The Effects of Lockdown on Mental Health

For a large number of human beings who have grown up in societies where freedom has been taken for granted, lockdown with all its restrictions appears to have had a massive effect on mental health. I have read recently, as well as having heard reports on the radio, that many mental health professionals and organizations such as Lifeline, have been inundated with calls from people feeling so down that they are contemplating suicide.

How do we explain these feelings of desperation? People by nature need contact with others unless they have chosen a life of solitude, such as becoming a hermit monk. I don’t think that the percentage of people who have gone in that direction can be very high, to be honest. Being isolated from family members and close friends has been very tough on most people but especially on those who live alone. Different countries have treated lockdown in their own way and with their own level of trying to control the spread of the virus. However, where it has resulted in the banning of friends and family members being able to come to one’s home, this has proved to be a very hard pill to swallow and has caused many people to feel extremely isolated and depressed.

“There is no greater sorrow than to recall in misery
the time when we were happy.” – Dante

Even if one has been able to carry on making a living whilst working from home, just having to think twice before going anywhere can, in itself, be a very distressing way of living. Is it really necessary to go outside one’s home? What is the risk of coming in contact with the virus? Are you in that age group which is seen as the vulnerable bracket or do you have an underlying health issue which could affect you very negatively, if you should you actually get Covid 19? Are you comfortable having to wear a cotton mask whilst you are outside the home? If you wear glasses, can you even see with the mask having the effect of steaming up your lenses? Oh boy, so much to take into consideration and you are more than likely happier to stay at home after all, and make do with the groceries you already have in your store cupboard or do the obvious and order on line.

Many elderly people living in retirement homes have been in total lockdown for months now in order to protect them and the rest of the residents from the possibility of being infected by visitors who may be carrying the virus. These individuals are not in total isolation as there are others living close by as well as nurses and caregivers in most cases. They would have been in a much more difficult situation if they had still been living in their previous homes, very often after having lost their partner.

Much has been said recently about the effect this lockdown, and the fear of the virus, is having on children and young adults. Although children are believed to be fairly resilient and able to bounce back in many situations, this Covid 19 pandemic is completely alien to us all. No-one has so far devised a fool-proof method of teaching them new coping strategies. Only time will tell just how severely this lockdown, with all its restrictions, has affected the mental health of many young people all over the world. One can only hope that it won’t be too long before we can all relax a little and start to put our rather fractured lives back together again, even though we are warned that a “normal” way of life will, in fact, be a “new normal”.

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In the meantime, whilst we are playing the wait and see game, children are slowly returning, or have already returned, to the classroom. Having to have their temperature taken each morning before going into the school building, wearing a mask all day long, and being sanitized at the school door, are all practices which have to be followed. Some parents have reported having to cope with children returning from school complaining of headaches and being extremely tired. This could be as a result of the new regulations in place forcing them to breathe behind a cotton mask whilst trying to concentrate on the work being presented to them by the teacher. It is critical for parents and teachers to take cognisance of these side effects which appear to be the result of going back to school.

Having been home schooled for so long, it stands to reason that it will take some time before students, especially the younger ones, adjust once again to being away from the comfort and relative safety of their home environment. The school year had hardly begun in the southern hemisphere when Covid 19 reared its very ugly head. Little people had just become happy to say goodbye to their parents in the mornings and the crying and clinging had stopped. Now, there is a big chance that this will start all over again as the smaller ones face going back to pre-schools and nursery schools.

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The excitement of seeing friends again and interacting with other children is obviously a big factor when it comes to going back to school. Online lessons, with the advantage of Zoom, is a good substitute but nothing can compare with the fun that often comes from interacting with one’s peer group. This mixing with their own age group is particularly important for teenagers, who often feel that only their friends understand them. Months of keeping friendships going via social media and mobile phone calls does not have the same meaning as actually seeing and interacting with one another.

Teenagers have been affected badly by the lockdown and isolation and they have always been a very vulnerable group where suicide is concerned. Without school classes as well as sporting activities it stands to reason that many young people would have experienced feelings of anger and frustration Those looking towards writing their final exams at the end of the year must have become very anxious, especially if it was impossible for them to study on line. Others may have suddenly had to give up the intense physical training they were doing regularly in their various sports. With so much having been halted in one foul swoop, it is no wonder that the result is often depression and a severe feeling of loss.

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Many parents too must have thought the end of the world had come when, having to work from home, surrounded by young children needing care and on-line lessons, they are totally exhausted every single day. Realising just how demanding trying to teach children can be has definitely raised the respect level given to the teaching profession. However, the feelings experienced by parents of not doing everything as well as they should, may also have caused much anxiety and despondency as this is not a normal situation, by any manner of means.

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One wonders whether the effects of this pandemic will be long lasting or will we all forget just how stressful life in 2020 has been. So far, we have actually lost a huge portion of the year which has included Easter, Mothers’ Day and soon, Fathers’ Day and one hopes that by the time Christmas arrives, things will be looking a little brighter. It seems that it is only countries like New Zealand and Australia who have been affected very little by Covid 19, whilst the rest of us are soldiering on and hoping for brighter days ahead. Well, hope doesn’t cost anything, but if you are suffering from severe depression then hope can be a pipe dream.

My wish at this time is that all those people who are at the end of their tether reach out to the organizations who are available when life seems worthless and that they find a listener who has empathy and the ability to assist them and prevent a disaster. After all, tomorrow is another day, and sometimes there really is light at the end of a very dark tunnel – as long as hope survives.

“I am so angry with myself because I cannot do what
I should like to do, and at such a moment one feels as if one
were lying bound hand and foot at the bottom
of a deep
dark well, utterly helpless.” – Vincent Van Gogh 

Direct Selling after Covid 19

No-one can accurately predict how life will continue once this virus is under control, and the new phrase seems to be, “normal will be a different normal”. When it comes to how people will shop, then there is obviously the question of how will they feel about handling and trying products which have more than likely been previously touched by other shoppers?

I heard a radio discussion recently which involved the beauty counters of many up-market retail stores. The concern is that when one is given the opportunity to test certain cosmetics and fragrances, they could have been handled by someone who is carrying the virus. Items such as perfume testers are always a great temptation when one is browsing in a shop, but is it wise to pick them up and try them out? Lipstick testers as well as foundation samples are usually available for trying on one’s hand to get an idea of whether or not they suit your colouring. It could be that in the future people will be less inclined to buy their cosmetics from a store but might feel much happier choosing their products via the pages of a well designed catalogue.

The economy in many countries has been negatively impacted due to the coronavirus and we are likely to see many shopping centres with shops which have been forced to close down. The face of these centres could change completely, and it may be that shopping online or through a direct sales representative becomes more and more desirable. For anyone who has been looking for a way to earn some extra money, or to start a new career, then this could be the ideal time to start being involved in direct selling.

One needs to try to stay positive despite all the negative feedback with which we are bombarded every time we listen to a news broadcast or buy a newspaper. This is often a difficult call, but necessary if we are to avoid deep depression, and planning on doing something new could help lift the feelings of doom and gloom.  Starting a new career is always full of challenges, but there are most definitely going to be a lot of advantages for your future customers when they are given the option of avoiding busy shopping malls by opting for distance purchasing instead.  When it comes to being able to shop from the relative safety of one’s home, and even receive personal delivery of the products purchased, then the benefits are huge. Valuable time is saved, as well as having peace of mind that the products you are purchasing have not been handled by many. It is far easier to sanitize the packages and bottles when you receive your order than worrying about all the potential germs on items on display at beauty counters.

It isn’t only cosmetics which are handled by many when they are displayed in a retail outlet. What about products like Tupperware? Yes, to gain the full benefit of the products they should ideally be demonstrated by a well-versed salesperson but that necessitates a lot of handling by all and sundry who are keen to get the feel of the product being demonstrated. However, training customers in the use of the products can always be done in the form of written instructions or through an on-line video. The latter is something which direct sales companies need to take seriously at this time.

So, if you feel that direct selling is something which suits your personality and could benefit you financially as well as emotionally, then I trust that the foregoing chapters which I have produced will prove invaluable as you start out in this new direction. For those who are already involved in this kind of business, you may just find that reading through the relevant information is a memory jogger as well as a way for you to improve your sales skills.

Direct Sales – Chapter 8

Believing in your product as well as believing in yourself

The manner in which you handle the products that you wish to sell to your customers is very important, especially when you are actually demonstrating their usage. In this day and age where money is often in short supply and items are expensive, it is critical to show people that they are paying for quality items. This also relates to the way in which you package each individual order. I mentioned this in an earlier chapter, but cannot emphasise enough just how important this part of the business is. Imagine spending several hundred bucks of hard earned cash on some exciting new products and then, when they are delivered to you, it is very apparent that they were roughly shoved into a plastic bag and just tied at the top with a knot. In the case of cosmetics, this kind of handling could result in broken lids and spilt contents. Care and consideration are the operative words at every turn if you wish to be seen as a reputable sales representative.

So, you really do believe in the products you sell, and you have many satisfied customers to attest to their vast benefits. However, do you believe in yourself? If you have a difficult time where interaction with others is concerned, then it’s a good idea to make a list of all your good points and feed yourself positive reinforcement by reading and re-reading each one of the qualities you have listed. You might feel that you are a good listener, or have a great sense of humour, or have a passion for young children or animals. Every one of these is a very positive trait and something which makes you, and you alone, unique. We all have days when we doubt our capabilities but once you start making money through direct selling, you will be amazed at just how much more confident you feel about yourself.

It is a sad fact of life that many human beings take great delight in offering sympathy when those around them are having a tough time. They may wallow in hearing about your struggles when you first start your new endeavour.  It makes these people feel superior in many cases and doesn’t do much for your upliftment. What you really need is to be motivated to dust yourself off, ands to get out there and do something which makes you feel positive once again. To be told by others that they know how you feel (which is usually a lot of garbage) when you are struggling with  actually trying to get your sales going, or even having to cope with a difficult customer, isn’t going to solve anything. These so-called well- meaning individuals need to be avoided at all costs when you are going through a bit of a rough patch. Far better to read a motivational book of one kind or another or watch a movie which makes you laugh a lot or better still, go for a jog or a nice brisk walk! A nice glass of wine is often just what is needed when all else fails!

“If you have a voice within you say “you cannot paint”, then by
all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
– Vincent van Gogh

Something else to avoid in order to feel confident and in control, is not to compare yourself and your sales with anyone else. This is not always easy when you attend sales meetings and recognition is given to those top achievers. Try to use times like this as a motivating factor which allows you to aim higher, knowing that if others are capable of doing so well in the business, then there is no reason  why you can’t do the same. It isn’t a case of comparison, it’s simply understanding that everyone has a different home life and for some, sales and making mega bucks is what makes the world go round. You may have a demanding family, and your selling business has to slot in with the needs of a spouse and children, and possibly even members of your extended family as well.

The best advice I was ever given was to only compare yourself with yourself. In other words, by keeping records of your previous months’ sales figures you, and only you, can decide to better those figures if you so wish. Your company will always be dangling that proverbial carrot in front of you and once they see your capabilities, that carrot becomes bigger and bigger! However, your success is in your own hands and it is up to you to either take up a sales challenge or just to ignore it and work at a pace which fits in with your personal life. The best part about working for yourself (and direct selling is working for yourself) is that, as your circumstances change over time, you can decide to spend more time and effort in increasing your business. You may even wish to become a sales leader and have a team of representatives in your group whom you train and motivate, and ultimately enjoy the benefits of their sales as well as your own.  Being involved in direct selling is an exciting world to be part of and you will probably be encouraged to attend training seminars over the years. The more you achieve and the more you receive recognition for your hard work and good results, the more you will find that believing in yourself, as well as the products which you promote, becomes second nature and your confidence will know no bounds.

I sincerely hope that the information which is contained in these chapters assists you in having a happy and productive time during your direct selling career. Good Luck!

“With realisation of one’s own potential and self-confidence
in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”
– Dalai Lama

The New Royals

The New Royals – or just stupidity?

When you read the word Prince or Princess, what normally pops into your mind? More than likely it is crowns, castles, palaces, and most of all a way of life foreign to the majority of us. Over the years there appears to have been an emergence of a pandemic affecting a large percentage of parents and their offspring which is going to have a longer lasting effect than the Corana Virus (Covid-19), in my possibly slightly jaded opinion, and that is this new bunch of royals in the making.

No, I am not referring to children who are being born into royalty. This is a case of crazy behaviour amongst so-called educated humans whereby they fawn over their children and refer to them as “my little princess” or “my prince”. I have even seen invitations to baby showers where the sex of the unborn baby has already been revealed and the invitation reads “Princess baby shower”. It just doesn’t bode well for the future when, even before it is born, a child is elevated to the level of royalty.

Over the years I have been into many homes where there are signs on bedroom doors announcing the fact that a little princess or prince inhabits the room. In one case recently, the father of one of these so-called princesses said that his 4 year old daughter is totally out of control being very cheeky and refusing to listen to her parents at all. What is wrong with the world when a father sounds as though he is actually intimidated by his own child? Letting the little cherub believe that she is a princess is hardly the way to instil socially acceptable good behaviour and manners, not to mention respect.

Many years ago, I recall reading an article where the author made the observation that we should treat our children as if they are on loan to us. It was something of a wake-up call as she, the writer, made the point that none of us know for how long we will have our children. The message was to enjoy them, teach them well, but to always be aware of the fact that they are on loan to us from a higher power (will not get into religious discussions on my blog, so the interpretation of this statement lends itself open to personal beliefs). At no time was there any mention made of having to treat these children as demi-gods, or princesses and little princes. The message was to value the time that you have with your children and to do the very best that you can to have meaningful relationships with them and to try to teach them well. I found this a very profound statement.

On the subject of the word “princess”, there is a worldwide situation whereby many women are still striving to be taken seriously, especially in the business arena. Salaries are often much lower for a woman doing the exact same work as her male counterpart and is something which is an ongoing bone of contention. If one considers this scenario, and the fact that it may take many more years before the situation is sorted out for a lot of women, then what on earth is the point of treating your daughter as a little princess? If you want her to be able to handle life in the fast lane as a successful businesswoman, doctor, lawyer, teacher etcetera, then you are doing her a grave disservice by doting on her and pandering to her every whim.

Another point which I would like to make is the issue of the millions of women worldwide who still have an ongoing struggle to be given basic human rights. In some countries, and due to archaic laws, education has been limited to the males of the species whilst women are still treated as second class citizens and have to obey their fathers and later their husbands, and sometimes even their brothers, whilst living within the boundaries of a patriarchal society . In some cases, these women are actual genuine princesses within their own community, but they are controlled by the males and often have virtually no say in the running of their own lives. Given a choice they might well prefer not to have the title of “princess” in exchange for the freedom of life in a western society.

Think about the fact that by treating your little darlings with kid gloves and spoiling them with everything their heart desires, you may be elevating them to think that they are better than their playmates. Behaviour is taught, be it good or bad, and children come into this world as a blank slate upon which the caregiver (parent in most cases)  has the power to write the script.  One should take cognisance of everything which subsequently becomes written on that slate, and having some humility as well as confidence and caring for others should be way up there at the top of the slate! Once again, I am going to leave you, my valued reader, with the thought that we are responsible for the next generation – of princes and princesses? One can but hope that this is merely a ridiculous passing phase, which may have been fuelled to a large extent by Disney as well as all those toy shops displaying an abundance of “over the top” prince and princess outfits, designed specifically for all the mini pseudo royals in the making.

“In fairy tales, the princesses kiss the frogs and the frogs
become princes. In real life, the princesses kiss
the princes and the princes turn into frogs.”
– Paulo Cuelho

Psychopathy

There seems to be a great deal of information quite readily available these days regarding the rather disturbing incidence of psychopathy. I watched a documentary recently which involved a young boy of around 4 years old who has already shown frightening behavioural patterns which would seem to indicate that he is possibly a young psychopath in the making. His mother, when interviewed, said that he had already killed a kitten by microwaving the poor creature, and was constantly harming other defenceless creatures and showing no remorse whatsoever. It must be extremely unpleasant to witness this kind of behaviour in such a young person, but what is one supposed to do?

The answer is quite clearly that the parents need to get professional help as soon as such disturbing tendencies are noticed. Depending upon one’s financial circumstances, as well as the country in which one resides, this may be easier said than done.

Years ago, if a child committed any kind of act which was deemed to be anti-social or plain cruel, the parents would have most likely taken a belt to their backside and punished them with taking away any privileges. However, what we don’t know, is just what effect such punishment ultimately had on the child and if possibly it exacerbated the occurrence of the disturbing behaviour. If we take a person such as the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer it would seem that he appeared to be a normal, happy boy during his early childhood. He had surgery for a hernia and, according to his mother, his personality began to change thereafter with him becoming withdrawn and morose. However, there was also the added stress of a baby brother being born, and then his parents divorcing. So, is it possible that the surgery itself may have, through the anaesthetic having been administered, paved the way for his becoming a psychopath? Interesting thought, but has it ever been the subject of research, one wonders.

In many documented cases where a mass murderer has been arrested, tried and found guilty, there often seems to be a common thread running through the personalities of many of them. This commonality appears to indicate an innate desire to harm, torture and destroy, with a total lack of empathy, and no feelings of remorse for their actions, from a very young age.

Although psychopathy and sociopathy are both classified as mental disorders, and are both antisocial behaviours, there are differences. Psychopaths are believed to be born and their condition is theorised to be due to the underdevelopment of the area of the brain which is responsible for impulse control. Sociopaths, on the other hand may develop these behaviour patterns through physical or emotional abuse in childhood. What is concerning is the estimated percentage of people whom we are likely to come in contact with, who are possibly psychopaths. They may be in our work environment, or at social gatherings and yet we possibly view them just as unfeeling individuals or plain antisocial in their behaviour and we may tend to avoid them as much as possible. Many psychopaths will never end up in jails or psychiatric institutions, but they may still be capable of wreaking havoc on those with whom they come in close contact, such as family members.

I remember as a child picnicking on a beach one Sunday morning with my parents, and next to us was a boy of about 7 years old who was with his grandmother. He appeared to be very intense and somewhat morose and he seemed to be completely engrossed in building little humps of sand with his spade. When my father asked him what he was making, he replied in a very creepy voice  (rather unnerving in  such a young child), “I’m building a graveyard!”. His tone gave us the shivers and one has to wonder just how he turned out when he grew up. Another Jeffrey Dahmer perhaps? Or maybe another Stephen King? Who knows, but gives one something to ponder.

“People who do hideous things, do not look like people
who do hideous things.
There is no face of evil.”
– Martha Stout (American Psychologist)

Racism

Racism

The attitude one shows when dealing with another person should never be based upon the colour of their skin, or the fact that they belong to another cultural group different to one’s own.  It should be about having respect for yourself and, in turn, respecting the other person, regardless of colour or creed. Anyone who is so full of hatred towards those who are different in any way to themselves and who are prepared to call another person a disgustingly insulting name could possibly be viewed as having some kind of a major personality problem. It doesn’t take much intelligence to realise that, when one insults or humiliates another, it produces very negative feelings not only for the targeted individual, but for the perpetrator as well.

The giving of positive feedback, or the praising of another person is actually of benefit to the one who has done the praising (albeit genuine and not a case of brown-nosing, or being patronising!)  It is the same as giving an unexpected gift to another person – who is it who really benefits from the action of giving? In many cases it is the giver, due to the unexpected and delighted response of the recipient!

Children are not born with preconceived ideas about anything, including the colour of a person’s skin. That is why, when they go to multi-cultural nursery schools and their parents ask them if there are Black, Asian or Mixed-race children in their class, the child often has no idea of what to answer. They themselves are not aware of the colour of their own skin.  They will often say that they have peach coloured skins and their friends have beige skin – if they are pushed to give an answer!

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Every now and again racism raises its ugly head worldwide, however, it is practically a pandemic in South Africa. This situation is obviously a smoke screen fanned by political parties to disguise the real issues which need to be addressed. These include unqualified, inept as well as corrupt government ministers and employees in various government run departments throughout the country, poverty, unemployment, ongoing corruption, a failing educational system, a totally inadequate government health service, an almost non-existent power utility as well as crime, horrendous numbers of road deaths due to the many unlicensed drivers, illegal immigrants – the list goes on and on, ad infinitum! Where politicians and the ruling party in general realise that they are failing in their duties, it is a way of trying to avoid any responsibility when they constantly relive the past and try to blame minority groups for all the country’s woes.

There will always be unpleasant people in the world, and it is almost impossible to avoid coming in contact with some of them. So, the fact that a person of another colour scowls and acts rudely might be part of their general make-up. We should perhaps look at the times when people of our own cultural group are rude to us and realise that we couldn’t label such behaviour as racism! We need to try to stop using the word “racism”, and face the fact that people by nature gravitate to spending time with others with similar backgrounds or points of view, or even those who speak the same language. Whether these groups of people happen to have the same colour of skin doesn’t mean that they are deliberately alienating other racial groups.

We should take a step backwards and observe small children in a playground setting who, as mentioned previously, give no thought to the colour of the skin of their playmates. They seem to gravitate to other children for various reasons, and it definitely is not due to their racial group. It could be that they feel comfortable around another child, because they enjoy playing with the same toys, have similar temperaments and do not feel threatened.

Perhaps we should follow the lead of our children and forget about colour and creed and enjoy interactions with other people based on commonalities such as interests and belief systems and finding the other person attractive in one way or another. Such attraction can be anything from admiring something they are wearing, their hairstyle, the friendliness of their smile, the tone of their voice or their body language, with no thought as to whether or not they have the same skin colour as we do. Much good could come of it and South Africans need to make a concerted effort to truly become that rainbow nation envisaged by the late, Nelson Mandela. However, it is a sad fact that the correct behaviour and attitudes in any kind of business or establishment come from the top downwards. This is a serious problem in this country right now due to the many uneducated, ignorant and often arrogant politicians supposedly leading the country who, by making unintelligent comments, are constantly setting unsavoury and totally unacceptable examples when it comes to cross cultural interactions.

One can only hope that all South Africans will eventually have a much less divided country once the current bunch of politicians become history and things change for the better. The country’s citizens can but try to stay positive despite all the negativity with which they are bombarded, via the media, on a day to day basis.

“If tolerance, respect and equity permeate family life, they will
translate into values that shape societies, nations and the
world.” – Kofi Annan

Update and Comments: 14 February 2020

Pavlov and the salivating dog scenario

Well, our dear Kelly, who is now 16 months old and an almost fully grown, very spoilt and rather bolshy German Shepherd, has finally decided that the pool can be a lot of fun. It has been a bit of an effort to get her to realise that, if she gets in on the top step, she can stand quite comfortably. Ever since she was a young puppy, she has had an obsession with water. She was the only member of her puppy socialisation class who raced straight over to the large bowl of water in the middle of their cordoned off area and proceeded to splash around like a lunatic. Here at home, being sprayed all over whilst the garden is being watered, is the fun activity on a hot afternoon, but this summer she has been reticent about getting into our pool.

Allthough last summer we did manage to encourage her to venture into the pool on two occasions, she made sure to get as far away as possible from me each time I had a swim. Obviously dreading my trying to get her to join me. So, last week, we decided that it was time to get her over that barrier of avoidance and try to coax her into the water. After all, we are heading towards the end of summer, so it’s now or never. My better half (so named for this article at least!) put the chain on Kelly and she soon decided to slide onto the top step of the pool. That first day we didn’t force any swimming, but she seemed to enjoy the wading around for several minutes, before trying to clamber out on her own. She has serious hip dysplasia (which was never revealed to us by the breeder) and swimming is highly recommended for her.

On day two, as soon as she had the chain around her neck, it did the trick and she didn’t need to be chased around the garden. I removed the chain as soon as she was in the pool and that day, I actually pulled her off the top step and she swam like an Olympic athlete and appeared to be very proud of her achievement. We had decided that we should put a few layers of bricks on the top step to assist her so that, instead of her having to struggle with her weak back legs, she is able to clamber out with her dignity intact.

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The point I am making here is that, when one looks at how relatively easy it is to teach a young dog, then Pavlov’s theory of Classical Conditioning is certainly what it’s all about. She associates the chain with the fun of getting into the water. Fortunately, there is no food involved in Kelly’s swimming training, so it is far more pleasant to see her doing her strong strokes in the water than salivating all over the place! Maybe I will soon be able to show her the chain without actually putting it around her neck, and she will get into the pool with no encouragement so she can have her daily swim. It makes one feel a bit more comfortable knowing that, if she were to fall in the water, she now recognizes that she has to swim to the shallow end in order to be able to get out.

It is much easier to waterproof a dog than a child, but the responsibility of ensuring that there are no unforeseen occurrences is something which one has to be aware of in order to prevent a tragedy. Taking responsibility is part and parcel of life, whether we like it or not.  Therefore, it is with a certain degree of relief that we now know that Kelly is a good swimmer and knows how to get both in and out of the water without any discomfort.  In fact, today she didn’t need to use the bricks at all and clambered out with total ease. Success!

I am off now to get the canine family member back in the pool, as rainy weather could arrive unexpectedly judging by the rather threatening clouds I can see from my office window.

“I’m trying to do the best I can
– Michael Phelps

Oh, nearly forgot – for those of you who are romantics – A very Happy Valentine’s Day for 14 February.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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The Changing Face of Television

If you are a South African then do you remember how excited we all were in 1975 when we had an hour or so each day of television? It was thrilling to actually see the multi coloured tuning pattern on the screen, even if there was nothing else to view! We were catching up at long last with the rest of the world. Crazy that the Nationalist government had managed to prevent South Africans from being able to see what was going on in the rest of the world for so long. As a child in the U.K. I remember watching Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, Muffin the Mule, Children’s Hour and so many more kiddies’ programmes (albeit in black and white) in the 1950’s. We were all told by our parents that we couldn’t watch too much tv or we would all end up with square eyeballs! In the 1960’s we suddenly saw the advent of ITV with its regular advert breaks.  Now mum had time to dash to the kitchen to make a brew of that British necessity – tea! By the early 1970’s colour televisions were the norm and no-one seemed to be walking around with square eye balls!

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Arriving in South Africa in the early 1960’s was a real culture shock which included the lack of television. People moving down to South Africa from Northern Rhodesia, as it was then called, brought their television sets down with them, to no avail! At least nowadays we are able to keep in touch with world affairs and because of that, the world would seem to be a far smaller place. Could be due in part to the size of the people who inhabit it these days, as well as a worldwide overpopulation problem!

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From the tiny black and white sets, to the cabinet model, and now to the huge flat and curved screen, smart state of the art tv’s, which are operated by remote control – television has most certainly changed its look from its humble beginnings. Now it is very often a statement purchase. The bigger the screen, the wealthier or more of a trend follower one is perceived to be. Furniture has to be purchased taking into account the position and size of the tv! Houses need to have enough windowless walls to enable families to have television sets in rooms other than the lounge. No-one wants to be left out of being able to view favourite programmes just because it’s time to cook dinner. So most homes have a smallish set suspended on a bracket in the kitchen. Useful too if you don’t know how to cook, as there are loads of so-called experts showing off their culinary expertise. Not all of these lessons take place in a traditional kitchen setting. Now you can even learn to prepare a gourmet meal on the banks of a river with elephants and giraffe wandering around in the background! After watching that, you dare not dish up fish fingers and chips without feeling guilty.

There are those people who have decided, for whatever reason, not to own a television set. I once met a very educated health worker who refused to have either a television or even a radio, and never read the newspapers at all as she was afraid of being the recipient of potentially negative information. I somehow think that this ostrich-like head in the sand attitude to life is quite inadvisable when one has an occupation which involves people interaction on a permanent basis. It really is important to be up to date with world affairs to a certain degree or run the risk of coming across as an absolute dinosaur with no current general knowledge whatsoever. Yes, try to avoid stress in your life if that’s the most important factor but, there really are limits!

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Owning a tv can be an expensive item especially when one is almost forced to pay a monthly fee to have cable tv because of poor local content. However, if one is circumspect about what one watches, television can be a form of relaxation, as well as often proving to be extremely informative. One may not be able to afford to take costly overseas trips, but by tuning into a geographic channel it is almost as good as the real thing. Armchair travel can take you wherever your heart desires, at the click of a button! No waiting at airports, no fear of airline crashes, or Isis attacks, just a totally stress-free experience!

It is also a wonderful way for children to learn about the world by having televised lessons. Instead of sitting through boring geography lessons, with a possibly disinterested teacher droning on and on, how much more fun is it to go on a visual exploration and to almost lose oneself in the journey. As far as the old-style classroom learning is concerned, does one really ever need to know where sugar beet is grown, or the names of all the lakes in Canada just to regurgitate such facts at exam time. (Deviating slightly, I just wonder, as an example, how many of us have used Pythagoras’ theorem since leaving school? Engineers or architects maybe?  It certainly doesn’t seem to apply when buying a home or raising children).

Since the introduction of music videos there have been studies which would seem to indicate that, if one uses more than one sense whilst receiving any form of information, there is a much better chance of such information being retained. Therefore, visual school lessons seem to make a lot of sense.  By all accounts there are many classrooms around the world which rely on televised programmes in combination, in most cases, with the traditional teacher in the classroom scenario. This is obviously linked to the availability of connectivity as well as the occurrence being mainly in the more affluent areas (when one is talking about developing countries). I would like to investigate the schooling scenario which is in place nowadays in remote places such as in the outback of Australia. Could make for an interesting future article perhaps? I am pleased to have read several articles recently, written by experts in the educational arena, stating that the teaching methods will have to change drastically in the next 10 to 20 years to prepare children for a constantly changing world.

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Hospital stays may be made less traumatic if, when a patient is recovering from illness, they are able to watch a televised programme whilst lying in bed. By using the mandatory headphones this could be a way to avoid constant chitchat with the patient in the next bed, if that is the choice. Watching tv might also prove to be less exhausting than trying to read the books or magazines brought in by well-meaning relatives.

Even standing in a long queue at the bank, or reclining in the dentist’s chair, are occasions where it is no longer unusual to see a television set suspended on the wall, or above your head (in the case of the dentist) showing wild life videos, or a live  cricket match. In the case of the dentist, it is always rather nerve wracking when the practitioner appears to be more involved with the action on the screen than with what is going on inside your mouth! What is meant, with all the best intentions, to relax the patient may have the opposite effect entirely!

However, when all is said and done, that good old goggle box may have its critics, but it has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings. The benefits, when viewing time is limited and programmes chosen with care, (especially in the case of young children and the kind of content to which they are exposed), can certainly outweigh the negatives. For those who live alone or those confined to their homes due to illness or lack of mobility, the difference a television set can make may be immeasurable and life without out it would indeed be pretty dull and lonely.

“Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained
in your living room by people you wouldn’t
have in your home”
– Late David Frost (British Television Host)

Direct Sales – Chapter 7

Giving Quality Service

One of the first things that needs to be borne in mind as you enter the exciting world of direct selling, is that most of us have become used to receiving poor service far too often. If your aim is to strive to always give your customers the best possible service, then you will gain their trust and loyalty. It takes just as much time to do things properly as it does to be slapdash in your approach to anything you may be undertaking. Therefore, regardless of how small or large a customer’s order is, treat each one with the respect and gratitude which they deserve. Even a small order should be packaged with as much care as your biggest order of the month. To use a piece of curled ribbon to close the package and then to add a small handwritten thank you tag adds a very professional, personal touch.

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If possible, find out whether or not the customer is able to purchase the product which they wish to order this month, at a reduced price next month. By doing some homework (often by asking your area manager) you are sometimes able to tell your customer that, if they wait until the start of the next promotion then they stand to save a fair amount on their purchase. If you ignore this, and just happily place orders which you know may be reduced in the following month, your customer is going to feel cheated when they realise that they have paid more than they needed to had they waited a few weeks. Obviously, this doesn’t always work out to their benefit if they need the product in a hurry. However, they will probably appreciate the fact that you bothered to try to help them save some money.

Another tip is to keep a record of the kind of products which each regular customer seems to be interested in buying. Then, if you see a good deal coming up which includes these products, call them and inform them that they will soon be able to buy items in that range which may be of use to them. Once again, a small thing to do, but it can certainly gain you those much needed brownie points which put you ahead of many of your competitors out there in the sales world. There are always going to be many other people selling the same products as you, but by being one step ahead when it comes to service, this will pay dividends in the long run.

When a mistake is made on an order (and it can happen easily when you are tired, and keying in your product codes at night) then you have to do your level best to rectify the error without inconveniencing your customer. This often can be done with the assistance of your area manager if he/she is giving you the support which you need in this business. Sometimes the customer never even realises that you have made a mistake provided you correct the error as timeously as you are able. Should the worst case scenario be that the product which you mis-ordered or omitted is no longer available, then you need to placate the customer as best you can. Sometimes a small gift in apology may be enough as most people are relatively tolerant where genuine mistakes are concerned, especially if one is honest about the situation.

When someone asks you about a product which no longer seems to appear in the current catalogue, then do your best to find out for them whether it is off range, coming back soon, or totally discontinued. Then you may be able to offer them a suitable replacement item at a similar price. Once again, you are showing that you care about their needs and concerns and, by getting back to them speedily, you will be held in high regard as far as customer service is concerned.  Never be slow at getting information back to your customers, as it takes very little time to pick up your phone and explain to them what you have found out.

“I never dreamed about success – I worked for it.
– Estee Lauder

Most importantly, and I am sure that I have mentioned this in a previous chapter, always do what you promise to do. If you tell a customer that you will deliver her order on a certain day at a specific time, then make sure that you fulfil your promise. If you are running late, then make sure that you inform the customer so that they are not hanging around waiting for you and getting agitated by the delay. Everyone’s time is valuable, and you need to bear this in mind at all times. When you phone someone, it is courteous to ask them whether or not this is a convenient time to talk to them before you start trying to engage in conversation. If you are unable to speak to them on the phone, then an sms or WhatsApp  message or voice note can be used as an acceptable substitute on certain occasions. Bear in mind though that nothing is better than actually speaking to another person rather than relying on the sending of messages. Too often it happens that the meaning of a message is misconstrued due to the lack of tone. Something might appear to be rude or abrasive when it is only read, whereas when one speaks there is feeling in the words being used.

When you treat your customers well they will tend to have a good feeling towards spending their hard earned cash when buying your products. We have all had experiences with bad salespeople when we have been forced out of necessity to purchase something from them and then feel cheated by the way in which we have been treated by them. The more money that we paid makes the experience the more sickening. What a difference it makes when the salesperson goes one step further than necessary just to make the entire interaction a “wow” one! This tends to be far too rare in this day and age, but you can re-invent the wheel and show your customers just what good service is all about.

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One final point and that is to try to put yourself in the shoes of your customer, so to speak, and to imagine how you would like to be treated, and what would make you, as a customer, become loyal to this particular salesperson. Loyalty is as rare a commodity as good service these days, so it is no mean feat to gain customers who are unlikely to start buying your range of products from another sales agent. With a little bit of caring and doing the job as best you can, there is no reason for you not being respected for what you are doing out there in the world of direct selling.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act,
but a habit” – Aristotle (Greek Philosopher)DS 7-3 350x345

Direct Sales – Chapter 6

Money Management

One of the most important aspects pertaining to your new career in direct sales, is how you are going to handle the money side of your new business. Right from the very start you need to be very strict with yourself and understand that the money which your customers hand over to you does not belong to you. You only receive your portion once you have paid your account with your company. The difference between the amount of money which you collect from each customer as you deliver their orders to them and the total which you need to hand over to the company equals your commission.  This is your salary.

When people pay you in cash it is very advisable to immediately put this money into a separate box or wallet, away from your day to day cash flow until you have to pay your account. There are some direct selling companies who ask you to pay them as you place your order. In this situation you have to tell your customers that they need to give you the relevant amount of money as they place their order with you. Issue them with a receipt for the amount they give you so there is no conflict at a later stage.  Depending on the sophistication of your customer, you may find that some of them prefer to do a bank transfer into your account instead of dealing with cash. By the same token, you may be able to do a transfer into the account of the company for whom you are selling, thereby ruling out the need to carry large amounts of cash around. It all boils down to understanding and facilitating your own as well as your customers’ specific needs.

It is critical to always be very strict with your money handling as nothing could be worse than thinking you have more to spend than you actually do, and then finding out to your horror that you have been using cash which was given to you by a customer when they placed their order with you.

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Try not to become despondent in the early days when you see that you have made a very small amount of profit after having to purchase catalogues, and maybe some sample products as well. Rome was not built in a day, and it takes patience, dedication and a certain amount of hard work to build up your new direct selling business. Eventually you will come to realise that there will be good months and then much leaner ones as well, and sometimes this may be linked to the time of year. However, my advice is to try to ignore the idea that January will be a tough month for sales, as often you may find it to be one of the very best months for you. People will tell you that in South Africa where April is full of public holidays, your sales will suffer. This is certainly not a fact to worry about as it all depends on how you approach your business. By keeping your customers updated and telling them about any special offers and promotions the time of year may prove to be unimportant.  For example, after spending a lot of hard- earned cash on gifts for other people at Christmastime customers often feel the need to spoil themselves at the start of a new year.

I cannot emphasise enough just how important it is to conduct your monetary affairs efficiently in order to prevent problems popping up which could be very detrimental to the success of your new career. If you become known as a late account payer you may find that any credit facilities which your company gave you in the beginning get taken away, and you now have to pay before taking delivery of your orders. This, of course, is the situation if you were previously allowed credit which enabled you to take delivery and then pay later.

I have heard over and over again the story of how someone joined a direct selling company only to land up with non-payments by customers. The only way to prevent this from happening is either to ask for payment up front before ordering the items or not to hand over the product until you have been paid. In the latter situation, should the customer give you a story as to why they no longer have the money to pay you, you at least have the option to either re-sell the item or to send it back to your company for a credit on your account, explaining why you are sending it back.

Another piece of advice which you may find useful is to set yourself a goal and even to put a picture of what it is that you are striving to achieve, up on the wall in your office, or on the front of your fridge. This will serve to reinforce your determination to make a success of your sales business. If the money you make from direct selling is going to be extra income then it is obviously going to be much easier for you to set a goal which may be viewed as a luxury e.g. a trip away, an item for the home or something for yourself which you have always wanted but couldn’t afford on your regular income. Obviously, if you are starting out in direct selling and are feeling pretty cash strapped, then maybe your goal should be more in the line of finding more customers in order to boost your sales. After all, the more you put into the job, the more you are likely to get out of it in the long run. Be that as it may, a goal is always a good idea as it gives you the motivation to carry on carrying on even when you are feeling a bit down and despondent due to perhaps having lost a customer or finding that this particular month is harder than the previous ones have been .

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The only way to increase your income is by selling more products and having more customers. It is an ongoing situation whereby you constantly have to let everyone with whom you come in contact know what it is you do for a living. Carry catalogues and business cards (if you decide that you need to have some to assist with your sales) in your bag, in your car, and in your pocket. Nothing indicates more clearly to a prospective customer that you are disorganized and unprofessional than if you are unable to give them something which identifies you as their point of contact should they decide to do business with you. Although catalogues tend to be quite a costly sales tool, they are critical to the ongoing success of your business.

It is important to keep a strict record of your expenses, in order to monitor your profit margin once you are earning money from your sales. By keeping a tight grip on the financial side of your business, you will always be in control. A casual attitude to money is one of the greatest mistakes one can make as it is just too easy to spend indiscriminately, especially when the excitement of having some extra cash in one’s wallet tempts you to splash out recklessly. Oh well, we all need some fun in our lives, and without the finances to afford them, there is little prospect of too much fun. So, get out there and sell, and enjoy the fruits of your labours. Good luck!

“Never spend your money before you have earned it.
– Thomas Jefferson (American President)