Imagine you had a goal – perhaps to lose weight or to learn a skill, or even to build some capacity/capability as a person, team, company or country.
Lets call that goal ‘B’ and your starting point – now – is ‘A’.
The sharp angle path
Now imagine you did very little towards getting to ‘B’ until one day when ‘B’ stops being a nice-to-have and , instead, becomes a must-have. I call that day or the event triggering that realisation ‘a sharp turn event’.
So now you’re scrambling, stressing and enduring a massive disruption to everything so you can start heading towards ‘B’ and you needed to be there yesterday.
An example of a sharp turn event is cancer, a heart attack i.e it happens and to reduce the chances of it happening again or as severely – you start to eat better, exercise, cut out smoking and excessive drinking.
Other examples might be being mocked for being overweight or a global pandemic.
The arc path
Now imagine you are in exactly the same starting point and the goal remains unchanged. But instead of doing very little about getting to ‘B’, every day you did something tangible towards the goal and you kept the goal alive by checking if those things you did got you closer and adjusted as you went.
Sharp turn events are not entirely eradicated on this path, but their negative effects can be significantly reduced. You are already some way to the goal, you are on the path.
An example might losing your livelihood whilst pursuing a goal of saving for a home and choosing to live frugally whilst you were saving – being lean. Of course, it seems calamitous that you have lost your job – but given how you are living as you pursued the goal, you are in a better position to weather the disruption vs someone who lived extravagantly (even if they had the same goal as you!).
Arcs are softer but build habit and resilience.
Some thoughts on arcs and sharp angles…
Arcs require diligence and deliberate action to the goal – not huge steps, but small ones, consistently taken.
Sharp angle paths are easy – you don’t have to do anything but wish and occasionally lie to yourself and others that you are doing something.
The longer you leave a goal without working towards it, the sharper and more disruptive the turn. Sometimes, you can leave it too late you pass a point beyond which that exact goal is unattainable and you have to pick another that is within you then-current abilities. E.g. I want to buy a home in 2 years time. I need to save €50,000 for a deposit. The sooner I start the more likely I will be able to do it. If I leave it until, say, a month before I wanted to buy the home – I would have to find €50k in 1 month – an almost impossible task for most people not robbing banks. So maybe you now have to set a goal to buy a house in 5 years vs 2 or not buy at all.
Arcs require regular reflection and calibration that what you are doing is still valid towards the goal. You might even question if the goal is still valid.
Critically reviewing your goals can shine a light on what potential sharp turn events might happen. e.g. if my goal was to save €50k in 2 years, an obvious sharp turn event is that I could lose my job. That might lead me down the path of developing side gigs that build resilience to my finances.
In closing, I am no expert in this and I’m not selling any ‘improve your life’ crap. I am simply introspecting into events and paths in my life and things I see around me.
The coronavirus pandemic has shown us that many – if not all – countries have been fixated on either the wrong goals or have not acted in an arc way towards the right goals and we find ourselves in a sharp turn event where the world is mostly unprepared for massive unemployment coupled with a lack of digital tech for everything from government to education.
What are your thoughts on this theory? Please disagree with it and lets explore it further.
The LinkyBrains movement is purely accidental. It has gained and is gaining momentum primarily through small groups of people meeting to have coffee, some lunch or just a walk. What brings them together is the idea of different mindsets, curiosity, meeting kindred spirits – whatever.
These ‘coffees’ are shabby-chic. There is often no structure, no theme (beyond being Linky). They are just people with pretty broad common ground, holding space to give their linkyness a chance to conenct. They are nicely messy and vague.
They are also super easy to setup. This is deliberate – the easier and lower risk something is, the likelier it is that the hesitant will try it.
But there is risk. People might simply not come. What happens then?
Here are three lessons I learnt from that experience.
Risk very little
Reduce what you could lose. The only real things at stake here were time and money.
It took me all of 10 minutes to find a location that was central, create the event on Doodle and share it on my channels. That’s almost no time at all.
I didn’t book a table at a posh restaurant. I hadn’t hauled post-its, markers and other collaboration tools. I certainly had not paid for anything. So, absolutely no money lost.
Of course, one could argue there was an opportunity cost – what are those things I could have done instead? Great question. I’ll get to that further down this page.
The only thing that stung in all this was my ego and any lesson that helps control that beast is worth almost any cost.
Be OK with no one coming
This was in Malaga, it’s not London or Berlin or Barcelona. LinkyBrains is new, the buzz has not been that well shared in Spain and certainly not in Malaga. Yet, two people had said they would come. My expectations were low, but not zero.
But no one showed up. When I prodded one of the people I was expecting, he apologised and said he was currently in the US!
I was disappointed. Even after 15 years of being involved in conferences, meetings, open space technology, lean coffees, world cafe and most kind of other formats for people getting together to collaborate. I was still disappointed no one showed up.
Then I remembered one of 4 principles I live by. They come from the Open Space Technology framework for running large group conversations
Openspace principles and law
Whoever comes are the right people
The openspace principles are designed to create psychological safety and the single law is a reminder of personal responsibility.
With mojito in hand and view of Malaga port, I quickly accepted that I was the ‘right people’ – this was precious time for me to ponder and converse with myself about neuro-diversity (the core of LinkyBrains) and to reflect on my collaborations in the space.
The two and half hours I spent were some of the most productive of the week. Headphones on:
I agreed a deal for some work and got halfway through the Statement of Work draft for it,
had 3 chat conversations in parallel with some really cool people,
It was OK that no one came. I was there and that was all that ultimately all I could be responsible for.
Do it Better Next Time
When you are learning to ride a bike and you fall off , your instructor encourages you to get back on as quickly as you can – so that your bruised ego and sense of failure do not succeed in convincing you never to try again.
So I got back on. I booked the next event that same night and I’ll do it differently.
I’ll share more regularly leading up to it – via email and socially, in English and Spanish. I’ll prod colleagues and friends to prod their Malaga based friends to check it out.]
I’ll give luck a helping hand.
So – go ahead, if you are curious about LinkyBrains or simply want to get together with other LinkyBrained people, create an event – it will be fine, whatever happens.
It has been the maddest 10 days of my life and I’ve had plenty mad.
Time to reflect on this LinkyBrain thing – taking in all the feedback that’s rolling in from chats, blog posts and spontaneous conversations and I’d like to share them.
Here are my reflections, 10 days in.
LinkyBrains has touched on something profound
People from all kinds of backgrounds, jobs, ethnicities, genders are engaging with this. They want to share their experience, others just want to read and comment. Others still are volunteering to help – even as the plan of what needs help is emerging.
People are organising and meeting up and connecting.
The Core Are Committed
Every community/movement was started somewhere by someone.
This one started with 3 naked dancers – Doug, Alex and Chris.
It was joined by a follower – Mike (me) – now we are all dancing naked.
It is what it is.
We aren’t more important, we aren’t thought leaders, we sure as hell aren’t experts in anything remotely like this. ‘First’ doesn’t confer any more rights and privileges than ‘last’. What matters is being in the movement – everyone earns their respect from the things they choose to help with, and the impact they create.
We are simply naked dancers and we keep dancing and working to keep the dance growing. Join in.
We are walking a fine line. Inclusion vs Exclusivity
Is this some kind of self-congratulating, wealthy male party?
Is this another exclusive club for those who love talking about themselves – because we need that like a hole in the head?
Is this LinkyBrain vs non LinkyBrain?
No. It isn’t any of that.
The narratives so far seems to be dominated with stories/confessions of ‘look how great I turned out with these things that should have slowed me down’.
If that is all you read, it would paint a picture of exclusivity. But I see this differently.
Life is full of challenges, they are like tunnels.
Of course it can be hard for everyone but, for people who see the world differently from society’s normal range, it can be especially hard. That is what this movement is about – making it easier and helping those people contribute to the benefit of everyone.
Most of the confessions are from ‘Jubilant emergers’ – they’ve emerged from various tunnels and discovered ways to be happy and successful at navigating tunnels.
We are not hearing from anyone currently in a tunnel – confused with where they fit, struggling with school / work / life, being understood or however it manifests.
We are not hearing from those approaching a tunnel – who might not even know there are tunnels.
We are not hearing those who might not be facing the challenges themselves, but are supporting people who are. Their voices are important too.
Those groups aren’t often able to speak out and share their realities.
We must do better to find way to hear them. Help us.
We need to move beyond Jubilance to sharing ways to navigate tunnels with anyone just behind us. How did you cope with this, what did you actually do to address that fear etc.
Some abuse will happen
I remember seeing someone trying to sell underwear with the tag #metoo. It pissed me off.
There will always be people trying to promote a personal agenda with any movement – however noble the cause is. That is just what it is. There’s nothing I can do about that beyond doing my best and remain committed to the bigger picture.
The Good Will Shine Through
We – me and the emerging LinkyBrains community – are going to keep encouraging the good, the humanity in us all, the positive. We will continue to help stories emerge, help people connect and do their best work for the benefit of everyone.
Twenty seven years ago, in a small but important town in southern Nigeria, two teenage boys – bored with revising for their GCSEs – succumbed to the temptation of ‘guaranteeing the outcome’ of their Chemistry exam.
As with any situation with demand, supply always rises to meet it. As such, both boys independently went off to acquire the exam paper from different sources.
A few days later, they jubilantly reunited – each with their exam paper – suitably contained in large brown envelopes. As each boy opened his envelope and read the questions to see how well they were prepared, the first student commented that one of the questions didn’t make sense, thus prompting the second boy to look at the question.
Before too long, both boys looked at the papers side by side in disbelief. Both papers seemed identical on the front page but as soon as the pages were turned, the questions were completely different.
If they were different to each other, were either the correct paper or were both actually just passable fakes.
Despite their unscrupulous intentions, lady luck smiled on the boys. They still had a week before the exam and, to put it mildly, resumed revising with unquestionable focus.
One of those boys was me. I remembered I paid 70 Naira for my fake exam papers, at the time that was about £20.
That was the first and ultimately the last time I ever tried to cheat – neither in an exam or in any dealings with anyone.
Lessons to live by
That experience held some powerful lessons for a young person to learn, namely:
That some things are too good to be true – especially when the alternative is hard work. That the time you spend chasing the quick win is valuable time being ‘stolen’ from working hard on the surer win.
Something quite tremendous happened in addition to the lesson – I developed a strong principle of not cheating and not tolerating it from anyone else.
This is not to say don’t look for shortcuts – because there are some. But rather, invest in looking for the honest ones, that don’t compromise your principles. Of course, if you don’t have that principle then none of this matters.
What experiences and lessons about cheating have you had? Or what principles have you developed from your own experiences – I’d love to hear them.
It seems popular, these days, for coaches and consultants to talk about ‘continuous learning’ or the ‘learning organisation’.
Learning is like sex – everyone nods knowingly when it is being talked about, but few are actually doing it well or at all.
For me, learning a new skill is hard – especially if you are unconsciously competent – i.e. an expert, in another domain. Although I take baby steps and mentally (an emotionally) prepare to feel inadequate or stupid, that preparation does not fully protect me against those feelings. I do feel frustrated and stupid when I learn something new.
I’m not one of those naturally curious ‘take it apart to see how it works’ nerds. I need a reason to do anything – even if that reason is simply to have some fun. Luckily I am a solution dreamer – to problems that I see everywhere and even those that haven’t yet peaked. So, what I lack in curiosity, I make up for in imagination.
Of course, learning is only the beginning – think of it as an introduction to a new skill. You are barely becoming competent, you are simply prepping yourself to begin. Practice, once you have the basics, is really where I make all my solid, sticky learning. This holds its own hardships too.
My preferred style of learning anything is to have a goal – for example, when I learned to knit, I set myself a goal of knitting a scarf.
This goal-focused approach means that I can focus my learning, ignoring those things that may be valuable but do not directly move me towards my goal. It also means I have a reason to practice – rather than to learn, it is to create my goal.
What often suffers when I take this approach is that I skip a whole load of important theoretical back story of why certain things are the way they are. But on the plus side I get something tangible quickly.
Every step of the learning experience, especially in the early stages are painful. I feel frustrated that I’m making such slow progress. I find having expertise in a related domain makes things worse.
For example, as I learn React Native to build my Personal Relationships Management app – “Percy” – the WTF/min are really high because I know how quickly I can achieve the same functionality in Java or Ruby – both of which I code with some fluency.
Of course you hear those well meaning fools who harp on about ‘make it fun’ – clearly they haven’t done any learning recently. How do you make the constant feeling of inadequacy or the sense of being a dumdum any fun?
When I learned to juggle, I remember feeling physically sick from sense of failure when – in spite of my best efforts – I just couldn’t keep three balls in the air at the same time. Until I did and that sense was immediately quashed forever.
This turnaround is addictive – and anticipating when I will get beyond the tunnel of crap into the light of palpable competence – itself is exciting. It’s a rush. It’s what keeps me showing up to learn and improve.
The capabilities you develop are rewarding – if nothing else, this new skill gives you a new set of filters and paradigms to see the world through. It gives me a new world from which to draw metaphors from.
So – of course it hurts, but it’s worth it – so do it anyway.
How does learning affect you and why do you show up?
In January 2016, I committed to take my dog – Maya – on a really long walk and I committed to use the walk to raise money and awareness for more investment into the medical conditions: Myalgic Encephalitis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and FibroMyalgia. My best friend and my daughter both suffer from forms of these conditions and they are poorly understood, poorly diagnosed and treated. There are no cures currently for these conditions.
Whether you walk it alone, or you trek with a group – a great walk helps you connect with people, nature and yourself. And in this connection there is so much learning. I don’t know whether it is science or spiritual or simply what happens when you give yourself the time and space to be heard.
Going into this walk, I had a bunch of things to figure out – primarily I wanted time and space to reconnect with myself. I did reconnect with myself – reaffirming what makes me, me and what my focus in life is, who and what are important and more importantly, who and what aren’t. Unexpectedly I also reconnected with parts of humanity that I had silently drifted from and didn’t realise I needed to rediscover and I’m so glad I did.
I learned so many things about myself and people and life on this walk and wrestled with demons that I hadn’t previously made time to resolve. They say that in the woods, no one can hear you scream. There are lots of woods in the North of Spain and I had many opportunities to scream at my demons and them at me.
Then there are the lessons that necessity teaches.
Anyhow – here are some of the things I learned on my walk:
Maya is a Truly Amazing Dog
I consider myself to be a very practical dog owner. There is a power relationship in play between man and dog and whilst I know all the blah blah about trust and loyalty, I hadn’t fully experienced it with any other dog I’ve had, until this walk. I know that Maya considers me her pack leader – who will ultimate protect her from any threat and provide for her.
As far as I know, Maya can’t read a map nor calculate the distance between places on a route. She doesn’t know to plan for a 30km walk with multiple ascents and descents.
This beautiful dog walked with me every step of the way and stayed by my side in the rain and through the mud. Through forests and towns and hard tarmac roads that must have been tough on her paws. She braved her fears – unfriendly dogs that barked terrifyingly at her approach – and she spread her joy by making friends with every person we met.
Whether it was 10km or 30, Maya just walked with me – trusting that I knew where we were going and seeking nothing but having a pine cone thrown in play every now and then.
Vaseline is magic
“Here’s some vaseline – put it anywhere that starts to catch or heat up or rub” – the wisest words a newbie long distance walker will ever hear. My friend Amancio said these to me when we first met and kindly offered me his own tube as a gift.
Long walks put huge strain on your feet, things rub, skin gets bruised and blisters form. All these on their own are bad enough – but when you have to walk every day, suddenly things get rather more complicated. In comes Vaseline.
Every morning of my walk started with a smattering of vaseline on my clean feet – not too much, just enough to rub into my feet and create a protective shield. This shield almost entirely eliminates the friction that causes blisters.
Then when the straps of my 9.5kg backpack started rubbing into my shoulder and my neck – Vaseline again to the rescue.
Fix problems that affect your ability to make progress as soon as they occur
Stop and fix problems when they occur. Lesson learned.
On a walk and in life, there are things you must keep doing to move forward. In life, it seems like there are a multitude of things you need to maintain. You have to look after your health, eat well and exercise for example. Some say you have to keep learning, others say you need to keep an active social life.
On a walk, life is much simpler. The only thing you need to do to make progress is maintain your ability to put one foot in front of the other and walk. I learned that I needed to address any problem that affected that ability as soon as I felt them.
For example – I had new walking boots and the inevitable pains of breaking them in all started to emerge from about the second day of the walk. First I got shooting pains in the sole of my left foot – but I ignored them, put a brave face on and kept walking. Then they got worse, the pain spread to the back of my left knee.
Had I stopped and stretched, applied some balm – as I did on subsequent days (with fewer painful consequences) – I’m sure those first 2-3 days would have been a less injury prone experience.
The cost of stopping and fixing the problem is much lower than the price of being laid out for a day or two.
So now I’m working on understanding what essential things I need in order to move forward joyfully in life and I’m learning to spot problems that will affect them.
I really don’t need very much to be happy
Something about living out of a backpack for 10 days is exceptionally liberating. I packed 4 dry wick tech shirts – they are extremely light and quick drying- 2 trousers that could convert to shorts and a few other items of clothing. But I realised actually I could have packed even half of those items and still been fine.
I was without my laptop, a TV – though I had my phone, I used it almost entirely for taking pictures and keeping in touch with my family via Whatsapp.
Aside from the physical things I didn’t have – I also had much less responsibility. Basically it was to find food for myself and Maya.
Yet the walk was truly one of the happiest 2 weeks of my life. I think as material things go – I’ve never been a hankerer for things – so not much improvement there. This walk has taught me to think about the responsibilities that I take on that I might not need to be happy, it also taught me that there are some things that I had closed myself to – that I now recognise make me feel happy – which I really need to try and get more of.
I never tend to do things because I seek gratitude in return or even an acknowledgement by anyone who might benefit from my doing them. I do things mostly because I want to do them or I see they need to be done. Yet I was completely unprepared for the effect of reading some of the short messages of gratitude and appreciation on Facebook and on my JustGiving page. Hundreds of messages of gratitude for walking for others. I blubbed almost every time I read.
Everyone has their own camino
Each person has their own camino
I was joined at the start of my camino by my friends Helen and Horacio. We had such a wonderful time for the 3 days we were together. We laughed so hard, there were never any awkward silences. There were times we walked in step and other times when each walked their own pace. It was easy.
Yet as much as we enjoyed walking the same route, we each were walking our own camino -both as a physical journey through each person’s limits and challenges and through each person’s mental baggage they needed to work through.
And this was the same for each person I met on the walk. Appreciating that we are not all walking for the same reasons or to the same schedule almost entirely eliminates judgement. There is no right way to walk nor a right way to start or a good time to complete a stage in.
As I apply this learning to life – I feel totally filled with empathy for the journey each person is on – even if they don’t realise they are on a distinct one from everyone else.
The Kindness of Strangers is Powerful Stuff
‘Be a rainbow in someone’s cloud’ – Maya Angelou
There were a few times on this walk when I needed help. Especially when things got a little complicated with accommodation with Maya or finding food for her on days when things were closed or in places where nothing was open.
The warmth and the kindness of people who didn’t know me from Adam – people who could easily have said ‘No’ instead of ‘Yes’ – simply blows me away.
It turns out that over the last few years I have not needed the kindness of strangers – most of my endeavours have been very much in my control. Yet on this camino, I put myself in situations where I needed that help and there it was.
From Kepa who happily let Maya sleep in his courtyard – to Manolo in Pobeña who offered to drive me to the next town to buy dog food – I’m convinced these are the people who neutralise all the cynicism in the world by their small acts of random kindness.
Never sleep with a big dog in a small tent
However much you love your dog – and I love mine a whole lot (and a whole lot more after this Camino), there are lines to be drawn.
One such line is never again sharing a small tent with Maya. Aside from the paws digging into my side and the tail tickling my nose, the most unbearable thing were the farts.
Maya is lethal with her farts- though I think I gave as good as I got – and this is made more toxic because of the size of the tent. So if there is one piece of advice I can share – that I learned the hard way – it is never to share your small tent with a big dog.
Now, remember I went to walk. But I did manage to take some pictures too. I’ll add more of my photos as well as some from Helen, Horacio and James when they share them.
I’m deeply grateful to so many people for the support and concern during this camino. Huge thanks to my wife – Katharine – for making it possible for me to even have the time to be away from home for 12 days.
Thanks to these 58 amazing people who backed my JustGiving campaign. We exceeded the target and this money will make a difference to the lives of so many people suffering with ME/CFS/FM. We need research into these conditions and whilst £3000 may not sound like a lot for research, it will fund the activism and advocacy that is critical to agitate for more investment.
The Next Steps
As my friend and Camino consultant – Amancio – says “You’re hooked on the Camino”. I am pretty hooked now on the idea of the camino as a quest, a time to reconnect and as a physical and mental challenge. So now what?
Well, in September/October, Maya and I will be walking for 25 days to complete the remainder of the Camino del Norte from Santander to Santiago. About 600 km. It will be a more informed adventure and, for sure, a lighter packed one.
I’ll post more about it and I know now that I will continue to raise money and awareness for ME/CFS/FM and also to raise awareness and funds for MOAS – the Migrant Offshore Aid Station – who are doing an incredible job saving lives in the Mediterranean Sea by rescuing migrants from capsized boats.
If you would like to join me for part of this longer walk – stay tuned to my blog for news of the plan and the schedule.
I’ve met some of the most interesting personalities on planes. Or at airports.
There is something about the transience of travel that seems to bring out a form of casual honesty.
One such encounter was on a flight from Spain to Boston. As we boarded my connecting fight to Boston from JFK, I took my seat by the window and like everyone else seated, waited on others to take theirs.
It’s My Seat
Seated next to me were a Chinese couple – young and obviously very into each other. As we all waited for the rest of the passengers to make their way to their seats, stow their stuff and belt up, this couple canoodled right next to me – all good.
Then a dude comes up to our seat row and begins a most bizarre conversation with the couple -mostly with the lady. It went almost exactly like this:
Dude: – ‘I think you are in my seat’
Lady – with the embarrassed smile of someone about to ask a favor of a stranger – ‘Yes I know, I have a window seat couple of rows up – would you mind swapping so that I can sit with my boyfriend?’
Dude: “Sure no problem – 50 bucks!”
Lady – astounded and confused – “Pardon me?”
Dude – face as straight as laces — “If you want us to swap seats – I’ll need 50 bucks!”
In the meantime, they are holding up the boarding and the usual announcements are interrupting the conversation – but the pressure is on to conclude whatever transaction is emerging. During this time, the couple are speaking to each other rather quickly and in hushed tones in Chinese.
Then the exchange continues.
Dude – “So lady, what do you wanna do – I need to take my seat”
Lady – “Ok – I’ll pay you $40”
Deal or No Deal
More boarding interruptions and announcements – giving the couple a chance to continue their negotiations – the man is pretty adamant he doesn’t want them to pay.
Lady – “Ok, this is ridiculous. We’re not paying you to swap seats”
Dude – “No problem, please can you get out of my seat so I can sit down”.
At this point the lady gets up, gets her stuff and goes off to take her assigned seat – which was still empty and waiting for her.
This is a lovely spot to end the story. Plenty here to be astounded and ponder over.
The dude sat between me and the man from the Chinese couple whose canoodling was cut short and was clearly not feeling too great about that.
But that is another story.
A few years ago I had cause to seek help to address chronic depression.
I met with my GP and he offered referrals to either an NHS psychiatrist or a new service that was being run out from their surgery – a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.
Knowing that I didn’t really favour a route that involved medication for any prolonged period, I tried the CBT route.
And I learned something fundamental – the journey through something is greater than the reaching a destination.
During my CB therapy I learnt techniques to help me tackle many kinds of thoughts and behaviours and I developed an inner voice that is my objective and more rational counsel when I feel overwhelmed. If I had gone down the psychiatry route, I fear I would have never developed this super power. I overcame my depression but didn’t cure it and I now have awesome tools to prevent and manage it when it happens again.
When I look at the world around I see achievements are hugely celebrated – from winning gold at the Olympics to selling a startup for a few billion dollars. What is hardly ever mentioned is how you are changed by the journey to the achievement. How the athlete has been changed – both physically and otherwise – by what she had to endure to win the gold. Changes that make it more likely that she will win another gold and changes that mean that if she never won another gold – she would have developed the qualities to be OK with that.
Those are changes that come from the journey, not the destination.
You can reach the same place from different roads but not all teach the same things.
I always dreamed of winning the lottery. Of waking one morning to find that my ticket was the 100 Million Jackpot winner. So I would arrive at wealth but without the qualities to create wealth, nor the humility to appreciate it. What is more valuable in the end?
As I ponder life, sitting on my Spanish terrace dealing with the hopes, fears and dreams of now, I wonder less about my destination and more about what journey I am on, what journey I should be on. Perhaps there is a way to choose the journey by choosing the destination. Perhaps by saying that I shall have acquired certain qualities and experiences, I would auto select the journeys.
What do you feel when you read this?
What journeys are you on?
What qualities are you learning from them?
I’d love to hear and share. Please consider sharing this, leaving a comment or tweeting to @mhsutton
As the painstaking search for MH370 continues and as families wait desperately for news – any news – of the fate of their loved ones, I can’t help but think we are in a dangerous mindset as a global community – that we are believing the hype of what we can and cannot do as a global civilisation.
Fact has merged with fiction – science fiction especially – and we now think that we have capabilities that will fix any and every thing.
What we believe we have is not what we have
Ongoing revelations of the capabilities of Intelligence agencies to spy on and store everything from everyone all the time add to the illusion that all information about everything is known or even knowable. It serves Big Brother well for us to think this – it curtails what we say and to whom. Fighting this is the core of the privacy movement.
From Hollywood we get the continual onslaught of militaristic salvation – any threat from anywhere will be defeated by our armies and our brave warriors – even if those are super heroes from comic books. We can carpet bomb, annihilate with nuclear devastation. We can even explore distant planets and keep in constant touch with our robotic vehicles on them.
Advances in medicine are offering promising defences against our micro-predators – we may soon even defeat aging. Technology is giving us exponentially faster, more ‘intelligence’ gadgets that give us more control on our architected environments and our man-made infrastructure.
All this unavoidably seeds the thought that, as a civilisation, are invincible – even if those capabilities are not actually universally available or applied. But nevertheless, there is a sense that when something truly tragic happens, we can harness our global capabilities to save lives and triumph in the adversity. But sadly, we can’t. The best we can do is pick up the pieces of disaster.
In reality – whilst we are not in the Dark Ages, we are still a small player in this big world. We are as nothing to the whims of weather. In the battle for planet Earth, she will always win, even if that means we become extinct. When we raise alarm about climate change, global warming and rising sea levels, it is not because we fear for the planet. We fear for ourselves and life as we know it.
Once upon a time, we knew our place in the system
Hundreds of years ago, when science was still in its infancy and knowledge was in the hands of relatively few people and the distribution network was basic at best, humans accepted – more easily- that tragedy happens and there is nothing we could do about it.
Ships would go out into the treacherous open oceans and may never return – the ocean bed is littered with unheard cries for rescue and salvation. As desperate as it sounds, humans had a more realistic understand of what they were capable of.
We knew our place within the system. Our place has not really changed – we have no more real responsibility than we ever had, we instead have increased our ability to meet the responsibility we have always had. Neither has the consequence of disrupting the balance of the our natural systems changed. Earth will whip our collective asses in the same ways – only the effects on us will be more devastating.
Be kind to the people who are doing their best
Against the backdrop of this misplaced belief that we can find anything are the people who are actually looking. They are discovering first hand that what they thought they had doesn’t really cut it. Hundreds of people using truely sophisticated technology – some so secret, we can only guess – are discovering that all this tech isn’t yielding any more than speculation.
The Malaysian government – as politically dysfunctional as any – are trying to do the best they can. But they are clueless – not because of a lack of competence – but because there really aren’t that many clues and even fewer promising ones. If everyone is grasping at straws, perhaps it is because there are only straws.
So let’s be kinder to them and everyone involved in both addressing the tragedy and breaking the news to us that we are believing our own delusions of invincibility. Perhaps we would be better engaged in trying to understand what we think we can do versus what we actually can do.
Will we ever find MH370 – I don’t know, I sincerely hope we do. Finding this plane – in whatever state it is in will ease the pain of not knowing for the desperate families of the passengers and crew.
Hope is what fuels us through adversity. We must be hopeful that we can be better and do better, but it mustn’t blind us to the false hope in capabilities we do not yet possess, because life and nature will call our bluff over and over again.
It is now late January and I finally got my 5 lucky volunteers from a total set of 11 respondents. I fully intend to share the names of the lucky 5 once they agree that I can do so and also as part of a series of case studies.
Here are some early lessons that I would like to share about offering something that otherwise would be hugely expensive for no financial cost:
Cost is a barrier
Almost all the respondents said that cost was a barrier to them getting help – let alone ongoing help. Trying to justify the cost made having the conversation with their management and other parts of the organisation harder!
Just because it is free doesn’t mean it is attractive
One respondent was pretty keen and was really geared up, but when they brought the offer to their management – they weren’t so supportive. ‘We are hiring an agile coach next month, why do we need a free one?’. The value of an objective expert who can help call out ineffective behaviour and help focus everyone’s attention on finding more effective behaviour is understated until people try it and see transformational results.
Free does not mean fast
I believe that agile businesses are inherently fast responders. Their ability to sense opportunity and to respond – even if that response is a placeholder for a future conversation – is essential. This – in my opinion – is one of the observable behaviours of an agile person/team/business.
My lesson is a little skewered by Christmas and New Year – but not so much that I could not discern that all but two of my respondents was really fast off the bat. From an early conversation to explore the nitty gritty of the offer to connecting with their CxOs to schedule a go-ahead conversation took all of a week. On the other hand – most others were taking a week or two to even just respond to my reply!
I’m sure they all have great reasons, but assuming that your free offer – however good it might be – will spark immediate response is perhaps ill-advised.
If I was to do this again, I would not pick the holiday season and I would set an offer period – for no other reason than communicate my sense of urgency.
The newbies are fresh enough to care
Almost all 11 respondents to my offer had been in their roles for less than 1 year. This invites me to explore why these particular people chose to act.
Perhaps they are still fearless and optimistic about their organisations’ journey of continuous improvement.
Perhaps they still enjoy the support of their management in their drive to help their organisations become better.
In my experience of over 100 teams and over a thousand people, the new people in the organisation hold huge unsullied hope and their employers and colleagues best learn how to make the best of that temporary state of non-corruption.
Ask a question, share a thought
If you have any questions about my offer and how it is working out – please drop me a comment below, contact me on Twitter or email me. I’d love to learn and share.
At this point I really want to say a massive thank you to all those who shared my tweets and the link to the original post to their networks. I can’t thank you all enough. If you are ever in Spain… beers!!