A student

In The Student and Mister Henri a grumpy old man Henri lets out a bedroom in his Paris home to a young student Constance, who has come to study in the city.

Henri is the most inhospitable host, full of scorn and cynicism for his family, and Constance. But Henri’s wisdom emerges as he reveals his life’s regrets. Not following goals, not embracing family.

Success is not immediate for Constance.  In fact she fails at her chosen subject. Ready to give it all up and return to the country, Henri digs deep and urges Constance to “do what you want when you’re young“.  You only live once he reminds Constance.

Thanks to Henri, Constance sets off on a new path following her passion, headed for success.

I had some professional success this week. Its an achievement I’ve worked for by following a path.  And I’m happy to be the student, learning the ropes again.

You might only have one life, but you can be a student many times.

Stephen

ps  My new start

Decisions that change

We all have them in life. The decisions that change the course of your life, whether that be a personal decision or maybe a career change. Twenty-five years ago last week on 26 March 1990 with twenty others I gathered at 120 Mayoral Drive, Auckland as a new employee of the newly-created Serious Fraud Office.

We had an office, desks, phones and some basic computers. Parliament hadn’t passed the SFO Act so we had no statutory powers. But we did have quite a lot of energy and diverse skills and got on with the task of investigating allegations of fraud that had been collecting dust in other government departments. Some we took over from other agencies.

Our minister was the Attorney-General, the late David Lange who attended an opening ceremony and lived up to his lively reputation and healthy appetite. Charles Sturt, a police detective turned lawyer was the Chief Executive and Director. He got into quite a few tangles with other departments and politicians, one of which saw him retire from the role, much later. He had the vision to see that the SFO should not just be statutorily independent, but that it should operate independently of the police and others.

The cases were challenging, and the powers the SFO was given with the passing of the Act in July 1990 made the obtaining of evidence relatively straightforward. The powers were controversial, some not requiring judicial oversight, and it took until quite recently for the police and others to get similar investigation tools.

I knew that the decision to join was large but like all decisions, you can never know where it will lead you. The large part comes later, as life’s direction is altered irreversibly. There’s no going back to the former state. That is gone.

We might think carefully about these sorts of decisions, but do we know where they really lead? Of course not, even with a goal in sight.

Sometimes a decision to change is needed to break the old open and allow change.

Some of us twenty on that day would have fitted into that category, some, like me, slightly starry-eyed looking forward to a new thing without too much thought about where it might lead.

Turned out to be not a bad call.

Stephen

p.s. Test of a big decision: remembering the date I reckon!

Ridiculous leadership

Pastor Jack Edward from the Shema Evangelism Ministry in Papua New Guinea along with a group of fellow church ministers requested that the then acting prime minister Sam Abal approve a new public holiday to be known as Repentance Day.  Mr Abal apparently went along with this and gazetted this new public holiday so the citizens of PNG could have a day to ask for repentance of sins.  Pastor Jack meanwhile, is the co-ordinator for the day, presumably co-ordinating the various transgressions to be repented on the day.

No this is not a Monty Python skit, it’s true. A country where most of the population live in poverty, a country who’s unique flora and fauna is under serious threat from mining interests, a country where crime is rampant and this is the (acting) leader’s priority. Was he drunk or what?

Maybe Mr Abal want’s repentence for his son’s transgressions (allegedly killed a waitress in July).  But wait there’s more – Port Moresby was ranked near the bottom of a most liveable cities in the world survey. The top ten cities are in Australia, Austria, Canada and New Zealand (Auckland #10).

I checked and as far as I can see none of these four countries concerns itself with a Repentance day. These are generally prosperous, safe and educated countries – not perfect of course – but countries whose leadership concerns itself with things that hopefully make a difference. 

I ran a workshop this evening for a group of partners at a professional services firm. We talked about leadership. I talked about the components of authentic leadership and focussed the group’s mind on vision. A vision will separate a leader from a manager.

In the end I feel sorry for the people of PNG. Struggling with so many problems which won’t change without a vision and leadership. I don’t know how Mr Abal got to be selected for the acting role, but I can imagine why he will only ever be acting.

No vision, grasping at superstition from silly old men in a pathetic attempt to do what?  PNG people should say stick it and ignore such ridiculous leadership (and the stupidity of the day off) for what it is. The power of the people sometimes need to show leaders that more is demanded.

Stephen

Should we get a subway?

I picked up a Subway at Papatoetoe by the Caltex the other day.  I joked to what I now know is the franchise owner, that I could repeat the whole conversation almost word for word:  What meat Sir? Extra Cheese? Any extra bacon or avocado? This time I did get extra cheese and he challenged me that it might sound repetitive but, he’ll get more business that way. Well he did! Good on him. As I was getting into my car, he came running out with a voucher for another customer who had won a free cookie. “That’s what you call service, I remarked”.  “He shouldn’t have forgotten it in the first place” said she. Right.

There’s a pretty interesting idea promoted by the new Auckland Council for an underground train link through central Auckland. My son Tim finished school yesterday for good. That’s 16 years of schooling with both Tim and Tom now finished and off to tertiary study. Tim has low vision and although he’ll be having surgery again soon which is very promising, he’s someone who is dependent (as many are) on a good public transport system. Leadership is not just about getting things done, but having the vision that will get others going.

I notice that slowly, but surely, the new Auckland Council is stamping its name and branding across the city – from roadwork upgrade signs, to rubbish trucks and the public library in Parnell. It’s Auckland Council. Someone has that detail worked out.

Like the guy in the Subway at Papatoetoe – he knows the details that will make the business grow and goes the extra mile for even the most ungrateful customer.  I reckon he probably has a vision that his Subway will be a big success in this part of the world. He deserves it.

And I hope that a vision for a big subway up the road will come to make life for my boys and their families a better one in the years to come. A vision for a subway. Yes, I like it.

Stephen