog (personal development, men’s work, etc.), it is that taking a more philosophical approach to understanding it all will help me satisfy the many different dis-eases I confront in my life, be they external or internal. To be comfortable with those around me, I must first become more comfortable with myself – this echoes in many aspects of my life and I know that I can’t be present with anyone until I’m at least present with myself.

I can’t say I’m getting it right, but I am finding the resources that I’ve been using have helped. A lot. For several months I had just checked out completely: with life, my friends, and many of activities that I enjoyed doing. Life is slowly returning, I’m feeling more energetic and I am gaining back ownership of what I lost bit by bit. It’s cathartic to write about these thing and I can’t help but see the setbacks these events can cause.

It’s how you respond to them I guess. And I intend to face each challenge head on, with an open mind and open heart and security in my being.

…and why it matters, but not in the way I was thinking it would be.

Funny “innit?” they say around these parts called the UK. Innit seems to be the way of confirming an expression you already hold as true in your own mind, express it, and then look for confirmation from whomever might be within earshot of hearing it. Innit?

I don’t know exactly what I’m looking to confirm, but after two long years, many hours of what could be perceived as hard work (with a bit of learning on the side), and one submitted dissertation later, I will receive my piece of paper telling me that I’ve made it. In 12 hours time I will have an MA in Publishing conferred on me, and I will have a piece of paper to hang on my wall to show for it. I think I was more excited when I graduated from my high school to be honest.

I haven’t can’t quite pinpointed why it hasn’t sunk in yet…it’s an achievement. Yes.

It shows commitment to seeing it all the way through two years of study. Yes.

And it should fill me up with some form of pride. But it’s not really there right now, I’m not connecting with it and I don’t know why. It bothers me.

Maybe it will be different tomorrow, for all I know I could just be tired and need to sleep. Tomorrow is the actual day: my class and I will gather in the Main Hall for 10am, listen to the wise words of several different honourable guests, walk up to the podium, be handed our paper, and sit down again.

Okay, so that sounds like the typical rigmarole, but where’s my overwhelming sense of achievement gone? It feels like it is hiding at the moment, and to be honest, if I was asked what it would be like to graduate with my MA a year ago, I would have said “it will be great!” But much of my life has changed, it’s not what it was a year ago…there has been dramatic change.

And this is what I’m struggling with. I’m lost at the moment, direction-less as to where my purpose is leading me. Do I even have a purpose, that’s one of my Big Questions. Where has my hunger gone? I thought I would get to share this moment with the people I love (and yes, some will be there with me), but not everyone I thought would be – that’s what’s hard to compute…tomorrow will be another day (in some ways) and in other ways very special. I just hope the special will win out sooner than later.

…assume less.

It’s interesting coming across such a simple, yet powerful quote like the one above. I came across it in the video below, and timing really is everything in the world. Male or female, I really recommend that you take a few minutes to check it out. It made an impact on me, so I’m happy to wait…

All good?

Great. Because I think this video, while yes, directly aimed at men, speaks to a bigger feeling common amongst men and women. However I’m going to turn my attention to the former and try to focus on that.

I think the crux of the video again speaks to the men who have come to a crossroads in their life and are beginning to ask certain questions, like ‘who am I?’, ‘what’s my purpose?’, or put more simply ‘what the hell am I doing?!’. This can happen at any age, and in any situation (be it marriage, fatherhood, divorce, graduation, death, etc.). Granted, not every man is ready to explore the most intimate parts of their soul, but personally speaking, that decision is taking shape for me in the here and now. And I’m trying to do it in the most honest way possible (through this blog from time-to-time).

As I said timing is everything and time itself dictates so much of our lives that even I forget to be present in the moment more often than not, but yesterday I attended an incredibly impactful event to do with men’s health and well-being.

It’s not an area I have focused much attention on (despite being a man myself).

The how and why

The Man Collective is an organisation created by two forward-thinking men trying to bring together the resources currently available for men in the UK. There is work being done out there, but the phrase “sticking your head above the parapet” came up several times, and that told me the work isn’t necessarily being done in the mainstream.

So it takes a lot of guts to speak up about the need for attention that men’s health is not currently getting (and handle the shit storm that came their way!) Having had the chance to meet one of the founders personally before the event took place, and being in a situation where I am today: trying to ask my own questions about my own development, I was inspired to take that next step forward! It’s not easy when you’re trying to understand a break-up (girlfriend) and break-down in a relationship you’ve known all your life (brother).

So here I am, and this is some of what I took away from the day.

First of all was the openness and ease in which the group of about 25 spoke about the work that they are personally doing in the UK now. Several different groups were represented (from as far West as Swansea, Wales, to the North in Leeds, and in the capital of London). We all shared our own stories. And aren’t stories the best way to learn about one another?

Give a man (or anyone for that matter) facts, figures and information, and the impact may not last that long, but stories, stories are where the connections are made, and stories are where resonance occurs, and that creates the lasting memory. We’ve been doing that for thousands of years!

One of the first presentations talked about the ‘Past Mistakes of Men’s Work‘ and I was surprised to learn that men’s work in the UK had existed, in some form, since the 1970s and according to the speaker, most likely came about as the men of the post-war generation ( the baby boomers) were beginning to come into their own. Unfortunately, the messages in the media they were most likely exposed to cast men in an unintelligent and useless light…they were schmucks! Was it any surprise that men of that time acted hostile towards the increasing women’s movement? It didn’t have to happen that way; that was the one of the past mistake of men’s work.

And as we move forward, the speaker conveyed the high-level of confusion men are experiencing now as a result of globalisation, corporate culture, and measuring the success of their lives via the retention of possessions. But it’s not about the car you drive, or the boat you own, or the salary you pull in. The biggest and most confusing issue is self-esteem, how is it that men are made to feel bad about themselves? It’s by chasing those achievements and making decisions based on the “should do” rather than the “want to do”. We all make choices, sometimes out of necessity, but are these the right choices? Not always.

So what happens when we hit the wall? We crash, and we crash hard. According to the speaker, men have a deep need to be with other men; it allows us to challenge one another with compassion and respect the differences of our peers. But this won’t happen by just going to the pub alone!

Men have to grow up very quickly nowadays (girls too), but so many men are still boys inside – yelling out for attention. The lack of rite of passage activities really came about for me during that day and that could be something as simple as learning to shave with your father, or having that summer canoe trip. Men (and boys) look for acceptance, and to be shown that what they are doing is okay. Confirmation is huge! I was lucky that I got that, in some form, from my own father, but quite honestly, I took that for granted. At least I’m in the position that I can try to work on that.

But I realise I’m getting a bit essayist with this post, so I will try to sum up now.

At the end of the day, I met some really good people, was shown a lot about the work being done in the UK and a need for more awareness to take place. Before I attended the Gathering I had a built in apprehension of telling people where I was going and what I was doing because I couldn’t predict their reaction. I’ve dealt with that now because I know you don’t have to go it alone! And, quite honestly, where’s the fun in that?

My personal transformation is obviously coming via a lot of negative events, and it’s high-time I faced that adversity head on. Because as James Joyce once said, “a man’s errors are the portals to his discovery.”

I know I’m not going to change the world alone, but if there are other men out there committed to getting things done, and showing other men that it doesn’t have to be as hard as you initially think it is then I am all for that!

…to be self-evident

  1. Knowledge is the true gold medal in life; coming from anywhere, anyone at anytime. I will seek to learn something new everyday.
  2. Open communication is the only form of communication. That which will always come with a cost.
  3. Canada is my home. From coast-to-coast-to-coast. And we rule when it comes to hockey!
  4. Creative content needs to be free; its creator to be respected. Respect and protect are two VERY different motivators.
  5. Karma will be the ultimate decider when we are called to be judged.
  6. Personal development is just that, personal. What is shared, at the time, is shared for the benefit of all.
  7. I am Canadian!

I appreciate that some of my more recent posts have taken on a more personal-theme, be it pensive, be it reflective – it is where I am in my life at the moment. I have had a lot to look into recently, whether it is by my own volition or through the help and guidance of others. Music, talks over coffee, long walks in the rain, time spent quietly pondering the questions that surface in my mind: all these act as some form of catalyst. And I am glad for it to come to me this way – I don’t think I would have learnt from it (and continue to learn by it) any other way.

I will now try to flesh out some of these points further…

Knowledge is the true gold medal in life.

This has to be pretty evident to one and all. If I’m not willing to learn, my mind will not be open to the infinite ideas that whiz around me at the speed of light. Some ideas I may not agree with and some I will defend passionately. It’s all a matter of perception. It’s naive to think that resolution will come about in some form, but at least there can be understanding (and respect for the other side gained).

The sky is blue, the grass is green these are quite literally the most self-evident truths, but being receptive to hear even the antithesis of these will allow me to keep a much boarder, more open perspective of the world. I see no sense in getting lost and tangled in the vagaries of life – rise above them.

Open communication is the only form of communication.

This obviously has the potential to come with heavy costs. But I’d rather have the risk versus than the reward of just towing the line. Of course timing and delivery all needs to be considered, and if not done precisely the way I want, I hope time will heal most misunderstandings (if not all) – I hope.

Canada is my home. From coast-to-coast-to-coast.

You need only look for Canada in the news over the last 2 1/2 weeks to get a sense of how much my/our young country has changed. I am so proud of my fellow Canadians – even more proud than I may have ever acknowledged personally. We have much more to give and will keep on giving, given the chance to do so. Not only in sports but in every aspect of life: culture, commerce and industry. Canada, as a nation is beginning to see their true potential. I believe.

Kevin Newman, spoke truthfully and openly about what the Games meant to him at the conclusion of yesterday’s Global National newscast . It spoke to me and should speak to all Canadians – it was a call to arms really:

Our athletes, the people of Vancouver and Whistler, and their organising committee have given this country a gift with these games. We’ve been struggling with how to inspire ourselves to great projects, how to unite in purpose, how to engage young Canadians, and maybe even doubted that we could.

But these athletes and this city have shown us the way. Canadians will rise, and unite, when inspired and entrusted to. The aspiration to win is there, if we’re not afraid to declare it.

When that snowboarder in the Opening Ceremonies flew through the rings and landed; then swaggered to the crowd with confidence to declare these games open, he was introducing us to the Canadians we would be these three weeks, and now have the chance to become: bolder, badder, ready to compete with the world’s best. And this is who we need to be in the digital economy.

In a linked world that rewards creative energy, and innovation and risk, we’ve discovered that Canadian values grow sharper when tested, our culture attaches more firmly to our hearts. These Olympics have given us so much joy, so many instant friendships; so much beautiful, powerful, positive energy. So our task and the challenge to our leaders couldn’t be more clear:

Find a way to keep the flame alive in us.

Creative content needs to be free.

This is a recent realisation. But over the past couple of years, I am beginning to recognise that culture is best left to grow and flourish unrestricted. It all came about having read Lawrence Lessig’s Remix (published by Bloomsbury Academic) and seeing the possibilities the expression of art has if it is harnessed under a set of protective tools that respects the creator’s intentions. I even wrote my thesis on it and continue to try and keep up-to-speed on the debate. As a result, while even working in publishing (and understanding the importance of copyright), I believe the authors’ wishes need to be taken over the bottom line of the company.

Yes, of course, some creators get into it for only the reward of money, but so many more create for the sake of creating, sharing and expression – this is why I believe in the work done here.

Karma will be the ultimate decider - ’nuff said.

Skipping six and going straight for seven (you’re going to love this!)

I AM CANADIAN!

…when I’m talking about Men’s Groups!

It’s been a process, trying to discover what it is in my life that I want. Finding a purpose is never easy. Seeking your desires, being clear about them and sticking to them with conviction can be hard for a twenty-something year old male. You have to make what you stand for count – for you most importantly!

I’ve been really impressed with some of the work others are doing with their own personal development recently.

Curiosity was raised came via my brother back in Canada; as a social worker specializing in men’s issues and domestic abuse towards men I never really understood what it was he really did. But if I’m honest I used to feel that when I spoke to him, I was speaking to the social worker more often than my brother.

This created barriers and suspicion in my own mind, but recently he tipped me towards a new way of taking ownership of my emotions because of the shit that’s been happening in my life recently: break-ups, break downs (in relating to my other brother), and just trying to deal with all the negative emotions and thoughts running around my head. It was a tumultous process, still on-going, and if I’m honest I haven’t been as present in my life as I’d like to be.
Until now!

Clearly, with a little research, a men’s group isn’t all about sitting in a circle and expressing your feelings (or naval-gazing, as some might say). It’s more about recognizing the opportunities to challenge yourself, rising up with your peers by your side and being called on your bullshit (or empty pledges) – finding guys to be true with.  I honestly think if more men had access to these groups the world would be a different place.

Which is why I’m excited to have been made aware of just that kind of opportunity available here in Oxford, and it’s really all thanks to The New Man Podcast and the work Tripp Lanier has been delivering for over 10 years.

Now you may or may not be aware of the recent “controversy” stirred up when Alex Linsley, a Oxford University student, took to the airwaves (YouTube Video at the bottom of page) to explain why it was he started a men’s group. Compare this to the ideas he presents when he isn’t being grilled by the national media. It’s certainly inspired me to take things forward with my own development. I just need to find the right group of guys to challenge me to be better.

Beginning to see the forest for the trees, I can see there’s more to my life and my situation. I’ve recognised that a lot of my life has been spent trying to please others (for one reason or the other), taking their considerations ahead of my own. It has, at times, really kicked me in the ass too. I know I’ve made mistakes, I try to take ownership of them, but you’d think I would have learned by those mistakes already – sadly not. But now I’m starting to ask what it is I want out of my life, preparing to move in the direction I want, finding out what’s important to me and how I can achieve those goals! What do I want to take a stand for?

Turns out that I’ve really had a group of men to bond with all along…

The Rise of Publishing Men Together

Starting my career in book publishing, studying at Oxford Brookes, I met a group of guys who at first were more social acquaintances: meeting for beers, watching the football, and ‘shooting the breeze’ (as it goes). However over the last three years, we’ve all graduated and found jobs, but still remain in contact; I think this has allowed our sociability to come more rooted in an honest-form of friendship. Hell, a friendship can’t get more rooted more when two of you are living together! So if they’re willing to develop further and go beyond the surface, I think we could really explore our true desires, find out what we’re each looking for in life.

Publishing Men Together est. 2007

Now plans are obviously still in development but as we continue to move forward we all recognize that we want to make more of a contribution to our industry. This is including a fundraising drive for literacy. Plans are being shaped and research is being done, so through this blog and another (I’m sure I will create) I will keep you updated.

Thanks for reading.

…deserves another.

Recently, I was the unfortunate recipient of a broken bike lock. After several years of use, of twisting and turning and creating all sort of various angles to make my bike secure on the streets and lamp stands of Oxford, the key for my trusty lock simply gave up – snapping inside the lock and leaving my bike unusable.

What to do? Well, thankfully Oxford City Council operates a Street Care Team which helps free abandoned or unused bikes. My situation was obviously of wanting to use my bike again, but couldn’t because there was no way I could summon the Herculean strength required to pry the lock apart!

So after a swift phone call, the team was more than happy to help me out. So long as it was before 7am (because that was the safest period to operate the high-powered buzz saw!). It’s not out of the regular workings of the team’s day to respond to these kinds of call I had to make, but boy was the scene in downtown Oxford one to see!

Council worker with high-powered saw cuts through bike lock

That's what I call a light show!

One good turn, naturally, deserves another. But how best to do that? My friendly boss recommended I show my appreciation with a letter to the Editor at the daily newspaper . And sure enough it made it to print! That made my day, so I just wanted to reproduce it here:

 

Just a short note to express my gratitude to Oxford City Council’s Street Care team after they agreed to release my locked bike.

Having snapped off the key in the lock by accident, I was anxious to know how I could have my bike released without paying a huge fee for a private locksmith to do it.

In this day and age when people can only ever find things wrong about the city council’s services, this should hopefully re-balance the scales a little bit.

It may have been an early 7am start to watch the sparks fly as team member, Barrett, used his high-powered saw to buzz through the lock to release it – [but] I am grateful for him having done so.

He approached the situation with humour and understanding, and was very efficient in the process which allowed me to get to work on time.

Oxford is a city meant to be seen from the saddle of a bike and I’m thankful I can do that again. My appreciation to the council.

Jonathan Davis
Cross Street
Oxford

–Oxford Mail, February 16 2010

So there you go, if you never need a helping hand – it’s literally around the corner, saw-in-hand!

…is the way forward.

I was recently asked to submit my experience of recently completing the Masters in Publishing programme at Oxford Brookes University. It should be live on their pages in the near future, but I thought I would put it up here too:

My time on the MA Publishing course at Oxford Brookes was one spent in perpetual balance. Studying part-time over two years and working to support myself during the course gave me a real grounding in getting to know the publishing industry, making new friends and getting my first job within a month of submitting my dissertation.

The tutors and support staff in the department do their utmost best at welcoming you into the world of publishing and it was a real surprise to learn exactly what goes into publishing a book over the course of the many modules you can choose to take: be it editorial; production; or even specialised sectors like journals, magazine publishing, children’s and academic publishing. There are a lot of areas to be involved in and while it took me a bit of time to discover my own interests in the industry I’m glad I chose to study part-time.

As a result I feel more confident in speaking to publishers who know the business inside and out, and describing what I do to friends and family back in Canada. The programme at Oxford Brookes provides you the opportunity to get involved from Day 1. Whether it’s serving as a Student Rep (like I did), volunteering at the London Book Fair, or more importantly gaining that all too crucial first work experience placement.

I was fortunate enough to have three placements, one with a local Oxford publisher, How To Books ; another with a brand new academic imprint part of the very well-known Bloomsbury Publishing group, Bloomsbury Academic; and the Independent Publishers Guild (with whom I got to travel to the Frankfurt Book Fair with – for free!). Bloomsbury Academic also cultivated my interest in Open Access content, and alternative copyright licensing such as Creative Commons which eventually helped determine the topic of my dissertation.

Now I’m working in the industry and enjoying the hands-on learning I’m doing as an Editorial Assistant at Chandos Publishing in Witney, Oxfordshire. I have a lot of different responsibilities including general office management, co-ordinating the publication programme, receiving manuscripts from our current authors and even a bit of book commissioning.

Once you begin down the path of publishing, you won’t look back. Living in Oxford with a fellow graduate and staying in touch with fellow class members keeps me grounded, and gave some of us the perfect opportunity to create a special club for men in publishing (after seeing there were only 10 of us in our class of 70-plus!): Publishing Men Together (PMT) still meet regularly and are even planning a fundraising walk later in 2010.

It should appear here: http://ah.brookes.ac.uk/publishing/alumni

Do you ever wonder why it is so easy to become desperately morose? Especially around the holidays (did anyone notice that yesterday was 24.6 seconds longer)? The shortest day of the near is also known as “Hump Day” for most folks affected by SAD.

And for no reason at all, or for a reason that would seem the most natural (or almost natural) end of things: like Borders’ High Street bookshops closing today.

The keeper of knowledge, the repository of intelligence (or unintelligence) these are what bookshops mean to me. They are a reflection of the tastes of a nation. A baramoter of a nation’s reading habits (and we did read some shite, didn’t we!). But now it stands empty…to become nevermore ( Project Gutenberg: Edgar Allan Poe)

Breaking it down this is what we know: 45 stores closing, over a 1,000 staff lose their jobs – possibly their livelihood. It’s never nice losing your job at Christmas … and Borders isn’t alone (official stats). Spare a thought for those people at this time of the year; their families too.

So what does it say when the general public swoop in on books (such as those like Borders used to stock), but not allowed to sell in some instances. Are we better off for it? Getting books on the cheap? Picking out what we like, all willy-nilly?

I like books lined up on bookshelves (face out, or spine in – whatever your pleasure) as much as the next person. But shouldn’t that be in pre-determined locations: libraries come to mind! And bookshops fall within that category too…as Helen Fraser (former MD of Peguin) once said (loosely): “books are meant to furnish our lives, not just our shelves…”

…so let’s spare a thought for the indy bookshops that will hopefully outlast the big players – there are plenty round, and they are all asking you to take their books off their shelves.

I’ll be signing off for the holidays, but more to come in 2010.

Happy Holidays to everyone,
here’s to a more positive New Year!!

“A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.”

It’s unfortunate this will soon not apply to one of Britain’s more enjoyable avenues of book-buying via the retail experience. As many of you know Borders will be shutting its doors to many high streets in the UK, most likely in 2010. While when, where and how many stores’ doors will be shut hasn’t been determined yet, my recent experiences seem to have revealed the fate of Oxford’s poor Borders. When you offer a Public Address system, the store safe and numerous other fixtures I think the death knell has been heard.

iPhone pic of Borders UK store items for sale

Everything must go!

This is sad for the staff of course, but also publishers caught up in the struggle of asking for their books back.

Oxford is certainly not short of many independent and commercial options for books, I’d rather not try to include supermarkets (which a growing concern and debate about their importance is being thrashed out). By far my favourite is Blackwell’s (official store link) on Broad Street, it’s corresponding art and poster shop across the road and rare books section make it a real good option for visual stimulation. Contained within is the Norrington Room, something akin to the Tardis really: bigger inside than it is out! There are a number of opportunities the indy shop can strike upon

So what will be the ‘everything must go’ effect of Borders UK on the British book trade? For one thing, I hope it puts the spotlight on many more independent bookshops. While liquidisation of stock offers knowledge at a discount price (and probably makes this holiday shopping season much easier for many people), the focus on the smaller bookshops will hopefully present better options than the only other big-store option: Waterstone’s.

A future prediction of mine and a few friends would be that HMV and Waterstone’s will one day come to be the only two shops on the ol’high streets, but we will have to wait and see. So in the meantime, I’m going to go out and do some research on what alternatives we can find in the Oxford area.

First we’ll explore the Albion Beatnik Bookshop (great name!). An upcoming ‘festive’ get-together will present the perfect opportunity, so watch this space!

…at least that’s what I think (but I would, wouldn’t I?) After two years of study at Oxford Brookes University on its Publishing programme, I finished it two-years on a part-time basis while working here, here, and here to gain experience and earn some dosh to support my habit: learning!

Oh yes, also in the interest of transparency, Bloomsbury Academic (third link) appeared as one of my case studies (well, my only case study) in my writing up of 16,500 words (or thereabouts) and that was for work experience too.

I believe what they do is waiting to succeed in the online world and it’s only a matter of time before more publishers see the benefit and common-sense of Creative Commons licensing with additional rights tailored to each of their company’s missions.

At any rate, it must have been written well-enough to earn a distinction – which I was super chuffed about.

Enjoy! A Means of Survival [PDF] It’s CC-licenced (which I must make the rest of the site in due course!)

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