Are you here? Or will you be gone by the first paragraph? It’s a long weekend coming up and by the look of the offices around here, I’m the only one not in it yet. One of our participants told me in no uncertain terms today that I was to sort out my work-life balance and not work in this long weekend, so I’m going to blog now. At this moment.
I had a nice dinner with Dad last night in Mt Eden. As we talked I realised we were very much in the moment. Respectful, interesting (well he was anyway), listening, allowing time for our thoughts to properly process, and gaining great insights. The biggest insight for me was to realise how seldom we are truly in the moment.
With the long weekend upon us now’s a great time to practice being present with loved ones. You might be rushing down the motorway, off to a favourite destination, a big hurry to pack, all sorted and off. When you get there, don’t rush the three days. And if you’re coming back early to “beat the traffic” I’d be asking who you’re trying to “beat” on a holiday. Or even worse, “beat” someone to finish the holiday! Congratulations (excuse my sarcasm) you “won” the race to finish the holiday!
The present is, well, curiously, right now, not in the future.
Dad and I had that much waited for future moment in the present last night.
“So Dad, if I bought some dumb bells and a swiss ball I could probably do most of the weights I need to, do you think?”. “That’s right Thomas, as I’ve said many times you might be taller but it’s winning the arm wrestle that counts!”. The race is on, I’ll just have to keep running so I’m not tested as I’m pretty sure the day will come…..
I keep thinking about story telling. When group members want stories from each other what always comes out are stories that are positive. I see that people have a desire to talk to their strengths and they take the positive experiences from what they have got from life. Not every part of every story is positive – there are tragedies and negative experiences on the way through – but (am I allowed to say But!) the building of leadership experiences is in this sort of forum based on strengths and positives.
Dad was contemplating with me today about how he could write up his childhood as two stories, both believable, both in part true.
His words of what made him today: “the love and protection of my parents, feeling secure, school days and the friends there, play time after school, making our own kites and the thrill of getting them to fly in the park, the kindly church people who took an interest in us boys, celebrating birthdays and Christmas, picnics, visiting Sumner beach by tram, going to the annual Industries Fair, etc. etc.“. He then said he could focus on the negative things – I’m sure sadness with his father dying while he was in his teens would feature, but would in the end be a source of strength. I notice that he didn’t give me any of this negative detail, and that’s common when people are asked for their stories in a growing and empowering environment.
I don’t subscribe to those pearly white teeth TV host type feel-good yeah yeah yeah, think positive and you WILL be bullshit. I do subscribe to strength-based reflection such as Marcus Buckingham promotes.
As leaders, bringing the best out in our teams is part and parcel of authentic leadership. And to do that authentically, how about a dosage of stories, the lessons of which are part of the strengths we bring to the table?
If negativity is setting in, having the courage to stop and say “well that’s not my experience” when it’s sounding like a downward spiral of experience that isn’t going to help anyone grow or learn is sometimes all it needs to get back on track.
I’ll be running (scared!) from now on, seeing as Thomas has my swiss ball and all those weights.
We all have our strengths and the stories will reveal them if we choose. Maybe an ultra-marathon one day.
My friends from Melbourne have gone, leaving as they always do, a selection of olives, cheeses, sun dried tomatoes, cold meats and other delectable items which I’ve turned into a colourful, tasty and nutritious meal to suit me right now. It’s a rainy evening, this Equinox, and I’m cosy after a 26km run and shower. Comfortable.
Speaking of running, we had two marathon Seinfeld sessions and I’m continuing tonight solo. Jerry and Kramer have just run into someone who called Jerry a phoney five years ago. “Is Jerry still mad at me for the phoney comment?”. “Oh no” said Kramer “it’s water near a bridge!”. “Maybe I’ll see you in another five years”, said Jerry.
At the risk of showing your true colours sometimes you feel the need to say something that has the potential to cause injury. In your own language, the truth might hurt. In the recipient’s eyes, you’re showing unpleasant, but true colours.
Last week I ran a great workshop on story telling (well I thought is was great anyway!). As you might expect I started with a story. The story started with the events of 22 February 2011 with my son Thomas and Dad in Christchurch. And somehow I went to a classic photograph of my parents in 1952 in Queen Street, taken by a roving street photographer and restored by me for their 55th wedding anniversary (actually the credit for the restoration goes to my talented former assistant Ivana Dimovski). The photograph stirs deep thoughts in me, of a young couple in love and makes me reflect back over the 48 years or so that my DNA has been part of that union. And because it means that much I like to be clear. So in the weekend I had a ‘showing my true colours’ moment, because something challenged my values that I didn’t think had been properly dealt with.
So this blog is written I admit with a slightly bruised feeling – I’m the one that’s done the bruising – and I don’t feel flash for doing it. Funny how you can bruise yourself when showing your true colours. And I forgot the power of the story for a moment – I did the telling bit, but not the story with all it’s grit, love, rights, wrongs and meaning. And without doubt I made somethings that were actually good, not good, to justify my sense of wrong.
The story of life is gritty and true colour moments come and go. With those that really matter they are building blocks to greater meaning. Nice words, probably true, but I need to tell myself, easy fella, make sure I don’t do more harm than good in my truth moments. And remind myself that the buttons that get pushed – mine is usually around transparency when the water is still near the bridge – are my buttons, not everyone elses.
And the couple in the photograph in 1952 are just the best parents you could ever ask for and if you don’t know that about someone special in your life, maybe you’re afraid of the true colour moment, maybe you never recovered from a true colour moment, maybe the water is near the bridge and you haven’t had the courage to let it flow. Whatever the reason don’t wait for the next Equinox to realise that it’s time to sort it. And don’t save up some crap until the next Equinox either.
I recently wrote about a cousins barbecue at the memory-filled Stanmore Bay where most of us there shared some DNA. But remember, your DNA only lasts for so long.
It felt hard when I got home. We had celebrated my son Thomas’ 21st at Iguacu in Parnell. A lovely evening which included some healing. I wrote quite a lot in a journal in the 90s and had a collection of memorabilia from home and school that captured the moment. It amazed me how much you forget. So if your kids say something like “When you die and come back as another person do you remember who you were?” then write it down. It’ll be worth it. And it was.
Putting together an album of photographs covering 21 years – and really only snippets which is why I called it “The unauthorised and completely random photo album to Thomas from Dad” – I went though the journals, the photographs and the large container of memorabilia. What it came down to were 30 pages. It took a bit of time, but then it felt thin and not worthy of such a fine young man. But it was a representation of 21 very special years of growing up.
I’ve regarded Thomas as grown up for quite some time but when I got home after the dinner it suddenly hit me: now it’s real, I’ve given him all I can to him as a young person. I consoled myself that I can give him (I hope) plenty man-to-man.
Such an empathetic, energetic and optimistic person is a rare find, and Thomas is one.
I’m still slightly sad, not sure why, but I’ve let go in a way I hadn’t expected to feel on Saturday.