Does my Bum Look Big in this Reality? #22 #cong23 #reality


We spend our lives acquiring knowledge and facts. At each stage of our lives we are judged on our ability to retain knowledge and have valuable skills to trade in the world.
2023 seems to have changed our reality and machines can hide our inabilities and lack of skills? is this a good thing?

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Key Takeaways:

  1. .Reality is a very competitive landscape.
  2. We can spend our lives trying to keep up.
  3. We can choose to delude ourselves instead
  4. AI, Botox and Bots are distorting our reality and helping us play the game of delusion.

About Ailish Irvine:

I deliver workshops for Businesses and Community groups by day. By night I’m a mother of 3 on the side of a pitch wishing I had a warmer jacket and more money to move to Italy.

Contacting Ailish Irvine:

You can connect with Ailish on Twitter (x), LinkedIn and Facebook.

By Ailish Irvine

Let’s face it Reality can sometimes be a bit of a let down. For the first four years of your life you spend it in a place where your family thinks you’re entertaining, smart, fun and clever. You manage to dazzle them in play school with your ability to make great items from morla (I can’t say playdough it doesn’t sit right with me.)

Then you go to Big School and you discover that counting to 10 is not quite the superpower that you imagined it was, this place is filled with kids who’ve mastered this skill. You better get more skills quickly, could you learn one to ten in Irish?

You cruise along merrily for a few years until multiplication and long division seem to weed out a few of the competition. After you master long division you’re convinced that world domination is definitely just around the corner, Then you go to secondary school.

No No No, there seem to be clever people here too. You could keep learning stuff, there will be a few facts that sit well with you that you’d like to bring into the real world, things like consumer rights, how your body works and enough French to get you to chat up a tourist a few years later in college. Maybe college will offer something different. Oh crap the really clever ones are here.

You get to face a few harsh realities along the way, you’re not the smartest, prettiest, funniest, richest most energetic soul out there and these things can get you places.

You find a job and realise that the college education didn’t quite prepare you for it, you’re going to have to learn more stuff.

In the world of 2023 everyone is playing a game, filters, fillers and botox and avatars have given people the tools they need to navigate the world a bit more smoothly. Reality can be masked and hidden and camouflaged. Knowledge though, my thirst for you has been satiated this year like no other stage of my life. I have been given the tools to change my reality.

Reality is nearly always based on your perception and perspective, if you’re feeling confident nobody can rain on your parade. If you’re feeling unsure and sorry for yourself you will see evidence everywhere as to why you should be. If you want to believe something because it helps you get through the day then I think reality is hugely overrated. Delusion all the way I say. If you can’t do something, find a tool that will help you do it.

If you can’t draw Ai can help you and tools like Ideogram and Midjourney can help you bring ideas to life. ChatGPT and GithubCopilot can help you write code. All of these baffling until I came across PI, your personal AI assistant who can talk to you and offer life advice.

She’s quite like ChatGPT, just got a friendlier tone and she’s great for giving little pep talks.

If you ask her if you look ok she’ll probably be quite gentle.

When you sign up, this is your welcome message.

She wants to talk about whatever is on my mind, Oh poor poor PI.

So I told her about what was on my mind and asked her for a little reassurance.

Here is how I got on.


I’m Thinking of Staring a Cult. Wanna join? #19 #cong21


Leadership and the ability to influence can be abused when it lands in the wrong hands

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Key Takeaways:

  1. I’m thinking of setting up a Cult
  2. I’m thinking I won’t manage it
  3. I’m showing you how others have managed it
  4. There is a fine line between leading and manipulating

About Ailish Irvine:

Freelance Community Development workshop facilitator. Long time fan of Congregation. Wife, mammy long suffering Mayo GAA fan. Partial to gallivanting, all things Italian and Social Enterprise.

Contacting Ailish:

You can follow Ailish on Twitter or Instagram.

By Ailish Irvine

I have always had an unhealthy fascination with watching documentaries about Cults and Cult leaders. I’m extremely lucky that I met my husband 20 years ago as I know that opening line would make for a very poor Tinder bio.However I shall continue to regale you with tales of cults and cult leaders and the number of observations that I have made from my unhealthy study.

The first thing that I’ve observed is I would make a very poor leader. I have difficulty managing to convince people to join me on a Saturday evening for a tipple in our local pub.

I’ve watched all the documentaries as I said and I want to highlight a few great watches so you too can join my Cult, it’s  a cult for people who like researching cults?

Do you wanna be in my gang? ……No I didn’t think so.

I promise though by the end of this you may just put one of these on your must watch list over the Christmas.

First up is Wild Wild Country and it’s on Netflix. I binge watched this one Christmas. I pretended I was watching The Holiday and Downton Abbey just so I wouldn’t be locked up.This will give you multiple tips on how to give up all your worldly possessions, move to the other side of the world and devote yourself deeply to narcissistic people with personality disorders. You will however in all of these documentaries get great tips on convincing people to build you entire villages “for the greater good” for completely free labour. If there is a danger that you have a thought of your own, don’t hesitate, it will eventually disappear as others convince you that you’re a renegade, rebel, freethinking type.

Second up, Sanpa this one isn’t technically a cult. It’s a documentary about the start of a movement in Italy to help drug addicts overcome addiction by pretty controversial means. While initially the leader was hailed as a saviour type in Italy his grasp on power becomes slightly alarming. Though sadly what links most of the followers in all of these stories, is a sense of alienation, vulnerability and loneliness. The ability for people to pick up and prey upon broken people and convince them that they have found the way forward is unbelievable.You can make up your mind on this one if the end justifies the means.

I have always taken consolation in the fact that we were too cute in Ireland  to fall for such shenanigans…… until I discovered this next bit.

I was going on my holidays to Donegal. As I researched things to do I came across a video on youtube about a sect called The Screamers. The Irish Times also covered this story not too long ago. Una Mullally covers it wonderfully in this article. They were considered dropouts as they  ‘found society pathetically wanting and more than a little hypocritical and unreal,’

What flabbergasted me though is that when they moved out of their house a new gang not completely far removed from The Handmaids Tale moved in. You too are welcome to go down the youtube rabbit hole that is Maids of The Silver Sisterhood

There is a German movie called Die Welle which delves deeply into a social experiment carried out by a teacher. He examined how easy it would be to convince people to take part in behaviours, normally alien to them. He pitted students against one another and slowly manipulated them into alienating and ostracising other class members. Oprah Winfrey tried a similar experiment by treating guests on her show better or worse depending on their eye colour. People were very happy to be in “The cool gang” even if it meant others suffering as  a result.

It seems to me upons observing all of the shows that a narcissistic, power hungry leader convincing people that they are following a path that others have not been brave enough to take, is one common theme. People’s willingness to have someone else make all the decisions for them is startling. They are happy to take a back seat and abdicate responsibility from freedom of thought in order to be a part of something bigger and better. Generally dissenters are punished and beaten into submission. A charismatic leader who seems to be too good to be true is also a bit of a red flag. They rarely are that good and so I highly recommend paying attention the next time you hear the word charisma mentioned.

Now I better finish. I’m setting up a cult here in Mayo, if you want to join please send me all your money. We won’t be engaging in any kind of religious pursuits, self flagellation has been taken off the constitution. I’m thinking of worshipping hedonistic pursuits, eating, drinking, poetry, music, song and  meeting new people  staying up until the wee hours talking nonsense? Are ye in?  Get in touch with Eoin Kennedy for Congregation so.

Man cannot live on Banana Bread alone #14 #cong20


We were not equipped with a set of instructions for how to cope in a Global Pandemic. So whatever you’re doing to keep yourself sane, do it.
Most importantly though, don’t be afraid to reach out to people for no good reason. We can get zoom fatigue and we need to make it OK, to say, I’m just calling because I need social interaction

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Key Takeaways:

  1. We’ve been here before (sort of)
  2. There is no manual
  3. Do whatever keeps you sane
  4. Reach out for nothing, sanity is key

About Ailish Irvine

Ailish has worked in the education and non-profit sector, community integration and enterprise projects.  She is passionate about helping people to solve their own problems through resilience and a positive attitude.  She has a huge interest in STEM and in promoting employment opportunities in technology, particularly in rural areas.  When not working she is a wife to one and mammy of 3 and is usually found huddled on the side of a GAA pitch, planning on buying a warmer jacket..

Contacting Ailsh Irvine:

You can connect with Ailish on Twitter, LinkedIn or via email..  

By Ailish Irvine.

Man cannot live on Banana Bread alone.

Sometimes I have terrible ideas and sometimes I have great ones. At the start of this year I said to my husband, “i’d like to do up a room as a home office for myself, not a dumping ground, a nice space where I’d like hanging out and working”

I also said, “Let’s not wait until Summer for a holiday, why don’t we go away in February this year?”

Prophetic I hear you ask, I’m beginning to think so. Those two simple things have helped me to stay relatively sane in 2020.
We have always worked remotely and our kids are well used to having to pretend they live in the basement and don’t exist in our lives. Heaven forbid that they be seen in the background of a call or that people at work find out that we have a life outside of the 9 to 5.

Remember this guy.

He made it OK for all of us to have children appear in the background. Now it’s something that lightens people’s mood. We need more of our home life/work life co-existing. It needs to work to give the people at home a chance too. They shouldn’t have to hide.

We need a culture where it’s ok to say, I can’t do that because, I have school runs, training, football games etc

These past few months have made me think carefully about how our ancestors coped during crises in the past. I often wondered how people coped with the fear in wartime. The impending sense of doom and the never knowing when it’s all going to end. I then remembered that during wartime, people were very clear on who the enemy actually was. Now we really aren’t quite sure. Is it the person in ALDI without a face mask? The person you met out walking who walked a little bit too close beside you? Is it perhaps a work colleague you met for coffee who had a dry cough? It’s very difficult to know and in order to stay sane, I think, we have to realise that we are facing an unprecedented set of challenges. We don’t know how to be prepared emotionally for all this.

One of my favourite comedy clips is Catherine Tate . Here she is singing one of my favourite songs, which will be stuck in your head for the rest of today. (You’re most welcome) It depicts an old fashioned view of , keep calm and carry on.

I think our modern day response has been to bake banana bread. I know I can hear you now.

Patient: Dr. What do you think I should do? There’s this fear I have everyday of getting sick, possibly dying, losing a family member, my house, my job.?

Dr. Well I’m glad you asked, I recommend that perhaps you reacquaint yourself with Tony Soprano or Breaking Bad. Invest in huge amounts of toilet paper because this thing can get nasty. Lastly however I’d buy shares in flour companies as I feel like there is a banana bread wave about to hit. You know what else you can do?

  • Don’t worship at the shrine of amazon (Buy from someone who can’t get PUP)
  • Don’t do ALL zoom calls, it’s exhausting.
  • Have crappy dinners on the days you can’t muster the enthusiasm.
  • If you’ve not had a good nights sleep , take it easy. Be kind to yourself.
  • Ring your friends for no reason, the art of chatting about nothing is lost in this pandemic.

And if all else fails. “Let’s all go down the strand and have a banana.”

You are Not the Boss of My Community #11 #cong19


The best ideas come from communities solving their own problems. It’s almost always a team effort and no one person pulls it all together. When we stop looking for others to fix our problems and put our energy into finding solutions we have far greater success. The best communities are filled with people who found their own solutions and then held a table quiz.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Leaders need supportive teams.
  2. We can solve our own problems
  3. People are terribly hard on other people
  4. Communicate within your community and always mention the elephant in the room.

About Ailish Irvine:

Ailish Irvine is a freelance jack of all trades and master of none. She regularly mentions the elephant in the room. She is not afraid of taking the first step and tripping, tumbling and falling on her head. She has a new idea every day, (Didn’t say they were good ones).
She helps businesses, Community groups, Non Profits with funding, training, consultancy and she likes coffee and biscuits and laughing.

Contacting Ailish Irvine:

You can connect with Ailish on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or by emailing her.

By Ailish Irvine

You’re not the boss of my Community.
Who makes the decisions in your Community? Who has the right? It’s key to equip people with a sense of responsibility for finding solutions to problems in their own area. The best communities know that the person with the idea is not the only important one. For a good idea to take shape there needs to be a team of supporters. People need help finding funding, organizing events, catering, decorating, sweeping, donning a high viz, and putting up bunting and selling raffle tickets. These are all very unique skills and no man is an island. It takes a community to raise a child (or a decent project in this case).

  1. Every town/ village thinks that they are the centre of the universe. They think that those in Government have let them down and that there are less resources in their community than everywhere else in the whole world.
  2. They spend a lot of time and energy complaining about what people have not done for their area. They usually complain to the person responsible who is more concerned about trying to deflect blame than find solutions.
  3. Communities working together are much better working together than against each other. Sounds simple, well it isn’t. Communities spend decades holding onto anger and resentment and bitterness rather than choosing an alternative path.
  4. People can achieve amazing things when they get out of their own way. That means when you encourage someone who has a solution and you validate their reasons for trying to make a change you give them a gift.
  5. Committees who have been in operation for a very long time get burnt out. It’s a simple fact. New blood that wants to rock up and show them how it’s done tend to come in energetic, enthusiastic and deeply critical. Things fall apart. Recognize the merits of those with more experience than you.
  6. Sometimes groups don’t know why they are together or what they are working towards. Be sure everyone knows why they are there. Have a mission statement or at least double check that everyone is on the one page about the cause.
  7. No man is an island. The best groups have a leader who makes them feel supported and listened to. The worst leaders listen to everyone and try to agree with everyone and try to keep everyone happy. A healthy dose of listening to opinions but taking a vote will speed things up. Everyone is never going to be on the one page and have the same opinion. When people are indecisive they push things onto agenda’s from one meeting to the next while people are afraid of mentioning the elephant in the room.
  8. Some people won’t step down because they are convinced the world will stop turning without them. It won’t.
  9. Communities working together and achieving success is like watching a gardener planting a seed and nurturing and caring for it until it grows. Birds will try and eat it, winds will try and damage it but when the gardener expects some problems and prepares for them, their garden will blossom.
  10. Even the most accomplished skilled leaders who look like they have it all together, need to hear the occasional thank you.
  11. If you are not there to contribute anything helpful get out of the way of the workers and let them get on with it.
  12. Someone who did zero work will always show up for the photograph. I don’t need to give examples you have all being shoved into a corner while someone more important rugby tackled you for poll position.
  13. Develop a thick skin early on. Anyone who starts to make progress in Ireland can be accused of being “in it for themselves” “running off with the money” “lining their own pockets” or “not giving the gig to our little Jimmy”. These things will happen don’t give them your energy.
  14. Committees that consult other groups in their area about when they are fundraising are appreciated. You do not want to take the grief of having organised a table quiz the same night as a fashion show somewhere in town.
  15. Appreciate your volunteers and remember they are volunteers and do not have to do what they are doing. Be realistic about commitment from volunteers, they have families and a life outside the organization they are VOLUNTEERING with. I regularly have to remind volunteers that they have a choice. You are allowed to turn up to your child’s Holy Communion if the GAA have a fundraiser on that day.
  16. If a community organizes an event and it is a complete disaster. Be honest. Reflect and consider what happened and what can be learned from it, then MOVE ON. Park it and learn.
  17. Get training and support for people when they are given a job. Don’t just tell them they have a job to do and assume they have the skills and knowledge to do it. Create an atmosphere where people are comfortable saying what they can/ can’t do.
  18. Have a plan B. Never have one person having the keys to the kingdom. I’ve seen too often disgruntled members taking off with passwords or denying access to social media/website logins etc.
  19. Have a sense of humour. Enjoy what you are doing. This may become your only social life so have fun when you are doing it. If you are not enjoying it anymore stop. Netflix has some great shows now.
  20. Value the contribution of everyone in the organization no matter how small the job they do. The person who loves selling raffle tickets is a vital asset to your cause.
  21. GIVE BACK. If you hold regular fundraisers where you are constantly asking from your community, then hold something where you give back to the community. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune but celebrate your successes and reward your volunteers. The tiniest of acknowledgements go along away and ensure sustainability and longevity in an organisation.

“This time next year Rodney” #10 #cong18


Living with someone with Entrepreneurial tendencies is not easy. People who find it easy to come up with ideas sometimes take this for granted. Having a lot of ideas helps one to plan for the future and solve problems.
Delboy while always having the next big idea sometimes manages to nail it.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Embrace your ability to be creative
  2. Ideas don’t travel alone, you win some , you lose some
  3. Putting ideas out into the world is not always easy
  4. Sometimes Delboy wins

About Ailish Irvine:

A Freelance workshop facilitator, with good knowledge of Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship supports. Wife and mother of 3, likes a good laugh with kind people. Loves travelling and is a long suffering Mayo GAA fan.

Contacting Ailish Irvine:

You can follow Ailish on Twitter, LinkedIn and her website.

By Ailish Irvine.

I often start sentences with “I just thought of a great idea” and hear a huge groan from my long-suffering husband. You see it’s Ok being the kind of person who comes up with ideas. It’s not great being the partner of one. They have to endure Dragon’s Den type pitches over the kitchen table. They sometimes have the cheek to interject with logical, rational arguments as to why your idea may not pay off the mortgage. They have to break the news to you and they have to rain on your parade.
You see sometimes I’m like Del Boy. His enthusiasm for the next big thing is infectious.

I always thought that this ability to come up with ideas was the worst affliction that a girl could have. I sometimes tried to stop the ideas from coming as with them they brought ridiculous things like hope, dreams and positivity. That can’t be good for the soul, can it?
I remember sitting round our sitting room in college telling a group of friends about some of my ideas. I didn’t even know back then that that I had the condition, I didn’t know that I was suffering from a small case of entrepreneurial spirit. Twenty-five years later and the ideas haven’t stopped, sometimes they appear in the middle of the night as I’m about to go to sleep. I awake in the morning to know that they escaped off into the unknown, because I didn’t treat them with the respect they deserved. I didn’t write them down when they appeared at will. I took them for granted.
I teach adults and I like to write. Having the ability to think off the top of your head when people ask you crazy questions is an undervalued attribute.  Convincing them that your response was a considered and knowledgeable one is also an ability unavailable on Linked in’s list of must have skills. It is important though most of all to encourage those with ideas
I know that I’m good at connecting ideas. Who knew that was a skill? I listen to people and I value their ideas. When I meet someone, else who feels the same way, I find a way of matching their ideas and connecting them up.
I love listening to other people’s ideas. The years and the 250 failed Dragon’s Den pitches across the kitchen table have taught me how to go gently with a person’s ideas. The many failures have taught me what not to do. They haven’t killed the spirit, but they have given me wisdom. They have allowed me to spot possible glitches or bugs and they help me to help others.
An idea does not travel alone, they travel in packs. The daft ones, the great ones, the life changing ones, the solutions, the unrealistic ones. You need to welcome them to stay en masse and then you need to know which ones to evict. Know that those who dream, don’t always have only good ideas, the few rogue ones slip in occasionally and you need to give employees the freedom to have them all.
It’s important to have ideas, it’s also important to know that they are not always good ones. It’s important to be around people who care and encourage you. If you have been  affected by any of themes here you need to head in the direction of Congregation. you may meet other sufferers and they may make you feel normal.
Remember Delboy does get his day.