Category Archives: radio

Life cycles. Ride ’em or crash ’em into a wall – it’s always up to you.

What is the length of your cycle? Ever given it a thought?

You realize that life goes in clearly-marked natural cycles, right? Recurring patterns of learning that come around time and time again over a number of years, repeatedly bringing the same issues back into focus until we resolve them. Once we have (but especially if we haven’t) a new cycle revs up and we begin the process all over again, this time with a new round of lessons. It’s all very organic and natural, and clever in the way only a universe or divine intelligence of some kind can be.

Apparently, life cycles last either seven years, ten years, or twelve. Mine’s twelve.

It doesn’t take long to figure out what yours is. Simply look back at all the major turning points in your life – when tragedies happened, or big-time mistakes, or catastrophes, or major moves of location – and try working out if there’s a common time-span between each cluster of them. Once you have that, you’re suddenly equipped with a broad and highly useful perspective on the rhythms and flows of your world, enabling you to remain grounded and philosophical during the highs, and less stressed or traumatized by the lows. In other words, whatever happens, good or bad, you treat it simply as another step in your cycle, and therefore temporary, and keep on barreling through. Remember, change is the only constant.

I had a friend in college called Barney. Brilliant kid. A musician and composer. Killed himself at age 21. Wasn’t able to see his way to the end of a very dark tunnel, I guess, and quit. If only I could have told him that he was just at the end of one of these damned cycles and a new, brighter period of learning was right around the corner. But I didn’t get to him in time.

In the approach to the end of a cycle, things tend to fall apart in one or more areas of your life. It can get horribly hairy for a while. And sometimes this seems to happen with almost no input from you. You were doing fine, happy as a lamb, then the floor you’d been standing on simply crumbles beneath your feet. The trick is to accept it as pragmatically as possible, and not freak out at the changes going on around you. Which I know is easier said than done, but it’s not a personal thing. The universe isn’t out to get you. Your life is not in ruins, despite appearances. It’s just a cycle. You’re winding down, that’s all. The last phase is on the way out, a new one’s not far away. You will rise again.

It’s at the end of a cycle, for instance, that divorces happen, or deaths decimate a family, or kids leave home and go to college, or we get fired from our jobs, or are simply imbued with a profound urge one day to move on and try something new. Or several of these things all mixed together. One example: in 1996-1997, I lost my job, my money, my home, my relationship, and my family in the space of six months. That was one traumatic bloody end of cycle, I can tell you. In hindsight, I’m surprised I didn’t do a Barney, I was so depressed. Soon afterwards, though, everything changed for the better. I upped sticks and moved to the States and, revitalized, began my American broadcasting cycle.

The end of a cycle isn’t instant; it sort of dribbles into your consciousness over quite a while, even a couple of years, as a blurry accumulation of events slowly build one upon the other. But once it happens there’s no going back. Grab your things, it’s time to reboot. From here, starting a little shakily at first, life gains pace, opportunities come and expand, you find yourself more settled, and it may continue that way for several years, until eventually at some unspecified point you reach a peak, usually mid-cycle. Then, before you know it, just as you’re enjoying what you have and things seem to be going swimmingly, uh-oh, there’s a glitch, and they begin to wind down once more, ready to fall apart, same as last time. It’s just like the seasons or the waxing and waning of the moon.

Endings bring misery and self-analysis. You can’t move on to the next thing without asking yourself some important questions. “What lesson was that cycle trying to teach me? Where did I screw up? What do I need to correct? And what do I take away from this last cycle that I won’t repeat in the new one?”

It’s similar to a video game. Solve the puzzle, overcome obstacles, learn the lesson at one level, and you move up to the next. Fail to learn, and you go around again. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s entirely your choice.

So why am I mentioning this?

Because I’m going through this now. I’m slowly coming to the end of the American broadcasting cycle I mentioned earlier. It’s been winding down for about three years, but the cycle itself has lasted twelve. I started contributing to Marketplace, the national business show on public radio in the States, in 1998. Twelve years before that, my career in radio began in London, after I left my desk job to go freelance. Always twelve years, see?

Joining Marketplace provided me with some astonishing opportunities. It led me to becoming a travel reporter. That in turn led to me writing travel books. Because of the travel books I was given my own TV show, which took me to, and over, the peak of the cycle. Then everything kinda dipped. In 2006, I returned to doing commentaries for Marketplace. But that was a big mistake. After the amazing expansiveness of producing TV, I found the idea of putting together four-minute pieces for the radio a little restricting. Like giving up driving a locomotive and going back to playing with toy trains. There were times when the boredom was excruciating, and it began to show in my work. I lost my edge, my mojo, my oomph.

For several months I was worried. Nobody, but nobody, likes to feel their oomph slipping away. Now I realize, it’s just another twelve-year cycle bidding adieu. I’m transitioning out of broadcasting, out of a situation where I sit around talking about what other people are doing, and into a new phase where I actually do stuff myself. That’s a big change.

I have a lot more to say about working at Marketplace, which I’ll post after I finally leave. It has been such a wonderful place to be, rubbing shoulders with so many bright, intelligent people. Even so, you gotta know when to leave the stage, and it’s with enormous relief that I’m going to be doing just that. A brand new cycle of activity began some time ago, and I can see it involves switching tack entirely, being a little entrepreneurial and more adventurous, and plotting a course unlike anything I’ve done before. I completed my first-ever serious book recently, about health and healing; I have a novel coming out in November which is really innovative and fun, and I’m midway through shooting a documentary. It all adds up to “beyond exciting.”

Over the years, so many fans have written to me saying how much they loved my Marketplace pieces and the pleasure they got from them. That was thrilling. I even enjoyed hearing from people who hated them and wrote stinky emails to say so. They, more than anyone, taught me the big lessons and helped me write better stuff. In the end, though, it was all good, and I leave it behind me with a tinge of sadness, of course, but also appreciation and a sense of real gratification. Trust me, I sucked that marrow dry, kids, and I’m poised and ready for a new marrow. (You understand, when I say marrow, I mean challenge, right?)

TV Swami, he become Radio Swami this week, and have interesting things to say about public radio.

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“Screw you!” An exciting new approach to life.

When I started doing this blog thing, I remember promising that I’d write it in odd moments, whenever time allowed. Some days there’d be a post, some days there wouldn’t. It all depended on how I felt. Which is fair enough, right?

But then something weird started happening. On the days I was too busy and didn’t write a post, traffic on this site was as high as when I did, if not higher. I couldn’t believe it. More people wanted to read what I wasn’t saying than what I was.

In other words: a certain amount of effort on my part produced a certain result, but zero effort produced an even better result.

And I guess word got around:

A: “Did you hear, he didn’t write anything today?”

B: “Nooooo. You’re B.S.ing me.”

A: “I swear to God. Go see for yourself. It’s the same post he had up there the other day. He’s written nothing – no-thing – today.”

B: “Hang on – I’ll be right back. This I have to see.”

And the number of hits went through the roof.

Which is both funny and, at the same time, utterly baffling. It basically means that the less work we do, the more we get rewarded.

And that’s when I realized – it came to me in a loud, epiphanous blast like the crack of thunder you get when a casino collapses – that this is a theme of my life. And possibly of everyone else’s too. We’ve been doing this all wrong, and there’s a lesson to be learned.  

In college, for instance, I studied law. Studied the hell out of it, as a matter of fact. Actually, I’d go one step further: I’d say that no student in history has ever studied as much or worked harder to get his degree than I did in those days. Looking back, I think I may even have intimidated the law by studying it so hard. Seven days a week, all hours of the day and night, every free moment, pursuing knowledge with so much vigor and such a punishing zeal that it wanted to run away and hide, and ’til my eyes bled with the effort.

I was a perfectionist. I wanted to be the very best at studying law, and beat my friends, many of whom studied only half as hard as I did, preferring to mop up their free hours with heavy drinking, meaningless sex, and smuggling all my furniture and belongings out of my room onto the lawn the moment my back was turned. Slackers. 

So imagine my shock when, at the end of three laborious years, I emerged from university with only a mediocre degree, while my slacker friends all did unusually well. Way better than I did anyway. They shone. Where my overall marks weren’t that great and my relative understanding of the subject considered disappointing, especially given how hard I’d tried, theirs were top-notch, and every last one of them drifted – again, with almost no  effort – into top-paying legal jobs all over Britain.

Not that I’m bitter about their success or anything, but…grrrr.

Anyway, I learned two things from that particularly grim episode of my life: a) don’t trust your friends, they’ll steal your furniture; and b) hard work doesn’t pay off. 

In other words, slackers rule!

Isn’t that wild?

Contrary to what you’ve been led to believe by your parents and Anthony Robbins, keeping your eye on the ball, being diligent, and committing to a goal 100% – that’s the loser’s way. It virtually guarantees a poor outcome, leading to years of hardship, disappointment, and personal misery. 

I’m a living example. Looking back through my life, the harder I’ve tried to make something perfect, the more man-hours I’ve plowed into it, the more effort I’ve invested in a particular pre-determined outcome or goal, or in making something work out, the less likely it ever was to succeed. 

My TV show was the best example I can come up with right now. Unless, that is, you count my latest travel book.

Conversely, the more laid-back you are about what you’re doing, the more you don’t care about outcomes, the less you chase success, attention, approval, readers, or blog traffic, the more chance there is that you’ll get the very thing you don’t seem to care about.

This phenomenon doesn’t have a name right now, so let’s give it one.  As from today, it will be called The Peters Paradox.  A whole new system of not giving a rat’s ass.

In short, the message seems to be: back off. Work, by all means, but only up to a point. Do what you have to do, then stop. Don’t let it consume you. Fill your life with fun and distractions and enthusiasms and interests and whatever else catches your eye. Don’t make your job the be-all and end-all. And to hell with perfection. Getting it done is more important than getting it right. Trust me, I know.

So today, for instance, I was going to write 700-1000 words about Kirstie Alley’s weight issues, continuing the conversation we began last night on my BBC slot. But now, after mature consideration, and employing the full power of The Peters Paradox, I won’t be bothering.

All I’ll say is, when Kirstie starred in Cheers she was thin and gorgeous. Then she exploded to 200lbs. That’s when she became the Jenny Craig anti-obesity spokesperson for a while.  The moment she stopped being an anti-obesity spokesperson, however, she exploded back up to 200lbs or so again. Now she’s as big as a truck, and she went on Oprah this week to apologize for letting everyone down. 

Truth is, though: 1) we don’t care – be fat if you want to, Kirstie, just stop telling us about it; and 2) you were probably invited on the show to make Oprah look thin, because compared to you she is. And that doesn’t happen very often.   

There. Everything I wanted to say in a full article, but dashed off in a paragraph with absolutely the bare minimum of effort.

Now, with my new free time, I’m going to start drinking early and I might even have sex, if I can find someone to have it with. And once I’ve had sex I will be smuggling my partner’s furniture out of his room, and dumping it on the lawn. That’s the kind of guy I am nowadays. A slacker.

It’s a perfect example of The Peters Paradox in action.

 

TV Swami – he say NO to hard work and getting anything done – EVER.

www.cashpeters.com

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Naked. And very, VERY excited.

Today is a big day. A big, bad, bracing-for-tomorrow day.  And tomorrow, as we know, is an even bigger, badder-than-today day.

After all this time and so many books, you’d think that I wouldn’t be the least bit excited. In fact, I told friends who asked, “No, it’s fine. You don’t get excited after all this time.”  But I was wrong. I woke up this morning and realized I was. Very. I can’t help it. Excited and proud and happy, and all the rest.

You see, I had a TV travel show. It seems like millennia ago now. A travel adventure show in which I flew around the world, visiting bizarre and exotic cultures and living among them for a few days. Sounds great, right? But I was totally wrong for it. Quite apart from all my phobias, I’m also allergic to a whole bundle of foods that can be lumped together under the single heading of “foreign.”

And that was it. Lions in Kenya. Bears in Alaska. Monks and landmines in Cambodia. Lesbians in Greece. Six days in hospital….

All very interesting, and the resulting show was great. Just not for the guy hosting it. For over a year I struggled through what became a mounting catastrophe of global proportions; a deep, dark crevasse of fears and horrors that I thought would never end. But it did. And that’s what the new book’s about.

Naked in Dangerous Places, the Chronicles of a Hungry, Scared, Lost, Homesick, But Otherwise Perfectly Happy Traveler.

The new travel book

The new travel book

Out tomorrow in paperback and on Kindle.

So indulge me please. Allow me my brief moment of confined excitement. I’ll be back writing the blog within a couple of days.

Hee hee.

www.cashpeters.com

If you want to see a brief, limited edition mini-documentary about the book, it’s on YouTube.

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Everyday life in Celebrity Central.

Oh boy, did we strike gold yesterday or what?

Each day a fair number of people stop by to see what the TV Swami is up to, which is nice. But yesterday, thanks to a clever combination of the tag word ‘spanking’ and the names Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson, which are like catnip to celebrity-snoopers, apparently, traffic skyrocketed in previously unimagined ways, and was still heading into the stratosphere when I went to bed.

Why is this? Why are we, the general public, even the remotest bit fascinated with a guy in a yellow Mercedes putting the roof of his car down? Truth is: we’re not. At least, not generally. But fame is a magnifying glass and, as boring as it would be if you or I did it, Lord Darth Vader attempting the exact-same thing makes it seem a thousand times more interesting.

Given that I live in a nice, leafy, high-end part of Los Angeles, it’ll come as no surprise to you that our area tends to be Celebrity Central. I often mention it on my BBC broadcast, much to the annoyance of half the audience. We see them all the time.

For instance, Rachel Bilson’s house used to be owned by Noah Wylie, the ER guy. David Hyde-Pierce from Frasier still has the house on the hill. Danny Bonaduce was a neighbor too, until his divorce. Now he’s gone and the stark prison-camp-like house is sold.

Meanwhile, Courtney Love is holed up along the street. Our neighbors claim she came trick or treating a couple of Halloweens ago (then again, they also swear Robert Downey Jnr arrived at their door one night asking for candy, then danced away up the street when he got some – so I’m beginning to think they’re nuts, quite honestly, and not to be trusted!)

Probably our most famous celebrity residents right now, though, are Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. According to several high-level sources (local gossips who can’t keep their mouths shut), they bought the house next door-but-one from David Hyde Pierce. It’s just a tiny fragment of their worldwide network of homes, so of course, if they do actually live there, we never see them, though I must say their Christmas lights last year were a feast of Hollywood self-indulgence. About twenty trees in the grounds and on the house itself, all lit up and visible from miles around. Stunning.  

Anyway, speaking of spotting people, which is the point of this post….

Yesterday, to celebrate the fevered Times-Square-like traffic of the blog, I had lunch at a local cafe. While I’m eating, in walks a black guy swathed in bandages. Poor thing, he’s obviously been in a horrendous accident, because his head’s wrapped up and he’s wearing a big foam neck brace.  Together with another guy, he sits at the table opposite, then – and here’s where things got strange – began chatting away as if he wasn’t hurt. Moving his head. Moving his neck. Getting up, sitting down. Extremely animated. Which was very suspicious, and led me to believe that he wasn’t injured at all and the bandages and neck brace were an affectation to get attention.

But then I realized – there’s a TV studio complex just behind the cafe. It’s where they film General Hospital and also Gray’s Anatomy. So obviously he was an extra on one of those shows. When he left the set, the continuity person must have told him, “Hey – you. You in the neck brace. Don’t take it off.”  He had to keep the pretend dressings on his pretend wounds, or they wouldn’t be able to match them later in the next shot. 

Or, just as likely, this being Hollywood, he kept them on to let people know he’s on TV. It’s so much more discreet than standing up and shouting,  “Everyone, look who’s just walked in – it’s ME. A total non-celebrity. That guy you wouldn’t notice otherwise, from that show you probably don’t watch anyway.”

Of course now I AM going to have to watch the wretched show to see if I can spot him. Hospital set. Guy in background on stretcher with head bandaged. Should be easy enough.  

TV Swami – he say YES to living a few doors down from Brad and Angelina.

www.cashpeters.com

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