Day 11

Day 11

It’s already late! And we’re supposed to have had an extra hour to make us get to bed early. It was dark by the time I got back from a walk and shop and it was only 6.45pm. This was after an afternoon of home-admin: financial planning, an insurance claim for overseas travel postponed due to COVID-19, and other bits of “shallow work” that take time, but need to be done.

Not that financial planning is shallow work. It’s most definitely not. I’m giving serious thought to the changing environment – following my Barefoot Investor* rulebook – and devoting deep work time to it as described in Cal Newport’s book* of the same name.

There’s an awful lot out there right now, that we can’t control, but as I’ve said earlier in on the Lockdown I consider that this is a great time to focus in on ourselves using Windfulness and what is truly important to us. In my experience, narrowing my focus in a way that brings meaning to the things I can control reduces anxiety, and increases my life contentment (or satisfaction – you can choose the work that suits you here).

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Much of what we can’t control is the strong alarm soundings everywhere – the flashing red news site banners (did you know that the colour red raises anxiety) – and strong opinions on the Lockdown in Social Media and the Media generally. It does nothing for me to read much of it. That’s not to say I don’t keep myself informed or that I do have opinions on some matters but can I control it? No. Essentially, no one person can, so I refuse to unnecessarily bother worrying about it, if it’s upsetting for some reason.

This is why I endeavour to remain upbeat and in good humour about the current events. I consider I am much more use to those that need me and rely on me for support – family, team, colleagues.  I’m well aware there are thousands of personal tragedies, directly or indirectly related to COVID-19 and I have empathy for those impacted. But I refuse to let it get me personally down.

And about those opinions we’ve all been reading (that’s most news items in case you hadn’t noticed!). Well, what if you didn’t have an opinion? Is that acceptable? In his book The Art of the Good LIfe, Rolf Dobelli says that it can be immensely liberating not to have an opinion on something. My son Thomas, who’s a great reader, put me onto this and I agree. For example, I don’t have an opinion on either the Cannabis or End of Life reform legislation that are going to a referendum.  I hope I get one when the time comes! But it’s freedom – my most important value – and like Marie Kondo does with your house, you can do it with your mind.

Take the Lockdown time to do some deep work, clean out the shallow work and home clutter that are getting in the way, free yourself of unnecessary opinion, and focus on facts, not on-line windups.

That’s me for the next 17 days at least!

Happy working week 3 (can we call it that? Why not)

Stephen

*There’s no financial or other advice implied or provided here of course. These are just my personal reflections only.

Day 9

Day 9

We’re all bouncing around in our bubbles in anticipation of the weekend. So what better way to start the weekend than with a Day 9 Cartoon? It’s fresh off the press, with full credit and thanks to Peter Bromhead, New Zealand’s pre-eminent cartoonist.

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Some milestones today: the first full work week ended, end of “week two”, and an entire hospital building at North Shore Hospital is being repurposed for, um, the patients.

Awkward questions about the economic impact started to flow more readily today. You read it here first on Day 0 of course! There was an awkward ministerial bike ride too. The Finance Minister announced a change in the law to allow companies that are going to fold as a result of the COVID-19 ban on business, to be provided with a “Safe Harbour” for their business’ debts until the ban was lifted. Sounds helpful.

So looking back so far, I started the Lockdown feeling quite anxious. How would I cope being cooped up all day, every day? It brought back memories of anxious flying – claustrophobia – and Air New Zealand’s “Flying without fear” Programme which I am a graduate of. I know from experience, that conditioning is a key element of facing fears and this week has proved that again. Tonight it feels serene, calm and in control. The ability to have daily walks has been incredibly important for my physical and mental well-being.

Anxietyometer: Very Low

Have a great weekend, don’t get pricked by the ‘rona!

Make sure you have a walk, maybe three and celebrate that we made it this far.

Stephen

 

Day 6

Day 6

Today seemed lighter.

The sun shone all day, and work was busy, very busy from first thing until about 7pm. But there were walks for exercise and more freedom. We can now buy “essential” appliances, which means The Warehouse partially got their way. In other big announcements the Supermarkets will be permitted to open on Easter Sunday in a first, and we were warned not to flush “Wet Wipes” down the toilet!  Apparently they’re causing problems to the wastewater system, presumably that they weren’t causing prior to the Lockdown. Come to think of it I’ve never seen Wet Wipes at work, so that seems logical.

Despite the flashing red banners on every news site, breathlessly giving us advance notice of today’s COVID-19 developments, there wasn’t really much. 58 actual or probable new infections, but we were warned that the number would be greater when the increased testing comes through.  And  I guess all statistics, in every country are about who’s been tested.

The two statistics that probably aren’t so dependent on testing are those poor folk in serious condition, and deaths. They’re both still at, respectively, 2 and 1 in New Zealand.

Another figure came out today: 14,000 being the number of deaths we could expect without measures. At the time of the Lockdown it was 80,000, so we’re moving in a positive direction on predictions. I assume the Lockdown is a stunning success so far. Maybe it is!

Talk of the economic crisis increased today. My prediction is that before long the crisis will be talked of more or less only as an economic and social one. Long after the virus is beaten, we’ll be debating, suffering and trying to grapple with the new reality.

I received a sobering email from Air New Zealand’s CEO which reads “it is clear that the Air New Zealand which emerges from Covid-19 will be a much smaller and largely domestic airline with limited international services to keep supply lines open for the foreseeable future.” Welcome back NAC. Only a few weeks ago, it was discussing the launch in October of direct flights to New York. I found it a bit sad actually. I’m missing my regular flights and as a long term customer and shareholder, I’ll remain loyal and hopeful. Go Air New Zealand!

So it’s a sobering long term picture, which we’ll get through in time, but it will probably be a lot longer than we were all told to expect when the Lockdown was enforced.

So, for us individually, good humour, love and show some compassion to your neighbour, say hello on your walk to others – it’s a medical problem, we’re not North Korea – and continue to practice good mindfulness and breathing. Slow breaths in and longer – double the length – breaths out.

I’m hopeful that when I look back at this blog about wet wipes, published on April Fools’ Day, that we’ll go “hey they got us bad that day!

Stephen

D-Day

D-Day

As I write it’s 59 minutes until we have the full force of the Lockdown. The Newmarket Viaduct is strangely noisier than usual – steady slow streams of traffic don’t filter through the double-glazing, but trucks and other vehicles at pace do – just. Westfield is well-lit as usual and only the two supermarkets at the centre will be open for business tomorrow.

I’m at the point of – just make it be here! – the anticipation feels the worst part – and once it’s here we’ll adjust and carry on. Life will never be the same – but this thing will pass – before we know it. That is not a scientific prediction, but a reasonable assumption based on past events.

I’m feeling a bit anxious. I have always felt that freedom is my most important value – I’ve been attracted to it as a restorative and sustaining value for many years – and having a state sanctioned emergency rule of law in place is an anathema to that.

Rationally I get this Lockdown as I expect most of us do, so what to do about the anxiety? I can’t rely on my rational self to resolve it completely. I know the police are generally reasonable (I was in the police once) so we needn’t be afraid. I hear that the science supports the action – I trust our senior health professionals – we’re very fortunate to have independent government agencies, charged with providing expert and impartial advice. I don’t think most of our politicians want to rule over a police state – although I’d like to see more challenge to keep them accountable – so rationally I can reduce my anxiety somewhat.

iStock-985011924.jpgExperts tell us that the anticipation of a stressful experience or event, often creates more anxiety than the thing itself.  So I’m hoping that by the time the morning comes all will be well!

My planning is for Work, Walking, Windfulness and Whatever else. My four Ws for now:

  • Work – I’m fortunate
  • Walking – I completed my 101st walk in 2020 today so this Lockdown is going to see me steaming ahead on my goal of 366 for the year (who remembered it was a leap year?). And yes, they’ll be solo.
  • Windfulness – that’s just Mindfulness spelt with a W for no reason other than I could. More on that another day. But the point is that actually embracing this moment in all its scariness, unusualness and new opportunities might be the best gift to ourselves.
  • Whatever else – That can be any of the things you’ve been meaning to do at home. Watch all 25 Bond films (I might actually do that one) or Woody Allen’s film Whatever Works, read all Tintin Books (again!), go on-line and create your Family Tree, and blog every day (I’ll try).

Looking forward to it being here. At least then I can stop worrying about it coming!

Stephen

 

Day -1

Day -1

Well technically I think today was Day -2 as we head into Country-wide Lockdown but by the time you read this it’ll be Day -1. Listening to the government’s announcement with two colleagues, we knew that there would be something – hence the announcement – but hearing it was surreal. We’re saving “tens of thousands” captured us, especially as the global tally of deaths is 14,000, but who’s going to argue the toss. It’s important and a significant step has been made to curtail the virus.  As a business we’ve been planning for this day for some time and we’re more or less ready to go but you’d be fooling yourself if you thought that it would be all smooth sailing.

Humour was important today – was this The Handmaid’s Tale? After all, many governments around the world have authoritarian bents nowadays don’t they! We can still walk can’t we? (yes on our own). Coffee is an essential service right? (wrong, but you can get it from the Supermarket). Can you go to the Supermarket in Warkworth? (well, we don’t know, but there might be a checkpoint at the Johnson’s Tunnels “back to your own New World son“). Is it really a good idea now to live in an 80 sqm apartment? (it could be tough but see the walking question and maybe we can just, you know, go to the supermarket all the time!). Our grandparents fought in wars, we have to wash our hands and watch Netflix!

It’s serious of course – no gaming the system – you’re gaming all of us if you do. No “hanging out” with friends and neighbours at all. But you can and should phone, text, video-conference, even Facebook (I might have to cancel my self-imposed amnesty).

Alley Of A Mall Showing Closed Shops During LockdownThere’s lots of leadership on show right now, but the most important leadership we all need right now is our own – we’re going to be on our own only with those at home – so healthy eating, lots of exercise, catch up virtually with friends and relatives, work (very important!), do your family tree, re-watch the Detectorists (it has all the dry humour needed for this hour). Self care. It will pass.

Stephen

Asleep while the world wakes up

Asleep while the world wakes up

A few quick looks showed no emails of any note over the holiday although a couple of my team were working on urgent matters  – they’ll get their pay back later when we’re at the grindstone!

As each day passed I felt the mind relax, initially almost imperceptibly, then quite noticeably. I felt stronger thoughts about what’s important to me. Really important. The things that bring true contentment, satisfaction, or happiness, or whatever word works for you. Mine is freedom.

The world hadn’t stopped of course. A political assassination, a royal couple who declared that wealth and privilege don’t necessarily bring meaning, and dreadful fires, the signs of which we saw in the Central Otago sky.

This morning the world seemed to have woken up, although I’m still on holiday – emails, lots of them –  calls, and texts. On my walk this morning, the elders were out and about for some reason- off to the morning movies by the look of it – walking slowly like my mind, but not like my feet, I’m going faster than ever. Couriers were at it and the traffic and trains seemed back to normal service.

If you’re like me and still asleep while the world is waking up around you, hang in there for the most important things: exercise, sort your financial goals out, and do things that give you meaning. Maybe it’s obvious.

Over the holidays I re-read Scott Pape’s The Barefoot Investor. Reader warning! – he doesn’t like the big banks – but regardless of whether that works, the messages on financial freedom and bringing meaning to your life are extraordinary for a finance book. I also read Bill Bryson’s “The Body:  A guide for Occupants” – did you know that there’s no scientific evidence of harmful effects of MSG? And I walked. Quite a bit actually.  Then I saw this video this morning about the impacts of exercise on the brain.

So, a holiday about the body, financials and doing what brings meaning. My path to freedom.

Stephen

The banner photograph is one I took from Chard Farm Winery in Gibbston Valley, Queenstown, showing the Australian Bushfire sky.

Both books were audio books. Can you say you read them? I have but I wonder if that’s right.

 

201

201

I appear to have picked up some more followers, or at least followers who have noticed, because I’ve blogged about walking and related adventures, such as Cornwall Park.

The most common subject I hear in the leadership world right now is about well-being. It’s a broad subject and seems to cover physical and mental health when it is referred.

We all know it’s important to be in good health, so why the increased consciousness about well-being now?

I did my 201st walk last week for 2019. I probably won’t make 400, but they’re longer now, so maybe 365 is a good goal!

iStock-950716438.jpgWell-being is really about satisfaction, happiness or contentment. You chose the word that suits.

I’m not particularly satisfied that I’ve completed 201 walks, but I am increasingly happy and content from the energy, space and health that those 201 walks have provided me with.

And you can do it almost anywhere.

Stephen