Archive for the ‘Courses’ Category

Stepping back on again?! Busy with Christmas gift vouchers for food smoking courses…

Friday, November 9th, 2012

I have had a lot of trouble updating this blog for months, as WordPress was not sending my my password… but I found an emergency fix on village idiot and now I can!

We are about to leap into a new venture – more about that later; but in the meantime I am updating our Smoky Jo vouchers to their Christmassy mode, and the order have started to come in!  Lots of people still looking to learn to smoke food – and not just salmon!  Another job on the list is upgrading the Smoky Jo shop – but it is still showcasing our recently published book (that’s two now!) “Smoking Food at Home with Smoky Jo”, which is going well.

I had some Stepping Off tales to tell but for now I just want to say what a wildly full and varied life we have acquired after we stepped off… and yes, we are still running our two day courses here in Cumbria for individuals and couples  who want to change their lives… for the better!

May is here, the sun is shining; so many reasons to be cheerful!

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Counting blessings is so much easier for us when we can feel the heat of the sun.  It doesn’t remove the stresses or the unhappinesses, but for Jo and I somehow the sun helps the smiles come through.  It may just be because it can be such a rarity here above Shap…

While we were full of the importance of making new year resolutions (that were feasible, and NOT starting on new year’s day) I received an email from an almost-client of Stepping Off:

“Dear Georgina,

I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for not following up on my trip to Stepping off.  Sadly I had a very serious nervous breakdown due to the stresses and strains that I face at work and this has left me with a very long road to recovery.  I apologise for not being in touch and planning a date last year and for letting my opportunity and deposit lapse, sorry for any inconvenice I may have caused you. I hope that you and Jo can help many people ‘get out’ before they get to the stage I have.

I wish you well for 2012.

Kind regards…”

Sadly it’s not the only time we have had a message like this.  We know that life can sometimes feel like that wheel in the hamster cage:  We know we have to keep making it go round, we can’t remember why, and we want to stop… but sometimes the only respite is when you are thrown off.

We are very proud of the work that we have done in the eight years since Stepping Off was launched.  We remain in touch with some of our clients: some completely escaped the rat race after examining their lives, their values, their frustrations and their joys; others tweaked at the edges and realised they could operate a little differently to feel a lot better, healthier and happier; a few took a longer view, building an escape fund but knowing that a brighter future of their making was around the corner.

Some, like the one quoted above, have come to Stepping Off after going through their own personal hell and we have been privileged enough to help them create a plan that has led them to a contentment that they may have given up on.

Here are some words from someone continuing their journey!

“I did move and I just love it! I know it sounds like a real cliche but it is a very peaceful cottage.

I slipped back into working stupid hours the last couple of months and felt like I’d lost my way somewhat, but gave myself a bit of a kick up the backside and reminded myself that this year is meant to be all about me. So, got back into swimming before work again, started a pilates class every Monday, still doing choir on and off on a Tuesday (more on again now than off). I think I also lost sight of the fact that its about small steps, not gigantic leaps. I have excavated my [From the weekend with us] flip charts and stepping stone sheets to re-visit it all this weekend. Even after just opening up the flip charts made me smile and a bit of a buzz and a reminder that actually I have achieved a lot and am quite fabulous. Want to get back to the high I was on after spending the weekend with you two!!”



A Stepping Off weekend rounding off a good year and kick starting a great one

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

“A huge thank you to you both for such an inspiring weekend and for your great hospitality! I can honestly say that I can’t think of a better way to round off what has been one of the best years for me for a long time and now I am  going into next year with exciting plans for living the rest of my life”

So begins a recent email from Rachel a Stepping Off client. We have been lucky enough to work with some amazing people over the years, individuals and couple who for one reason or another want to reassess their life’s journey.  Some have had a change forced upon them – by redundancy, bereavement or divorce. But for many people there just comes a point at which they want to be sure what they are doing is right. Right for them, right for their dreams and aspirations and right for their life. Often this comes when there is a mismatch between their own values and those of a profit-driven or target-driven organisation, or when work has become the number one priority – when it shouldn’t be!

Rachel took the advice from a previous Stepping Off guest and took a few days off after her weekend with us.  Her email continues:

“ I carried my Stepping Off report and goal sheets with me and sat and read them sitting on rocks by the sea and on top of a hill so have truly anchored the excitement and self belief that we explored last weekend!”

“I have stopped myself from looking at my work e-mails until I go into the office in the morning and although I found myself thinking I should forego swimming in the morning so I can get into the office for 8.00 am to catch up on all my e-mails, I have thought better of it and am going swimming, because nobody will thank me for giving up a bit more of my life for the sake of work, least of all me!! I am going back to work with a very different perspective than when I left it and with determination to keep priorities working for me.

I will definitely keep in touch and let you know how my world changes. Huge thanks again!”

I have had another email from Rachel since… she has joined a choir, booked time with her Godson, been to a show and been short-listed for a job more in keeping with her values.  Next month she is is moving into an idyllic cottage… We don’t work the miracles, but maybe we light the blue touchpaper! As Rachel says “….you really have something very unique going with the weekends!”

Although we started Stepping Off weekemds before we haad even heard of life-coaches, now when people ask us about what we do we describe it as Intensive Care Life Coaching – instead of a session of an hour or so and then back into the commute, walking the dog, work and chores we have found that a weekend away to really explore what you want your life to be all about can build a solid foundation on which to build the next chapters… if you think we may be able to help you please get in touch and we will arrange for a no-obligation chat. 01931 716638.

A review and explanation of what we do…

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

This was emailed to us shortly after Mike and Judith had spent two days with us.  I am putting it here in the hope that it explains from a client’s perspective – better than we ever could – why two days with Stepping Off can be such a valuable experience.  And because we were moved by it.


Background – This course is for one or two people looking to change the direction of their lives, for whatever reason.  It is small, intimate and entirely focused on the needs of either one person or a couple.  Judith (my wife) and I went together.

First impressions – Jo and Georgina genuinely want to look after you.  They are both very friendly and welcoming without being gushing or pushy – Judith and I felt at home within the first hour in the warm, friendly home environment of a deceptively large house with lots of your own space when you need it.

During the first evening we shared a high quality home cooked meal, feeling like two valued house guests rather than customers on a corporate course- so much so that  I will use the word guest below rather than a colder one such as client or attendee.

One of the many strings to Jo’s bow is that of motivational speaker (from Ladies’ Supper Clubs to Corporate Headliner), but she has none of the ‘loud and shallow’ characteristics that you may have come to associate with the worst of this group.  Indeed, she appears solid and calm, with the genuine leadership quality you would expect from someone who has held a senior position within the police force.  It is not until Georgina gentle encourages her to tell one or two stories during dinner that you see another side to this apparently phlegmatic lady.  She is genuinely warm, funny and self deprecating.  Georgina is engaging in a very different way – a natural, twinkly eyed way that could easily fool you into missing the strong, practical and very smart person beneath the smile. If you dismiss her often quirky one liners as purely flippant (which they sometimes are) or assume they are coming from a superficial person, you will miss out on a real treat.

What do they do in the course?  – Let me start with the trite version. They play some exploratory games – ask a few simple questions – and work with you to sort out your priorities.  Indeed, many of the techniques they use will be familiar to anyone who has done any sort of self-evaluation reading or management training.  So it was tempting at first to think that this was going to be yet another – “lend me your watch and we’ll tell you the time” consultation, where you finally take home a report for which you have provided all the input and, to a certain extent, that must be true. The first task of any professional doing this work has to be to gather data and that data can only come from you – but this experience turned out to be far from trite.

The real experience – Jo and George quietly and irresistibly guide and listen; challenge and encourage.  Vitally, they are not afraid to suggest potential problems with your thinking.  From many people this could be presumptuous or pretentious psycho-babble.  From Jo and Georgina this is coming from a very different place.  They are really listening.  They are listening to you.  They are not loading you with the baggage of their own preconceived values and trite solutions.  They are so clearly ‘on your side’ and want you to find the best outcomes for your life that the very pronoun ‘they’ quickly leaves your mind.  Sooner than I have previously experienced, ‘we’ are a single committed tug of war team – with energy, warmth and enthusiasm – pulling together.  Together, we are looking for the right next steps for our lives.

This is not some trick; this comes right out of the heart of who Jo and Georgina are.  They are highly experienced, motivated, strong and capable people in their own right.  They have a huge work ethic.  Lesser people could be strong in a domineering way, but Jo and Georgina use their strength to create a safe place to allow their guests to be themselves.  They draw out your experience, your current situation and (if you allow them to) your hopes and fears, without seeking to impose their own needs or wants or world view.

Jo is a natural leader and an intuitive navigator – she keeps things on track and ensures a rhythm and pace that steers a clear path between aimless wandering and the genuine freedom to explore. Georgina is an unusually lateral thinker – which means purely logic driven people may not always understand where she is coming from but, because she makes connections and listens exceptionally well, she brings a genuinely different and important dimension to searching out alternatives and asking perceptive and sometimes challenging questions.

The heart of the value of these two days is in Jo and Georgina.  Their warmth, strength, experience, fun, wisdom and a genuine desire to create a space where together, working as a single ‘we’, you can hear what might really be important to you.  This is a truly precious opportunity in a noisy and busy world.

Would I encourage others to do this?  In a heartbeat.  It’s one of the best things we have ever done. I have been an MD for 15 years in an industry packed with smart people and am not easily impressed.  I hesitated to book the course, fearing it would be just another chance to clear my brain – but then decided that time to think is always worth taking.  My expectations were not high.  I am delighted to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Judith, who is very private and hates sharing herself with strangers, nearly didn’t go and was amazed by how helpful she found the whole experience.  We would go so far as to say that for us those two days may turn out to have been truly life changing because the time allowed us to bring into focus many things that, without this concentrated work and without an emotionally safe environment, may never have fully crystallised or turned into action.  Whether we do now is up to us, but no-one could have helped us more than Jo and Georgina.

If you have the opportunity to spend two days with them – just take it.  The two days is fantastic value, but we have just two caveats.  The first is practical.  You will probably come away needing space to let the ideas and goals generated ‘set’.  If you rush back to a busy job or a hectic home you may miss out.  We did the course at the beginning of a two week holiday and that is probably the ideal, as it allowed us plenty of time to consolidate and integrate the experience.  Not everyone will be able to do this, but we would recommend at least two days in a hotel after the course as a minimum setting time.  That leads me to the second caveat – this indeed is my only niggle – to call this two days a course is to completely miss the point.  This is an exploration, with all the potential excitement of setting out to explore a previously unexplored continent – the rest of your life. I would love it to be called something more fitting, but hey if that’s my only complaint, I don’t think I can ask for my money back…

Other thoughts – You have to bring yourself as honestly as you can.
This can be emotional
Not because Jo and Georgina are in any way trying to lead with an emotional experience.   But by definition if you are there you are looking for a life change and that means you are asking questions that are central to you and this can almost inevitably lead to the unpacking of powerful core needs and wants.

Downshift to Sri Lanka…?

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Just before the Vitality Show we got back from the most wonderful trip to Sri Lanka, land of Jo’s (and her Mother’s) birth!  She’d not been back since she was eight, I have no idea why – it is an amazing country.

Curiously we have been slightly unsettled… we upped sticks leaving jobs and home in the south ten years ago… are we ready for a move abroad..?  I think we need a Stepping Off course to check on our priorities, values, aspirations and limiting beliefs and then to plan the next steps!

Like most visitors to Sri Lanka we had a chauffeur/guide for the first part of the holiday.  His name was Jally – Hafiz Jaleel, and he absolutely made our holiday!  I promised I would link to his website so I hope you will forgive a little plug for him  He used to work for Kuoni, but  “Stepped Off” and went solo last year.  He has a good fan base on Tripadvisor – but links aren’t allowed.  He helped with all Jo’s strange requests tracing her roots – searching out  old family home and church and her Father’s office at the old brewery.  Her Father and Grandfather ran the Ceylon Brewery between them from the 1920’s to the the 1960’s and it was her Father who started brewing Lion Lager (and Lion stout)  which is still going strong today.  We raised many a glass to her old man as we negotiated the hills, beaches, kitchens and other wonders of  Sri Lanka.  Who would have thought that an island the size of Ireland would have seven – yes, SEVEN World Heritage Sites?

If you are thinking of a trip to Sri Lanka – and why wouldn’t you? – we would be delighted to talk to anyone considering asking Jally to accompany them.  We cannot recommend him too highly; but being one of the best he can get booked up months in advance – just make sure he is available before you book your flights!

May be we will see you there, running a cinnamon farm or a guest house… or downshifting courses…

Making sure our new life is fun!

Sunday, June 28th, 2009
One of the decisions we have made – is to not do any work that we don’t think will be fun!  So if it is going to be fun then we will have a go.  This is easy when you have undergone Personal diversification – and have a number of different income streams.

So in that vein – I was thinking about how to market Smoky Jo’s – our food smoking courses, and I decided that if we were going to spend money on marketing it would have to be on something we enjoyed.

Since owning and running the Old  Smokehouse at Brougham Hall (sadly not there anymore!) we have enjoyed doing the ‘County Shows’.  So I thought that as we hadn’t been to a show for a while we ought to take a stand and advertise Smoky Jo’s.

So that is what we did.  We went down to the Cheshire Show this week, and had a stand in the food hall. 


Smoky George at the Cheshire Show

Smoky George at the Cheshire Show

We had great fun – stayed in a Travel Lodge – cheap and cheerful.  We went out for a curry on the first night- big treat! – and had a picnic on the second evening consisting of lots of lovely goodies picked up from the food hall that day.  Lovely!

We met some great people – many who booked courses with us and lots more who I hope will book with us in the future .  Lets face it – what better present to give someone who loves their food for Xmas or birthday than a Food Smoking Course with Smoky Jo’s.

So get out there and have fun – and even when it is work – make sure your new life is fun, fun, fun!

TV Stars!!

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Here we are on the TV again – this time on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ with Phil and Fern!

We are a little bit anxious – but I hope it will make good viewing and show how our lives have changed so much for the better.  With a little bit of courage and a bit of ‘throwing caution to the wind’ we have created a really interesting and fulfilling life full of variety and based on quality of life rather than working 75 hours a week to earn lots of money.

Do I sound smug?  Well OK, I might do – but I make no apology for it – I think we have a great life and I am proud of it – and it is out there for anyone to do when the time is right for them.

All helped of course as we are experiencing the most glorious weather.  Blue skies, warm sun and no wind (rare for those of us living on top of the fells in Cumbria) and of course the most amazing views.

The view we wake up to every morning!

 The view we wake up to every morning!

And so to work……

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

This weekend sees our first course coming through from the One Life Live show.

We met so many great people there and lots of people booked with us at the event.  However since we got back from London we have had even more people booking in.  Now we are really busy – with nearly every weekend booked with courses until June.  Hopefully some people might want to come during the week  as there is a lot more flexibility then.

Anyway I am really looking forward to working with the couple coming on this course -it is going to be fun and relaxing and I am sure that they will go away with a much clearer idea of what to do with their future.

And so to work….