Inspired by a blog post on here earlier this week I decided to investigate the newly established City Region Agency for Positive Thinking.
For years I’ve had my stomach turned and my nose put out of joint by the very idea of self-improvement. I mean, I’ve read more than my fair share of Anthony Robbins, and look at me. Not even a single helicopter, small Caribbean island, NLP consulting franchise to my name. But then maybe my Giant Within is a ten stone weakling? Individuals are irreparable I’d always believed, but what of a city? Maybe a city is a different kettle of cobblers. It was worth a look at least.
So, on an intermittently scorching and cloudy Wednesday afternoon I strode into the Leeds CRAPT offices and told the guy on the door I had an appointment with the new chief, Irna Small-Fortune. He pushed a button, spoke my name into an invisible mic and told me to wait.
I was taken up to the top floor in a noiseless lift, then pointed toward a door at the end of a corridor that smelled of new carpet. As my pupils narrowed in the gleaming, all-white, sunlit office I made out a figure sat cross-legged on a hay bail juggling bean bags. There was not a desk to speak of, just lots of scattered tables strewn with crayons, coloured paper, glue and pipe cleaners.
“I’ve come to learn about positive thinking,” I said. “You must be Irna.”
She beamed a smile so bright it reduced my eyes to pin holes. I had to turn away
“Lovely you could diary me in today,” she said, “pull up a bail; what do you want to know?”
I didn’t know where to start. So I started with the obvious. “What’s the vision?” I asked.
“Glad you asked me that,” Irna replied, standing up and taking a chubby purple crayola from the table. “We wanted to hit the ground running and keep our eyes firmly on the ball …”
I nodded, encouragingly.
“We want our city to be no longer known as a glass-half-empty kind of a place …”
She paused, looking into the far distance, and had that visionary gleam in her eye.
“Our first act as Leeds CRAPT is to appoint a team of dedicated Glass Replenishment Officers … Nobody in the city need experience a half empty glass issue ever again. It’s a manifesto promise and a principle.”
“Brilliant,” I chipped in, genuinely enthusiastic, “I never knew positive thinking could be so … so practical.”
“It’s a steep learning curve, but if we all keep our noses to the grindstone and get everyone on board, singing from the same hymn sheet, we can make it through the window of opportunity …” she said. “I was appointed because I have no particular axe to grind. I think outside the box.”
“Yes,” I muttered …”yes.”
“I have a nose for an income stream. Nobody puts up barriers, the obstacles are all inside here,” she said, jabbing the crayon in the direction of my skull, “the poverty trap is just a poor way of looking at things.”
I could tell she was getting excited.
“Is there anything you think may hold back the progress of positive thinking in the city? Any problems at all?” I asked.
“Goalposts!” she exclaimed, “Shifting goalposts … and that’s the second decisive action taken by Leeds CRAPT. We passed a bye-law that all goalposts in the city require a foundation eight feet deep with a four foot diameter to be filled with quick drying cement, or substance of a similar weight and density … we are thinking laterally about the goalpost situation and believe that our forthright and fearless intervention will prevent any future movement of goalposts in any direction whatever. We are entering a period of goalpost calm and clarity thanks to CRAPT.”
“Eminently sensible,” I said. “Anything else?”
“There’s always the elephant in the room,” she sighed, “It’s an eight hundred pound gorilla, but once we get all our ducks in a row the chickens will come home to roost.”
I considered her menagerie of mixed metaphors for a moment.
“But that’s not really my department,” she said, “you may have to wait till the cows come home for DUNCE to do anything about it.”
“Dunce?” I asked.
“DUNCE,” she corrected, “office downstairs, “Directorate of Unconscious Nudge, Chivvy and Elbow … our behavoural colleagues.”
“I see,” I saw.
“Not a cat in hells chance without we get the positive thinking right first,” she said, “but I’m not going to get all dog in the manger about it, not my style.”
I scratched my head.
“Can I show you the way out?”
She walked me to the steps. “Onward and upward,” she chirped, pointing down the shady stairs, “and keep on the bright side!”
I thanked her for using her communication skills on me. I said I felt she mirrored me warmly and shook her hand goodbye.
As I emerged into the busy late afternoon street I noticed the clouds had got considerably grayer. But it didn’t bother me. I knew there was going to be a silver lining somewhere.