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

Never forgotten

As I recall Victor was a tall and athletic boy. Like me, he lived in Linwood Ave, just up the road and we were friends from school. Unlike me he was fine rugby player. Visiting the Harris’ house after school to play was a treat – there were different toys and things to do and Mrs Harris was always pleased to see me.

In 1976 Victor started at Linwood High School along with my other good friend Nigel while I went to Shirley Boys’. On a Saturday in early March Nigel, Victor, Victor’s father and some others were up near Hanmer along the Hurunui River when a rock or similar came down and struck Victor on the head and he fell into the river.

He died at the scene.

It would have been Victor’s birthday last weekend and despite the 40 years past I still remember him on his birthday.

Life is short, but Victor’s was way too short. I remember the funeral – sitting near the back at the chapel in the Crematorium at Bromley in Linwood Ave. It seemed surreal. I was probably too young to fully understand.

I also remember visiting Mrs Harris with Mum. She seemed amazingly composed and at peace. Nigel is still in touch with the Harris’ and he tells me they are at peace about Victor.

Never underestimate the power of reflection. It’s taken me 40 years, but I’m pleased to have said something about Victor. A great friend and never forgotten.

Stephen

Separation anxiety

I was talking to a good friend yesterday about my son’s departure for England today. I went through all the things he had done to prepare and all those who support him have done too. It all sounds logical, rational and for for my son, it’s no doubt very exciting. A great adventure. After a while my friend declared that I simply had separation anxiety. I’m pretty sure he’s right. Bugger, something I can’t just manage though doing things.

My father told me years afterwards, that when I left home at (just) 18 to join the police, he felt much the same. I can remember the leaving, feeling pretty confident, excited and wondering why my parents looked somewhat serious! Now I know. I said my goodbyes and strode to the aeroplane.

Finding your own feet and being responsible for what happens, and dealing with it, is probably the first (and arguably the most important) leadership step.

So as he sets off, it’s a tear in my eye for sure, but those broad shoulders will confidently walk through to immigration and off he’ll be. I’m certain he’ll have a great time. I miss him already and he hasn’t quite gone. Lovely young man he is. But he has to look forward. I did.

Stephen

Geloso

It’s the Italian word for jealous. There’s something much more appealing about a jealous Italian love story than the nasty everyday variety. Or may be it’s the disconnection from such an event that makes it sound softer.

I was reading a blog over the weekend on being grateful. It’s a great topic to explore and then to remind ourselves about being grateful for what we have, as opposed to being anxious about what we don’t have, or geloso of others’ things or situations.

If you read the comments on a New Zealand on-line news article, there’s a good chance that the vast majority of contributors have something to complain about. And maybe they do. But I’m sure, like all of us, they also have plenty to be grateful for, despite injustices and unfairness.

So why the complaining? Why the geloso (on occasion)? I’m not sure I know the answer to this any more than anyone else does. But in watching leaders and others I know, those who don’t complain and who aren’t jealous appear more content, more at peace, and happier.

You might say that those that display these characteristics don’t have so much to complain about, and you could be right.

But you could be wrong for yourself. Being grateful in my experience requires less energy, doesn’t require justification, can disarm, and give that most important of gifts to yourself. The freedom to move on without holding something that you most likely can’t change.

Many of the respondents to the blog I read “accused” the author of living a life without challenges. They could be right.

I suggest you try out being grateful next time you’re confronted with something which brings up the unfairness or jealousy gene. Just try it. Even to yourself, but even better out loud to others.

The weekend is a great place to start trying it out. It’s only 4 days away. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

Stephen

11/12/13

Seemed like as good a day as any to return for a blog. There won’t be another date like this for quite a while. Which is a bit like every day. But some days there are patterns.

I’ve been riding my electric-assist bicycle around a lot lately. Work, friends, even going to the movies. And finding I arrive feeling very alive and, as far as getting to work goes, much much quicker. I’ve also spent quite a lot less on petrol, and using the car has become like a treat.

Riding a bike in the city streets isn’t something I’d do half asleep that’s for sure. It’s full alert, defensive driving (riding) at its height. It’s liberating, fast at peak hour (especially if you find a bus lane as I am fortunate enough to have most of the way into the office) and there’s the added exercise.

And I'm loving it!
And I’m loving it!

I was talking to some colleagues at work today about the shape of one’s career. It’s not like a square paver path where each step is laid out neatly in front, but rather it’s like crazy paving, all over the place and you won’t necessarily know the next step until it’s laid out (credit to the unknown guru on LinkedIn who wrote this recently).

So why do we imagine it should be all laid out? Watch the cyclist. Rhythmic pedalling, and probably appears to the driver, give or take, like they are traveling reasonably direct. But the cyclist knows it’s a far cry from the easy (or hard uphill) journey. It’s watching like a hawk at the parked cars, checking for doors about to be opened, scanning the side roads, checking the traffic behind, watching the road, looking for potholes, avoiding metal plates and so on. It’s tiring without even thinking about the physical effort!

Have you sometimes thought that colleagues careers are all in order, one orderly step after another? And yours is chaotic, lacking direction, even meaning?

It’s partly about perception. On the inside chaos and crazy paving. On the outside, order and direction. I’d say take heart, if as you approach Christmas, and it’s crazy busy, that is just the way it probably is for everyone, and should be for you if you’re making progress in your career. If it’s too smooth and easy, it will be, and won’t be taking you where you want to. And you won’t be nearly as alive as you could be.

So on this day where the date is so ordered, with one number after another and as neat as can be, recognise that it’s a very rare and special event.

Not your everyday experience.

Stephen

Paris complete

I’m living in a kind of post-Paris haze seeking refuge in my photographs, Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, even the cafe with the french name in Sandringham Road (give me a Bonjour please!). To say that I enjoyed my time there is true. I ran the Paris Marathon, my 15th and last (for now – but I’ll be doing some halves), saw some tourist stuff, and thoroughly enjoyed the city.  Saint Germain, Cafe de Flore (the movie, the song, now the lunch, fantastic), Hotel Costes (it’s not just the music).

It’s fitting to do the Marathon in Paris, this is not a city Paris completethat does things by halves, except the cars which are mostly half the size of those we drive, the architecture, the clothes, beautiful people, the jardins, art and cafes. I asked myself when I returned:  why wasn’t I born there?

I’ve been really fortunate this year, Ireland first with my son and (now) daughter-in-law’s wedding. When they visited in Paris it was fantastic. Moments to last a lifetime.

Pining yes, but also complete.  Traveling has given a satisfying sense of completeness, the reasons why I’m still processing, but it’s positive. I’ve been sceptical in the past on the virtues of travel. Not now, it’s brought a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction.

Paris. Complete.

Humid as for Christmas

Even with a cool breeze running through the house it’s well over 80% humidity according to the dial in the hallway.  If you’re a parent of a young child you’d be sweating too, if you haven’t done the business by now and got a suitable collection of presents under the tree. It’s a festival for mid-winter for most of the world but we’re here in the most humid time of the year, with the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Evan apparently in our midst.

One of the Franklin Road houses has a big ribbon around it with words that make you look twice.  Today is the presentA colleague at work commented that they “couldn’t wait for Christmas”.  When I enquired what that was about, I was told it was the current pressures.  “Now is as good as it ever gets” was my reaction.  It always is.

Enjoying the present is very much part of Christmas, whether that be the wrapped sort or the real sort. Even for a cynic who looks forward to the end of the actual day so they can start enjoying a holiday, here’s an opportunity to really take stock of the present. Sweating it out with a hot roast here in Auckland can be tough, but don’t worry, those relatives won’t be here for long! Always waiting for the future is a trap. The present is our gift to ourselves.

Merry Christmas.

Stephen