Monday, 26 January 2015

Hooked on a Feeling !! - Day 58

Day 58 (27th January 2015)

58th hexagram in the I Ching, known as Tui or 兌 (duì),
referred to as the youngest daughter, is a character in the ancient Chinese divination
practice, which uses 6 apparently random numbers turned into a hexagram, with a meaning
ascertained via the I Ching texts. 
Tui is said to represent "Joy", with both the inside and
outside world being in harmony. 
The hexagram is said to depict two lakes and is interpreted as
a demonstration of inner strength, 
cheerfulness, an ability to be flexible and to show courtesy to others.
A sole lake evaporates easily, but when two are linked they support each other, Tui represents 
this, demonstrating the benefit of discussion, sharing knowledge & practices with like-minded fellows

Steve Browne is the author of today's post - Steve is based in the U.S.A. in West Chester, Ohio, where he works as the Executive Director for Human Resources for LaRosa's, Inc. - a regional pizzeria chain. He is a strategic HR professional, with a passion for employee relations, networking and organisational culture. He, himself, is excellent at networking and very well connected within the global HR community. Steve is a knowledgeable dynamo - his passion, drive and enthusiasm acts as a glue for many of us. He loves interacting on social media, his Twitter handle is @sbrownehr and he writes an excellent blog, Everyday People. Steve is a vibrant, warm and welcoming individual. When not doing things for HR, he is supporting his community; he is a devoted husband and father and a lover of rock music. He brings a smile to my face whenever we interact.

This is the last in the Advent Blog series - it's always good to end on a high. I would like to thank you all for giving me a chance to get to know you (especially the authors) and to interact with you (anyone who has read/commented on the posts). I had no idea when I told Alison that I would host on her behalf that it would be such a wonderful and rewarding experience. You are brilliant.


I am wired a bit differently than most folks I know.  I don’t mean in some creepy way, but, you see I’m an extrovert who happens to work in Human Resources.

Now, you’d think that HR would be a field that would be a magnet for extroverts, but that really isn’t the case.  This “curse” has been with me all of my life.  Whenever I’ve taken an assessment, which is somewhat “mandatory” in HR, I peg the top of the scale of extroversion.  I’m nowhere close to the median, or the “safe” range for others.

I really don’t see being extroverted as a curse, and I only say that because it’s how others perceive it.  When you’re in social situations with extroverts, there’s an expectation that they are going to bring energy, have colorful stories and generate life to whatever is going on.  That may happen, but it’s also an odd expectation for us to live with.

Introvert and Extrovert speakers at and after a conference
I’d like you to look at extroversion in a different light.  I see that how I’m wired is a way to connect with people because one of the facts about how I approach each day is that I HAVE to be around people.  I rarely am alone on purpose. It’s an interesting dichotomy with my amazing wife because we are almost complete opposites.  If we go to a shopping mall, she would focus on the task at hand of purchasing some items, and I would be wandering throughout the mall just to see who I could meet.

What I’ve come to observe is that since people are somewhere along the introversion/extroversion scale that it’s better to meet people where they are instead of expecting them to be more like you.  This runs contrary to how most social interactions occur.  People tend to be self-focused instead of others-focused.  What if you changed your focus?  How do you think interactions with other people would go if you moved along the scale to cozy up with them at their point along the spectrum?

I would think that your interactions would be smoother, have more context and meaning and would also lead to other successful interactions !!
A successful interaction
We don’t want to do this because people are a giant ball of emotions.  We’re not really sure what emotions they will be bringing to an encounter, so we tend to keep an arm’s distance and never really take our time together past a very thin surface conversation.

My challenge for you is to get messy !!  We have emotions for a reason.  Do you really want to be connected to a myriad of automatons who give you the “I’m fine, and you?” response every time?  

I find that distance response to be more draining than coming across someone full of any kind of emotion.

This week, take a new approach and get hooked on feelings.  It will mean that you have to open up and share more intimately, but it’s really what people want.  We want meaningful relationships in life, at work and in our profession. Come clean and know that when you avoid the emotions that everyone brings to the situation, those emotions will show up somewhere else and it won’t be good.

Also, remember an answer to the obligatory “Hi, how are you?” doesn’t have to be neutral or assumed negative.  When I see someone and they ask me how I am I respond, “I’m Great !!” (and it’s true.)  I know that it’s the extrovert in me, but it’s also a choice. Being positive is a choice that makes each day, and every moment in it, spectacular !!

I hope that you know that there are people who really want to get to know you – on purpose.  Be on the lookout because I will find you to see if you’re great !!

Deborah Kerr (Marni Nixon singing) "Getting To Know You"
from "The King and I", 1956 film adaption of musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein

Blondie performing "One Way Or Another", 1979
(But, Steve is NOT a stalker)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Welcome Path of Years - Day 57

Day 57 (26th January 2015)
57 - the number made famous by Henry Heinz (although at the time his company 
already had 60 products and it now sells over 5,700). He saw an advert for shoe styles 
whilst riding a train in New York in 1896 and liked the concept - 57 was chosen as it was his lucky number. 
 Heinz sells 11 billion single-serve packets of ketchup per annum (that is 2 for every person on Earth) 
Illustration - Heinz advertisement circa 1910
On realising how popular the series was becoming I planned to let the Advent Bogs cover no more than a 56 day period (the original period of Advent, which, like Lent, was a time of intermittent fasting and contemplation stretching from St Martin's Day (11th November) until Epiphany - the focus on the days of Christmas is quite recent). However, a rush of excellent late posts came in at the eleventh hour and so we are running on for a couple of extra days. What a bonus!

Today's post is by Jayne Cox who has, from almost my first days on Twitter, been a voice in my life - we often wish each other good morning and comment on one another's posts and lives. You can follow her on Twitter, her handle is @JayneMCox, or read more about her on her website where she also blogs. Jayne is a coach, she specialises in encouraging people, particularly women, to love life, to feel comfortable with who they are and to change their outlook in order to achieve their dreams. Jayne herself has overcome many hurdles (she suffered from eating disorders when younger and has coped with loss). She is an expert in supporting others with similar issues to become successful and "mind fit" people, like she herself has become. She lives with her husband Michael and a menagerie of animals including Daisie their boxer, Holly their pug and a collection cats, ducks and hens.
I’d like to thank Kate for giving me an opportunity to be part of the Advent series of blogs and what wonderful company I’ve found myself in.

We have followed some wonderful paths in the Advent Blogs series
I often write and tweet about living life to the full and appreciating the smallest of things and I do genuinely mean it. I see life as a gift and age is testimony to the time spent living and learning. 

As I approach my 49th Birthday I did a virtual crumple of 3 previous ideas and decided to take this new path, encouraged by a twitter conversation with Hope and Sam this morning. Thanks to you both and here’s the blog I promised, fresh off the press.
The path to this age and these almost 49 years is one I feel proud to be taking, I’m eternally grateful that in my 20’s I had the opportunity to begin my recovery from anorexia nervosa. Misunderstood then and now it’s been in life since the moment of diagnosis, now it’s part of my life professionally. A troubled child and young woman, the paths I’ve taken bring me to now and I can’t help loving my years.

At times a difficult path
Society seems to fight against age, anti-ageing and fearful that age is some kind of illness, a reflection of less. I find this odd when I see it as so much more. When your life was once looking limited, I suppose it really does take on new meaning.  
Unhappy memories of abuse in my past seem far behind me, as the years have been generous and given me resilience, courage, hope and a voice once stifled. Age has given me not only a voice but a choice. In my youth I would have given my last breath just to be liked. Today I understand that I need to choose my company wisely and with me in mind. Yes making sometimes tough decisions to stay or walk away.

So 2015 also finds me taking a new path with not just me running my own business but supporting my husband Michael to do the same. An illness that rocked our world in 2013 prompted us both to take stock and look at what we were putting off until tomorrow. We realised that our tomorrow could actually become our today and our life experiences made us take action.
"Never put off till tomorrow the fun you can have today." Aldous Huxley
No we don’t believe age has to be grey, dull and unexciting. Age is now, vibrant and a time of great opportunity. Imagine believing that the best was yet to come?

If you like the idea of enjoying your numbers rather than fighting them, join us on Twitter with #LovingOURYears and share your words of encouragement and celebration.
My warmest wishes for a happy and healthy 2015

Jayne Cox

In celebration of us older ladies
"Older Ladies" by Donnalou Stevens

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Views into Another World - Day 56

Day 56 (25th January 2015)
56 - the exact number of curls in Shirley Temple's hair when a child actress
Her mother, Gertrude, gave her ringlets similar to those of the silent movie star Mary Pickford 
Shirley Temple inadvertently caused Graham Greene to write "The Power and the Glory". 
He had been a film critic, but his comments on her performance in "Wee Willie Winkie": 
"Her admirers "“ middle-aged men and clergymen "“ respond to her dubious coquetry, 
to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with 
enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops 
between their intelligence and their desire", resulted in a libel action. 
Following this Greene resigned and left the UK to travel in Mexico, 
a trip which inspired his masterpiece.
Alex Moyle is the Managing Director of Selzig Consulting, based in Bristol (Selzig is word of Scandinavian origin meaning "to serve" - Alex is a specialist in sales and his business focuses on helping organisations to enhance revenue and growth through customer service and talent management - serving clients and employees). Prior to setting up his own business, Alex spent over 15 years with global recruitment experts, Robert Half, where, having proved himself an able senior consultant (he was a branch manager) he became a specialist in training and developing employees and was the UK Director of talent Development. Alex is married and lives with his family near Bristol. He is active on social media (his Twitter handle is @Alex_Moyle) and a regular blogger on LinkedIn.


Everything we see, hear, smell and think is tainted by perspective. My favourite quote of all time is in Act 2 Scene 2, Lines 246 to 247 from Hamlet where Hamlet says to Rozencrantz:
"Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” 
What I love about the quote is that it reminds you that, whatever situation you find yourself in, it is what you think that decides the perspective you see.
Marcus Aurelius has a similar opinion to that of Shakespeare
However a challenge for us all is that the decisions we make and the perspective we choose is more often than not a subconscious one.
Dali's painting: Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee
around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening
often cited as a depiction of the subconscious influencing thoughts
Worse still is that, if we are not consciously aware of the perspective from which we see situations, how are we to be conscious in seeing the perspectives of others as we live our lives?

No one wants to be the boss that is seen as uncaring or or self-centred, only concerned with our own view on the world.  Or, in the best case, wandering through life thinking everyone likes you, but mysteriously spending Christmas Day on your own.

So what are the conscious triggers that you can use to encourage you to see life from another perspective? 
  • Try reading a different news paper or news website than usual and, rather than disagreeing with the view points you read, think “what is making them think like that?" If you read the Telegraph try the Guardian, etc...
The Sun vs.Daily Mirror - contrasting opinions
Headlines for Thursday 6th May 2010 UK election

  • When your husband, wife or partner is frustrated with something you have done, rather than defend ask yourself “what are they seeing that I am not that is making them respond in this way?"

  • When someone in your team is complaining about the company, rather than immediately defend the situation with the company line ask them “why is it you think that?"
  • When your boss delivers change that you do not perceive as positive, think “what is the business trying to achieve from this change?”  This may seem strange but, in the main, companies do not set out to deliberately make their staff unhappy.
  • When you are confronted by an unhappy customer whom you feel is being unreasonable, ask your self “how would I feel if I had this happen to me?"

More often that not once you start asking yourself these questions another world opens up that is different than the one you see today. 

Strange things may start happening to you.  You may find that you think a little longer before you respond, instead of defaulting to your pre-programmed way; you may be slightly less judgemental knowing the person annoying you may have good reason for behaving that way. You never know, you may even start reading a different paper, voting differently or switch your football team from the blues to the reds...

David Bowie - "Changes" from the album Hunky Dory, 1971

It would be great to get your ideas and suggestions on things you should ask yourself in situations where you probably could do with pausing and seeing things from a different perspective. 

Comments below please.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Stepping on to the Path of Choice - Day 55

Day 55 (24th January 2015)
55 years of marriage = Emerald Wedding Anniversary. 
Emeralds are one of the four "precious stones" (with diamonds, rubies and sapphires).
Most emeralds have internal fractures and particles; a pure emerald is very rare.
It is common practice to "oil treat" fractures (usually by allowing cedar oil to permeate
into the stone disguising flaws). However, if internal characteristics are attractive
they are referred to as "jardins" and can add value to the stone.
Illustrated the Gachala Emerald - 858 carats
Gina Chapman Gina Chapman and I first became acquainted on Twitter (her handle is @ChayneDaisy). She is consistently encouraging and an active and popular member of the L&D community. She lives to the west of London (on the Berkshire Buckinghamshire borders) and currently works for a respected local consultancy. Prior to becoming a consultant she was employed by one of the world's leading computing and technology businesses. As well as being an excellent trainer (both design and facilitation) Gina is learning to look after herself - she is an aspiring yogi and keen on gardening and wildlife.   


I have been blown away by the quality of the Advent Blogs - not just the quality of the content, but the quality of the sharing - people have shared some very personal experiences with us all and I for one am very touched by that.  I feel that a great deal of thanks needs to go out to the lovely Kate for curating this year’s series.  Upon the second time of asking me if I would like to contribute and join in, how could I not when she has given so much.  Dear Reader, I have never blogged before and my writing is nowhere near as eloquent as yours - you have been forewarned!

Gina takes to blogging like a duck to water...
“You cannot do this job” was on permanent play in my head for a good 10 months when a change of command happened within our L & D Team.  The team needed to move from L & D partnering within a business unit to working within a practice model as L & D Practitioners.   I am not going to bore everyone with the detail of the various guises this took in the early days  and am going to fast forward to where it ended up.  What I will say is that, as a remote team we became incredibly close and supportive of each other.   We needed to be as we’d been on a hell of a journey, it hadn’t been pleasant and there had been the inevitable people casualties along the way.
Difficult journey
Fast forward 8 months ..... The practice model was still in place and more change was ahoy, due to another change at the L & D helm.   We had a choice of two roles – Content Designer or Deliverer, as our workshops were now to be designed and delivered in-house.  As happens in all change initiatives,  a whole raft of emotions were experienced by all the team.  This is when the permanent play in my head - “You cannot do this job”- stepped up a gear.
Things are not looking good
“Gina, we know you’ll be a great facilitator”….. the choice I thought I had was taken away – too many people wanted to design!  Now, don’t get me wrong, as an L & D Partner, of course I’d delivered workshops; I’d also researched and designed workshops and they were favourably received by the business units I looked after.  They knew me, they trusted me and knew I understood the challenges they had on a day-to-day basis.   On reflection, it was cosy and nice - not many mean people on my patch!    
My new role would be a whole different ball game.  A change of CEO and a corporate-wide change initiative was reverberating across the Company and the word on the mean streets by the coffee machines was not a positive one ..... My role, should I choose to accept it, was to deliver workshops designed by my colleagues, across the whole business, to some pretty unhappy peeps!   The message needed to be consistent and I was told “you cannot change the content - it needs to be delivered as written”. 
“You cannot do this job”  - it was still there, that niggling gremlin, whispering to me.  For a time, though, the reality was I could do the job, although my gremlin was constantly on my shoulder, telling me something to the contrary.
The devil whispering in Maxentius' ear
Peter de Dene window, York Minster
The feedback from workshops was public to all within the L & D Team and published each month.  I used to steel myself to open the spread-sheet and search for my name, to read my course feedback.   Sometimes people said great things, but sometimes people were tough with their comments – par for the course and you can’t please all the people all of the time ….. but in my head, I wanted to please them, I really wanted to help them and even more so, I wanted to be perfect - “winging-it” was not in my vocabulary but “You cannot do this job” was still in my head.  
Sleepless nights started  – I would fall into bed, each night, totally exhausted, but my mind would be racing, unpicking what had happened during the day and replaying what should have happened.   I started cancelling weekend arrangements, because I needed to rest.  I didn’t.  I spent weekends reading facilitator notes which would, in some instances, run to some 100 pages and then I would anticipate possible questions - lots of them.  I wanted to be perfect and expected myself to know everything.  I felt totally out of control and I asked for help each month from a remote and faceless SMT who demanded we complete a ‘Happiness Survey’ each month.   Eventually I was working with a mentor - one of my adorable experienced colleagues - who threw a lifeline of hope to me. Workshops were then being scheduled into my diary automatically by a remote admin team and, if I wasn’t delivering,  I was on the road; if I wasn’t on the road, I’d be reading and preparing for the next day!

It came to a head when I looked in my diary to see I was to deliver two workshops, back to back, to a group of Future Leaders - the facilitator notes which were normally OTT with detail were scant to say the least and no-one was available to talk me through the facilitator pack.    Blind panic set in and my niggling gremlin was now shouting at me - “YOU CANNOT DO THIS JOB”! I got through the first day only because the adrenalin pumping through my body kept me going.  I had no time to gather my thoughts during breaks, as there was always someone wanting to talk with me about their challenges. I knew my evening would consist of grabbing something to eat and spending an evening working out how the hell I was going to run the next day.  I could not think straight and the next day did not happen - I had completely broken down and my boyfriend held me and said “you have to stop”!
Reaching breaking point
..... I was signed off work for 3 months with chronic work related stress.  My Doctor told me I wasn’t to look at a computer screen for at least two weeks and I needed to rest.  My adorable mentor went over and above what she needed to do.  She contacted our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and a lovely lady called me and I went through weeks of counselling. Through our conversations, she guided me through to a path I had not been able to see during my very dark days - it was the path of choice.  
Choose your path
They say the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result and my choice was not to return to a regime which had taken so much from me.   
After 11 years with a Company I had initially loved working in, I left my role seven months ago and it was so the right decision for me.   I am now working part-time for a small consultancy - still in L & D - and giving myself some breathing space to reflect and to continue my own personal  learning journey. A couple of months ago I was asked to design and deliver a Stress Awareness workshop to a group of schoolteachers - it was well received, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and they want me to work with them some more.
My self-esteem has returned and I am now looking forward to what 2015 holds.

 Chariots of Fire, theme tune

Thursday, 22 January 2015

And Nobody Lived Happily Ever After, Which Was Fine - Day 54

Day 54 (January 23rd 2015)
54 is the number of independent countries in Africa, created during colonial times.
Before colonial rule Africa comprised up to 10,000 different 
states and autonomous groups with distinct languages and customs.
Africa has approximately 30% of the earth’s remaining mineral resources.
Africa is the second most populous continent with about 1.1 billion people 
or 16% of the world’s population. 
Over 50% of Africans are under the age of 25
The 2014 CIPD Annual Conference was an excellent event, with some exceptional speakers. However, for me, Paul Taylor was the highlight. His passion, wit, knowledge and authenticity are infectious. Paul is an Assistant Director, responsible for Organisational Development, at NHS Employers. He is active on social media (follow him on Twitter via @NHSE_PaulT) and always keen to connect and share. Paul is naturally creative and comfortable challenging the status quo, to ensure a better outcome for all. Paul's energy and drive can be seen outside as well as in the workplace - he is a multiple marathon runner and fund raiser for great causes. Paul is a man with vision and compassion - a rare combination and I am honoured to know him.

Isn’t childhood weird? I mean, not childhood itself but some of the things that happen early on. We are raised on stories of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. 

Stories themselves become part of our daily lives and night time routines. I wonder how many times we hear ‘once upon a time’ and ‘happily ever after’ as kids? They’re powerful promises of a beautiful start and perfect ending. The ideal path is set out for us to follow.  As grown ups we are still asked to buy into the ideas of dream holidays, and fairy tale weddings. Happy ever after is a goal to be pursued.
But the thing about happiness is it’s impermanence. Being happy is a finite state that comes and goes, ebbs and flows. Yet our narrative about happiness frames it as something that can be solidified, permanent and attainable in perpetuity. We use phrases like “life is a roller coaster - full of ups and downs” as if the downs are to be avoided and despised, when actually those are the best bits of the ride. 

We’re led to believe that a steady state of happiness is the only way to live; that it’s a straight path from birth to death and the aim is to achieve optimum happiness at all times. What’s the point of riding a flat roller coaster?
It’s not surprising though, for what are the alternatives? There’s things that are supposed to be avoided at all costs. Embarrassment, awkwardness, rejection, humiliation, pain, sadness. Who’d want to live in a state of constant cringing and crying. But often those feelings give us the richest experiences to learn from. They give us moments of despair that transform over time and take us to deeper places of understanding when the sting wears off. They make us search our hearts and ask ourselves questions. They turn the sky dark and our thoughts red hot. They make our heart pump and our blood boil. They help us to change and to move on. They remind us what it feels like to be really alive. If it was possible to achieve a state where you could be happy all the time, who would ever change? And isn’t change ultimately the point of life?

And this, dear reader, is where I’m going to pause the blog, break the fourth wall and look you straight in the eye to say “Hello”.  I wrote that first part of the blog a few weeks ago and I just couldn’t work out how to finish it. I ran dry. I thought the ending would be something like…. “Why not accept that life is both beautiful and horrifying at the same time, and that’s ok. Happiness is one emotion in an unlimited range of responses that may not be so pleasant but will all teach us so much more than the blissful-eyes-shut face of happiness. Nobody lives happily ever after, and that’s fine.” But it just didn’t happen.

Then two days ago my cat died.

Robbie was 16 years, 3 months and 8 days old. For his first fifteen years of life he was a handsome, confident, cheeky presence in our lives. He was the captain of his own ship and like a miniature pirate in a black fur coat he stole our hearts and gave us many adventures.

Illustration from The Ship's Cat,a narrative poem by Richard Adams
illustrated by Alan Aldridge, 1977
Just after his fifteenth birthday he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism which more recently led to renal failure, hypertension and blindness. This week we acknowledged that the time had finally come to say adieu to mon capitaine. 

I didn’t think it was possible to cry so much.  I thought the vet might need to hook me up to a saline drip in case I just dehydrated and crumbled into powder on the floor. Robbie lay in our arms as we stroked him, kissed him, squeezed his paws and told him how much he was loved. As he fell into his last sleep I felt my heart break.

Our flat is now so still and quiet, apart from the random and unexpected guttural sobbing that breaks out when one of us thinks we’ve seen him behind a curtain, or when we look at the place his food bowl sat. I heard someone laughing outside yesterday and I thought, how dare they find anything funny.
I am in the middle of what feels like one of those massive metal hamster balls that you see on american tv stunt shows, the ones filled with blokes on motorbikes criss-crossing each other and narrowly avoiding impact. It’s like I’m sitting on the floor at the bottom of the ball while they spin around me. Thoughts, memories, feelings, ideas, questions...zooming by in a blur.  How am I supposed to make sense of anything? How should I feel? What do I do now? What happened to my happiness?

Well, it actually helped to go back to the beginning of this blog and think about what I was trying to say in the first place. Life is amazing and frightening and delicious and dangerous and exhilarating and exasperating and every single thing you can possibly imagine. Isn’t that what makes it so vivid? Just a week ago, when I felt like I was sitting on the top of Happy Mountain, I couldn’t find words to finish this blog. As I recently read, “Happiness writes in white ink on a white page”.
We set out on our life path hoping that we’ll be happy ever after.  It’s good to be happy. I truly believe that. I also believe that the journey we take on our life should not just be signposted ‘Destination Happiness’. Despite the alternatives being, at times, much more raw and rough, I’d rather be walking along an unexpectedly bumpy path with occasional stones that trip me up.

Life is a bumpy path
Sitting on the ground feeling like the wind has been knocked out of you gives you the time to stop, breathe, look up, think about what you’re doing and then shakily stand up, dust yourself off and keep walking. Nobody lives happily ever after, and that’s fine. Just keep walking along the path. Just keep walking.

Harry Lauder singing 
"Keep Right On till The End of the Road" in 1926