Thursday, November 29, 2007

Competency-based interviewing

I just spotted a post by Soul Seared Dreamer about an interview that he had recently, and I immediately recognised the interviewing technique that he was subjected to. Several readers have sent me emails about jobs and banking careers over the last few weeks, so I thought I'd do a quick post about this technique because it's seems to be quite popular at the moment. As part of my management training a few years ago I was taught how to conduct this sort of interview.

The idea is that the interviewer wants to test certain 'competences', which are defined behavioural skills such as 'team working', 'communication skills', 'problem solving', etc. The theory is that when applied properly, two separate interviewers will reach the same conclusion about whether a candidate possesses each competence.

Each question is designed to test a single competence in something. In a half-hour interview, one can probably only test 3 or at most 4 competences, because each competence takes quite a while to establish. The questions typically ask the candidate to describe things that they've done, or things that have happened to them in the past, and there are likely to be follow-up questions about the situation that the candidate ends up describing.

For example, an interviewer might ask "Can you give an example of a situation where you solved a problem in a creative way?" Once you've answered the question, the follow-up questions might be "What did you do next?", "What was the end result?", "What did you learn from that?" etc.

If anyone finds themselves in a competency-based interview, if you can guess what the competency that's being assessed then so much the better. However, I reckon the golden rule is don't make anything up, because the follow-up questions will almost certainly catch you out. Telling the interviewer that you recognise the technique might help break the ice and make you feel more relaxed, and also might establish a good impression that you're not clueless about what's going on. However, it won't help you prove your competences, so don't think that it helps you get out of it!

In Soul Seared Deamers's case it seems that he's through the next interview stage :-). My best guess is that the second interview, which will apparently be with the first interviewers' boss, won't be a competency-based interview. It probably means that the candidates being interviewed at the second stage have all shown that they've got the competences required to do the job, and it's now simply up to the boss to decide who he likes best. The very best of luck to him :-).

Anyway, that's all I can remember. A quick google search seems to bring up lots of matches so if anyone's interested there's probably a lot to read!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Talking to London black taxi drivers

Since I had my revelation about self-actualisation a couple of weeks ago, I've been trying to look for the same traits in other people. I've realised that every now and then, some of the taxi drivers that I get talking to exhibit some of the characteristics. Of course, a lot of the taxi drivers in London are quite quiet, some are talkative but a bit grumpy, however the self-actualised drivers are the ones that are a pleasure to talk to :-). As one example, I reckon that the 'straight' taxi driver who told me about his gay sauna habit was probably a self-actualising guy!

Last weekend, I came to same conclusion about the taxi driver who took me to a lunch party on the other side of London. He started off telling me a fascinating statistic that he'd heard from a psychiatrist that he'd recently had as a passenger.

Picture of London Bridge"Out of the people who've tried to commit suicide and failed, how many do you think go on to try again?" the taxi driver asks me as we're driving across London Bridge.

"I'm not sure," I start, ready to try and hazard a guess. But while I'm trying to decide on a sensible number, he's carries on with his story.

"My guess was that it would have been quite high, so I guessed 80%, but the psychiatrist told me the actual figure is only 3%!"

"Wow, really?" I say surprised.

"Yes," continues the cabbie, "and it's because attempted suicide is usually just a cry for help. Most people then get the help they need, so they don't feel the need to do it again after that :-)."

He seems genuinely happy that people driven to commit suicide often end up getting help with their problems so that they don't need to try again.

"You know," he says later, "I'll often work Thursday evenings. That's an evening when lots of people go out for a few drinks after work before the weekend. You'll hear a lot of doom and gloom from other taxi drivers about various stuff, but I tell you something, driving around on a Thursday evening, it's really nice to see young people out enjoying themselves :-). And why not, eh?"

Wow! In a few sentences he's managed 'awareness' (especially 'freshness of appreciation'), 'social interest', and 'identity with humanity' :-).

We chat about various things along the way, but it's the story that he tells me just before we get to my destination that's the most amusing.

"I must tell you about this female passenger that I had in the cab recently," he starts. "It was about 10pm and she was with a man by the side of the pavement, and they really were all over each other. They hailed me so I stopped the cab next to them, and they disengaged just long enough for the woman to get into the cab on her own. But as soon as she's inside, she's got the window down and she's leaning out to kiss him goodbye yet again, holding his hand, honestly I've never seen such a performance. You'd think they weren't going to see each other for years, or perhaps the bloke was going off to fight in a war or something! Anyway, he leans in and tells me to take her to this smart address in South Ken, and to take very good care of her, and then it's

'Will you be all right on your own dearest?'

'Yes my love,' she replies, holding his hand tightly, 'I'll call you in the morning, sorry my mobile phone is out of power, but don't worry, I'll recharge it overnight. Everything will be OK, don't worry.'

'Well if you're sure my dearest, I'll be thinking of you ...'

'And I'll be thinking of you too darling ...'


Eventually they let me drive off, and they're even holding hands to the very last minute, only letting go as I'm moving away so that they can't hang on to each other any longer.

About three hundred yards later though, this woman takes her mobile phone out of her bag and makes a call,

'Yeah, I've got rid of him now,' she says calmly, 'where shall we meet?'

I REALLY couldn't believe it, not after what I'd just witnessed! As soon as she got off the phone, she gives me a new destination before sitting back in the seat without a care in the world. She was just so clinical about it! She'd even made sure the first guy wouldn't call her on her mobile phone!!"

I laugh heartily at this story. It certainly proves that the girls can be just as unfaithful as the boys when it comes to extra-curricular activities. And hearing it from a self-actualised cab driver, I have every reason to believe that the story is true. After all, honesty is one of the characteristics!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Email from a gay guy who's not out yet

Almost three weeks ago, I received the following email from a new reader who lives in Asia:

Dear GB,

Just bumped into your blog, just when I'm going through another cycle in life.

I'm 25, never been in a relationship, and not out. Recently there's a visitor from another office, and boy is he gorgeous. He's just graduated and I'm pretty sure he's straight because he talks about hot girls and so. We did not speak for a whole 1 month, because we were not introduced, until recently.

He is smart, witty, and funny. The ladies and girls surround him everyday. He was assigned to me to learn what we do, and ever since then we got closer. Last night, he even asked me out to watch a movie, but I go the feeling that he asked me because no one else (his two other regular female companion) would go watch a thriller. We did not go home together, but this morning, he told me I smell nice (???).

My problem would be, why am I being so sensitive to things like these? What could possibly happen, if anything would happen in another month, before he returns home for good and we'll never see each other again? Why do I keep falling for things like these? Why do I get jealous when I see him with other women/people? Kept telling myself this had happened before so many times in my life, why let this bend myself again? I started to stay away from him, even talking less but that did not help.

Is there any way we could be stronger to fend off people like these, because if we do not, we will only hurt ourselves in the end? I would always thought I could make it alone, but recently, the loneliness has begun to creep upon me. How am I ever going to survive alone like this, for another 30-40 years?

Upon reading this email, I felt a lot of empathy with the reader who sent it to me. I immediately thought back to the days when I used to 'fall in love' with my straight male friends. So I sent him a quick reply, telling him not to worry, and also to start thinking about what his life would be like if he was able to be an out gay guy, however impossible it seems at the moment. Within half an hour, he replied with the following:

Thanks GB,

I can certainly picture myself being out, but that is definitely out of the question; my parents are very conservative and I respect them a lot so I could never do anything that would hurt them.

Some people I know have asked me if I ever liked a girl and so, but I've been always beating around the bush, so hopefully they get it. But I've been always falling for straight guys. Maybe it's a sign, that I will never be able to have what I want.

I am very tired of being the 'nice' guy because people don't see it. Beauty IS skin deep; so deep that we need to reconstruct the externals so that it is reflected on the outside :)

I could give a try, but I look forward to your reply soon.

I felt a bit happier when I received this reply because of what he said in the last line. He's clearly thought about his situation a lot, and deep down he knows what he's got to do, namely find a nice gay guy to have a relationship with!

Indeed, until he confronts his sexuality properly, he'll remain sensitive to this sort of situation, he'll continue falling for all the cute straight guys that cross his path, and he'll continue to feel jealous and hurt when he doesn't get the reciprocation he wants. There's nothing wrong with what he wants of course, but until he accepts himself, he won't allow himself to go and find it because that means looking for other gay guys!

This reader's email reminds me a bit of the email from a gay Chinese guy who feels he can't come out. Although this reader is suggesting that he'll just remain single, rather than marry to please his parents, many of the things I said in that post apply here. His relationship with his parents is likely to break down in the long term if he continues to deny his sexuality, which is bad for both him and his parents. On the other hand, if he eventually comes out to them, the relationship should end up being much stronger in the long term.

So where should this reader start? Firstly, I reckon he should seek out the company of other gay guys, both as pure friends, and also for intimate company. Given that he lives in Asia, is probably a good place to start if he doesn't yet have any gay friends. Then once he's got a few gay friends, the next step will be to tell a few of his close straight friends that he's gay. It'll all seem impossible to start with, so he should take 'baby steps', just one little thing at a time. I remember that when I finally admitted to myself that I was gay, and before I did either of those things, I used to look myself in the eye in the bathroom mirror each morning and say out loud to myself "I'm gay". It definitely helped saying it out loud. Within a few weeks I was saying "I'm gay, and everything's going to be all right"!

One issue is the fact that the reader was attracted to a guy who was visiting from another office, which I think means visiting from another country. My concern is in case the reader, who's an Asian guy, finds himself particularly attracted to Caucasians. My own experiences suggest that this is much more common that is should be, a subject which was discussed in a post that I did back in April, especially in the comments. As a result of that post, one gay British guy who lives in the UK with an Asian partner emailed me saying that in his experience, Asian gay guys tend to repel rather than attract each other! If the reader is attracted much more to Caucasians, rather than other Asian guys, I'm not sure what he can do about it though. But he should be aware that he's got a lot of competition in that respect, and also that it's often the older Caucasian guys that tend to be interested.

In this respect, I myself try to have an 'equal opportunity policy'! Guys of all races are interesting to me as potential boyfriends, and I would commend this attitude to the reader. I also think that there are traits that are noticeable across guys of the same race, and in my experience it's the Asian guys that tend to be keener on monogamous relationships with other guys. Perhaps that will appeal to this reader? Very long-time readers of this blog may even recall me admitting when Reluctant Nomad interviewed me that if I was cruising online and a Caucasian and an Asian guy seemed equally interesting to me, then I'd try chatting to the Asian guy first rather than the Caucasian one!

In any case, these days closeted gay guys shouldn't have to look forward to a life of loneliness, it's really not necessary.

Do any other readers have any thoughts for this guy?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Betrayal really hurts

A bottle of CristalA few days ago, I went to the drinks event for gay bankers who work in London with my colleague P. We're one and a half bottles of wine into the evening (with a cheeky little 1996 Médoc) when a guy that I vaguely know from the old days of the gym sauna comes up to us to have a chat.

"Hi," he says, "remember me?"

"Yes of course :-)," I reply, happy to see him, "You're from the gym, right?"

"Such a pity they closed that sauna," he continues, "well, for me anyway. Not for you so much of course, I reckon you'd had ALL the guys there anyway!"

And he laughs loudly.

What kind of conversation is this? He knows that I sometimes used to have a bit of fun in the gym sauna, but why on earth does he think it's at all appropriate to talk about it in front of someone he doesn't know?

"Errr, I don't know what you mean," I reply laughing, but laughing nervously. My colleague P has always had his suspicions about me, and this guy's conversation is really feeding his thoughts :-(. Caught off guard, I know that I'm doing a bad job of pretending that this guy is just joking.

Luckily, a friend of this guy comes up and interrupts him. I get introduced, so I introduce P to them both in return. But betrayal like this really hurts.

On my side, I can't think of any confidences of this guy that I've ever betrayed, quite the reverse in fact. Why on earth does this guy think it's appropriate to bring up past gym encounters at a drinks party?

But at least this guy doesn't know about the turmoil that I'm going through in my personal life at the moment in connection with boyfriend number 1. Sometimes, it makes me feel very vulnerable. If this guy knew about that, it really would have been completely inexcusable!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

House hunting with boyfriend number 1

Last month, I said that I might buy boyfriend number 1 a place to live, so that we no longer have to live together in the same house. But in terms of what kind of place to buy, or what area to look in, I've been leaving all the decisions to him.

Last week, after countless viewings, he told me that he's finally found a place that might be suitable.

"I think perhaps you should see it GB," he said to me, "and then you can tell me what you think :-)."

Of course, before we put in a bid to buy anywhere, I'll have to see it anyway. It's going to be my job to deal with the lawyers, even though it'll end up being owned by boyfriend number 1.

So a couple of days ago, we take a trip over to see a small freehold house in a nice area about a couple of miles from where we currently live. And after having looked at the house with the estate agent, we decide to have a stroll around the local area to see what shops and amenities there are. But as we walk around some of the neighbouring streets together, we're in for a pleasant surprise.

"GB is that you?" someone suddenly asks me from behind, "what on earth are you two doing wandering around in this area?"

Turning round, we're confronted by one half of a lesbian couple that we've both known for years.

"Really good to see you :-)," replies boyfriend number 1.

"I didn't know you lived around here," he continues. "In fact, we're just trying to get a feel for what this area would be like to live in."

"But why on earth are you two thinking of moving over here?" queries our female friend.

"Um, well," dithers boyfriend number 1, looking at me for help, "well actually we're probably going to go our separate ways ..."

"Oh my god ..." she replies, but boyfriend number 1 interrupts her.

"Don't worry," he says, smiling now and suddenly looking completely relaxed. "Everything's OK. And we've just seen a nice property near here, so I guess you and me might end up being neighbours :-)."

A short conversation follows about the area, and how nice it would be if boyfriend number 1 and this lesbian couple do become neighbours.

"Well keep in touch," says our friend she heads off towards her house, "and do let us know what happens."

Myself and boyfriend number 1 resume our stroll, and for a few seconds we don't say anything to each other.

"I can almost hear the hot keyboard at work," says boyfriend number 1 joking to me quietly, "she'll be emailing all our mutual friends, 'guess what I've just found out'!"

Indeed, the conversation with this friend was a major event and we both realised it. For the first time, boyfriend number 1 acknowledged that we might split up and he didn't seem to mind. He'd never said it before. And certainly not to a friend who's likely to start gossipping to all our other friends too.

I think all this is a very good sign that boyfriend number 1's mental health is recovering. He's finally coming to terms with the situation, getting used to the idea of living without me, and maybe even starting to look forward to a new life. Splitting up seems pretty certain now. But at least the way things are going, I hope that we'll be able to remain close friends.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What on earth am I going to do about boyfriend number 3!

"You've got a very complicated life, you know," I tell boyfriend number 3 when I saw him recently.

"How so?" he asks. I feel sure he must know what I mean, but nonetheless I'm happy to be more specific.

"Well, none of your family know you're gay right, and ..."

"My brother may sort of know," interrupts boyfriend number 3, "I'm pretty sure he's got his suspicions!"

"Well whatever," I continue, "none of them know for sure, so none of them know anything about that guy you're seeing!"

"But they do know I've got a friend called Simon, and Simon's actually an ex-boyfriend of mine."

"Oh really," I say sounding surprised, "you've mentioned Simon before, he's got another boyfriend now hasn't he?"

"Yeah, Patrick, or Pat for short," says boyfriend number 3.

"So your family know about Simon and Pat do they?"

"Yep, they do actually," says boyfriend number 3 with a big grin on his face, "Simon and Patricia!" and he bursts into giggles.

"Well exactly," I reply laughing too to some extent, "even more complications. And although Simon and Pat know about your guy, they don't know about me, in fact none of them know about me! You keep your gaydar account secret from your guy, you don't even keep my mobile phone number in your mobile phone in case someone finds it there, and what's more, you go to extreme lengths to perpetuate this state of affairs, ..."

Boyfriend number 3 is still giggling slightly, and seems to be enjoying my exasperation.

"So who's up the 'food chain' from me, who is there that even I don't know about?"

"Ahhh, so that's what this is about," laughs boyfriend number 3, "you're just worried about your own status!"

"Errr," I hesitate, caught off guard, "Well no, I mean, I'm just worried for you, it all seems so unnecessary!"

"Well don't worry about me or your status GB," says boyfriend number 3 looking me in the eyes and smiling at me, "if you remember, I do tell you about other guys that I sometimes meet from gaydar. Anyway, the guy who buys me gaydar memberships and nice birthday presents is in a very special class of his own :-)."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Abraham MaslowWhile I was writing the 'Dear GB' response to the 'Email from a gay guy who works in the City', I got a bit of a shock. As I said in that response, I learned a bit about Maslow's hierarchy of needs during one of my management training sessions a few years ago. It was a one-to-one coaching session, and my coach didn't go into any of the details, but I learned enough to realise last week that Maslow's concepts could be relevant to the situation of the guy who sent me the email.

It was while I was looking up the details of the Maslow heirarchy on wikipedia that I got the shock: Maslow's description of self-actualizing people fits me perfectly. And I don't mean that the description fits me a bit, or that I've got a lot in common with some of the characteristics, I mean that I strongly identify with all the characteristics in a very profound way. It was really scary. Running through the headline characteristics from wikipedia, self-actualizing people:

(1) Embrace the facts and realities of the world (including themselves) rather than denying or avoiding them. Indeed, I've often mentioned in this blog how hard it is to be honest with oneself. I usually mention this in connection with recognising that one is gay, but of course the idea goes much deeper than that. Anyway, as a result of my coming out experience, plus everything that's happened since then, I like to think that I'm much better at this than I used to be.

(2) Are spontaneous in their ideas and actions. Occasionally I think my spontaneity is almost childish, although I'm not sure how much this comes through in the blog.

(3) Are creative. I posted about this subject quite recently.

(4) They are interested in solving problems; this often includes the problems of others. Solving these problems is often a key focus in their lives. Problem solving is a core part of my work life at the bank. But it was when I read the phrase "… often includes the problems of others" while working on a 'Dear GB' post that I realised how much all this applied to me. Recently I had been thinking how bizarre it was that through my 'Dear GB' postings I'd become an agony uncle, because I don't have any background in this area, quite the opposite in fact. But suddenly it all makes sense in the context that I've evolved into a self-actualizing individual.

(5) They feel a closeness to other people, and generally appreciate life. The fact that I feel that I have more than one boyfriend is a perfect example of how I feel very close to other people. But I think other people sometimes feel it too when they meet me. Only recently a guy that I met told me in an email, after meeting me for the first time, how surprised he was when he looked back on the evening. He said that he'd told me things about his personal life that he'd previously only told people when he'd got to know them very well!

(6) They have a system of morality that is fully internalized and independent of external authority. The best recent example of this is the way I feel about looking after boyfriend number 1 if we end up splitting up. I'll do it because it's the right thing to do, not because anyone else thinks I should.

(7) They have discernment and are able to view all things in an objective manner. I hope and feel that I'm objective, and I also feel that these days I'm much better at being objective than I used to be, however confirmation of this characteristic really needs to come from other people.

The wikipedia article goes on to list the tendencies of self-actualizing people in four categories, namely Awareness, Honesty, Freedom and Trust. This post is very self-centred on my part, and hence probably getting a bit dull, so I'm not going to run through all the characteristics listed in those categories. But a couple that do deserve a mention, being a bit different to what's been said above, are:

Willow tree(8) Freshness of appreciation. Another web site said that an example of this is "never tire of seeing a golden sunset". I identify with that, as well as never tiring of seeing the beautiful willow tree that's planted near where I live, even though I see it every day. Or feeling immense pleasure recently from the colours of the autumn leaves against a fresh blue sky on my way to the gym every morning before work – well, every morning when there's been a fresh blue sky at any rate! And so on.

(9) Resistance to enculturation - identity with humanity. One example of this is when I think of the horror and pointlessness of war :-(. Every time I do, it brings tears to my eyes. Every time.

How did all this come about? I'm not sure. I think five years ago I had some of these characteristics, but not as strongly and nowhere near as many as I do today. I think that blogging has definitely pushed me in this direction, because it's given me an outlet for creative writing, and has become a way for me to try and solve other people's problems through the 'Dear GB' postings.

Because I identify so strongly with all of this, I've started worrying about whether knowing that I fit into this category will affect the important self-actualizing characteristics. For example, whenever one has reached an opinion about something, however certain one feels, it's always healthy to have some doubt in the back of one's mind. Knowing that I'm meant to have good objective judgement because I'm a self-actualizing individual might diminish the residual doubt, which would be a bad thing. Forewarned is forearmed though. On balance, I reckon the more self-knowledge that one has the better.

But it's still very scary for a couple of reasons. It was certainly scary feeling that I was reading about myself, with additional paragraph that I read revealing something else about me that I knew was true. But it's also scary because wikipedia says that "self-actualization is reaching one's fullest potential". Another web site says "[Self-actualization] is not the same thing as personal growth or self improvement, both of which imply movement from a lower state to a higher state. Self-actualisation is the higher state". So if I've already reached my greatest potential, that suggests that from here things can only get worse :-(!

I think this blog has a reasonably wide readership, including a tiny number of people that I've met, together with a few more people that I've corresponded with via emails. So if anyone has read this far, I'd like to know you think. With the evidence presented above and throughout this blog, does anyone think that I might actually be one of these 'self-actualizing individuals'?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Email from a gay guy who works in the City

About two weeks ago, the following email arrived in my inbox:

Dear GB,

Could I please trouble you for some help? I am a young gay man. I have been comfortable with, and exploring, my sexuality for around 3 years now. My introduction to the gay world has been a whirlwind of depraved encounters interspersed with the occasional romance.

I am a reasonably attractive man. Sex with good looking guys is freely available to me. I have a well paid job in the City. I am respected by my friends (of which there are enough to keep my social calendar busy) for my intellect and value. I live in a town house in London by myself, which I own personally courtesy of a trust fund that feeds, together with my salary, an indulgent lifestyle; I enjoy dining in the finest restaurants, and consider some of London ’s finest bars everyday waterholes.

I am growing increasingly tired. My life would be perfect by many people’s standards. I had a charmed and privileged upbringing, and setting aside my "general neurosis", which I do not consider to be that remarkable, I think I am relatively "issue" free, at least as far as the average Londoner goes.

I consider myself to have been completely single for at least six months. By that I mean that not only am I not seeing anyone regularly (except, perhaps, for a couple of casual sex and conversation buddies, who I have no particular attachment to beyond their convenience), no particular individual has any pull on my heartstrings.

After much deliberation, I do not really think I am longing for anyone new in my life either. I enjoy my personal space, and when the next casual sex encounter or buddy has gone, I feel a great sense of pleasure in having my personal space back.

I have countless projects in my life. I do, truly, enjoy work. But, if I am honest, I do sometimes wonder if it is much more than a social club to me.

Do you have any advice for curbing my decadence and finding some meaning and purpose?

PS I have recently become one of your new readers. I enjoy your blog very much

A lot of the 'Dear GB' emails that I've posted relate to gay or relationship issues, but this email is a bit different. Rather than asking about a particular part of his life, I reckon the young reader who sent me this email is actually asking about the direction of his whole life.

By co-incidence, I was recently reading an article called 'Danger: riches ahead' in Intelligent Life magazine, a sister publication to The Economist. The article is all about how much money rich parents should leave to their children, and it quotes Andrew Carnegie as having said "I would as soon leave my son a curse as the almighty dollar". The fact that the reader has a trust fund feeding his lifestyle suggests to me that the reader's rich parents have taken the opposite view!

With the reader's comfortable lifestyle assured, I started thinking about the Maslow Pyramid, which is something I learned about during one of my management training sessions a few years ago. I reckon the reader is about half or maybe two-thirds of the way up the pyramid. Maslow's pyramidHe may have a few of the attributes at the middle level and the level above that, but not all of them. Moving to top level of the pyramid, Maslow says that self-actualizing people:
  • Embrace the facts and realities of the world (including themselves) rather than denying or avoiding them
  • Are spontaneous in their ideas and actions
  • Are creative
  • Are interested in solving problems; this often includes the problems of others. Solving these problems is often a key focus in their lives
  • Feel a closeness to other people, and generally appreciate life
  • Have a system of morality that is fully internalized and independent of external authority
  • Have discernment and are able to view all things in an objective manner

At university and through my work, I've met a lot of people that have come from privileged backgrounds, but they don't usually have any of those attributes.

I reckon that working out how he can progress up the pyramid will be the key for him to find meaning and purpose in life. Thinking about the 'Esteem' level of the pyramid for a moment, he may have the respect of his friends, but my guess is that he doesn't in general have the respect of others. It's hard to respect people from privileged backgrounds if they've always had a relatively easy life. And if he's had an easy life, it will also be hard for him to give other people who've had to earn everything they've got the respect they deserve.

Although he says he's got countless projects, I somehow doubt that any of them are sufficiently difficult that his involvement will end up commanding significant respect. If that was the case he wouldn't have sent me the email. But one way to earn respect is to consistently complete DIFFICULT projects, in any area of endeavour. Difficult here means in relation to his abilities and resources, on a relative scale, not an absolute one. A crippled person managing to climb up some stairs for the first time deserves as much respect as an athlete winning a race.

Another possibility is to somehow become more altruistic. Ebenezer Scrooge Although I've never met any of them, I know that some very rich people find fulfillment this way. Even if he's not rich enough to be able to sacrifice his career, his email implies that he is rich enough to devote some of his energy in this kind of direction. The best fictional example of someone for whom this worked is the Charles Dickens character Ebenezer Scrooge. I don't think that the reader is at all like Scrooge, but in the context of Maslow, with the help of his ghosts I think Scrooge did reach the top level of the pyramid. Maybe the reader is already involved in charity somehow, but it doesn't help him if in reality it only corresponds to a small percentage of his resources.

My boyfriend number 2 is always keen on good karma, and the more I find out about that concept, the more I agree that it's important. In the context of Maslow, good deeds on a regular basis will help the reader move to the hierarchy (and vice-versa for selfish actions).

It was Peter Parker (aka Spiderman!) who said "With great power comes great responsibility". Even if the reader's resources aren't that great, it's clear from his email that he his resources are way above average, especially given his age. So whether he likes it or not, he has a responsibility to make the most of them.

Do any other readers have any thoughts to help this guy?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Catching up with my friend P

I hadn't seen my friend P for a few months so it was good to hear from him when he phoned me last Friday lunchtime.

"Hi GB," says the voice on the other end of my phone.

"Who's this?" I ask, not recognising his voice.

"It's P here, you bozo!" says P, offended that I couldn't tell who he was. "What are you doing at the moment? I've just moved into my new office and it's just round the corner from yours! Wanna meet for a coffee or something?"

"Really? Just round the corner?" I say, "Where are you exactly?"

P gives me the address and it is indeed very close to the bank that I work in. I'd originally been planning to visit boyfriend number 3 over lunch, but he'd called a couple of hours earlier to postpone for a few days. So as a wholesome alternative, meeting P for a coffee seems like a nice idea :-).

"You're lucky," I tell P, "because there's a small window in my diary round about now! Shall we meet in, say, 30 minutes?"

It turns out that P needs to be back in his new office around that time in case his new boss calls, so we end up agreeing that I'll visit him there.

"Can you pick up some coffees and cakes for us on your way round to visit me then GB?" asks P, looking for a small favour.

"OK sure," I reply, "but you'll never keep your cute lean figure if you get your friends to feed you cake all the time!"

Half an hour later and I'm seated opposite P in a small office on the eighth floor of an impressive new building that seems to be built almost entirely of glass.

"Good view from here isn't it," says P looking lecherously out at the guys in some of the other offices across the internal atrium, "Look at all those horny young blokes I can see from here ..."

"But what on earth is this new job you've got?" I ask feeling a bit confused, because P doesn't seem to have any colleagues to share his smart new office with him.

"Well, I'm the first UK employee," says P mysteriously. "I was in Moscow recently meeting the other employees. My boss now wants to expand the business into the UK, and it's up to me to build up the UK client list. If I get a few big accounts signed up over here, I should do very well if they go ahead with the IPO next year :-)."

"And you're going to do all this on your own?"

"I'll probably hire a pretty young twink to sit over there early next year," says P pointing behind me to the only other desk in the room. "After all, I can't rely on you to look cute and bring me coffee all the time!"

Asking a bit more about the firm that P's just joined, it turns out to be an Internet/telecoms oriented company. It all sounds very plausible, apart from the fact that the company is based in Russia!

"Yeah, the reason they've managed to get this far is that their cost base is so low over there. They pay their local employees virtually nothing!"

"Anyway, my boss has just asked me to book him a hotel in Dubai," he continues, "because he's having to stop off there on his way back from Jakarta and he doesn't trust any of his Moscow employees to sort it out for him at such short notice! What do you think of this one?"

He beckons me round to look at the hotel web site that he's got up on his computer screen. But when I look at the web site, I spot the icon of another web site minimised along the bottom of the screen.

"Errr, should you be cruising on gaydar during office hours?" I laugh, "you're not going to be find many UK clients for them like that!"

"But there's not much else for me to do at the moment!" says P defensively. "They've got to get their own web site sorted out before I can start selling. I told them what I wanted when I was over there recently meeting them all, but they haven't done it yet."

"Hang on, I just want to check something," he says suddenly, pressing a button on his phone to make a call.

"Good afternoon," says an efficient sounding female voice over P's speakerphone, before giving the name of P's new company, "Who can I put you through to today?"

"Oh sorry," replies P with a satisfied tone in his voice, "wrong number!"

"She's one of the receptionists downstairs that let you up here to see me," explains P, "and she got it right too, she said exactly what I told her to say. Even though she knows it's just me here!!"

I get the impression that P is trying to impress me for some reason, but in any case, this shady new job seems to suit him. It was interesting to see him in his new office on his first day, making excuses for being logged into gaydar, and seeming to spend more time gazing at the other male occupants of the building instead of working on finding clients for this new company. None the less, I hope he does well. I know from recent conversations with him that he's got huge debts, so he needs to succeed at something like this to keep all his creditors at bay!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Email about gay marriage in the UK

Two guys dressed for marriageA couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a gay guy who's interested in marrying his boyfriend:


Greetings from Singapore.

First of all, I want to say that reading your blog is bliss. Thanks for all the sharing, some of which can be inspiring for me. Anyway, I would like to seek your advice on gay marriage.

My bf and I are planning a 2 week trip to Iceland next year. Tentatively, we planned to transit either in London or Paris, or if not a city that we have never set foot in, Copenhagen. I was toying with the idea since we are going to travel so far to the west, I might as well seize the opportunity to get married in London, giving my bf a big surprise.

Can you refer me a website that specifies details (including legal implications) on gay marriage registration in London? What is the address? Do you happen to know which other European cities that allow gays to register marriage?

Thanks! Hope to hear from you soon.

I’ll say I’ll never wake up knowing how or why.
But never is a promise and I’ll never need a lie.

Interesting poetry at the end, although I'm not sure I understand it!

Anyway, "gay marriage" in the UK is called "Civil Partnership", and I found the following two useful web sites about it:Note in particular the Residency requirement, because it says that
You can register a civil partnership in England and Wales as long as you have both lived in a registration authority for at least seven days immediately before giving notice of your intention to register the partnership.
However I had thought that it was necessary for one of the guys to be, if not a UK citizen, then a citizen of an EU country. But citizenship doesn't seem to be specified.

To check on this, I emailed the law firm that set up the civil partnership law website that I mentioned above, but they never replied. I couldn't help wondering why they bothered to put up that web site, as an advert for their expertise, if they're not going to respond when it creates an enquiry. So perhaps for legal advice it's best to look elsewhere.

Anyway, I know that there are a few lawyers who read this web site so perhaps they know the answer to this? Or do any readers have any information on gay marriage or civil partnership elsewhere in the European union?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Turmoil, Stress, Creativity

While we were on holiday in the Bahamas recently, myself and boyfriend number 2 make use of the spa facilities at the hotel we're staying at. When we arrive at the spa reception on our first visit, the receptionist asks us to fill out a form which asks us lots of questions about ourselves.

"Hmmm, they want me to rate my stress level out of 10," I say to boyfriend number 2, trying to assess what the answer should be.

"You're only a 2," replies boyfriend number 2, "definitely!!"

Briefly, I feel surprised. I work in a high stress industry, I have a 'complicated' personal life, and I rarely have time to relax in the conventional sense. But on reflection, I think boyfriend number 2 is probably correct. I'm usually not very stressed at all.

Since then, I've been thinking a bit about stress and turmoil, which reminded me of the famous Cuckoo Clock Speech in the film classic The Third Man. It's delivered by Orson Welles towards the end of the film, and goes something like:

In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock!

It's a very perceptive observation, and as wikipedia points out, the concept bites even more when one is told that the cuckoo clock is actually a German invention. When people feel contented and safe, there's little incentive to achieve anything, or to make things better in any way. Creativity is far more likely when a person is in a state of turmoil.

I actually think I'm a good example of this idea because in terms of my own situation, I reckon that I've been quite creative over the last year or two. Apart from this blog, I've done quite a lot of original work in my professional life at the Bank, and my boss seems pleased with the results. In addition to that, I've also acquired a hobby devising gambling schemes. So over the last couple of years, as my personal life has become more chaotic, I've definitely being doing a lot more creative stuff.

The mystery is why I'm not stressed. Perhaps I'm somehow able to channel the energy created by the turmoil into creativity rather than stress? I'm not sure, but one thing I am certain about is that I enjoy trying to be creative. So if I'm going to be successful at it, I guess that means that I can't afford to let my personal life settle down!