Monday, 31 December 2018

A fond farewell and a huge thank you - Day 32

New Year's Day, 1st January 2019

All good things come to an end, or so they say. I can tell from how wretched I feel writing this goodbye how lucky I am to have hosted the Advent Series for the past five years. (This adieu is my own personal "Heartache"). I have learned so much, made some amazing friends, strengthened bonds with others and discovered information about contacts that I would never have guessed had it not been for writing on here. I have unearthed more odd facts and chosen a larger number of illustrations and music for other people's pieces than I care to remember. It is humbling to see how the series has grown since 2014: it now has a wide, global following and contributions have been submitted from a range of locations around the world; writers have aged from teens and to grandparents and people facing up to growing old, and subjects have been equally wide from births and babies to fathersgrandmothers and elderly great aunts; and it has been wonderful to see how people who have joined in from various sectors (including HR, artisan cheesemaking, economics and forecasting, research, Tech, L&D, Facilitation, Facilities and Workplace Design, Artists and Consulting);  and a wide range of attitudes and opinions have been voiced, including through stories, autobiographical reminiscences, confessions of loss, comments on the landscape, and poems. I love the fact that the series is not commercial, it is something that has been created for a community out of individuals' consideration for others and the simple joy of writing something to share. Some people find contributing to the series cathartic or hope to help others, others wish to describe experiences, make a record of the year, or vital moments that have passed,  to share a sadness, talk about loved ones, make sense of the past,  extol a joy or inspirationlight the way, or simply find their voice - the series has been the launch pad for a number of now well known and respected bloggers.  I am not going to call names and single out specific posts - there have been far too many exceptional posts over the years although all the links above are to posts that proved particularly popular. Every blogger has left their mark and the series would have been the poorer for any loss of contributions. "High-fives" to each and every writer.

Being the curator, taking the series on after its initial foundation by Alison Chisnell, I have been privileged enough, to interact quite frequently with the people who have crafted blogs. When people have wished to remain anonymous I have tried hard to protect their identity. Some contributors have written posts that have helped others and which have commenced discussions on important matters such as mental health, bereavement, ageing, sustainability, the future, society and relationships. People have been so open and shared things that have often surprised others. I have learnt a lot from you, and many of you have inspired me and others in so many different ways. Thank you.

As you know, I am passing on the baton to a new curator - Gary Cookson. I am confident that under his stewardship the series will be enhanced and continue to thrive. The series has "become a thing" and I know that it will get bigger and better under Gary's careful eye. I look forward to being a contributor once again and crafting a piece for his chosen theme(s).

My "Hope" is that you all have a splendid 2019, full of joyous experiences, amusing incidents and handy tips that you will be able to use in the posts you craft for Gary near the end of the year.


So long, farewell... and

Thank you!

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Hope - Day 31

Monday 31st December - New Year's Eve
31 is the most common number of days in the Western Calendar's months. The rhyme that many
people use as a reminder ("Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November; All the rest
have thirty-one, 
Excepting February alone, And that has twenty-eight days clear; 
And twenty-nine
in each leap year.") was first published in 1555, when it was copied into a manuscript. It is probably
the only 16th century poem that many ordinary people know by heart.
I hope the months ahead are happy and healthy ones for you and yours.
The end is nigh, in more ways than one. Today is the last day of 2018 and it is also the final guest post that I will curate and host as part of the Advent Blog series, well at least for the foreseeable future. There have been some brilliant pieces this year - huge thanks to all the contributors. It is New Year's Eve and for the first time for ages we are not going to a party, instead we are cooking a family meal at home. I am looking forward to spending some time with my sons. We have a big party on Saturday to celebrate Hamish's 21st. He has asked me to say a few words, so I need to give that some thought. It is a funny feeling seeing your children become adults. I'm sure I should feel older than I do.

The final guest post in this year's Advent Blog series is by start-up and individual and organisational growth specialist Christine Locher. With an academic grounding in Communication, Psychology and Intercultural studies in her native Germany (during which time she also worked as a journalist), Christine is a high achiever. Post university she commenced her career in consulting, working first for McKinsey and then Boston Consulting Group, undertaking a variety of client and internal development roles before focussing on the growth of consultants at all levels. She ran global leadership and learning for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu before a brief stint at Oliver Wyman and BTS. Christine has a passion for seeing others thrive and grow. In 2017 she decided to branch out on her own, founding her own leadership development business. She is an excellent coach (ICF standard with high level academic qualifications in thinking and change as well as communication and psychology) and tends to work with entrepreneurs and growing businesses, especially within the tech space. Although a global nomad, Christine is currently based in London, where she takes advantage of the breadth of experiences that the City offers. She is a voracious reader with an almost insatiable curiosity - quite capable of ensuring that the details are not missed when effecting the big picture plan. Christine is a keen and natural networker - I recommend your connecting with her on Twitter, her handle is @ChristineLocher. I like her post as it is full of hope and we all need a but of that.

“Help me, Obiwan Kenobi, you are my only hope.” (Princess Leia, Star Wars. Sending this into a galactic void, hoping to get heard. She did, eventually.)

Hope is one of our most beautiful qualities as humans. No matter how deep the colossal mess is that we might find ourselves in, we manage to, at least in a good moment, lift our eyes off the chin-deep muck we are in and towards the horizon. We imagine a future that is better. Hope is what keeps a sacred space for that imagination, not as an escapist delusion, but as a vision that just hasn’t been implemented yet. Hope gives us energy when the struggle has taken it all. Hope is what keeps us alive. This time. Next time. All the time.

Hope doesn’t need to wear rainbow unicorns or come with an ethereal violin soundtrack to work. Hope can be an empty parking lot at 3am shouting obscenities at the big man in the sky in existential disagreement to then sleep off the hangover, make your first cup of coffee, take a good hard look at your life, to keep going for another day, this time better. It doesn’t need to be pretty. It doesn’t need to be instagrammed. It just needs to be there, however it looks and feels at the moment. Hope, at all times, is as real as you allow it to be. I’ll just say that again. Hope is as real as you allow it to be. 

We have of course no proof or confirmation any of our hopes will ever come true. But hope doesn’t need that (and neither do you, you hope-endowed human, and deep-down you know it). Hope knows that tomorrow is another day, that one decision or one conversation or one encounter can reset the path to a better future that you can’t even imagine yet. And that you just don’t know beforehand which one it is going to be this time. So you keep going.

You might have a vision, or you might have had one but lost touch with it, as your daily mess is too far away right now so you have a hard time seeing how you get from over here to over there. Hope hears you. Hope reminds you that you don’t need to see the whole path to be able to take a step. And then another one. Hope focuses you on the things that work, so you can start doing more of them. Making small changes, which then add up to the big change. It’s how most big changes or successes work anyway, despite what it looks like on social media. And hope knew that all along. You might be deep down the problem hole right now, but there is no point in wasting more of the energy you don’t have focusing on how deep and messy it is. 

Focus on how you get out. Hope here serves as the magical, ever-elusive “air hook”. You can tie a rope to it and start pulling, and, with hope, it actually works.

Hope also lets you build trust. Take that first step first, without having to wait for the other one to begin. Raise that topic. Have that conversation. Mention the thing you are afraid to mention. Take small risks, be mostly rewarded, and start being less alone in this. It is easier to be hopeful when you have a tribe of supporters. Hope invites participation and support from other humans (and some friendly ‘droids…). Hope is stronger when shared. This, in turn, paves the way for others so they can dare to keep going as well. Hope lifts everyone.

You'll Never Walk Alone

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
There's a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll

Saturday, 29 December 2018

This restless festive season - Day 30

Sunday 30th December 2018
30 teeth can be found in an adult cat's mouth. Cats have 4 canine teeth. The canine teeth, used for
catching and killing prey, sit in beds of sensitive tissue that let the cat feel what it is
Kittens develop 26 needle-sharp milk teeth which are replaced by adult teeth at 6 months.
I hope you are enjoying a peaceful and relaxing weekend - the last one of 2018. Things are calm at my end - despite a few heated discussions about the seating plan for my son's 21st party. I must confess, not counting the current debate about the party, much of this year has been challenging. We have achieved a lot at work and I have a wonderful and award winning team, but family matters have been tough. I won't miss 2018 - it has had some scarring and serious low points/complications and I dread the early months of 2019, as the dust has yet to settle. Perhaps that is what inspired be to this year's theme for the Advent Blogs - Heartache, Hopes and High-fives. Roll on the high-fives...

Our contributor today is Paula Aamli, a highly intelligent and inspirational lady who has already done much to make the world a better place. She deserves a high-five just for being who she is. She has a First Class Degree from Oxford in Modern History under her belt and a Masters with Distinction from Hult Ashridge, in Sustainability and now she is a doctoral candidate on the Executive Doctorate in Organisational Change, at Hult Ashridge, where Steve Marshall is her supervisor. Her topic of interest is around organisational change to support more sustainable business and personal lives and she is very interested in creative methods (hence the photography and the poetic writing below - NB all the photos are Paula's own work, except for one taken which was taken by her partner). Given Paula's background one perhaps should not be surprised at her area of academic study...she has worked within the Not for Profit arena as an Appeal Manager for Christian Aid and then the Development Director for The Brightside Trust when the charity was just establishing itself, before moving into Financial Services.  She has championed accountability and ethical conduct at HSBC for many years as well as helping people within the bank to develop and grow. Since June she has been the Head of Governance and Control for the UK Private Bank, working directly with the CEO and the top team. Paula is described by those who know her as dynamic, energetic and possessing a ruthless attention to detail. I am sure that you will enjoy her post. Paula is on Twitter - her handle is @paulettya.

Photo credit S. Rosbottom

The shape of this year’s holiday break

For the second year in a row, I’m spending nearly full two weeks over the Christmas break tucked amongst the creaky drafts of an old house that stands braced on a hillside overlooking Carmarthen Bay.

I have hungered for this retreat from city crowds and work deadlines, but now that it is here, I resist the slowing that this place calls for in me, with its large horizons and small settlements, the subtle beauty of its muted colour palette, the grey-greens and grey-blues and grey-browns that offer unblinking contrast from the neon brights of Regent Street, where my everyday commute-path so recently took me.

I – did not – expect – this.

I expected to transition effortlessly, gracefully, into unscheduled expansiveness.
It was, after all, whilst hidden here last year that I started really paying attention to how it felt to take time away from my blue-light screens and nerve-end-twitchiness of constant deadlines and to drift, aimlessly purposeful, through that large, cold, damp sand-landscape. Reader, it felt great.

I found a dawning conviction that spending deep, unhurried time in nature changes something in humans (in me!) that desperately needs shifting if we are to move away from lifestyles based on casual, unthinking gouging of the environment that we depend upon and which sustains us. 
As a wanna-be organisational change practitioner, I also had a conviction-that-looks-a-lot-like-a-hope that this change can (and does and will) lead to better decision making, better outcomes and better quality of experiences as individuals and networks and communities and organisations.

So I was looking forward to resuming last year’s cozy communing, but with the benefit of the work and wondering and wandering that I have lived in the meantime.  Apparently it doesn’t work like that; seems that you can’t start where you were, that you have to start where you are.

Where I am, this year, is finding that I unexpectedly miss the un-picturesque little loops of paths, tracks, parks and pavements that I have strolled and traipsed and marched through in my corner of East London in the last twelve months. And thus it came to pass that over Christmas 2018, I have called upon my most precious, efficacious super-power, gifted to me by my Irish great-grandmother by way of my Welsh mother: the gift of bloody-mindedness.

Reader, it has been less of a joy and more of a grind, but I have walked, faithfully, every day, anyway. In the spirit of “eat-your-veg/do-your-homework”, I’m betting on persistence paying off in the long run.

Beach-side high fives

Every day, then, as the sea-water creeps back from the land, revealing the wide expanse of the low-tide beach, I have donned wool socks and plastic shoes, a rucksack or shopping bag, and of course, my faithful iphone to tick off the footsteps (if my app doesn’t track a walk, did it even happen?) and set out. Sometimes I walk alone and sometimes S comes with me. Our front door to St Katherine’s Island and back is a solid 4 miles but can only be completed when the tides permit.

It has become an informal family tradition that we pick up plastic litter from the shoreline as we walk. Every time, I marvel at how an apparently pristine beach yields up so much rubbish once you start tuning in to looking for it. I also bless our fortune, with every footstep, that being situated on a tucked-away corner of the planet that is not opposite the sloppy sprawl of some great city, we are chasing the detritus left by tourists and trawlers but do not have to contend with the plastic avalanche of so many consuming bodies. [But the ghost of the Sea Empress oil spill whispers in the air as I type this.]

Every day has been a walk just for the sake of walking; every day except one. Christmas Eve was my dash-of-shame into town, alone, for some last-minute Christmas presents, but the miles still called me.

I shrugged the loaded rucksack onto my shoulders, clinking with Christmas gin. A large shopping bag in each hand, I set off for the western edge of the beach, one and a half (ish) miles away. I trudged across damp sand, bags flapping when the wind occasionally caught them. Tenby “mist” settled on my face and on the shopping bags as the lowering cloud stooped down to touch the beach – but the bags weren’t heavy and the presents seemed to be coping ok with the gentle overlay of rain.

It’s a long and, relatively speaking, featureless expanse of beach that serves as part of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, after walkers drop down from the clifftop path on Giltar Point. People travelling in opposite directions can see each other approaching across the full length of the beach, slowly expanding from small dark distant specks to fill out human stature as we finally draw towards passing each other.

An older couple were walking towards me, well-kitted-out for the weather conditions. Mindful of the season, I made eye contact as we reached a passing point; then, to my reserved, British astonishment, the lady started towards me, smiling. “I just wanted to say”, she said – “what a surprising, lovely sight you make. A lady who has done her Christmas shopping and is carrying it home along the beach, looking for all the world as though she is heading off into the middle of nowhere. Well done, you.”  A smile and a brief exchange of Christmas greetings and she is gone. “High five!” she didn’t add – but I can see how, in another context, that would have been the obvious sentiment.

It was a memorable moment for me, not just given the shock of experiencing two British strangers finding it in themselves to chat, unprovoked, to each other, in public, but also because I was genuinely taken aback to be seen as doing anything out-of-the-ordinary. Just me, just walking home. Just carrying my hasty last-minute shopping because I’d been too disorganised to do it sooner and bring it down by car. Of course, I had the advantage of knowing that there’s a village just beyond the sand dunes at the non-town end of the beach (assuming that the lady I was speaking to isn’t a Pembrokeshire local).

Hope and heartache mingling on the sea edge

I suppose the other thing of note here is that – chore or otherwise – I don’t really experience the beach as empty or ‘other’. This beach seems full – teeming with sea-life, sure, but also full of hints and vestiges of the long life-story of the earth that has created it.

I look at the sand of the beach and I remember the long ages that ground rocks to make it – and the longer ages before that where the rocks themselves were formed from the ancient life of the more ancient seas. I see generations of living things cycling through millennia to this moment, and cycling away from now into a vast, remote final future.

I find myself to be tiny and brief in context of this tremendously enduring earth history, which is immensely humbling of course, but also strangely comforting, somehow, that after all that has happened – that human consciousness exists at all, that I, specifically I, have arrived into my moment in the story, along with my friends and family, community and nation, and the wider nations that surround us.

Our problems are significant, but the earth will endure (until, in the very far distant future, it doesn’t). Maybe there are ways I can’t see yet that will enable humans to endure and continue along with it.

The edge of the world (January 2015)

I went down to the edge of the world to watch the passing of this age.
The sun spills amber liquid on the wet cleg underfoot.

I feel the hug of the ground.
I hear the soothing shrieks of feathered sentinels overhead.

I see the end of days written on the rock teeth that still seek to consume,
Clutching at Caldey in the maw of the sea.

I see a time where the stars burn up and the clouds sigh into nothing,
For there is no more rain, and the pale blue atmosphere has boiled into the black.

I see how vast my now-beach is, and how tiny,
wrapped around with waves, and cliffs, and birds, and stones, and shells.

It contains the tiniest moment
And yet the whole big universe is here with me, also
Waiting on the beach for night to fall.

All together, we wait – witnessing.

[As stated above, all the photos are Paula's unless otherwise indicated.]

Friday, 28 December 2018

Losses, Arrivals and Appreciations - Day 29

29th December 2018 
29 a Sickle is 29 Knuts make a Sickle in the fictional wizard currency in JK Rowling's
Hary Potter books. 1 Galleon = 17 Sickles; 1 Sickle = 29 Knuts 1 Galleon = 493 Knuts.
Galleons are gold coins, Sickles are silver, and Knuts are copper. In the current turbulent
currency exchange markets, I am glad that we don't have to calculate in Knuts.
Welcome to the last weekend of 2018. I drove my mother-in-law home last night - she and I enjoyed a late supper at her local - it was such a treat to be treated. Thank you Kath. I will miss having her with us. I am planning on taking it quietly today, as the past few weeks have been quite demanding and I have not been able to spend as much time with my sons as I would have liked. Happy Saturday!

Today's post is by series veteran, Michael Moran, the Chief Executive and Founder of 10eighty, a business consultancy that helps people and organisations, particularly during times of transition and to grow employee engagement. Michael is an excellent coach. He commenced his career in Human Resources, having worked in the NHS and Financial Services sector. He has successfully run HR consultancies specialising in career management for the last 20 years.  Michael is a devoted husband and father (his daughter works as 10eighty's Busienss Development Executive and his son is in the British armed forces). Michael has a passion for sport and is a season ticket holder of Derby County (so clearly he is also an optimist). He is a published author, having written  “The Guide to Everlasting Employability”, and has also designed two career management apps to support career planning You can follow him on Twitter @mdmoran10Eighty. 

It’s that time of year - time to reflect, looking back over 2018.

It’s all about taking the time to appreciate what you have and enjoying the moment.

As you get older you start to lose people who have been a constant feature in your life, it seems strange that they are no longer there (a bit of heartache).

At the same time, you see the arrival of the next generation, and the opportunity to shape their thinking and behaviours

(that includes supporting DCFC) (a bit of hope).

It’s important that you take the time to appreciate your achievements (the high-fives). Savour the moment. It is far too easy to be dismissive of things you once strived for as you move on to the next goal. Likewise, don’t beat yourself up about the things that didn’t work. Having blown £100k on marketing and business development that didn’t get the business to the next level, it is important to take the learnings, and seek out the positives. Business growth is not a straight line. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Resilience and determination are essential characteristics for the entrepreneur.

So looking forward, it’s time to set goals. It’s time to remind yourself of mission and purpose. My mission for all those clients with whom I work is to help them achieve job satisfaction and career success. I truly believe this is something that is attainable for all. My purpose is to create a self-sustaining business, built on repeatable and predictable revenues.

As both a career coach and a business leader I recognise that you need to push yourself, take risks and seek out new experiences. This year I experienced my first massage and mediation sessions; trust me when I say this is well outside my comfort zone. Whilst not something I would necessarily repeat, it is good to do things outside of your comfort zone. This serves to reinforce my belief in the importance of learning and, indeed, the need to seek out learning experiences. As a career coach I see too many people who have checked out of the learning habit. I remain absolutely convinced that the secret of everlasting employability (quick plug for the book) is self-investment.

This year my big self-investment has been podcasts. I have combined my love of walking (read the need for exercise) with listening to podcasts. My favourite work podcast has to be Jacob Morgan’s The Future of Work, with sports favourites Radio 5 Live The Football Daily and Flintoff, Savage and the Ping Pong guy. Please check them out.

So to conclude, as we come to the end of 2018 I urge you to appreciate those around you, your family, colleagues and friends. Take the time to reflect on what you’ve achieved in the last 12 months, but more importantly make a commitment to stretch yourself, seek out new experiences and go boldly into the New Year.

Happy Christmas (we are still within the 12 days). Wishing you all a very prosperous New Year.