On her Facebook page she used to describe herself as Retired. Recently my mother changed it to Mother. I felt the need at her 80th this weekend to apologise for her having to come out of retirement for us kids! Born in the depression in Auckland to parents who ran a fish shop in the Valley Road shops, Mum went to Dominion Road School and Auckland Girls’ Grammar, leaving to do night school secretarial studies and typing while working for WG Archer Builders. She met my Dad at a church convention and they married in Christchurch in 1952. Lots of children were born from 1953 until 1959 with a gap to 1962 and finally in 1965.

Mum's a great gran now too

She’s a quiet but very determined woman my mother. Excellent with money, super organised: there were bread orders from different dairies on different days of the week, lunches to make or organise the kids to make them, music lessons for all of us, some sports including Tennis, regular church attendance. And, washing, ironing, cooking, baking with tins of biscuits “hidden” under their bed so we didn’t eat them all at once! We were never hungry or lacking in warmth or clothing. There are times when you look back at your childhood and forget your parents – well certainly in my case – were very young when we were growing up. By the time Mum was 30 she had 5 children. Time can fool you into believing that the wisdom they now hold is precisely what they had when you were young. Maybe Mum did, but I reckon she, like most young people, learned it on the job. So the wise 80 year old I’m in Christchurch now to celebrate the birthday for, got there by trial and error. Experiential learning we call it and if we’re wise too, we recognise that growth comes from failing at times. And giving it a go.

Which is what Mum certainly did in 1970 when she enrolled into the University of Canterbury and completed a BA and Diploma in Teaching. Teaching the dysfunctional girls at Kingsley Girls’ Detention Centre was probably not a big stretch from us 7! Some of the girls achieved School Certificate pass for the first time in the history of the centre under Mum. When I was sick from school I would sleep in the back of her Triumph Herald in Hereford Street while she attended lectures. Morning Teas were at the university cafeteria – now Dux de Lux restaurant. This is all now the Arts Centre and seriously damaged from the 22 February quake. Time can do many things to your perceptions of the past – it can at times make you regret, it can rose-tint actual events and it can make you angry, if you believe something did or didn’t happen that was outside your control.

I count myself as extremely fortunate to have active reflection with my Mum and learn about her life, my life and those around us.  She taught me to respect but be cautious of so-called authority and of different perceptions (see the link below – it’s exactly sums it up about draft vs breeze – but not the rest!). You really can’t ask for more than that. Or can you? At Mum’s birthday celebration yesterday I was privileged to take the role of MC and talk of Mum’s life. To be able to publicly speak of Mum – facts and figures including a family tree going back to the Vikings, being born 10 weeks after the Napier earthquake, the early life in Auckland, marriage, family, study and career.  But what really made it was being able to express the personal memories and connections in front of so many family members that mattered. I never expected this to be the rich experience that it was. Such experiences leave you with a contentment that is difficult to describe.

On our leadership programmes we challenge the participants “What makes you a leader?”. Sometimes you really do find out.

Thanks Mum. You can retire again!


Like me, Mum enjoys a good laugh and Seinfeld!.

Need a holiday already?

I stopped on the footbridge over the Southern Motorway near the Newmarket Viaduct on my run yesterday, mainly to look at the construction of the new viaduct. It’s a fascinating project and as I gazed over the motorway I found myself mesmerised by the lanes of traffic speeding towards and under me. Feeling slightly dizzy I continued on my way. The run took me past six Auckland Volcanoes – Three Kings, Maungakiekie in One Tree Hill Domain, Te Kopuke (Mt St John), Remuera (Mt Hobson), Pukekawa (Domain) and Maungawhau (Mt Eden). On a more energetic day I have run up the peaks, but this run was about a steady undulating run.

I lot of people I know are feeling fatigued already having been back at work for less than two months. Increasing expectations on us all, limited resources, a recession, a terrible disaster in Christchurch are some of the things that might be contributing to this. I’ve noticed I haven’t been to as many movies as I would like to recently – there doesn’t seem to be time.

Always in a hurry. Busy people filling their resting time with activities (like running!), so not finding the time to be present with ourselves, reflect and recharge

And those we’re leading: are we putting the same expectations on them? Or maybe we’re holding onto stuff that could be delegated because we want it done, well, our way!

At the end of my run I took a diversion to pass my former maternal grandparents home. Having been at a cousins get-together the day before it seemed like the right thing to do. Grandma’s house seemed peaceful and inviting even now. A place where as a little boy I could sleep on the couch overnight. A peaceful oasis so close to the scene of so many volcanic eruptions.

I’m going to the movies this week. I’ll find something reflective, happy or even just funny. A holiday evening in the week.


Letting go to grow

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.

Time to grow. For us both.


Oh the joy of running!

On 23 January 2005 I went out one morning and walked three power poles, ran three, walked three and a bit more until I had completed about 2 kilometres. It was a bit off and on the first year, but nearly 9000 kilometres later (well 8916 to be exact!) I do if asked, call myself a runner. I’m not fast, but I’m not too slow when I apply myself and in those six years I’ve completed 12 marathon events and my average run length went from 6km in 2005 to 15km in 2010.

It’s often hard but I’ve kept going with lots of support – especially from Michael Simons who I’ve mentioned before – and the other regulars on Monday and Wednesday: Julie, Maria and Froste. Mum and Dad have almost always been there to face my mid-marathon abuse! And recently my son Tim took the ferry to Waiheke to see me complete the Wharf2Wharf.

I’ve learned a lot about myself through running:  the space to reflect when going solo, pushing myself really hard to see what I am capable of, encouraging others and being encouraged when the going gets tough and of course a bit of healthy competition to make you go that little bit harder.

I’ve discovered a lot about our great city – you see so much when you’re running that you miss in the car or bus. Running knows no boundaries and the legs work just as good or bad in Marine Parade Herne Bay as they do in Massey Road, Mangere.

When I ask myself: what makes me a leader?, running is an important part of it. In fact it’s got many of the components of leadership in one neat package:  self awareness, communication, reflection, role-modelling, mental & physical toughness and resilience, it’s fun, builds teamwork and is eco-friendly.

Looking forward to the next six years.