Top 5...Independent Bookshops in London

Did you know that COR Collective came together because Naomi set up a book club? Helena and Naomi have been friends for many years, but it was through a shared love of books that I first met the girls and a few years later, COR was created. We are all bookworms, constantly swapping recommendations of our latest favourite page-turner and hunting for new reads to review for our followers. Bookshops are my happy place, and independent bookshops will always feel more special somehow. See below for my top spots to lose a few hours searching for your next must read...

  • STOKE NEWINGTON BOOKSHOP A haven on the bustling high street in North East London with a wide range of new releases and classics and my firm favourite from my North London days. The perfect spot to escape the traffic and get lost in choosing your next read. It's also just around the corner from Church Street with its many cafes and bars, so once you have made your decision, you can find a corner, order a coffee and get stuck in to your new read! 

  • CHENER BOOKS An East Dulwich stalwart, this is a cosy shop packed from floor to ceiling with books.  A quiet atmosphere, perfect for a long browse and a careful choice. Situated on Lordship Lane, in the summer months you can pick up a book, take a short walk to Peckham Rye or Dulwich Park, find a sunny spot and get reading.

  • LIBRERIA  Designed by Spanish architects SelgasCano, and located in trendy Spitalfields, Libreria is the place to visit to find a book you never knew you needed. Enter with an open mind, browse the shelves which are arranged by broad themes (such as Wanderlust) and leave with something unexpected. 

  • LONDON REVIEW BOOKSHOP Books and cake - what more could you want? A stone's throw away from the British Library in Central London, this is a seriously good bookshop with a seriously good cafe attached to it. With a packed calendar of literary events, this bookshop is the gift that keeps on giving. 

  • PERSEPHONE BOOKS A bookshop run by publishing house Persephone books, who print 'neglected' works by (mainly) women writers. Located near Russell Square, this is where to head when you want to celebrate women writers and discover a work you may never have heard of. The books are beautifully presented and printed - the perfect gifts. 

Happy reading! 

Love A xxx

THE MEANING OF THINGS: APPLYING PHILOSOPHY TO LIFE, BY A. C. GRAYLING

The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life

A. C. Grayling

ONE LINE PITCH ~

Philosopher, academic, literary journalist and broadcaster A. C. Grayling, breaks down some of life's challenging topics, such as courage, sorrow, love, death, hope, betrayal and blame, into bite size chapters and offers some accessible philosophical ideas to help us think about life and what it means. 

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTH: 

This is a small book that is full to the brim with big ideas. Grayling has collated 'sketch maps' on some of life's more challenging subjects and offers succinct, yet thought provoking discussions on each. They began their life as contributions in the Guardian newspaper's Saturday Review, which may give you a sense of their length and readability.

This book isn't designed to be read in one go, each essay is self contained and stand alone and this is one of my favourite things about it. It was easy to pick up, flick through, pausing on a topic that caught my eye on any given day. The essays are categorised into three parts; Grayling points you in the direction of 'Virtues and Attributes', 'Foes and Fallacies' or 'Amenities and Goods'.  Some 'sketch maps' naturally lead you to another - love and hate, betrayal and loyalty - but reading one a day and then giving myself time to really think about what I had just read became an enjoyable bedtime routine. 

Although the topics in this book may seem dense at first glance, I felt able to access philosophical ideas that I would normally have run a mile from. Each essay begins with a fantastic quote which was enough to get my brain whirring. A brilliant way to dip your toe into some big thinking!

WEAKNESS: 

Despite it's accessibility, this is still a book about the meaning of life. Some days my brain was just a bit too tired to contemplate capitalism, privacy or death!

OPPORTUNITY: 

Read this if you are in the mood to be challenged, to ponder on some more tricky areas of life or to simply read the thoughts of an incredibly intelligent man. How you engage with this book is entirely up to you, but I would recommend setting aside half an hour, making a cup of tea, reading an essay and then sitting back and having a think. 

TIPS: 

This book taught me not to be afraid of difficult thoughts, conversations or debates. To embrace these knotty elements of life and to challenge myself to challenge myself. It can be easy to want to stay in a 'safe place' where everything feels simple, and it can take great courage to step outside of our comfort zone, but that is where we can do some of our best learning. 

STANDOUT QUOTES ~

'...courage can only be felt by those who are afraid. If a man is truly fearless as he leaps over the enemy parapet or hurls himself into a rugby tackle, he is not courageous.'

p. 22, 'Courage'

“Defeat is always an opportunity...nothing happens without a lesson to offer, or without opening other routes into the future.”

p. 25, 'Defeat'  

"Hope is a virtue independently of its realisations; it is an intrinsic value, an end in itself, allied to courage and imagination, an attitude full of possibility and aspiration. For that reason you discover more about a person when you learn about his hopes than when you count his achievements , for the best of what we are lies in what we hope to be.”

p. 36, 'Hope' 

BUZZ WORDS ~

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KEY LESSONS ~

For me to try and summarise key lessons seems to go against the spirit of this book. My advice? Pick up a copy, read, think and decide for yourself. 

Lots of love, A x

Top 5...Freelancer Work Spots in London

Sometimes finding the perfect working environment seems impossible for us freelancers. There are too many distractions at home (Ru Paul's Drag Race anyone?), the local cafe tuts every time you take out your laptop, and you can't blag your way into a university library anymore. COR Collective feel your pain, and to help, we've gathered our Top 5 freelancer work spots in London. See below for our tried and tested favourites. 

  • CANOVA HALL Located in the heart of Brixton, Canova Hall is perfect if you like a lively atmosphere where you will be left alone to work. Freelancer day rates are available with tea, coffee and fast WiFi included, meaning that you can stay all day guilt-free. Spot Naomi working from here most weekdays.

  • PICTUREHOUSE CENTRAL Finding a good spot to work in central London can be a nightmare, so we suggest heading to the bar at Picturehouse Central. Located next to Piccadilly Circus, you will find yourself working alongside creatives, media types and film-goers. Not for those who like to work in silence; there is always a good buzz. Relaxed, great coffee, and the sweet potato fries are to die for.

  • OLIVIER CAFE @ NATIONAL THEATRE A cultural hub with comfy seating, a delightful bookshop and a prime Southbank location. The downstairs cafe at the National Theatre has plenty of room with long sharing tables that fill up with freelancers. Quieter in the daytime, unless it's matinee day; this is a brilliant spot to get stuck into a good book or to meet someone for a casual business coffee. Why not pop to see a play whilst you're there?

  • LOUNGE Another Brixton favourite (can you tell we all live south of the river?) and somewhere where COR can regularly be found having a planning session or catch up. Cosy, friendly and offering delicious food and coffee, this is the perfect spot to get your head down, tick some items off the to do-list, and then indulge in some people watching. 

  • READING ROOM @ WELLCOME COLLECTION If you are looking for some peace and quiet for maximum focus and big thinking, then this is the spot for you. Located in the fascinating Wellcome Collection building on Euston Road, this is where you will find Alice slouched on a beanbag on the grand staircase, nose stuck in a book. With desks, armchairs and even Freud's couch, (hidden upstairs amongst the books), you'll never want to leave. 

Happy working! 

Love A and N xxx

REVIEW: MAKE YOUR BED, BY WILLIAM H MCRAVEN

Make Your Bed:  Little things that can change your life...and maybe the world

William H McRaven

ONE LINE PITCH ~

Former US Navy SEAL, William H McRaven, shares some simple, yet powerful, life lessons that saw him through the toughest moments of his life and career, and demonstrates how these can help us to find strength and courage to overcome the obstacles that life throws in our way!

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTH: 

This is a handy little book which will become my go to when I’m in need of courage and inspiration to pursue my goals, and a healthy reminder not to let that all-too-familiar creeping sense of self-doubt get the better of me!  

McRaven gives us an insight into the brutal and relentless conditions of SEAL training, but also draws comparisons with the hardships and misfortunes experienced by ordinary people, and how they have found the courage and determination to keep going against all the odds.  Whilst not many of us will know what it feels like to endure days and months of combat, most of us have experienced grief, loss, disappointment, failure and misfortune.  

My biggest take-aways from this book are recognising how self-limiting the fear of failure can be; that you can’t go it alone all of the time (control freaks, beware!); and how adjusting our mindset can enable us to make positive changes in our lives, however small.

WEAKNESS: 

The principles set out in this book are not particularly ground-breaking; instead they are tropes that many of us will already be familiar with. However, they are a healthy reminder to keep ourselves in check, maintain focus, not let self-limiting beliefs hold us back, and find joy in hard times.  However, this book does not profess to be a comprehensive ‘how to’; it is more guidance and inspiration from someone who has ‘been through the wars’ – quite literally. When you think of the original audience – a graduating class about to enter ‘the real world’, it feels about right. It occasionally veers a bit too heavily into what feels like “tough love”, but what else might you expect from a former navy SEAL?!

OPPORTUNITY: 

Read this if you are preparing for some big life changes (e.g. reversing or changing your career), or where you’ve had a run of disappointments or bad luck, and are in need of some practical advice and inspiration from others who’s strength and resilience has been tested, but who have found the motivation to keep on striving, or to continue to find joy in everyday life.

TIPS: 

This got me thinking about the power of the growth mindset, a theory developed by psychologist Carole Dweck, and is something we draw on in our workshops.  This explains how self-limiting beliefs can prevent us from pursuing what we really want to do, and how people with a growth mindset are much more likely to achieve their goals than those who believe their skills and abilities are ‘fixed’.  McRaven teaches us that it’s ‘the size of your heart that matters’, i.e. it doesn’t matter how tall, short, fit, or educated you are – you can learn anything, as long as you put your mind AND heart into it.

Also, we need to stop being embarrassed by failure – all humans make mistakes – and McRaven will tell you that what really determines our character is how we learn from failure and the will to persevere.

STANDOUT QUOTES ~

“They all understood that life is hard and that sometimes there is little you can do to affect the outcome of your day.  In battle, soldiers die, families grieve, your days are long and filled with anxious moments.  You search for something that can give you solace, that can motivate you to begin your day, that can be a sense of pride in an oftentimes ugly world.  But it is not just combat.  It is daily life that needs this same sense of structure.”

Chapter 1, 'Start your day with a task completed'   

“None of us are immune from life’s tragic moments. ...It takes a good team of people to get you to your destination in life.  You cannot paddle the boat alone. ...Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others.”

 Chapter 2, 'You can't go it alone'   

"It is easy to blame your lot in life on some outside force, to stop trying because you believe that fate is against you. ...Nothing could be further from the truth.  The common people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness..”

Chapter 4, 'Life's not fair - drive on!'  

“I realized that past failures had strengthened me, taught me that no one is immune from mistakes.”

Chapter 5, 'Failure can make you stronger'

“Life is a struggle and the potential for failure is ever present, but those who live in fear of failure, or hardship, or embarrassment, will never achieve their potential.  Without pushing your limits, without occasionally sliding down the rope headfirst, without daring greatly, you will never know what is truly possible in your life.”

Chapter 6, 'You must dare greatly'

BUZZ WORDS ~

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KEY LESSONS ~

There should be no embarrassment about failure – we have something to learn from failure, and we can't always ‘smash it first time’, so if you really want something, keep striving for it!!

Life is not ‘fair’ and all of us will likely suffer misfortune at one point or other.  This books reminds us that we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can influence how we respond.

As small an act as making our bed each morning can influence how we feel about our day – so, think about routines that make you feel good (e.g. regular exercise, eating well), and stick to these as they may provide the structure you need in busy, stressful or uncertain times.

Lots of love, H x

Christmas Survival Guide
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Christmas can be a difficult time for some of us and the pressure to perform for friends and family, and to be "merry and bright" can be exhausting. Here are our tips for taking care of yourself over the holidays, when things start to get a bit much...

  • Think about what you need from the holiday - are you in need of quiet time, the buzz of being with other people, or a balance of both? Make the day what you want it to be.

  • Pack a festive ‘first aid kit’ - gather the supplies that really bring you comfort and joy (excuse the pun!).  This could be your favourite book or DVD, pampering supplies, or happy memories (your favourite photos or a note from a good friend).  This will take you back to your positive playlist when you need it!

  • If tensions rise easily in your family, set ground rules ahead of time if you can - so everyone knows what’s on and off topic to ensure a stress-free day!

  • Give yourself permission to take time out if you need to - have a haven to escape to or if there’s not enough space, go out for a walk.

  • Practice box breathing if you start feeling stressed or anxious - breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and breathe out for four seconds; repeat until you feel your heart rate decrease.

  • Take a moment to reflect on your achievements and the good things that have happened to you this year, and set yourself goals for the new one - we’ll be sharing our’s in the New Year.

  • The picture perfect Christmas that we see on social media is rarely a reality, so disconnect if you find yourself comparing your situation to others.  

Wishing you all a happy and peaceful Christmas,

H, A & N x

Naomi Bacon
REVIEW: OPTION B, BY SHERYL SANDBERG & ADAM GRANT

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy

Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

ONE LINE PITCH ~

A personal account of grief, combined with insightful research that demonstrates the human capacity to find strength in the face of hardship, and the ability to rediscover joy.

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTH: 

Helena: I really appreciate how Sheryl, whom we all know as a leading female business woman, lays herself bare and shares her deeply personal account of losing her husband. I was really interested by the research that illustrated the misconceptions of what it means to be resilient in our society today.

WEAKNESS: 

H: No criticism whatsoever!  Sheryl is so self-aware that she pre-empts potential challenges to her philosophy, recognising that she has the financial foundations to give her the resources she needs to cope. However, the book is filled with everyday strategies and examples of how we can support ourselves and others, in ways that don’t require wealth.

OPPORTUNITY: 

Naomi:  I am a huge fan of Sheryl and her work in relation to business and leadership, but Option B particularly moved me and taught me that personal pain can’t be compartmentalised. For me, currently dealing with a tough situation,  her account gave me hope.  In addition, this book also aids understanding how to help friends or co-workers who are going through difficult times.  

TIPS: 

N: A simple take-away that triggered me into action was the suggestion that we keep a journal as ‘writing can be a powerful tool for learning self-compassion’, and that labelling negative emotion can make the feelings more manageable.   An extension of this could be a daily gratitude list, or recognising what we’ve done well that day, however small.  Option B was the result of Sheryl journaling during her period of grief.  So, if it works for Sheryl, we should all give it a go!

STANDOUT QUOTES ~


“I thought resilience was the capacity to endure pain, so I asked Adam how I could figure out how much I had.  He explained that our amount of resilience isn’t fixed, so I should be asking instead how I could become resilient.  Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity - and we can build it.  It isn’t about having a backbone.  It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone”.  

~ Introduction

“Philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, said that life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.  Journaling helped me make sense of the past and rebuild my self-confidence to navigate the present and future”.

~ Chapter 4, Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence 

“Resilience is not just built in individuals. It is built among individuals - in our neighbourhoods, schools, towns, and governments.  When we build resilience together, we become stronger ourselves and form communities that can overcome obstacles and prevent adversity.  Collective resilience requires more than just shared hope - it is also fuelled by shared experiences, shared narratives, and shared power.” 

~ Chapter 8, Finding Strength Together

BUZZ WORDS ~

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KEY LESSONS ~

H:  What I learned was that I’ve been asking the wrong questions!  The thing that stood out to me the most in Sheryl’s account was that the most commonly asked question in times of crisis - “let me know if there’s anything I can do?” - is not always helpful, as it puts the onus on the person in need.  I have been supporting Naomi, my best friend and business partner, recently though hard times, and this insight really made me reflect on my approach - that it’s better to just do something, or anything, for the person, instead of waiting for them to tell you what they need (because they don’t always know!).  A lovely example of this was last week when we were having a COR meeting, Alice had to rush off early, but when we came to pay the bill, we were told it had already been settled - Thanks Alice!

N:  I don’t know where to start!  I guess the big thing for me was the giving myself the permission to feel whatever I need to feel.  I recently can’t help crying and I felt I must look like a mad person most of the time, but after reading this book, in which Sheryl talks about taking time out at work to cry and pulling the car over at the side of the road to have a weep,  I realised that it’s OK to drop the brave face and let it all out when you need to.  In fact, I did this at one of my favourite cafes that I often work from, and when I eventually reappeared, the owner, a dear friend, was there and rather than saying anything, she just bought me over a huge hunk of cake!

N&H: Another common response to hearing people’s tragedies is “I can’t imagine”.  Well, neither can the person that’s going through it.  What Option B tells us is that survival is the only option.  We all deal with grief in different ways, but ultimately, the pain does eventually lift, and there is an element of agency that we can apply in how that pain impacts us.  Because we have no choice but to keep going, we mustn't feel guilty when we do find moments of joy amidst the darkness, and when we finally find our way through.

N:  As with the last book review, I honed in on the ‘collective’ element, and there is a whole chapter in Option B dedicated to the idea of collective strength.  Inspired by this, I have found my own collective called ‘Kid’s Time Project’, a charity for children of parents with mental health problems.  I had the first meeting with the Board recently and rapidly realised that all of us in the room shared a common understanding. As an extension of the book,  Sheryl has created an online community ‘optionb.org’ for people to connect with others coping with challenges.  As Sheryl says, ‘by coming together and supporting one another, we can bounce forward and find joy again’.

Lots of love, H & N x

REVIEW: Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown

Hello friends, Naomi here!

I’m unashamed to admit that I have an addiction to self-improvement books. I have an entire library of them, and I’ve passed the penchant on to Helena and Alice. We thought the blog would be the ideal forum to share the tips we’ve picked up in the hope that it might encourage you all to continue educating yourselves in the COR arena of courage, openness and resilience.  We’ve created our own SWOT analysis for the reviews - Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Tips - and we will signpost you to important chapters and quotes.

Practicing what I preach and making myself vulnerable for a moment, I’ve had an incredibly tough few months with family. I've been trying to sit with the pain, look at it head on, and take it day by day, giving myself permission to feel whatever I need to feel. Last week, I escaped for a few days of sunshine and quiet, and of course I took an inspirational read with me: Brené Brown’s newest book, Braving the Wilderness. It helped me enormously; I hope you enjoy my review.


Braving the Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone

Brené Brown

ONE LINE PITCH ~

An exploration of true belonging - through personal and collective courage and connection - in an era of fear and political division.

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTH: Brené has a trademark style in which she merges research with storytelling and openness. This enables a qualitative understanding of emotions, accessible through simple language and clear case studies

WEAKNESS: Another of Brené’s traits is her absolute Americanness - she talks about her love of bluegrass music, and her support of safe gun ownership -  so the narrative may not resonate so much with a UK audience. The writing at times slips into a rather cheesy rhetoric, but I simply see this as an expression of Brené’s passion for the subject!

OPPORTUNITY: This is one for all of you who are despairing at the state of the world and the political and ideological divisiveness that is unsettling communities. Scaling it down, it also applies to our personal sense of belonging and fears of loneliness and vulnerability.  It’s a comforting reminder of what really matters amidst personal, and global, crises.

TIPS: Brené identifies 7 elements of trust which she breaks down into the acronym, BRAVING: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault (referring to privacy), Integrity, Non-judgement, Generosity. Once you understand the elements, it can serve as a useful framework on many levels.

STANDOUT QUOTES ~

“If I had to identify one core variable that drives and magnifies our compulsion to sort ourselves into factions whilst at the same time cutting ourselves off from real connection with other people, my answer would be fear. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of the pain of disconnection. Fear of criticism and failure. Fear of conflict. Fear of not measuring up. Fear.”

~ Chapter 3, High Lonesome: A Spiritual Crisis

“Most of us were not taught how to recognize pain, name it, and be with it. Our families and culture believed that the vulnerability that it takes to acknowledge pain was weakness, so we were taught anger, rage and denial instead. But what we know now is that when we deny our emotion, it owns us. When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain [...] Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate. Anger that is never transformed becomes resentment and bitterness.”

~ Chapter 4, People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.


“The foundation of courage is vulnerability - the ability to navigate uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It takes courage to open ourselves up to joy. [...] Pain is also a vulnerable emotion. It takes real courage to allow ourselves to feel pain. When we’re suffering, many of us are better at causing pain than feeling it. We spread hurt rather than let it inside.”

~ Chapter 7, Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.

BUZZ WORDS ~

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KEY LEARNING ~

I received some heartbreaking news on Saturday.

I was meant to be hosting a party that evening to thank everyone that had supported me over the past few months. I thought about cancelling but realised that the alternative would be sitting on the sofa, weeping and wallowing. Instead, I surrounded myself with the people that care about me the most, and I told them exactly what had happened.

On what should have been a very bleak and anxious night, I was somehow able to laugh, chat and even have a dance. And when I crept upstairs for a cry, one by one each of my friends came up to join me, until the entire party was in my room, and I realised I wasn’t going to fall apart, because there were so many people there to hold me up.

It’s unsurprising, then, that Chapter 6, Hold Hands. With Strangers., stood out to me the most as Brené explains that true belonging comes from the belief in inextricable human connection. When we named the company, I hadn’t registered how important the term ‘collective’ was to our brand and company mission. Now I realise, it’s at the very core of everything we’re trying to achieve, (pun totally intended).

An experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence. These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time
— Chapter 6, Hold Hands. With Strangers.

Lots of love, N x

Hello dear friends and faithful COR followers

We are super excited to announce the launch of our brand new website and blog!

We will use this to keep you updated on what exciting new workshops and events we have coming up, and to share confidence tips and techniques to keep adding to your toolkit!

We aspire to continuously develop our content to ensure we are up to speed with new developments in the field, and so will use this space to share and review books, articles, studies, talks and events relating to courage, openness and resilience.

What we’ve been up to...

2017 has been a full and thrilling year for COR, since we started out in Naomi’s living room in November last year (somehow we succeeded in turning an idea over a cup of tea into a reality!).  We’ve run a series of workshops and events with people from a range of backgrounds with a variety of objectives, culminating in our visit to Obonjan festival in July where we launched three new workshops:

  • Public Speaking Survival Guide (a bitesize version of our full-day course)

  • How to Achieve a Positive Mindset

  • Hacking the Happy Hormones.

These new courses were inspired by our signature public speaking workshop where we discovered that confidence and how we feel in ourselves is intrinsically linked to our mindset and physiology!

What’s next for COR?

Back to school brings with it fresh energy and ideas.  Our ambition is to grow and make our content accessible to a wider audience.  This includes young people leaving school or college to equip them with the skills and confidence to pursue their ambitions.  We are also becoming increasingly interested in personal resilience, and are exploring exciting new collaborations, so watch this space!

Much love

Naomi, Helena and Alice xxx

Naomi Bacon