Renewal

Elections are finally over. Six weeks of agony for both the candidates and the voters, and on Saturday Australia voted for a change of government. Loads of ink and pixels are devoted to hypothesizing what drove the change, and what the future might hold.

The implication on work, particularly for those entities and people dependent on the government as a source of funding or livelihood, will start to manifest quickly.

Despite all the changes though, I sense hopefulness. A renewal of sorts. That things might have seemed dark for a while, but they can be brighter. That the opportunity has opened up to do good work, that helps more than the handful of rich people who’ve been the beneficiaries of the largesse seen in the last few years.

That is an uplifting feeling for now at least.

Grateful

I have much to be grateful for.  The kids are at the top of the list, for different, maybe even contrasting reasons. One’s driven me mad with their creativity, the other proud with their effort.

 

I arranged and accompanied a few of our grads to see the plant and equipment out in field today. It was the first time (for most) that they’ve been out to see the world through the lens of the work that they do. I hope that a little of the excitement that old farts like me and my colleague rubbed off on them.. the enthusiasm for the incredible technology that we all can’t imagine living without.

Through a series of unplanned (or rather poorly planned on my part)  logistics, I was able to volunteer a little time at the local community food bank. It is distressing to see how much food goes waste in this country, while thousands of people go hungry. It’s also distressing to see how many of the truly needy can’t show up at these food banks for a variety of reasons. The ones that do sometimes don’t really need the helping hand, I have realised from personal conversations.  The volunteers who help out seem to know these challenges well, and have their own desire/agenda to care too much abuot solving some of the structural issues within their control.

 

An Old Dog’s Walk

Whenever I feel stuck, meeting people from an entirely different realm seems to help me get unstuck. I had two conversations today that gave me the nudge needed to think about my problem differently.

What to do when such people are not around, or when there is no time available? Nature today provided an answer too. Look up, and look out. Even when the weather isn’t right for a walk, watching the rain and listening to it patter down on the roof allow the space to come unstuck.

The old dog next door was the nudge I needed to go for a walk when the rain broke. He needs the walk more than I do, and can only walk a wee bit. That short walk was enough for both of us old dogs.

Okay

It’s nearly midnight. I’ve had the fortune of listening to an insightful talk tonight by Joi Ito. The time I’ve spent on screens today is also a reminder that there are several analog activities that didn’t happen. Rains put paid to the walking.  Overrunning meetings put paid to the cello practice. No time at all to listen to the Game Theory talks. I didn’t get to sketch or do my Spencerian calligraphy. And I’ve been spending an awful lot of time on a work presentation that is driving me nuts.

With all that going on, I’m okay with giving myself a break. Breathe deeply, accept the streak isn’t that anymore. And do my best tomorrow.

 

LOMA: Learning on my ass

I threw away an opportunity today to try something new.

The family went ice-skating at the local rink, a mother’s day gift from the kids. There was great excitement for a few days leading up to this. When we all got our skis on, the 16yo who’s done this several times before was off to a flying start. The 11yo was keen as mustard, and dashed off, fell down multiple times, dusted himself off, and kept going.  Mum had a shaky start, but found her balance quickly, and was off too.

It could have been a combination of things: painful feet, ankles and calves, a fear of falling down and breaking a bone, even just falling and looking like a fool.. in any case, it took me over 15 minutes to push myself along the walls till I came to the first possible exit and got off. I was sore already at this point, and the struggle of not having figured out how to keep my balance and move forward had gone from the merely physical to the attitudinal.

I got new skis, hopefully they’d fit me better? They did, but only slightly. I got onto the rink, and landed right on my butt. I was sore in more places now, and my mood had darkened very quickly.There was another exit nearby, and it still took me 10 minutes or so to get to it and get off the ice. I spent the next 90 minutes being the photographer, and being cold.

I could have persisted. I should have persevered. I might have learnt something new. I also realised, painfully, how unfit I have gotten. How the lack of exercise in the last few months has affected both my ability to move around nimbly, and my abilty to get off the ground once I land there. Daily walks, even if alone, will come back into my routine.

The ice has definitely kicked my butt.

Working week

The last three days, I’ve been unable to do any of the things that keep me grounded and centred.  Judgement can get clouded, and things that really add nothing to the quality of my life seem to creep into the time I don’t have.

“Work from the office for the benefits of collaboration”, the powers that be plead. At the same time, as much as half the office space remains under lock and key because few people heed the ‘request’. The hour-long commute for most people is a dampener. Meeting people face to face after two years is great – for a few minutes. The struggle of finding enough time to get through work while trying to keep up with all the socials gets pretty daunting pretty quickly.  The late nights started to eat into my energy levels, and consequently my mood and behaviour.

However.

I met some amazing people for the first time. I had deep meaningful conversations. I discovered new perspectives and postures, and shared some of mine. I pushed up against the boundaries of my own thinking and choices, and felt comfortable with the guardrails I have for myself.  I coordinated a jam session that truly brought people together – and even a couple of execs joined in. I caught up with friends for dinner. My finances project was sorted (mostly).

There were choices I made that I’m not comfortable with. There were some situations I did not feel included in, and will precipitate other life decisions.

Measurement

If you work hard on your job, you’ll make a living. If you work hard on yourself, you’ll make a fortune.

Jim Rohn

While I’ve not made a fortune, a reasonably comfortable life for my family is certainly an accomplishment I’m happy with in the last dozen years.

None of us know when our time is up, and the end is near. I feel that isn’t isn’t a morbid thought, it’s a wonderful anchoring reminder that not a single person will make it out of this alive. What we do with my life is a matter of choice, if survival and basic necessities are guaranteed.

What would I do if I had seven more years to live? That is 2555 days from today. What difference would I have made to this world by then? What would the people whose lives I helped say at my funeral? Does it matter what they say? Or does it matter that I’ve lived my life by own measure?

Clay Christenson asked a simple question: “How will you measure your life?” I don’t know the answer yet.

Acceptance

I procrastinated on an important project for a few days, unable to write a short script for an animation. There were several good reasons that served as wonderful excuses, and I kept pushing the one task away as long as I could.

Until today. I got the benefit of having a grad look over my shoulder to see how I did the animation. I pretended that she asked for my help to do the animation, and it was no longer my task to do. I whipped out a text editor to write out the thrust of the topic.  In less than an hour, we had the whole story carved out, voiced-over. Another hour of calibrating voice and the scenes, and we now have a short video to show and get feedback on.

Given my natural inclination to help someone else, even at my own cost, this mind trick is a useful hack to get my own projects done. Pretend I’m helping someone – future me.

***

More evidence of chasms between leadership speech and action today. I’m not surprised at this game of corporate politics of course, and yet every now and then, I discover a new way in which these ‘leaders’ create largesse for themselves.  Large egos and large identities apparently.  With elections right around the corner, the corporate PR machinery seems to wind down, and the public narratives are weaker. Three more weeks to go.

***

Kevin Kelly’s wrote 103 Bits Of Advice I Wish I Had Known for his 70th birthday, a generous gift to his readers. Some of them reminded me of JP Barlow’s “Principles of Adult Behaviour“. Both worthy reads.

***

I spent a few hours compiling the “lens of the week” ideas that the FluxCollective publishes into a presentation. Somehow the presentation has vanished. It’s a chance to redo them, and make them better than my last attempt.  And a chance to practice acceptance 🙂

 

 

 

 

One Third

Four months of 2022 gone by. That’s eight fortnights. Sixteen weeks.

It’s easy to count days. Have those days counted?

It’s a thought I’m always wrestling with. Impostor syndrome kicks on the doors. Sometimes it kicks the door in.

Today, I came across a talk by Brandy Foster “The Rise of the Generalist”.  Her personal story of becoming a Comp Science lecturer with a specialisation in English literature is unusual. She makes the claim that

“professional generalists find themselves in the position of convincing others that their varied experience is as valuable as that of the narrow specialist. In fact, as our economy moves towards even more automation of specialized tasks, the value of a generalist’s perspective is growing. Further, in a world of growing complexity, the advantage goes to the generalist, who may lose to a specialist’s expertise in a single domain, but wins every time when the game continues to span across many domains.”

Leadership skills are primarily about breadth, not necessarily only depth. Some technical expertise helps, I suppose, but more important than that is the ability to “join the dots” across mutliple areas and disciplines. My  experiences with true “general” managers has been awe-inspiring yet rare.  Like Ms Foster, I hope to see more true generalists blossom in our super-specialised world.

Anyway, I’m rambling.

The reason Ms. Foster’s talk resonated with me is because my impostor syndrome kicks in most often when someone asks me why I, a non-technologist, am in a team of smart technologists/developers. I contribute 9% of the team’s headcount. A measurable thing.  What’s fascinating is nearly everyone has the same impostor syndrome about themselves: what value do I bring to this team? won’t I be found out that I’m a fraud?

What would it look like if work was not the only driving force in my life? in all our lives? What would my world look like?