Let the words flow onto the paper So that you can feel the scratch. Feel the texture of the paper Underneath your writing hand. Feel the flow of black graphite As it runs off the tip of your pencil Creating the next letter In the word In the sentence In the paragraph Of the chapter Of your next book! The whole experience being guided From somewhere else. Written in a space of timelessness. Written in a space that is yours alone. Written in a space of pure potential! Black on white. Written as if you are in the story Guided b characters that are performing In front of you - true to form. Written as an observer of human frailty Woven into a storyline that is not yet Completely obvious - even to you! You are but a hollow bone. A reed vibrating to the dance of time. A pool of water reflecting what is true. A breath of wind blowing on our faces. A timeless channel of pure consciousness. Just observing what's obvious. Come! Join me in my land of plenty! Let the flowers bloom; Let the birds sing; Let the music play; Let the rich tapestry of colours Be woven into our future!
As we come out of the Great Lockdown, it is interesting to reflect on the roller-coaster of emotions and experiences that have accompanied the disruption to our relationships both at home and at work in the past few months.
So far as I have seen, we have all had very individual experiences depending on our conditions going into lockdown.
For some, living on their own has been much more of a trial than for those that live with others. We are social creatures by nature. Results of a 2011 United Nations (UN) report raised the question – “Should isolation be permitted under any circumstances?” UN Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez concluded in the report that “solitary confinement for more than 15 days…constitutes cruel and inhuman, or degrading treatment, or even torture”. The relaxation of rules will be most significantly felt by this group of folk living on their own – perhaps as if they are not just being let out of solitary confinement but out of prison itself.
Yet others on the key-worker frontline, life has been probably pretty hectic and at times very stressful. Many have used the analogy with the military and are predicting that the stress will start to show itself in longer-term mental health issues such as PTSD.
For others, financial worries have been in abundance – particularly for those leaders in companies who continue to have to make difficult decisions about the future of their employees and contracts whilst they balance their income with their outgoings into 2021. There will be many casualties – particularly for those who are not having restrictions lifting like theatres and live performance venues.
And there are those fortunate ones who have perhaps seen more benefits than stress. Relief from a long commute at the start and end of each day. Closer bonds with family and friends. More time with their children. More community spirit and predictable days if you are lucky to have a job where you can work from home. We’ve been using communications technology in ways that we couldn’t conceive of at the start of 2020 that will change the whole way we think about how and where we work in the future.
With all these changes, we have seen other glimpses of the future. Things that people consider changes for the good that we don’t want to lose as well as the slowing down of life to the point where the decisions we take are more conscious and deliberate. Last week I lost a good friend to the virus. It reminded me of the fragility of all of our humanity and the importance of being far more conscious of nurturing the relationships that are important to me as well as to spend the time I have more wisely.
As human beings, we are an incredibly adaptable species and we will surely adapt ourselves to any so-called “new normal”. But before returning to any type of normal, it is so important for us to meditate a while on the things that have been good about the past three months that we might soon forget.
For me, it has been a time where time was somewhat frozen. I’m not exactly sure what I have achieved during that time. Maybe that was the point? In any case, I have become more conscious of the importance of the things that I promise myself and others – and I have become more determined to follow-through on those promises rather than waste my time on more trivial things that don’t matter.
Please share below any answers to the following questions so we can all learn from the past few months – before we forget and pretend everything has returned to normal.
> What did you learn?
> What are the changes that you want to stick?
> What things are the ones you only happy to let go of?
> How could we make the important changes stick – and not revert to the old patterns?
Photo Credit – Getty Images
In classical Greek Mythology, Persephone
(Who was also known as Kore or Cora)
Was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter.
Hades abducted her to his underworld
Where she lives before returning in spring
To cause the cycle of life to continue.
Even though it is now springtime in the North
Cora has drawn humanity in her underworld
In a way not seen for a generation.
This prolonged winter is out-of-sync with
The natural seasons, but gives us time to reflect
And become more conscious of the world around us.
How should we best prepare for Cora’s return?
Many minds are mulling on this at the moment.
They say that even when she returns,
The world will never be the same again
Our expectations, our structures, our systems
They will all have to change.
So, for each of us, we have an opportunity.
We can spring clean our lives before her return
We can make a list or an inventory
Of those things we like and want to keep
And those things that we want to let go of.
In preparation for Cora’s return.
Deeper than that, we can choose to make
New life choices that affect other people
Use the time to pray for, ponder and meditate
On a better world for all.
To reconnect to our own true nature and
To remember the fragility of humanity.
More than anything, to rediscover our ability
To create and nurture deeper relationships
With the things that matter most to us
And to simplify our lives by reducing clutter
And unnecessary noise in our busy lives.
So we are truly ready for Cora’s return
As the weather starts to warm up, the hives are starting to wake up. Each bee knows what to do. The queens are starting to lay eggs. The few new young workers are keeping the hive tidy and the others are out foraging for pollen and nectar when the sun gets up and it’s not too cold or wet to go outside.
Yet, as a society, most of us are in the equivalent of October or November, going into hibernation – or as we call it “self-isolation”. The bees don’t know that. They can’t get our kind of virus (though they have plenty of their own to contend with).
However, just as in the beehive, there are those workers who are stretched to the max. The health workers. The supermarket delivery folk. The engineers working out novel ways to make vital equipment with 3D printers. Those lucky enough to have a job where they can work from home.
But for many (particularly those over 70), the next few months might become lonely and frustrating. As humans, we all have an innate need to serve society and be useful. I’ve just volunteered to the UK’s National Health Service – but the system itself is just not designed to take on a flood of volunteers. The old systems can’t cope with taking on a flood of volunteers. There are too many rules and the processes are too slow.
The bees don’t work like that. If something needs doing, it gets done. As a bee goes through life and picks up new skills, it applies those skills to the job in front of it. They are a complex society driven by a much simpler and more effective set of rules than the way we are organised in our so-called modern global economy. I’m going to be writing about my thoughts on this in the coming weeks.
Additionally, next week, at 17.00 GMT every day, I’m running a half-hour Zoom call to swap ideas on effective volunteering in the lock-down. Spaces are limited. Please like or comment below if you want an invitation.
Let’s get creative about how we can be useful!
When people ask me what I do, I tend to freeze.
I dislike labels. If I have to be labelled
I prefer to be known as a Polymath.
Something like that. And yet that doesn’t help
When you are looking for your next piece of work.
The market is skewed towards hiring specialists.
The world of HR and recruitment love labels.
It somehow makes the hiring process less risky
For them when they can you put you into a box.
Specialisms, industry knowledge, groupthink.
It’s a disease which is rife and one where
Renaissance (wo)man stands no chance!
How can generalists become more useful?
Some give back by working as a volunteer.
Charitable work is very is rewarding
But does not pay the bills.
Others enter academia to become
Priests to the religion that is education.
Others become authors or artists. Yet in business
Creativity clashes with corporate straight jackets.
Squashed between policies and boring routines
We need a revolution! A revolution
In the way that cognitive diversity is
Recognised, commissioned and rewarded.
Ahah! I hear you say! It’s up to the generalist
To market their skills and get themselves a job!
However, generalists don’t like being tied-down
To particular job descriptions. They don’t like
Being put into a box. They are too inquisitive,
Onto the next idea before the last has closed.
What if there was a pool of generalists
Who could be engaged for an hour, day or week?
They know lots of things about many things
And can challenge like the Court Jester.
Crazy ideas might lead to a great product or service.
Who would commission them? Would you? And why?
We met twice in 2019.
Lunch boxes at the Embassy.
He was once a beekeeper.
We had fascinating and ranging discussions,
All listened into by unknown ears
From a foreign country.
Last time I saw him was in court
After they arrested him.
Now he’s in Belmarsh Prison.
We pray for him every day.
As a New Year’s Resolution,
I’ve decided to re-join the local writing circle.
This week’s exercise is a short story in 55 words.
This is my contribution
As we enter a new year of a new decade, have you
Ever thought about how effective your plans are
At helping you achieve your objectives?
Winston Churchill once said:
“Plans are of little importance,
But planning is essential”.
Have you also wondered whether alternative strategies
Might produce better results to get you there faster?
And how the plan will go down with the rest of the team?
Planning is one of the riskiest activities we undertake
(And with the undertaker is where many plans end up!)
Wherever you are, it’s never too late to start planning!
How can we give our plans the greatest chance of success?
Aside from Churchill, many great leaders have determined
That is is the planning process that is most valuable.
The end-result of a published plan being far less important.
Yet without setting your sights on creating the latter,
The former is very unlikely to happen!
Some people (like me) think in pictures
Other people prefer words or spreadsheets.
So it is important that the plan is gamed-out
From a number of different views or perspectives,
Each one providing valuable insights into areas
That might cause problems down the line.
Involving the wider team from the outset is vital.
A plan that has no buy-in from them is bound to fail.
It is the planning process that gets the buy-in
By negotiating key friction points on the way ahead.
Yet too much sharing can also be counter-productive
Leading to too many cooks spoiling the broth.
In our modern-day world of information overload,
Artificial intelligence, social media and fake news,
It is ofttimes difficult to understand
Where things are going and where they might end up.
The planning process is more important than ever,
Even though the plan will end up being pretty worthless!
If you would like to book a free 15-minute slot
In the month of January 2020 (no strings attached)
To discuss a plan you are currently working on
So I can give you three valuable ideas
To make it a better plan, then please book me here: https://calendly.com/gameyourplan/three-ideas
It was the turning of the 89/90 decade.
I was in Berlin for New Year’s Eve.
Fireworks were only allowed then
To celebrate the turning of the year.
I was at a party well away from the wall
But had this urge to move up on up to it.
We made it just in time! A large crowd swarming
Five hundred metres way up to the Brandenburger Tor.
That symbolic centre of both the wall and Berlin herself.
There was a determined push towards the gate
Both in front and behind us, surging like a tidal wave
As if the whole crowd moved with a collective psyche.
And then the fireworks began. Lighting the sky above.
The dark shadow of the gate ahead, I could move
Neither back, nor left, nor right, but only forwards.
As more and more people joined the push
Towards the tiny gap only created a few weeks before
On, on, on, there was no going back.
I then realised I had no passport. My friend from Berlin
Was allowed to go through with no papers, but I should not.
Too late! The powerful crowd took that decision for me.
We were pushed through the tiny gap and there –
On the other side were two 12 ft replica cans of Coca-Cola!
The American marketing machine had beaten us to it!
Illegal or not, there were no guards: it was a surge to freedom.
We were discharged out onto the Unter den Linden,
The boulevard of lime trees on the Eastern side of the gate.
A calm peace after the hectic push and scrabble.
We spent an hour or so soaking up the atmosphere
Before returning back home to the Western side.
Elias Canetti, summed up in his 1960s book “Crowds and Power”:
The crowd always wants to grow – it has no natural boundaries.
Within the crowd there is equality. Differences … are irrelevant.
The crowd loves destiny … it can never feel too dense.
The crowd needs direction … and moves towards a goal.
And so it was. The wall collapsed to create modern-day Europe.
Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop
He was born in about 280 in Patara, Lycia
Which is in modern-day Turkey
His parents both died when he was young
And he used his inheritance to help
The poor and the sick.
There are many legends surrounding Saint Nicholas
He is supposed to have saved three men
Who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death.
He is said to have died on 6th December 343.
His reputation went before him as a gift-giver
As well as the protector of children and sailors.
So how does that explain where Santa Claus cames from?
Well, his story as a Saint became popular in Europe
Until the Reformation when Saints became unpopular.
However, the Dutch kept celebrating his feast day
On 6th December – children put out their shoes at night and
In the morning would discover the gifts he had left for them.
In the 1700s, Dutch immigrants took the legend
To the Americas where he was known as “Sint Nikolaas”
Or more commonly by his nickname “Sinterklaas”
There, he went through many transformations to become
Known by his present-day name of Santa Claus, although
The present-giving was moved to the Christmas festival.
Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem in 1820 called
“An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholas”.
He described Santa Claus as a jolly, heavy man
Who comes down the chimney to leave presents
For deserving children. He also drove a sleigh pulled by
Magical Reindeer flying through the sky.
Cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the legend in 1881
Drawing Santa with a red suit trimmed with white fur.
In the early 1930s, Haddon Sundblom illustrated
A marketing campaign for the Coca-Cola Company.
And so the kind, charitable bishop from Turkey morphed
To became the jolly Christmas icon we know so well today.
I’m often out-spoken. It has caused me problems in the past.
But I’ve never done anything like this before.
I know I am not the only one reflecting these sentiments.
Sometimes I challenge because I believe that is what is needed
To change the system – or at least to draw attention to
The main areas that could and should be improved.
I have met only a few of the people who are here.
We live in a virtual world of listeners and applauders.
Most online fora are self-congratulatory, ego-boosters for the author.
People feel uneasy to join in if there is any dissension or (c)rudeness
For fear of going against the crowd like the cheeky monkey
That’ll have their legs broken so that they are eaten by the lions first!
Agent Provocateurs, Revolutionaries & Change Agents!
Where are you? You can hide away in the corner
Whinging & whining about the structures & systems that don’t work.
Without the guts or enthusiasm to change anything – mainly because
The whole darn system is so fragile, it might break anytime – and
YOU don’t want to be accused of being the person who finally broke it!
Where are the innovators, the disruptors, the risk-takers?
The folk who are up-ending the Establishment (with a BIG “E”)?
Where are the young folk who want to bring on the change?
They are in the cool start-ups, earning peanuts – for the chance
Of creating something new. And one day, they’ll say: “I was there”!
It’s a casino, for sure, but a lot more fun than those tied into BIG E!
Not all ideas come to fruition. You never know which ones will work.
But that is not the reason to keep the ideas flowing.
There is a big difference between a good idea and an idea which
Has support, is properly funded and is successfully implemented.
Without good ideas, you never get momentum for real change.
It’s a clash between different types of people, thinking and processes.
The only action that comes from this is that the ideas keep flowing.
The only leadership required is one of keeping an open mind.
The only communications skills required are for active listening.
Good ideas will stick and grow. Not-so-good ones will get overtaken.
Presence over process. Curiosity over Knowhow and “BIG E”.
Keep listening and I’ll keep posting! Give me a role and I’ll step up!