Adding a Personal Touch to Social Media

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Everyone has their own approach to social media, but Eddy O’Shaughnessy has a very personal approach to LinkedIn, in which he initiates a one-to-one call with everyone he connects with. In today’s fast-moving world of gathering connections this is quite rare, and definitely part of his personal brand. We asked Eddy why he uses this approach and how it has worked for him.

Here’s Eddy:
Like a lot of people I began to use Social Media a while back, first using Facebook to connect with friends, family, etc., and keep in touch. Then I read that for business contacts LinkedIn was the place to be, so I joined up and began to build my contacts there. However, I began to notice that unlike Facebook where I personally knew almost everyone, LinkedIn contacts, most of the time, were strangers to me.

I saw that there seemed to be two types of people on LinkedIn, those who never posted, and those who never stopped posting!

A lot of the content looked very serious/professional which I suppose fitted with the platform ideal of business owners promoting themselves and their business. As my business is very much about building long term relationships, I thought that I needed to do something a bit different.

My idea to contact people for a chat came from the realisation that even though I am connected to lots of people on LinkedIn, I don’t actually know very many of them, so I feel that there’s something missing. I think it’s close to impossible to refer people, connect people, or introduce people, which I believe is the objective, unless I have at least had a short chat, it would not be fair on my own contacts, or the new ones.

Many years ago, I was involved with Business Network International (BNI), which was one of the first business referral groups to set up in Ireland. I did a bit of consultancy work with them and helped them set up the first batch of groups around Ireland. The principal behind BNI was, and still is I imagine, to learn as much as possible about your fellow members, and vice versa, so that you could help them with business referrals, contacts etc. The key element was to get a feel for the person.

I decided to adopt the same approach with my LinkedIn connections. I think it’s even more relevant as most of us tend to hide behind our keyboard and post how great we all are. I have even stopped looking at Profiles as sometimes the person I get to chat to can be very different from their profile.

My experience is that a lot of people never reply to my message. Perhaps they may not read their messages regularly. Some do reply with a refusal, which is fine. I get the impression that they may find it a bit strange that someone would actually want to chat. They may prefer to hide behind the keyboard, which I can understand, but it’s why I do what I do in asking them to open up a bit on a call.

But I have had many great chats with the most interesting people, doing some amazing things. One was the lady who quit the corporate world to follow her passion for yoga. There was also the guy who lost a leg on a building site due to his own neglect and now gives presentations to groups on safety in the workplace, a very positive guy who refused to stay down; the fellow who decided to do a few online interviews during lockdown, which he thought was going to be short lived, but went on to do over 100. He invited me to tell my story on one of them. The lady who left her role as a TV presenter in Ireland and went to India to run a hotel, and so many more. My favourite was the retired American lady who used to be a Bounty Hunter, she had some amazing stories, of course there has been the odd, sometimes very odd ones as well!

I always try to help them if I can with a contact, an introduction. With most of them I would watch out for their posts, like and comment if I can, and keep building the relationship.

From a business point of view this is what I have been doing for years, and this has helped me change from working as a stressed Accountant to have a global business which has given me time freedom.

I believe that making the effort to connect properly with people, in this case by speaking to them, pays off not only in business terms but also in the human element of life, which today tends to be more and more an online experience.



Eddie mentors people in developing their own business, part-time or full-time, so they can spend more time with their families, travel more, stress less, and work when they want, where they want, if they want.

You can find him on LinkedIn, of course!


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Remembering A Brand Legend

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In lieu of our “Brand of the Month”, I felt compelled to jump on the bandwagon and pay tribute to the passing of a feminist judicial icon:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Regardless of your political leanings, there’s little debate that she was a powerhouse with one incredibly strong personal brand. There is so much I could say about this icon it’s a little daunting, however here are three things that I instantly associate with her legendary brand.

The New York Magazine, Oct 5th 2020

She was a trailblazer…who followed her passion, purpose and vision

Through her distinguished career as Supreme Court Justice and co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU, Ginsburg was a true champion for gender equality. She was only the second woman to sit on the US Supreme Court.

Despite her diminutive stature, Ginsburg gained a strong reputation as a towering force to be reckoned with. She was passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless; fighting to protect the marginalised and speaking up for women, minorities and the LGBTQ community.

Even after her death, Ginsburg continues to make American history as she became the first woman to lie in state in the US Capitol, 168 years after the first man did so.

She’s celebrated as a pop-culture icon

Ginsburg was fondly nicknamed the ‘Notorious RBG’, a play on the rapper Notorious Big’s name, to celebrate her liberal values and landmark Shelby County v Holder dissent. Mourners have flooded social media with various memes to celebrate this feminist hero, often with the popular hashtag #NotoriousRGB. Her image can be found on Notorious RBG. T-shirts, figurines, art, as well as fabric designs.


“Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy.” –  Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Her simple yet evocative trademark

Found on Amazon

Tributes to Ginsburg have been dominated by a simple yet powerful trademark: a white lace collar on a black background. Ginsburg often wore a collar over her black robes, to incorporate “something typical of a woman” into a uniform which had been designed for men. The collar became a meme around the same time that Ginsburg became a pop culture icon.

During a 2014 interview, Ginsburg described one particular collar decorated with dark shimmering rhinestones as her “dissenting collar” because “it looks fitting for dissents.” She wore it the day after Donald Trump was elected in what was perceived to be silent protest, prompting a flurry of “dissent collar” merchandise.

Ginsburg died at the age of 87 on September 18th of metastatic pancreatic cancer at her home in Washington D.C. surrounded by family.

Rest in Power, Notorious RBG.


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Using your personal brand to get you through redundancy in three steps

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Redundancy is hitting millions of people right now; people who this time last year would not have imagined they would ever be in this position. It’s natural that to feel confused, lost, scared and unsure at this time. However, it’s also the moment when we need our personal brands more than ever. Our brand – what differentiates us, makes us unique and compelling — is what is going to get us through to that interview and sign that contract.

Having a strong personal brand can also help us through the difficult times; it can help us feel grounded, remind us of our path and what we want for the future. Let’s have a look at how we can do this.

Step One: Reconnect with your values

If you’ve been made redundant it can be tempting to rush into getting a job, any job, but this could potentially leave us feeling unfulfilled and in the wrong place if we end up with a role that isn’t aligned to our values.

Values exploration is an important part of personal branding. Values bring purpose and meaning into our lives. They represent our fundamental beliefs – what’s most important to us. They embody what we want to be in this world, what we want to stand for, and how we want to relate to others.

If you know your values, you’ll be instinctively drawn towards the right job for you in the right organisation. If being respectful of the environment is one of your core values, you’ll be able to spot those organisations that cross this line and avoid applying for them, as an obvious example. If your own learning and education is one of your values, then enquiring about opportunities for training and development is something that would be important an interview, for instance.

When evaluating personal values, here are a few important questions to consider:

What do you want to stand for?

What sort of person do you want to be?

What really matters to you, deep in your heart?

What types of initiatives or causes do you want to align yourself with?

How do you ideally want to behave?

It’s really helpful to look at a list of values and narrow them down to your top ten.  Here’s one example of a values list.

Of course, values exploration requires putting aside some time for personal reflection. However, what it will bring to your personal brand — and your life — will be well worth it.

Step Two: Work on your confidence

Confidence is something that may well have taken a hit as the result of redundancy. We can get stuck in thoughts of why me, especially if we were one of a small few that were let go. Here are my top strategies for how to build that confidence back up.

  • Take action anyway

Oftentimes, people ascribe to a “rule” that says that they need to feel confident before doing something important to them, e.g., “I need to be confident before I can apply to this job that feels a bit out of my league at the moment”.

This very rule is often what keeps people stuck and prohibits them from developing confidence. However, you don’t need to be confident in order to achieve your goals. In The Confidence Gap,  Russ Harris shares the golden rule of confidence building: “The actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come second.”

Harris makes an important differentiation between these actions of confidence and “fake it ‘til you make it”: a big part of confidence building is about being true to yourself (as opposed to faking it), while taking effective action in the direction of your personal values and goals, regardless of your self-doubt. You can still behave like the person you want to be in the situation and take action even while feeling fear and uncertainty.

There’s a great exercise in the book that asks us to imagine ourselves in a world with unlimited confidence. In my private practice, I usually use this exercise as a visualization with clients. By imagining a confident version of ourselves, we can start to take steps in that direction. If you had unlimited confidence, what jobs would you consider, what companies would you approach, what career change could you envisage?

This of course is easier said than done. It takes practice, time, and a lot of effort to work through negative self-talk and effectively handle feelings of fear and discomfort. But the idea here is that by practicing confident behaviours and stepping out of our comfort zones, genuine confidence will follow. But first, it has to be earned.

  • Get back to the moment

When our heads are filled with negative chatter, and/or we become more preoccupied with what others think of us or how we “should” act, we become disconnected from the present moment, which can set us up for a big confidence wobble.

As a first step, try identifying the content of this chatter. Are these worry thoughts about what might happen? Do they start with “what if”?

Are these self-sabotaging beliefs or self-criticisms? If so, you can put these thoughts in the “unhelpful category”, as they are most likely of no use and costing you confidence.

Try to shift focus to what you can control while building acceptance around what you cannot. Is there a skill you can improve upon or practice more (be careful of the perfectionist trap here)? Is there additional preparation or other measures you can reasonably put in place? Can you get more familiar with tech for instance, to allay your fears that you won’t be able to compete with someone younger and more tech friendly?

A confident person is one who is engaged…in the moment, with the audience, in the conversation.  One effective technique for this is mindfulness. Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is the practice of engaging in the moment with attention, openness, flexibility and curiosity. The ability to be present, in the moment (and not constantly distracted by negative chatter), also opens up space for positivity and self-belief.

There are so many great resources out there to cultivate mindfulness: Apps, YouTube, books and countless websites.

  • Be authentic and own it

 Finally, the ability to “own it” – who you are – resides at the core of a confident brand. What I mean by this is that when you own it, you have accepted and are comfortable with who you are in your present experience, not who you “should” be or who others want you to be. You are just you, unapologetically.  In other words, this is about owning what makes you authentically you…your thoughts, opinions, quirks, and feelings, both positive or negative.

By “outing” the feelings that sabotage your confidence and owning them, you allow them to have less power over you (which paradoxically has an empowering effect).

People who own it tend to exude a certain charisma and magnetism. They don’t try to be something they are not. Instead of being people pleasers or trying to fit in, they create and follow their own path in life. There is something extremely liberating about owning it, as you are genuinely at peace with yourself and the present moment.

Needless to say, there are many more variables that factor into confidence — one’s personality, ability level, mental health, etc. — however the actions listed here can be practised by anyone to move towards building a more confident personal brand (with the key word being practise), you need to put in the work.

Step 3: Do a little work on your outer-brand

Your market will be the companies that you want to work for, and this is where we will turn to your outer brand. Your outer brand is what you portray to the world, and this can include everything from how you appear in your Zoom interview to your digital footprint.

While it’s important that you are authentic and true to your values, your potential employer needs to feel that you will fit in – that your personal brand complements their company brand and values. Steps to help promote this include looking at their values and incorporating them into the covering letter, or a personal style that fits the industry or company (you may need to do some research here of course).

Your outer brand also includes how you come across during your interviews. You might want to record yourself on Zoom to see how you come over on camera (it’s highly likely that many of your interviews will be online at the moment), and get a second opinion from a trusted friend, coach or someone who knows the industry. Don’t forget to take an objective look at what’s in the camera frame. You want people to be looking at you, not drawn to the kitchen cupboards, knickknacks and what’s bubbling away on the stove behind you.

Finally, any recruiter will be taking a look at how you portray yourself to the world. You may want to ensure your Facebook profile is private, update your LinkedIn content and profile photo, and edit out those Instagram posts you made when you were hurting from your breakup. A definite no no is anything you’ve publicly said against your previous employer, however unfair you think they have been. Delete and move on.

Other articles that can help:

Five ways your video calls are tarnishing your image

Bringing your personal brand into your CV 

Top expert tips for regaining control over your personal post-lockdown style

Journaling to help your discover your values 


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Top expert tips for regaining control over your post-lockdown personal style

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For many of us, lockdown has played a hand in shaping our personal brands, for better or for worse. During our Big Pause, we discussed in previous posts how we might be able to use the time to revisit and reflect on our inner brands, including our values, passion, purpose, strengths and vision. But how has lockdown impacted our outer brands, in other words, how we convey ourselves to the outside world? Outer branding involves things like our personal style, communication style, personal impact and personal presence. And it matters because our outer brands often affect how others interact with us, the opportunities that come our way, and how we feel about ourselves.

Image: Shutterstock

For some of us, lockdown may have been an opportunity to learn to cook healthy meals, start a new exercise routine running in the park or with Zoom workouts, and experiment with outfit creations on Instagram. But for many of us, months of lockdown comfort eating, sporadic exercise, and not needing to give a toss about wardrobe seem to have derailed our outer brands. Facebook abounds with memes talking about Covid weight gain, extolling workout leggings or the humble PJ as all-day workwear. Even when we have a virtual meeting, we’ve embraced the fact that we only have to half dress for a Zoom meeting, and it’s a rare diamond who has freshy pressed dress trousers on! Not to mention the lack of face-to-face socialization that may have caused things like our communication style and social graces to go a bit rusty.

A dear friend of mine recently sent me an article that I thought highlighted the potential consequences this post-lockdown outer brand dilemma of ours. In the article, the author jests that coming out of lockdown feels as if she has forgotten how to dress, speak, or function as a socialised adult. Lockdown has “stripped away her outer trappings” and revealed a more “feral” self. Perhaps many of us can identify with that sentiment to an extent, and it’s probably not a bad thing to feel a bit more carefree after lockdown. Of course, losing control of your outer brand to the point of feeling like a hot mess (unless that’s what you’re going for) or a chimpanzee in a social experiment, probably isn’t a good thing for anyone’s brand. And if authenticity is always somewhere at the core of your brand, revitalizing it post-lockdown may take a little effort but probably won’t really feel very much like “work”.

Even if you haven’t hit the feral red zone yet, perhaps it’s still time to have a good post-lockdown stare in the mirror. What did we discover during lockdown about our outer brands, and what parts of #lockdownlazy can we incorporate into the post-lockdown outer brand to make it work for us?

I’ve interviewed two award-winning experts in outer branding, image coach and author Sue Donnelly and personal stylist Chantelle Znideric, about how to gain back control and revitalise our outer brands. Their advice can be applied to all genders.

What’s your advice on revisiting and revitalising your outer brand post lockdown?

Sue Donnelly

Sue: Your brand, ideally, embodies four things: Personality, Passion, Principles and Purpose. The most important of these, when it comes to getting dressed, is the first – who you are, your essential self. This never changes, despite what goes on around you. When looking to outwardly represent your brand, you should think about innate values and beliefs. Embrace, accept and honour who you are and let your clothes reflect that.

Your clothes talk. They tell a story to those who see you. They also talk to the you, the wearer.

Choose clothes in fabrics, textures, colours, patterns that empower you to feel good, not just look good. Your outfit impacts on how you feel about yourself. That, in turn, can have a real impact on performance. If you are uncomfortable in what you wear, it will show up in other ways. Think about wearing new shoes and resulting blisters, or a skirt riding up your thighs when you sit, and you’ll see what I mean! If you dress to be someone else, it never works. Create an Identity Statement that describes who you are and what you represent. Ask for feedback. Do others see you as you see yourself? Is there a disconnect? What do you want to project? Is this in alignment with who you are, and what you are passionate about? Whatever you choose to wear, your mood will sink or rise to match it. Finding clothes that make you feel like you are ‘coming home’, whatever the occasion, is the key.

Chantelle Znideric

Chantelle: The first job is to try on everything in your wardrobe and check what fits! Sounds labour intensive and a bit of a faff but there’s no point revitalising your fave items if there is more work to be done to get back in pre-lockdown shape.

I guarantee this process will spark loving memories of life before lockdown, remembering where you wore these outfits, how you styled them and how they made you feel.

Start with the bottoms and begin curating adoring pieces that you can build upon. Consider how your work and social life has changed and assess how to style these pieces appropriately for your new norm, your personal brand priorities may have changed somewhat, which means a slight style pivot is required.

How would you integrate your favourite lockdown casual into this?

Sue: The word ‘casual’ means different things to different people. Some may see a shirt worn without a tie as casual, while others are thinking ‘sweats’. The key is to hone in on how wearing lockdown casual makes you feel. If it enables you to work well, then embrace it. It’s simple to upgrade to work appropriate for both women and men. A track pant in a luxurious fabric with a T-shirt and a blazer, teaming draw string trousers with a soft blouse, a midi dress with sneakers, a shirt and sweater with dark well-cut jeans, are just some ideas. If lockdown casual doesn’t fit with your work ethic, then don’t pursue it.

We are all different. Respect and honour that.

Chantelle: To be honest, I’m done with lockdown casual and I’ll be glad to see the back of it. The new norm brings an exciting change, yet still uncertain times and your new style should reflect this. Look to incorporate unique pieces with pizazz, that are agile and offer flexibility with that certain level of comfort you’ve been used to at home. Up your game in terms of quality, integrating luxe fabrics and sumptuous colours.

It may also be the right time to invest in those classic and timeless staple items, knowing they will last you a lifetime and you can wear them forever.

Is there now a place for thought-out casual instead of “lockdown lazy” casual?

Sue: This is subject to Personal Brand and the industry type. Many have strict dress codes, and must be adhered to. Creative industries embrace a more casual approach, and wearing a ‘power’ suit may not work in your favour. As home working increases, there may well be a shift towards casual wear.

The main point is that clothes are mood altering. When working, we need garments that elevate and lift, and that will be different for everyone.

Choose clothes with the intention of what you need to achieve on any given day. Take a few minutes to consider what that looks like before you get dressed. How you ultimately feel, will most certainly affect whether or not you succeed. The questions worth asking:
How am I feeling today? 

What am I thinking?

Where am I going?

Who am I seeing? 

What do I need?

What do I hope to achieve?

Chantelle: Thought-out casual is definitely my bag and ticks a lot of boxes. With less formal occasions and face to face meet ups in the diary, it is a great style challenge to have.

Making an effort to play up your casual look effortlessly, with ease and elegance, will soothe you into post-lockdown life.

My ‘go-to’ pieces to help me achieve this will be blazers and leather jackets teamed with joggers, maxi skirts and sneakers. Recently, I bought a fabulous leather jacket from Uterqüe and I can’t wait to style this one out!

Any thoughts around creating a wardrobe that is effortless (creating “ready to wear” outfits, etc)?

Sue: To have a capsule wardrobe, that mixes different pieces to create a variety of outfits, is most people’s dream. There are people who like to plan outfits in advance. There are others who are mood dressers, and will select on how they feel that day. Either way, having too many clothes can drive us into overwhelm. A wardrobe built around a couple of neutral colours, mainly plain fabrics, a couple of patterns using pops of different accent colours, more tops or shirts than bottoms and, for women, a couple of dresses is probably all you need. Ring the changes with accessories and shoes.

It takes the stress out of getting dressed each day, and that adds to our general sense of well-being.

Chantelle: We all have way too much stuff, and this has only been highlighted during lockdown – so many clothes, you literally can’t get round to wearing them all. Yup, I’m talking from experience. Create mini capsules within your wardrobe. Carefully select three very different bottoms and style them with six contrasting tops including t-shirts, shirts, sweatshirts and knitwear to create a number of new and exciting outfits.

Work out the key staples that fit you perfectly, whilst thinking about your brand qualities, and play to them every time, without fail. And repeat… 

Finally, how would you go about integrating your zoom style (i.e., the upper half on camera) with your overall style in “the real world”? 

Sue: Zoom dictates that we concentrate on the upper part of the body and face. It’s where the attention is drawn. This can be enhanced with great jewellery, necklines/collars, colours and patterns and of course, great grooming (regardless of gender). Whatever is going on underneath the desk needs to match this level of professionalism when away from the screen. There is no reason why attention shouldn’t remain focused upwards.

After all, we spend most of our time looking at someone’s face, but PJ bottoms aren’t really going to do us any favours!

Chantelle: I’ve been playing up those small, but important, and noticeable details on Zoom. For example, I’m not a lippy wearer, however I have bought a new lip colour to boost my skin tone and overall style on camera. I have also invested in accessories, earrings mostly, to compliment plainer tops and to add interest to my upper half.

It’s a fine balance of not looking like you’re trying too hard, however accentuating you and your individuality at the same time.



About Sue Donnelley

Sue has a passion for fashion and style and is one of the most qualified consultants working in the image industry. She is known for pushing traditional boundaries to explore what really makes us feel ‘at home’ in our clothes. She combines mind, heart and intuition in her image training so facts are intertwined with emotional content. Her mantras are ‘Life evolves, style evolves’ and ‘One size does not fit al

You can find out more about Sue on her website, Facebook or Instagram.


About Chantelle Znideric

Chantelle helps clients feel both incredible and confident whilst achieving an effortlessly stylish wardrobe that works for their lifestyles.  Her sole objective is to enhance her clients’ individuality and increase confidence by advising on flattering styles, wearable trends and exciting colour, texture and print combinations. Keeping an eye on minimising clothing waste is hugely important to Chantelle as well as ultimately achieving an exceptional outcome beyond her clients’ expectations.

You can find out more about Chantelle on her website or follow her on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.


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The lotus grows in the mud: Stories of creative growth during lockdown

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The lotus is a flower that grows in the mud
The deeper and thicker the mud
The more beautiful the lotus blooms

This was the Buddhist proverb we used in our recent Survive to Thrive Toolkit. For me, it captures the spirit of thriving, of something beautiful arising from times of difficulty.

While lockdown has certainly come with plenty of adversity, for some, it has also unleashed a deeper, freer creativity. Here, we share the inspirational stories of creatives from the world of art, photography and writing, to hear how the challenges of lockdown have liberated or shaped their creativity in some significant way.

JENNY SHEPHERD and her husband Bob have been pouring their creative energies into recreating famous works of art. Here’s Jenny talking us through their experiences via a series of posts, originally on Facebook. This is particularly impressive as Bob works long hours in their shop Second Nature.

“I showed Bob an article about people recreating famous works of art and it was him that got excited. I have no idea why, as he is quite shy, really! Maybe because he thought it would distract us both, and give us something besides work/the virus to focus on?

A different perspective…

I think there’s something about doing this, which is a bit about problem solving or lateral thinking. We enjoy cryptic crosswords, and I think there’s something similar going on. You have to look at things from a different perspective, and with the recreations, you are having to look at the objects in your house, and think “how can I make this look like x?” Hence, knotted, black socks to make hair.

Grant Wood
Our version of American Gothic took a few attempts, using the timer, but on the whole, we thought it wasn’t too bad!









Is this becoming addictive?! Probably not, as this took over 4 hours yesterday, and we gave up before we were totally satisfied with the result after 22 attempts, involving the wreath falling off, both of us cursing, and Bob’s heavy- wineglass-holding hand getting tired. Bob did shave (half of) his chest, such was his dedication to authenticity. And, no, that is not red wine. It’s home-made, raspberry vinegar.










Frida Kahlo
Not being able to get my eyebrows threaded during lockdown has taken its toll. No, it’s just our 3rd attempt at recreating a work of art.












The artist is well-known. We chose it because it didn’t involve any live animals, as we didn’t feel Theo, our cat, would be a compliant model.

We thought it looked much easier than last week’s, but it actually took five hours and 69 shots, and again, I still wasn’t happy, but we had to give up, because I was in agony!

Henry Wallis
I think it is quite a well-known painting, but I’m not sure the artist, Henry Wallis, or the subject, Thomas Chatterton (an amazing story!), are particularly famous! I certainly had never heard of either, till I studied the play “Chatterton” by Alfred de Vigny at university.

The importance of detail…

Naturally, I am bothered by the fact our sofa was too short for Bob to lie in the proper position, but may I draw your attention to the smoke from the extinguished candle to the right? A completely invisible, but important (to us!) touch, is that the crumpled paper in Bob’s hand is, appropriately, torn from Poetry News!”


is an artist who discovered the value of mentoring… and letting go.

Finding Inspiration…

“As the pandemic caused the world to close down, everything was stripped back to the essentials. I began to work with a mentor, Anne Seims. I’d been a fan of her work for a long time and knew immediately that she would be an amazing mentor. I had been feeling stuck. working on the same few paintings for months and could never finish them. Anne encouraged me to strip back my work, to let go of the crutches and shortcuts I’d been relying on and was confronted by an empty page.

I let go…

I let go of the collage, leaves and images that I had been working with for the past few years, which felt very scary as I had always seen myself as a collage artist. I didn’t know what I was without that. I directed my process inwards. What I found was these faces waiting to be revealed, to be set free.




My work has changed a lot. It has been a revolutionary, challenging, anxiety inducing and amazing experience.  If you ask any artist what they fear the most and they will probably say their work going badly, but sometimes you have to put yourself in that place to make the leap you need to make.

I’m very grateful that during the COVID-19 pandemic I was able to have such a surge of creativity and coaching.

I haven’t shared them much yet as I’ve been enjoying making them for myself, but am now ready to start sharing them with the world.”



You can find out more about Claire and her work at and on Instagram at @Claire_brewster.


MATTHEW SWIFT is an abstract painter who has tuned into life’s details during lockdown,  bringing a different awareness of the everyday into his studio practice.

“When lockdown occurred, I thought I had been handed an amazing opportunity to get on with painting and be productive; suddenly finding extra time in the studio with no more commuting. However, initially it was difficult to focus on creating new artwork. The cause of this seismic shift in my routine, Covid 19, was unsettling and scary and my nuanced preoccupations with colour, form and surface seemed trivial and disconnected from the bigger picture of what was going on beyond my workspace.

I began to notice…

As the shock wore off and the new normal became routine, I began to notice details around me more poignantly. I am lucky to live on the North Kent Coast which allows me to take daily walks or cycles by the sea. I have become attuned to the changes in weather, particularly the wind, which has an impact on how my cycling experience goes. The wind’s elemental nature has crept into aspects of my artwork in the form of short videos recording plastic bags flailing around or feathers, caught on a leaf bending to the force of a breeze. The routine of repeated routes and journeys through changing elements has sharpened my awareness and senses; it has enriched my engagement with my immediate environment and through a strange process of internal psychological osmosis resulted in a new sense of purpose in my studio practice.

Technology has become a friend…

Having previously been very conflicted by Instagram and its endless rolling images, in lockdown it has become my friend. In particular it has spurred me on to make smaller prototypes of my sewn together painted canvases. This was born out of the #artistsupportpledge, inventively set up by @matthewburrowsstudio as a way of helping Visual Creatives remain financially afloat whilst galleries are closed. I no longer see scrolling through Instagram as a mindless distraction, instead it has become a helpful way of staying in touch with talented and inspiring artists. Over the last few weeks I have been discovering work by people from all over the world that is engaging and resonates with similar creative concerns as my own.

Swift’s work, oil on sewn together canvas, previously offered as part of the #artistssupportpledge

The week after lockdown an artist friend of mine asked me to join a crit group with her and a sculptor who I did not previously know. Remotely we have been meeting up every four weeks from our studios. It has been hugely productive and it has opened up dialogues and ideas in a very direct and beneficial way. Firstly, we do not have to spend time travelling but more importantly there is an equality of presentation, as we can take it in turns to address live issues in our work individually.

Another work by Swift, oil on sewn together canvas, which was offered as part of #theartistssupportpledge

Feeling more connected…

The lockdown has pushed me to access technology that I would not have dreamt of engaging with previously, this is now a platform and format I will continue to use and explore. Since lockdown I feel, strangely, not only more connected to my own practice, but also much more connected to the wider artistic community beyond more studio walls.

I am currently curating Ground Work, an exhibition of work by seven artists and a writer, that will open this October at APT Gallery in London. It will be one of the first exhibitions the gallery is planning as it opens up into a new socially distanced public realm. It was planned pre-lockdown with a specific agenda of public engagement. We won’t be able to run the original workshops we were planning, but we are all excited by how we can overcome this challenge and be at the vanguard of how Visual Creatives surmount these obstacles to make a new viable art and gallery scene.”

To find out more about Matthew and his work, check out and find him on Instagram at @mrswiftyart.

Both Claire Brewster and Matthew Swift have participated in #artistssupportpledge, an Instagram movement where artists selling pieces for £200 pounds or less use a percentage of earnings to buy work by another participating artist. It has helped foster a thriving and diverse creative community.

wrote and published a book of poetry during this time. Love, Me s a collection of Coronavirus inspired stories.

It felt relevant…

“I’m not new to writing, having already written a novel which I finished editing it during lockdown and sent off to the editor. However, I haven’t felt inspired to start a new book, it has felt too much at the moment. But a poetry book felt relevant. A number of the poems represent how I feel about lockdown and Covid. I think about a future where someone else is wanting to be seen and reads a poem of mine and has that moment when they realise they aren’t alone. I wanted that for this book.

Time for rediscovering…

Poetry is my first writing love. It’s the place I always go back to when I need to express myself or work through something. I wrote my first poem at the age of eight. I love reading poetry too. I love the classics, but there is an Australian poet who I discovered her at a time I needed to be seen and her poetry gave me that. She wrote under the pen name Nanushka. But my favourite poem is The Highway Man. I still have this memory of standing my Nanna’s house when I was maybe 7 or 8. She wanted to read her favourite poem. I didn’t really understand the poem or really like it, but I loved the rhythm, which is why I still love it to this day.

If I sit down to write, I can usually write something. It flows very easily. Although some poems are definitely better than others. I have to write in the mornings. Generally, before my day has started, or late at night when my head is churning.

This is my favourite. I wrote it based on a jumble of memories and each time I read it, I have such sweet memories of her and myself at that young age.


I bang the keys,
Singing jingle bells.
My voice warbles tunelessly.
And yet you smile.
As if I’m playing,
A sonata by Beethoven.
I sing louder.
Punching the air with my voice.
Puffing my chest out with pride.
Smiling wide.
Happiness bursting in my chest
Feeling like my Sunday best.

This has inspired me to think about publishing a second book as I have books and books of old and new poetry.”

To learn more about Melanie and her work, check out Love, Me and other books by Melanie can be found on amazon.

We hope the stories of these creatives might inspire you to nurture a little of your own lotus during these challenging times!


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Looking to find a little more joy during lockdown? Here are five stories to inspire you

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While restrictions surrounding this pandemic have taken away many of our freedoms and pleasures, there are those individuals who have managed to relish their time in lockdown, and not just because of the extra hours to breathe or take stock either. Some have found themselves busier than ever, uncovering a brand-new passion or indulging in an existing one.

Here are five ideas from individuals whose stories will hopefully inspire you to discover a little more joy of your own during the remaining lockdown.

Get YouTubing, like Hulya.

Chef Hulya Erdal has used lockdown as an opportunity to experiment with filming YouTube videos around her take on life, food and living.

“Lockdown has given me the opportunity to push my business forward by giving me some time I would never have had, and I’ve used it wisely. I’ve completed a rebrand and update to my website. I’ve also been able to develop my YouTube channel and shoot regular videos as part of my business brand.

Getting out there on video has been scary but worth it. I wanted to create a presence online and make known what area I was in now. To be able to put out my message to the world. Plus, it was a way for me to push myself out of my comfort zone. Face my fears. It was a way to speak my truth and build confidence in myself too.

It’s certainly made a difference in terms of exposure – a real kick-start, and it’s been fun.”

You can find Hulya’s YouTube videos here.


Bang out that book, like Paula.

Paula Gardner has spent much of her time in lockdown writing a career book, The Career Pause and Pivot.

“I was speaking to so many people about how this crisis has changed the way they look at their current career path. There are some who don’t even have a career path at the moment, such as those in the travel industry. I wanted to do something to help them make sense of this, and what comes next and so poured all my careers psychology know-how into a book that addresses just that.

I’ve got a lot out of writing it myself as it has kept me to a routine of writing in the mornings, much of which I’ve been doing out in the garden. Having this uninterrupted time has allowed me the space to really think about what I want to include and the opportunity to put it together. As well as lockdown itself, I’ve been going through a bereavement, and the pure act of writing has a lot of comfort in itself.”

The Career Pause and Pivot is available on Amazon.

Get down and dirty, like Pete.

Pete Maclaine is a news and portrait photographer but during this lockdown, Pete has been doing something he never thought he would: getting his hands dirty, growing vegetables.

“The idea came to me during the food shortages at the beginning of lockdown, it seemed so passive to sit there and rely on other people when we had all this space in the garden. I’d worked in a florist in the past, tending people’s balcony gardens, but nothing on this scale.” Pete has planted potatoes, cauliflowers, leeks, tomatoes, beetroot and carrots amongst others.

It’s brought out a whole new side of my personality. I am now very slug alert, and have a potting shed! I’ve also toned up and lost some weight with all the physical exercise, and I’ve enjoyed asking my Mum who is a keen gardener for her advice. The garden has become a big focus for me, I’ve bought myself an Infrared camera, and we can now see what the foxes get up to in the garden when we are asleep which has been huge fun.”

Sketch away the day, like Sophie.

Sophie Dique is a 17-year-old who has had her A levels cancelled on her. She’s spent her lockdown indulging her passion of art, painting her bedroom, drawing at the living room table and allowing herself to spend slow, lazy days just creating whatever she wants.

Her recent project has been to fill a notebook of artistic creations. Once finished, she has been uploading these onto a newly created Instagram account which you can find at @artbysophied.

This is the time Sophie would have spent studying for exams, stressed and anxious and instead, with an unconditional offer under her belt, she has been able to pour herself into creative work. She has experimented with new styles and materials including Gouache paint, and is quite happy to say that lockdown has been one of the best times of her life so far!

Get your business online, like Rachel.

Rachel McGuinness is a wellbeing consultant who has seen her business explode during this crisis.

Since it all began, I have launched an online wellbeing hub – workplace wellbeing for small to medium sized businesses. It was already planned to launch on 1 April and it did, however this crisis means that businesses are really realising that they need to look after the mental and physical wellbeing of their staff.

I’ve really enjoyed thinking on my feet, pivoting the business, looking at different opportunities and actioning ideas. Prospects and clients are very amenable at the moment because they want to do the right thing and look after their employees.

I’ve loved being in ‘flow state’ and being really proactive during this time.

It’s also changed the way I work. Whatever the new normal looks, I will certainly be doing fewer face to face meetings in London in the future as I’ve saved so much money and time during lockdown!”

Rachel’s business can be found here


We hope you found inspiration in the stories  shared by our fab five above. If you’d like to share your own story about a joy discovered during lockdown, please feel free to share it with us in the comments below!


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From Survive to Thrive: A Toolkit for Getting Through Covid-19, Part II

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Dear Reader,

Welcome back to our toolkit, where we offer insights, questions and coping strategies to help us better survive and ultimately thrive during these challenging times.

In Part I (available here), we looked at very real issues that came with the pandemic: Coronavirus anxiety, dealing with change, isolation and other practical problems, and offered personality-specific guidance and coping strategies. A lot of this centred around the survival side of things; how to deal with this abrupt change and this new way of living and working.

In Part II, we are going to try to make sense of what we have all been going through, and see what we can learn about ourselves from these extraordinary times.  By examining our experience, we might discover another way of coping, one that allows us to move our focus past current fears and challenges to our personal growth.

In other words, we can move from survive to thrive.


Download the toolkit for free here:




Be safe out there everyone!



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Why we need writing, now more than ever.

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I started writing this post “BC” (Before Coronavirus), with the intent of exploring how writing can influence our personal brands. It has since taken on a different shape and significance.

I’ve found journaling to be an invaluable tool during these exceptional times, particularly in processing the changes that are rapidly unfolding around us, and reflecting on my own learnings from these challenges. In addition to specifically exploring writing as a tool during this unique chapter in our lives, I’ve added an additional exercise at the end: the “Isolation Journal”.  If ever there was a time to chronicle our daily experiences, it’s surely now.


Journaling is a vastly under-rated practice. Absolutely free, it can be done almost anywhere. It’s been one of my top tools as a psychologist and personal brand consultant over the years.  I started doing my own morning journaling after it was assigned as a task during a writing course. It is a practice that was made popular after Julia Cameron included it in her book The Artist’s Way, where she called it the Morning Pages. According to Cameron, it is an activity that can help with artist’s or writer’s block, but journaling has also been prescribed by therapists and coaches for many years.

Benefits of journaling …why we need it now.

It’s cathartic
Of course, this is the main way writing serves as a therapeutic tool. Sometimes people aren’t around to help us talk through an issue, and sometimes we face problems we don’t even like to admit to people. Writing gives us the ability to create a private space for these thoughts, and having the space to write about them and perhaps analyse them from a different angle can give us some clarity. Frustrations related to working at home, worry about vulnerable friends or family still going to the shops, or even concern regarding the larger situation may be things you wish to keep private, but they are still there all the same. Think of writing as venting or even “sweating out” your worries or concerns. By getting them on paper, it can help us process these thoughts or feelings and “stare them down”. In this way, these issues are less likely to manifest as obstacles down the line.

It helps problem-solve
Building on the above, sometimes the very act of writing something down can help us see a way through. Some find it helpful to write the pros and cons of a situation, or list out potential solutions to navigating an obstacle or difficult situation. It can also helpful  to “map out” what personal attributes you’d like to exude in the face of the problem. Who would you like to be in this situation that is true to your authentic personal brand?  What values can serve as a compass in the situation, and what strengths can you draw from?

It’s grounding
The ritual of writing can be very grounding, relaxing and comforting, particularly during times of uncertainty. It can also become a habit that is incorporated into a routine or even help to bookend your schedule. Make it into a ritual that you really love – perhaps journal with your favourite mug and a really good coffee, or buy yourself some beautiful notebooks. You could do it in bed in the morning, luxuriating a little longer before hitting the day, or unwinding before you go to sleep. It really is an activity that you can tailor to suit you, and one that can stay with you throughout your life, perhaps helping you chart how your own personal brand changes with your age and experiences.

It’s revealing
It takes a little time, but as you write daily you may notice themes, patterns, habits, and values emerging in your writing. It could be that your thoughts continuously turn to a certain situation or person, or that you notice that you are harbouring resentments but never able to say them out loud. This type of noticing also gives us insight into our own habits and patterns, for example if we are drinking more than we’d like or spending too much time on social media. Certain values might also emerge; the things are important to us – like fairness or creativity – might be important sides to our personal brand. Even if you don’t go back and read your journal you can often pick these themes up by noticing “oh I’m writing about that again.”

“Morning pages map our own interior.
Without them our creative dreams may remain terra incognita.”

Julia Cameron

It fosters creativity
In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron cites many stories of people who have changed their lives by writing the Morning Pages, such as a man who took up the guitar after years of not playing.

Even if you’ve never thought of yourself as creative, you may notice that a little creativity starts trickling in. You might start off by writing about mundane things like downloading all the bits and pieces you are going to do that week, but end up writing a little narrative, or a silly poem about the bloke you fancy. Just roll with it and have some fun.

Of course, if you are being deliberately creative, like writing a book, journaling activities like the Morning Pages can be a great way to “warm up” your creative muscle, and even create content without even trying.  As I prefer to write in Word, I sometimes cut and paste anything I think has merit and relevance into my book document. And presto, I may have written another couple of hundred words I could use in my manuscript before the day has really begun (this is more of a by-product than an intention!).

Journaling How To’s:

Next, let’s take a look at how to start journaling. There are no hard and fast rules, apart from following what feels right for you.

As mentioned, I personally prefer journaling in a Word document, however others prefer a notebook or plain paper, with pens, pencils, fell pens, etc. Julia Cameron’s suggestion is that the Morning Pages be written by hand as she believes the very physical act of the hand on the page helps unleash creativity. Others might prefer using journaling Apps, of which there are a number:  Momento, Daylio, Grid Diary, Moodnotes, Penzu and Five Minute Journal, and even one called Morning Pages!

You can save it (and read at a later date if you desire), or you can just do it and chuck it away.

You can journal in the morning, like me, which gives you space to contemplate the day, process events the day before, or even process dreams. I find it helpful to avoid news, email or social media before writing. I write off the top of my head, downloading any brain chatter in more of a “stream of consciousness” approach.

You can just as easily journal in the evening, as a reflection on your day, or midday when you have some fee time during  your lunch break.

Some like to start writing for a set amount of time, words, or pages, and don’t stop until they reach their goal.  This is a helpful guideline, but not a hard and fast rule.

Lastly, it doesn’t matter if you write utter garbage, as this is meant for your eyes only — and it’s the process that’s valuable, not necessarily the output. Don’t worry about spelling mistakes, formatting or grammar if you don’t want to. You can do what you like, perhaps even doodling in your notebook, adding illustrations or a mind-map if you like.

Writing Exercises

Exercise 1: Trying on the Morning Pages

Write as close to waking up as you can manage, preferably before you engage with the outside world through news, emails, or social media. Decide beforehand how and where you are going to do your writing and what your measure or target is going to be, if you have one. Scribble down (or type out) whatever comes to your mind, even if you think it’s just dribble. Do not go back and re-read or edit your work.

If needed, some writing prompts might include:

  • What can you observe around you in the present moment?
  • What are you feeling and/or thinking?
  • What are you worried about?
  • What did you dream last night?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What are you planning to do today?
  • What are you looking forward to?

Commit to doing it for at least a week. You may be surprised by the results!

Again, this is just for you.

Exercise 2: Keep an “Isolation Journal”

The aim of this diary is to chronicle your unique experience during a very unique time in our lives.

You may wish to write about the challenges each day brings, the rules or parameters by which you now must live, or perhaps your feelings about the wider situation. You may find yourself choosing not to focus on the wider pandemic and instead gravitating towards a more intimate account,  just chronicling how Covid-19 is specifically affecting your life and those around you.

Resist a rigid structure or rules for writing. Allow yourself to experiment and be playful with your writing.

Some writing prompts if needed:

  • What’s happening to you?
  • How are you feeling in this moment?
  • What has been taken away?
  • What has been gained or discovered?
  • What are you grateful for? *
  • What are your larger fears
  • What are your daily worries?
  • What are your hopes for the future?
  • What do you miss about life “BC” (Before Coronavirus)?
  • What are you discovering about yourself?
  • Who would you like to be coming out of this?

*Another tool to consider is a gratitude list. Each day, list out all the things you are grateful for.

There’s no pressure to keep up this diary, the aim is to try to keep at it while isolating. If it carries on, great.

Whatever shape your writing takes at the moment, you might find that it not only becomes a great coping tool, for the present, but also a real gift to yourself for the future.

So keep calm and write on everyone!


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From Survive to Thrive: A Toolkit for Getting Through Covid-19 , Part I

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Dear Reader,

We at Golden Notebook have decided to do what we can, and have created a quick and dirty toolkit to help us deal with the changes that are occurring almost hourly. This part of the toolkit will look at the very real issues that are affecting us right now: Coronavirus anxiety, dealing with change, isolation, and other practical problems. In addition to general tools to manage these challenges, we also offer insights and tools specific to your personality type. 

We hope this toolkit will not only help you as an individual, but also allow you to better understand why and how others might be coping around you, and provide some insight into how we can help each other.


Download the toolkit for free here:



Be safe out there everyone!


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One man’s journey to discovering his authentic personal brand

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This month’s guest post is a story of inspiration. It’s a story that encourages us to step back and look at where our compass is truly pointed. Following it takes courage, but you may just find this journey realigns your brand, providing it with direction, purpose, passion, vision, and values direction.

Our guest blogger, David Harden, started travelling aged sixteen when he hitch-hiked to Greece from London during a school summer holiday. After leaving school he set out from the UK to travel overland to Australia, but only made it as far as Afghanistan.

Returning home he went studied Management and Engineering before carving out a career in the car industry.

(But) After spending fifteen years in the corporate world he returned to what drives him forward, namely taking photographs and recording ambient sounds, interviews and narratives which he publishes on his personal blog –

Here’s his inspirational story.

It was not a straightforward journey nor a particularly quick one. However, after about a year I can say I got there.

But let’s start at the beginning. The very beginning. I’ve always thought I had a creative streak in me. As a young boy you are not aware nor inhibited by the labels adults like to define you and each other by. To me, being creative was just ‘doing stuff’.

I got my first reel-to-reel tape recorder when I was seven-years-old and an old box brownie camera the following Christmas. My earlier years consisted of many happy hours with my mates recording dramas that we devised which, on reflection, seem to be solely about battling the forces of evil in one guise or another.

Around the same age I spent hours in the local library fuelling my curiosity for far flung countries and cultures. And from that early age I decided that I was going to travel the world recording people and taking pictures. But then life got in the way. Or to be more precise, the education system got in the way, which in my day, restrained creativity to an hour’s art class a week.

Don’t get me wrong, school was good. I enjoyed learning, so much so that I did not notice how less often I was ‘doing stuff’. Later, I was like most other students at university, intent on maximising social enjoyment whilst minimising academic effort. And before I knew it I had gestated into a corporate worker bee.

Soon enough I met a wonderful women and together we had a couple of children. At the same time my career steadily progressed. I worked as an engineering and commercial development manager for a well-known car brand. I do remember once being told by a boss that I had a ‘creative’ approach to my work. It wasn’t meant as a complement. In the car industry the ‘old ways’ were the only ways.

When the children were growing up we encouraged them to be both creative and expressive. And through that wonderful period in a child’s life when experimenting is all, it slowly dawned on me that I was vicariously being creative through our children.

So I bought a camera, started taking photos and began looking at the world in that slightly different way I had so long before. Still, it began to niggle that the photos I took just languished unseen on SD cards. It felt like I hadn’t quite closed the circle.

The vibrant Kalasha community in Pakistan. Photo by David Harden

In parallel with the children getting older and more independent, my small area of expertise took off and with it my reputation and status within the industry. So I set out on my own as a consultant, quickly becoming very busy as I became known as a ‘creative’ problem solver. I was working full-time, often travelling and generally enjoying the sense of freedom working for yourself gives. But, to me at least, that sense of freedom was illusory inasmuch as I was working just as hard as I had when employed full-time.

Then over a few months the stars began to align. The children had all but left home; the mortgage was paid off and I was just finishing a tough assignment working on a project for a Chinese company. On my last flight back to the UK from China I decided it was time to step back. I would work on fewer, shorter and smaller projects so that I could use the time in between to get back to ‘doing stuff’.

I didn’t know it at the time but that became the first stage in weening myself off work entirely.  Between projects I managed to travel for extended periods through those countries I had read about so long before. I spent weeks making my way across Uzbekistan on one trip. Travelling through Iran on another and further afield to South East Asia on yet another. All the time writing notes, taking pictures and recording sounds.

Eventually, I stopped accepting any projects in order to dedicate my time to work on project ‘doing stuff’.

Kalasha woman in Pakistan. Photo by David Harden

But stepping back was not as easy as I may have made it sound. For me stepping back was not so much about risk (loss of income) but more overcoming conditioning. I don’t know if it’s a ‘man-thing’ but during your working life it is easy to be defined by your job. To give an example. Often when meeting someone new you are asked what do you do for a living. Up until a few months ago, I would always tell people what I used to do rather than what I am actually doing. Which for the past year or so has been travelling (Pakistan, overland through Bulgaria and Turkey), taking pictures, recording sounds, producing podcasts and creating my own personal blog.

But now I’m here. I now allow my mind to wander. I daydream. I stare out of the window and revel in the joy of watching trees swaying gently in the wind and autumn leaves dancing on a cold breeze instead of wishing I was somewhere else.

As I’ve already said, it was not a straightforward journey nor a particularly quick one. At times it felt like I took two steps forward and one back, but to my mind that was still going in the right direction.

Knowing what I know now, would I have done anything different when I was younger? Well, of course, 20:20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. But, to be honest I’m too busy ‘doing stuff’ to worry about it.



To learn more about David Harden, his inspirational work, vibrant photos and to discover his ambient sounds, visit




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