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. A 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.
Now that I’ve got your attention (or not!), it was almost inevitable that Barry would enter my blog world one day. I got caught out by a colleague yesterday – Barry was on the car-connected iPod – but he was fine with that. Abba’s been in the car this week too “don’t go wasting your emotion” from the song “Lay all your love on me”.
One of my very special friends had an important birthday this last weekend. We talked about our aspirations and what it takes to achieve them. Change. If you’re bothered to read this you will know that if you want to change you need to change. It sounds so obvious of course but that simple reality cannot be ignored in making changes in our lives. But often is.
Barry White’s final album has the song Get up which asks the question about what reward you get for doing nothing. Written for idle youth it has as much relevance to us all as we aspire to be all we can. Work can consume us (it is me right now!) but so can all sorts of activities – tv, making sure the drive is swept (again), computer games – are just some examples of ways in which is we can whittle away special time.
If we want to lead anyone we need to lead ourselves and making change, whatever that might be takes a conscious effort, giving some things up and doing something new. And sometimes, the change required is made available right before us and we don’t even recognise it. Who’s ended up in a new role because of an opportunity that’s come quite informally and unexpectedly? I have and I count myself fortunate for that. And what I learned is that you need to be ready for it, and don’t expect it to come with big signage accompanying it, because the opportunity provided by a change will come subtly, if you’re ready for it, and active.
In Get up Barry’s answer is “nothing, you don’t get a damn thing”.
p.s. Should I keep politics out of this blog? I’ve done religion before so what the hell! Just 5% of Democrats reckon Romney will do better than Obama in the upcoming debates. But 18% of Republicans say Obama will do better. Authenticity might have something to do with it I think. And the Authentic Leadership Course is coming up. I’m going to enjoy being there again. Looking forward.
When Li Cunxin was seven, for no more reason than a look and a glance he was given the opportunity to audition for the Beijing Ballet Company. The rest is history and if you’re not sure who I’m talking about yet he’s popularly known as Mao’s Last Dancer, from his book and movie of the same name.
Meeting Li this week I discovered a man with all the same stuff we all have: worry about the kids, how to earn a living and strain on the relationships during tough times. But he’s also a man who’s learned and reflected on what leads to personal and professional success. And importantly what you might do if you want to make a change for yourself.
Li was the sixth of seven children growing up in poverty in rural China in the 1960s when the freak moment changed his life forever and he grew to take the world stage in ballet.
He had lots of messages but by far the most powerful message was about recognising that moment of opportunity and going for it. Seizing the moment and giving it your all. MCing a Gala Dinner of 300 last night I relayed a little of Li’s story and asked those present to reflect on moments of opportunity they have been given. Did you take it? I recall as an eight year old playing rugby for Linwood Rugby Club (Fergie McCormack!). Well to be honest I was on the pitch with the jersey on but I was way too scared to go near the action! The ball somehow come towards me and the try line was within sight. I guess the offside rule wasn’t strictly enforced but that’s not important. Should I pick up the ball and all the fear that went with that? I didn’t, I kicked it cos I was too scared. I can still remember the utter look of disappointment on the coach’s face. Stayed with me that look, for forty years. And troubled me occasionally, until this week.
I never did do that again I’ve realised. I’ve always grabbed the things given to me and hopefully made a reasonable go of it. Quite a few opportunities have come my way and I’m pretty sure more will and I’ll grab them too.
Which is what Li has always done. Leaders can see the future and recognise outcomes that other’s fail to see. Personal leaders recognise opportunities for what they are. They won’t usually be wrapped in a gift box or with flashing lights. And that’s the challenge. Seeing what’s in front of you, picking it up and running hard. Like it’s the one big chance you have.
And if you didn’t take it, you’ve got a valuable lesson to not repeat that mistake again.
Forty-nine year old Steve Carell apparently noticed how hard out the Pizza restaurant he was at, that he donned an apron and spent an hour serving, answering phone calls and mucking it up in the kitchen. In Jeff Hadens 9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People number 6 is Volunteers always win (yes take these quick lists with a grain of salt but if it works you know!).
I saw the movie Cafe de flore today. It’s too early to process what it’s all about but it’s a bit about exorcising some connections that don’t work where they are and embracing new ones or old ones in a new context.
I’ve been too flat for blogging recently, writing an article for a magazine in the weekend was really hard, but the movie, some great conversation over the last few days (even thanked someone for an involuntary coaching session it lifted me so much) I feel back, as Jasbindar Singh would say, in the groove. And listening to the song Cafe de flore. Very groovy tonight.
Simple pieces of service to others can lift them and you immeasurably. I’m thinking of a Conversation at a Cafe with like-minded people on leadership stuff. I’ll mention this in the next day or three and get it going. Service to each other to lift our spirits and our business too. Sound oblique? Could be, but just roll with it. It’ll be fun. Especially if you’re 49 or think you might run into someone interesting who is.