I am Sexist

Written by Chad Echakowitz

the-uncomfortable-truth-about-sexism-in-tech-outnumbered-e1446508375706.jpg

Two days ago I exhibited sexist behaviour towards a coworker. Well, I guess it was two coworkers, since sexism cannot truly have only one victim because one treats a woman (victim A) differently to a man (victim B). One could say that the woman is the only true victim because, in many cases, she is the one undermined or disadvantaged. This is not one of those cases.

I went to ask my female colleague a question to try and resolve an issue I was having. I adopted a certain persona: charming, sweet, and a little flirtatious. I did this because I believed this would yield a more positive result to my issue. I did this because she was a woman. She couldn’t help me and pointed me in the direction of the person who could, the man who sat opposite her. Immediately, my persona changed. I was more masculine and direct. I did this because he was a man.

To give some context, my workplace thrives off a very relaxed atmosphere. Everyone gets along well and there is rarely animosity between any two members of staff. It is a predominantly sales-based workplace, and such environments tend to be male-dominated, as has been demonstrated by a number of statistical analyses.

When I apologized, the woman whom I felt I had wronged said, “This is [company name]. There’s no need to even think like that. There’s no need to be sorry.” I had pulled her aside and said I was sorry for being sexist towards her. She had no idea what I was talking about. She didn’t even remember the event. I wanted her to know I had treated her differently because she was a woman because, at the time, both of us didn’t even realize that it was happening. She smiled and said I was being silly. That she didn’t even think it was sexist and she wasn’t hurt or offended. This encounter has made me realize a couple of things.

First was the complete obliviousness to the situation. The fact that she didn’t even realize I was being sexist, coupled with the fact that I didn’t even recognize what I was doing at the time, is deeply alarming. Sexism is so inherent in our society that had attention not been brought to the situation, it would have gone unnoticed and such behaviour would continue. Some would say it would be unnecessary to bring up every little sexist action in every situation, but that is the only way we can cure this systematic prejudice. There is a right way and a wrong way to do it, of course, and I’m not saying I have all the answers, but we need to talk about these things openly, whether it’s uncomfortable or not.

This event has shown me how systemic sexism is, and how easy it is to fall into such behaviour. We are all guilty of being sexist or prejudiced in some way. It is systemic and no matter what, we cannot run away from it right now. This event has made me re-evaluate my actions and my beliefs. It has made me check my privilege. I will now be more aware of how I behave to women and ensure that the way I act with women and men will be equitable. In order to be equitable, we need to recognise past injustices and acknowledge present skewed behaviours.

A lot of people will read the anecdote above and say that I had no reason to apologise. If she did not realize I was being sexist, then I am absolved of any guilt. Luckily, no one got hurt. Luckily, no one was disadvantaged by my actions. But such actions still need to be corrected. Any and every act of sexism, whether it hurts or disadvantages someone or not, needs to held to account. This is the only way we can stop sexism and its systemic hold. Sexism, and every type of prejudice, needs to be treated with a level of meticulousness akin to the Broken Window Theory. Only then can we fight the systemic nature of prejudice. Next time my colleague and I will hopefully be more aware of any prejudices around the office – or anywhere for that matter – and try to correct them. Speaking up is an important act in fighting prejudice. Speak up when it’s difficult. Speak up when it’s awkward. Speak up because you can.

I fucked up. There’s no better way to phrase it. I did a thing I hate to see others do. And so, because I did wrong, I needed to apologise. I needed to repent. Her forgiveness was only part of the solution; it was an apology to myself too for not being as considerate and aware as I should have been. Only through self-reflection, and expecting a higher standard of oneself, will we be able to reduce such prejudice. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Be better. You have an obligation to be better because you are the conduit for a more equitable future. Only through your actions can you make the world a better place and being easy on yourself, by not reflecting on holding up your demons like the proverbial albatross, defeats any notion of a future without such prejudice.

I was sexist. I’m sure there will be times in the future where I will be sexist again. I will probably be racist in the future too, like I am sure I have been racist in the past. I have my prejudices. I am aware of them. I will always be apologetic of them because no human should be treated differently due to arbitrary standards set by an archaic system which encouraged oppression and domination until it was considered normal. Moving away from such a system is ugly. It hurts and it’s going to suck a lot more that it already does. But in order to cure a festering wound, one needs to clear away all the muck and sepsis, to scrape away the dead tissue. But after all that pain, there will be healing and things will get better.

Share

Being Original and Creative is Going to Kill Your Career

Written by Chad Echakowitz

download (2).jpg

You are a unique snowflake. You are your own person and there is no other person like you out of the six billion other people who inhabit this little blue dot. That’s great. Well done to you for being you. But you’re originality should end there. So should your creativity. Because in today’s world, if you’re creative or have a new idea, well… you might as well bury it in the ground because it’s never going to become a reality.

To be fair, that’s not totally true. Maybe if your idea has five sequels, then it could be turned in to a film or a book. But if it’s a one-hit-wonder, don’t expect to get your dues.

If you haven’t noticed the trend that film and television are going down by now, then you can stop reading this article because it clearly doesn’t affect or concern you. But if you have noticed the trend, then you know exactly what I’m about to write: The film and television industry is drowning in sequels and spin-offs. The sequel craze has been growing at an alarming rate, with a new film in a franchise out every month. For example, Cars 3 has just been released, Avengers: Infinity War is coming out soon, and yet another Star Wars film will be released later this year. The cherry on the cake – and what inspired this article – was the release of the trailer for Bladerunner 2049. The original Bladerunner was released in 1982 and now, 35 years later, they’re making a sequel.

There have always been sequels in the film industry. Many children could learn to count just by naming the Rocky films, the weight of the combined box set of Friday the 13th films would give anyone backache; but this new, rapid influx of sequels is unprecedented.

Perhaps the reason behind this sequel explosion, much like everything in the world, is that they are safe cash-cows. Seeing a film with a familiar title makes people feel safer in their movie choice because they know that the first film was good. It also makes people believe that the studios felt safe in spending all that money making the sequel, so it must be good. And, consequently, you are more likely to go see a sequel than something you have never or barely heard of.

Due to its prospect as a safe investment, and because it’s easier than coming up with new ideas, the studios that create films are more comfortable signing up to multi-film contracts from the same franchise. It is also a guaranteed profit because the previous film in the franchise acts as a PR move for the next film, making you want to see the next one in the series. We are creatures of habit and the studios are exploiting that.

Power Rangers was only picked up as a film because there are five sequels already in the pipeline. Avatar has four sequels ready and waiting, and the writer for the Transformers franchise has said that there are 14 scripts already prepared for the making. Of course, there are new original films being released but they are in short supply, compared to the 23 films named above originating from only three of many franchises.

This is why your career as a unique and original-idea-creating writer or film-maker is dead in the water. The chances of your script being turned in to a film are outrageously small. So just give up.

Or don’t. Let’s look at the films that won Oscars this year. MoonlightLa La LandHacksaw Ridge. And lets not forget one of the most revered films of this year: Get Out. All of these films have one thing in common – they do not have sequels. They are not part of any franchise either. They are stand-alone films worth so much merit that the Academy awarded them for it. I am not saying that franchises can't be good, some if not most of them are, all I'm saying is that they have very little originality, especially once you've reached the sixth or seventh film in the franchise.

Another reason to keep your creative, unique, metaphorical candle aflame would be the prospect of your idea becoming a cult classic. Quentin Tarantino is known for his violence, his swearing and his spectacular films which feature both in abundance. His films all stand alone, brilliant in their own merit. Pulp Fiction (1994). Reservoir Dogs (1992). Inglorious Bastards (2009). Death Proof (2007). All of these are cult classics and all of these do not have sequels. ‘But wait!’ I hear you cry. ‘What about Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2?’ to which I reply, there is an exception to every rule, and that is why the rule exists. It is true that Quentin Tarantino made his debut in a different time, when unique ideas were encouraged, and art, instead of money, took preference, but hey, you could do it; you could bring us back to this pre-greed era with your unique and wonderful ideas. Maybe we’re all just waiting for that one film to inspire us, to return us to a better time of film and television.

For a second, let’s just forget about all the fandom and world-wide acclaim your unique film could bring you. I just want you to think of this one argument that will absolutely convince you to keep producing unique work in this not-so-unique world: if you don’t make the thing in your head, the thing in your head will never be made. It’s a simple argument but that does not take anything away from its potency. If you stop writing whatever you’re writing, if you stop making that film - your film - it will never be made. Sure, someone else might one day come close, but it will never be exactly the same as it is in your head. You owe it to yourself to bring into this world your unique piece of work – to say you were here.  Even if it was never made because the studios were too busy making Captain America 64: How is this Guy still Alive?, you cannot leave this world without doing this unique thing. You’d regret it.

Therefore, there is only one logical conclusion. If you write original, thought-provoking, tear-inducing, emotion-splurging stories you will not be producing films for the masses. They will not become franchises, and they are likely to be left in the dustbin of the assistant of the assistant of some famous Producer. But if it is picked up, and someone enjoys your story enough, you may win an Oscar and be hailed for your brilliance. And even if none of this happens, if no one ever sees or reads your work but you, at least you can hold your head up high and say ‘I did a thing. A thing no one else has ever done before me.’ Of course, franchises are great too if you’re in to that kind of thing.

Beating Writer’s Block

Written by Chad Echakowitz

download.jpg

I don’t think there is anything more frustrating. You sit down, cup of coffee to your left, your notepad and pen to your right. Microsoft Word is open on your screen and that little black line just sits there, blinking at you, tormenting you to write something. Blink. Blink. Blink. Still waiting for words that just aren’t presenting themselves. The silence of the room around you becomes evermore present and somehow your brain is completely blank. There is a clear lack of signal from the station of inspiration and your mind produces a fuzzy screen of snowy nothingness. I would wish a lot of things on my enemies, but Writer’s Block is not one of them.

Everyone gets Writer’s Block. It is so prominent that it has it’s own term and everyone knows what it means. It’s not just writers who get it either: musicians, dancers, mathematicians, artists; we all suffer at some time or another with the inability to produce something from nothing. And that’s okay. That is totally fine – it happens. What is not okay in any way, shape or form, is to give up.

If you feel that what you’re creating is pure garbage or you can’t think of anything new to produce, you may be tempted to just throw it away or stop working on it and turn to more constructive tasks. Bad idea. It is the biggest waist of potential that there ever was, or will be. Though what you write may be terrible, it is still you who wrote it. In the history of the world, no one has ever sat where you sat, and strung those words together. By throwing it away, you never complete the task and you waist that unique moment. Even if that doesn’t inspire you to keep going, just think of your accomplishment once you’ve finished. Once it’s done, it’s done. No one can take that away from you. Besides, sifting through the garbage is what the editing process is for. No diamond sparkles as soon as it is lifted from the ground.

A new study shows that when a person is being creative, the medial prefrontal cortex (which is linked to learning association, context, events, and emotional responses) is activated, and the part of the brain which is used for executive tasks becomes largely inactive. This is similar to our brain activity when we are asleep. This shows that we are at our most creative when we are relaxed, and not going about functional tasks, like problem-solving, planning and other executive functions. However, this is not all that is needed to be creative. Neuroscientist Alice Flaherty says that dopamine, the chemical associated with happiness, is also necessary. The more dopamine released in the brain, the more creative a person can be. Dopamine is often released when we do things that are relaxing and that we enjoy doing, such as exercising or taking a shower. But dopamine cannot work alone to bring about creativity. Studies have shown that the brain needs to be distracted from the task at hand in order for the problem-solving abilities of the subconscious mind to come to the fray. The subconscious is always solving problems, but it is harder for the subconscious to create solutions to the problem while the conscious mind is focused on that problem. When we let the mind wonder while we’re exercising, or we’re taking a shower, we allow the subconscious to solve the problem (in this case, Writer’s Block) and provide us with creative ideas.

Personally, when I have Writer’s Block, I like to stare out the window and think. I look at the trees and think about the direction the wind is blowing the branches. I look at the man in the red shirt walking down the road and I wonder where he has been and where he is going. Then I’ll check my Facebook and, eventually, when I feel guilty enough for not fulfilling my personal quota of contributing to the uniqueness of the world, an idea will usually come to me. Other times, I go running. Some of my best ideas have come to me while my legs are aching and my breathing, hard. The point is you have to figure out what works for you. I have given you the science, now you have to apply it. Go for a run, do a pushup or ten, try yoga or something.

It is very hard to be creative. The act of creating something new is getting harder and harder as the years go on, and that makes sense. Two Million years of human existence we have told stories in one form or another and so, by now, in 2017, creating something new is difficult. But it is also beautiful. Whatever you do, do not give up. Being creative is important. You have a duty to the furtherance of mankind to be creative. We all do.

5 New Year Resolutions you will Actually Keep

Written by Chad Echakowitz

 Photograph by  NordWood Themes

Photograph by NordWood Themes

Let’s be honest, you need this tough love and I’m here to give it to you. You aren’t that great. Your life could use some improving and only you can make those improvements. You are responsible for your own happiness - no one else is. And you have to put in that effort to make yourself happier. The fact that the Earth has completed a full revolution around the sun does not mean that you’ve suddenly become the God of improvement. Nothing changes between December 31st and January 1st that will make it easier to better yourself.

So what are you going to do about it? Pretend to improve for a month and then go back to the same person you always were? That’s how it usually works. Of course, you could join the group of people who scoff at all the Resolutioners and their ambition, knowing that - very much like them -  you are not going to be a, “new you” in the “New Year”. But that doesn’t make you any better than the Resolutioner, you’re just more jaded.

The only way to change – and really change for good – is to set realistic goals at realistic time intervals. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself; but pinning all of your hopes and dreams on 01/01/2018 is insane. As such, it’s time to get realistic. Here are five New Year’s Resolutions that you’re more likely to keep.

1.     See More Friends

I get it, you’re a busy little bee. You’ve got a job, a significant other, maybe a pet or a kid (is there really a difference?). There’s hardly any time for you to breathe let alone see friends. It’s easier nowadays to avoid any social interaction with them, and instead, hit them up for a chat on Facebook or like their tweets and Instagram posts. Social media has created a brilliant way for us to stay in your friends’ lives without having to actually be in their lives.

If you’re honest with yourself, you know this is not enough. Get yourself out of your comfy trousers and into some jeans and go out and meet your buddies. You don’t even have to spend any money if you’re worried about the cost.

Dinner dates are always a concrete way to ensure that you can get the whole gang together at least once a month. Plan in advance on who will host and what’s going to be on the menu and then book it into your diary. Plan the next one during that dinner and boom! You’ve kept a New Year’s resolution.

If you have multiple groups of friends, that’s not a problem. A half-an-hour coffee, or  a lovely little walk, or even just a chat on a park bench is not that taxing on your schedule. I’m not suggesting you see all your friends every week but making time for them at least once a month isn’t hard. Not only will it enrich your life to love others and to know you are loved too, there are also health benefits to seeing friends.

This is a simple resolution to keep with multiple incentives to continue throughout the year. Friends are important. 2018 can be the year to show your friends how important they are to you. 

2.     Take sugar out of your Tea and Coffee

I just felt millions of people cry out in anger, hatred, and shock. I know it sounds like a big ask but it’s really not. Adding 2 teaspoons of sugar to your tea or coffee increases calorie intake by 50 Calories. That doesn’t seem like a lot but if you’re having more than two cups a day, that can really add up. You want to lose a bit of weight in 2018, this is one way to do it.

You don’t have to go cold turkey: ween yourself off the white powder, take it down a spoon a week - or even a month if you’re so addicted - and before you know it, you’ll be drinking coffee and tea like the Italians and the British respectively (you definitely don’t want to get those two mixed up). Alternatively, you could skip putting sugar in your tea or coffee every second or third cup, depending on how much you drink. Start increasing that frequency and by February, you’d be sugar free.

Before too long, you’ll start to find sugar too sweet. The natural taste of coffee and tea will become the norm and adding sugar will be unimaginable. Of course, if you’re drinking tea or coffee just for the sweet, sugary taste, maybe you should think about trying a different beverage.

This is an easy resolution to keep because you don’t consciously have to do anything. It’s an omission – you are omitting sugar. There’s no strenuous work involved. It even takes a step out of making coffee, you can be even lazier while still losing weight.

3.     Recycle More

I’m not saying recycle everything. Recycling companies make it difficult to care for our planet with so many rules that we have to obey before they’ll actually recycle things. There’s way too much effort in recycling and this obviously needs to change. But that isn’t what this resolution is about.

All I’m asking is for you to up your game. While it is still difficult to recycle, it’s a heck of a lot easier than it used to be. And we have a duty to do so. Even if you don’t care about the planet because we’re all eventually going to move to Mars, we all have an obligation to be a little bit less of an asshole to our friends, family, and to the planet. No one likes an asshole. Recycling – even just a little bit – will make you less of an asshole.

This is such an easy resolution to keep. There’s no great time dedication and you do a little bit more to help the world. Just take your paper, and your empty cartons of milk, and your cardboard, and put it in a recycling bin instead of the normal bin. You’ll look back at the end of 2018 and smile at the fact that you did your part.

Click here to see a few simple ways that will help you recycle more. 

4.     Go for a Walk

Walking is easy. It also counts as exercise. Just do 20 minutes a day and you’ll feel better for it. Instead of rewatching season 3 of Brooklyn 99, just head out the door and enjoy the fresh air (fresher now because you’re recycling). You can even do it while browsing Facebook or Instagram if you need a distraction.

Yes, you will have to find the time in your day to do so, but think of it this way: it’s shorter and less strenuous than going to the gym, it’s free, and you’re more likely to keep doing it because of how easy it is. It also fulfils any New Year’s Resolution to do more exercise or to get outside more, so that's two more to cross off your resolution list.

There are also some serious health benefits. Walking regularly will help you lose weight, help to regulate any heart conditions and high blood pressure, and it will help strengthen your bones and muscles. Additionally, it will improve your balance and coordination. This will come in handy for the upcoming Hunger Games.

So go for it. Put one foot in front of the other and step towards the new you in this new year.

5.     Listen to Audiobooks  

One of the most common resolutions that people make is to read more. Six months in to the year and you’ve read exactly two books and you’re rewatching Season 1 of Brooklyn 99 for the third time. In fairness, this isn’t necessarily your fault. You’ve become the human equivalent of Jubilee for not trying harder to pick up a book, but it is hard when you work all day, go for walks, meet friends, and recycle.

That’s where audiobooks come in. We all spend time sitting in traffic, listening to the radio and to music that we don’t particularly like. If you’re in the gym, they usually play music which is unbearable. Audiobooks kill two birds with one stone. You can continue to sit in traffic or walk to wherever you’re going or work out in the gym and read a book at the same time.

A subscription to Audible isn’t too expensive and you get 1 free credit for a book every month (so long as you have Amazon Prime). On that basis alone, by the end of the year you’ve read at least 12 books. That isn’t a lot but it’s more than you would have had you kept reading physical copies of books.

And boom! It’s 2019 and you’ve kept at least 5 of your New Year’s Resolutions. You should be proud of yourself because now you’re slightly less Jubilee-esque. No matter how many, or how few, resolutions you keep this year, self-love and self-care are the most important things to remember. You should love yourself, no matter who you are, but if you do want to change, nothing and no one will do that for you. It’s up to you. Good luck.  

5 Things Brits do on Holiday that upsets the Locals

Written by Leah Jane

brits+abroad.jpg

For those of us in Ol’ Britannia, the holiday season is in full swing. You've booked your flights, your hotel, done your shopping for clothes and your constantly checking you know where your passport is. The build up to a holiday feels good: you look out at the rain the day before your flight and you're silently smug knowing this time tomorrow you will be somewhere where the sun is sweltering. Brits have a certain way of life; we like a good cup of tea, we like a roast dinner on a Sunday, and we enjoy the occasional karaoke night. But when we go on holiday we do a few things that annoy the locals. By no means is it intentional but it's what we do. Because of our way of life, we are not hugely adaptable when we go away on our jollies. Below is a list of things all Brits do while enjoying the sun that piss of the rest of the world.

1.     Moan about the Heat

Although we book to go away to a place we explicitly know will be hot, the second the plane lands, we step off and exclaim, ‘oh god it's hot.’ and blow air out of our mouths in a vain, ridiculous attempt to cool down. Granted, this is a standard response to the heat when you live in Britain. During the four days of summer we enjoy on this tiny island, we manage to complain that it’s just too hot. Our old people are particularly good at protesting the heat by dying. And yet, we still head for places that almost reach dessert status. Throughout our holiday we can't help but tell the people we are with how hot it is or how we, ‘can't cope with this heat!’ We do it wherever we are in the world. As Brits it's become our unspoken birth right to complain about the weather. And by God, we’re proud of it.

2. Undoubtedly get Sunburnt

Always and forever, Brits are mad for a tan. We just can’t handle what the sun does to us when we travel. We get to our hotel rooms with our massive pasty, white bodies and head down to the pool or the beach right away. With our summer reading in hand, we rent a sun lounger (if the Germans don't take them all first) and if there is a poolside bar we are set for the day. And that there is the problem. We forget to reapply sun cream; we put it on at the start of the day and think we will be totally fine until the sun is over the yardarm later on. Then we get engrossed in our book, we don't count on the sun being a giant angry fireball and the sun then punishes us for our hubris and we pay so dearly for it. After our day basking carelessly, we stagger to the hotel restaurant for dinner as red as a freshly cooked lobster, searing in pain, wondering what went wrong. Then the most British thing happens: we blame the sun. We take absolutely no responsibility for what we’ve done. For the next two to three days we keep making ‘ooooh’ noises whenever someone brushes past our burnt shoulders and warn any passer by with the evil intention of touching us to, ‘Be careful: sun burn.’ We are the worst.

3. It’s perfectly Acceptable to be an Alcoholic for a Week or Two

The first thing we do at the airport is live by the Briton abroad motto: ‘I'm on my holidays!’ while downing our second pina colada or pint of San Miguel at six o clock in the morning. This is even before getting to the resort. Once there, the party really starts: Check in, bags down, and it's a matter of seconds before you hear, ‘So where's the nearest bar? Does the hotel have one?’ Wherever you go at whatever time, if there is a bar open at 10 am there will be a topless, hairy Brit with at least a half pint of some kind and he’s steaming more than a volcano. It has become so bad that the government is thinking of banning drinking on flights because of how rowdy and hellish we Brits become. I would like to apologise on behalf of the whole nation.

4. Enjoy the Local Language

We go abroad and we reduce these people to hopeless hand motions and desperate looks in the eye. Picture this: you are with your family, sat outside a restaurant and the young waiter comes over, and, in very broken English, asks if you would like some drinks. He clearly isn’t fluent but bless his soul, he is doing his best. This is the point where you realize who your family really are by how they order their meals. You have Uncle Patrick, the assumer, who orders their food and just assumes the waiter understood. Auntie Debby is a loud requester,  trying to be helpful, by ordering their food louder than necessary with aggressive eyes, almost pleading them to understand, ‘THE CHICKEN?’ Aunty Debs always ask it in the form of a question and keep it to a maximum of four words. My personal favourite but the rarest Brit is the hand motioner: people who request the chicken while doing a mini chicken impression and trying to keep their voices level. Or when ordering a small beer they will use their thumb and forefinger to show what they mean by small. As funny as these are to see, it makes me sad for the locals. A British tourist is always so happy to find out that where they are going speaking English. Ah, colonialism.

5. Find the Food they Know

Honestly, I was never happier than when I saw a Subway and Costa on my last holiday. I think as Brits we know what we like and we are quite stuck in our ways when it comes to food. For whatever reason, even though we travel to experience new cultures, we try and avoid the local food. Be it fear of illness or fear of wasting money on a horrible meal, we do not take chances with our food when we go away.

We sit down, look at the menu, put it aside and order chips and a burger. It’s easy: we know what a burger is. Personally I’m far more likely to order that than Cassoulet (a French dish… like a meat crumble, I guess?). Then there’s the other method: we go to each restaurant within a one mile radius, look at the menu until we hit a MacDonald’s and we all just agree it’s for the best, we walk through the glass doors and eat there because at least we know we will feel as sick as a godafter devouring a double bacon burger and large fries. We submit ourselves to that but if we eat local food and we get ill, we feel so sorry for ourselves and say things like “I should never have eaten that meaty crumble,” whereas if McDonald’s or subway are the culprits, it's acceptable. 

I am sure there are many more things that we Brits do to upset the rest of the world. Most of the time we're unapologetic for such behaviour. Please understand this to be a reparation for the things we do. It may be small, and it may have no long-lasting effect but it's an apology nonetheless. The next time one of us are on holiday in your country, please understand that some of us are truly sorry. 

It is Surprisingly Easy to get on the Stock Market

Written by Chad Echakowitz

pexels-photo-241544.jpeg

I am 23. It’s something you need to know for the purposes of this article and there are two reasons for that. The first is that I want you to take what I say seriously. People (obviously) trust people who seem to know what they are talking about. People also stop paying attention when the person talking is young. Expertise and youth are not mutually exclusive and for this reason, you should listen to what I say and don’t switch off because I am 23. The second reason will become apparent later in the article.

People – generally – are afraid of the Stock Market. It is a scary, omnipresent thing that decides the fate of the value of things, makes a selected few rich, and even more very poor. It is believed to be a complex mathematical system understood by a few people in grey suits who have trained in Mergers and Acquisitions, Initial Public Offerings, Ring-Fences, and the acronyms which make their speedy, complicated lives quicker but no less complicated. But this is not the world we live in anymore. Thanks to the Internet and a host of companies, the Stock Market is no longer reserved for the super-rich and those who live on Wall Street. There is no reason to be scared anymore. We can all have our share (excuse the pun).

However, there is a caveat to what follows about investing on the Stock Market. This article will not make you rich. It is not a cheat code on how to be like The Guy from Limitless. This article focuses on how to get on to the Stock Market, not how to get rich on the Stock Market. The purpose of this article is to show you that it is a lot easier than you think.

 

1. Research

For anything financial-related, research is always the first step. Google things. It is that easy. But you did not need me to tell you to go Google; you have probably done that yourself. I’m going to tell you what to Google. You cannot invest directly on any Stock Market, you usually have to invest through a third-party. That’s where most people usually stop in their pursuit of the Stock Market. They believe that because you have to go through a professional, or become a professional yourself, it’s going to be too expensive – both in time and money – and consequently, not worth the effort. Luckily, they’re wrong. It is surprisingly easy and cheap to invest through a broker. But you have to research which broker will be right for you. Simply by typing in to Google, “Trading on the Stock Market” you will be introduced to a horde of online companies who can assist you in getting on the Stock Market. They have made it as easy (and as un-scary) as possible for you to invest on the Stock Market. But do not be fooled: you are still going to have to do some work and read the literature of these online companies, compare them, and choose the one that is right for you. Don’t be afraid to send them an email if you have any questions. They understand that first-time investors are hesitant to part with their money, and the companies are usually very helpful.

Congratulations! You’re now on the Stock Market. It is that simple. But it is still important for you to do your own research in to different companies you want to invest in. Luckily for you, the research is quite easy. The London Stock Exchange, for example, has it’s own website that allows you to compare different companies, see how they have faired on the Stock Market in the past, and even allows you to run a simulated portfolio without actually risking any money. If you are not satisfied with the information given on their website, or you would like to know more about the companies you are potentially investing in, you can Google the company, either using the company name or their Stock Exchange Code. Then you can see if the CEO is worth their salt, or if there are any upcoming activities that investors should be weary about.

2. Parting with your Money

Now that you have a broker, and know the company (or companies) you want to invest in, you are going to have to part with your hard-earned cash. And this is where it becomes slightly risky: You could lose money. It happens when you’re working with the Stock Exchange. But the rewards are there too, so long as you do some decent research. The question is, how much money do you have to invest? Or better yet, how much money are you willing to risk? This question not only depends on your financial freedoms, but on your age too (see how I said it would be relevant?).

If you are trying to make a lot of money quickly, because you want some fast cash, or are looking to retire soon, it is more than likely you are going to want to go for more risky shares because they can increase in value quickly, but can also depreciate just as quickly. These are shares in small- and medium-sized business who are still in their first year of business and are looking to grow rapidly in their respected markets. They are risky, but can yield a high reward. You need to know what you’re doing. If you have money that you are okay with losing just to gain some experience, then this would probably be the best bet for you because you probably will lose some money at some point or another. Experience with the ebb and flow of the Stock Market is needed here, and if you’re willing to take the hits to gain the experience, go for it.

The safer way to invest would be in slow-yielding shares that grow over time. These are your large, well-established companies that have been around for years. You know they’re safe because it is highly unlikely that they will go out of business. These companies are good to invest in when you have a lot of time to grow your investment, and don’t need the money immediately.These shares are quite expensive to buy because the companies are well established and everyone wants a piece. It is slow, and it will seem like you’re getting tiny amounts of money back, but think of it as an interest rate banks give on an account, but with a much better return than any bank will ever offer you. They can still be risky though. No company is so solid that you are bound to make money. Do your research. Don’t part with your money without knowing what you want.

And with that, the evil monster is slayed. The citizens are free to live, laugh, and make money through investments. This isn’t a fool-proof guide, but it shows how much easier it is to invest than the general public believes. Go forth, research, and prosper. Good Luck.

Lessons from The Battlefield

Written by Jon-Michael Lindsey

download (1).png

It was George Santayana that first said the oft-misquoted “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” To me, nowhere is that more obvious than at the Thiepval Memorial in the Picardy region of France.

I’ve just returned from a personal pilgrimage, paying my respects to a relative who, on December 10, 1915 at the age of 16, enlisted to fight for King and Country. The next day he was transferred to the Reserves. A month later, he was mobilised as a Private in the Manchester Regiment. He got married in April, 1917, then was sent to the Front Line in France a few weeks later. Within a year, he was declared missing; presumed dead.

As I’d arrived too early to visit the British Cemetery at Pozieres, I decided to first walk to Thiepval, another WW I memorial nearby. It’s a pleasant three km walk - perhaps even walking in my Great Uncle’s footsteps - through the countryside of the Somme, making it hard to believe that the entire area was decimated 100 years before. I’ve since read that The French Département du Déminage (Department of Mine Clearance) recovers about 900 tons of unexploded munitions every year, which has earned itself a rather ominous name: The Iron Harvest.

When you approach the memorial at Thiepval (after paying a visit to the on-site museum, which I highly recommend) the first thing that strikes you is the scale of the beautiful, towering structure. It dominates the skyline and, as you draw closer, you realise that every single one of the 48 Portland stone panels that cleave to the archway host hundreds of names. The entire arch contains more than 72,000 commemorations. The central space bears the Stone of Remembrance, with the inscription “Their Name Liveth For Evermore”. Beyond the monument itself, there’s also an Anglo-French Cemetery, containing six hundred graves (300 French, 300 British Commonwealth).

The other thing that will strike you is the silence that surrounds this sacred place. The only thing you can hear is nature – any voices seem to shatter the tranquillity.

The irony of the whole thing, however, is the timing. The monument was officially unveiled on August 1, 1932, by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), in the presence of Albert Lebrun, the French President. Now move forward 8 years and the German army of the Third Reich are back in this territory, occupying France. At this point, they surely must’ve seen the memorial, which stands at 140ft high. Did no one look upon it and question what they were doing? Why they were repeating the same mistakes that cost the lives of more than two million of their countrymen?

Admittedly, one dissenting voice would most likely be silenced but if enough people would take in the enormity of the names, the silence of those who had had made the ultimate sacrifice, perhaps they could’ve turned the tide and changed history. To give some further perspective: there were approximately 18 million killed during WW1, including civilians. That’s like completely removing the entire population of both London and Paris. Not a single person remaining. This could have been avoided. 

Since “The War to End All Wars”, there have in fact been another 326 wars across the globe, including World War II. The casualties stack up to almost 66 million people dead, which equates to everyone in the UK being wiped out.

On my last day of the trip, I paid a visit to the Somme 1916 Museum in Albert. This was educational, fascinating, and disturbing in equal measure. It explains in great detail the entire Battle of the Somme – 141 days of the bloodiest fighting in the entire war. This lasted from July 1 – 18 November 1916, with over one million casualties. The first day is still known as the worst day in the British Army’s history, who suffered 57,470 casualties.

It seems humanity has never learned. We just seem to find it too easy to argue, fight, and descend into downward spirals of violence. My one wish is that all our world leaders could one day visit this incredible place, and incredible places like it all over the world, and realise just how precious human life really is, and how fragile the peace is in their hands.

Not since James Callaghan have we had a Prime Minister that has seen active military service. Perhaps if we had, they would’ve had a greater understanding of the cost of war in terms of human life. Look at the threats being made by Donald Trump to North Korea from the safe distance of his highly protected seat in the White House; someone who hasn’t spent a day in the military.

People without that level of experience (myself included) don’t have the knowledge required to understand the toll that warfare takes. Until then, I want to thank all those who take it upon themselves to keep us safe, and I hope those who gave their lives for us may rest in peace.

 

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) ~

If you’re interested in learning more, I would recommend you visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who maintain these memorial sites immaculately.

Travelling on a Shoestring

Written by Sophie Jayne Whitrick 

Sometimes in life you've got to shut one door in order to open another, otherwise it lets in a draft and the door in front of you slams shut. My boyfriend and I decided to shut that door: we left our jobs and became f-unemployed. And what do you do when you're f-unemployed? Well you go on holiday.

We decided to jet off to Italy for a month, tour the main cities and see all the sights. And I mean all of them. Traveling with no income means you have to set a budget and strictly stick to it. We learned how to be the thriftiest of tourist. This is my guide on how to travel on a shoestring. 

1.     Book Ahead

Booking flights, busses, trains and other travel means, as well as hotels and other accommodation in advance often means you'll get a cheaper deal. It also gives you more time to save for adventures up until the point of your holiday because you’ve already paid for the travel and accommodation. Get the most expensive things out the way first and see what money you have left.

2.     Apartment vs. Hotel

Hotels are great if you want that breakfast-included, room service, fresh sheets everyday lifestyle on your holiday, but if you’re willing to forgo these luxuries to save a few pennies, renting an apartment is a much cheaper option.  You spend much less on food as you can make lunch and dinner at home, so you’re not spending exorbitant amounts at restaurants twice a day. Additionally, you can indulge in the culture more, pretending to be Italiano while you live in your own appartmento. While we rented an apartment in Verona, we would go to local food markets and try make food that had inspired us on our travels. It also meant we didn’t just have to eat Italian food every night, which can get tiring after a month.

3.     Go Local

If your looking for somewhere to eat or drink, always look where the locals are going. It tends to be cheaper, and table service charges (yes they charge you extra for taking your order) are much lower. Plus, the food and wine tends to be much better; it's not been made tourist-friendly so you get those 16% volume wines and traditional wild boar pasta. We always found the service much more tentative and friendly too, sometimes they'd throw free tasters in just because you spoke funny.

4.     Make a Pack-up

We would often buy a few bits and bobs from the local supermarket for lunch and eat them in beautiful areas in front of monuments or by canals. It can be a nice change to watch the world go by and get a front row seat, watching the culture zoom past you, rather than feeling cramped inside a noisy restaurant. It was thrifty too: we'd usually spend around €10 in a shop, compared to €30 in a restaurant. 

5.     Pick up some Tourist Passes

Most cities offer a tourist pass. These passes give you free entry or a large discount into museums, free or reduced transport, queue jumping and free city WiFi, and a decent map. They seem pricey at first, but you save a lot more money in the long run, especially if you're going to lots of cities and, like us, want to see everything. The pick up points are easy to locate. You just go to the pick up point indicated online, give them your name and I.D, as well as a receipt of your purchase, and just like that, you get to see all the wonders of the city for a fraction of the price.  

6.     Walk the Walk

If you have issues with walking then fair enough, it's going to spoil your holiday and I don’t advise you to do it. But if you love to walk, then get a decent pair of shoes and get to stepping. Transport is expensive - walking is free, so you will save a good proportion of your holiday budget. Yes, it does take a bit longer to get from place to place, and I’m not saying that you cannot take the bus under any circumstances, but walking has its benefits: you see so much more of the city that you would have missed had you travelled by bus, you also get to hear the conversations of the people, listen to the music blasting out from the houses, smell the foods and spices from restaurants that disperse in the streets. You can get up close to the city and find your personal favourite hidden gems. 

I hope you find my little tips useful for your holiday. Don't let money be the worry of your holiday. Don’t let it stop you from doing what you want to do. Just plan carefully and use these tips and you will be fine, I promise. After all, we have to remember, what is life but a grand adventure?