Day 18

Day 18

Jerry Seinfeld attributes his success as a comedian to one particular habit. As he was developing his career, every day he wrote jokes and when he’d written the joke or jokes, he crossed the day off on his calendar.  Seinfeld called it “not breaking the chain”. No day missed.

Last year, having retired from running a couple of years before, I got more serious about walking for fitness. When I got to the end of the year I noticed on my app that I’d done about 325 walks in 2019. So close but yet so far to one a day. So I decided to make a go of it in 2020.

I’ve been asked why I’m so particular about logging every walk on my app. It’s the crossing off thing. I make a habit of it and the little sense of achievement drives a behaviour that keeps me walking. A quick overnight to Wellington? Pack the shoes and clothes and I’ll almost always find the time for few kilometres around the Capital. The benefits are obvious, but benefits alone don’t create beneficial habits.  I “bank” some days by walking more than once a day- although I don’t allow a longer walk to be split – no gaming the system! And there’s a minimum walk distance too. I can use those banked days when it’s just not possible – unexpected travel, long working days and so on can occasionally get in the way. So far that’s been only twice this year and I’m well ahead.

So the Lockdown has fitted very well into this routine. In fact, out and about walking these last couple of weeks has brought another dimension to the habit. Everyone seems to be in the habit all of a sudden.  Regular walkers, like runners and cyclists are a  friendly bunch and you can always count on a greeting being exchanged. When the Lockdown started, the newbies didn’t seem so certain. There was the two metre thing of course, but also could the ‘rona fly if you said Good Morning.  I noticed this weekend it’s become friendlier and more relaxed. As we head down towards freedom again, wouldn’t it be great if some of those families, couples, singles and groups who’ve made a habit, kept it going? They won’t unless they have a system.

Keep the daily walk going by not breaking the chain

This “not breaking the chain” is laid out in Cal Newport’s Deep Work that I read earlier and I’ve referenced a couple of times already during the Lockdown in the context of the Facebook amnesty and Deep Work.

When I combine a set amount of time for deep work with a daily “don’t break the chain” habit for that deep work, I’ve found a winning formula for doing what is meaningful. I realise this sounds quite obvious and it’s tempting to think “I could do that if I needed to” which is a little white lie I can tell myself. If you don’t need to do meaningful work – deep work – regularly, what do you need to do? It certainly isn’t clearing emails, filling in forms and signing off stuff – yes we need to do it, but it shouldn’t be a priority – which is where a habit for what matters comes in.

So when the Lockdown was about to start, I challenged myself to write each day on this blog. I’ve never been able to get regular with it, but I thought, make some good out of a situation and see if I can create a habit. The new insight about this chain I’ve noticed after 20 odd days, is the “skin in the game” principle that’s made it a decent challenge and kept me going. This is a blog that I try to keep authenticity in leadership at its heart – so it’s important for me that I stick to that principle. No abstract blogs, it’s my experiences combined with my own reading.  Put another way, no going through the motions. If it’s worthwhile creating a habit for, do it with integrity – some skin in the game – you won’t always get it right, but better to give something a crack properly than skim the surface. Save that for clearing the emails.

One chain we do seem to have broken in New Zealand, if we ever had it, is COVID-19. Eighteen cases on day 18. But there’s a new statistic – breaches! Hopefully that fades away real quick. And what about Iceland – they’ve tested a massive percentage of the population and found 50% of those with COVID-19 didn’t know! Asymptomatic, which begs the question about how widespread the virus is, and how really impactful it is on some people only. There’s a full story yet to be told.

But one story still going is my blog chain – unbroken for the Lockdown – although I could cheat and “bank” the three I wrote before the actual day (couldn’t I?) and  I’ve walked 122 times this year. I can’t tell you how many kilometres or the police might show an unhealthy interest!

Stephen

 

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!

OTH

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 1

Day 1

It started quieter than usual. But the trains are still running – no one to be seen in them – but it was comforting. A full day’s work, very full, lots of Google Hangouts, dozens of phone calls (61 to be precise), client discussions, emails, timesheets, a normal, manic day.

I could hear the neighbour’s washing machine – I’ve hardly ever heard anything – but of course we’re all home, all the time! More or less.

The public messaging a week ago was about don’t worry, you’ll still be going shopping to the supermarket, the doctor and the pharmacy, and you can have walks for exercise. Today not so much. It was Stay Home! The Police will be watching and asking questions. The media have fallen into line, amplifying the warnings with dire predictions of death rates, if we all don’t do what we’re told. A brief stroll in the neighbourhood is going to be acceptable, except in the Tron where an older couple were told by the police to “go home, you can only walk under Alert 3”. Wrong. But any walk that looks like you might be enjoying yourself is out. Go Home! 

So after work a walk for exercise. I swear I didn’t enjoy myself, it was a grim event, done purely for medicinal purposes, followed by a supermarket shop. I followed the rules. Acted like I had COVID-19, although I’ll need to get walking a bit harder and faster tomorrow to get the sweats up.

The supermarket was quiet, well stocked and welcoming. A walk home, dinner and Netflix. It was okay!

iStock-1150076487.jpgWhen power is given in a democracy it mustn’t be abused, or even used unless absolutely necessary. To do otherwise risks the very democracy that we live under.

The authorities have a massive test in front of them. Enforcing the “stay home” in a reasonable way that calibrates with Kiwi democracy. If not, a loss of trust for the future.

We earn tomorrow’s trust by today’s actions.

Anxietyometer? Definitely down. It’s the PM-sanctioned Teddy Bear walks that did it. Turns out it’s fine to go for a walk! Of course it is!

Stephen

 

Day 0

Day 0

It’s not a great start, naming the blogs a day early, but it turned out that many people thought that the lockdown started midnight Tuesday, not Wednesday. It brought a whole new dimension. When is midnight on a day? Midnight is the end of a day. Glad to have cleared that up. Another day for Panic buying.

Panic buying paint is the big thing today. And guns. Sounds a bit scary. Not having the city spruced up, but what do we need extra guns for in the city? What do we need a gun for in the city?

You know when the shops close on Christmas day or Good Friday it’s manic at the supermarket the day before. Minimum trolley purchase $350. You never know. You need those tongs. Now it’s the same, but the supermarkets aren’t closing. Not even for a day, except I guess, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. They’re coming up during the Lockdown. How will that be?

The Warehouse declared themselves an essential service. The government didn’t agree. There are commercial winners and losers in this lockdown, but for the time being it’s not about that, it’s about stopping a pandemic in New Zealand.

iStock-1210903673.jpgIt will become a different economic discussion much quicker than we think though – not just about cash to prop up businesses and individuals to survive the next few weeks – but impacts, winners and losers, fairness, the make-up of the whole economy, welcoming tourists back. Was the lockdown worthwhile? Some people are not happy at all about it already. They’ve gone straight from shock to anger and Trump is speaking for these people already – the cure can’t be worse than the problem – he says. It’s appealing and so it makes it incredibly important that the professionals and leaders are scrupulously honest with us.

We need to be clear that COVID-19 is not flu. Seasonal Influenza kills 0.1 – 0.2% of those that are infected.  For COVID-19 it’s 3%+, although that’s subject to wide variations in different areas. SARS killed 9.6% and MERS 34%, but they weren’t as widespread. So there’s lots of stats and politicians can spin it anyway they choose.

Authentic leadership requires absolute honesty from all leaders on the facts, the implications and what the restrictions on us will do. With honestly, enforcement will be minimal.

In the meantime, I’ve got another day to find a PC port thingy that has two USB “C” outlets to make the home set-up work. I’ve never needed the home “set-up” like this before, but taking control of something, anything, is therapeutic.

I’m privileged to still keep working. It’ll be different but some of us are fortunate, and if you are able to work, or be otherwise secure, reach out to those that aren’t. We’re in this together.

Stephen