Being heard

I try very hard when I write my blog posts to be as accurate as I can; to express the ideas that I hope to get across as simply and clearly as I know how.

Over the years I have had a lot of practice at this, and have often been commended for my ability to get complex topics across simply.

And yet sometimes when I read the comments on my posts I wonder why I bother. It is as if a superficial glance at my post was enough to trigger a fully formed opinion that had been waiting to be expressed by the commenter - whether it was related to my post or not!

Especially if this is the first comment it often triggers a full on debate which could have bugger all to do with what I actually said in the first place. This invariably leaves me feeling like I'm trying to stop a runaway train with my futile attempts fueling the erroneous debate rather than successfully pulling it back on track.

This happens all the time all over the Internet and appears to be getting worse rather than better.

Clearly much of the responsibility lies with those of us who choose to write a post in the first place. The onus is on us to make our best efforts to be understandable and hopefully add some value to our readers.

But we all share a responsibility as to how we respond to other people's posts. Have we taken the time to properly read them, have we fully understood their meaning, will our contribution support a relevant discussion or simply satisfy our desire to get on our latest hobbyhorse?

We can learn to do better and when we do we may be able to hear each other for the first time. 

Body Politic

Each day we get the bus along the packed beach here in Poetto. People board that bus in all sorts of beach wear. Never having had a problem with her attire before Hannah got on the bus in shorts and her bikini top. In front of the whole bus the driver decided to berate her and insist that she cover up.

Seeking a riposte which would express my irritation the first word that came out of my mouth was fascist.

Sign of the times I guess...

Getting about a bit

I use a wonderful app called Day One to maintain a number of different journals. In one of them I dictate entries on my watch to keep a log of the various deliveries I do in my driving work. Day One records the time and location of each entry which allows me to see on a map all the places I have been. Fun to look back on.

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To see a world in a grain of sand

Yesterday as I was filling my truck with diesel at the end of the day I looked down at the ground and started noticing the concrete surface of the petrol station forecourt. It wasn't just concrete, there were tiny flecks of stone in it. Differently shaped bits, varying in colour and likely origin.

It was raining heavily so the surface was wet. It was glistening under the bright lights of the canopy above me. I was crouching down and the stretch of my thighs must have triggered a recollection of climbing. The hard surface, the rain, the stretch - I suddenly got the same feeling of physical connection to the world that I get through being on mountains. The same rush of excitement that has more to do with being real and physical than with adrenaline.

This feeling of connectedness is there all the time, but we hide it. We hide in our heads, we get lost in our thoughts, we label the world around us and divide it all up into pleasant and unpleasant, right and wrong, good and bad.

But the world doesn't care about our labelling. It is just as it is, still there, waiting patiently.

Zen and the art of truck driving.

"I am lost, I am useless, I will never be able to do this."

Sound familiar? This is what goes round and round in my head every time I fail to find a building site that I am meant to be delivering to. The locations are not always obvious, even with a sat nav, and they are often in busy and crowded parts of towns. So the pressure builds, the feeling of incompetence increases, you get tired, you get frightened. The feeling of failure and the overwhelming urge to give up becomes irresistible. You want to call it a day, to run away.

But this is all a story. The reality is that I am in a truck. I know where I am. I can solve this puzzle. It's a game. I am getting good at it. One move at a time. Micro moves. Well executed gear changes, deftly handled turns. The feel of the wheel in my hands, the height, the weight, the intense physicality of it all. This helps to ground me. The stories stop, the chattering monkey eventually shuts up.

We all get bent out of shape by all sorts of things all of the time. Learning to notice this, accept it, step back from it, and piece by piece reconnect with the world around us is so important. It's worth practicing.

Happiness is...

I know it is not everyone's cup of tea but as I negotiated my fully laden 32 tonne truck along the Chelsea embankment, into the centre of London and south to Elephant and Castle, negotiating tight narrow lanes, cyclists, pedestrians, everything London could throw at me, listening to my particularly good collection of bangin' house music on the truck's half decent speakers, I could not have been happier.

As the world turns

Doing a night shift on New Years' Eve at the World Service was always fun as you got to celebrate on the hour each hour as the various time zones passed into the new year.

Having as many friends as I do around the world these days means that birthday wishes on social media afford the same pleasure. First Australia, then Europe, then the US.

Thanks everyone for your kind wishes.

Perception is reality

Fake news is good news. It is making us question truth. It is making us less lazy.

We are learning that we need to take responsibility for our perceptions. They are the only reality we will ever know.

All you need is...

Over the past few weeks I have had the privilege to be amongst Chinese families, indigenous Australian families, even half a village worth of Turkish families on the flight from Melbourne to Doha. All bantering amongst themselves, telling jokes, smiling at each other. Pretty much the same behaviours the world over.

We have so much more in common with each other than we are led to believe and it is a tragedy that we are currently electing leaders who emphasise difference and antagonism over shared experience and love.

Mutual aid

The main focus of my workshops over the last couple of weeks for Jobs Australia has been helping people to catch up with the impact of technology on how we live and work. In our conversations I was reminded yet again how people have varying levels of comfort and ability in even the most basic use of technology. There is a very real risk of an emerging digital "underclass" if we don't do something about it.

But we don't need big, expensive, government or workplace training initiatives to deal with this. We could do so much more to help each other than we do.

Instead of making someone feel stupid because they don't know how to use a piece of technology, instead of sneering at them, be kind. Take the time to show them, answer their questions, and do so in a respectful way.

We could do so much more to help each other to keep up than we do.

Being brave

Most of the organisations I work with have clearly defined groups whose needs they are intended to serve. Increasingly these days there is a desire reach out online to foster a real connection with those people, but most staff in most organisations find it ridiculously difficult to do so.

As a participant in a workshop once said "How do you find your authentic voice while working in a stifling bureaucratic environment?".

Saying what you really mean, in plain, accessible language, is obviously the answer, but this is hard, it feels dangerous. It is easier to give up, to retire behind corporate speak, to miss the opportunity for real connection.

Even after all these years genuine connection between individuals inside organisations and the people they are set up to help is still unusual. But for those brave enough to reach out there is an amazing opportunity for greater influence waiting to be discovered.

Civilisation?

It is interesting to be back again in remote Australia where the incoming population exists pretty much in parallel with the indigenous one. These "first people" struggle to fit in with our modern world and are often disparaged for their lack of ambition and success. There is also a lot of alcoholism and drug use in their communities.

Yet in their own past they were clearly deeply in tune with their environment and respectful of it in a way that we are only now beginning to learn. Especially as our impact on the planet is becoming apparent, and our realisation that material wealth doesn't make us happy, I often wonder how things might have been different...

Muddling along

Over dinner last night someone used the phrase "muddling along" to express optimism about the future. It seems a particularly British, or to be more precise English, phrase and attitude. It goes with the landscape. It goes with the weather. It goes with the "nation of shopkeepers" image.

I have often thought that one of the greatest strengths of The Church of England is it's non-dogmatic, village fete, muddling along attitude. We don't tend to take our "big thinkers" seriously. If they get ideas above their station we take the piss.

In contrast to the grand ideologies of the past, or oversold techno utopianism about the future, maybe, just maybe, muddling along is our best option?

Celebrating sameness

I used to worry about the homogenising effect of modern culture - the fact that every shopping malI the world over is selling the same brand dominated tat - and I would still bemoan the loss of diverse and fascinatingly different cultures.

And yet...

...here I am, sitting on the harbour front in Hong Kong, watching Chinese girls wearing ripped jeans taking selfies, and wondering if this will make it harder to start wars with countries whose daughters also wear ripped jeans...

Wherever you go, there you are.

It feels odd that I will set off for Hong Kong tomorrow. That I will think it sensible to sit in a metal tube, speeding through the air, thousands of feet off the ground.

And then I will be there, somewhere else. Or will I? more than likely I will be stuck in my head - just like I am here.

The odd truth of this always strikes me in the context of mountains. I spend a lot of my life wishing I was climbing a mountain. On the way up I wish it would end because it hurts so much. On the top I wish I could hold onto the experience and prevent the wonderful feeling from ending. And then on the way down I wish the pain in my thighs would stop. All this wishing and thinking getting in the way of just being.

It is remarkable the amount of vigilance it takes to be here, now.

It's worth the effort though.

A Sufi Story worth remembering in our polarised times...

“Upon entering a new country a traveler noticed an old man sitting under a tree. He approached him and asked about the people in his land. The old man answered by asking, ‘How are the people in your country?’

‘Oh’ said the traveler, ‘they are friendly, hospitable, and cheerful.’ ‘Well,’ the old man said, ‘you’ll find them to be the same in my country.’

A few days later another traveler came up to the man under the tree with the same question, and again the old man responded by asking how the people in the traveler’s country were.

‘They are always in a rush, they have very little time for each other, and their main concern in life is how much money they can make.’

The old man shrugged and said, ‘You’ll find them to be the same in my country.’”

Zen and the art of HGV driving

The other day I was headed to a location I hadn't visited before. The postcode that I was given wasn't recognised by the SatNav (it was a building site so the postcode was new) so I entered a nearby location and set off. On top of this imprecision I reckon there had also been an incident blocking a more obvious route because I and a couple of other HGVs ended up down this relatively small road and faced with a bridge with a 7.5 Tonne limit which our SatNavs appeared not to know about!

Given that my truck's gross weight was 32 Tonnes there was no way I was going to "take a chance" on crossing the bridge so there I am having to turn around in a small road with rush hour traffic in both directions. I managed to make it in about a six point turn, which I'm pretty chuffed with, but nonetheless I had to remain calm in the face of an increasingly irate audience.

The knack, as passed on by more experience drivers, is to see situations like this as a puzzle that you can enjoy solving, a professional challenge that hones your skills. Hanging on to this idea isn't easy!

No news is good news

I haven't watched or listened to news broadcasts for years. I became tired of being presented with a litany of things to be frightened about, that I could do nothing to prevent, and that had minimal direct impact on my life.

I also lost confidence in journalists. With a few very rare exceptions they barely understand the subjects they write about, always have an agenda, and certainly in the case of podcasts get between me and the people I want to learn from.

The media more generally have a massive impact on our lives. Would Brexit or Trump have happened without the media providing oxygen and fanning the flames? Would we be destroying the planet without marketing creating the sense of lack that drives us to buy more stuff than we need and then packaging shit in seductive plastic?

Would the world fall apart if everyone protected themselves from the power of the media? Or would we find out from each other about the things that directly affect us and be able to do something about them?

Lag time

It is disconcerting how often ideas that I have been banging on about, for years in some cases, are only now beginning to emerge in mainstream media and podcasts.

I list them here for handy reference:

We all have a volume control on mob rule.

The future is too important to leave to technologists.

The ideology of algorithms is an inescapable challenge that we all have to address.

We can all change our worlds, one conversation at a time.

And of course, Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do!

Moments

I don't get many breaks in my driving days. Although I enjoy having time to myself while driving my time is usually pretty tightly scheduled. Today though I had to wait for a client to arrive at a very pleasant business unit in rural Hampshire.

It was a real delight to be on the phone making arrangements for my upcoming business trip to Hong Kong and Australia while enjoying the spring sunshine and watching horses grazing in lush green fields.