Day 11

Day 11

It’s already late! And we’re supposed to have had an extra hour to make us get to bed early. It was dark by the time I got back from a walk and shop and it was only 6.45pm. This was after an afternoon of home-admin: financial planning, an insurance claim for overseas travel postponed due to COVID-19, and other bits of “shallow work” that take time, but need to be done.

Not that financial planning is shallow work. It’s most definitely not. I’m giving serious thought to the changing environment – following my Barefoot Investor* rulebook – and devoting deep work time to it as described in Cal Newport’s book* of the same name.

There’s an awful lot out there right now, that we can’t control, but as I’ve said earlier in on the Lockdown I consider that this is a great time to focus in on ourselves using Windfulness and what is truly important to us. In my experience, narrowing my focus in a way that brings meaning to the things I can control reduces anxiety, and increases my life contentment (or satisfaction – you can choose the work that suits you here).

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Much of what we can’t control is the strong alarm soundings everywhere – the flashing red news site banners (did you know that the colour red raises anxiety) – and strong opinions on the Lockdown in Social Media and the Media generally. It does nothing for me to read much of it. That’s not to say I don’t keep myself informed or that I do have opinions on some matters but can I control it? No. Essentially, no one person can, so I refuse to unnecessarily bother worrying about it, if it’s upsetting for some reason.

This is why I endeavour to remain upbeat and in good humour about the current events. I consider I am much more use to those that need me and rely on me for support – family, team, colleagues.  I’m well aware there are thousands of personal tragedies, directly or indirectly related to COVID-19 and I have empathy for those impacted. But I refuse to let it get me personally down.

And about those opinions we’ve all been reading (that’s most news items in case you hadn’t noticed!). Well, what if you didn’t have an opinion? Is that acceptable? In his book The Art of the Good LIfe, Rolf Dobelli says that it can be immensely liberating not to have an opinion on something. My son Thomas, who’s a great reader, put me onto this and I agree. For example, I don’t have an opinion on either the Cannabis or End of Life reform legislation that are going to a referendum.  I hope I get one when the time comes! But it’s freedom – my most important value – and like Marie Kondo does with your house, you can do it with your mind.

Take the Lockdown time to do some deep work, clean out the shallow work and home clutter that are getting in the way, free yourself of unnecessary opinion, and focus on facts, not on-line windups.

That’s me for the next 17 days at least!

Happy working week 3 (can we call it that? Why not)

Stephen

*There’s no financial or other advice implied or provided here of course. These are just my personal reflections only.

Day 10

Day 10

Double digits! 18 days and 1 hour to go. Maybe.

The rates of infection have levelled and there was hope today that we’re on the right track, meaning we might be able to reduce to Alert Level 3 in 18 days, and one hour. It will be a welcome relief but will not be enough for business to get back to where it needs to, to be productive. Business needs level 2.

I missed some things today. I missed a weekend breakfast in the Cafe on the ground floor of my apartment building. I missed the hum of activity in the city. In global terms, Auckland is a small city, but in New Zealand it’s large, growing and active 24/7. It felt sad that the energy, dynamism and production has been stalled.

I got out on my motorcycle today, to clear my mail – that’s an essential service activity right? – and to get some supplies from the supermarket. It was great to be out on two wheels again and was pleased I hadn’t forgotten what to do!

I also got out for another walk – it was a gorgeous day – and now I’m pleasantly tired from physical exercise.  The Maunga of Tamaki Makaurau are great for the heart!

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Not everyone is so relaxed though. Unsurprisingly tensions are flaring in supermarkets, although not where I’ve been. A person is set to appear in court after punching a supermarket manager in Warkworth. When it was first said we’d be able to get out to the Supermarket, my original plan was Warkworth, until the concept of “local” was put out there. Fortunately for me, as it sounds like a hotbed of frustration.

And there will be a lot of frustration. The housing crisis hasn’t suddenly gone away. They’ll still be large families living in homes that are too small causing untold pressure. They’ll be abusive adults with young children. Tragic, especially when you consider that not a single child under 10 has died, anywhere in the world,  from COVID-19. Who will be the first to say that this thing is a Boomer* thing? They’re the ones at risk, along with the Silent Generation. The economic and social victims are younger.

A warm message from the incoming Police Commissioner, who like his predecessor is taking a realistic Kiwi stance: “We allow people to undertake exercise because that actually is healthy for people, and this is hard. People are stuck in their homes and we’re only in the first week, so we need to be sensible about this.”  Empathetic Leadership.

Enjoy the extra hour of sleep tonight, and if you didn’t get it, enjoy a long day!

Stephen

*Baby Boomers were born after World War 2, 1946 up to 1960 although sometimes it refers to people born up to 1964. The 1960-1964 are “Confused Baby Boomers”. The Silent Generation are people born from 1925 to 1945. As far as I am aware there is no scientific or research basis for the generation descriptions and behaviours, which often surprises people as it’s spoken in common language as though it’s a thing. The only thing are the dates, all behaviours attributed to a generation are without a foundation.

 

Day 9

Day 9

We’re all bouncing around in our bubbles in anticipation of the weekend. So what better way to start the weekend than with a Day 9 Cartoon? It’s fresh off the press, with full credit and thanks to Peter Bromhead, New Zealand’s pre-eminent cartoonist.

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Some milestones today: the first full work week ended, end of “week two”, and an entire hospital building at North Shore Hospital is being repurposed for, um, the patients.

Awkward questions about the economic impact started to flow more readily today. You read it here first on Day 0 of course! There was an awkward ministerial bike ride too. The Finance Minister announced a change in the law to allow companies that are going to fold as a result of the COVID-19 ban on business, to be provided with a “Safe Harbour” for their business’ debts until the ban was lifted. Sounds helpful.

So looking back so far, I started the Lockdown feeling quite anxious. How would I cope being cooped up all day, every day? It brought back memories of anxious flying – claustrophobia – and Air New Zealand’s “Flying without fear” Programme which I am a graduate of. I know from experience, that conditioning is a key element of facing fears and this week has proved that again. Tonight it feels serene, calm and in control. The ability to have daily walks has been incredibly important for my physical and mental well-being.

Anxietyometer: Very Low

Have a great weekend, don’t get pricked by the ‘rona!

Make sure you have a walk, maybe three and celebrate that we made it this far.

Stephen

 

Day 8

Day 8

It really is the weirdest of times. Tonight I had that slightly surreal feeling, similar to what you have when you wake up in Europe really early, time-zone confused, but wide awake. Feels like a new beginning.

Quite quickly it’s become a completely different work routine, meetings are almost all on time, everyone on screen, clothes increasingly casual – am I really wearing a Nike T-shirt to a business meeting? you know the one with the very large logo across the chest –colleagues opening bits of their homes to the team without any explanation. What even is work any more? Is this really happening?

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There’s a documentary on Netflix The Next Pandemic, released in November 2019. The next pandemic will probably be a virus jumping from another species it says. Right. Bill Gates says on the documentary “We don’t know when the next pandemic will happen“. We do now!

Since SARS, scientists have been investigating bats in Southern China where it is believed that the virus started. Great work but it wasn’t bats this time. There’s work being done to develop a universal influenza vaccine but it’s said to be “years away”.

The next pandemic is inevitable, its said, but our technology has stopped a virus before, it says. One of the earliest uses of technology was during the Black Plague, when travelers were quarantined!

The story of COVID-19 is being told now. We don’t know where it will end, but it will end for sure. It will be a story of a virus that spread rapidly, with most people having no or mild symptoms. But when it struck bad it could be deadly, particularly to those over 70, or those over 60 with poor health. Most cases went undetected.

Global measures were implemented, but too slowly and inconsistently, to isolate people, but the quarantining of travelers was woefully inadequate and caused the global spread. Severe restrictions were shown to slow the virus’ spread in communities and eventually, after six months the virus faded and a vaccine was developed.

The political fallout was large. Governments all around the world were thrown out in elections that followed, not because the voters didn’t think they tried to do something, but because the economic impact was seen in hindsight, to be far greater than the problem. Ironically, one of the leaders who prevaricated for several weeks, but eventually acquiesced to strong internal isolation measures, was re-elected even though his country had the highest infection rate. President Trump went on to serve a full second term winning the popular vote, something he hadn’t achieved in his first election.

Whoops, just woke up again. Did I say I should be in Europe on my holiday right now? Barcelona at this very moment to be precise. Well lucky I’m not but I did have that time zone spaced out feeling for a moment like I was there.

I suppose I could be wrong in all of this.

Have a great day 9!

Stephen

Day 7

Day 7

You know on the late night American TV talk shows they take the mickey out of weird news items around the world. Right now, we’re probably lucky than there’s lots of other news.

Policing cauliflower pricing caught my eye and distracted me from what was otherwise another very busy day. All I could think of was mother’s white sauce and my stubborn refusal to eat the stuff! Much prefer Broccoli, but Cauliflower has gone very hot, so hot that we’re dobbing in the supermarkets for over-pricing. And that’s found its way to a press conference.

Other snippets from the press conference were that there were 61 new or probable cases with 2 people in serious condition and a further 12 also in hospital. Pretty soon, the entire New Zealand story on COVID-19 will be about two things: the border and the economy.

My local park had a relaxed pre Home-D feel about it this evening. Most people appeared ready to get back to normal life. What was being talked about today was the economic crisis that’s been created. This will almost certainly be the main conversation going forward, as we move to a more ordinary state of living and threat assessment.

Seven days! A whole full week and still going strong – felt a bit scratchy today – I think it was from too little sleep and non-stop video calls. A working from home challenge. And new ones will emerge. A friend tonight on a video glass of wine wondered how new people are integrated into the culture when everyone is working remotely. I’m not sure what the questions are on that one yet. But it’ll be a thing, with consultant methodology to go with it soon.

Eat ya veges!

Stephen

 

Day 6

Day 6

Today seemed lighter.

The sun shone all day, and work was busy, very busy from first thing until about 7pm. But there were walks for exercise and more freedom. We can now buy “essential” appliances, which means The Warehouse partially got their way. In other big announcements the Supermarkets will be permitted to open on Easter Sunday in a first, and we were warned not to flush “Wet Wipes” down the toilet!  Apparently they’re causing problems to the wastewater system, presumably that they weren’t causing prior to the Lockdown. Come to think of it I’ve never seen Wet Wipes at work, so that seems logical.

Despite the flashing red banners on every news site, breathlessly giving us advance notice of today’s COVID-19 developments, there wasn’t really much. 58 actual or probable new infections, but we were warned that the number would be greater when the increased testing comes through.  And  I guess all statistics, in every country are about who’s been tested.

The two statistics that probably aren’t so dependent on testing are those poor folk in serious condition, and deaths. They’re both still at, respectively, 2 and 1 in New Zealand.

Another figure came out today: 14,000 being the number of deaths we could expect without measures. At the time of the Lockdown it was 80,000, so we’re moving in a positive direction on predictions. I assume the Lockdown is a stunning success so far. Maybe it is!

Talk of the economic crisis increased today. My prediction is that before long the crisis will be talked of more or less only as an economic and social one. Long after the virus is beaten, we’ll be debating, suffering and trying to grapple with the new reality.

I received a sobering email from Air New Zealand’s CEO which reads “it is clear that the Air New Zealand which emerges from Covid-19 will be a much smaller and largely domestic airline with limited international services to keep supply lines open for the foreseeable future.” Welcome back NAC. Only a few weeks ago, it was discussing the launch in October of direct flights to New York. I found it a bit sad actually. I’m missing my regular flights and as a long term customer and shareholder, I’ll remain loyal and hopeful. Go Air New Zealand!

So it’s a sobering long term picture, which we’ll get through in time, but it will probably be a lot longer than we were all told to expect when the Lockdown was enforced.

So, for us individually, good humour, love and show some compassion to your neighbour, say hello on your walk to others – it’s a medical problem, we’re not North Korea – and continue to practice good mindfulness and breathing. Slow breaths in and longer – double the length – breaths out.

I’m hopeful that when I look back at this blog about wet wipes, published on April Fools’ Day, that we’ll go “hey they got us bad that day!

Stephen

Day 5

Day 5

If it hadn’t been Lockup season I would have titled this blog “Dob-in trust”.

There is a piece of legislation called the Protected Disclosures Act 2000, which legislates that government entities are to have policies and procedures to enable “whistleblowers”. Many, probably most, large private businesses and organisations have whistleblower programmes in place too. These systems ensure that organisations remain transparent, that probity issues known only to the least powerful, are brought forward and properly investigated ensuring the principles of natural justice are applied (opportunity to be heard, impartial decision-maker).

Carefully managed, a whistleblower system can be a culture enabler. Treated carelessly, where unfounded allegations are used to punish, they destroy culture and trust.

Without doubt, most of my leadership development work is, at its heart, about trust.  Individuals, relationships, organisations and societies build trust by behaviours. By giving a bit here, a bit there, trust is built through past actions, just as I said at the end of Day 1. I blogged about Steven Covey’s trust bank back in 2009, when this blog was only a few months old. We lose trust at our peril.

If we’re going to have society-wide systems to “dob in” our neighbours for apparent misconduct, we should set the rules up clearly and with compassion.  A solo cycle across town is a problem? Come on! Relax, for many people the prospect of not exercising is frightening and dangerous. If your neighbour appears to be in breach of what you interpret the rules as, perhaps a quiet word (over the fence of course) or a phone call.

In this environment, when the rules are being made up as we go along and enforced subjectively, let’s focus on all the things that matter.  We’ve already ground the economy and our freedoms to a halt to rid us of the ‘rona.  Don’t let this destroy our community trust. I know from decades of investigating wrong-doing that there’s always another side to the story, another perspective, often a misunderstanding.

Calm down!

Chill out!

Speaking of which, we now have 12 people in hospital with COVID-19. Tents are coming! I know I shouldn’t make light of that, but you know, if we can’t put some perspective on it we’ll all go stir-crazy. It’s only been 5 days!

Sadly though, an elderly woman with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and well known to her local DHB, died after contracting COVID-19. She probably won’t be the last. On the evidence available, older people are much more susceptible to the serious impacts of the virus, partly at least, from what I’ve read, because they are much more likely to have other health issues. That doesn’t mean that if you’re younger it’s necessarily a walk in the park.  My parents who are in their late 80s, are safely staying put at home. Family are supporting with shopping, even though they’re spritely and in good health. Just to be sure.

I’d love to visit on Mum’s birthday in late April.

Stephen