Fuelling changing social practices – music to our ears?

´╗┐Imagine this scenario. You are driving up in your car, doing your daily jobs, and then realise you are running low on fuel. So you take the nearest opportunity to fill up as you drive up to a petrol station – it may even be part of your local supermarket. Would you expect to pay for your fuel first and then be refunded?

There may be some that question the practicality of this. How is it possible to pay for fuel first before you have even filled up the car? This method would require you to estimate the amount of fuel you need, and then pre-pay it in advance. But what if you simply wanted to fill the car up to its maximum before embarking on a long drive? Would you be forced to buy fuel in large increments, perhaps by ten pounds’ worth at a time, before inching your way in five, and then one-pound increments, so as to avoid paying more than you actually bought? And don’t forget, each purchase would have to be pre-paid.

This system seems rather impractical at first glance. The above scenario would require you to make numerous purchases on your card, and multiple attempts at topping up the fuel. In the past, it would have meant a simple trip to the fuel pump, one attempt, and one payment. Making multiple attempts at both would simply mean spending longer time at the pump, resulting in delays and lost revenues for service stations. Service stations would simply have to raise their prices to make up for the lost custom.

But why is this scheme of pre-paid filling up being considered in the first place? It is because drivers have been filling up, then driving off. This theft of fuel costs the UK millions of pounds each year.

This new social practice is in response to how society has developed.

Ideas usually start out on the periphery before they graduate to the mainstream. This is no further more evident than in the alternative group Nirvana, who – as the Stroud Green piano teacher website tells us – were alternative way beyond the time before “alternative” became a mainstream genre in the music industry! Perhaps, in a similar vein, there will be changing social practices starting from daily areas such as fuel pumps.

Put it this way – ten years ago you wouldn’t trust supermarket staff to pick your fruit and veg for you, yet online shopping has grown and it has become commonplace in daily life. Why not other practices too?

Population growth, by another name

Here’s a question you may not have the direct answer to – when is world’s population expected to reach nine billion? It may be one of the harder human geography questions to answer, not simply because that it requires you to know the current world population, but also to have a pretty good rough estimate of population growth.

Population growth is hard to measure. For starters, even the number of citizens within a country is hard to measure. Do we know how many people there are within the United Kingdom are? Even the census makers cannot vouch for the accuracy of the statistics. Migration affects the population, and in some cases such as Brexit, one factor can be so alarming as to cause a mass exodus of citizens migrating to more favourable countries.

Population count is also affected by disasters, whether they are man-made or natural. Natural disasters unfortunately kill people and cause loss of life that we would not normally expect during times of peace; for example, earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons happen fairly frequently and have created casualties. This affects the population growth in a country. There are also other disasters such as famine which cannot be accounted for. Who predicts a famine in their GDP or GNP?

So when is the population of the world expected to reach nine billion? The current world population stands at roughly seven and a half billion, and is expected to reach nine billion sometime in the 2040s, possibly in the earlier half. If the current rate of growth continues, by the year 2100, there would be over eleven billion human beings on the planet! Eleven billion! How would the earth feed itself?

When we measure population growth and keep statistics in these things, it is because these statistics are important. Population growth is an indicator of economic competition. In other words, if the population rises, but jobs do not increase, then the only thing that is increasing is competition for jobs. Population growth, by another name, is an indicator for economic competition.

So what can we glean from all this? One is that we have to be better equipped with skills, and we have to accept that we may need to be more better equipped than necessary for jobs at lower levels. And the acceptance of this fact may simply save us from mental stress and over-thinking of such situations.

Conte

Football manager Antonio Conte is one of the most decorated managers – decorated with trophies, that is. He has won many in his own country of Italy, and when he moved over to Chelsea to manage the Blues, he won the Premier League in his first season. But he has been out of work since acrimoniously leaving the team, and unable to find work since.

The problem with him being out of work is due to the fact that he is actually still contracted to Chelsea. He has not been able to take up offers because he is under contract, but he is unwilling to resign because it would mean losing out on a compensation package. The Chelsea team, of course, are unwilling to pay more money to a coach for a final year of a contract that will not be served. So they are playing a waiting game and hoping Conte will resign while he tires of offers passing him by.

The gossip column goes that even a team as big as Real Madrid were hoping to lure Conte to the Spanish capital. When their manager Zinedine Zidane resigned suddenly after winning the third of his Champions League trophies in a row, Conte had been in the running and would have been appointed had it not been for his contract. Should he simply have foregone the Chelsea compensation then?

Contractual obligations are sometimes the difficult part in any job situation. But at least Conte is in a 1-1 situation – that is to say, there is only one person in a job opening. Imagine what it would have been like had he been in a pop band, where many members make up the group. How do you account for equal renumeration of work? How do you divide the royalties equally? And if people come in and out between albums, how can you adequately account for each individual’s contribution? The pop band The Drifters, for example, had such an ever-changing line up, that when it came to deciding which members of the group should be elected to the hall of fame, it was no easy decision! (You can read more about this from the Piano Lessons Crouch End website.)

And as for Conte, maybe now that Julen Lopetugi has been sacked from Real Madrid, the road is clearer than the path The Drifters took!

Anxiety from a musical point of view

We’ve all encountered stressful situations, ones that make us nervous. It can be as simple as going to a new place, and the uncertainty of the new location may be enough to trigger of a range of reactions that we normally encounter when we are nervous. Nervousness and anxiety could manifest themselves through cold sweat, sweaty palms, increased heart rate, shortness of breath – in fact, did you know that is why actors get nervous fluff lines that they have regularly rehearsed and know by heart. Away from the cameras, all is fine, but turn up the pressure, and mistakes occur due to nervousness.

We could define anxiety as the body’s response to unfamiliar stimuli. When you are in a new situation, such as in a place you are unfamiliar with, you get a heightened sense of tension that comes from the natural flight or fight response ingrained within you. It is part of our genetic makeup as living beings.

Living beings all have a flight or fight response. Correction, thinking living beings have this response. It is the system that makes us cautious, that gives us the ability to assess situations, in order that we might survive. Without this, we would wander blissfully into dangerous situations. And anxiety is the heightened response that comes with it.

If you had to face a group of strangers on your own, would you get nervous? This is the situation, for example, that musicians have to face, particularly if they were a soloist on stage and walking up to face the orchestra and the audience. It would be like being on show while walking into the lion’s den! Soloists playing a concerto would have had to cope with their anxiety while being on show, which would normally push anxieties to the fore and interfere with performance. You can find out more about music performance from the Muswell Hill Piano Teachers website.

What can you do if you get nervous and find it interfering with your life? One of the things you can do is to establish control, which gives us power. Recognise you can choose your reactions if you know how. Secondly, understand that anxiety is all part of your body’s way of alerting you to new experiences. And thirdly, if you feel nervous, know that it is just simply because the experience you have is new, and you have not had enough of it yet to be less reactive to it – but you will in time. And that sense of control will make your anxiety go away in time.

Intervention gives world music genius

Let’s imagine this situation. You are going home from work one evening when, during your commute home, you witness someone in need of assistance. Perhaps it is someone who has injured himself or herself while walking on the road. Maybe it is someone who has been mugged. Or perhaps it is someone who is depressed and is in danger of self harm.

You stop whatever you are doing to help – never mind that you have had a long day at work and had been looking forward to a nice evening meal, slouched in front of the telly with a glass of wine or other beverage, and in front of your favourite evening programme. Or it may have been that you had been looking forward to a quiet romantic evening. Never mind all that now. You recognise the urgency of the situation and realise that you have to set aside your own needs temporarily to deal with those of the other person.

In a way, it requires you to selflessly give up part of yourself so that you are able to give to the other person, either in the form of physical assistance or perhaps maybe just something that costs financially less – merely in the form of companionship. Perhaps it is someone who is struggling in his or her own life and is thinking of the ultimate end to things.

If it were a true situation, how would you react? Would you walk on, thinking that it is better to avoid getting involved in a situation that might prove to be too difficult to extricate yourself from? Would you risk being too socially, or emotionally involved? Or might you think that you cannot afford the time to, because you are in a rush, or not skilled enough to deal with this sort of situation, and maybe someone else after you might be?

The jazz composer George Gershwin dropped out of school at the age of fifteen and had it not been for interventions along the way he might have just ended up in a menial job (as all dropouts might have), but crucially these interventions steered him along the right path where he met teachers that enhanced his skill. Other composers such as Beethoven, who was bullied by his father and teacher, might have benefitted from intervention as well.

The next time you see someone in need, be a little more compassionate and stop for a while. You never know, yours might be the voice that matters and turns things around.

Work and Attire

How seriously do you take your office attire? The way you dress can show what you truly think about your job, and if this is managed well, put you in a good position.

Imagine this scenario. A plumber or junior electrician thinks “I’m in a manual job, I might just as well not bother because I’m going to get dirty anyway.” So he doesn’t bother with his appearance. But what do others think? They think someone who doesn’t care about his appearance should not be made a manager, or given responsibilities, because he will not be a good representation of the company.

Now imagine this scenario. The same worker comes to work, presentably dressed, changes into his coveralls for work, and then when he is finished, goes back into the clothes he came in, so he is not wearing the clothes he did his manual work in. People in the organisation knows he has skill to do the job, and he had demonstrated he is willing to progress, and demonstrated that he bothers.

Of course, you must just dress slightly beyond the pay grade and not too far. Don’t do your bin man job in your Armani suit. Or if you are relatively junior in the job ranks, don’t dress like you think a revolution is nigh in your organisation. Leaping too far and showing too much ambition will get you the ire of your co-workers.

A tip is to pick someone from the rank above as your style guide. If that person is a manager or middle manager and has survived in that job for a few years, then that look may have been established as been appropriate for the level. So adopt that look, which may put you in good mental stead. And if there is a position that will soon be vacated, perhaps by someone leaving for another job, or retiring, and if that person has been one that is well-liked, and your organisation is known to be conservative in its interviewing – that they are looking to appoint someone similar – model your style after them. And if the outgoing person is not well-liked, dress differently from them!

The Classical composer Hector Berlioz was well-known for writing grand music. He was also known for being a good dresser, which put him well in the public mind because they noted his dress sense. Perhaps it came with originally being a doctor. But despite a lack of music training, you may argue that being smartly-dressed enabled Berlioz to be noted by the public, and make the leap in to a career he was originally not meant to be in!

To find out more about Hector Berlioz, you can click here or follow the links to the Piano Teacher N15 website.

Dress smart – but appropriately! It communicates the correct attitude.

Lessons learnt from the World Cup so far

My soccer-mad husband and sons have been glued to the television these past few weeks, watching the World Cup. You might wonder if they actually devoted some of the effort and initiative that they do into watching football and analysing all the play of the teams into other areas, that they might be productive in other skills too, but there is no way a wife and mother can be able to break into the one-track football mind of the males in her family!

The surprise of the tournament, as they tell me, is that champions of the world, Germany, have been dumped out of the cup by South Korea, and are no longer able to defend the trophy that they won four years ago. Now, I am not enough of a fan to know much about it, but I do know my offside rule, and enough football to get by, and I do know my Manchester.

There was a sign that Germany would not go far, and that is when Joachim Low, Germany manager, did not pick Manchester City’s Leroy Sane to be in the team. Sane was probably the most high profile casualty of the World Cup squad, and his elimination from the final squad had many members of my family thinking “What?” After his fine form for Manchester City down the left flank terrorising opposing right backs, you would have thought he would be an automatic inclusion, but no, he went on vacation instead. Like the pianist Rachmaninov, Sane is spending the World Cup on the outside, looking in, and generally musing.

As a counsellor I learn to read the signs and Sane’s exclusion was a sign that Low was going on reputation, but many of those who won the cup four years ago are on the decline of their careers. Germany had an aging squad but the manager was not brave enough to not pick big name players, such as Neuer, the goalkeeper who made the error that led to the Korean’s second goal. Low may have argued that big name players have familiarity with the tempo of the World Cup buildup and games, and have influential experience, but the flip side is that he cannot make the crucial decisions.

Germany’s run has ended without breaking out of the Group stage. At least England won’t lose out to them on penalties!

Notice: Professional Courtesy

Switching jobs is all part and parcel of life. Very few people remain in the one job for their entire career. While job hopping may have once been viewed as displaying a lack of loyalty, staying in one job is seen as being stagnant, lacking in exploration, and being narrow-minded. Most employers now realise that interviewees will have had past jobs before, and that need not necessarily count against them, unless they have made a career of not staying long in their old jobs. Switching jobs is a good thing to do; it gives you a wealth of experience, different working environments and allows you to build up skills which will eventually lead you to landing that one key job.

But when you switch jobs, often you have to give what is a notice period. This is the time frame you allow your employer – the current one – to find a replacement for you. Depending on how important your job is, you may have a notice period of a month, two months or even half a year. There are some jobs whose notice period is a year! Respecting the notice period is a sign of professionalism. If you merely changed jobs without notice, you’d be dropping your employers into a situation where they are rushed to find a replacement for you under time pressures. And it demonstrates also that you have not properly handed over to your successor.

But what are the procedures when you are in your current job and thinking over moving on? Sometimes it would be polite to inform your current employer, because they may wish to retain your services and might move you to a new department for a change or increase your wages. But it is difficult because you run the risk of being viewed negatively if they decide you can interview for another position, but in the interim you are reduced of responsibility gradually until your existence at the company seems futile. Sometimes it is better to interview first, get a secure job lined up, then serve notice.

But what happens if you secure a new job, fail to inform your existing employer and respect the notice period, AND your old boss finds out from your new one?

This is the position the Spanish national football team manager found himself in. Julen Lopetegui was named Real Madrid manager while contracted to be the national team manager, and the announcement two days before the World Cup begins was not taken well by the latter, partly because he was still contracted to them, they had no part in the discussions, and the discovery was broken to them only five minutes before the media knew.

You cannot fault Lopetegui’s desire to be manager of a great football team. Madrid are in the news all the time. The Spanish team only play once every two years and in friendly matches. This would be a career step up for him, and from the unsatisfactory position of being a manager who sees a group of random players every now and then.

You might have surmised that Lopetegui was not entirely satisfied with his current job. What can you do if you found yourself in a similar position? The classical music composer Joseph Haydn renegotiated his contract with the court of Esterhazy to get more royalties. Modern day musicians have to be more creative musically in their work, or create more music opportunities within their current work both for financial and aesthetic pleasure. You may also find it possible to diversify your work so that you are using the content knowledge you have but in different areas. Taking another example from classical music, the composer Muzio Clementi became involved in various music fields as a composer, musician, publisher and conductor, to name just a few.

Lopetegui could have combined his national team career with a bit of punditry, youth coaching and other sidelines.

He currently has a lot of time for that. He was sacked.

Does technology exacerbate mental health decline?

According to news reports, media mogul Simon Cowell has ditched his phone for over ten months, and has been quoted to say the withdrawal from technology has been good for his mental health.

He says he was irritated with how often he was using his phone, and ever since he ditched it, he was more aware and paid more attention to the world and people around him.

“It’s a strange experience,” but he “is more aware of the things around me, and happier for it.”

Cowell is not alone. More than half of phone users check it within 15 minutes of waking up, and many believe that our partners use the phone too much too.

Being swarmed with technology creates many problems.

Technology is a good thing, but we haven’t quite learned to manage it yet. Unfortunately, workplace systems and processes demand that we embrace it, rather than ditch it.

It is easier for employers to demand their employees remain at their beck and call, and get them to do more work out of office hours by saying “I emailed you the documents over the weekend” and then expecting things have been dealt with, or demanding their response with a text message.

You can choose to filter out technology, but unfortunately many of us don’t have this choice, unless we work for ourselves, or – like Cowell – have executive assistants to deal with such matters on our behalf. We don’t want it intruding, but we can’t exactly do without it completely, and it is in navigating the disconnect that proves difficult.

Technology promotes a disconnect in many ways too. Musicians who rely on technology face having to alter their art form because the audience expectations have changed. Remember when being a music DJ meant spinning decks and records? Now it is about clicking touchscreens and select pre-edited tracks. Musician Bob Dylan faced accusations from the folk community when his music became electric with amplified guitars.

Disconnect is fun, don’t get me wrong. Listen to classical music crossed with disco. Or metal music is enjoyed because the dark lyrics are sung to major keys. But when you have a disconnect in daily life that widens each day, managing that contradiction is one of the things you need to do, or it will lead to a decline of your mental health.

Music and Silence are both underpinned by the same thing

What does the fact that many people are listening to headphones nowadays tell us?

Does it tell us the music industry is growing? Well, it is, but that is not the main thing.

Does it tell us music plays an important part in everyone’s life? Yes, it does, but only to a certain extent.

What it really tells us – and I might be ruffling a few feathers here – is that we don’t really want to know.

We don’t really want to know what goes on outside our immediate world.

We are not capable of helping those we see in need, such as the homeless under railway stations. We don’t really want to know we can’t help them, or we don’t want to invest the necessary time to address a social issue.

So we look down on the floor as we past them, or pretend to be scrolling our phones. And we plug in headphones so we have an excuse to say we didn’t hear their pleas of “Spare some change please…”

We travel on public transport. On a train or a bus, someone plays music loudly, talks loudly, or behaves in an anti-social manner. It used to be that we could busy ourselves in a book and pretend not to hear. But the plugging of ourselves into a world of music tells us we don’t need to bother trying to get angry, trying to waste time convincing them of their idiocy. We can just disconnect there and then.

A pair of headphones is the biggest tool in your arsenal.

It allows you to switch off from the world around you. Some of it might be in response to things you disagree with but cannot change. But disconnecting may be a way of finding your own space in a crazy world.

Some of us may listen to music with loud beats and driving rhythms. It may not necessarily be music that is modern, it may be Romantic piano music or loud choral music by Handel. We may blast out music loudly, or choose to plug headphones in as a barrier. Ultimately, it is our silence that speaks most.

Watching someone on our daily commute listen to music tells us something. It tells us human beings are trying to disconnect further and further from the fabric of society.

Therein lies a time bomb.