Monthly Archives: November 2013

On Blonde Bombshells and Inspirational Buddies

What is the most exciting thing you have ever looked forward to? A birthday, Christmas, going to the zoo, going to the Maldives?

As you have got older has it been more difficult to get excited?

For me it has. We take for granted the big occasions because we are spoilt for choice. But today, now, I am excited. I have a ticket to see Dolly Parton on stage at the NEC!


I have loved Dolly since 1973 when ‘Jolene‘ was released. Dolly was a well known Country & Western singer but not widely recognised outside the genre. Back then I was starting out as the first depot manager of a transport depot in the National Freight Company, determined to prove to the world that I could hack it. The organisation had its eyes on me, waiting for me to fail – because I was a girl. Dolly was frowned upon by all her fans because she was selling out. I loved her voice and her chutzpah and felt a certain trans-Atlantic affinty.

Since then she has been astounding; a fantastic singer, a song-writer, an actress but also a businesswoman and a philanthropist. You might not know too much about the last two roles; Dolly doesn’t exactly hide her light under a bushel but she doesn’t broadcast it far and wide either.

Dolly has always kept control of her career and has broken new ground. Famously she would not sell the publishing rights to ‘I Will Always Love You‘ to Elvis. Good decision Dolly – think of its reincarnation with Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard.masciotra-bodyguard-insie She has created the songs, kept control of them and experimented with new ways of handling the music business. She has her own film and TV production company. Maybe that seems the obvious development for an all-round performer. It wasn’t when she did it.

Maybe you think branding is another obvious avenue for her. Not branding like this!  She set out to transform herself into her vision of female beauty (local hooker meets town trash). Love her or hate her if you are in mid-life you know this blonde bombshell. She used to be buxom in her rhinestones now she is slender and svelte, often in buckskin. As she says it costs a lot to look this cheap. She set out to become her vision and now the brand is maintained with surgical help. It’s not for me but I admire it, the brand has personality and is unmistakable. I also love the way she sends herself up mainly for the bosom, the wigs and the surgeon’s bills. There have been down times in her life but she has never failed to laugh at herself and no one in the business has anything but respect for her – no snide comments.

dollywood_theme_parkThen there is her charitable work. She founded and runs Dollywood in Pigeon Forge in a very poor part of Tennessee. It employs family and friends and generates tourism. Like Dolly, it is a ridiculous concept but enormous fun; the basic idea is to get as wet as possible! If you ever have an opportunity to go along do.

Then there is the Imagination Library in Tennessee. imagination libraryComing from a family of twelve children she had very little that was her very own and not much in the way of an education –  her foundation sends a book a month to every child from its birth until it attends kindergarten. The book is packaged and mailed to the child by name so it owns something as well as having the excitement of the book to read. The idea has been hugely successful and is now copied with her foundation’s help all over the world. It has been operating in Rotherham since 2007.

So, Dolly has been an inspiration to me for forty years. She is a living lesson that just because something hasn’t been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Each of us can live our dream; if we can visualise what we want and keep focused on it, we can make it happen. I think everyone should find an inspirational buddy who can remind them what is possible. I think it is even better if you can get to know the person and talk to them when times get tough. That is why I do the work I do – everyone needs a place to think and explore their own ideas to refine them and become more certain about what they want to be.

So thank you Dolly; thank you for the music, the laughter and the pleasure you have given me; thank you for showing the world that blondes can be funny and bright; and thank you for inspiring me that any thing is possible. See you in Birmingham!

Dolly Helps Nashville

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Liz Toogood & ‘it’

It’s one of ‘those days’. We all have them. The sun is shining and we want to bask in its warmth or the rain is falling and we want to do nothing except drink hot chocolate and snuggle up in front of a roaring fire. It is so easy to not do what we should be doing and find something else to fill the time.


 Why don’t we take a moment to try and understand what the problem is?

  • Not sure what you should be doing?
  • Not sure what you want to achieve?
  • It all looks too huge, too daunting?
  • You have an objective but no proper plan to achieve it?
  • You need information, skill or input from others which you have not amassed yet?
  • You’re too frightened to ask for help?
  • You feel you’re not up to doing it?
  • Well, you think, if I don’t start I can’t fail?
  • You’re worried you won’t get it right?
  • You’re not confident enough in your own ability to do it?
  • If you just ignore it, maybe the whole thing will go away….

first-step1They say every journey begins with a single step – once we are on the way we keep going and the nearer we get to the finish line the more motivated we get. It is that first step that is always so hard to take, whether you’re a toddling infant or a grown-up………but how great does it feel once you get going?

So – you can just not do whatever ‘it’ is; go on meaning to, promising yourself you will, but never actually starting out.

Or, carpe diem, you can join the ‘Elizabeth Toogood School of Get up and Go’ and kick-start yourself in to taking that first step.  And here’s how;

  • Set yourself a timer, spend 30 minutes on ‘it’, no more, no less.
  • Today – get a nice project book and gather all your ideas together.original_A_Little_Book_of_Big_Ideas_Tan_Cut_Out
  • Tomorrow – review your ideas and start to think through a plan.
  • The day after start on the plan. The day after that…… get the picture.
  • Break it down into bite-sized chunks that you can tackle in the next few days.
  • Remind yourself of a time when you set about something big in trepidation but achieved it in the end. Write about it in your book.
  • Visualise the lovely warm satisfied feeling of having done it.
  • Clear your mental and physical space – shift all the distractions.
  • Start your day with the project – then you can feel good for the rest of the day.
  • Don’t answer the door, switch off the phone, don’t look at your emails; don’t check Twitter, don’t make yourself coffee – JUST WORK ON THE PROJECT.
  • Focus on the task itself, what it will do for you, why it is important.
  • Promise yourself a reward when you finish your first bite-sized chunk.woman_working_on_laptop_outside
  • If the sun is shining take the work outside.
  • If it’s cold and rainy make your space warm and cosy inside.
  • Tell someone whose opinion you value that you are working on whatever it is.
  • Tell them when you have achieved your first milestone.

That wasn’t so hard was it? Please take a moment to let me know how you got on, I’d love to hear from you,


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On people watching, authors, clients and tapestry

The Great Tapestry of Scotland

We all know the feeling – back-from-holiday blues; I am no better at re-entry than anyone else and find it particularly difficult when the return is from a literary festival like Cheltenham where there are no responsibilities, no chores and I give myself permission to rise above everyday life and just enjoy! I love the intellectual buzz; people discussing and arguing with strangers; everyone talking and sharing a snapshot of their lives and interests; some celebrity spotting – a people watcher’s paradise!

Spending an hour hearing about a speaker’s latest enthusiasm is like being with an over-excited child; everything celebrates the individual’s most recent enterprise. This is great, and as we are conscious of the layers we don’t feel exploited; we know the rules of the game.  Literary agents want exposure for the product and a boost to sales, authors want respite from the loneliness of their creative process by meeting their audience and, on the whole, they relish the attention and love to be reminded they have adoring fans.

As a Critical Friend, my day job is about the validation of someone’s thinking through talking, exploration and questioning.  It is about focus and engagement through understanding a project and, through affirmation, comes the confidence to consider the next stage. There are many similarities with Cheltenham but in my work I see the world not through authors’ eyes but through my clients’; I see the glories which they sometimes miss; and I see the risks over which they often stumble. Together we reach a balanced view of the future and piece together the panels of the rich tapestry of life with new determination and enthusiasm.

At the festival – authors, however uncertain, were reassured, affirmed and publicly celebrated; how could they not feel a thrill when people were paying £20 a time for a copy of their masterpiece and queuing for a signature and a chance to say hello. In return, the likes of Andrew Marr, Nick Robinson, Edward Stourton, Alan Johnson and John Bishop inspired us – for me personally, they did that thing my clients do – they laid something new before me and opened a door I had not yet been through. I love that.

More unexpectedly, but just as importantly, metaphorical doors were opened by the retired teacher I met who loves science, the delightful couple who shared the story of their extraordinary charitable work, the enthusiastic waiter who talked about the fun he had in his fourteen hour shift – an eclectic, dare I say ‘random’ bunch of people, who drifted fascinatingly in and out of my revitalising short break in Cheltenham Spa.

And the pièce de résistance if you like – the unexpected bonus curve ball – the non sequitur that took me quite by surprise – was seeing The Great Tapestry of Scotland. I had read about this fantastic community project but had not given it much thought. As I arrived in Cheltenham, ‘The Cultural Centre of the Cotswolds’, I was greeted by a selection of panels lining the Town Hall corridor for all to see – breathtaking! And then I met a stitcher……but that’s another blog post.

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