Day 33

Day 33

A very kind reader sent me a message today “I have learnt a lot more about you than I otherwise would in the business world.  You’re a great writer, you like the outdoors and walking, and you’re a big softy when it comes to your parents“.

Writing each day for the length of the Lockdown was about several things for me. Creating a worthwhile pattern or chain, straight out of Cal Newport’s Deep Work and something I mused on earlier on in the Lockdown. Practice is an under-rated thing, linked closely with the ability and time made to do genuine deep work. Work that truly makes a difference to what you’re trying to achieve.  The Lockdown was and still is, a perfect time for trying some deep work. The experiment of the daily blog has been rewarding, and hasn’t at all felt like hard work. It’s helped me process thoughts and feelings, and created a discipline of continuous work that felt meaningful for me.

I’ve always written in my blog as a reflective process too. In the leadership development work I facilitate, the power of reflection is always top of mind and I’ve, perhaps selfishly, used these last five weeks as a personal reflection. To see what might come out of a condensed, focussed, purpose-driven reflection to achieve lasting change. And it was doing something, when doing nothing seemed like a real possibility!

During the month, Facebook and the like has been great for connecting with family and friends, well that’s what I pretend it’s like, but it’s really full of feeds to meet your personal algorithm, echos of your own views and prejudices, and largely uninformed commentary building on the echos. It, along with Twitter, and an empty email inbox, will have zero consequences when the day comes and people talk about what was meaningful and memorable in your life. The shallow work things in your life don’t matter and the same applies in leadership. Ignore them. Cal Newport’s Facebook Amnesty can help.

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I noticed these last five weeks that a majority of the viewers came to the blog via LinkedIn, which has prompted me to look at it a bit. It’s nice to look at, clean, and the commentary is somewhat more intelligent. Is it just a giant for sale thing or is it just me? Is there anyone there buying? You might know that my main day job in client work is leading the PwC Forensic Services practice – you know, economic crime, conflicts of interest, fraud, anti-money laundering et al. Although during the last five weeks, most of the time has been spent in my people and culture lead role in PwC Consulting, as you might expect. Perhaps I should have spent time writing about all this stuff to sell! Maybe, really, that might have been a better use of my time and energy. Afterall, someone has to pay for all the nice things! Is it worthwhile reflecting and sharing?

Writing wasn’t the only chain I had. I walked everyday – total distance 322 km in 41 separate walks. I love walking and I’m sitting at 140 walks for the year, creating a habit for mental and physical health. The Lockdown has solidified the walking chain and I have a deep sense of contentment and achievement from that.

When we went into Lockdown 33 days ago, it felt quite scary and I was quite anxious.  Living close to the Newmarket Viaduct, the drop in city activity was obvious and confronting. I got irritated about the 80,000 people that were said to die if we didn’t do anything as it seemed obviously wrong. Today that was brought up again, sort of, in a rough looking chart that mapped countries that did nothing vs those that did. That binary message is too simplistic as I doubt anybody thinks we should have done nothing.  It draws from declarations of war language to fire up a community.  It’s hardly been challenged. I’m disappointed in that as it’s an opportunity for authenticity lost.

My anxiety passed quite quickly and I let my own thoughts about where I was each day into the blog.  At its core I think leadership and authenticity are inextricably one and the same. Together. Peas in a pod. When you write your own journal, you’re reasonably likely to write truthfully, honestly and authentically. So the same has always applied here for me. It can feel risky at first. It’s not smooth and manicured like a marketing message. What if you said the wrong thing? What if you offended someone? What if your thoughts today, are not yours tomorrow? Hey, so that’s authenticity right?

I’ve no idea about the writing as my kind reader has said. I’m pretty sure I’ve started way too many sentences, like this one, with “And”, although you are allowed to, apparently. What I do know, is that if you want to build trust in your life, with a team, your family, maybe your readers, you share a bit and build the trust bank. Trust is at the heart of meaningful business relationships.  Possibly even better than a LinkedIn Ad!

What you share must be authentic, things that matter to you. And the more you know about yourself, the more you have to share. Before you know it you have a story, your leadership story which will start with events long before you were in business, probably from your family. So of course, I’m an old softy about the folks!

It won’t be every day from now on, but the blog feels that it has a much better meaning for me now.

I’m feeling grateful for the opportunity to reflect and share. There’s a lot of pain in the world right now and I, relatively speaking, have none. Just the leg a bit still. Thank you.

Stephen

 

 

 

Day 32

Day 32

It was another stunning day, helped by some rain overnight. I didn’t manage a COVID-19km walk because of my sore ITB but I got to 13. Dr Google says that I shouldn’t aggravate it by the activity that causes the pain, so I told myself on the walk that as long as it was short enough that’s not the actual activity. How we try and fool ourselves! Contrary to the impression I had that medical facilities were open during Alert Level 4, it’s extremely restricted – only primary care – with severe restrictions. So a physiotherapist will have to wait. To be fair I walk along Auckland’s Medical Mile frequently and it’s been quiet like everywhere else.

What didn’t wait was Mum’s birthday – coming ready or not – and according to the ancestry.com family tree that I maintain, she’s the oldest person on record in her line for many years. Obviously I don’t have all the dates but she has now moved ahead of my 12th Great Grandmother Mary Banestre who lived 1509 to 1598, although my 25th great grandfather Robert du Vaux is recorded as having died in 1194, aged 94 years.

Dad put on a special breakfast and when I saw the picture on Facebook this morning, with blurry morning eyes I assumed it was a shot of the Queen, and then I realised of course it was. Just our family’s! I did feel a bit sad I wasn’t there, as I usually see Mum on her birthday, but there’s a lot more pain going on that this of course. But after singing her Happy Birthday, she didn’t muck around with the niceties:  “Have you got yourself ready to go into work?” Now I remember why I wasn’t late for school! Wisdom brings with it refreshing practicalities I find with Mum.

A birthday breakfast in Lockdown for Mum

There were nine cases today and my running review of the eighteen deaths shows none of them appear to have COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death according the WHO. New Zealand has a remarkably low level of cases, and related deaths, and we’re being put in a group of five nations with similar statistics – Australia, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The fact of elimination being touted up until the other day as ridding the country of the ‘rona, but now being used in a medical sense i.e just very low cases, has caused some disquiet as to whether our media are fact-checking the press conferences. It’s obvious they’re not – in fact as I’ve said before the whole thing looks like a propaganda exercise.  If you’re tempted to think it doesn’t matter because it’s our health at stake, that’s in the same genre of argument that can apply to multiple areas that is essentially government knows best.  In this category is the unlimited access to our data by government agencies (if you’d done nothing wrong, why worry etc). That’s not a system I want to live in. Freedom is far more important.

Be that as it may, our success is being analysed and includes the fact that we are quite socially distant anyway – low population density – and very isolated and relatively wealthy. The cost in this article is described as astronomical, with our Tourism sector as a major contributor to GDP effectively shut off. We have the strictest measures of these countries.

The sooner we can bubble with Australia the better.  Bring those Aussies over for the Ski Season I reckon.

I was lucky enough to escape the city for some essential maintenance at my rural property. I’m quite disappointed to have not had to use my evidence, nicely collated in a plastic sleeve – police exhibit style – I thought they might appreciate that, although the car is a bit cleaner that might be expected and my hands too smooth!.

One more day, and it’s a holiday. We won’t forget this ANZAC break for a while.

See you for the final Lockdown Blog tomorrow!

Stephen

Day 30

Day 30

It’s almost as good as a trip to Europe – Paris and London – replete with car chases, the main scenic attractions, historical buildings. Your film, should you decide to accept it on a Friday Night – Mission Impossible-Fallout. It’s a big film, non-stop action, appropriately big plot – Nuclear bombs to be detonated at three religious sites – and bonus, scenes filmed gloriously in the Southern Alps of the South Island. A helicopter chase through the mountains and valleys – borrowed partly from Bond’s Spectre opening scene – but much more too, and like the best promo for New Zealand tourism.

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, South Island, New Zealand
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, South Island, New Zealand

There’s talk we might have a “bubble” with Australia. That would be a great start to get trading and tourism kick started. It would also be a great lifting up of the ANZAC spirit. Relations at a political level with Australia have been under strain recently.  It would be the ideal ANZAC announcement. Two great friends as one.

They’ll be no ANZAC parades but we’ve been told to stand by our letter boxes as a mark of respect in the morning. It’s one of the few times we can feel united in the horrors of wars fought in the past by mostly young men – just boys really – who sacrificed their lives, mostly unknowingly until the end, to create a better world. It’s easy to think the world isn’t a better place – there’s plenty wrong, but there’s also plenty that’s right.

I’m not sure if standing by the letterbox does it for me in an apartment with a panel of letterboxes by the main entrance. On the way into the lift I’ll hit “G” say “At the” and the lift will give it’s sober “going down” and I’ll say “of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.”  I think this almost every time I get in the lift, it’s the way the lift voice says it, so now’s my chance to bring the whole building into thoughts I’ve had for ages.

And I really do think about those sacrifices and hope that once again we can make some good by rebuilding the ANZAC nation back. My paternal grandmother born in Tasmania in 1902, also on a 13th, would be proud of the thought. She’d also smile at the lift sequence. She’d know I meant no disrespect, which I don’t.

So maybe COVID-19 can be an ANZAC force for good.

Stephen

Victor and Ellen Drain 1928

Day 27

Day 27

It could have been the penultimate Lockdown blog, but we’ve still got five more days. David Bowie’s Five Years comes to mind for no other reason that it’s five, although that song is about the end of the earth coming in five years.

Thinking, hoping that it might be only one day to go I went back and looked at the earlier blogs of the Lockdown. Quite a bit of talk of anxiety and being indoors. It did kind of scare me a bit at the beginning.  The 80sqm apartment, my love of freedom,  I think I was a bit sceptical reasonably early on – or more questioning – as it worried me and still does, that the media have acted like an arm of the official information bureau, rather than any deep questions. I mused about what I would do – watch all 25 Bond movies – I’ve watched one only.  Moonraker with Roger Moore – great sets, actually a really good story, but the lines. Ouch, James Bond 007 The Sleaze!. I finished the third series of Ozark and nothing else on TV has really held up well in comparison. As the days stretched into weeks I’ve felt my rational mind more active and have read lots about COVID-19 and consumed a lot of data, some of which I’ve shared here.

People I know have a range of views but many people, sadly I think, appear consigned to defeatist – or they would say realistic – unquestioning compliance. At the risk of sounding like a consultant, that’s not to say that we’re not doing the right thing.  But I think we should, must! question such a massive imposition on our lives the impact of which is long term for many.

On our leadership programmes we really encourage the leaders on the programme to do serious self reflection. At first it’s not natural – it can be seen as time consuming when real work could be done. But as we do more of it, there are real moments of clarity and insights that can cause material and long-lasting change for people in their lives. This is the unquestionable beauty and satisfaction of this work. But it needn’t be a programme or a special event that drives reflection.

This electronic, public diary has helped me to process my thoughts. The changes forced upon us these last few weeks have given me deep and unexpected insights about my own behaviours. I’ve realised that I derive quite a lot of contentment from being much more structured that I have in the past. I feel confident that this new structure is something I take forward. It’s happened on the back of other reading I’ve done – Cal Newport’s Deep Work – is the main reading, so it’s been a happy coincidence. I don’t know whether reflecting each day has been the deciding factor in these insights, but it’s almost certainly accelerated it.

As a police cadet there were a few unusual things we learned. We learned a lot about death and dealing with it practically and emotionally. This has come up quite a bit for me these last few weeks as there’s been lots of dialogue about death, and as my rational mind has come forward, it’s played out here. I’ve felt it’s been quite healthy and therapeutic for me to discuss it here and I do hope it’s not been too confronting.

Another thing we learned about at the Police College was what act is the act that makes an attempt. That is, how close to the crime does the act of the suspect need to be to be an “attempt”? If you’re going to rob a bank, does buying the guns cut it? Does getting into the Ford Transit van to drive to the bank do it? Does marching into the door and demanding to be let in through the sliding doors do it? The answer is, you look for the “penultimate act”, which would be the last example here. The one before is the anti-penultimate act and doesn’t cut it. Of course there might be conspiracy, possession of weapons etc, but not attempted robbery. Some things stay with us forever. Hopefully yours are more useful than the need to explain anti-penultimate just because you started a short dialogue using penultimate. And I haven’t gone all totally structured!

Reflection using everyday tools of deep thought, writing, processing, sharing and being honest with yourself can bring amazing changes for the better for anyone who wants to give it a crack. Those things can stay with us forever and for good.

Stephen