Stuart Clough


Full-time business writer. Part-time poet. One-time philosopher.

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Kind precepts for a simple and present life (incl. Beckham, the NHS, and an existential account of the working day)

One thing you'll come across if a buddhist precept or two crosses your path is a mantra: kind feelings, kind words, kind thoughts, kind deeds.

Such platitudes are usually spat out by the British in rejection of earnestness, and an abrupt distrust of sincerity (because if you really believe in something you've clearly lost your marbles).

You'll see it in the eye-roll of Brits when they hear an effusive American behind them in a queue (imagine you're slowly eyeing painted walls while idling round an 18C country manor, or a romanesque castle in middle Europe).

We're diffident.

We gave up that easy innocence after the Great war, when the church started dying and before we had the NHS to believe in.

It was during that period that some of the more common buddhist precepts began to make their way into British life. Their ideas had been heading west over the preceding centuries care of Companymen returning from Ceylon and Bombay, from Burma and Siam, the land of the rising sun and other fictionalised and exoticised lands.

But it was only as the middle class interest in theosophism receded and a wider-educated polity allowed the sons of colliers to consider something other than the trinity.

(there's an abridged history if ever you wanted one)

Then the 50s hit, Camus gets smashed into a wall, and the absurd climbs out the pages and into the lebenswelt.

After that, materialism and buddhism seem to pick up in the west, especially in the US where there seems to be more dreamers.

I was thinking of London 2012 the other day, and what a crazy thing for that to be so recent: Beckham's grin hoovering up the Thames, Mr. Bean – the sole internationalist among us – and those gurning princes taking jolly-goodery to new heights.

Tessa Jowell, a roll-up-your-sleeves, 'we can do this', mum-hi-five Brit, who's dying right now of a particularly aggressive brain cancer, organised the whole shebang.

You don't see her in her pants getting a couple of mil for an afternoon's work.

I don't know much about Tessa Jowell, but she's always struck me as just someone you'd feel positive around, someone you'd gravitate towards if they were in your office.

One of those people who never lets the gossip and navel-gazing and stupifying, self-inflicted misery of humanity settle for long.

She never accepted an earnest failure, insisted we put our best face on. It's the same motivation that puts the after-school hours into the summer fete.

A wonder-ful person, I suspect.

And it's also wonderful that when Danny Boyle asked the organisers what were doing for the opening ceremony said 'fuck that shit, I'm doing it'.

Or words to that effect.

That show redeemed those games, in the same way our modernist national story – of the industrial revolution, how we darkened our country with specialisation and factoring and imperialism – is redeemed by the NHS.

The NHS is probably the best British institutional embodiment of those four buddhist tenets:

  • kind feelings - that we should look after everyone
  • kind thoughts - that we should make no-one unwelcome
  • kind words - that we always repeat "free at the point of purchase" as a mantra
  • kind deeds - that we protect it, that it sustains

It's an additional vote for peace that the NHS, in this endeavour, is the #5 largest employer in the world (one behind McDonald's).

That's some kind precepts in the macrocosm.

Here's a microcosm —

Let me pitch you the borders of modern working life, and then you tell me where you find a place to to practice these precepts:

  • The bus to work, you can't sleep against the windows because condensation and it's too vibrational in commuter traffic
  • Between the breakfast news, morning coffee and the Metro, work is coming
  • You haven't left your desk for anything but comfort breaks this week, and the dried splashes of sauces and soups on your keyboard are a record of your diet
  • No-one who's a net-contributor to the tax base is relaxing before 7.30pm
  • All our caring is done by people we don't know paid the minimum living wage

I guess it's sometimes easier to put kindness on a stage than it is to sing its song.

But sometimes you should turn up and play, not buy another fucking ticket.

Would love to know your thoughts on this – feel free to email me or hit me up on Twitter or something.


WIWO: Q4 2017/18

What I'm working on right now:

  • ~~Finishing a new business card website for philosophy practice~~ – now live @

  • ~~Defining what philosophy practice is and isn't~~ – made a first fist of that here

  • Not getting het up over (2)

  • ~~Getting settled into the home stretch of H2 at Moorepay~~

  • Finding a balance between growing the babes and chasing the ego

  • Figuring out how to manage a full-time life and a part-time MA at the same time

  • Working maybe eight poems through final edits

  • A critical consideration of The Herring Famine by Adam o'Riordan

  (( ))

Part-time poet – is doing an MA Poetry part-time a terribly good or bad idea?

Some time in June or July 2017 I took a summer course in poetry and creative writing at Manchester Writing School.

The school is run by Carol Ann Duffy (poet laureate), and led by Adam o'Riordan, whose most recent collection – The Herring Famine – is some of the most elegant writing you'd care to read. You need kid gloves to consider those couplets.

Anyway, the summer course was pretty awesome – I came out giddy as a school girl, and told my wife and kids that I simply had to have more poetry in my life, because it made me so happy to be writing and reading poetry with other poetry people.

And if you find something that makes you really happy, then you're a) really fortunate, and b) compelled by the universe to keep doing it.

Because: what kind of madness would it be to find that thing you love doing the most and then walk away from it?

Something terrible.

You'd be passing out of this life in that moment, a moment of perverse shrinking, and what kind of lesson is that to pass on to your kids?

So I spent about two months putting together a 57-page application with the help of some very lovely people (a good doctor, a magical boat poet and the hardest working marketing scholar you'd care to know) and, after a phone interview with Mr/Dr o'Riordan in December I was offered a place!

So that's me pretty fucking excited.

The only thing is, being the practical philosophising soul that I am, it poses the dilemma of how the hell you squeeze in something like a 2-year, part-time MA with significant writing and reading commitments when you're holding down a full-time job, investing in the love of your life, and growing up two babes who've never slept a night through between them.

Where do you find the time?

Initially I was thinking that I could go down to a three day week.

That would give time to make some pennies, time for the family, and time to dedicate to the craft.

I would in effect be setting up as a part-time business writer, part-time poet.

And a part-time poet strikes me as a wholly legitimate way of taking on a craft, and giving you some form or definition for the project you're undertaking.

Because an underlying concern with something like a poetry MA is always going to be:

Why the fuck are you spending your time and energies on this niche, idiosyncratic, self-absorbed affectation?

In the parlance of my native lands, the question would be:

*"What the fuck are you playing at man? Get a grip!"

Which, in the context of the the economy-as-reality makes a great deal of sense.

We exist by virtue of our place in the economy, not by virtue of our place in humanity.

That's a sad fact, but an endemic and all too visible fact all the same.

So when you give up even a fragment of your place in the economy – take just one meagre finger off the capital pump – the eyes of all those you know turn on you, as if to say, 'we are doing this, we are working. You are less than us, you're half-way to being a dirty, benefits-riddled fucking scrounger', which in the class hierarchy of the UK is of course akin to dirt, and certainly less than ideal.

You start to become invisible.

Your words are not heard, because you're a shade in the economy, a half-ghost visible by the half-life of economy you give off: the value you add, the product you make, the efficiency you provide.

The less of this you emanate, the less those denizens of the economy can see you.

Which is why poets don't exist in the economy at all...

Anyway, side point.

Main point: once you've overcome that feeling, that settlement with your new status, that existential accomodation – then you have to overcome the pragmatic situation.

And the economy is nothing if not pragmatic.

So, the reality is you can run a household on a part time wage, but you cannot segue from a full time wage household to a part-time wage household.

Over a three, four year period maybe.

But in six months? No chance.

So now you have to find a way to fashion a part-time period out of your full-time work and family week.

Where's that coming from then?

Here's my plan – if you have any suggestions for how to make this a reality I'm like Gogol's Nose, except I'm an ear – I'm all ears, is what I'm saying:

  • get up at 5
  • read in the morning
  • get the kids ready, do drop off with spouse
  • muse in the car/at work
  • lunch - write up some thoughts, sketch out any poems as appropriate
  • evening - go home, out girls to bed, read before bed
  • sleep at 9.30/10
  • repeat

Then have "Edit Power Morning" either Saturday or Sunday morning, where I can spend four hours making use of what I've come up with during the week.

Tell me I'm not crazy.

Tell me this will work.

Tell me how you'd do it.

Would love to hear any (and ideally all three) of the above.

  (( ))

Why philosophy practice?

Here's some historic facts:

  • From 2003 to 2006 I studied philosophy at The University of Sheffield. We all had a wonderful time.
  • In 2012 I trained to teach philosophy to children with The Philosophy Foundation, who are really awesome
  • Philosophy with a little p (the kind of philosophising we all do every day) is the time-served way to take control of your life, understand it, and learn to make peace with yourself and the world

A few years back, while working as a Marketing Consultant, I got this crazed notion that you weren't really anyone if you didn't have a side-hustle. A 5-9 thing, a thing you did outside your 9-5.

Maybe I'd spent too long reading Inc and Entrepreneur and Forbes or HBR articles and swallowed the kool-aid. Or maybe there'd just been too much talking about this new gig economy we all supposedly live in, or will soon be living in, and I decided to steal a march.

Either way, I got this notion of setting up a side hustle called Peak Philosophy Practice.

It was conceived as a business that would target three markets:

  1. Schools – selling philosophy teaching to kids

  2. Businesses – selling brand philosophy (because at this time visions and values were all the rage, and talking about vision and values is philosophy bread-and-butter

  3. People – predominantly aged 23-37, early to mid careerists who'd lost their way and needed to understand their own philosophy to figure out what was good for them

I put together a business plan, built some brand assets using Canva, and then went about learning how to build a website to put a shop window out there.

Today, is the fifth iteration of the website, although the first not to be built on Wordpress.

I set up payment gateways, explored and looked at e-subscription models for no.3 using Selz, Gocardless and Stripe, and set up working prototypes of each.

And I put collateral together to sell services to no.1, because I believed in this and, because I'd trained so recently and had an understanding employer, I really believed I'd be able to work this alongside my 9-5 (that was really a 6-7 but that's another story).

But that's not all.

Because at the back end of it all I was busy building a case management system after exploring pretty much every cloud CMS out there – from Pipedrive to Insightly to OnepageCRM – before finally settling on CapsuleCRM. And I set up all the syncing necessary to link in with my Google for Business (now G suite) implementation I'd implemented for me, the sole person in the business.

And some people said:

Wow. This sounds amazing Stu! What a cool idea!

And it was, it really was. But some people were also saying stop doing all this crazy stuff, it's not even a real thing.

And that was troubling.

The voice in my head was saying:

Why have you built all this infrastructure for a business you don't have any clients for, or any go-to-market strategy?

What was I playing at?

And that's when it hit me: I was *playing** at being a business owner. A side hustler. An entrepreneur.*

I was doing all the stuff they would doif I were actually launching my own side-hustle. But in reality it was a hypothetical business.

A pseudo-hustle if you will.

It was a bit galling at first, to recognise and accept this, because I'd put some serious hours into researching, building, designing, developing and committing to what I thought was going to be this awesome extra part of my life.

But after I got over my ego, swallowed down some reality about who I was and wasn't, and come to terms with this sort of San-Fran Mania, I decided to keep playing at it anyway: exploring different e-commerce options, selling commoditised services, learning how to build Wordpress sites, learning HTML, CSS, Javascript – always learning learning learning.

I kept asking questions about how would you go about doing XYZ if you were such-and-such a business or targeting this market, or what would be the best proposition for this segment.

And then I got my second insight from this whole pseudo-business:

I was asking questions, and I was raising possible responses and exploring the repercussions.

Thinking it all through (with props):

I was practising philosophy. Or doing practical philosophy (which is not quite the same).

But anyway, philosophy practice had become the enaction of philosophy in the most real terms. ust not actually anything real.

Right. So why's the site still here anyway?

So, after the girls arrived (I have two cheeky nippers) in 2014 and then in 2016, I made another practical philosophical decision:

It was time to ditch the pretensions of even the pseudo side-hustle.

By then, my mind had cleared of the hyper-capitalist milieu and I was firmly back in the realm of the living.

But I did still want a presence of some kind on the interwebs. And I had built up all this infrastructure in the background, and this skillset, including my email account which is linked to pretty much every online service I use now.

I wake up every day and practice philosophy: in how I approach my life, in how I go about my work, and the concept of philosophy as a practice is something that has rung true with me ever since studying American Pragmatists and pragmatics back in the heady summer of 2005.

So I kept the domain and use it for those rare tidbits of freelancing I do still take on, and as a vanity project.

If you want to find me, I'm here:

And/or if you want to get in touch or discuss anything about side hustles, the professional/amateurism dilemma, or any related schemes, feel free to email me on

  (( ))

Letter to Ed & Geoff

Letter to Ed Milliband and Geoff lloyd from the excellent Reasons to be Cheerful Podcast after listening to Ep. 13 WORKING 9 TIL ....OVERTIME: Time for time and a half

You should give it a listen if you're into progressive politics, big ideas, and warm humour :)


Hi Ed & Geoff

Listening to your podcast since ep. 1, generally either in the car or in bed, and it's nice to share such intimate places with yourselves. Very chuckly.

On listening to your recent ep. on overtime, I was struck by how strange it is that we demarcate salaried and hourly workers. It speaks to a contractually-enabled class divide, and within that divide a societal expectation or managerial anthropology of who workers are:

Salaried = middle class = sense of personal responsibility, no union, will do the work required to fulfil their obligations :. treated like an adult

Hourly wage = lower class = no personal responsibility, unionised/trouble, will do as little as they can get away with, need incentivising to do anything :. bribed to do the extra work the group needs

Having in my life been both an hourly worker on the fish-packing and production lines of Grimsby docks (a long time ago) and a salaried worker in the creative/advertising/consultancy industries (last 5-10 years) I often compared my salary in junior professional roles unfavourably* with minimum wage and overtime/night shift wages in these hourly, traditional working class institutions.

These roles often contained a contract clause such as "hours are 9-5.30pm, but you may be required to work additional hours as and when required* – which in practice was mostly every day.

So you get into your long hours/poor work life scenario we know so well.

So a suggestion >
It feels like overtime ought to be compulsory for all contract-types for all workers.

This would:

a) discourage the late hours culture and promote better work/life balance as employers actively shoo workers out the door to cut costs

b) drive up productivity as employers push for more work within the core contracted hours (a la France)

c) encourage greater technological innovation and investment to augment (b) (again a la France)

d) ensure better pay & conditions for all workers by either providing the same pay for less work, or else the correct pay for the work they do

On this digital fag packet there looks to be a few big wins in there.

Some thoughts for you. Keep up the excellent work, and please keep adding the mis-en-scene in the attic. Loved the lamp detail.