A great unraveling.

Our house was built in 1935. I lie in bed this morning thinking of its first, proud, owner, watching clouds gathering over Europe and wondering what it meant for his family's future.

It may be that we are seeing the beginnings of a great unraveling. In many ways it is overdue. There is much needs sorting out at a fundamental level in society and how we as individuals take our place in the world.

I hope we are up to the task and meet our challenges by peaceful means.

One thought, one conversation, one tiny miracle at a time

I keep wanting to do something. To react. To hit back at those who "have done this to us". My father's very different perspective on the Brexit vote is bringing out the child in me. I want to cry, or scream, or throw my toys out of the pram.

But of all the articles I have read over the past couple of days the one by Umair Haque that I shared yesterday comes closest to my own feelings. The problems we have to fix aren't "out there". They never have been. Fixing "them" is never the solution. It's a displacement activity. It keeps us busy and shields us from the truth. Our truth.

"This is big karma. We have stepped on each other for too long, and now we ask: who broke us?

We did. We broke our very own hearts, spirits, minds. And now we are broken people, who cannot even see the most obvious thing of all.

You don’t have to do anything. There’s nothing to do. Just see it. Really be aware for the first time of all this. And then you will be able to live in a truer way.

You feel powerless to change anything. I see an age so blind it can’t see the simplest truth of all. Just change yourself. Then the world will change one tiny miracle at a time."

Which side of the bed?

One of the pleasures of my job is getting to work with different people all the time, people from a range of backgrounds and with varying priorities. Some are highly paid, some are not. Some are successful, some are not. Some are happy some are not.

What strikes me often is how their happiness is independent of their circumstances. I once met someone who was incredibly wealthy but utterly miserable. I often meet people who suffer significant financial challenges but nonetheless have a sunny disposition.

I am more and more convinced that we get to choose. We get to decide which side of the bed we get out of. Shame we don't often remember that.

We all have a volume control on mob rule

This is the title of a chapter in my book. It seems sadly relevant in these turbulent times. We each have a responsibility online to decide what we share and what we ignore, which views we reinforce and what we push back against. Which flames we fan and which we attempt to put out.

To quote Wayne Dyer "When given the choice of being right or being kind - be kind."

Tolerating intolerance

Robert Scoble made a comment today about dreaming "Of a tomorrow where political correctness is seen as a nicer way to live than spouting off any damn thing that comes to your mind (especially if those things include hate or intolerance)."

The thing I am most intolerant of is intolerance. I recoil from right wing conservatives' inclination to project their own dysfunctional nastiness onto others. However when it comes down to micro decisions about who we friend, or more challengingly unfriend, on Facebook this gets hard.

I don't want to end up in an echo chamber of people who agree with me. Having my views challenged and changed is part of why I love social media.

But nor do I want to be associated with people who I see as spreading attitudes that I think are hurtful to individuals or damaging to the fabric of society.

Where, and how, do we draw the line?

Roads not travelled

With recent trips to Sweden and Norway, and upcoming ones to Dublin, Brussels and Berlin in the next few weeks, I found myself yet again thinking how lucky I am to get to travel the world and work with such interesting people and organisations.

I also got to thinking about the ones I didn't get to work with. The ones who enthused about world changing projects who then didn't get the funding. The ones who talked about long term relationships who stopped responding to emails after a month. The ones who thought about getting in touch and then didn't.

If any of you have seen the film Sliding Doors you will know how tantalising it is to think of the parallel lives we might have had. But it is so pointless. We are where we are and we've done what we've done.

"Whenever you come to a fork in the path take it" - Yogi Berra

Shadow IT

Today, yet again, I tried to send a copy of my presentation to a client in advance of my keynote on Wednesday only to have the file rejected by their email system due to a file size limit. So guess what I did? I stuck it on Dropbox and sent them the link.

I have also set up a Slack team this morning to work with another client, and most clients resort to using their own phones or tablets to carry out Skype calls when we need to coordinate. This sort of "Shadow IT" is becoming the norm.

In their efforts to maintain control IT are losing it. Isn't it time for an attitude of enabling pragmatism?

Lipstick on pigs

I am lucky enough to see, hear about, and get involved in many brave and well intentioned attempts to change the workplace. Few of them succeed.

The theory is right, the communications plan impeccable, the deckchairs have been rearranged, but deep down things remain the same.

We hold on tightly to some very deep seated and long held assumptions about authority and our relationship with it. You can change a manager's job title, you can make him dress down more often than just Fridays, you can even get him to work virtually. But if he still sees himself as in charge of an unruly bunch of miscreants who, if it weren't for his valiant efforts and ever so carefully designed systems, would run amok, then nothing has changed.

More time and effort has to be spent exploring and questioning our assumptions about the world of work. It needs to be an ongoing process. It's what I aspire to do with my blog posts. More of us need to do it.

Grounded

There is something intensely grounding about mountain walks. The textures of the terrain you are passing over; worn paths, springy bog, hard slippery rock. The weather changing from cold and wet to sunny and warm. Views that disappear in shades of gray as far as the eye can see. The burning sensation in your muscles as they wake from their usual sedentary slumber. Even a little buttock clenching tension as you skitter down smooth rock having strayed from the path.

It's all very real and very different from our day to day concrete covered, air conditioned, electronically mediated lives.

It makes you realise how unreal much of our modern existence is. It makes you realise how many people never experience this feeling of groundedness. It makes you realise how many of the people running our world have lost any connection with it.

It makes you worry.

Afterlife

My wife had a dream about our former neighbour, Connie, last night. This happens to all of our family occasionally. Even during waking hours there is hardly a month goes by but one of us will think of Connie and mention her in conversation.

Connie was a small lady who had led a small life. She was "Bucks" born and bred, had lived in the house next to us since the forties, rarely travelled (except for weekly attendance at the local Salvation Army), and had tended her coal fired kitchen range up until the last few months before she died eight years ago.

And yet...

I am sure Connie believed in a "real" afterlife. As for me, I'd be more than pleased if I thought that people would remember me this long after I've gone!

Doing nothing

"“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” - Blaise Pascal

It is ridiculously hard to do nothing. Despite the sound advice to be found in Tom Hodgkin's wonderful book "How to be Idle" I still find it challenging. Even when I am taking a bath or lying in bed I always have a book in my hand. Forever trying to cram more knowledge in, to not waste time when I could be learning.

Even when meditating I am "trying to meditate". There is effort and endeavour in even that form of doing nothing. I can do it well, I can do it badly, I can give up doing it.

But really sitting; just sitting; not trying to do anything; just being; not noticing; not allowing; not resisting; not observing. Truly doing nothing. This might just be the hardest thing in the world - but also the most worthwhile.

The darker side of our nature.

The internet is a mirror and an unforgiving one at that.

Whether it is paedophilia, misogyny, racism or bullying, by indulging our weaknesses in a public "place" we will get to see them, perhaps for the first time.

Thoughts that we have harboured in the safety of our own skull are suddenly exposed. We get to see other people's reactions to them. We get the chance to adjust.

I hope we take it.

Professional Niceties

Clearly being nice is better than being nasty.

Business assumes professional niceness.

I occasionally resort to it myself.

I regret this.

Generally I prefer spending my time with enthusiastic amateurs.

Linguistic Epistemology

Linguistic Epistemology: the study of the way our language shapes our reality. In the interests of your reality and my own I promise not to use the phrase again but I do want to talk about the way we use words in our day to day lives.

Words box us in, even our own words. How often do you find yourself saying "I am [sad/angry/afraid]"? We may be feeling angry or afraid for a moment but defining ourselves as angry limits us, shrinks us.

Be particularly wary of defining yourself by other people's words, especially your parents'. How often is your sense of who and what you are a legacy from your childhood, the result of unthinking but repetitive use of critical words when you were at an impressionable age and too young to know better.

And then there is work. Not only are we at risk of our boss carrying on where our parents left off, but we are subject to whole teams of professionals hijacking and misappropriating otherwise useful words. Turning them into weasel words: "engagement", "collaboration", "content". The phrase "on boarding" always makes me think of water boarding. [Maybe if having read this you too will feel uncomfortable and stop using the awful phrase!]

We label the world around us. We can't help ourselves. We may not even be able to think without using words to do so. Words are as about as intimate and personal as our experience of the world around us gets. We need to choose them carefully.

Working things out at work.

Working things out at work.

We spend a great deal of our lives at work and, while there is a fair amount of routine, it can also present us with our most challenging situations. Apart from time spent with our families work is the setting for our most intense relationships with other people. We get to test ourselves, to discover ourselves, to act out different versions of ourselves. We do this along with dozens, or even hundreds, doing the same thing. It's no wonder work gets stressful.

As line manager of a large group of people I got to watch them doing this day in, day out. Sometimes they soared and became the best that they could be; sometimes they crashed and burned causing distress and chaos for those around them. Sometimes I was able to be of help, sometimes I made things worse. Either way I had the honour of accompanying a group of fellow human beings as they faced the challenge of working things out at work.

But I too was working things out and in a position to have disproportionate impact on those around me as I did so. This was a privilege I had to earn through gaining their trust, it was not a job title conferred right. The higher your position in your organisation the more this is true. Remembering this is an obligation.

Wherever you go there you are.

I am very lucky to get to travel as much as I do with my work. From Bangkok to Prague, Tallin to Sydney I have experienced many of the world's most beautiful and interesting places. And I do really try to experience them, usually managing to fit in a mountain hike or, at the very least, a long city walk. I try to get as good a feel for the place I am in as I can and not squander the amazing opportunity I have been given.

But often I am not really there. I am stuck in my head. Ruminating over some remembered mistake or anticipating some imagined threat. I might as well be wrapped in cotton wool for all the connection I have with the world around me. But then many of us spend much of our time like this. Lost in thought instead of living our lives.

If we could just get away it would all be better. The whole holiday industry is based on this urge to run away, to be somewhere else, to be someone else. But wherever you go, there you are. You take your thoughts with you and unpack them faster than you do your guide books!

Our realities are created inside, not outside, and if we want to be happy we have to get better at turning our attention towards dealing with our problems and challenges, not running away from them.

Myth busting

I found myself thinking about New York this morning and how wonderfully ordinary and "cosy" it always feels when I visit it. This is in stark contrast to its media image. Probably more than most cities our sense of it is conditioned by the many hundreds of movies it has featured in, many of which emphasise its seamier side and almost invariably involve wide shots of its soaring sky scrapers and apparently inhuman scale.

But real people live there. People I know. Sitting in a local park on the lower east side feels like sitting in a park in east London. Mothers entertaining their kids, older blokes dozing on benches, people walking dogs. Reassuringly human.

We pay people to create the stories that make our world feel unreal. How odd.

We do the same in our organisations. We pay people to make up myths about our place of work, creating air brushed, gender balanced, multi-ethnic, happy to the point of insanity, images of "typical staff" spending a typical day happy at the administrative coal face.

The reality for most of us is very different from this. Fraught with very human challenges and struggling to make sense of what is happening around us.

Do the air brushed images help? Or do they exacerbate the sense of disconnection from reality?

Intentional marketing

I am increasingly asked to work with marketing departments and run workshops for them on social media or "digital". This despite making no claims to expertise in the "profession". Listening to the conversations about their day jobs I am frequently surprised at the degree to which process takes over and thinking stops.

A senior group or individual in a corporation decides on a new branding exercise or new angle on a product which may, or may not, be based on the interests of the customer. This then ripples down through the ranks until someone commissions an agency to tick this particular box. The agency process then kicks in, unleashing their "creatives" on the world, and too often the end result is the bewilderingly inappropriate crap we have thrust at us while trying to go about our daily lives. If they stopped to think many, maybe most, of the people in the chain know that it is crap.

I have no problem with being better informed, in a timely and appropriate fashion, about products or services I might be interested in. I am going to buy stuff, I might as well make better informed decisions about it. But this isn't the intent of most marketing which appears to be about shouting at me about stuff I don't want while I am trying to do something else.

Intent matters. Think about it.