Day 18

Day 18

Jerry Seinfeld attributes his success as a comedian to one particular habit. As he was developing his career, every day he wrote jokes and when he’d written the joke or jokes, he crossed the day off on his calendar.  Seinfeld called it “not breaking the chain”. No day missed.

Last year, having retired from running a couple of years before, I got more serious about walking for fitness. When I got to the end of the year I noticed on my app that I’d done about 325 walks in 2019. So close but yet so far to one a day. So I decided to make a go of it in 2020.

I’ve been asked why I’m so particular about logging every walk on my app. It’s the crossing off thing. I make a habit of it and the little sense of achievement drives a behaviour that keeps me walking. A quick overnight to Wellington? Pack the shoes and clothes and I’ll almost always find the time for few kilometres around the Capital. The benefits are obvious, but benefits alone don’t create beneficial habits.  I “bank” some days by walking more than once a day- although I don’t allow a longer walk to be split – no gaming the system! And there’s a minimum walk distance too. I can use those banked days when it’s just not possible – unexpected travel, long working days and so on can occasionally get in the way. So far that’s been only twice this year and I’m well ahead.

So the Lockdown has fitted very well into this routine. In fact, out and about walking these last couple of weeks has brought another dimension to the habit. Everyone seems to be in the habit all of a sudden.  Regular walkers, like runners and cyclists are a  friendly bunch and you can always count on a greeting being exchanged. When the Lockdown started, the newbies didn’t seem so certain. There was the two metre thing of course, but also could the ‘rona fly if you said Good Morning.  I noticed this weekend it’s become friendlier and more relaxed. As we head down towards freedom again, wouldn’t it be great if some of those families, couples, singles and groups who’ve made a habit, kept it going? They won’t unless they have a system.

Keep the daily walk going by not breaking the chain

This “not breaking the chain” is laid out in Cal Newport’s Deep Work that I read earlier and I’ve referenced a couple of times already during the Lockdown in the context of the Facebook amnesty and Deep Work.

When I combine a set amount of time for deep work with a daily “don’t break the chain” habit for that deep work, I’ve found a winning formula for doing what is meaningful. I realise this sounds quite obvious and it’s tempting to think “I could do that if I needed to” which is a little white lie I can tell myself. If you don’t need to do meaningful work – deep work – regularly, what do you need to do? It certainly isn’t clearing emails, filling in forms and signing off stuff – yes we need to do it, but it shouldn’t be a priority – which is where a habit for what matters comes in.

So when the Lockdown was about to start, I challenged myself to write each day on this blog. I’ve never been able to get regular with it, but I thought, make some good out of a situation and see if I can create a habit. The new insight about this chain I’ve noticed after 20 odd days, is the “skin in the game” principle that’s made it a decent challenge and kept me going. This is a blog that I try to keep authenticity in leadership at its heart – so it’s important for me that I stick to that principle. No abstract blogs, it’s my experiences combined with my own reading.  Put another way, no going through the motions. If it’s worthwhile creating a habit for, do it with integrity – some skin in the game – you won’t always get it right, but better to give something a crack properly than skim the surface. Save that for clearing the emails.

One chain we do seem to have broken in New Zealand, if we ever had it, is COVID-19. Eighteen cases on day 18. But there’s a new statistic – breaches! Hopefully that fades away real quick. And what about Iceland – they’ve tested a massive percentage of the population and found 50% of those with COVID-19 didn’t know! Asymptomatic, which begs the question about how widespread the virus is, and how really impactful it is on some people only. There’s a full story yet to be told.

But one story still going is my blog chain – unbroken for the Lockdown – although I could cheat and “bank” the three I wrote before the actual day (couldn’t I?) and  I’ve walked 122 times this year. I can’t tell you how many kilometres or the police might show an unhealthy interest!

Stephen

 

Day 4

Day 4

It was a fab day in Auckland, not so in other parts by the look of it. So, surprise, walking. Beautiful relaxing walking.

Today felt almost normal, and in many ways it was. Nice breakfast, good walk, lunch, some personal admin, relaxing, dinner, Country Calendar and – this has been a long time coming – Season 3 of Ozark.

I’m a big fan of Country Calendar. It shows a life that reminds me of Uncle George’s farm, my own place in the country and thousands of kilometres of road trips. For me it’s the Kiwi life at its idyllic with lovely countryside scenes, filmed beautifully. The perfect anti-anxiety fix.

Ozark, not so much! It’s beautifully filmed too, but tense, gripping. It’ll keep me going for a few days of evening Netflix, as long as the internet doesn’t break which we’re told it won’t.

This coming week is a big test. How will we go for a whole working week at home I wonder? Routine will be important as will focus and mindfulness. Giving ourselves a break, both actual and and emotional. Some days we just won’t feel so flash, I’m sure. Remembering that it will all pass.

So I’ve tried to rate myself for this weekend.

A Herald journalist tried to give everyone a scolding for treating the Home-D like it was a holiday at home, using a narrative that we were in an apocalyptic, once in a lifetime state.  That we shouldn’t just think we have to “stay at home”, that it’s vital we do our bit. And don’t even think about trying to make anything good out of it! We get it I think. We also get it that there’s strong and serious messages. I’m not sure why the media need to yell it at us like it needs their amplification. How about some other news, some insight and critical thinking? An uplift at a critical time is nice.

We're not completely broken!

My weekend gripe, but beyond that I feel I’ve come out stronger, more resilient and good to go. It wasn’t so bad.

Only thing is thinking about the weeks ahead, creating stress by worrying about the future. Can I survive?! Kind of where I started on the night before the Lockdown. Somehow I need to put that little voice to bed!

Which is precisely where I’m headed, ready for the working week. Let’s call it week 2, and congratulate ourselves on a first – first weekend nailed.

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