A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

"Right Dad", announced my daughter,
"I'm going to test you on your mental maths."

I prepared myself for humiliation by a six year old...

"I want you to tell me," she said, adopting her very best school-marmish voice, "the name of a 3 dimensional shape with just 2 faces."

I thought long and hard, but could come up with nothing. Daughter revealed the answer, (as I will to you at the end of this piece if you're equally thick) with a mixture of triumph and disgust...

"That's terrible Dad," she said, "I'm only in the infants and you go to work - and you didn't even know that!"

I was just about to explain that the practical applications of the ability to identify a 3 dimensional shape from a verbal description, are somewhat limited in my line of work, (that would have told her) when she announced that she was now going to test me on times tables.

Well, I was ready for that one. "Time for bed!" I said.

Mental maths (or any kind of maths really) was never my strong point. You see, I went to one of those 'progressive' primary schools which sprung up in the post 11+ era. Freed from the constraints of having to prepare kids for a proper exam, they opted for a more 'relaxed' approach to education.

Two hours every morning were devoted to 'creative' activities – like painting, modelling and that kind of thing. Maths was something you might do for an hour every second Wednesday - provided there was nothing interesting on TV, or the playground didn't need a litter patrol.

And as a result, I never really got to grips with times tables, long divisions, and all the other mathematical mysteries which people who went to proper schools took for granted. I developed a perfectly rational fear of maths and numbers which was to stay with me for a number of years.

But then in about 1974, something really magical happened...

By then, I was in senior school, and I'd found to my horror that messing about had been replaced by hard sums on the curriculum. As you might imagine, I was struggling quite badly.

And then one day, one of the 'rich kids' in class (identified as such because his dad had a car with a current MOT and all the panels the same colour) brought in this amazing device.

It cost about £30 (a lot of money back then)
and was called a pocket calculator.

It changed my feelings about numbers, almost overnight. The first thing I learned was less than useful... like if you punch in the number 5318008, and then turn the calculator upside down, it spells out a rude word. But the really exciting thing was that all the complicated calculations in the world were now within the reach of any number-blind idiot.

Numbers were no longer a mystery. I could now work out anything and everything I'd ever need to run my business and personal life, in seconds. While it's true that I still don't understand much beyond basic arithmetic, I've always found that this is more than enough for my purposes...

And in the unlikely event that I ever need to develop
an equation to plot the trajectory of a comet, I shall just pull out
the Yellow Pages and look under B for Boffin.

Anyway you can do some marvellous things with a basic calculator, and I want to give you just one very simple idea today - one which, if you put it into practice, could transform your approach to work, effort and reward.

I want to get all intrusive, and talk
about money... your money to be precise.

You probably have a pretty good idea how much you earned last year, and if you work for someone else, you're probably aware of how much that breaks down to each month. Because that's how you get paid.

Whatever the figures, I can be pretty confident of one
thing... it won't be enough.

How do I know? Because nobody ever earns 'enough'. Almost all of us want more then we have. I'm not going to get into the rights and wrongs of that. We'll just take it as a 'given' and move on.

So how do you go about making the amount of money you want?

Well the first stage is to decide what that amount is. You need to set a goal or a target. Most of us would express that in terms with which we're familiar... an amount per year, or maybe per month.

So let's say your goal is £60,000 a year. If you're currently earning £20,000 a year, that's an increase of £40,000 a year. (I did that bit without a calculator too.)

Now that goal is very difficult to work on in its current form. Just how do you go about making an extra £40,000 a year? It works out to around £3,333 a month, and most people, when faced with that figure, would be no further forward. So where do you start?

Okay, let's get the calculator out!

If we assume for a moment that you're going to work 5 days a week for 7 hours a day (excluding lunch breaks) for 48 weeks of the year... that means you're going to work for 1,680 hours in the next 12 months. Now...

Your goal is to make £60,000, which means that you have to make an average of £35.71 in each of those hours. You're currently making an average of £11.90 per hour, so you have to find a way to make an extra £23.81 per hour.

That's an extra £5.95 every 15 minutes.

Can you see how much more useful and empowering these sort of figures are? An extra £40,000 over the course of the year is a difficult goal to mentally assimilate and convert into action. £23.81 per hour or £5.95 every 15 minutes is much easier to visualise and then translate into the sort of profit making action which is available in your field of activity.

An extra £40,000 a year may seem like an unfathomable goal... but anyone can figure out a way to make an extra £5.95 in the next 15 minutes. Do that every 15 minutes of the working day for the next 12 months and you have your forty grand.

These sort of figures give you an ongoing and constant monitor on your money making activity. When you break the goal down into tiny chunks of time like this, it's hard to kid yourself. You know whether what you've done over the last 15 minutes, half hour and hour have taken you towards your goal... or pushed it further away.

It dissuades you from doing low value tasks (those which you should really pass on to others) because you are constantly faced with the need to maintain the profit/time ratio value of your activity... and you are forced to continually review what you're doing.

And it forces you to evaluate new money making and business opportunities on the most relevant criteria of all... will it contribute sufficiently to your monetary goals?

Now obviously, the scenario I've given you is just an example. You will have different monetary goals and may be starting from a different base level. You may decide to work more or less days and hours each year. That's why you're going to need the calculator... to put together some figures which are exclusive to you, and which will bring focus and clarity to your day by day money making activity.

The key to this whole process is breaking your work down into the smallest possible meaningful time period, and then to constantly ask yourself...

"What will I do in the next X minutes to make at least £Y?"

When you do it like that, it's almost impossible to go off track.

Oh and by the way....

Did you get the 3 dimensional shape with two faces?... apparently it's a cone. Don't you just hate smart arsed kids?

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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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