Mind Circuitry


Company Meetings

For the past couple of years, the company I work at have an annual conference in which they do presentations, team building events and an opportunity to socialise and network with the rest of the company. Every company has these types of events – you know the score – the CxO's outlining their strategies, or new initiatives for the following year, with some drinks throughout to make it more bearable, and some awards to recognise and promote “good work”. It's all stock stuff.

Now, some people love these events – from the initial “getting dressed up”, to the opportunity to pout the lips in every selfie with various other members of the different (usually customer facing) teams. These are the staff that even if there is a table plan, somehow, they all manage to sit together in their “clicky groups” looking down on the rest of the company. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there is the standard techie who doesn't like/do/have the confidence or upfront attitude of sales and commercial teams. In general, they would rather just get on with their work elsewhere with their headphones on doing what they are paid to do. Socialising with the commercial teams and other “loud” teams does not interest them – in fact, it repulses them. On the table plan, HR try and mix up the people so that they get to know others, which usually involves putting a complete introverted techie amongst a few commercial extroverts. Both sides hate this idea – extroverts say, “X is so quiet” and introvert techies quietly fiddle with their phone counting down the minutes until finish time.

In case it's not clear – I'm most definitely in the introvert camp.

“Please reserve this date”

This year our company is 10 years old, and therefore the company conference\meeting was due to be bigger and better than others. Two years ago, the company was quite small and thus these conferences could be held in the local area, however due to their size and requirements for the conference, they had to look further afield, and in a different county entirely.

Invites were sent out months ahead to ensure that everyone could attend, and on the meeting invite, it even said mandatory (although there was some debate over how mandatory it was). Argh! As one of those introvert techie's I highlighted above, the dread was already setting in as I contemplated how painful this would\could be, amplified by the fact it was over an hour away's drive with everyone in the company, which was now considerably larger than the previous one. The company were also offering free hotel accommodation for that evening, so that everyone could have a good time and not worry about getting home same night. Very thoughtful and generous, however, in the style of “Dragon's Den” – I'm out. I like to go to bed approx. 10.30pm and sleep in my own bed and home wherever possible, and ideally being woken up at 5am by a cat sitting on my head wanting breakfast.

I'm in middle management, and I'm in a technical role (Cloud Engineering), so it was clearly important that I attend. Fine – I'll put my dread to one side – it is just attending – how hard can that be?

Approximate two weeks before the event, the Operations Manager came to me asking for help with their project. They wanted to know what I'm doing in my team that supports the running of the business. We work closely together, as my team provide some 3rd line technical support for the operations team occasionally, so I was happy to help. I explained some of the initiatives we are doing, how they align with the company goals and objectives.

I have no idea what happened at this point, but I stupidly (at the time) said “if you want, I'll talk about my department at the conference?” Why oh why did I say that? I reflected on this over the past couple of weeks and I think subconsciously I wanted to improve my profile within the company, however I was now not looking to this event even more! In those two weeks before the event, I created a 5-minute presentation on some of those departmental initiatives and did everything I could to make it engaging using analogies and metaphors. The instructions for the presentation time from Senior management was to “make it short and snappy”. I guess these instructions were provided as there is thought that Operations and Cloud Engineering is a somewhat dull subject, and those commercial teams won't be interested? 🤔

Conference Day

I use a Garmin watch mostly for my running and cycling activity tracking, but it also has a useful feature called Stress Tracking. Garmin state that this uses a combination of Heart Rate and Heart Rate Variability to understand your body's natural response to the challenges of life and environment.

Here is a snapshot of my stress on a day where I am in the office:

Good day of stress

You can see some exercise in the morning, the cycle ride to the office and then some high stress. This appears to be common after exercise, however what's key is for the morning I was just sitting at my desk doing my work. Lunchtime came, had a quick walk and a couple of meetings in the afternoon. I've noticed stress is quite high in meetings when I'm participating. However, you can see it does reduce as the afternoon progresses before my cycle ride back home.

In stark contrast, here is the day of the conference:

Conference Day

Let's go through some key times of the day:

8.57am: You can see a very faint blue bar (stress was at 25) which is when me and my colleague stopped for coffee so we wouldn't arrive at the location too early. Interestingly and somewhat amusing, we bumped into two other people from the Development Team who said “we thought we'd get a coffee so we can reduce the need for the awkward small talk” or words to that effect!

9.42am: The Operations Manager found me and told me of the stage that was in the conference room. Stress was at 72.

10am: The start of the actual conference. At this time, I was just sitting down listening to the first presentation. There was no reason that I could see for my stress level to be so high, apart from pure anxiety. An agenda was on the screen – my slot was after lunch (approx. 1.30pm. Stress was now at 78.

Here is stress zoomed in from 8am to 1pm:

8am-1pm Conference Day Stress

As I sat listening to the first set of presentations, you can see my stress However, I started to panic more and more. All the speakers where using a microphone, they knew all their words and presentation!

12:42pm: This was just during lunch, and the stress level was at 90!

1pm: A very slow walk around the grounds and a phone call back to my wife to try and calm me down.

Here is 1pm until 7pm:

1pm to 7pm Conference Day Stress

1.21pm: Sitting back down in my chair. Stress was now 97. At this point, it’s also worth noting that drinking alcohol can increase heart rate, and thus elevate stress readings. I did not have any alcohol on this day until 4pm.

1:33pm: My actual presentation, which I'll go into in the below section. Stress was at 96 and reduced down to 74 just shortly after I had finished. I cannot explain why it shot up just shortly afterwards though! I think the adrenaline was still pumping.

3pm: Break: Stress at 65

7pm: Home: Stress at 60.

Note: You will notice some high stress in the evening until midnight. This is because I had a few strong Belgium Beers. My stress level is not “stress” as such!

The Presentation

As I mentioned, all the other presenters were using a microphone. I've never used a microphone before, and certainly not to deliver a speech to over 150 people in a single room! This single element of using a microphone was probably a key part of my anxiety and stress. Let me explain...

When I prepare notes for talking or interview assessments, I write the full question or statement down – I don't summarise it with bullet points. When preparing my presentation, I put all my notes in a markdown file on my phone. At the time, I thought I was being clever so I could hold my phone at the conference and read from it. However, it was not meant to be...

I had to hold the microphone and talk into it, but not only that – I was given a clicker to change the slides over. So now, I have a microphone in one hand, clicker in the other – what about my notes where do these go? You may well ask (and rightly so) why did I not put my notes in the PowerPoint presentation and read them from the laptop? Well yes, I could have, however I don't like spoiling the surprise to those that may see my presentation before it's delivered, such as my line manager. I like to surprise, and especially as my slide deck didn’t contain many words – it was mainly AI generated images relating to my subject matter.

I got up to the stage, rested my phone on the laptop (after switching off the screen timeout!), and nervously held the microphone to my chest. The other speakers in the morning all had audio issues, and I was told this was because they were accidently pressing the mute button on the mic. So, I held it at the bottom, away from this mute button and off I went. Shaking.

I have no idea if the microphone was working at the distance that I was holding it at, nobody said anything (which they did to others) but I kept it still in the hope that I was picking up my voice so that those at the back could hear me. Throughout the presentation my hands were shaking. I tried to read my notes from my phone but I got lost in them – there was too much detail written down – I really should have done bullet points! When talking about an important element that I was keen for the company to hear, I missed off various information. I finished the presentation with a little “blowing of my trumpet” – which I felt uncomfortable doing, however all those extroverts in the commercial teams? They probably do this all the time! Meh... it's my time and I'm going to big myself up! 💪


At the next break a few people came and talked to me congratulating me on my presentation. This was really nice and did surprise me – I think they knew that it wasn't my “bag” or favourite thing to do. A close colleague that I've worked with for many years congratulated me, and when I told him how nervous I was and how I was shaking up on that stage, He said he couldn't tell, and I came across very well.

Another colleague I've known for many years by her own words admitted before the conference day that all presentations would be dull and dry, including mine and not to take offence by it. (She does have ADHD and also clearly admits that she struggles with focusing during these events). However, she said my presentation was the best so far, and it was my tone of voice and how I compared my subject matter to something the audience could understand. I was well chuffed with this! However, as you can see in stress charts, I was still wound up!


After the last presentations had finished, the final “official” segment of the day was the Company Awards. These are awards for people who have made an impact, or long service. As part of the awards, there is always the “People's Choice” award. This is voted for purely by everyone in the company, during the conference. The management explained that rather than voting for someone from all 150+ people, they have shortened the list down to approximately 20 people who they think have made significant effort\impact\awareness\something to the company, and we were to vote from this list. Well, you can probably guess where I'm going with this... my name was on this list much to my surprise, and even more surprise was had when my name was read out! 😁

This was fantastic! I've never been voted for an award in my entire career! I don't know why I won, maybe it was that my presentation wasn't as dry as the others, maybe it was genuinely that I am doing a good job within the company – I have no idea! However, this is a bonus to the day, and allowed me to sit back with a strong sense of pride and satisfaction. Winning the “People's Choice” award rewarded me with a monetary voucher to reduce the cost of any holiday. Perfect timing ready for summer!


The primary reason for writing this here was purely selfish – so I can remember the day, but the secondary reason is to explain to you and I that temporarily being uncomfortable can actually improve your state of comfortableness.

The whole day was awkward for me from the minute I got in the car to get to the event, to the moment I stepped back into my house at the end of the day. However, after a night’s sleep I realised that by doing this, by promoting my profile within the company I'm now more visible and also more recognised. Yes, of course, I'll still be nervous doing public speaking in crowds larger than 10 people, however it will be slightly easier next time, and the time after that.

Practice may not make perfect, but it does make it more manageable and familiar. Perhaps next time I'll be more prepared with my notes and put them in PowerPoint, or write them as bullet points? I'll let you know... 😎

#reflection #worklife #stress


I'm a bit behind on this section – it's nearly one month since the third session due to other aspects happening in my life, most notable taking a holiday after my marathon! Following on from session 2, the game plan moving forwards was to mix things up. Break the routine, and if need be – create a new routine for the next stage of life. This was the homework until the next session.


As best I could, I did manage to mix things up, which also involved taking my youngest son out bowling in the evening mid-week! Yes, on a school night! Was a good night out – it shocked him somewhat, as he too is getting stuck into routines, and he like routine himself. This night helped up both I think. I have also started writing a few posts for this blog – which I've actually enjoyed doing. It's been a great way to offload aspects of my brain, allowing me to unwind more.

Session Three

Within the third session, we explored this aspect of “mixing things up”, and how it doesn't need to be the big gesture – sometimes the smallest and simplest things can make the biggest impact.

We also explored the aspect of fairness. I try really hard to ensure that I am fair to all the children as they grow up. Yet again, this has come from my parents and my upbringing, and has been engrained into my way of life. However, it is not always that simple!

Let me explain: – My first child was born during my first marriage, and the same with my second child. – Both these children's first few years in life was “traditional” as such – with a father and mother both caring for them. – My youngest child was born, and shortly afterwards the divorce and split of the family happened – All he has ever know is a split family – with his first 8 years or so, travelling between dad's home and mum's home at weekends.

Therefore, Child #3 has had a very different start to life than Child #1! There is no requirement to be fair to them all as they all grew up in different times. That said, there is a need to be fair in actions and care, but not specifics. E.g. I did X for Y, thus must do exactly the same for Z. They are not all the same, they are all different and have very different needs, however the love and support I give them is the same!

Another part of the session, we discussed journalling, and how this can help offload from my brain, thus giving me space to process life events. I've always been interested in this idea, but just never got around to it. Thinking about this, it makes sense, jot down how the day went, how I felt when specific events happened during that day, what emotions are present and suchlike. Now is the opportunity – I'm not a writer (as in with a pen), I'd much rather type – but this could be improve many aspects! My handwriting for starters, but also having a little book of thoughts and brain dumps.

Note: At this point, it should be said that this journalling is not to replace offloading to my sigificant other – that will still and always happen, however there are some days in her work when she is asleep before I finish, and that can continue for a few days in a row. This journalling allows me to offload some things during these “ships passing in the night” events, allowing me to deal with the up's and down's of life with improved patience and understanding!

Further Realisation and Reflection

Whilst swimming as part of my cross training for the marathon, I reflected on session #3 and what was discussed. I had that blinding light moment and I realised that this is actually my new routine! 💡I'm already carving this routine into my life as I'm getting older! There is no need to be in the house early to get the kids up and help them with their breakfast! For a start, there is only my youngest, and he is a teenager, so doesn't need my help like a toddler would do! So, this is it! A new routine being forged! I CAN go out swimming or running early doors!

Looking back at the holiday I had after the marathon, I had a great week, and I still mixed it up. There was of course the planned Spa day, however all other days were not really planned out at all. My wife and I spent the entire week together doing walking, pub lunches, and seeing family. It was great, and looking back – it was completely freestyle, and it didn't break anything! The routine is getting replaced with a dynamic-fluid routine that changes to life events!

#lifeevents #reflection

Following on from my Pre-Marathon Thoughts, here are my thoughts and outline of my first ever actual Marathon that I ran in early May 2024.

The Plan

I had a plan from the start. I work well with plan's, it what I do! My plan for this was to aim to run at 6:00/km pace and finish approx. 4h:15m. Hal Higdon was my virtual\paper trainer, and he stated it was important to not only train for running the distance, but also to train for the food and nutritional aspect of the marathon. Thus, in my long training runs, I've taken an energy gel every 11km (before I get tired). Thus, for the marathon I've packed 3x energy gel's and x1 emergency one. Additional to this, so that I’m not reliant on water stops, took a CamelBak of 1.5litres water with two electrolyte sports tablets in it.

Music playlist has been set up:

  1. DJ-Kicks: The Juan MacLean – This is my warm-up builder.
  2. 50 minutes of classic bangers from my training playlists. Including such tunes as “Bonnie Tyler – Holding out for a Hero”, “Beastie Boys – Body Rockin” and “Tori Amos – Professional Widow”. 😎
  3. Hans Zimmer – Live in Prague. This was deliberate to get into the final zone where it was toughest and run at my planned pace. This should take me to my desired time of 4h 15m, where I end the marathon running to “Time” from “Inception” ⌛
  4. Susanne Sundfør – Ten Love Songs – Over-run music. Similar to my training runs, this is what is played when the album\playlist finished before the training run did.

The Night Before

Urgh – I had a terrible night’s sleep! – Hal Higdon is right – get a good night sleep two nights before the marathon! He says that you'll be anxious, so it's even more important to get that sleep and rest in beforehand. I did however have a great meal out early evening – mac cheese, chicken and flatbread washed down with a couple of 0% abv lagers. Rest of the evening was just the usual fruit teas for hydration, but no caffeine.

The Morning Of

I woke up very anxious indeed. The poor sleep did not help at all. My breakfast was porridge with raisins\cranberries, a milkshake, pain au chocolate and black coffee. On reflection, I probably should have had more, however my anxiety that I'd be too “heavy” running prevented me doing so. Going to the event, the weather looked perfect – it was dry, slightly overcast with low wind. Temperature was approx. 12°C.

Arriving at the event there was the usual parking hell of any sportive. Although we had booked a parking space, it appeared this didn't matter, and we were told to park elsewhere in the car park! This really didn’t contribute to reducing my anxiety! We parked up with 40 minutes to go. Had a few text messages from friends supporting me, which was ace and felt good. My good friend called my wife and told her that he would meet me at mile 20 to support me on the last 6 miles as that is the toughest part. I had very mixed feelings here – firstly, what a great thing to do, supportive, and the right thing to expect from your friend. On the other hand, I just wanted to get into the zone, run the distance, quietly and in my own way with my own music as I had planned! However, I accepted this news, but was also quietly pleased that I would get some company for the last part. After a quick toilet stop at the ever-so-crowded MacDonalds, it was off to the pen relevant for my estimated finish time.

What a lot of people! The event also had a half-marathon running at the same time, so in my pen, I was mixed with half-marathoner's and full marathoners. I got talking to a chap and an elderly couple who were doing marathon and half-marathon respectively. The chap who was a marathon veteran said the best advice is to start slow and go slower. I get it – this what I was thinking all the time in training – maintain the desired pace throughout. My 20 mile runs in training were done solidly at 6:00/km, and to me, this was a “slow” pace. Previous running the year before, I was doing between 5:15/km and 5:45/km for runs up to 15km, so to me – I was running “slower”!

The Marathon

For the first half of the marathon, I was feeling great – I set up a Pace Pro strategy on my Garmin watch, to make sure I didn't go too fast throughout, however with the atmosphere and the fact that I was running with a load of “half-marathoners”, I did go slightly faster than I should. (See below actual pace vs PacePro of Garmin). Those that were running the Half, were obviously running at a different pace to me – I really should have slowed down more! My wife and youngest son were there to cheer me on, they managed to get to two different places on the course, which was lovely to see and have their support cheering me on!

PacePro vs Actual Pace

The second half of the marathon was definitely tougher. There were less supporters (as most had done their part for the Half-Marathoners), and the road and route was clearer with bigger gaps between the runners. My friend did join me at Mile 17 or 18, which I recall was fantastic at the time – so nice to have the company and support with me. I'm not sure when, but at some point after mile 22, my upper thighs started to burn so much. Every stride forward was agony. For the last four miles I ran and walked repeatedly – there was no way I could run (even at a very slow pace) with this pain.

Walk vs Run

In the last two miles, I consumed my last emergency energy gel, and pushed forward. With the finish in sight (under 1km), I continued to run as best I can, as my friend dropped off to meet me at the finish line. I reached the finish line at 4hr 39min. Not my desired finish time, but nevertheless – a completed marathon without injury! Next stop... Food!

Milton Keynes Marathon 2024

Lessons Learnt

Treating this like a business incident\exercise, there were several lessons learnt should I do this again, which there is a strong chance I will do!

  1. Get a good night’s sleep. Ideally don't stay in a hotel in a city centre with nearby nightlife going on, and if you do – spend some extra money to get one with working air conditioning (so don't need to have windows open, thus less noise\disruption).
  2. As the chap said at the start – start slow and run slower. If there is a half marathon happening at the same time, understand that those runners will be going a different pace to you.
  3. Post training runs, I feel I neglected my thighs as part of stretching and cooldowns. I had no issues with my calves, but I did spend more time on them making sure they were properly maintained.
  4. A longer training plan. Although I was running before I started the 16-week training plan, I feel having a longer plan may have prepared me better.
  5. Either do it completely solo, or with a friend the entire way. Although I massively appreciated my friend’s gestures for running with me, going through the pain together, for the entirely would have been preferable as we would both experience and support each other. Just not the middle ground!
  6. Change the music for the first two hours so it's more regular and calmer. My original plan was for Global Underground #24 – Nick Warren however, I changed it last minute. Not sure this would have made a difference or not, but it's a change that I would make should I do it again!


Overall, although I didn't hit my target of completing it in under 4h 20min, I did meet my first aim of actually finishing it. Also, there were some things that I am glad I did – such as booking Spa Day for the day afterwards! Hydrotherapy pools with underwater jets are amazing for sore leg muscles! Additionally, I managed to raise over £1500 for the British Heart Foundation

Although I said to myself, I won't do this again, if the truth be told – I most probably will do, and I may even do the same course this time next year. My friend who joined me said he would happily do this course as his first official marathon, so if he books in, I'll join him.

Note to future self – read this!

#marathon #lifeevents #reflection

This is Part 2 of my Mid-life Changes posts.


As noted in Part 1, I've taken steps to improve life based on recent events. I had recently been feeling restless and constantly bored, despite my day filled with work, a side hustle, and house-chores. I've just had my first therapy session, and its opened my eyes to what is going on!

I discovered that:

  • Up until now I have had a job – providing for my children, and now two of them have successfully moved out of home and are now mostly providing for themselves.
  • Stemming from the custody battle, I have subconsciously believed that I must prove myself and my abilities.
  • Everything that is done – is done for the children first, and me second.


Ever since I was a child, I've been a subject of routine. Two examples from when I was child that I strongly remember:

  • Always having a walk\cycle in the park on Sunday afternoon
  • Sitting round the table with my siblings eating tea at 5pm

Then, when I became a father, further routine was suggested to me by my parents. Not in a negative sense, but always with the words “a routine is so important for babies” etc. For example:

  • Having a walk in the afternoon
  • Tea at 4pm-5pm
  • Then bath-time at 6-7pm
  • Then a story in bed, followed by lights out.

Why did we do this? All to teach the baby good routine, so there are no surprises, which overall calms them and thus teaches them to sleep well at night. There are other examples, but this is easiest and most common.

Currently, I'm still very fixed in routine to this day. For example:

  • For the past 6 years, I've nearly always gone to the local coffee shop at 2.45pm on a Thursday. 🤷‍♂️
  • Wanting to know what tea is (either today\tomorrow\whenever) so I can plan my lunch and not have the same food group such as bread\pasta.

Session Two

This became the focus of my next therapy session. Without intention, we revisited the custody case and how this was a trauma event in my life.

The following was put to me:

  • If there is a routine and I do the same things repeatedly, then I believe I won't ever reach the trauma event and I'll be safe.
  • However, if I do stick to the routine, and something unexpected does happen, it will throw me off balance, potentially causing a bigger impact.

We discussed that whilst a routine is an excellent strategy, it doesn't work for me currently. I've been doing the same routine for years (caring and parenting children), and now two out of three have left home, thus leaving me a void in my life, with my routine now thrown out as such a large part of my life is not the same anymore. It's changed.

The Plan

It is now more important than ever to mix things up. Break the routine. Practice being uncomfortable. The more I practice this, the easier it will be should something unexpected come around the corner.

I found something oddly strange about this that I discovered in that second session.

The session took place on a Wednesday afternoon. Currently, as you may see from my other posts, I'm currently training for a marathon. My training is usually early morning approximately 6-7am, and on Monday's I do swimming as this is gentle cross-training the day after a long run on the Sunday.

On the Monday before therapy, I didn’t go swimming between 6am and 7am, I thought I'd have a rest day instead. However, at 7pm that day, I felt that I missed it, and I'll go swimming at 8.30pm (adult swim lanes) instead. To be completely honest, I was quite anxious over this. Parking was more difficult as the usual crowd were not there at 6.30am, when I looked into the pool it looked busier than 6.30am – There were people splashing, messing around and generally having fun! I thought to myself that I just need to crack on with this and go swimming. It's what I'm here for. I did – it was excellent, and I had a great swim! 🏊

So, this was naturally discussed as part of the routine conversations in session #2, and how although there was initial anxiety, nothing bad happened, and at the end of it a good swim took place!

So, the plan is all about mixing things up. Learning how to do different things, much like when changing job roles or companies.

My homework was then set for the following week, which was to mix things up. Break the routine, do things differently, don't plan – just do! This is also where this blog came from. I've always wanted to write a blog, mostly focusing on technical problems that I've come across in my life, so I though – why not just start? So I have, and here it is.

#lifeevents #reflection

Recently I've been noticing elements in my life that need some additional focus to improve overall quality of life. This is the first of a few articles about that specific journey, as it happens.


In 2010, after nearly 7 years of marriage my wife (at the time – obvs) had an affair, and left me for her old school friend. I was working full time, and she was a “stay at home mum”.


This is written primarily for “Future Me” in the event I ever get frustrated about slow progress and to demonstrate that it is possible to get somewhere, it just takes little steps every day, dedication and commitment.