January blues my bottom. The only blues going on right now is Chicago Blues Radio playing out of the app on my smartphone on the desk next to me. Oh yeah. That’s how I fly on a Tuesday night in the maiden month of this brand spanking new year.

And a happy new year to you. You may be skint after a month of excess, the weather might be rank and the hours of daylight short but now’s a good time to get your head in order and say “2014, I’m going to own you. Own. You.”

Huge cliché alert but life is too short to write off 31 days every year by wishing time away until the outside world feels more hospitable and the bank balance picks up after next payday. Another cliché for you, be the change you want to see. Life is a rodeo bull, grab those horns, hang tough and seize control.

ImagePatronising? You’re not hearing me right. Embrace who you are right now and make life happen, don’t be a passenger. Okay that stills sounds patronising but, come on, you know I’m right. Admittedly I’m doing the same thing as you – I’m planning my next escape from the routine reality of everyday life. According to Visa Europe, the beginning of the second week in January is the time when travellers book more flights than at any other time of year. I’ve got far too many travel plans but wandering is one of my passions and time waits for no man so I’m going to see how much I can cram into one year. On the initial itinerary are: Iceland, Japan and returns to Denmark and Bosnia.

I want to step up my hours dedicated to learning to play the beautiful guitar stood accusingly just out of my eye line and to be less selfish by volunteering and/or fundraising this year. I’m going to say “Yes” to more things and I’m going to push the boundaries of my comfort zone. I don’t want to read this in January 2015 and look at myself in the mirror and say “You’ve failed”. Failure is not an option. Words are all well and good, it’s action that’s needed. In an earlier post ‘Sad‘, I warbled on about drawing on as many inspirational stories and people as I can to ward off the dreaded Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here are three people who are inspiring me to strive for greatness in 2014. Feel free to share stories of people who are inspiring you in the comments section at the end of the post.

ImageIdris Elba: Serious ‘Dude Alert’. I have a huge amount of respect for the actor from Hackney who could be in with a shout of an Oscar before long with Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom in which he stars as the late, great Mr Nelson Mandela and which is now showing at the pictures. Like everyone else, I discovered Elba when he played the part of the sharp-minded gang man Stringer Bell in the best television series ever produced, The Wire. My reverence for Elba grew enormously while reading an interview he gave to Esquire magazine – here’s the link to what is a thoroughly enjoyable read. What’s so inspiring is that he went from a hip-hop loving London kid whose father worked in a car factory, to being cast for Crimewatch re-enactments, to skint hustler, DJ and multiple TV pilot reject in New York to landing the part of Stringer and now Hollywood actor. In one day in 2002, he got The Wire gig, rushed his pregnant wife to hospital and then DJ’ed at a club before getting back to the hospital in time for the birth of his daughter. The rest is history as they say. Elba’s story tells me to dream big and to persevere.

ImagePeter O’Toole: Best known as the star of 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia – which I’m told is a classic but I must confess I’ve never seen myself – the late actor lived a remarkable life after spending much of his early life in Yorkshire; Leeds to be precise. In fact he once worked for the Yorkshire Evening News – sister publication of the Yorkshire Post where I currently ply my trade as a journalist. Anyway, I digress. What is inspirational about O’Toole’s life, to me anyway, is that he did his National Service in the navy and when he came home he hitched a ride on a lorry to London in search of adventure. The story goes that he was meandering around the streets in search of a hostel and stumbled across the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Curiosity piqued, he wandered in to check the place out and later claimed he took a scholarship “not out of burning ambition but because of all the wonderful looking birds”. He may never have bagged an Oscar but hell, did he forge one hell of an acting career and lived a life full of gregarity. RIP Peter O’Toole. Here’s the obituary that appeared in the Yorkshire Post after he passed away last month – awesome photograph of him playing the guitar with a cigarette hanging from his mouth too. O’Toole’s life tells me to follow my instincts more and to trust my gut. 

ImageMike Bown: Who? I’d have asked the same thing before I read this. This is a man with guts, a real sense of adventure and a devil may care attitude. All of us could be a little bit more Bown. His story is thus – aged 21, he set off with a backpack to travel the world, leaving behind his family and friends in Ottawa, Canada. Gap years are common these days. Bown saw gap years and raised them… by 23. That’s right, he toured the world of his own accord for an incredible 23 years. That’s a heck of a long time to be of ‘no fixed abode’ and an achievement beyond which the vast majority of us could ever hope to muster even if we wanted to. Aged 44, and having visited 195 countries, he returned home wearing the same backpack, having only been robbed twice and having never visited a doctor. Bown’s life speaks to me of not being afraid to live a life on your own terms, regardless of whatever society otherwise demands.

In short, don’t let January pass you by. Have plans, strive for better and don’t watch the hands of the clock as they press ever on in their unceasingly, aimless quest. If you need a bit of ‘woosah‘ after all this, get this chilled out record on – a bit of Chicago Blues to put to bed those January ones. Do it now; serenity for even the most restless soul.


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