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 4

Day 4

It was a fab day in Auckland, not so in other parts by the look of it. So, surprise, walking. Beautiful relaxing walking.

Today felt almost normal, and in many ways it was. Nice breakfast, good walk, lunch, some personal admin, relaxing, dinner, Country Calendar and – this has been a long time coming – Season 3 of Ozark.

I’m a big fan of Country Calendar. It shows a life that reminds me of Uncle George’s farm, my own place in the country and thousands of kilometres of road trips. For me it’s the Kiwi life at its idyllic with lovely countryside scenes, filmed beautifully. The perfect anti-anxiety fix.

Ozark, not so much! It’s beautifully filmed too, but tense, gripping. It’ll keep me going for a few days of evening Netflix, as long as the internet doesn’t break which we’re told it won’t.

This coming week is a big test. How will we go for a whole working week at home I wonder? Routine will be important as will focus and mindfulness. Giving ourselves a break, both actual and and emotional. Some days we just won’t feel so flash, I’m sure. Remembering that it will all pass.

So I’ve tried to rate myself for this weekend.

A Herald journalist tried to give everyone a scolding for treating the Home-D like it was a holiday at home, using a narrative that we were in an apocalyptic, once in a lifetime state.  That we shouldn’t just think we have to “stay at home”, that it’s vital we do our bit. And don’t even think about trying to make anything good out of it! We get it I think. We also get it that there’s strong and serious messages. I’m not sure why the media need to yell it at us like it needs their amplification. How about some other news, some insight and critical thinking? An uplift at a critical time is nice.

We're not completely broken!

My weekend gripe, but beyond that I feel I’ve come out stronger, more resilient and good to go. It wasn’t so bad.

Only thing is thinking about the weeks ahead, creating stress by worrying about the future. Can I survive?! Kind of where I started on the night before the Lockdown. Somehow I need to put that little voice to bed!

Which is precisely where I’m headed, ready for the working week. Let’s call it week 2, and congratulate ourselves on a first – first weekend nailed.

Stephen

 

Day 3

Day 3

The weekend! I heard the weather forecast and wondered whether we could do without it. Does it even matter now?

A walk (yep the weather matters!) – got the sweats up today –  chats to family and friends, although not face-to-face. The roads were quiet, but not completely clear, although I got this shot of one of the busiest roads in New Zealand on my walk. The prison in the background. Every hardship in perspective.

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I started a new audiobook – Getting Things Done – by David Allen on my son Thomas‘ recommendation. As the world changes we all need to find new ways of working and finding fulfilment.

I broke my Facebook Amnesty – a tool from my last book – Deep Work by Cal Newport which has unexpectedly prepared me for my Home-D. Unsurprisingly, Facebook hasn’t changed, but the mood seemed to be of compliance with the new emergency lockdown and almost unfettered power to the police. Questions about approach appeared to burst bubbles (not the home bubble I hope!) of reverence to those in power. It worries me that there is so little critical thinking on where we’re going. I’m not saying we’re not doing the right thing, but in Leadership, embracing all alternative viewpoints provides a richness in decision making. Think Appreciative Inquiry, Strategic Thinking, Ladder of Inference and BXT. When we embrace views contrary to ours we do our best.

I obsessed slightly about the rates of COVID-19 infection and impacts. Cases went up in New Zealand as expected, by about the same as the day before, although the numbers in ICU doubled – from 1 to 2. Global cases passed 600,000 with deaths at 27,500 and those in serious or critical condition at 23,500. Ninety-five percent of cases still active are in mild condition.  Italy and Spain have extraordinary large numbers of deaths per million of population (151 and 110), then there’s a group in the 20s and 30s (France, Iran, Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland), a few countries with rates of 5 – 10 per million and the bulk well below.

Practiced some Windfulness today on my walk – focussing on the surroundings and stillness, although there were plenty of people out exercising. I used the time to bring my thoughts in closer, to focus on what I can control and lead. It helped.

Anxietyometer: Started higher today, but down after the walk and focussed mindfulness.

Season 3 of Ozark is out! 

Stephen

 

 

D-Day

D-Day

As I write it’s 59 minutes until we have the full force of the Lockdown. The Newmarket Viaduct is strangely noisier than usual – steady slow streams of traffic don’t filter through the double-glazing, but trucks and other vehicles at pace do – just. Westfield is well-lit as usual and only the two supermarkets at the centre will be open for business tomorrow.

I’m at the point of – just make it be here! – the anticipation feels the worst part – and once it’s here we’ll adjust and carry on. Life will never be the same – but this thing will pass – before we know it. That is not a scientific prediction, but a reasonable assumption based on past events.

I’m feeling a bit anxious. I have always felt that freedom is my most important value – I’ve been attracted to it as a restorative and sustaining value for many years – and having a state sanctioned emergency rule of law in place is an anathema to that.

Rationally I get this Lockdown as I expect most of us do, so what to do about the anxiety? I can’t rely on my rational self to resolve it completely. I know the police are generally reasonable (I was in the police once) so we needn’t be afraid. I hear that the science supports the action – I trust our senior health professionals – we’re very fortunate to have independent government agencies, charged with providing expert and impartial advice. I don’t think most of our politicians want to rule over a police state – although I’d like to see more challenge to keep them accountable – so rationally I can reduce my anxiety somewhat.

iStock-985011924.jpgExperts tell us that the anticipation of a stressful experience or event, often creates more anxiety than the thing itself.  So I’m hoping that by the time the morning comes all will be well!

My planning is for Work, Walking, Windfulness and Whatever else. My four Ws for now:

  • Work – I’m fortunate
  • Walking – I completed my 101st walk in 2020 today so this Lockdown is going to see me steaming ahead on my goal of 366 for the year (who remembered it was a leap year?). And yes, they’ll be solo.
  • Windfulness – that’s just Mindfulness spelt with a W for no reason other than I could. More on that another day. But the point is that actually embracing this moment in all its scariness, unusualness and new opportunities might be the best gift to ourselves.
  • Whatever else – That can be any of the things you’ve been meaning to do at home. Watch all 25 Bond films (I might actually do that one) or Woody Allen’s film Whatever Works, read all Tintin Books (again!), go on-line and create your Family Tree, and blog every day (I’ll try).

Looking forward to it being here. At least then I can stop worrying about it coming!

Stephen

 

Driving seemed more interesting

Driving seemed more interesting

Not long after I left school I went with Mum to the University of Canterbury to enrol in a BCom.  It was at the reasonably new Ilam campus. I had studied accounting and economics at school and thought that being an accountant might be a good idea, and Mum and Dad were keen too.

We enrolled. From memory the annual cost was $108 – that might not be the exact figure – but it’s in my mind for some reason. Maybe $115?  Anyway, it wasn’t much and the fee included the Student Union charge, and all papers.

Not long after that I got hold of a Police recruitment brochure. It was a colourful landscape booklet with photographs of driving fast, shooting, putting someone in a headlock and plenty of physical activity. It must have appealed more than the BCom because I applied and after interviews, tests and background checks no doubt, I was accepted into the Prince of Wales 25th Cadet Wing at the New Zealand Police College.

It was 11 months of training: marching, the law, giving evidence, typing, report writing, dealing with domestic disputes, handling death, basic crime scene work, physical training and lots more.  The Police had a real sense of belonging and I feel my time “in the job” served me well for what followed.

iStock-459908461.jpgBut it always bugged me a bit that I didn’t complete my BCom and the accountancy that would have followed. I commenced another BCom near the end of my time in the Police, and later, when it was reasonably obviously unnecessary for my career, I pursued other study, supported by the SFO.

Later, becoming a partner in what some say is an “accounting firm” where I am now brought new life to the memories. 

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So, earlier this month when I attained the professional certification to be an accountant it was far more rewarding than I had imagined.

While you’re still upright it’s never too late to live your dream.

Go for it!

Stephen

Being late

Being late

If you’re like me you get your energy as the deadline approaches. Creativity kicks in and you do your best work under pressure. Every leadership programme or workshop I facilitate has people just like me in this respect. They are quite proud of what they can do in a short time frame and how much spare time they have for other things.

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Dig a little deeper and most late starters have a level of stress that they know they could do without. Meeting work and other’s deadlines, finding no contingency time.

I (and others) try and trick me into leaving with enough time for appointments by putting in fake early starting times. It seldom works as I know. The other day I had a medical appointment. I arrived 15 minutes early thinking good, the fake entry worked. Turned out I was 45 minutes early as I’d faked my own fake time! So I settled into do some work and ten minutes later was called and was all done and out in another 10 minutes.

It was a surprisingly refreshing experience for me. There’s a good chance you’ll be thinking that this is normal. True for many people, but not for everyone.

You see them running into meetings late, functions at the last moment, joking at personal appointments about the traffic and so on.

If you get your energy and creativity from the deadline, I reckon hold on to that but look over the fence and for everything else find some calm and order in early arriving and getting started when you, deep down, know you should!

For an entertaining but ultimately very serious version of my epiphany try this Ted Talk. Even if you don’t think this is you, watch right to the end – it might be!

Stephen

Car history

Car history

Sometime in the next five or six years there’ll be a tipping point. Electric cars will be like CDs after records or Netflix after DVDs. Suddenly you’ll realise the old is out and the new doesn’t feel new, it’s just normal. I expect I’ll own an electric car one day soon. I quite look forward to it, however, I think I’ve left it too late to be an early adopter as I was with my E-bike (which I’ve reintroduced myself to lately – so good!).

In an episode of Comedians in Cars getting Coffee Jerry Seinfeld declares “How you can not notice and appreciate cars is beyond my comprehension“. He’s driving a 1965 Porsche 356 in green. One from his own collection by the sound of it.  Next episode he’s driving an Alfa Romeo Giulia Super, circa 1970.  He said it was a “barn find” in Italy.  Both vehicles beautifully restored.  A Fiat 600 Multipla followed. So cute!

Anyway, so when we’re all driving electric cars,  will we be allowed to have an old sort of car? Probably yes, and hopefully on the road too – especially for weekend trips.

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So I wonder if it’s time to get a future classic or two for those road trips in the weekend when petrol stations are as rare as car charging stations – plenty around but they’re not obvious unless you are looking – and most cars are much the same (or even more so).

It’ll be a different world, and many significant global challenges face the planet in the  immediate future.  Who hasn’t got a bit of anxiety about what’s in front of us?  But you have to believe that there will be time and space for things that provide contentment.

I’m counting on a weekend road trip in a classic.

Stephen

p.s. they’re Alfa Romeo Giulia Super cars in the header photograph