A cheeky refresh

So turns out I should have been a builder. I just checked that the last time I updated my website or blog was erm… too long ago. Just spent a bit of time doing some minor edits to drag it into 2013 (just in time for 2014 to roll around).

The major two points are:

1. Im not bankrupt, Im just too busy with other people’s sites to update my own sites.
2. I am using a default template for the blog now. I keep waiting until I have time to redo it, and it never arrives. So while I feel like a fraud using a default template, at least its usable until this magical day when I have spare time :)

Happy xmas everyone. Ill try and make my 5th post this year a round up :)

We launch LittleBlackFrock!

(Slightly delayed announcement)

LittleBlackFrock has been the cause of many a late day to work in the past few weeks… It’s the answer to many issues I (and others??) have to buying clothes. Girls love fashion, some girls are extremely good to putting together outfits that rock, and that Id never have thought of on my own. Other girls like looking good, but struggle to find clothes that work with their body, colours or just get generically stuck trying to find an outfit for an upcoming event.

We’re trying to fix that by changing online shopping from browsing screeds of products to adding a little bit of smarts. On LittleblackFrock, you shop by browsing LookBooks created by everyone from proper stylists, to fashion bloggers to your friends. And the best thing is you can click through and buy all or each item separately. Its a really cool (and addictive) way to find the latest clothes, looks and get inspiration… And Ive found that when Im super exciting about an upcoming event (races, Toast, birthday parties), Im all over the site making LookBooks of what Im going to wear.

Give it a whirl, send us your feedback, tell us what you love and what you hate, why you always go back, or why you went once and then never bothered again. We want to hear it. We’ve got stacks of options of where the site may go, and Id love to hear what you think :)

Surprising yourself

Recent life events have got me thinking about how we perceive ourselves quite differently to how we really are. You go through life thinking that you are good at some things, bad at others and have a fairly good idea of how you’ll react.

I come from quite tough stock, at the time of my life I needed toughness the most, it did not fail me. But since then, for smaller events, Im always sadly surprised by how much of a let down I am. Im a big believer in circumstances and understand they play a big role in the outcome of situations, and I believe firmly in mind over matter.

Recently, I found myself clinging to a steep gravel slope in tears, because at some stage, I lost complete control of my fear of heights and found myself unable to pull myself together. That was quite a surprise, after years of ‘heights training’, where I have learned to breathe deeply, calm my nerves, stop thinking and just do. It was really embarrassing.

If that wasn’t bad enough, my dad will be able to recount the sheer terror I fell into during the earthquake on Sunday. I called him with uncontrollably shaking hands and it took me several seconds to coherently explain that there was a big earthquake happening and I wasn’t sure how much bigger it would get (though, how coherent that was is debatable). I understand that immediate reaction now, my place was cracking up, things were falling over and moving and swaying. What I dont understand is how, for hours after, my body refused to stop shaking, I got cold, and suspect (also due to my inability to remember clearly the event itself now), that I went into some kind of shock.

Mind over matter totally failed me.

This isnt a pity post, it just got me thinking about the point that I crack. I know in other circumstances, Ive held it together and surprised myself with how I managed to do so. So far what Ive come up with is:

1. Being alone.

When you are alone in an unusual situation, the world very quickly spirals out of control. There is no sounding board or sense of normality to snap you back. I imagine this is the case in a lot of situations. Simply being around people can get you quickly back on track

2. Responding to others

If I was responsible for others in each situation described above, I wonder if things would have been different. I hear from parents that their first thought is helping their kids. Their brain doesn’t have room to be scared for themselves. On a smaller scale, when someone’s falling apart in front of you, you tend to automatically take on the reassuring role.

3. Having a plan

This is probably one of my crazy sides, but I have a plan for most things. Im one of the people who sits on a plane and actually does a mental run through of my emergency plan. Ive done the same on dark streets, I have a plan for what happens when someone grabs me, I revised that plan after a particularly dodgy experience in Melbourne. Ive researched how to get the best results. In the earthquake, I think this backfired. Id spent months trying to understand how it must have felt for those in Christchurch, so when it hit, I immediately assumed this was the ‘big one’.

4. Mental toughness

I think Ive replaced on this front recently. Ive spent good parts of my life being scared of one thing or another (managing staff, and ensuing they get paid, taking business risks etc etc) and learned that sometimes you’ve got to override your own brain. Its a skill you have to work on apparently, because in the past few weeks when I expected that to kick in, nothing did.

Social norms that stink

It occurred to me recently, after another family event where one member of my family, once again, thought I shouldn’t bring a date, that some social norms are really stupid. It got me thinking about the plight of the single lady, and how despite the fact we’re generally the happiest bunch I know, there are some weird side effects.

1. When you are unmarried, you should turn up to events alone.

I hate this with a vengeance. One side effect of getting married young (from what Ive seen), if you have a very different social structure from those of us who didn’t. My friendships are far, far closer that most people I know who got married. My friends and I have stuck by each other through stuff that most relationships don’t survive. Most of my family treat them like family. Its such an insult when none of them are invited to events, and its so rude to me, who is apparently expected to go solo to everything, while they spend the whole event hovering at their partner’s side. Not only that, my friends are generally more fun than most people’s husbands. Just saying.

2. When you don’t have kids, you should pick up the slack from those that do.

No. I don’t think that I should fund your drinks because you have kids/a mortgage/a honeymoon or a wedding coming up. Don’t insult me by telling me ‘how lucky’ I am that I don’t have to worry about these things, and it’s unforgiveable to get angry when I refuse to subsidise your lifestyle. We all make choices, I adapt your yours, I just wont subsidise them!

Ive even heard of people actually being told at work that they have to stay behind while those with kids go home. If you don’t have kids, you may still have a life, and for the life of me I cant understand how this is considered less important. Im going to do all those things when Im ready and I CAN’T wait for the shoe to be on the other foot and see how those people who demand my time/money/datelessness now react when I turn the tables. Actually I can, I know they’ll find it really unfair.

3. Don’t pity us

Im probably a shocker at this, because I tend to joke… But actually hitting my late twenties, Ive actually noticed pitying looks and people going out of their way to explain why I am not married… TO ME. Here’s the one and only reason why Im not married: because no one Ive met has come close to my standard for a marriage.

I think its lovely when other people have found that right person, but I also know so many who just settled. Ive never settled for a cushion cover. I lead a wonderful life, a life most people married or single should be jealous of… I have no idea why its apparently lacking due to lack of boyfriend/marriage?

Don’t assume we’re desperate

I have a history of dating what I have lovingly called ‘dishrags’. Nice guys who start out very interesting, and wind up following me around like puppies (we’ve got a couple of theories on why this is!). So I find it really interesting that now Im verging on 30, most guys assume Im desperate for them to put a ring on it asap. These same guys who spent their twenties faffing around and achieving very little, now think I will idolise their manliness and try to get knocked up as soon as humanly possible. I’m a nice person, Im very supportive, Im even quite good at boosting the male ego… But surely you must be joking if you think Im doing anything other than figuring out if I’m even really interested in you.

Rant over

It’s funny how things change as you get older. The last two points are very recent and alarming updates! :)

We should have bilingual signs

Fresh back from holiday number one of the year, one of the major highlights for me was visiting Dublin. Aside from the taxi drivers (I have a huge amount of video footage of these guys, like personal comedy shows, all of them), my FAVORITE things about Ireland, is how committed they are to preserving and promoting the Irish language. Every single sign in the place was bilingual. Road signs to bathroom signs. Everything. They werent bigger or more complicated, there was no downside at all to the bilingual signs (that I could see).

I know New Zealand is an english speaking country. I don’t want to get stuck in a debate about whether or not we should all speak Maori as well, but I think New Zealand should start replacing signs (as they fall apart) with bilingual ones. Here’s why:

New Zealanders should be bilingual

I don’t actually care what language it is, but the more you learn, the easier they apparently become. Learning languages is often the easiest way to figure out grammar etc as well. That whole argument about Maori being useless outside of here, is actually rubbish for this reason and many other cultural reasons, like the fact we are New Zealanders, and there is something great about this place and our culture, more of it I say! We could pick another language, but why bother?

Its a super easy way to learn a language.

When we learned languages in school, everyone wallpapered their bathrooms with words and their foreign meaning. It was the BEST way of becoming familiar with the language, outside of immersing yourself in it. Kids at school must still learn some Maori, I think growing up with that and all our signs, may actually lead to a population that’s a little more educated.

Tourists will love it

I loved trying out the language in Ireland. Also it was cool figuring out some of the words while you are waiting for a bus or plane or anything really. Also, we take huge advantage of Maori culture in tourist attractions, I reckon us actually knowing a bit more of the language will make it all sit a bit more authentically with me, and probably everyone else.

Anyone know why we don’t do this?

This week’s favorite reads

Depression isn’t at all like sadness.

I think this article is the best description of depression Ive ever read. Ive never had it, but have struggled to figure out how to support people with it… And now realise the reason we all get it so wrong is because we really do not understand what it is.

I have some vague idea of that numb feeling. My early twenties were full of the kind of exhausting, overwhelming stress that did actually leave me feeling numb. I remember feeling confused when people complained about every day issues, how they had capacity to actually care enough to feel anything about things so trivial. Now, thats all I do have to worry about, I can look back and have a glimmer of understanding of how it feels to not be able to feel. The difference being, I wasn’t depressed. I had an end point, I had an exit strategy.

So while the article sort of says there is nothing you can do, I wonder if understanding the illness a little more may lead to doing less harm in our attempts to be a friend.

Strong is the new skinny.

Another Facebook friend posted this article. It really struck a chord when I realised how little emphasis we place on the beauty of strong, fit girls. The skinny obsession has always bewildered me. Every time I pack on the pounds, its not my size that freaks me out, its how unfit I feel, how weak. Every time I lose a bit of weight, I very quickly stop caring about thinness, and very quickly start tracking the speed I run, the weights I can lift and (like on Sunday) how AWESOME it is to go for a run with a friend, and yap the whole way, feeling awesome.

The overwhelming vibe I get from the article is that the focus on skinniness is overwhelming negative, while the focus on strength could change the way girls perceive themselves and others perceive us forever.

Dabbling in the Share Market

One revelation that recently came to me, is that when you have some savings and you are almost 30, you should probably look at other options than the bank. I always thought share trading was for people with Money (the capital ‘M’ refers to the seriousness of their bank account balances), and people with serious financial intellect.

I have neither.

But I do have the desire to learn something new, so armed with the lesson that you never invest anything you can’t afford to lose, I signed up for a share trading account (Mine is with ANZ, but I hear Direct Brokers may be better). The sign up proces is simple and you simple get charged a transaction fee for each trade.

Im writing this, because since then, a few of us have got into it and are madly trying to convince others to look into it. I think generally, girls in my age group are very conservative about investing, and spend far, far too much of their salaries on clothes etc, while never building any wealth for themselves. Im trying to dispel the ‘I cant afford it’ myth by investment small amounts (my understanding is $3,000 is about where you want to start to ensure the trading fees dont suck up too much profit, but that can be split into 3 $1,000 investments)

Then comes the ‘Portfolio’. Based on advice, Ive sort of come to the conclusion you want to keep the vast bulk of your money in something safer. Im not convinced Im taking my own advice, but I think I may be more of a risk taker than I thought, and startup life changes your perception of risk :) So the rough plan is to keep 80% in the bank/house, 10% in high risk shares and 10% in low risk, long term holdings.

I have assumed, since Xero IPO’d and I convinced my entire family to invest, that Im a share market natural. I suppose it’s not ‘normal’ that your first dabble increases over 1,300% (is that right?) in a few years, but it sure gave me confidence. My theory is to go off my gut. I know it seems a bit cowboy, but I started with the research way of doing things, and the general consensus seemed to be its all a big gamble anyway. Like I say, I feel like a natural (terrible advice, but whatever).

So I started the year with a piddly portfolio. Unfortunately for me, Xero IPO’d when I was buying an apartment, so I made a very small, $1,000 investment initially.

I then bought $10,000 of Xero shares at $7.50 in January and kicked myself for a month when they steadily tanked. But now they’ve pretty much doubled. Im very happy as the point of that was ‘oh well, Im sure they’ll raise more than the 4% I’d get in the bank’.

I then started spamming everyone I know who has financial literacy for hot tips. On the basis that it was totally judgement free (people are quite hesitant to recommend shares in case it all goes terribly wrong), I got a few ideas.

I then had a grand plan to become a share trader. I bought $1,000 of Diligent shares at $5.20 or something. When they hit $6 a few weeks later I was like ‘kapow!’ and sold up. Then sat glumly watching them rise further and further. I was stoked at the couple of hundred extra in my pocket. It was fun, but I think I realised Im not a trader.

So I bought back in the other day at $6.85 when they went down a bit That was the same $1,000.

In the meantime, I also invested in Snakk Media. Probably my worst current investment as the price is still hovering around what I paid. Ill probably take advantage of the $0.12 offer though. I think that took $3,000 of my money. I will definitely hold onto these, but consider it the biggest gamble Ive taken. Im totally ok with it because, like I say, this is probably the best chance I have to take risks without it seriously causing harm if it turns to custard.

So thats my high risk out of the way! I think I may have got a bit over excited on that front.

Next up is the long term. I am thinking a NZX 50 fund, a bank and/or a resthome (once again based on advice from people far more competent than me).

So anyway, so far, Ive been pretty fortunate. The worst Ive done is to not make anything.

I also know, for a lot of people, the sums Im throwing around still seem like heaps. But so does the salaries that most people spend, to savers like me.

So that’s my sharemarket 2 cents :)

Lessons from the overworked.

You know its been too long when spammers are comfortable filling up comment space…

At the end of last year, I figured Id learned a few things. My bad workload planning had left me burning the midnight oil too many times and I was quite tired and unhappy with my failure to organise myself better. I get that some people thrive off overwork, but Im not one of them. I lost too much of my early twenties to stress, I didn’t plan on doing it again.

Normally those sorts of lessons die with the memory of just how hard it is to work too much, but this time, I feel like it sparked quite the long term life revolution. So here goes:

1. Money isn’t that important after all

One of the main responses to my (endless) complaining of being overworked when I was turning down invites, spare beds for friends and generally everything that people are used to me having in bucketloads… was ‘ah well, at least you’re earning heaps’.

I always suspected that money wasn’t that important to me. Security is. Money is only able to buy security and the ability to no worry about money. Im not extravagant, but I do believe firmly in a balance between earning, spending and saving/investing, I was unsure of where that balance sat.

Last year, I earned a lot (‘a lot’ is relative, but for me, it was a decent chunk of cash). At some point in the year, it became very apparent that the downsides of overwork far, far outweighed the extra money.

This is important, because I felt like I was in the unusual position to actually test my theory. That lesson stuck.

2. Living is important

Last year, I didnt do an awful lot of living. There is something to say about being time poor changing your decision making process for socialising. You make better decisions, you learn to appreciate your down time and as a result, you really start to live by the mantra ‘on your death bed, you will never look back and wish you worked more’.

I definitely have a tendency to take work life seriously. I think you need to give work and clients the respect they deserve, and I still believe delivering is far more important, on a day to day basis, than a drink with a friend. But alternatively, learning to say ‘no’ to a project so that long term you dont have to make that sacrifice is also very important.

Life is shockingly short and I genuinely believe now that you have got to get your priorities right and not let years slip by without seriously questioning how much of it you spend working. This is not to say that I, in any way dont like my job. I still think I love my job more than virtually any one else Ive met, but I do think it needs to be balanced with non-work. 40 hours is a magical number plucked randomly to be a work week. I cant believe the number of conversations Ive had with people who feel trapped their desk for those 40 hours a week, despite the fact that some weeks they have 50 hours of work to do, and others 30.

There is great joy to be had walking out the office at 2pm or 11am some days when you are uninspired, the sun in shining and you have a niece to spend time with.

3. Ego is not important

Ive had this nagging feeling for a couple of years now that some of my work decisions have been based on ego. Having employees so I can claim to have a ‘proper company’, having the ‘next big idea’ ready to go, planning to make a fortune off business ventures etc etc…

I still feel a little weird about admitting that as of this year, I dont feel as driven any more. It was a major relief to allow myself to accept that its actually ok to not stroke my own ego and present a driven front to the world. Some things have become far, far more more important. And I genuinely feel that this has been the best revelation of the year. I actually think its life changing. Its definitely funny, and I do feel when explaining this in various ways, in some circles, there is a definite vibe of ‘you must have been a failure’ as a result. Ive heard others mention the same thing after something has made them feel similar to me.

Once again, this is not to say Ive closed my mind to starting the next big thing, growing another company or any number of other things. I just dont feel like its the only option any more, and I think I would be happy with the success of my life if it never happened either. May seem a small revelation, but believe me, its an important one.

Lastly… Sorry for the complaining

The rise of #FirstWorldProblems makes it a little awkward to ever complain about anything that’s not the end of the earth… I really only wrote this as a positive thing and with full gratitude that I have the time and energy to even think about these things. While I agree, first world problems, especially these kind of ones are very trivial, I also think if you are in a position like me, you have no excuse to not work hard to live the best life you can. :)

The Sevens: Not such a bad thing after all.

I’m a huge Sevens fan. I look forward to it every year. (For those not in NZ, the NZ Sevens is a rugby tournament, that has turned into a massive, 2 day costume party. The general consensus is that girls go wearing as little as possible, and boys go as girls.)

And every year, before the Sevens, I always read weird rants about how atrocious it is that men take advantage of the situation to grope girls and engage in very sexist, and probably dangerous behaviors.

And every year, after the Sevens, the whole media is full of stories of the debauchery, binge drinking, fighting and arrests.

You’d be forgiven, as someone who doesn’t go, for thinking that 40 odd thousand people are engaged in two days of complete trashing of the city.

But it’s not true.

The stats speak for themselves. I think there were 50ish arrests over 48 hours of solid partying, that literally takes over the city. Even the police themselves seem to make real efforts to say that this is a super well behaved event. In any massive party, if you REALLY try, you can find incidents of violence and crime.

My experience is completely different from the media’s view, and the view of those who hide at home, freaking out at social destruction. The Sevens is not only not a bad thing, it’s actually one of the very, very few times in life, that you go to something that breaks down ALL social barriers, and by these, I mean age, race, gender, disability and even smaller things like social circles.

When you walk along the waterfront at the Sevens, you see young kids, dressed as their favorite super heroes, with ear-to-ear grins as they talk to adult sized versions of themselves. You see total strangers of all ages and stereotypes hugging, posing for photos and LAUGHING. It doesn’t matter if you are one or one hundred, if you get into the mood, you fit in. 70 year olds dressed at slutty doctors and nurses party alongside 20 year olds dressed as fluffy Dinosaurs.

One of my favorite things this year was seeing all the wheelchairs pushed around the stadium concourse, by friends, while the crowds parted, and high fived those who we all knew had to make an extra effort to get there. Unlike virtually any other event Ive been to with crowds, at the Sevens, people don’t care if they have to wait 5 minutes in a queue, or 30. The police not only have a huge presence, they bring a huge sense of humour. Our friend was dancing alone on a raised up catwalk, before the police stormed the stage to… break it down with him. The photos are hilarious and the message is clear: Every one is too busy having fun to bother fighting or looting or whatever it is that we apparently get up to. I have actually never seen any agression in all my years of going.

My standout moment was walking up an aise to see a small group of people having an absolute blast. Dressed head to toe in Disney costumes, they seemed to be attracting more than their fair share of admirers. On closer examination, they all had Downs Syndrome. Im not sure about you, but in normal life, I virtually never see a group with such obvious differences rocking out with complete strangers. And because it’s the Sevens, there WERE no differences.

Im hardly going to paint the weekend as ‘good clean fun’ because there are plenty of opportunities to stray well away from that. But I’m just not convinced it’s such a bad thing. Yes we probably all drunk too much, some people got themselves in trouble (but far less than your usual Friday night in town, Im sure), and it would be far more sensible if we swapped the whole thing for a good cuppa tea and some Coronation Street… But sometimes the benefits of going a little crazy, far outweigh the downsides.

10 posts, 7 day work weeks, scary little exercise… and 2012 is virtually over

There’s nothing like looking back over your year and patting yourself on the back for all that you achieved…

I tried to do just that about 5 minutes ago, while avoiding the last of my work for the day, and came up blank.

2012, for me, was the year of plodding along. I worked hard (probably a good thing on balance, though I dare you to have asked me that at 11pm on many nights between March and August). I had a lot of fun times (though none that stand out from the pack), a got fit, lost it all, then got fit again, just to lose it again. I learned that I’m not a workaholic after all.

2012 was the year when everyone grew up. My sister has a one year old. People got married, people I know fairly well as crazy party animals are now knocked up and residing in the suburbs. Somewhere along the line, those of us whose Facebook profiles still say ‘Single’ (or in my case, ‘in an open relationship with Nadine’) became a sort of tragic minority. On a specific day in June, I woke up and realised I didn’t want to party every night any more. Thinking it was a short term affliction, I now look back with a mixture of sadness and contentedness at a year of 9pm finishes so I could head home alone and watch X Factor.

Once, I even had a conversation, in which we mentioned in all seriousness ‘young people these days…’

2012 was the year I started to seriously question what on earth Im doing with my life. It’s the first time in my working life that Ive really been able to change things up… And disastrous work planning aside, it’s been really confusing, scary and kind of worrying how little I managed to suss out. Questions that seem fairly straight forward like ‘where do I want to live’ have kept me up at night, the fact that Im quite stuck in my ways was quite hard to acknowledge. The sudden influx of babies has really made me need to sit down and think about how I would feel with them, or without them… And to realise, no matter how much I think, I probably have very little say in what happens.

The major, major lesson I learned this year was from my mum. After attending the funeral of someone who was far too young to die, she has resolved to no longer get caught up in the little things. Her new criteria for getting wound up is “will it kill you? Will it ruin your life?” If you can answer ‘no’ then you should stop worrying. Easier said than done, but a great trick when things start to feel overwhelming.

There’s something about this time of year that really makes it hard to get stressed. The sun is shining, the christmas parties are in full swing. Old friends are coming home.

Merry christmas everyone! Ill see you next year!