Truth and Consequences

Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.
– William James

The smell of jasmine can be intoxicating enough to stop me in my tracks. The memory can be equally delicious and I can almost smell the fragrance just looking at the picture above.

We’ve been stopped in our tracks in the last month through a mistake (misfortune?) that was entirely my responsibility. It was a hard lesson, but one I obviously needed and now that I am on the other side of it, hopefully one that I won’t make again.

I’ve mentioned before that how conflict averse I am. I don’t have any problem standing my ground, when it is my ground, but challenging someone else, on their turf is a whole other thing, particularly in a professional environment. Strangely I can do it with friends. I have no issue telling a friend that I believe that they are making a huge mistake, but nevertheless, I will support them in whatever they choose to do, because it is their mistake to make and that’s what friends do – you have a God-given right to shoot yourself in the foot if you choose.

Business is a whole other ball-game. I have, on more than one occasion, allowed and watched people walk down blind alleys or over the edges of cliffs in a professional context because I didn’t want to speak up. This was based mostly because I didn’t want to create conflict; I didn’t thing they would listen/believe me; or most often because I didn’t want to cause what I believed would be irreparable harm to my relationship with them – people who don’t like you are particularly difficult to work with.

I am convinced, that it was this pattern of behaviour that prevented me from speaking up about how we were writing the book that was to contain the body of our intellectual property. Fortunately I was rescued from having to do this by a dear friend of mine who is a very good editor. She took one look at what we had done and then shot me down in flames. After the conversation I felt not just like I had been demolished, but like I had been destroyed by an AK47.

Painful though the feedback was, it was absolutely correct. One of the upsides was that we had a huge amount of material that just needed “remodelling.” The next version of the book went to the editor yesterday with a deadline of being ready in approximately four weeks.

The other upside, and this might have been the reason that things played out the way that they did, was that the new book is s-o-o-o much better. We have refined the IP in a m-u-c-h better way than we had before and the new book is something that I am really proud of (as opposed to tearing my hair out about how anyone was going to understand it.)

We wasted time, which I absolutely hate to do, but perhaps that was the point? Without making the mistake we wouldn’t have been able to produce the product that we have?

Moving to the Next Normal

Everything can change at any moment, suddenly and forever.
– Paul Auster

The effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic have arrived and hit hard. Public spaces including the beach (Bondi, NSW) pictured above have been closed and social distancing has become part of the new reality. To date, the United States has over 1,000,000 confirmed cases of the disease and over 55,000 related deaths. By comparison Australia is doing fine: just under 7,000 cases and only 92 deaths but Australia has been taken the whole issue much more seriously.

I may have been dealing with the situation better than most because I have faced-off that situation of everything changing in a moment, suddenly and forever before – when I was sick in my early thirties.

Everyone always believes that death is somewhere far off in the distance. In point of fact it can happen to any of us at any time. I remember when I was sick, standing at some traffic lights waiting to cross the street, when a semi-trailer came around the corner, too fast, and too close to the curb. Somehow a woman, standing right on the very corner, got swept up into its wheels. The woman was crushed and dead by the time the paramedics reached the scene. I remember thinking that she would have gone about her life, whether it was work or homemaking as if it was any other day, not realising that it was her last day.

In truth that it how it is for all of us, only we don’t think about it. We don’t think about it until we have to because it brought to our attention by something like a life threatening illness. Then it takes all the power of will that you have to deny death and get better. However, both the denial and the strength of will are scary, take an enormous amount of energy, energy that some people just don’t have.

Some years after I had got better, two of my best friends had girlfriends, who were around the same age as I was when I got sick, who also got cancer. Neither of them survived. They were remarkable, passionate, strong women, and I couldn’t understand why I had survived and they hadn’t. I believe it was because I acknowledged my situation and adapted. I didn’t look back to what I was losing, but forwards to what I might gain.

Everything has also changed with work. Like so many companies dealing with business during a global pandemic, we have had to “pivot”. The strategy that we had to start our business this year is not going to work because EVERYTHING has changed and we need to change with it.

The new direction seems strange and daunting, as “changing horses midstream” often does, but it also “feels” right. This business adventure has been consistently teaching me not just to trust my gut, but to check with my gut before proceeding with anything. This has been particularly challenging for me as though my intuition is strong (my “gut” has a lot to say!) In the past I haven’t listened to it as much as I could have. I have “done the math” and if it “all adds up in my head” then I have trusted the “logic” of my mind over the “feeling” of my heart, often to my disadvantage.

Everything has changed and there will be no going “back to normal” as that never happens, there is only going forward to the next “normal” whatever that looks like.

All Stop

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
– Lao Tzu

My world has come to a stop and the rest of the world is following.

The Australian Government has announced extreme lockdown measures in an attempt to defend against the spread of the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease. With my high comorbidity rate, I am taking the whole thing very seriously on the advice from my doctor “if you get the virus, I don’t rate your chances of recovery.”

Social isolation is a thing that I, probably like most people, have never given a great deal of thought to. Part of the reason that I have been able to function so effectively as a single person is because of the love and support in the rest of my life – I have an outstanding social life; am never short of someone to do something/discuss something/share something with; have numerous “plus ones” (some of who count as A-Grade eye-candy); since not having been able to have children of my own since my early thirties, I am still surrounded by numerous young people; however when all of that is taken away it is hard being all by yourself.

Moreover, those staples of physical contact (my weekly massage and fortnightly trip to my chiropractor) that keep my physically body humming along so well, have now also been curtailed. This is almost of more concern to me than anything else. Not touching other human beings is hard, particularly when you are single. Humans are social and tactile beings, it has only been a few weeks and already I can feel the strain on my psyche.

In truth my opening statement is only partially true. My “physcial-functioning-with-other-people” world has come to a stop. In point of fact, I have had more contact with more people that I haven’t heard from in a while, than ever. This has been lovely. Nevertheless, I am spending a lot of time in contact with people on the phone or on my computer and this is not so lovely – electronic communication is no where near as satisfying as in person contact. I am only glad that I am a little older, had I been in my twenties I would definitely be climbing the walls by now.

The other rather strange thing that has happened is that while many people are being furloughed or laid-off as employers work out exactly how this global pandemic is going to effect them, the project is steaming ahead – though, of course, not at all in the way that we expected.

The Lao Tzu quote at the beginning of the post has stuck in my mind since I read it. Sometimes we really are heading in the wrong direction, particularly if we can’t adapt to changing circumstances. This project seems every increasingly about letting go of preconceived ideas, ideas of the head, ideas of the ego (everything we normally hold dear?) and fearlessly riding the wave of reality, the frequency of what is, the vibrations of the heart.

As we make a decision to take the project in a different direction from the one that we thought, it feels right, and the ride is getting wilder.

I posted the picture of the frangipani flowers as a reminder of how delicate and transient life is – those flowers having dropped today will be decaying tomorrow.

Full Steam Ahead!

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
– Mark Twain

We have a direction and we are taking steps to realise it. This is the most that anyone can ever do. No amount hassling, hustling, harassing, hectoring or hounding ever makes anything go any quicker. All things and that means everything, is proceeding in perfect time. It is rare that this perfect timing is in exact alignment with your own personal clock.

In my own experience I have generally either wanted things to go quicker (impatience) or when they are “in flow”, I have been terrified by the speed at which they were occurring because it wasn’t what I had expected, and therefore I told myself that I wasn’t ready, even if, had I taken a moment to investigate if this was really true, I would have discovered that I was actually ready after all.

We have just met a “CTO for hire” who seems perfect for the job. Diligent and thorough he was already up to speed on some of the directions that we might take, when we met. We have already set aside some time for mapping, which I am very much looking forward to.

Having a background in the film industry, I have always considered technical specification of a product to be like film “storyboarding” – when the words on the page (or in the case of product specification often just inside your head) start becoming a map for the end result. I love this part of the process.

I am much less certain about the writing. The book explaining what it is we are trying to train, teach and instil into individuals as the “go-to” methodology for conflict resolution, is proving much trickier than I anticipated. It isn’t so much that Will isn’t a good writer, he writes excellently, it is more that what he is trying to describe is so much a part of him, that it appears difficult for him to explain it objectively.

I have tried to explain to Will the concept from The Feynman Technique, where despite what you think you know, if you can’t explain it clearly to a 6th grader then you definitely have gaps in your knowledge (and there are always gaps – who knows everything?) I don’t think that he “heard” what I was saying.

At the moment, I am “rolling” with his output and attempting to edit it as well as I am able, however I am feeling very uncomfortable. Uncomfortable about telling someone who knows far more than me about the subject that I don’t think that he is doing a very good job of explaining it; uncomfortable about the challenge (I am one of the-most conflict avoidant people on the planet; uncomfortable about how to address the situation without it all ending in tears.

I think I might take a lead from one of the main learnings of the project and “let go”, just trust that it will all work out perfectly, in exactly the way that it should, at the same time as getting on with the job in hand.

Excitement

Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Despite being considered an “invasive species” in Australia, I love Golden Dewdrops (the shrub pictured in the photograph) because of its colour. Apart from being my favourite colour, for me, purple is the colour of enthusiasm and excitement. The shrub is actually named Golden Dewdrops because of its golden (highly inviting, but extremely poisonous) berries that hang in clusters like dewdrops.

I’m excited because the project has a clear direction and one that takes me to doing one of the things that I love best – writing. Even though the writing that I will be doing is considerably outside my comfort zone (prose, non-fiction, where I only have enough knowledge from research to be dangerous) I am still looking forward to it. I love to write (hopefully testified to by this blog) and any writing project puts a spring in my step.

One of the biggest challenges about this writing project (aside from the sheer quantities of research that I am having to get my head around at speed) is that it is collaborative. Writing collaboration has never been one of my strengths. In fact I have avoided it studiously after my first attempt ended in f-a-r too much drama-rama-ing and in-fighting for me to bear (I don’t ever do disrespect, drama, spectacle or scenes in public or private.) For a long time I considered that my intrinsic loathing of collaborative writing was resultant from my innate control-freakery. Then I met someone I could write with and learned that it wasn’t about who was in charge, but more who was doing the writing.

I am not only a ruthless editor, but also blissfully unattached to whatever I write. I have had attachment to my work beaten out of me by editors who are far more ruthless than myself. The only way to survive is to LET GO – becoming perfectly comfortable with the harshest criticism of your work without taking it personally. This, I have decided is a skill, developed over many years and one that professional writer have to develop. The majority of amateur writers become mortified if you even suggest that there is so much as a comma out of place.

I am concerned that Will, our resident Subject Matter Expert, is not going to take kindly to my “red pen.” Moreover, I am also concerned that dancing around him, in order not to hurt his feelings is going to produce a sub-standard product. I believe that step number one in this adventure is to learn to Let Go.

The undertaking to “let go” has been a life mission since reading the book Letting Go by David R. Hawkins M.D., Ph.D. when it was first published in 2013. Seven years later it remains a life mission, but at least now I believe I am beginning to get the hang of it. David Hawkins is one of my favourite teachers, but this was by far his most interesting book. I remember at first being slightly annoyed that there weren’t more precise instructions on the “How-to” of letting go, but as my understanding of the material has developed, I now have a reasonable idea of why he didn’t – because how you let go is unique and different for everyone and leaving instructions would have been far too prescriptive and probably wouldn’t have worked for many people. Working out how you let go is part of the challenge.

I have this strong feeling, that on this project I am working on, there is going to be a lot of “letting go” on my part.

A Brand New Year

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
– Heraclitus of Ephesus

I am using a photograph that isn’t one of mine primarily because a) I hate having my photo taken; b) if I hadn’t minded having my photograph taken, this is pretty much what I would have looked like (with less clothing it was pretty hot out there today); c) it is a powerful image (so thank you to Steve Halama for capturing it).

I went for a walk today in a full-face gas mask in order to protect myself from the smoke that is particularly bad today. I had access to a full-face gas mask courtesy of a friend who lives in Hong Kong – due to the ongoing democracy protests, it is useful to have one on hand just in case you get caught in the crossfire or the aftermath of the potentially dangerous CS gas used by the Hong Kong police. I am very grateful that I don’t live in such a repressive society.

What was slightly strange was that no one was particularly bothered by seeing me in my mask, and there were quite a few other people out walking with less all-encompassing face masks. Sydney has begun to take the smoke in its stride. Unfortunately, if you are living in a place where there are bush fires raging around your property or community it is much harder to be so excepting. My heartfelt sympathies go out to everyone who has been touched by the devastating fires this season.

Change is not something that I have ever been particularly comfortable with. I grew up in a mentally, emotionally and physically unsafe environment where I longed for stability. In a landscape of shifting sands, solid rock always looks like the best prospect. Learning that Life is change has been an ongoing challenge for me, but it is one that I have finally been able to adapt to and become a lot more comfortable as a result.

We have decided upon a change in direction for the new project. We have chosen education on the “one where there was extensive knowledge, research, and precedent” grounds. I’m excited, “get ’em when they’re young!” Changing the attitude of an entire generation might be too ambitious an idea, but as my dearest ex-mother-in-law used to tell me “reach for the stars and you might just make the treetops.”

Change is not something that many people are comfortable with, particularly older people. Anyone under 40 is used to technology changing every couple or years as a new device, or version of a device is launched, with new features to be learned. The words of the futurist Alvin Toffler “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” are coming to pass as human are becoming a race where these abilities are becoming paramount.

Yet there are those who would still hark back to a bygone era that will never again be repeated, as, in an election year in the United States of America the backward looking slogan of “Make America Great Again” once more rears its ugly head.

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

Before beginning, plan carefully.
– Marcus Tullius Cicero

When I had the idea to start this, whatever it is: journal, chronicle, collection of musings, I had a lofty ideal that I would post once a week. What I have discovered is that posting once a month is a far more realistic ambition! The picture of Bronte Beach above looks apocalyptic because by now, Australia has been on fire for months.

Thanks to humanity’s relentless commitment to “progress” and flagrant disregard for the well-being of the Planet Earth that has resulted in global climate change, the bushfires in Australia started early and to devastating consequence. Due to having a higher than average comorbidity rate as a recovering cancer patient, I was advised by the health professionals in my life to stay inside and go out as little as possible. The upside of this was that it gave me the perfect opportunity to get on with work on my new project.

We were becoming clearer and clearer about exactly how we were going to “heal the world” and most importantly where we were going to start. I am pretty sure that the reason that many great ideas fail so miserably are because they either start without having properly thought through what they were doing and/or they are overwhelmed by the task of exactly where to start. Possibly the best learning that I have had in this experience is that clarification of the goal and planning to deliver that goal is key.

There were so many directions that we could have gone in: i) the one that we started out on because it was the most obvious; ii) the one where there was extensive knowledge, research, and precedent; iii) another direction or directions that hadn’t even been thought about yet. Almost the most important decision that we made was to choose only a couple of directions, explore them and see what sticks.

I was extremely happy with this strategy. In one of my previous incarnations I had a “side hustle” as a hospitality consultant. In this role, I got to do some of the most fun work that I have ever done in my life – everything from sourcing architects for fit-outs, to kitchen and dining room design, and menu writing (probably the most fun, you taste with your imagination long before the food enters your mouth.) I say “side hustle” as I invariably had this gig when I also had a “day job” doing something else. Even though hospitality consultancy was often much more fun than whatever my “day job” was, it never occurred to me to pursue it as a full-time career. With the 20:20 vision of hindsight, I should probably have turned it into my “main hustle”.

One of the things that I observed time and time again, was successful restaurateurs trying to either expand, or scale, too rapidly and quickly ending up in a mess. The most successful restauranteurs expanded slowly, on only a few fronts, and built empires steadily step-by-step.

Discovering the Mission

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.
– Mahatma Gandhi

I wanted this blog to be anonymous. Primarily because writing it wasn’t about what we were doing (I am certain that there is going to be enough and more publicity about that to come) but how it was getting done. However, guess I have to give some of the characters names just to make them easier to refer to. So, let’s call the man I met Mark.

The conversation with Mark over brunch was one of the strangest that I have had in a long time. The correspondences and equivalencies in our life: beliefs, ambitions, and objectives; was uncanny. However, I felt that Mark had been much braver than I had in his relentless pursuit and expression of his truth. I expressed my admiration and wondered whether I could use him as a shining example of how much development you can produce in yourself if you stick to which ever process you decide to use to develop.

As luck would have it, I was asked to find a speaker on the subject of resilience for the group of people that I was working with during Mental Health Awareness Month. I immediately thought of Mark and messaged him asking if we could have a quick coffee after swimming the following week.

What I had intended to be a quick coffee ended up being a two-hour discussion about what Mark had been doing recently. On his journey for his truth to be heard, he had been involved in an extremely challenging process which, despite the best efforts of the other party, had ended with an outcome that was deeply unsatisfactory to him on a mental, emotional and spiritual level. Never satisfied with process “done badly” Mark had researched who in the world knew about “Best Practice” for this process. Mark had told me the previous week that he had reached out to the guy – Will, an academic in the United States – “cold” emailing him for more information. He updated me that they had exchanged communications, shared a lot of information about each other’s stories and had cooked up a plan to scale the process that Will had spent many years refining.

As mentioned earlier the purpose of this blog is not to chronicle what we are doing but how it was getting done. At coffee, as Mark was telling me about the beginnings of his new adventure with Will, I had a “Damascene Moment” – a complete change of vocation as a result of a revelatory experience which overturned any previous commitment that I had. Almost before I realised what I had said the words “I want in” had popped out of my mouth. Mark looked pretty surprised and asked me why? I told him that what he was doing was completely “on mission”. When he asked me what mission was that? I replied, “to save the world!” As if it wasn’t completely obvious, but then corrected myself and said “to heal the world”. My Damascene Moment had all at once shown me a Path that I had never before imagined, but that I knew I could be beneficial to, and would be amazing for me to participate in too, and I was going to trust my intuition that it was exactly what I needed to do next.

A Happy Place

Tribe: a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.

I am really fortunate to have been surrounded by my social tribe for many years now. My support network is comparable to none – they are literally unbelievably awesome. I am privileged enough to have at least three people that I could call “if I ever woke up with a dead hooker in my hotel room.

I have not been so blessed with people I have worked with. I have only ever once before in my life, worked with someone from my tribe. It was the best fun ever. I hadn’t realised quite how important it was to work with your tribe until the beginning of this year when the job that I was in, quite literally made me sick. After several years in healthy remission, my body suddenly decided to grow a new cancerous tumour that I can only attribute to working at the wrong job. It was a shame really. It could so easily have been the right job, had the leader, who I had thought was my tribe, stuck to the mission. However, he got distracted off the Path, as is so easily done.

As much because my doctor told me that if I got sick again I would most likely die; as because I had finally learned the lesson that: whatever work I did next needed to be “on mission” and undoubtedly with my tribe; I took a moment before rushing headlong into my next money making gig. Little did I realise that my subconscious desire to find my tribe to work with, would be the driving force behind the particular adventure I find myself in.

This adventure really started about four months ago, when I seemingly randomly met a man while I was looking for somewhere to live. I say seemingly randomly, because I adamantly don’t believe there is such a thing as coincidence. From the moment of meeting him I knew that we were connected, but I wasn’t at all sure how. His girlfriend coincidentally came from the same village in the United Kingdom that I had spent the last eight years of my life living in. She was also a filmmaker, as I had been, and she had also experienced some of same sorts of health issues that I had. This made me wonder if it was something to do with her?

Even though I didn’t move into his apartment, I knew that our paths would cross again, as much because he belonged to the same swimming club as I did, as anything else. When I found the apartment I did move into, it didn’t have a bed, and as a consummate recycler I went looking on one of the Internet local classified ad sites to find one. Coincidentally, listed was the spare bed from the man’s room. I messaged him and asked if I could buy his bed. Still thinking that the connection had something to do with his girlfriend, I told him that they should both come over to dinner at my new place (around the corner from his apartment.)

We exchanged a few interesting text messages trying to pin down a date for dinner. He told me that dinner probably wouldn’t happen until after he got back from a retreat he was going on. He really hadn’t come across as the sort of guy that went on retreats (he had a background in Mining Technologies – you really don’t get much more down to earth than that!) He particularly did not come across as the sort of guy who would go on the kind of esoteric retreat that he told me he had signed up for. I was intrigued. Maybe the connection had something to do with the retreat? I, myself, was designing a retreat for someone else later in the year and I wondered if I had something to learn from his experience.

Time passed. After the retreat, I was travelling, then he was travelling, then I was travelling again. I saw him at a distance at the swimming club as I was rushing off. Then in the same week I had two unmistakable signs from the Universe that I needed to get in touch with him. I like to think that when the Universe is giving me a nudge in a certain direction, I pay attention, so I messaged him, and we arranged to have brunch after swimming the following week. Brunch was four weeks ago, and I can only describe the speed at which our relationship has developed as one that only occurs when you are in flow.

Term Starts

“Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
How?
I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”
(Shakespeare in Love)

I used to work in Paris, where everyone goes on holidays in August, and for the lucky few, for the whole of August. So even though today is a Sunday, in my head, summer is over and term starts today.

Funny thing though, at time of writing, I am actually in Australia, where today was the first day of spring. However, spring, like the new term, is all about new beginnings which is exactly what I intended for this blog. To chronicle my new beginning, on the next stage of the journey.

My new beginning related to finally shedding the last vestiges of my childhood. Not physically (I have been hanging around in an adult body for many years now) but because for seemingly the first time in my adult life, I am taking responsibility for my own happiness and stopping looking everywhere else but myself for some one or some thing to “look after me.”

Like so many, many people, I grew up in a physically, mentally and emotionally unsafe environment and I have carried that pain around with me, unhealed, for the whole of my life so far. I explored every kind of physical, mental and emotional avenue to try and find a “fix” truly believing that the healing would come from anywhere but inside myself. 

Today, I not only realised that it was me that was going to have to heal me, I even began to see the path towards how I might be able to do that. I wanted this blog to chronicle my journey. I know that the journey will end in peace, because this is what I have chosen, so clearly, and without hesitation – so this story already has a happy ending.

So I would like to invite you to join me on the road, in the hope that my adventures will assist you on your own road. It’s time to let go of anything that isn’t peace, move on and live my best life.