Sunday, 20 August 2017

What You Don't See.

I think it's time to open up. 

The blog was left for a while whilst life settled down following the end of uni, getting a job and trying to figure life out a little bit. A few thoughts have been shared, pausing on pursuit, peaks of 2015 and a recent letter to myself. Its all quite easy though, to only show the world what you want them to see. To tint the view of reality. 

After seeing a recent social media post from a school friend around battling a tough period, I feel empowered to empty out the thoughts and struggle which has been the supporting number throughout the high notes of the SN musical so far. 

I'm incredibly fortunate to have such patient and understanding people around me, who have and continue to allow me to think for myself and try to figure life out. I'm still not sure what this whole thing is all about, but I am realising that time has to be put into the right places. For reflections to be managed, and not turn into negative pit falls. 

Developing a leadership philosophy has brought with it an awful lot of Sarah Time. Time which has just been filled with understanding myself as a person, the real and public self - not just the one I think I am. It's a scary world, inside our own heads. The things we tell ourselves, our self-limiting beliefs which we take as the truth can be so destructive. Ultimately, we are in control of it all. What we believe, how we behave, internalise and what we breathe into the world. It is our attitude from the minute we wake up to when we go to sleep which impacts on ourselves and others. 

It's frustrating, to have such hard wired gremlins and self limiting beliefs which are fuelled on memories of not being good enough, having to manage bullies and incompetence through education. Of trying to be my own person in a world half full of wannabes who are following the popular kid, not realising that view of reality only lasts for so long. When it comes to the present, these memories continue to tug. Despite growing, becoming the person I am, the back of my mind are the individuals who tried to tear me down. Some would say they are winning. Beliefs which I haven't been able to shake off.

It's that usual paradox, I spend so much time supporting and showing belief in others. I enjoy nothing more than investing time into listening to others and being some kind of safe haven, that I manage to ignore my own thoughts and feelings. I find it easier to help others, than to help myself. 

From reading this blog from the starting post to now, it is difficult to see the struggle. I re-read thoughts and re-live experiences, often in disbelief that I was the one fortunate to have them. There is a level of disbelief from people when told I find being confident difficult. I find it amusing, because, people only see what I want them to see. I'm very careful of the Sarah Nickless on display. 

Almost like the guy from 'A Christmas Carol', doubt hangs on like weight and chains strapped to my ankles. A reminder to calm down when things are getting good, to slow down when it goes my way. An uncomfortable pull from the past which has no place in my present or future. I frustrate myself, because I control this. Despite the huge highs, I fall back into the same thoughts. 

I haven't been able to accept the person I am right now.  

The annoying thing is, I know what I am capable of. The personal growth as shown through this blog and achievements, progress made tells a very different story. Possibly also a battle which is slowly coming to an end. Of competing with myself my own self-beliefs against reality. It's accepting and enjoying filling my own marble jar [google Brene Brown's talk on trust]. I simply wouldn't be where I am if reality told the same story which I tell myself. My next steps are finding ways to believe it myself. To completely accept who I am, and live on the the cusp of the wave as opposed to waiting on the shore. 

Life is the party we all hoped for, after all, we control the music.

Friday, 28 July 2017

An Open Letter to Sarah Nickless

The thought, 'nobody really knows how their journey happens' seems prominent right now. As we end the 2016/17 season and sign off from our FA Leadership Academy, The FA Youth Council sat down for a celebratory meal to revel in the developments across the season.

In January we were asked to consider next season, succession planning and our next steps. A session I found difficult in knowing this could have been my last 6 months representing The FA Youth Council. On January 21st I wrote myself a letter to open during our celebratory meal, it seems appropriate to re-open the blog and share what my letter said...


At the time of writing this you shared a photo in instagram, that motivating giraffe one saying: 
'The future will always be uncertain, just take that first step.'
When you open and read this, the future will still be uncertain, but I hope you will be more comfortable about it.

In 2012, you were filmed on camera saying, 'I've come to be inspired, so that I can go and inspire.' In that moment and week realising some of the possibilities ahead of you, but I bet you didn't picture the 3.5 years representing The FA National Game Youth Council.

Developing yourself: wanting to learn, understand and become a better leader.

Developing others: within the team, regional YLs, and through our events and projects. You're a giver, please don't ever lose that.

Developing the community: Helping to build and support our community. You're about to implement a learning campaign, become a community manager - be that zoo keepers you keep telling people about. Smile when you read this knowing you've been a nurturing pioneer, that sounds cool at the very least ;].

Think about everyone who has been part of the FA NGYC journey. Those who have made up your fan bus - joined the ride from the beginning, hopped on along the way and jumped off at their stop. 
Always remember, journeys start and stop, people are people... the fan bus rolls on forwards because of the person you are not the title you hold.

Think about the person you are, have become and continue to strive for. The Sarah Nickless who wanted to inspire, but didn't know how. The one who became scared of being a role model. The deep thinker who wouldn't let people in because she didn't know how to. The one who wouldn't contribute for fear or being wrong. who needed extra days before sharing concrete thought out ideas.
The Sarah Nickless who sang Year 3000 at FFCamp14, closed FFCamp15 talking about lollipops and opened FFA16 explaining the different types of light bulbs. The one who has grasped and adapted through change, but kept true to their values:
- Greet everyone on arrival, be last out after clearing up. 
- Be humble
- Put others ahead of yourself
- Show respect, learnt to challenge appropriately, listen first
- Be you, even when no-one is looking
-Show gratitude, always.

You might not be able to walk backwards in a straight line blindfolded, struggle with most ice-breakers but you certainly know how to make others smile and have learnt that 'hope' isn't wishful thinking but a mindset to carry your life through.

I hope that the last 6 months have been incredible, that you've enjoyed the present, developed your learning community, arranged the March meeting and delivered FALA17 leaving your legacy... being a team member everyone has been glad to have.

This chapter is coming to a close. Right now, I don't know if I'm turning the page or closing the book. Please feel safe in the knowledge its pages worth reading and whatever comes is what is meant to be. If you're crying... get a grip. Stand tall and end this confidently.. what would the world's best zoo keeper do? What are you going to do?

The future is uncertain... it's about your next step.

You are your own light bulb, keep shining, keep smiling,


Friday, 25 November 2016

Pause on the Pursuit.

 It's not until we stop, pause and glance back that we realise what is going on and just how many footsteps we have left behind us. Not just those of our own, but those of others lost on this adventure with us. Not until we start do we realise that there isn't a destination but a journey to get lost in and enjoy.

We reflect, we think about what has been achieved, wonder at how we have developed into the people we are and never seem to be able to pin point the exact time things started moving so fast. The lollipop moment which changed the way we think, feel and perceive the world. Or in fact, how the journey happens.. it kind of just does. As the quote goes, 'faith is taking a step without seeing the full stair case.' Maybe that's what it is, numerous small seemingly insignificant moments of encouragement, support, courage, opportunity disguised as a challenge which have provided at times stepping stones to leap from to keep moving forwards.. wherever forwards is.

Commonly described as a catalyst, with the right support, Football Futures has and continues to change lives. For different reasons to different people. The speed in which young people develop is mind blowing. Being in the right environment which allows individuals to believe there are possibilities. To be supported by those a few steps ahead. Making the most of opportunities as they are presented.. being present. Enjoying the now.

Enjoying the now.

Over September/ October I was challenged to stop thinking about what is coming next. Think about the journey up until now, where have I come from, and where am I right now. In-between the opportunities as key top line points, are the people who enabled the opportunity to present itself, and the moments within the opportunity. Nobody remembers the whole thing, the whole trip, event etc. But we remember moments.
What was said, what was felt, what we saw.
What we said, what we made others feel, what we made others see.

I think we're modest, never allowing ourselves to believe we are that powerful to inspire and influence others. Not recognising the small things we do and say can be really big things to other people. We're too busy enjoying ourselves and trying to let other people get lost with us through enthusiasm, reflection and the want for others to develop. 

I've been thinking about the people, the lollipop moments of 3-4 years ago, the many I have had this week and how important they all are. Thought about the shift in thinking from what is the next step/ opportunity to, let's see what happens. The 'hell yeahs' as once described to me.

The points at which we work through the challenges and forget to allow ourselves the enjoyment of letting go. Caring less to almost care more. Enjoying the pitfalls, because they are learning points. Realising that by trusting ourselves, and those around us great strides can be made unknowingly.

Maybe it's good we don't know. But maybe we are missing a whole lot by not recognising the smalls moments which are really big moments.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is, it's good every now and then to just stop. Pause on the pursuit of perfection, nobody really knows the way, but we all remember where we started.

It feels good to be lost in the right direction. I feels good to stop and enjoy the view.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

People are People

'Be excited by the opportunity you have to bring out the best in other people.'
Mark Sampson

What a thought that we are that powerful to be able to bring out the best in others. That our actions and words can inspire others to be better leaders, youth council members.. to be better people.

It has been said to me in recent days, 'It's not the programme, it's the people.' The ones who care about the development of others, the ones who take the time out to listen and support individuals, the ones who want what is best for their peers, the ones who stride with you, the ones who give you something to follow, the ones who nudge you from behind to keep on going. The ones.

People are people. The more we remember that, the more we will adapt who we are and our support to enhance the potential of others. To be that nudge in the back, or the one sprinting to keep up with the ambitions of others.

Something I have done a lot of thinking about over the last season [and beyond], is what makes a good leader? Everyone has their own style, their own comfort. However, it's rather likely that our leadership style interchanges on a regular basis.

Is a leader, someone who creates followers and is apart from the group? Is a leader, someone who leads from within? Takes people on a journey, is a tour guide not a travel agent? Is a leader, someone who has faced challenges, been broken numerous times, but keeps on coming back and trying again? Is a leader, someone who is a little bit different, creative, innovative, someone who does something different or better?

What if a leader, is all of those things? Has experienced the challenges, developed resilience, learnt to take people with them, have found ways to be different?

The 60 Youth Leaders who attended FFA16 are exactly that, their own leader - even more than that - their own person, with their own perceptions of what 'good' and 'great' looks like. They are authentic, but know how to look for the best attributes of others which might work and build into their armoury.. build into it, not become it. As noted last week, lets remember the difference between role models and mirrors.

Thrown in at the deep end, our youth leaders have been challenged to think about themselves, what they stand for and believe in, their values, how can they support and influence others? Everyone is a role model, not just to those behind us but to those above and beside us. Trying to support those thoughts is a challenge in itself, an exciting one as the top line says. But we are part of this process to, how can we support the development of others if we aren't sure of who we are? Or have any idea of the process? A journey we all must undertake in order to effectively support others.. no one will ever crack it. We're evolving all of the time. Developing ways of thinking and ways of being. But I don't think we can appropriately support others with ways we wouldn't be prepared to test ourselves.

The challenge in being your own person, leader, light bulb, whatever, is that everyone sees the journey from their own set of eyes. We forget that it is ok to accept someone else's opinion and way of being if we feel that it makes sense and fits with us. We don't have to challenge and revise things and thoughts all of the time.. sometimes an idea just sits nicely. As long as we know why we are accepting thoughts then that is what matters, surely?

More often, we might revise and challenge thoughts to either further our understanding or to accept them on our terms. 'Yeah, I like that point, but it isn't quite relevant - how about looking at it like this..' Shaping ideas and thoughts before internalising them.

Every now and again we will resist thoughts, 'No, I disagree and wont accept that.' Resisting thoughts it ok, you're allowed to disagree, that shows you are sure of thoughts at that moment in time. I wouldn't ever want to dismiss thoughts completely though, maybe come back to them at a later date. Try and understand the view of others, they're a person too. Just because it might not be your way, doesn't mean it is the wrong way.

Being your own leader/ person is always going to require these thoughts of accepting, resisting and revising. Amending thoughts along the way. Knowing that where you are now, is not where you will be in in a month, 5 months or a years time.

Surround yourself with people who understand the journey and want to be a part of yours.

Be excited by the opportunity to develop others, be excited by the opportunity to develop yourself.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Rwanda Revisited

2 years this week since travelling to Rwanda with The FA as a part of the Changing Lives Programme.

2 years since I was threatened to be thrown out of a hotel window, forgot the pin code to the safe, got food poisoning and, jokes aside, had the most amazing experience.

During that week Jacques who looked after us said, going to another country is like getting a degree with the amount you learn.. far more than your set our or expect to. Just like a degree, the learning doesn't always seem useful or make sense straight away. It is over time, reflection and taking a step back which allows dots to be connected.

The more I reflect, the more I see the food poisoning and Rwandan Hospital situation a blessing in disguise. Before flying out I was told to start believing in myself - something I'm still not great at - but that day of not being at the festival but being told of how the leaders I was working with did, took on challenges and let the kids play made and continues to remind me that even when we think we aren't we most certainly are making a difference.

The fact that young leader meant experience, nobody is too old to learn or at a disadvantage because of time passed. But rather the willingness and desire to learn, to use football to make a difference.The fact that people who have lived through the genocide and lost friends and family were and are able to move on and want to make a difference to the lives of others is nothing short of phenomenal. 

Actually, those little things, the moments, those are the big things. Whether it was the awkward valentines lift moment, pillow fights, Cool Runnings in the hotel in London before we left. The realisation of how much people care, how much The FA has invested in me as a person to make a difference to others. That difference might be incredibly small in the eyes of a coach or leader in England, but in a country which has been 'through the mill' of turbulent times, making a difference to 4 people's lives is a tremendous effort and to those 4 people, it is huge. 

A time where adaptability was everything. Oh no we've no kit! Where have all these kids come from? My leaders are still explaining and we started 5 minutes ago! Typical, we come to Africa and bring a flood of rain with us! Sarah can you speak French?, 'oui' - oh no now they think I'm fluent! These things happen. But how we responded was the key. 

Mistakes happened every 2 seconds, But I guess after the greatest storms come the clearest skies. The struggles, the mistakes, the doubts, the 'what am I doings?' turned into, they've got it, changes to games, new ideas, leaders not standing in the middle of the session for it to happen, organisation and progress.

It might not be down to me, but I'd like to think I helped, seeing photos of returning leaders last year and recognising those who I mentored, seeing they had returned to learn more. We all know that it is positive experiences which bring kids back [or parents], but that is the same for all of us. What a rewarding thought.

The more I reflect, the more I know Big John is right.. it's all about people. And it always is. How we move things forwards. Those who I travelled with who are now life long friends, people who spent the week allowing me to make my mistakes and learn from them [never order a Rwandan burger!] people who care, and that is something really special.

The memories make me smile everyday. The thought that I had a positive influence in the life of another is beyond belief. Knowing I was confident and able to deliver an international programme and support the journey of others and my peers - that's beyond words.

Those small things, those moments.. it turns out they were the really big things.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

2015 - Remembering the Peaks

It's been quite a year. I think that's an understatement, one I can only appreciate at a time when I have been able to slow down and reach a stop. 

Up until December 15th, I'd been rolling full steam ahead, picking up power ups and Wumpa Fruit [Google Crash Bandicoot] on the way and hadn't really paused to think and reflect. If you've read the prior post, you'd see I haven't blogged for  few months, and in doing so transported myself into 'The Real World.'  

On December 15th I travelled to Wembley, had a couple of phone calls on the way, joined a meeting with fellow FA National Game Youth Council members, had a couple of hours in a coffee shop and my first experience of Wagamamas - don't worry I hadn't heard of it either. A day of firsts, a day of over coming challenges, a day of celebrating. There are 2 reasons that day was a stand out, firstly, I had time to think and genuinely reflect on the year and the few weeks leading up until then of non-stop travelling, meetings, graduation, conferences and life. A line from a phone call, 'Sarah, you sound tired.' [Cheers SL] Yeah, I was. No 2 ways about it. I guess, I was so wrapped up in everything going on, I didn't get a chance to catch my breathe and see what I was doing. Was that didn't get a chance? Or didn't create a chance?

Point 2, over tea, my first experience of squid and eating a Japanese soup with chop-sticks [you're right, chop-sticks and soup don't work!] Donna McIvor said to me, 'Sarah, you've had quite a year, Youth Council, graduation, your job..' 

I think I've needed someone/ people to bring me back to reality, and those 2 moments were exactly that. 

I guess the pursuit and gaining of employment took over, am I surprised? No. Have I made a mistake in not giving myself enough Sarah time? Yes. Does that worry me? No. I'm new to this full time work malarkey, going to make mistakes and do so on a hourly basis, if not sooner.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of work and being busy, all for what? 

The real challenge hasn't been in my job, Youth Council, moving away as such... but how I have approached it all. I'd be lying if I said the last 6 months have been easy. There have been days where I want to get in my car and drive home, leave Somerset life behind. Days where I sit and worry about, well, everything. Times where I just want to get through the day and keep all emotions in check, that side cant be seen yet. As commonly told, that's ok though, it all proves I'm human.. but that's not the point. 

2015 has been a culmination of everything I've learnt and an expression of the person I am and becoming.. which I am very proud of. The older I get [calm down, still 21] the more I am realising it is the small things which are important. I look back on graduating, National Camp, NGYC, the job and yeah those are great, but it is the gaps between the notes, the walking in between which make those mountain tops so special. The trips to Bath, Loughborough, Doncaster, Salisbury and beyond which have created endless memories. The phone calls and emails holding photos, jokes and I guess a safety net to fall into. But most importantly, the people. Those who take ordinary occasions and make them extraordinary. My family, the Football Futures Family and my colleagues. Those who have made moving to Somerset, working life and life in general easier and enjoyable. 

Moments stored in this jar which I cant wait to open in a few days time to relive the year and the things which have made me smile. I guess you could call them all lollipop moments. 

Smile Moments 2015

So much has gone into the peaks of 2015. I know 2016 will be great, I don't know where the Sarah Nickless Party Bus will go next.. but I know I have the right people travelling with me. 


Saturday, 1 August 2015

Closing Thoughts

Blogging over the last couple of years has been a lot of fun, I am certain that I have achieved what I set out to. I see now as a good time to call it a day and leave things on these thoughts. 

The last 5 seasons have been surreal. Little did I know that October 15th 2010 would be the start of something really special. That 15 minutes of hell, being told to stop playing the game I love was the first of many turning points. Was it a set back, or a change of direction?

To those who have supported the journey in some shape of form, thank you. To the Football Futures Family who have helped me, challenged my thoughts and been amazing companions along the way - you're all heroes. 

I cant ever begin to word how much of an impact Football Futures has had on my life. To say it has changed my life, would be an understatement. The power of the game to develop people is something really special. To now be in a position to support the development of others through the programme which has helped me so much is incredible. 

The pause button has been firmly pressed on blogging, this isn't a stop, but a rest on the way. A time for me to focus on what is important. I'm going to be doing what Miley said, 'Keep on movin', Keep Climbin.' It is all about the climb, the journey, the peaks and troughs which now will become a lot more personal and frequent.. a time which all of these blogged experiences will become my hand book for working life.

Football Futures has inspired me to be me.