Update and Comments: 8 March 2020

Wouldn’t it be great if …?

The whole world seems to be completely obsessed and paranoid regarding this rather frightening Coronavirus (Covid-19), and it might be a good idea just to change topics for a brief moment. Hence my latest, possibly rather frivolous, update which I hope lets you forget the doom and gloom of a possible impending annihilation of the entire human race as well as the endless discussions of the need for facemasks  and hand sanitiser which have dominated the media over the past few days.

With all the incredible inventions, as well as technological advances which surround us and seem to be racing ahead on a day to day basis, why hasn’t someone managed to invent a way of eliminating dust once and for all? It would be amazing, and a wonderful time saver, if once the mindless job of dusting was completed, it did not need to be repeated ad infinitum throughout one’s lifetime. Removing dust from every nook and cranny is just one of those irritating and necessary chores which never goes away. It’s fine if you are someone who can ignore that murky looking film, covering every possible surface, which arrives out of nowhere just when you have the least time and so many important matters which need your attention.  Now for your own sanity as well as your sinuses, you have to drop what you are doing and dust! What a pain!

Another thought is that it would be ideal if one were able to slow down hair growth when time and money are important factors in one’s life.  When you finally find a hairdresser who does exactly what you want after you have spent valuable hours sitting in the salon and the expensive result makes you look quite amazing, why can’t you slow down your hair growth for several months so that you can have time to really enjoy your new look? What happens? Two weeks down the line and that fringe needs a trim, the colour you paid a fortune to achieve is fading and your roots are beginning to show.  You have hardly managed to get used to the “new you” and you are rapidly heading back to the “old you”!

I am not wanting to create even more unemployment than is currently the case and dusting does create jobs, but it would be nice sometimes to be able to slow certain things down such as cleaning as well as hair growth (apologies here for those who are trying so hard to speed up the work of the follicles – nothing personal meant at all). If anyone is desperately planning on becoming an inventor, well maybe these are two avenues you could consider exploring. I won’t even ask for a commission for giving you the idea!

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)

The Changing Face of Addiction

Having studied the subject of addiction during my psychology courses quite a number of years ago, I am beginning to wonder nowadays whether or not the incidence of addiction is on the increase with the ongoing technological advances with which we all seem to be faced?

In the past, when one mentioned the word “addiction”, thoughts went automatically to alcohol abuse, over-eating, the use of recreational drugs, gambling and even exercise. These days the goal posts have moved, and we see people who cannot function if their mobile phones are not in their hands or positioned on their desks right in front of them. First thing in the morning the phone is grabbed whilst eyes are still bleary from sleep – “what messages have arrived during the night, who has posted some exciting information on Facebook whilst I have been asleep, what earth shattering news have I woken up to read? I need to scroll down and update myself before brushing my teeth, having a cup of coffee, and generally facing the day.”

One of the biggest catastrophies in modern day society, is often the theft or breakage of one’s mobile phone. Heaven help us all if we lose reams and reams of totally inconsequential information, not to mention photos from every person with whom we have had any dealings at all, be they good friends, family members, or just passing acquaintances. How are we ever going to survive without this personal encyclopaedia of trivia? Archiving the information in “The Cloud” can be one’s life saver when this happens, I believe (never having had to travel that road, thank heavens). So, if one is techno-savvy, there is always light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

The trend amongst many of the so-called millennials is to exercise to extreme, and to spend as much time as possible at gyms, pounding the pavements, or swimming the oceans or taking part in triathlons of one kind or another. The health stores are benefitting all the way to the bank, due to all the supplements, vitamins, and health foods which go hand in hand with all this obsession with beautiful bodies. This kind of life also can be lumped together with other forms of addiction, one would think. There is the obsession with attempting to prevent the ageing process with cosmetic surgery not to mention purchasing the most expensive cosmetics which promise eternal youth.

I have realised over the past few weeks, since the beginning of December in actual fact, that as business slowed down, so there was more time to engage in mindless, time-wasting activities, and the mobile phone was the partner in crime. So easy to download casino games, mental exercise apps, you name it, you can download it. Once you have learnt the basics as to how to play the game, then voila, you are soon hauled in, hook, line and sinker! It takes a very strong will to actually limit yourself to a certain time of the day for playing, or even a certain amount of games before you close the app., and get on with the serious matters of the day. One does not need to be a neurosurgeon to realise that something is happening in one’s brain when these apps are downloaded. It doesn’t take long to become addicted – or is that just me? The solution seems to be to uninstall these apps and get on with a normal day?

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I would really like to know just what does happen within the brain’s wiring system which allows us to so easily become an addict of one kind or another. Are we born as potential addictive personality types, depending upon our specific DNA? Or is it all a matter of a certain chemical reaction taking place due to a particular occurrence that results in our suddenly being able to waste valuable time, or mess with our healthy bodies because of having acquired a specific craving which conflicts with our previous behaviour? All I can say is that it must be very trying for those individuals whose job it is to assist in breaking these destructive behavioural patterns with which addicts of any kind are afflicted,  as well as for anyone seriously trying to move on, addiction-free.

If it is an addiction linked to one’s physical health, such as alcohol, drugs, tobacco, etc., then it is probably more difficult to handle than one which just messes with one’s brain, e.g. the mobile phone, or the computer, and is more detrimental to one’s quality of life. However, seeing people unable to interact with one another without the perpetual glancing at phone screens to check for messages, then how detrimental are any addictions when it comes to personal relationships and the future of the human race per se?

“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the
narcotic
be Alcohol or Morphine or Idealism”
– Carl Jung (Psychologist)

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Update and Comments: 29 October 2019

Could someone possibly tell me what has caused this year to be only half as long as previous years? It seems just the other day that I was decorating my Christmas tree in time for the 2018 festive season, and now it’s almost that time yet again. I am beginning to think that there is an invisible and very devious time thief lurking out there, conniving and scheming to steal that very precious commodity from those of us who really could use a few extra months each year just to catch up on ourselves!

When a year begins with huge amounts of heavy rain resulting in a lounge having its own version of Niagara Falls, then I suppose it stands to reason that the rest of the year could be somewhat challenging. Roof and ceiling repairs, replacing a door, then small appliances deciding to give up the ghost, all played their part this year. Then last week my faithful laptop just made up its mind to go AWOL. No indication that it was suffering from stress, was overworked and under paid, and generally feeling frustrated and needing a long holiday. It just bit the dust, so to speak. It might have been a sign of loyalty if I had been given some kind of warning – but, no! Just a blank, non- responding screen.

Unfortunately, when one is totally dependent upon one’s computer, a quick decision needs to be made, and time is of the essence. Therefore, I am now getting my head around a new laptop with a more up to date version of Windows, and I hope that I haven’t lost too much of my writing due to the changeover. From now on, I think that the Cloud needs to become my new best friend. Cannot bear the thought of hours of work disappearing into thin air ever again!

All the above chit chat is just a way of letting you know that I am still here, in body if not always in mind, and back to bashing away on my brand new keyboard.

Until next time, it’s my hope that none of you are spooked out this Halloween!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Direct Sales – Chapter 4

Learn about your product!

You will only gain the confidence you need regarding the products you are hoping to sell, once you have as much knowledge as possible about them.

Using the items yourself is obviously very important as you are then talking from personal experience. Listening to comments received from your customers is also critical and a way in which to gain more information without actually having to have first hand experience of some of the other items on the range. Keep notes on the products and constantly refresh your memory, particularly in the early days of your new venture.

Most direct sales companies will offer on-going training and it is in your interest to attend these training sessions and take written notes of what is being said. It is a proven fact that once you write something down, you are far more likely to remember it than just recording what is said onto your cellphone, or a recording machine. You can pick up so many tips and hints from other people who are selling the same products as yourself. They have obviously been successful with their sales, and you can always learn from hearing them talk about their experiences as well as beginning to know more about the products.

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Your new customers, knowing that you have only recently joined the company, will appreciate your offering to find out facts of which you might not as yet be aware. Instead of bluffing your way through if you are asked to give advice about a specific item, it is far better to offer to ask your area manager or local distributor for their help.  You will lose respect from customers if you pretend to know something regarding an item when you actually have no idea at all. Far better to make that contact with someone else in the company who has a lot more experience and who will be able to give you the right information for you to give back to your customer.

If you are selling a product which needs to be demonstrated, a good idea in the beginning of your career is to use some cue cards to help you.  I continued using cue cards all through my many years of direct selling as a means of keeping continuity for my demonstration, in the even that I was side tracked by customers’ questions. If you have your range of products displayed on a table, you can discuss each item in turn and once you have given the benefits and uses of a particular product, you actually need to place the cue card next to that item on the table. This enables the customers to come up to the table once you have finished your talk, and they can identify the product by the picture and will see the price as well. Usually you would have catalogues which can be used for making your cue cards by cutting out the relevant pictures together with the descriptions and current prices.

An important factor is that you need to be organized regarding your new career and this means organizing your thoughts before you address a group of potential customers. It is no good just handing out brochures and expecting people to understand what it is that would benefit them most. This is particularly relevant when it relates to products such as Tupperware, as make-up and clothing items are far more personal and everyone usually has a good idea of what will suit them and their particular taste. However, when it comes to household items the input of an expert (and you are aiming to be that expert sooner rather than later) is indispensable to avoid making an expensive purchase which becomes something of a white elephant. This is likely to create a resistance in the customer to purchasing anything from you again in the future. Taking their type of lifestyle and living situation into account, you will soon be in a position to give good advice on what they should buy to make their life easier and to save money. This will gain you their trust as you are not pushing for sales to benefit yourself, but have their needs in mind. Once again, it is a case of getting to know as much about your product as quickly as possible as well as listening to your customers.

Whilst you are still very new to this venture, it is far better to feel really confident and have first hand knowledge of a few products and offer to get feedback regarding others with which you are not necessarily au fait. Over time it is advisable to invest some of your monthly income in purchasing a variety of items across the range to use yourself in order to boost your confidence as well as your sales.

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If you are selling make-up items you will be able to help your customers by letting them try out samples to make sure that they make the right choice of colour or texture. If the company has samples available for you to buy, then that makes it easy for you. Otherwise you could buy some very small plastic jars and use them for dispensing a portion of a product (such as moisturiser, or hand cream, or shampoo) to give to your customer for them to try out. If they decide to buy the full sized product you will make back the amount you have spent in a short space of time. They also feel that you actually care about their decisions instead of expecting them to order only from pictures in brochures.  Again, as far as selling makeup is concerned, there are usually shade charts which you can purchase as sales tools which assist customers in matching products with their specific skin tone.

The bottom line is that you will grow your business much faster if your knowledge of the products you are able to offer is comprehensive and your customers come to trust you with the choices they make.  By going the extra mile to help prevent incorrect purchases, you will soon gain the respect of those people whom you are serving. Happy customers tell their friends and family. It is a fact that word of mouth advertising is the very best kind there is.

“Today Knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity
and advancement.” – Peter Drucker (1909-2005)

Face Book – A Psychologist’s Best Friend?

I am convinced that since the advent of Facebook as well as Twitter, Instagram etc. and the enormous growth of users, psychologists are being inundated with patients needing help to cope with their perceived worthless existences.

In the past few weeks I have seen old wedding photos of people I once knew well. Reading all the syrupy garbage that not only the couple, or one of them (usually the wife,) but dozens of their friends and family members have posted on their Facebook page is enough to make even the soppyist of people puke! Oh come on, let’s get real. How many marriages are so absolutely wonderful. How many partners are these amazing walking demi gods who have been such perfect soul mates? Sure, it’s great to celebrate a long marriage, but scratch the surface and you are sure to find some polyfillerd cracks of various sizes and shapes.

I remember a few years ago saying to a group of female work colleagues that, if anyone says that they have a wonderful, argument free, marriage and that their husband is perfect, then just look a bit deeper. Either he is full of guilt due to extra marital affairs, or he is a closet gay! One of the women in the group piped up with “that’s what happened in our marriage – he was having it off with his secretary!”  I may sound cynical, but all this on-going rubbish that is being posted on Facebook is one huge ego trip and often a load of total hogwash.

It would be really refreshing, when a couple wish to let the social media world know that they are celebrating a wedding or commitment anniversary, to read something along the lines of  “on this day x amount of years ago I committed to sharing my life with a person with whom there have been many memorable occasions, good and bad. We have had our challenges which often involved in-law interference, or money worries but we have survived! We have had our times of fun and laughter along with the difficult days. So, let’s have a toast to more years still to come!” Now, no-one is going to feel sick with jealousy because they cannot compete with this perfect match made in heaven, and hopefully that would stop all the hypocrites from waffling on about the perfect couple – blah blah blah!

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It goes further as far as the bragging is concerned. Everyone out there seems to have children who are amazing, and never cease to make their besotted parents gloat in wonder. The certificates, awards, successes –both in the classroom and on the playing fields -the list goes on and on. There must be many parents who read these posts who feel that they have been dealt a really lousy hand where offspring are concerned. They may be coping with children who are just average or perhaps challenged in some or other way be it academically or physically. I had a good friend for many years who always used to say “there are no throwaway people” – everyone is worthwhile regardless of their achievements. This is the crux of the matter isn’t it? Whatever challenges we have in life, we sometimes really struggle to accept the fact that we either cope with what we have in front of us, or just give up. The latter is not an option in most cases, and that is where the professionals and their counselling can be of incredible assistance. Feeling inferior, hard done by, worthless, incompetent – all emotions which are so readily fed and watered by the many ego-driven postings out there on social media.

It would be interesting to see some statistics relating to the demands being made on psychologists and psychiatrists since the advent of social media-itis and before it raised its often ugly head. I may be wrong in my presumptions, but I do know that there is a lot of evidence that more and more youngsters are feeling depressed, worthless, and inferior and often contemplate committing suicide. There has to be a correlation with the fact that these same young people seem to be spending most of their waking hours using their cellphones, either to send posts themselves or reading what others have to say. It appears that it is no longer the norm to get together with members of your peer group and hang out and have fun. Nowadays it would appear that, in many instances, relationships start and end with the use of cellphones. How devastating to receive an sms or a WhatsApp message letting you know you are no longer the flavour of the month or to see evidence on Facebook that your ex has replaced you and wants the world to know.Depression-flat-simHow far is all this going to go before the bubble bursts and life once again returns to some semblance of normality? Never, only in our wildest dreams and this is the “normal” for all those young people born into a world of social media. Oh well, let’s accept the inevitable and just hope that there is a constant stream of qualified and empathetic psychologists graduating from quality universities to handle all the world’s troubled souls!

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Keeping up with Change

Sometimes I think back to the late 1960’s when, as a 19 year old I spent a few months doing temping secretarial work in London. Travelling on the underground from my aunt’s house in the suburb of Kew Gardens every day to get to the Daily Mirror offices I used to read all the adverts on the walls whilst going up or down the escalators at the various tube stations.  At the time there was a show on called “Stop the World, I want to get off!” That was many years ago, and that saying would seem to be far more relevant in this day and age.

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We are constantly being bombarded with new ideas and new technology. In the 60’s things were so much slower although, at the time, we thought life was pretty hectic. Getting to work on time, meeting deadlines – if only we had had an inkling of what the future was going to be like, we would have looked at our situation in a totally different light! In some ways those years were paradise compared to the times we are living in now. The pop scene of the 1960’s took the world by storm and heralded changes in every area of life, particularly where the younger generation was concerned. Fashions changed, music changed for ever, and suddenly there was an expression coined which was known as “the generation gap”! Somehow, this had never had any relevance in previous times.

The old adage that there are only two certainties in life – death and change- can be pretty depressing. However, it depends very much on how one is able to cope with either or both of these facts. The former can actually propel us into facing each day with excitement, as it could be one’s last day on earth and therefore needs to be embraced and enjoyed to the very fullest extent. The latter is the one which can often cause the most stress and discomfort.

“ I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself,
‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do
what I’m about to do today?’
And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days
in a row,I know I need to change something.
” – Steve Jobs 

For the so-called baby boomers, there has probably been far more change to cope with than for any previous generation.  Social attitudes, technology, communication, medical advances – plus so many other areas which affect us on a daily basis have, in many cases, caused stress as well as improved lifestyle.

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Receiving up to date news items from all over the globe can in itself prove difficult to cope with. Years ago there was no such thing as the internet and we relied on radios and newspapers to keep us up to date. The situation that existed in many areas of the world such as the Iron Curtain (Eastern Europe) was so controlled that it prevented any form of negative news from being exposed to the rest of the world. This situation also existed in China. With the advent of the computerised office as well as the availability of the P.C., life changed forever. For better, or worse? That is a matter which could be discussed ad infinitum!

Today we hear about all the catastrophes affecting people in all corners of the world, from the moment we get up until we go to bed. Depending on one’s psychological makeup this can be devastating to one’s mental health or inspire one to try to make the best of a possibly challenging situation.

Then there is the pandemic of social media-itis. If you are unfortunate to suffer from this contagious condition then everyone else appears to be more beautiful, living a wonderful life, travels extensively, wants for nothing – oh yes? Scratch the proverbial surface and the truth is often a totally different story. So much can be said about this toxic situation but enough rambling for now – another time maybe!

“Is this where we’re heading…?” 

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“Just a thought!” \