Ahoy there, reader.
You may have read, perhaps, the first part of my little ‘behind-the-scenes’ narrative? It’s no problem if not — here’s the summation: I didn’t know what to do with myself, I started a historical walking tour, and it felt good.
I am now a few months into this whole thing so I’m here to let you know how it’s been. I suppose the headline is this: it’s succeeding — whereas each tour used to be for a couple of people, I am now regularly leading groups of a dozen. People still seem to love it too; recently someone actually asked me for my autograph, and I’ve had a few ‘this is the best walking tours I’ve ever done’ comments.
How has this all felt? Well, that’s a bit of a complicated question. There have been lots of good feelings: I’ve become an increasingly proficient guide, storyteller and performer, and each tour has offered the most enormous ego boost — playing the role of guide means I flow lots of nice, warm energy to people, who then respond with warmth and appreciation. I'm basically put in the position of being a professional likeable person, and what’s not to enjoy about that? Even when I start a tour feeling crummy, I generally end it feeling cheery and self-confident.
It’s not all been ego-boosts and good times. Like anyone that starts a business I’ve found that it’s a) tough to get it going, and b) very hard to switch off from thinking about it. Until recently I wasn’t selling enough tickets to feel content, so I felt I had to keep working, exchanging relaxation time for proactive time, sure that there must be some sort of magic marketing technique around the next corner. The sad thing is that this sort of focus numbs the satisfaction of what has already been achieved; nothing matters but reaching the next horizon, and the one after that.
The issue with this, apart from the sheer drudge of that type of living, is that it does eventually exhaust you. I’ve been living a cycle: fret, fret, fret — crash, crash, crash. Which, given that it's summertime in Cornwall, is a great shame! Life is for living, not making plans and wrangling with Facebook advertising. Yet I think I’ve turned a corner with that, partly because of the tour’s success, but also because I’m sick of being a boring, business-obsessed person. We’re living out the last few years of vague normality before the climate emergency really starts to make a mess of things; it seems a shame to waste time with self-inflicted stress.
I’ve also been reminded that success is not always the product of intense striving. Our culture tells us that if you plan, work and persist you will achieve that which you desire. This is obviously true a great deal of the time, but the energy of stiff persistence can be the enemy of achievement — it cripples your creativity, blinds you to important truths and pushes other people away. Many empires have been built on tense tenacity, but they’re often brittle — the proactivity of flowing instinct is often a far sturdier foundation for building things, even if it lacks the immediate speed and power of organised will-power.
The Poldark novels (so much better than the TV show, just saying) provide an interesting example of what I’m describing. The protagonist, Ross Poldark, a grounded country squire, is continually contrasted with his main foe, George Warleggan, a thrusting banker of the new money: Poldark is purely instinctive and unwilling to play games in the name of success, whilst Warleggan constantly schemes and manipulates for his personal advancement. Yet so often Poldark achieves the very things Warleggan works so hard for, not because he’s slashed a path towards them, but because his integrity and sense of inner-power brings rewards from others. Both characters become Members of Parliament, but it costs Poldark a great deal less, and it’s he who makes the bigger mark.
Hopefully going forward I can let go of my inner-Warleggan, and perhaps, stay more in touch with something like an inner-Poldark. I do wear a fancy tricorn hat several times a week, so I suppose I'm halfway there.
Until next time, keep well,