Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Stepping into the Future - Day 4

Day 4

International Rescue's Thunderbird 4
30ft long 11t wide
Propulsion: 6 electrically driven reversible axial-flow turbine impellers
Max speed 160 knots underwater and 40 knots on the surface
Piloted by Aquanaut Gordon Tracy

Today's post is from a man whom I have had the privilege of sharing much of the past year with, David D'Souza. He has been a wonderful colleague and is a valued friend. If it wasn't for Twitter we would never have met and my life would certainly be the poorer. He is a popular and well known voice, in work related and HR communities, (both on and off line); David is bright, passionate, values-driven, knowledgable, funny, loyal, challenging and keen to encourage positive change (in individuals, organisations and society). He was the brains behind both Books of Blogs and hence many bloggers now can state in all honesty that they are published authors and that their book(s) made it to number 1 on Amazon. 

If you don't yet, you should follow him on Twitter via @dds180 and read his blog. He will make you smile, frequently surprise you and usually encourage you to think. I am indebted to him on many levels - the top image (International Rescue that can go to great depths and lengths to see that the right things occur) is very apt. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank him for his support and encouragement (not just to me but also to many of the readers of this post).


I've always been absorbed by the possibilities of what might have been. All of the realities that didn't come to pass.
I can't remember the first time I heard about The Butterfly Effect, but I do recall from an early age understanding how mistaken people were to say about football matches 'we would have scored three if we'd put those chances away'.
Because logic dictates that if you had scored the first of those chances then everything would have changed. Everybody would have returned to the centre circle and the patterns, behaviours, mentalities and choices that evolved would be completely different to what happened in the first reality. The romantic comedy Sliding Doors, featuring Gwyneth Paltrow (before she became odd) and John Hannah (before he was in a position to turn down films like Sliding Doors) featured this pattern of thought to its conclusion. What would happen to your day if just one small facet of it changed? In the film it was the main protagonist missing a train that led to the change in her life - in real life we are always just making trains or just missing them. Our days fundamentally change based on those events.
John Hannah and Gwyneth Paltrow in "Sliding Doors"
Unless you travel via Southern Rail in which case you spend most days watching departure boards giving you information on fresh delays...
This never-ending schism of possible realities manifests itself in similar ways with our careers, with our relationships and with every business. The impact of small things often dictates the path of the bigger things. My daughter is a notoriously bad sleeper. If she had slept better on just one night a few years ago then maybe my wife and I wouldn't have cracked and decided we couldn't survive without being nearer family. In which case we wouldn't have moved to the South East. Maybe I'd still be working and living in Yorkshire. And if I was still living in Yorkshire then I wouldn't be writing this blog about having moved to the South East. I probably wouldn't even be writing, I certainly wouldn't know the people that I know now. My life would be poorer for it - I assume. My life would certainly be different for it. That's all I can really know. 
It's A Wonderful Life remains my favourite film and my company was named after Clarence, one of the characters in it. Simon Heath is a person I'm lucky to call a friend and he created a wonderful logo for me based on Clarence that I never got around to using...I wouldn't have met Simon if my daughter was a better sleeper. That's how life works.
The film centres on the impact of a man by an incident outside of his control. The only thing he can control is his reaction to the event, but the beauty of the film is the gradual realisation of how much a difference to other people one person can make. Our worlds are shaped by the people around us. Social media allows for even more random collisions, but make no mistake that our interconnectedness is what determines our lives and always has been. This isn't new.
I was lucky enough to be Best Man at a friend's wedding a few years ago, It's A Wonderful Life happens to be his favourite film too and we now have a ritual of finding a way to watch it with each other every year. He is a far better person than I would ever hope to be and one of those who goes through life constantly making the difference for others. I read out the following quote from the film at his wedding as part of my speech - "Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?". What we don't tend to appreciate is that our lives are influenced not just by those closest to us, but by a network more complex and intertwined than we could imagine.    
When I was travelling to this year's CIPD conference I got talking to the lady opposite me on the train. I don't cope very well in an environment without stimulus and the very best type of stimulus is conversation, so if you are ever unfortunate enough to sit near me on public transport then please expect a conversation. The story of the mystery train woman was a wonderful 'sliding doors' story. She has been working in a special needs school for 7 years. After qualifying as a teacher she had taken a few years out and then found it very hard to get a job in a school. I hadn't realised how many applications there are for each teaching role - it was a sobering experience listening to her describe her job hunt. It is a tough market. Eventually she had give up on a permanent role and settled into supply teaching, but disliked the routine and the lack of certainty it brought. 
One day a teacher at a school on the other side of the city called in sick (sliding doors moment...). The request to get up at short notice and travel to the other side of the city on a rainy day was the final straw that triggered a decision. That decision was to call agencies and say that any kind of longer term contract work would be acceptable. She just wanted a permanent home.  One of the agencies had a role starting immediately. 

Nursery School, Henri Jules Jean Geoffroy, 1898
So this experienced and qualified teacher started work as a Junior IT Support technician covering for maternity leave. Whilst pushing around a trolley full of laptops and freely admitting she knew nothing about IT the teacher got to know the rest of the staff. When the first permanent vacancy (non IT related...) came up she got the job. She is still there now. 
Every career and every life is made up of little decisions. Every decision is the result of the events that shaped the thinking and feeling behind it.
A wise person once said you regret the decisions that you didn't make, but in reality we can never understand how different our parallel lives would have been. We can't change the past, but we can always change how we step into the future. I love the fact that I met someone on a train (thanks to Virgin for allocating that seat) - who has been supporting children who really need support for over 7 years.

I love that this came about because she decided to pretend to be an IT Technician. She decided to do that because she didn't like getting out of bed at short notice on a rainy day. That decision came about because someone she never met was sick - in some ways the most incidental person in the story is the most important trigger for all that went after. I hope that person was sick because they had consumed too much champagne and strawberries having the night of their life. They deserve it. 
Life is rich, unpredictable and full of stories that we never hear. I hope you get to make some great stories this year - I hope I get to hear some of them.
Merry Christmas and I hope you have the best New Year that is possible.

Thank you for Being a Friend - Andrew Gold

1 comment:

  1. When I was four years old my father changed our family surname. He had a choice of two and somehow made a decision. When I was 18 and went to university we were allocated our rooms in halls based upon surname alphabetical order. If my dad had made the other choice I would have been on another floor. Instead I moved next door to the girls who are still my best friends. Indirectly this also resulted in my move to yorkshire and my life today.
    I too have always been fascinated by this concept (also amusingly featured in Red Dwarf of course). If parallel universe theory is true, somewhere there is a woman who was named Gemma Lebond. I wonder what happened to her?