Where are we now? Mental health and my small business.

Over a year since our launch and most company directors have to publish a yearly review. But I’m in charge so it’s a blog post! This feels self indulgent and I wasn’t sure whether to write this but then I thought – that’s just the mental health talking – so I’m persisting anyway.
Taking time to reflect.
Since February, not only has the weather been appalling but I’ve also been home with a poorly teenager. Now, if I stay in the house too long, I start to go stir crazy. But I’ve ended up stuck indoors far more than I would like and recently, I had a particularly challenging week. I could feel my grip on my mind slipping through my fingers; everything seemed bleak. I do battle with with my mental health at the best of times but I felt so negative for so much of the time that I was just drained. It all seemed like too much effort.
My partner came to the rescue and worked from home to give me some much needed mental and physical space away from the house and I went out for the day. I decided that what I would do with this valuable time was reflect. So, I took myself to a cafe and spent the day just thinking and planning. I made myself start by writing a list of achievements, then I wrote down where I wanted to be and how I might get there (in small steps). When you are used to voices that tell you how thoroughly rubbish and inept you are, and when you happily subjugate your own needs to those of others (which with a poorly child and ailing parents there is ample opportunity for) then that task becomes a lot harder than it should be*.
*And there’s an example right there. One of the first things I learned on my CBT course was the toxicity of ‘should’. ‘Should’ is a massive stick to beat yourself with. So let me rephrase
… that task becomes a lot harder.
I have decided that each month I am going to make myself complete this process. It’s in my diary, planned in advance with a space (large) to record achievements and goals to evaluate. Even better I made up an acronym – it’s a CAFE day: Celebrating Achievement and Future Enterprise. The day centres on these things, it must be in a cafe and there must be cake. I am a valued employee and a great boss.
Key Achievements
Despite staring at an empty page for a good while, once I started listing achievements I actually had to acknowledge that I have achieved something. My biggest achievement over the past year has been to persevere. In the face of challenge, doubt and sometimes difficult times I have persevered. I have learnt a lot in this past year and I have made mistakes. One of the liberating things has been taking a step back and learning from mistakes rather than berating myself continually; for the most part I have been kind to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I am a kind person where other people are concerned but very often I am not so kind to myself. It can be difficult to like myself when I’m not being kind, not least because that unkind part of me highlights and magnifies my faults for me. It’s like being trapped in some kind of hellish cycle.
It seems a long time since I was planning my launch event at The Abbey Inn last March. And that’s another important lesson that’s reiterated in CBT- reflect on your achievements regularly. Don’t let them slip past you into some homogenous blob labelled ‘I’m sure I must have done a good thing once’.
On a practical level some of my key business achievements this year have been:
  • building a twitter following from about 30 to 1599.
  • built my own website which now has actual subscribers!
  • setting up a facebook page which now has 395 followers and my posts reach 3500 people
  • writing a weekly blog
  • learning about marketing
  • learning to do my own accounts
  • getting regular bookings at pubs and cafes
  • doing a festival, weddings, WI events, Girl Guide meetings, corporate training, and team building in schools
  • making a bespoke game for a charity to use in their training
  • and more bookings coming in all the time
And personally, in my saner, more rational moments I know that I am setting an example for my children; that I am a good, kind and honest parent and that I have done the best by my own parents too.
Dreaming Big
I also took some time to consider my ideals. ‘I’ll know I’ve made it when… ‘ sort of things. I want a business that’s big enough to have staff. Specifically, I want an accountant to do all the maths stuff. I want to expand and employ a small staff on a decent wage so that I can do even more events and reach more people. Really, I want to bring people together with board games – whether that’s strangers at events, or families and friends who struggle to take enough time out of their busy lives to properly connect with each other. So, I want a business that makes a decent profit so that I can pay my share of the bills and see a bit more of the world whilst sharing the board gaming love as widely as I can.
I’d like to say that I’ll know I’ve made it when I no longer worry that I’m an enormous life-sucking failure. But, even for big dreams that’s a whopper!
You can probably deduce from this list that I’m not the most ambitious person in the world. We’ll probably never know how much of that is my natural inclination and how much is attributable to my mental head stuff. So it’s probably not worth worrying about. (Makes mental note to definitely not worry about this. At all. Not even a bit.)
Goals we can achieve
One of the most important goals has got to be better self care. I need to do my physio exercises, eat well and look after my mental health. All easier said than done. Once I get to the top of that helter skelter, I easily and almost comfortably descend into food avoidance, cruelty to self and avoidance of anything that will make me feel better on the basis that I’m not worth the time or I haven’t the energy. I know that self care will always be on any list of goals I set myself, hopefully over time it will become easier to accept that I am worth the effort.
I’ve had loads of valuable support from other small businesses and wherever I can I try to support others. I want to continue to do this and continue to build those relationships face to face and via social media which have been so important to me in this last year.
My aims for the business at the moment are to increase my turnover by getting more corporate bookings, booking in more weddings, a festival or two, maybe some parties too. To increase my reach on social media and to stick to a games budget. No mean feat that last one – if you’re struggling with that you might enjoy this blog.
Next Steps
My small achievable goals; I worked in teaching long enough to know that goals are not enough – they need to be broken down into discrete achievable steps. The type of targets I set myself for the day reflect where I’m at with my mental health. For days where the list starts…
  • physio
  • eat breakfast
  • shower
  • brush teeth
  • make and drink a cup of tea
…well, those days are not my finest. But right now the short term list which me and my boss will review at the end of the month on CAFE day looks more like this:
  • Do more physio (that’s always there!)
  • Increase Facebook likes to 500
  • Increase twitter followers to 1600
  • secure 1 corporate booking
  • secure 1 schools booking
  • secure 1 meeting to show off my bespoke board game to a potential client
  • keep writing a weekly blog
  • keep accounts up to date
  • get the games admin up to date
  • try to get crowned #QueenOf Board Games!
I’ve tried to make it achievable; a mixture of keeping doing the things, and doing new things. If in doubt I just keep doing the thing… and we’ll see when it’s reviewed at the next CAFE day. I know one thing, I’ll make sure my boss is kind to me.
Click on the image below for a link to more Katie Abey motivational goodness.
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John Richard Jones Eulogy

I wanted to save this somewhere so that anyone who wants to can read it. I want people to remember my Dad and it was a privilege to write this with the help of my family and then read it at the funeral mass. It was lovely to hear people laughing at my Dad’s corny jokes and to share our memories.
John Richard Jones 23 April 1931 ~ 28 February 2018
Mum and Dad lived in Liverpool during the blitz. While Mum was evacuated Dad’s family stayed together and Dad always proudly told the tale of how his Dad kept the family together and also tales of the war. It must have been terrifying and one of my favourite stories (and one I know Edward and Molly liked to hear) was the time their house was bombed. Dad, Alf, Elsie and Grandma and Grandad were sheltering under the stairs, Grandad with his legs stretched out into the hallway when Grandma shouted ‘pull your legs in Jack’. Grandad pulled his knees up to his chest and at that moment the bomb hit and the front door came in along with a tide of debris. For a short time they were homeless, various shelters offered to take Elsie and Grandma in but the family were adamant that they would stay together and so they did. Eventually the Sally Army took them in and Dad always gave generously whenever they were collecting.
Dad’s faith was important to him. In something that makes Mum and Dad’s courtship sound like a romantic novel, Dad converted to Catholicism so that he could marry Mum at a time when there were still some bitter divisions between the protestant and catholic communities in Liverpool. He was a very active member of the church community and every family holiday began with a walk to find the nearest Catholic church in advance of Sunday Mass. Through church he became one of the Knights of St Columba helping those less fortunate than himself.
Every Sunday he would help with counting the collection plates, and although he took the responsibility seriously, when the task was done he also enjoyed sharing a few beers with his fellow helpers and Father English.
Mum and Dad were the first to move into the Ellesmere Port overspill housing and were even presented with their front door key by the mayor – something Dad was proud of. For most of his working life Dad worked at ‘the metal’. He got his brother Alf a job there and made many friendships. He was secretary of the Van Leer social club, helping to organise panto trips and a Christmas party with a visit from Father Christmas. He enjoyed bingo nights at the club and I remember being excited when I was old enough to join in. Although Dad was always more interested in socialising than playing bingo.
Dad loved music. In the evenings after he and Mum had finished watching whichever TV crime series they were watching, he would often put a record on, pour a whisky and settle down to listen to Nat King Cole or Doris Day. He even loved his steel band records and would proudly tell us that the metal made those drums. One of my first records was from Dad. It was The Brotherhood of Man – save all your kisses for me.
He will be well remembered for his sense of humour. As I’m sure we all know Dad was a huge Everton fan and a season ticket holder attending all home matches. He maintained they were the strongest club in the league (they have to be – they’re holding everyone else up- his words not mine) Lawrence remembered that when Liverpool lost to AFC Ajax in the European Cup in 1966, Dad cut out the name AJAX from Mum’s AJAX cleaning products and placed them all over his workplace! He even went so far as to tape one to his shirt, then unzipped his jacket to flash AJAX at every approaching Liverpool fan.
I remember visiting Aunty Terry and Uncle Jim just after Everton beat Watford in May 1984. Dad, in full kit, knocked on their door which was opened by Uncle Jim – a stalwart Liverpool fan – who shut the door on Dad then quickly re-opened it and dragged him in saying ‘Quick! Get in before the neighbours see you’.
Dad’s jokes- often received with groans from close family still make lots of people laugh. He enjoyed claiming he knew every street in Liverpool. I can’t walk past a boat on a drive without trotting out the line ‘It must have been a high tide last night’ or past the cemetery without declaring both that ‘We must be in the dead centre of say, Ellesmere Port’ and of course, ‘There’s people dying to get in there’. He even had a joke published in the Ken Dodd jokes section of the Echo – What’s black and white and comes steaming out of Cowes? The Isle of Wight Ferry!
Dad loved buying Christmas decorations – the noisier the better! So much so that it became like a mini version of Mission Impossible every time you visited. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, was attempting access to the house without activating the doormat which played “Jingle Bells”, passing the Santa that sang “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”, or setting off the Snowman that blared out “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree”. Not to mention avoiding the hourly Christmas carol from the festive clock in the kitchen!
Whilst he teased others with the best of them, he also loved to be teased himself, particularly by his grandchildren. As young children, Emma and Aimee would frequently hide his slippers, or switch round the hot and cold indicators on the bathroom taps. Dad would feign annoyance and set off in search of his missing footwear, while all the time revelling in the fun.
All the grandchildren would jump onto Dad’s chair whenever he left the room. On his return, he would delight in staring angrily at them, before lifting them off and reclaiming his seat.
One of Marie’s fondest memories was of holidays with Dad. Dad always seemed happiest on days out or when taking family holidays. Giving piggy backs to his children, building sand castles or teaching them to swim, he was at his most relaxed.
As well as his love of a trip out Dad was renowned for his thrift! One of his favourite discoveries was a free way to go to Chester Zoo. He discovered a foot path that led through part of the zoo and often used to take me there. I used to love going even though the only animals you could see for free were antelopes and deer.
Despite enjoying a bargain, Dad was also generous. I have been reminded of the time he renovated one of the old bikes he had kept in the shed (you see he was right it had ‘come in’) and gave it to one of my school friends enabling her to take a Saturday job that was far from her house. He taught my friend Kerry to swim. And, I always remember that he had a row with a boss at a temporary job because his boss was treating one of the female employees unfairly. Despite people telling Dad to keep quiet in case he lost his own job, Dad’s sense of fairness and kindness would not allow him to sit back and tolerate that.
Dad liked to chat. He was happy to talk to anyone he met in the street, while down at the shops, or when away on holiday. It has been comforting to discover the impact Dad had on the lives of others outside of the family. Over the last few weeks many of his neighbours, fellow church goers and people passing the house, have expressed their sympathy, shared anecdotes and asked about the funeral arrangements.
This is only really a snapshot of Dad. There are so many memories of Dad that we all hold dear and I hope that you will continue to tell his stories and keep his memory alive.

Welcome to The Niche.

Years ago I started Morris Dancing. Those of you who aren’t fans of ‘the Morris’ may not know that there are different styles of Morris: Northwest, Cotswold, Border, Molly… and there’s just where it starts. Each discipline has its own exacting requirements and those vary depending on who you speak to- debates about what angle and height your knees should be in NorthWest, the disgust at feeble stick thwacking in Cotswold are the thin ends of a niche wedge. I’ve had many, long and heated conversations about what constitutes traditional dance. And that’s all before I start on Sword dancing which I also do – although that’s “Not morris, it’s traditional English Dance” Yep, Morris then?
It had never occurred to me when I started spending more and more time in the board gaming community how similar our communities were until this week. And suddenly there it was.
I love Morris and I love Board Games and I love the people in both communities. We are inclusive, friendly, giving, supportive, lovely; we champion each other and our hobbies; we encourage others to take part and we want to see everyone love our hobby as much as we do. It’s all going so well – like some kind of hippy utopia until someone does it wrong.
Can you game wrong? – oh yes you most certainly can. You can have too many light, filler games, you can like ‘abstract’ games, you may never progress beyond gateway games, you may be the owner of a shelf of shame or never have backed anything exclusive on kickstarter…you might even … brace yourself… enjoy a plain old luck based roll and move game. Just as in the Morris world there is usually someone to helpfully advise you on how straight your line ‘could have’ been or how high your knees ‘could have’ been; so too in board games there are a minority of people with very specific, not to say strong, opinions and I worry that sometimes that element in both of my loves – dancing and gaming – sends out the wrong message and leaves some people feeling excluded. So, I want to just challenge a few conceptions…
The very concept of “Gateway Games” is an interesting one. “Gateway” implies there is something that we should all be headed to, rather than having a plethora of choice about our destination… it suggests that you start with games that are in some way inferior, progressing on to ‘better’ ‘more serious’ games. When, in reality most of us enjoy a wide variety of games – different themes, different lengths, different challenges. In our house it often varies according to our mood, or how much challenge we can cope with. Sometimes it’s a long battle like Escape From Colditz or The Big Book Of Madness; other times it’s a bit strategic like Kodama or Coup… but it might also be Dobble, Cobra Paw, or, dare I say… Shut The Box.
Abstract games like Abalone or Mancala are also frowned upon by some people, and yet are amongst the most popular at events – quick to learn with lots of depth and strategy. The kind of games that after your first loss you have to play again because you now know how you went wrong and you can definitely win next time. I never factor in the fact that my opponent is also becoming more focussed and tactical. So it seems very odd that abstract games should be so dismissed – take for example Mr Jack – it’s not abstract but it is utterly on a par with Abalone in many ways – the rules themselves are fairly simple, and the opening strategies comprehensible by a 9 year old… but the more you play either, the more devious depth you find…
I think my main concern with this is the dismissal of an entire genre. I have come across people who ‘don’t like games’. I maintain that they have just not found the right game. I even made a flowchart to help them. So you don’t like abstract games?… maybe you just haven’t found the right one.
How about the term “filler games”? To me this means one you just have a quick round of whilst waiting for the real meal of the evening to start. But this just seems dismissive – revealing a prejudice towards bigger, complex games that take many hours to play. Sometimes an evening of gaming can be composed entirely of fillers – Love Letters, Gobblin Goblins, Exploding Kittens, Jenga, Terrible Monster… the list goes on. All deliciously light – like a day of eating breakfast food without ever commiting to a whole meal.
They are just shorter. That’s it. Short games for when you want a short game. Again the term suggests some sort of predetermined path. Enter through the gateway games, attend games night and play fillers in between more substantial games. Or don’t. Play what you want, when you want.
And lastly – the “Shelf Of Shame”. We are embroiled in an expensive hobby; many of us joke about how we need to sell a kidney to afford yet another kickstarter or how we need to extend the house to fit all our games in. But we need to be mindful that this doesn’t turn into wallet waving of the highest order. If we want gaming to be as inclusive as possible then bragging about buying so many games that we can’t even play them all really needs some rethinking. There are some great games on kickstarter and there are so many new games coming out all the time it can seem overwhelming. Games cafes, local board game groups and Cards or Die mean that you really don’t need to own everything. One of my driving desires as Cards or Die is to bring people together by sharing a love of board gaming.
Those of you who follow me will know that thrift is a virtue I prize very highly. One of my favourite features on the Board Game Trading And Chat UK facebook group is the threads about charity shop finds. I particularly enjoyed (with hardly any jealousy) people buying up Quinns’ Oxfam donations this week. There are some epic games out there waiting to be discovered. I bagged Bucket of Doom for 99p and Tantrix for £1.99. One of the real pleasures though is stumbling across a game like Trek from the 1960s with every piece present and intact. I love how much people cherish board games and I think that’s because it’s more than just a game. It’s a box of memories, connections and good times.
They’re not all hits of course. Like this co-operative version of Connect 4 I found
I couldn’t be prouder or happier than when I’m dancing or gaming. (On a side note I must mention my dance face – my extreme morris face as my loving friends call it. It’s difficult to smile when you’re counting beats and concentrating! But I know you understand because I’ve taken photos at events and I’ve seen your extreme gaming face. I can not tell you how difficult it is to get pictures of people smiling for my website! But that’s a different story) I love connecting with others and I don’t really care if their knees aren’t high enough or they wibble out of line a bit. (I do care if you bring your sword down on my face but that’s more of a health and safety issue than a dance quality issue.)
So, however you play your games or where or which games you play – it’s all good. Play lots of games, play games you think you might hate, play games you loved as a kid, play them all. Have fun, connect with other human beings. And above all, be kind and welcoming. We are a fantastic community let’s share the love!
Come along to a Cards or Die games event!

Bring it 2018! I’m ready for you.

So, it’s that time of year again when we discuss resolutions. One year I asked the children about what resolutions they were making:
Child A: ‘You should have blonde hair’
Child B: ‘Yeah and clean the house more’
Me: ‘Not for me, for you… FOR YOU!’
So, I won’t be asking them again! Instead, I shall consult wiser oracles… first up Wilkos…
1. Do more of what makes you happy
As soon as I saw this mug I knew that I could make this a permanent resolution. The nice thing about this resolution is, it’s not measurable. AT ALL. So, when I complete my positives journal (which I try to do daily but realistically do sporadically) I can congratulate myself on my small successes. As long as I do some things that make me happy …a game of Carcassonne, a phonecall, sending a postcard, having a bath with nice bubblebath, refolding the towels in the airing cupboard… We don’t have to achieve world peace in order to celebrate our happiness and our successes. The world is a stressful and messy place and often it is the smallest acts which make a difference to our mental state.
Parks and Recreation is a brilliantly uplifting comedy full of wisdom and kindness (apart from for poor Gerry); the black dog usually goes out for a walk while I watch it so where better to source Resolution Number 2
2. Treat Yoself
I am often incredibly hard on myself. I use words when I speak to myself that I would never say to anyone else because I know they are too cruel, too vindictive. I am locked in an endless battle of varying intensity with the part of myself that hates me and that can be incredibly tiring. So, for me concentrating on the feeling that I deserve to treat myself is a tricky one but worth chasing. I am not talking about investing in a deluxe batman costume for £300 (note the advised use of the word investing) nor am I saying I’m going to start buying every new game that comes out but I can afford to treat myself with time – a wander round an art gallery in the city centre for instance, time to sketch or paint. 2018 will be the year of the well deserved treat.
In 2012 Charlie Brooker made resolutions for other people. Comedy Gold – I have used this blog for non fiction analysis with many, many English classes. Click here to read it. And so, here is my resolution for the world.
3. Don’t be a dick.
There are so many subsections of this I scarcely know where to start. Here’s some top tips:
  • Listen to each other
  • Save giving advice for when you are asked for it
  • If someone doesn’t want you to touch them, don’t.
  • If someone is being friendly don’t automatically assume they want to have sex with you.
  • Be aware of your privileges.
  • Go out of your way to be kind and inclusive.
  • If you have to preface something with a warning about it being offensive/ racist/ sexist…. then don’t say it out loud. At all. Ever.
  • Don’t send something in a private message that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face in public.
  • If in doubt, just be kind.
Of course, if this applies to you you’re more than likely completely oblivious or didn’t even read it, so rather than being informative or transformative information for dicks, this list is more of a celebration of how lovely all you awesome folk are.
The next wise oracle is Kickstarter. Lovely kickstarter allows me to back new games and then sends them to me long after I forget that (a) I backed them and (b) I paid for them already. It’s like Father Christmas actually exists and past me has recommended games for him to buy me!
4. Play More Games
This sounds easy but I have played a lot of games this year. Fortunately, I have kept no record of how long I have whiled away playing board games nor how many excellent people I have encountered through gaming. This means of course that provided I play a lot, this is pretty much a nailed on success. I’m going to start with the ones I’ve got recently and not played at all or enough yet. So, you can look forward to reviews of Matchmaker, Blame, Banishment, and Diesel Demolition Derby.
And before Steven Schwarz says it, I’ll say it – I also need to play Jaipur as he has recommended it to me at every possible juncture. Don’t believe me? Look on Cards or Die’s facebook page. He’s a Jaipur evangelist.
Just as past me is awesome at recommending games so too past me has set some awesome resolutions which I achieve year on year and if it ain’t broke…
Number 5, the same things I always resolve in order to guarantee success: swear more and more inventively; eat the bare minimum of fruit required to avoid malnutrition; eat plenty of chocolate. I’ve said it many times now but every time I eat a square of dairy milk it tastes identical to the last square of dairy milk I ate. This is never true of Satsumas. Fruit is unpredictable – so don’t trust it! And, if you can eat delicious food and play games so much the better; visit Random Encounter to join me in this most challenging of resolutions.
The key to useful resolutions is to choose things you can definitely do, that you can chip away at day by day, especially when your mental health is not as resilient as you would like it to be. I hope that these can contribute to the higher aim of me being better and having a mentally healthier 2018.
And… of course come along to a Cards or Die event!
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How do you assign value to your time?

Since starting Cards or Die, I have had numerous conversations about the value of time. How do we decide what to charge for our time? Whatever price you set sends out a message to your customers – too low and they may question your quality; too high and they may baulk at the price. And of course, as ever the anxiety monster looms large in my decision making: what am I worth? The monster has a loud answer to that.
18 years ago, I started teaching. I had looked at what the job entailed and the salary and accepted the job. At that time, if I ran a revision class in the holidays or after hours I earned extra money: £15 for an hour; £120 for a full day. My time had a clear price and value. When someone else is setting your pay, it is easy to value your time as the decision is made for you. You decide whether you want to do that job at the rate you have been offered.
Time passed; funding was cut, pressure increased and so the revision classes ran more frequently and became unpaid. Those that refused to teach them were frowned upon, and those that ‘enjoyed’ their holiday put under a cloud of blame for future failures. Increased pressure meant it was often more important to the teacher than to the student that the student achieve their projected grade. In fact it was rare for people to refuse to teach for free in the holidays and after school. It became the accepted norm. I’m convinced that the scant value that my time had has contributed to my current struggle with the question of valuing my time.
For years a proportion of my time has been given for free. And although the value of the hours I have donated to schools and young people is clearly valuable, that time was not financially valued. Which brings me to today and the question;
‘How do I assign value to my time? What am I worth?’
I find this both challenging and complex. Especially as a small business when the received wisdom seems to be that you have to do lots of things free to get your name out there.
How do I value others?
Well, I always buy the same tea bags: Twinings Earl Grey. Once I bought Tesco’s finest own brand and… they were fine. My unsophisticated palate detected no difference at all. I resolved to buy them in future and I did for a while but in the end I drifted back to Twinings. I have never even tried Tesco value tea bags. I am not telling you this because I am setting my fees in order to keep me in Twinings Earl Grey tea. Rather, I have selected my tea bags based on price and assumed value. If our fees are too low people may assume we are the Tesco Value tea bags. Pricing yourself too low is as damaging as setting prices too high. I want to be the Twinings of board gaming: priced so that people see me as quality they can rely on. The other pitfall of low pricing is that it can then be difficult to raise your prices as you expand.
Equally, I don’t want to be Fortnum and Mason tea; (delicious as I’m sure it is) I don’t want to be an occasional treat that not everyone can afford. I want people to book me more than once and recommend me without having to caveat or explain my price.
When valuing others I consider the following:
  • How much can I afford?
  • How much is what they are offering worth? I consider their time, expertise and possible costs.
  • Can I get the same service elsewhere for a better price? The key here is ‘the same’, I don’t want to pay less and get a worse service, especially for important events. This means that I would research other services.
As I said earlier, my biggest struggle with all of this is over self worth. Judging by the conversations I’ve had with people recently – and I have to say it is mainly women that share this concern- I am not alone. When the voice in your head repeatedly tells you how worthless you are, it is hard enough without then having to create a price structure for your worthlessness. External arbiters then contribute to this because everyone is trying to get the best price and so inevitably I must convince people that I am worth it. Add to this the imbalance which exists between what men charge and what women charge and it is trickier still. Somehow I need to start this by convincing myself of my own self worth. I need to get all those techniques I learnt in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy out again and work through them again. Mental health is relentless, it is a constant battle of varying intensity. But I have passion and determination for my business and I will succeed.
Just as in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy when we learnt about ‘Being your own best friend’, in business I am being my own customer; treating myself how I would treat other businesses. I would expect to pay a fair rate for services rendered. This helps me because, for me, the ‘What am I worth?’ question is so anxiety ridden that I struggle with it. So, in addition to the questions above I also ask myself:
  • How much do I need to earn to be happy and keep the business strong?
  • How can I balance charges to ensure that my business is inclusive and accessible?
So, fellow worriers – apart from the mantra ‘Don’t be the tesco value teabags’, I may not have any answers – but perhaps by considering the questions we can move closer to some… ..I’m still working on this, and if like me you worry endlessly about the answers, know that you are not alone. How do we persuade ourselves we are the Twinings or the Tesco Finest of our endeavours?
How do you manage this thorny issue?
I would love to hear from you: advice, tips, experiences and thoughts.

That Anxiety Business. Again.

For a long time I adopted the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach to aspects of my mental health. It’s by no means a foolproof solution but it has got me through some difficult moments. It has allowed me to seem more confident than I often am and that in itself can make it easier to succeed. It definitely helps that I believe in Cards or Die passionately. I can look at any event and genuinely think ‘You know what would make this better? Board games. Lots of them.’
My most recent anxiety has centred around striking a balance between following up leads and pestering people. I look back on my first round of making contact with potential customers and feel that it was easy, nothing to worry about. Yet, when I give it proper consideration, I know that before I made those contacts I was just as anxious.
I find I am locked in a battle with myself. Again. I ought to know from my previous experience that people aren’t that scary. But it’s easy to forget that when you’re about to start pestering them to pay you to do a thing that they may never have realised they needed! And even easier when the anxiety in your brain is greedily licking its tentacles and waiting to ensnare you.
For some these sorts of worries can be countered by a simple internal dialogue:
You: What’s the worst that could happen?
Also you: They say no.
You: There, that’s no big deal is it?
But with my anxiety these internal dialogues often play out very differently.
Me: What’s the worst that could happen?
Me: They say no.
Me: There, that’s…
Me: (interrupting) and then they get angry and yell at me about wasting their time and how it’s a ridiculous idea that will never work
Me: But…
Me: And then they pick up the nearest blunt object and I try to run but the door’s locked…
And so it goes on. You get the picture. I’m mental. And not always in a fun way.
In the end I have risked the wrath of potential customers. Some people said yes, some said no, no-one attacked me with a blunt object for daring to ask them if they’d like to book me to run board games at their event. Even the ‘no’s have been pleasant encounters – some of them thank me for approaching them, lots of people have wished me luck and said what a great idea it is.
So, having fought and maimed this air drawn demon, I then had to face the horror that is follow up contact. As I’ve said past experience alone isn’t enough to placate this creature. It is concerned only with reinforcing negatives and doesn’t allow me to celebrate success for long. But, I drew myself up to my full height and readied myself for battle once more. And, guess what? It turns out that if people have already expressed an interest in booking you they don’t mind you getting in touch. Some of them even thank you- because people are busy and they sometimes just genuinely forget. Hopefully by recording this, in some way I can encourage my brain to remember this for the next phase.
I am adept at finding things to worry about and embarking on a new business has given ‘it’ plenty of opportunities to surface. It can be exhausting. But, at the moment I am at a really good positive point. I have contacted strangers, chased them up and they’ve booked me!
Why am I sharing this with you? Because if, like me, you’re a bit loopy then next time your brain helpfully kick starts a plethora of worst case scenarios which usually end in a world where cockroaches are the master race, you’ve just got a bit more ammo. You can tell it ‘Hang on- that crazy board games nerd managed it. So can I.’
And if this struggle is not something you regularly endure, then I’m glad. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading a little tale of moderate success in a big, scary world.

Blog the second – In which my Imposter Syndrome is cured and I apologise for over-sharing ‘the m

It started with an innocuous event: I drove past a hairdresser’s window with a sign which proudly began
‘With over 10 years experience…’
My automatic negative thoughts responded instantly:
‘Oh my God, I’ve just started a business, I can’t put that. I have no experience AT ALL. I’m an idiot…’
Then, before the internal verbal abuse took hold, ‘something very strange’ happened: I answered. From deep within me, a different voice spoke, a voice I have tried (with varied success) to reach through countless CBT* strategies. And that strange but very welcome voice responded:
‘With over 40 years experience of board gaming…’
And there it was. Gone.
Now, I’m not an idiot (contrary to what some people – including part of me- may think) and I know it will take more than this. But it is still a massive step in the right direction for me.
My Imposter Syndrome and the general state of my mental health is perhaps best summarised by one of my inktober creations:
I have been plagued by self doubt for as long as I can remember. My own self doubt, and the part of me that actively hates me, gleefully seized onto the idea of Imposter Syndrome, then worked closely with they-who-shall-not-be-named (OFSTED) and Michael Gove, to systematically destroy me and to reduce a job I loved to a set of sticks to beat myself with.
Even in the dark times, this usually made me smile.
It is hard living with a person who you hate with a desperate sincerity. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried not to give in to ‘her’ -that nasty part of me who is so unforgiving- and I would never let her speak to other people the way she speaks to me. I have battled the air drawn monsters of my mind with varying levels of success and exhaustion. But that day, that moment, felt like victory. I had dealt a fatal blow. Surely she can’t have many life points left.
For the first time ever, the response was heartfelt, not the rehearsed mantras or stock CBT responses, which all work but sometimes even the edges of these seem a little frayed.
So, it is with untold pleasure and pride that I present my response to you:
‘With over 40 years experience of board gaming (including a dark period of being ‘too young to play Colditz, you’ll just ruin it), Cards or Die has all the gaming nerdery you’ll ever need.’
p.s. I take it back, I’m not sorry I shared this.
*cognitive behavioural therapy