JFDI – One foot in front of the other. And repeat.

Photo credit: Dominik Martin


I can’t remember who at work first told me to “JFDI“- but it hit home and I’ve loved it ever since, as a simple, clear motivator – when enough talking has happened, enough arguments been given, enough alternative viewpoints discussed.  Just get on and ****ing do it.

So I’ve been using this term of endearment to myself since the beginning of the year, and over the past couple of weeks here in Shanghai, it has really come into it’s own.

JFDI – running

About 10 years ago I signed me and my boyfriend up for the Nike 10K Run London. (He’s the hubby now, so he forgave me in the end)

I’m not really sure why I did – as I was the least inspired runner I had ever met.  But I did.  And I hated it. Mostly everything about it.  But certainly the need to train (which around the streets of Caledonian Rd – red light district, sandwiched nicely between Holloway & Pentonville Prisons – was less than inspiring.)

I puffed my way round the course, kept the RFID tag on the trainers – and promptly never ran again.

I had a million excuses.

I was a crap runner. Running just wasn’t for me. It’s bad for the joints. I did a lot of walking anyway. I didn’t need to run to prove anything to myself. Or anyone else. And so the conversations went – for the past decade or so.

Only now… I’m nearing 40.

And I feel the need to just move more.

I like the outdoors and I want to be able to find some quiet time to spend out there, with myself.  To clear my head at the end of a day. Or to start the day feeling energised (and a little bit proud).

I’m looking to challenge myself – to see what I can actually do. And to try new things.

And so, after making some vague comment to no one in particular that ‘I might think about running again one day’, I was given a timely wake up call from The Guardian (I do love a ‘how to’ guide) and am currently in week 3 of the training plan. And I’m loving it!

Rain or shine, freezing or really quite balmy for this time of year (the temperature has fluctuated from 3 – 21 degrees across the past few weeks) I have been making sure that I run three times a week with my aim being to be able to run (non-stop) for 30 minutes in the not too distant future.

And the thing that really got me going?  It was stupidly mentioning it to a friend at work (who is training for an Iron Man in Taiwan in about 2 weeks time – so a slightly different level of commitment) – who basically told me to JFDI.

What crap excuses could I really give to him about not being able to find 30 minutes, 3 times a week, to just go outside and put one foot in front of the other, again and again?

Whenever there is a slight waver in my commitment (which, I can proudly say has not been often), I just think of Sam and JFDI… and I go lace up my bright, shiny new trainers…

JFDI – writing

Another challenge set a while ago.  A  (stated) dream to write a book one day.  Well, it’s not going to write itself, is it?

And so, I have started to clear space and time in my days to JFDI.

I scribble most evenings. I have a running list of article ideas to write up.  I use previously dead ‘Facebook’ time, while the little people are swimming or playing football, to put pen to paper and write something – anything – and send it out there into the world.

Sitting. Writing. It makes me so happy.

Much like the running, writing helps to clear my mind. It both clarifies my thoughts and helps create more space for interesting nuggets to pop up and inspire me.

It allows me to process all that is happening to me, around me, within me – and put some shape to it.

And the best part?  By being brave, and JFDI’ing it, I’ve had positive responses.  Articles submitted have been accepted and published. People have read my words. And commented. A growing sense of belonging has emerged.

Seems that after all this time, I quite like a community.

JFDI – coaching

So I spent 3 days last week at the first session of my intermediate coach training course, here in  Shanghai – and it was emotional!

It was everything I had hoped it would be, and was nervous that it wouldn’t be – somehow wondering whether the fact that it was here in Shanghai would make it less valuable.

I met a great bunch of new people – all full of questions, all looking for answers, all desperate to learn.  I remembered how much fun it was to learn new things. To stretch yourself. To take yourself out of your comfort zone of knowledge and expertise.

I got given tasks, homework, that I had to do.  To challenge myself. To put into practice what I had been trying so hard to ‘learn’ all day.

I had to do a real coaching session as homework. I had to be brave, and take a ‘radical action’ to significantly move me forward on one of my personal challenges.

And as I approached these tasks, both of which I wanted to do so ‘perfectly‘, I could feel the fear setting in.  Was I really ready? Did I know enough to come anywhere close to ‘perfect’ on either of them?

Well, that inner voice of strength and wisdom was having none of it – and bellowed out a resounding JFDI!

I am a Coach (in training) and it’s about time I started actively practising what I preach.

Enough weighing up the options and considering things from all angles.  Enough trying to protect myself from failure.


And do you know what? It worked.

Parenting Failure – AKA the days are long but the years are short

Parenting Failure
photo credit: Daniel Cheung

The little people are all safely back at school & nursery after what feels like a VERY long holiday – so it feels like time to own up to my parenting failure (s) – if only to let them out and let them go.

We have had some good adventures and some big success stories – but most are tempered by some kind of parenting failure on my part, and from these I will learn! (Honest, I will…)

Parenting Failure No. 1: Arts & Crafts

I got over my fear of arts and craft projects and got the kids all involved in a great painting activity.  We did a painting together. They each did a version of the same painting themselves.  Everyone was happy and proud and IKEA frames have been purchased to proudly display said artwork.

Lesson learnt: just because they enjoyed it once, does not mean that they will ever enjoy such an activity again.  Painting session number two was met with fights and disdain and somehow the warm rosy glow of part one has been knocked down a notch or two…

Parenting Failure No. 2: Let’s go visit Daddy

An M&S Cafe dinner and visit to Daddio in the office was hugely anticipated.  We stocked up on treats from the M&S Food Hall (more just a couple of aisles really, but…)  Some (clearly insane) woman gave the eldest some chocolate penguins because she was being such a good big sister. (Really? She was trying to bundle the littlest one into an M&S shopping basket while I begged them all to STOP TOUCHING EVERYTHING) But it felt like we were doing okay here… The kids ran happily into the office bearing gifts of mini chocolate cornflake cakes.  And the middlest was promptly bitten by one of the little dogs that had come into the office for the day.  Cue (unsurprisingly) much wailing and a desire to get out of the office as soon as possible. The middlest one up until that point had quite liked dogs. Not so much now… (Pet plan put back by another unlimited amount of years)

Lesson learnt: call ahead and ask about the state of the office and its guests first. No-one likes a wailing child. And no one likes to have caused said wailing. Even if M&S treats are on offer.

Parenting Failure No. 3: Training Wheels Off

We decided that it was about time that the middlest one had the stabilisers taken off his bike.  I think he would have happily carried on using stabilisers forever. But Mummy & Daddy decided.  I had forgotten the pain, the strops and the all out war that was caused when we did the same thing with the eldest. He was pretty brave. He even got straight back on the thing after flying over the handle bars. (Main concern here was that I might have caused the loss tooth number three.   He really needs to keep some until they actually start falling out on their own accord…)

Lesson learnt: Patience. Patience. Patience.  Mine. Not his.   I’m sure he’ll have learnt to ride by the time he goes to college.

Parenting Failure No. 4: A lot of things close over Chinese New Year

I had a plan to go and visit lots of places in Shanghai during the holidays.  To make the most of the time off with the hubby. Partly so I could feel less out numbered by the little people. Partly just to explore.  M50 was one of those places I wanted to go visit: an Art area of town that I was sure would just be a wonderful, cultural wander… And it will be, I’m sure.  When the galleries are open.  (I have a history of planning trips to closed locations – just ask the hubby about some of our NYC date nights…)

Lesson learnt: When the kids are involved, double / triple / quadruple check opening times.  They are not a forgiving crowd of daytrippers.  (The visit was salvaged by one gallery being open.  It also served coffee. And had just baked brownies and croissants.  Not quite what was planned, but… Healthy treats and energy drinks are always well received!)

Parenting Failure No. 5: Learn your lessons quicker!

You would have thought that the above might have had an immediate impact on my double checking of things. It appears things take a little longer to filter through around these parts. (I blame the noise of the three little people.)  I had seen something mentionning a Lion Dance to celebrate the New Year, at a hotel / shopping complex near us.  This seemed ideal. There would be food options. Limited, but perfectly functional, shopping opportunities. And a Lion Dance.  The little people were very excited about seeing a Lion Dance. VERY excited.  So we duly went to Kerry on Saturday.  Only to find out that said Lion Dance had taken place three days earlier.  It had been a bad day anyway.  The little people had all had enough of each other. Hubby & I had definitely had enough of being stuck in the house with the little people for quite such an extended time. And I had failed again.  I believe one of the little people nailed it with a very vocal ‘EPIC FAIL MUMMY’.  Yes. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and led me to hysteria.  The kind that can only be solved with copious amounts of chocolate and a glass of good wine (or two…)

So after these, and multiple other, parenting failures, what have I actually, really learnt?

That when all else fails, Paw Patrol (and as of yesterday, CBeebies – woohoo! Thank you hubby tech lord) really is the answer.  Sometimes a time out for Mummy is in order. And nothing delivers peace and quiet for 20 minutes more than some repetitive children’s TV.

That, no matter what (as I was told when the oldest was a tiny baby, and it’s stuck with me…) “This too shall pass”  These 20 minutes, this fight, these tears, this tantrum… It will pass and we will all move on to the next thing – be it good or bad.

And that when I look back over the holidays, I can choose to see the failures. Or I can choose to see the fun that we did all have – even if that requires accepting that my eldest chooses to identify with the Dark Side.

And in the greater scheme of things, will any of these parenting failures really matter? (I have to hope not… but you never know…)

As Gretchen Rubin says: “The days are long, but the years are short”. It’s just a shame that sometimes the hours can seem interminable.

(And let’s just say a big hurrah for the proper start of term.  Here’s to structure, routine and a good old dose of organised sports!)