A brief history of marriage

I often use this photograph in story-telling workshops. Dad had it as a worn 6″x4″ in his drawer for years. It was taken outside 125 Queen Street which was then, and until very recently a BNZ building, during a “meet the parents” visit by Dad to Auckland.

Mum and Dad 1952.jpgI asked a colleague with a photography degree if she would restore it, which she did, magnificently. It has held pride of place in Mum and Dad’s hallway since their 55th wedding anniversary ten years ago.

When I first went to use it as a backdrop for a story-telling exercise, the workshop was cancelling on account of the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake and now that event is part of Mum and Dad’s long story together in Christchurch.

Dad’s mother was reluctant to agree to the marriage – he had to wait until he was twenty and didn’t require her consent!

Mum and Dad married in 1952 in the Christchurch Registry Office in Manchester Street, Christchurch. Dad’s brother Colin was best man and a friend of Mum, Shirley Easterbrook, was her bridesmaid.

When you’ve been married 65 years there’s a lot to talk about. In Mum and Dad’s case family, faith, study, careers, holidays, gardening, crosswords, cars and caravans come to mind in an instant. Before that there was motorcycles and tennis. Tennis is still a passion of Mums. And Dad has their garden as beautiful as it has ever been.

It’s difficult to comprehend 65 years together – few do it – the Queen and Prince Philip have done so, and another five years on top. In fact it was in 1952 that then Princess Elizabeth, became Queen.

I’m blessed to have parents, to have parents who have stayed the course, and to have parents who have always been accessible and supportive whilst letting me (and my siblings) get on with our lives.

That’s being a parent.

It’s leadership too and a perfect topic to end 2017 on I reckon.

Happy new year!

 

Stephen

 

 

Valuing a lesson from Grandma

She was born 115 years ago today, a Saturday, in Lilydale in Tasmania to parents who had emigrated from England. When she was 17 she caught a ship with a sister, Mary, to Invercargill and made a life in New Zealand, mainly in Christchurch with some time later in Auckland.

Grandma married twice, to Victor who died of cancer in his 40s, but not before they had four boys, all now in their eighties and a daughter Ruth, who died soon after she was born.

Twenty-five or so years later she married Grandad Merrick. He was  lovely man and for me was the grandfather I remembered the most. When he died at 88, Grandma was in her late seventies. I doubt any of us appreciated what Grandma Merrick SCD_0001it meant to Grandma to have someone to love and cherish after so many years alone.  Their ten years together were undoubtedly the best in many years for both of them. I am not certain Grandma ever got over the loss of Ernie, whom she so obviously loved very much.

During their time together they traveled extensively in their Datsun 120Ys, and delighted in retelling the attention the Police gave them whilst hunting for the killer of Mona Blades, apparently last seen in a similar car. They were simply a happy couple in love, enjoying their time together.

She has a special place in my heart to this day.  In her grief for Grandad Merrick she taught me that everyone values someone special.

Stephen

 

 

Angry men out of control

You might think that if you’d just won the election for the most powerful position in the world you’d be reasonably content (assuming that’s what you wanted). Recently, Donald Trump appeared to get angry because people at the musical Hamilton booed his deputy (it’s comical – politician gets booed (that’s never happened before), goes running, upset, to Uncle Donald who in turn demands an apology via an early morning tweet – really!).

In South Auckland, a church leader, Brian Tamaki had a rant about earthquakes being caused by gays. If it wasn’t for the tragic consequences of Kaikoura Earthquake for the victims it might be comical too, tectonic plates et al.

Finger pointing.Whatever the leader’s area of influence he or she can’t control everything. Or even want to you’d hope. Control is a necessary resource for a leader to use sparingly as and when required.

These two examples might be ridiculous and even funny. But they’re deadly serious. The leader-elect of the free world endeavouring to bully critics into silence (btw, it’s a democracy). A leader of a church stigmatising and abusing an entire community (and those in support including families) based on sexual orientation.

Angry men out of control have been known to do unconscionable things to get their own way.

Leadership is a privilege. When it’s abused to undermine democracy and freedom in any form we owe it to ourselves to speak up and declare it unacceptable.

Stephen

 

Sacrificing your reputation for short term gain

When I visited and stayed at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia in 2000 before 9/11 I was issued with an access card to get around the facility. Part way through the stay I mislaid the card. I went to the public reception and a harried receptionist thrust a box of cards at me. “Take what you need“she said, so I reissued myself with a card and carried on. She had no idea who I was, whether I was entitled to be there, whether I should have access or if I did what my purpose was. You wouldn’t have needed a leaker inside to find the secrets of the FBI then!

I assume things are a bit tighter now. It certainly seems that way traveling through LA.

Since the FBI Director James Comey released information that a batch of emails on an unrelated investigation may be relevant to Hillary Clinton (but that he had no actual idea whether or not they were), it’s come out that FBI Agents have been leaking information to the media because they dislike Clinton.

The FBI has always held a special place in the world of law enforcement. It has led and continues to lead, many facets of forensics – in fraud, technology, weaponry – and the physical environment. It has shown itself to be impartial, thoroughindependent and thorough.

That deserved reputation has been built up over decades by thousands of Agents on thousands of case.

That reputation is at serious risk right now, and may be damaged for some time if the allegations of leaking and partiality prove to be true (or even not disproven).

Whatever you might have in your trust bank can unwind a great reputation quickly by hasty actions in the heat of the moment. For law enforcement independence is often the first thing that fails.

Whatever your big thing is, treasure it and don’t give it up for short term gain.

Stephen

 

 

Mortal

It was Aunty Joy’s funeral last week. Uncle Ken’s a month or so back. A couple. Parents, grandparents, great grandparents, sister, cousin, Aunty, Uncle. And more, much more.

Their lives were so eloquently and movingly paid tribute to at their respective funerals by family. I struggle to add to it.

Two family members gone so close to each other. I said to Dad as we went in for Aunty Joy’s funeral service that it felt raw. We could still feel it from Uncle Ken’s service. Any sense we felt pales of course – from immediate family – who showed remarkable resilience and grace.

Young girl hiker on mountain trail
What is your next adventure?

If there’s any good to come it’s a strong reminder of living now, in the present and embracing every moment. Friends come and go, work is ever present and will never be complete, the things we have or want don’t really matter, and you need to live now with what you have. Start your next adventure.

And if you have even half the things said about you at your funeral service that were said about my Aunty and Uncle, you will have lived.

Stephen

 

Is that really the best you have?

Ryan Lochte has won 12 Olympic medals, making him the second highest US swimming medal-winner behind Michael Phelps. Lance Armstrong ‘won’ 7 consecutive Tour de France races although he was stripped of the awards after he was found to have cheated. Lochte is not a cheat and this blog is not about being a cheat or not.

Cyclist riding a bike to the sunset on the highway
It’s a great sport

As best as I can ascertain Lochte and others caused some damage to a bathroom in Rio. A security guard who was armed (and may have pulled his weapon) demanded that Lochte and his friends pay for the damage. Lochte fled and complained to the police that they had been robbed at gunpoint. When the actual facts surfaced, Lochte had left Rio.

He apologised to his teammates and said he was “hurt” that they were left in Rio to deal with the consequences. He says he “over-exaggerated” the situation and insists he didn’t lie.

I heard an interview of Armstrong on the radio the other day. If you listen to him talking about his doping, you quickly pick up that the man has not really come to terms with what he did. Armstrong struggles with acknowledging what he has done: “I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times,” he said. “I’m sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I’m sorry for that.”. That’s pretty clear but he also says that without his winning all the cycle races he wouldn’t have raised the profile of cycling to where it is now, nor raised all the millions for cancer sufferers.  True.

At our last Authentic Leadership module we talked about the goldfish bowl effect: leaders are magnified the higher up they go.

The weasel words and justification, abstract apologies to select groups or about things you’ve said, do not properly acknowledge the wrong. They are simply part of trying to minimise what you got caught doing.

If you’ve stuffed up, then acknowledge it and apologise. Leave it for others to find the good in what you did.

Stephen

 

Look after your stuff

Taking responsibility for what comes your way too.

I’m back to Mum’s 85th birthday again. After a lovely lunch at Dux Dine (where Mum and Dad are regulars) we assembled in a corner of the restaurant for photographs and words. Thinking about what I was going to say to Mum I noticed she grabbed all her cards and gifts together in a neat pile and clutched them tightly.

Look after your own stuff. Make things happen for yourself. Take responsibility for your own actions and if you want something then find your own way to get it. That’s Mum.

She’s a great Mum and firm and compassionate all at once. Direct too. “About time you bought a house” she said once. She was right and I did. If only more people knew she predicted the Auckland housing market long before it was even talked about!

DSC_5554

A fine leadership example.

I like taking responsibility for achieving something myself – they’re the best achievements you can ever have.

Stephen

ps I got a lovely thank you card after the birthday too. That was a nice surprise.