Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Merry Christmas - the 2014 Christmas poem

A busy year it’s been alright, for Joseph, me and Niamh
A year of highs and lows indeed, and some hard to believe
The Christmas cards are still to write, the Christmas mince to make
The presents still remain unwrapped (and forget the Christmas cake!)

For me, a change in job of sorts, Raglan Chamber’s mine to run
The hours are long, the brain gets worn, but it’s calorific fun
One office overlooks the sea, the other glimpses snow
There’s always someone new to meet, and somewhere new to go

Prime Minister to lunch one week, a journalist the next
A black tie do, a lunch or two and planes to catch betwixt
Conference in Nelson, Auckland for a meeting
For me there really is no doubt, this job would take some beating

Niamh is now a ‘tweenager’ – she think that it’s the best
Fashion mad, its iPad games, loud music and the rest
Tonight she has some friends to stay – 5 kids awake all night
Makeup, music, DVDs – I’m the coolest mother, right?

This year she’s climbed two mountains, and danced at her first ball
She’s learned to cook, and clean (a bit), go shopping at the mall
Learned piano, Met John Key – and some pop stars too
Loves to read at bedtime, only ‘Girlfriend Mag’ will do

Joseph’s doing well at school – he really is quite smart
Especially when doing maths, or working on his art
Still dreams of building rockets, and shooting into space
But says he won’t leave Mummy, nor stop living in this place

He’s also quite a reader, a book a night at least
Keeps a torch beside the bed, and reads beneath the sheets
Back at scouts and loving it – camps and knots and stuff
Although prefers some comfort – this boy don’t like the rough!

So as I stop, reflect, say thanks, for all the joy we’ve had
A tough and busy year and yet I’m stoked with where we’re at
Yes there's been some ups and downs but now it’s time to pause…

A very happy Christmas from us, to you and yours

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The pursuit of happiness (or why there's no such thing as a free lunch)

M. Scott Peck > Quotes > Quotable Quote
M. Scott Peck

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

In teaching his classes about the power of negotiation, the impact of economic values, and the measure of success, a professor I know almost always includes the expression 'there's no such thing as a free lunch''. I think there's some truth in that - few people in life land butter side up, every time, (and in fact even if they appear to, we don't know for sure what's going on behind the scenes, for everyone is a good actor, and it's a rare person who is honest about about their inner struggles).

For most of us, life, is I think, a series of payoffs - if I take that job, live in that house, choose that course of study/group of friends/parenting style/financial decision.... then the impact will be one, or a number of things. And the really odd thing is that I'm absolutely sure that most of the time, NONE of us think much beyond the here and now - certainly as a young person it is impossible to imagine that the decisions we make at 20 or 25 are going to still have effects on us at 40 or 50 or more. And now at the sharp end of 50, I'd suggest that if compromising something that in the long term won't make a difference (and very little does, in the end), then surely that is an investment not a cost? Part of it is perspective - when something is feeling crappy it's hard to see the good underneath. Often good is only seen in retrospect after all (for don't we all have happy school memories, and soft edges around our youth!) And looking in on the butter-side-up people doesn't help.

So when life throws the bread butter side down, I think it's very easy to feel ripped off. Many is the day when I've thought ''I don't deserve this shit...I'm a good person, I work hard, love fiercely and persevere when many others would run away''.

Maybe there's a difference between been happy and being content. For me, happy is in the now, I can take it out, look at it and say ''does this thing make me happy?". Content is more encompassing - I have to evaluate whether or not on the balance I am content with life (not always easy when you're being pounded with lemons and don't have any vodka). I don't believe for a minute that we should accept being ''unhappy'', and nor should we turn into martyrs, sacrificing our lives for the sake of the ''greater good''. But, as long as we see it as sacrifice, or paying a price it will always feel like the short end of the stick. The trick is figuring out what it is that is making me unhappy in the first place (and in my experience it's not usually the thing we think it is - that's just not how our brains and emotions seem to work together).   Of course being able to see the good over the bad is challenging (if you're driving a crappy car, you see the crappy car, not the joy in not having to walk!) - especially when the apparently well watered grass over the fence seems to offer more attraction that the parched lawn you are currently standing on. And to address being unhappy is scary because it means actually having to look into the ''things'' that seems to stand between ourselves and the deceptively green landscape of what we think ''happy'' might be.

I was married for 16 years, and I'm the first to admit that there were plenty of moments when there was so much gravel on that damn butter I couldn't see the bread underneath. And unfortunately for me, neither could my FDH, who in the end, overwhelmed by his own internal unhappiness, saw me as the source of it, and moved on. (Maybe I was....a post for another time perhaps).

I read yesterday in a blog that ''everything is perfect til it isn't'' - I thought, how true! Dream jobs, dream girls, dream cars - I'm beginning to think there's a reason the word dream is in there....We pursue happiness like it's something concrete - I just need that job, that house, that achievement, that person, and then I will be happy! Oh God, if only it were that easy. It's a cliche to say happiness is a state of mind and not a destination - but I'm beginning to think it's true!

I also think that while it's possible to compartmentalise happiness eg I can be happy with my job/relationship/financial position but have one part of my life that isn't going so well, ultimately it's going to leak over. The question is, do you allow (or even have control over) the happy leaking, or the sad? A couple of years ago I described myself as ''leaking joy'' and I absolutely believe that this led to, and encouraged, good things happening to me and the people around me, and it certainly made the world a brighter place for me to be in. It rubbed off - I could feel people sharing in the joy, celebrating with me. And even in the face of incredible adversity, this joy buoyed me, and those closest to me, through the worst of times. But as life went on, and the leak slowed to a trickle (as of course it does in normality), in crept the insidious virus of discontent, which in the end squashed the happy right out.

Maybe Granny was right, reminding us to count our blessings. But what about the days when those blessings seem few and far between? How do you let go of ''I'm not happy'' and hang on to ''in the balance I'm doing OK'' without turning into a martyr - or being resentful - or worse, feeling like everything comes at a price? I wish I knew. Maybe it really is a matter of being able to stand alone, or sit down on the inside, as I wrote about in my previous blog, and know that actually happiness comes from the inside. In my own hard won experience none of the 'things' that we think will make us feel happy ever do.

To leak joy, that's what we all want, I think. Possibly not sustainable for ever, though, so for me, the trick seems to be being able to see beyond the initial feelings of discontent in the moment. To be brave enough to face them, examine them. To remember that there was, and is joy in there, waiting to get out if only we'll let it, (and, I suspect, feel worthy of it).

To choose, recognise, receive, and give love. Completely. During, beyond and in spite of, happy (or lack thereof). That's all that matters. Funny how my thoughts always end up in the same place.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Sit down already

A friend was telling me of the joy he is experiencing in in his new relationship. He called it both liberating and relaxing.  Usually surrounded by ''doers'' he is finding liberation in being able to just 'be' both physically and emotionally.  Two things struck me - firstly, the way he used the word joy (I'm going to save that for another post), but secondly the way he talked about just ''being''.

I used to belong to a Bible study group, and we would often refer to the time this group spent together as an opportunity to ''sit down on the inside''.  All busy mothers of preschoolers at the time, this was often the only hour in the week that we would just 'be' too, whether it be in private and quiet prayer or in the group setting.

It's a struggle for me. Then and now. Why do I find it hard to sit down on the inside?  Because I think... I think and think.... all the time.  And when I'm not thinking about what's happening in the present , I'm wondering what I should be thinking about in the next moment or worrying about what happened in the last.  I'm not someone who finds it easy to relax, this I know -  Life is so busy and I am the first one to say I am not good at being. I'm a human doing, really.  Even if I am enjoying coffee, or a pretty view, it's usually accompanied by a book, or a companion, or a mobile device within hands reach.

But I  suppose that part of the reason that I'm not so good at sitting down on the inside, or just ''being'' is that one of the key parts to this is that I believe you have to be OK with the chair you're in. And you have to be content with the view.  Invariably my chair is too hard, or soft, or high or low - and it is too dark, or glarey, or raining and I can't concentrate.

It occurs to me that to sit down inside we need to be comfortable with our inner surroundings but also with the perspective we have on the outer.  Which isn't to say that we have to be joyful about how life is all the time (although we do need a measure of contentment)  - but we need ability to simply stop, breathe, and not have to be doing (even if that doing is just in our heads) all the time.  Easy if you have an overriding sense of happiness in life, not so easy if you don't.

I don't know the answer to fix this.  I do know that I have to do the work myself, and that filling my life with experiences, people or even happy thoughts (positive thinking don't you know!) isn't going to  necessarily change it.  I know that 'just changing that one thing' probably won't make a difference either. The chair might be comfy but the view could just as well still be obscured.  The company beside me on the chair might be perfect, but they want to look out a different window.

I have chosen certain times to 'be' and in fact these times often are coupled with other activities. For example my thinking time is often as I'm hanging out washing, and my prayer time as I'm driving.  the mundane-ness of the washing line means I'm not distracted by the task at hand, and driving alone allows me to talk out loud to God, shake a fist when I feel the need (often!) but also allow the sameness of a long straight road to give my mind some focus.

When life is good it's easier to feel joy, of course it is. And I guess its also therefore easier to sit down inside and experience/appreciate the moment and the view. Yet the irony is, that I suspect that the times that are most important to sit the heck down and not even worry about whats in view (or what isn't) , is when life is not.

Monday, November 03, 2014

lessons in pet ownership

It would seem that I have become the owner of a little black dog.  In fact I am reluctant to use the word owner - I don't want to own this dog. I don't even want this dog visiting my property - but turn up it does, and bark and bark and bark until my head is full of dog and I have no choice but to let it in the house for a time.

This dog has hung around my house once or twice before, and usually by ignoring it - or taking it on a walk until it's exhausted  - it seems to prefer to go and find a more hospitable owner.  I last saw this dog more than twelve months ago, previous to that around 3 years earlier, and so when I managed to 'lose' it back then, I was pretty confident it wouldn't be dumb enough to find it's way back to me.

But it was. And it has.  And that dog is, frankly, a pain in the head as well as the ass.  There have been days when I have actually welcomed that dog - it's familiar and warm after all, even if it's kind of smelly and never quite fits properly tucked in beside me.  Occasionally it snarls at me, even bares it's teeth and I realise that this dog, though small and seemingly insignificant is still right there, pawing at me for attention that I don't want to give it.

The problem with this little  black dog is that I don't actually know if it's fully grown or not.  I don't know if it's a basically healthy dog that might, with some care and attention, turn into something I don't mind keeping around at all - or if it in fact it's going to turn out to be a burden - always sick, always wanting attention, and a total drain not only on me but on my family and friends (and that's my suspicion).

Most of the time I ignore it.  I can keep myself busy, my brain occupied, and my work and family life, social and spiritual lives full and interesting - but that dog! That dog is right there on the other side of the door, pawing to get in.  And it's not like I can rehome it - that's the thing about little black dogs - no one actually wants them, save a few that seem to rather enjoy having such a troublesome creature as their faithful friend.

Today that dog is following me around (turns out there's truth in the expression ''dogged by something''!).  Its behaving quite well by keeping it's distance, but I know it's there - a little shadow on my path, threatening to jump on me, or cut me off, or have me tangled in the long long lead I prefer to keep it on.  

So what do I do about this dog?

Monday, October 20, 2014

leadership personified

I have just returned from four days of Chamber conference. As well as large quantities of amazing locally produced food (and erm...craft beer), a couple of side trips to McCashins Brewery (did I mention beer?), and the World of Wearable Arts Museum, I was also privileged to hear a number of world class speakers as part of our conference learning and line up.

These included along with other great NZ business people and politicians, Dame Suzie Moncrieff (founder of WoW), John Palmer (former Chair of Air NZ), Campbell Mitchell (Marketing director for Fairfax media), Tom Sturgess (Chair NZ King Salmon and former director of Sachs Goldman), and Craig Donaldson (Global CEO of KEA network) and NZCCI Chair John Lindsay .  I was also lucky enough to talk with some of these people on a more informal basis over the aforementioned Nelson showcase of food and wine.  

Normally during key note addresses I would be busily taking notes, trying to remember ''gems'' to bring back and share with colleagues (or on here...)   As I jotted down my thoughts at the end of each day, I considered the commonalities of each of the speakers..and by day four the list looked like this:

Common Values:                                      Common attributes
Integrity                                                     Intelligence
Authenticity                                               Strategic thinkers
Commitment to collaboration                   Confidence
Humility                                                    Drive and determination

Without exception these people had me glued to them, taking in every word.  and on the above lists there weren't really many surprises - they were gifted story tellers, clearly successful and clever people who have all really made their mark on NZ - and the world.  But the one thing that struck me above all else, was the shared quality of humility.  In fact it was the last thing I had expected from such successful and well connected luminaries.


How could people who have had to work SO hard, to get so be so well connected, so ambitious, so driven, so thick skinned at could they be humble and still be so successful? But they were!  Not a single one referred to any of those things above - no one talked about themselves at all really, unless it was in the context of their team, or their family, or the company they worked for.  They saw themselves as cogs in a bigger wheel, each acknowledged the part their spouses (always heartfelt), and the mentors and employees had played in their 'success' (and in fact few called it success, preferring to talk about the successes of their organisations and the people within them.

No, not a single person alluded to their own intelligence, integrity or skill as being key, even though it was patently obvious to all of us that it was this list of things that has got them to where they are today.

Now of course one could argue that it's easy to be humble when you're that successful. Easy to ''brush off'' the trappings of success for the purpose of engaging an audience.  And had just one or two of the presenters done that I might have been as sceptical.  but it was without exception. And each one that I spoke to afterwards was genuinely warm, encouraging and interested in what I had to say.

It was inspiring. It was a good reminder of what leadership really is. It's about people. It's about the doing not the saying. and it's about always acknowledging those who go before you, beside you and after you.   It was ...humbling...

Monday, September 29, 2014

the season of contentment

A recent study done by a friend undertaking demographic research for her Masters degree, uncovered that the unhappiest group of people by far are those in my own age group.  How can this be? We are the smart, supposedly emotionally aware group who are homeowners, parents, partners, socially successful - all the good things right?  
Well it would seem that we're almost the most unhappy because of this huge pressure  on us to live in the moment these days (carpe diem!) and yet to also be constantly looking for improvement. We live in a culture that demands us to be driven, ambitious and constantly looking for the next big thing, the next big adventure or the next step on our career ladder/home ownership plan/social scale.  We want more stuff, more experiences, more fulfilling careers and personal relationships, more success. More. More. More. 
I'm all for ambition and I'm also all for seeking, and keeping,  that elusive happiness that we as humans crave.  There's a theory around at the moment that gets people thinking about whether they are past, present or future thinkers.  The idea is actually applied to corporate/business thinking, but my reflections are really about how it can be applied to every day life.  
So does the problem really lie in our need to be always bettering ourselves, whether that be a job, a hobby, or maybe even a relationship?  A generation ago I am sure people were more 'satisfied with their lot', or at least they were able to dream dreams, have plans, but not feel the overwhelming desire to MAKE IT HAPPEN even minute of the day.  So maybe the different between them and us - or more accurately, the difference between people who never seem to be ''settled'' and those that are, is not an ability to forgo, or  let go of, plans and dreams, and nor is it a dubious ability to settle/compromise/appease their current state of being, but simply the ability to be content. 

Socrates“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
― Socrates

Lev Grossman
“[F]or just one second, look at your life and see how perfect it is. Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there's nothing else. It's here, and you'd better decide to enjoy it or you're going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.”
― Lev GrossmanThe Magicians
Charles H. Spurgeon
“You say, 'If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.' You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon

My favourite of the above quotes is the middle one.  I have been guilty so often of thinking ''when x happens my life will really start'', or ''things would be absolutely perfect if only x changed''.  Worse, I have probably spent far too many hours of my life looking wistfully at the lives of others, and wanting what they have, and not enough hours looking back into my own and being glad for what I have myself. Many is the day I have been completely sorry for myself - not enough money, geographically isolated from ''where the action is'', tied to the house by small kids, unsatisfying (or non existent) job... whatever the problem of the day was...and have not taken time to be content with what I have.   From the outside looking in my life probably looks pretty why don't I appreciate it more!
When I asked my long time married friends what the secret to staying married is, they looked almost blankly at me to begin with, but concluded, after much discussion, that they key was simply to being able to appreciate the moments of each day for what they were.  Everyone I asked conceded that they had had plenty of ''i wish this were different'' moments.  Occasional temptations (human or otherwise). Hard times.  Moments of dislike and disappointment in their spouse.  But that, on the balance, by exercising some rational thought, plenty of deep breaths, and a healthy dose of  self control, they could find happiness..even being content with life.  It didn't mean stopping dreaming, or giving up on the future with resignation, but it did mean making a deliberate and conscious effort to be thankful for where they were in the present, without having to fill that present with excitement or thrill - just to be ''content'' with their life.  
There is no doubt that the people I know who are the unhappiest are also the least content.  And the ''happiest'' hold a mindset of contentment (and again I reiterate that doesn't mean that they are goal less, direction less or indulging in unimaginative uneventful lives - just that they appreciate fully the place they are in right now, resulting in a peaceful attitude to life  that I both admire and desire)
I guess it's partly what my Nana used to call counting blessings. It's partly about knowing that some dreams will only ever be dreams and that's OK.  It's partly about remembering that the human condition is to always want more and possibly never been satisfied.  (the Augustine concept of the God shaped vacuum).  
Wikipedia says (so it must be true right...) that contentment is an attitude not an attainment. 
So though it might be an oxymoron, I strive to be content.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

The measure of success

As I drove to work today I listened to a debate raging on talkback radio about the ''haves and have nots''. It was a developing conversation that had started with the question of whether or not there is poverty in New Zealand, and if so, why that is - but had moved to more general concepts of why certain people might end up in certain situations yet others don't.

A man called in who had grown up in a poor Maori community, with little education, but he described himself as having 'made a decision to better himself'' and was now employed,  a home owner, and had many of the other markers our society sees as success.

The host asked - what made the difference? How do people turn their lives around? The man answered, it's about making good choices.  Deciding what you want from life and going for it.  The host asked, but how do you do that? How do you know to do that? The caller was, in fact a bit non plussed. He suggested education as key. And possibly the support of a family or community as another.

I haven't phoned in (yet!), but I think I'd both agree and disagree with that.  In my business coaching career I have worked with people who were incredibly well educated - some even had PhDs or multiple qualifications, and yet they were still unable to run a business. I know people with early childhood qualifications who are no better (or worse ) parents than any of us.  I know people who have had absolutely shocking family lives that have gone on to be amazing parents, spouses, employees and friends.  And a few who had a fantastic upbringing but have been less of a success themselves.

So here's what I think:

There are two main differences between people who are ''successful'' or not (and it doesn't really matter how you specifically define, or even measure, that success) Firstly, those who are successful understand cause and effect.  They get consequence. They think beyond the here and now.  And secondly, they understand their place in the world and  how they can contribute to it.  Successful people appreciate the impact they can have on both their immediate surroundings and also the more distant future.

I grew up in a fairly typical  working class family with plenty of challenges and adversity of it's own. I was not necessarily encouraged to have ''big hairy audacious goals'' but I was certainly expected to achieve the usual social markers - a job, a house, a good family life. And there was plenty of support for going the extra mile if that was what I wanted to do - which led me to have a great career and travel extensively.  There was also a big emphasis on social responsibility on both a micro and macro level (the micro was possibly too much so in that I heard ''what will the neighbours think'' rather a lot!) But that did contribute to me being incredibly mindful of how my actions. or the actions of others, could impact on life, often for years to come.  

There are many things in my life that I could argue have contributed to my success, or lack thereof. I am fairly smart (something I only came to realise and appreciate in later years),  but I am not particularly well educated.  I make bad decisions just like everyone else.  I try to take responsibility for those. I know I have a habit of speaking before I think - sometimes my consideration of the short term is a bit skewed!  But I would like to think that in the bigger scheme of things, I am quite good at understanding how my every day, here and now, decision making might impact on my future.  It means I can take a while to make a decision - whether it be about a social, emotional, or economic issue.  It can take me a long time to achieve things - but I'd rather take the slow road, the conservative road, not least because I am sure those ''little steps'' would be easier to undo than big leaps of faith and more hasty far reaching decisions.  I suppose it could be loftily described as self control - and although I am the first person to say that I don't always exercise it as well as I might, I do think this is a big part of it.  So often there are things I really want to do...but I don't because I think (...worry...panic) about the impact those things might have on people around me, or on my future.

I like excitement and I like to be challenged, but the conservative me is always considering the ''what if''.  That probably makes me a bit boring to some, and it is true that in the main, risk is not my friend. With the right support team I am prepared to take risks for sure, but that too is about weighing up consequences - and feeling safe with the people offering to catch me if I fail! As a result there are probably opportunities that have passed me by, and may not come my way again. But I do think that this attunement to cause and effect, to forever considering how my decisions will impact on my long term future - be that my job, my home, my relationships - will ultimately allow me to look back on my life and say ''yes, you were a success''.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I totally deserved that!

Today on talk back there was a debate raging about the idea mooted to legalise marijuana. Of course lots of pros and cons and a fairly balanced number of each.

A man rang in and started down the ''where will it all end'' route.  I rolled my eyes as I listened - yet another old guy complaining about young people and how when he was a teenager there were boundaries, and kids didn't misbehave, and all that other stuff that is completely not true but sounds good when you're a senior looking back with misty eyes on your youth.

But then the host made the comment 'actually I think the question is not whether this should be legal, but why we think it should be - seems we think that everything is a right these days regardless of it's impact on us or society'.

Wow how true is that.  I reckon in the time of my adulthood, we have changed from a society who 'got on'' and did stuff, and wore the consequences of bad decisions, to one that has a complete sense of entitlement, and worse, if it doesn't like the outcome will fight to the death for restitution.  Lose your job? Lodge a personal grievance.  Get a speeding ticket? Send in a dispute.  Unhappy with a product? Take it back to the shop and demand a refund.  Having a tough time in a relationship? Demand change or walk out!

Absolutely there are times when all of these responses are valid or reasonable.  But not ALL the time.  We have become a society who thinks we are the most important person in the universe and everyone else should take that into consideration - or worse, get the heck out of our way so we can charge on through it.  There's no such thing as tough luck any more. Not many people suck up anything.  There are few who would make a life changing compromise if there was an easier option.

It saddens me.  How did we go from being people who gave a damn about others, who didn't think twice about going out of our way for someone, stranger or not.  Who was so appreciative of having a job/wife/new TV/car that to question the validity or quality of these things was not the foremost thing in our minds!?

We are people who think the world owes us a living.  Its a broad generalisation but it's true.  Kids are encouraged to feel a sense of entitlement, and adults just get on and have one.  We DESERVE better. We SHOULDN'T HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THAT. And, the longer we dwell on those thoughts, the stronger they become.  Until reality is untenable at which point we write the letter or make tracks.

I've spent a bit of time of late in this camp.  I didn't deserve that. I TOTALLY didn't deserve THAT! And as for THAT - well frankly I should sue for it. Some of it I didn't. I really didn't.  But some is just life. Other people make decisions that impact on me.  And I can rage and burn all I like, but as long as the rest of the world is going to march on with it's sense of entitlement up high o the flagpole, my feelings won't make a blind bit of difference.  Sad. But a reality.

Yes, often it's true that we get something, experience something that isn't fair, or we really don't deserve.  But often it ain't - and maybe we should spend a little bit more time being grateful for, and gracious with, the things and people in our lives, and a little less time wishing they were better.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Speaking your truth (and other lies)

I was recently part of a discussion about the idea of ''speaking your truth''.  One person said it was vital to authentic living, another felt it was not only unnecessary but also risked being patently unkind. There were examples shared and when I learned what these particular truths were I was deeply saddened. Maybe it is the truth, but it certainly was not kind or loving. In fact it was, in my view simply an opportunity to justify an unkind action, dressed up as 'truth in love'.

I was intrigued...what did this concept of ''speaking truth'' mean? I did lots of reading - and this blog seems to sum up the concept quite well, particularly because it does so without being too ''new agey and spiritual''. I deeply admire people who are ''at one'' with the universe. Who proclaim to live love. Generally they exude a gentleness of spirit that I can only wish for! Perhaps this was the key? I need to 'speak my truth' more?

BUT, the more I read the more uncomfortable I became. And now my issues with speaking ones truth are many. I am absolutely in favour of being honest. I am absolutely convinced that the truth will always out. That's about integrity. Mores the pity more people weren't honest in this world! But I think there is far more to truth and honesty than truth and honesty.

The proponents of this concept (and every single article I read did this) talked a lot about the importance of being true to oneself.  They remind us that to live a lie is ultimately exhausting or worse, destructive. That to speak your truth is the only way to live life in order to be happy and fulfilled and at peace with yourself. They claim often and vehemently that no-one is responsible for the feelings and responses of another, often coupled with an extra disclaimer relating to karma, reminding us that nothing is right or wrong, it just ''is'' and the ''universe'' has its own way of dealing with things.That it is simply the selfishness of those who don't really want 'truth' that leads to pain. That pain is good if it a result of sharing your truth. Moreover, many of the writings reminded me that I should always offer peace and forgiveness to the person I have spoken my truth too.

That all sounds pretty good right?  Speak your truth! Be honest with your feelings! Share love and peace! So far, so good.

Its good to be honest.  It's important not to lie to ourselves. And it can be incredibly painful to self examine! But to think that speaking my truth in some way negates me from being responsible for anothers' feelings is beyond reproach. The line of reasoning saying  ''I am not responsible for their happiness'' is nearly palatable for me. I mostly agree, EXCEPT that saying things, doing things that I KNOW are going to hurt others surely means I need to own those actions?   ''You must speak your truth even if it hurts another'' is not necessarily responsible or the right course of action in my view - it neatly absolves me, the truth speaker, of owning consequence, as I can conveniently reason that the other persons pain is not really my problem. That I am upholding the true principals of love - essentially holding the truth in my hands and sharing it generously with the world.   By including a message of peace and forgiveness I am able to appear calm, centred, caring, when really it is little more than the Irish blessing ''sorry for your troubles''. (Often a  twee and meaningless response that sounds good but really has no depth at all.)

I totally agree that I am not responsible for the reactions of another person. And nor am I able to ultimately decide their actions. If I say something in ''my truth'' that is hurtful they have a choice about how to respond right? Right - except that I believe I am absolutely responsible for the drivel that can come out of my own mouth, and the emotional impact my words can have. (And believe me there's plenty of drivel....)

If I'm asked ''why didn't you employ me'' and my ACTUAL truth is ''you're an emotional wreck and you'll destroy my workplace'', what right do I have to say that!  Sure, it is possible to speak the truth in love (if you want to step even further down the new age path) - I don't think you're suited for this office...but I am yet to see evidence of anyone who subscribes to this way of thinking actually do that. It is claimed that these words are spoken in ''love'' but my experience of this is that actually it is based on the selfishness of the deliverer... and I make this claim because it seems that ''speakings one truth'' rarely relates to being truly mindful of the feelings of another  (one doesn't often hear about how speaking your truth can be uplifting, supportive and kind - its invariably about how to manage sharing negative stuff - or worse, used as a delivery mechanism of sharing opinion and unkind observations in the name of ''love'').

It is also worth nothing that speaking 'your' truth, as the gurus advise, is quite different from speaking ''the'' truth. It's a fine line, I admit, because, after all perception is reality, as these teachers remind us, and we can apparently only act from our own place of truth and honesty.

My post here on my other blog was exactly that.  That was MY truth, I make no excuse for it.   I was true to myself, gently and discreetly. BUT I did not say ''my truth''. I did not say 'I wish you peace''.  I did not say ''the universe will sort this out, one way or another''.  I said, I cannot support this action. There are consequences.  That is all I said. And I stepped away.  I could have not shared that truth.  I chose to and as a result I must own the consequence of sharing that. I lost a friend. More than one.

It seems that speaking your truth gives you licence to step aside from social norms. All the writers tell me so.  In fact, I'd almost go so far to say that the concept ''speaking/living your truth'' risks giving permission to abandon all else in the name of honesty.

I do not believe that we always ''speak our truth'' from a place of true love for others.  We are human and therefore inherently selfish.  I know I have said many things in my life that were hurtful and unkind and I regret that. I certainly will not hide behind those reactions and call them ''speaking my truth'' (although I like the seems rather attractive don't you think?).  Morality - or ones own version of it -  rarely figures. This philosophy of adding on the self righteous claim that our truth will lead to freedom and happiness and oneness is, frankly,  a blatant way of avoiding being responsible for the consequences of this truth. There's a reason I might add 'you can't handle the truth'' during an outburst. Because it's true. And in fact it is probably not my place, I think, to be forcing someone else in a position of having to handle anything because of my own feelings, wants and desires.

You see, for me, speaking ones truth means risking disregarding (or at the very least risking breaking) boundaries. Yes there are times when we have to make hard calls. When we see someone we love self destructing. When we feel ourselves crumbling. But there are times and places when it is better for everyone if we either shut up or step away. I will never accept that we should make ''speaking my truth'' a life's work. To continue speak ''my truth'' to an already hurting person is not loving and is destructive and unnecessary, especially if it was my truth that hurt them in the first place. If it really is THE truth they know it already and don't need to hear it from me, no matter how loving I might think I am being.

So, to all those who claim to want to live by this philosophy I say: sure, speak your truth if that will make you feel better.  But don't think for one minute that speaking it out loud, or acting on it, does not carry consequence. Or that the consequences (including pain inflicted on other people) are not your responsibility.

We speak our truth I think, because it suits our own needs and ends.  We might not admit it but it's true. That's MY truth.

Monday, August 11, 2014

middle class poverty

There's been quite a bit in the media recently about the ''working poor''.  How we have a growing underclass of people in New Zealand who will never be home owners, who live barely about the breadline, drowning in short term debt and heavily reliant on government support or charity to get through the week.  The claim that most people are only 4 weeks away from bankruptcy. The growing numbers of under educated, poorly fed families who are a burden on our tax system.

All of which is probably true - but that's not what this post is about.  The group that has come to my attention lately is not the truly poor, or even the working poor (as they are now known - those who work hard but still have nothing) , but the growing numbers in the middle class who are also barely making ends meet.

Before I got any further, let me say that these observations are in no way meant to ask for pity.  Nor is my intention to induce a flurry of unsympathetic, albeit well meaning , notes of advice.  I'm fully aware that most of the things listed below are ''choices''.  And that the reasons for being middle class and broke are wide and varied -  but seem to me to be largely rooted in ambition.

The middle classes aspire.  They want to give their children the things they never had, or, more often, that they did have - music lessons, Saturday sports, new clothes, experiences.  They want to own decent (read: reliable) vehicles.(which usually then have to be financed, but suggest better value than an old dinger that breaks down constantly).  They generally are homeowners (ergo they have mortgages. And insurance. And rates.)  They are educated (and are still paying off a student loan.  They like the idea of a parent being available to care for children after school, and on sick days, and having someone 'at home'' running a household.  They tend to have 1 1/2 incomes in their house rather than two full time.  They do this because when you run the numbers, it's around the same as working full time and paying for care (and the subsequent headaches that go with school trips, sick days, and so on).  As a result they end up, often, in the Working for Families merry go round - accepting tax relief because in no small part it actually works out more financially beneficial than the second income - and allows the flexibility already mentioned.

And so these families work hard.  They really do.  They pay their taxes, because its fiscally responsible. they pay all their school fees, full Doctors fees, house and vehicle insurance.  They try and keep the car as modern as possible, not because it's a dream car, but because it works out cheaper in the long run.  They buy as good quality food as they can - because they understand about nutrition and so on - but as a result probably spend more than most.  They use people like naturopaths because it seems like the responsible thing to do (but end up spending a heck of a lot more staying well than the person who is broke, gets sick and turns up at A&E every couple of months).  When their kid fails at school they pay for extra tutoring, which isn't covered by school fees because they've chosen to live in a ''good area'' and Decile 9 schools don't include that kind of extra support.  Similarly, they support every kid that comes to the door with a fund raising book.  Every community raffle.  They do the odd charity donation because you never know when you might need that particular cause. They belong to St Johns Ambulance.

And so it goes on.  These are good people. Smart, ambitious, focused, often environmentally aware and socially responsible.  And they are going backwards.


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

integrity don't pay the mortgage

I am lucky enough to be partnered with someone for whom integrity is one of his most valued traits.  It's something we share actually - the importance of doing on the outside what you feel on the inside.  It's led to some interesting conversations about situations we've seen, experienced and (obviously) have strong opinions about.

Integrity is an odd thing.  It's supposed to be a positive virtue right?  But it comes at such cost. Sometimes it means simply being challenged, (or challenging the actions and behaviours of someone else), at other times it means having to step out of a comfort zone, and occasionally it results in an absolute standoff where, whatever the outcome, there is going to be one ''winner'' and one ''loser''

It would be nice to think that justice always triumphs - that those people who act in an unscrupulous manner, or without regard to others...or even just without thought or care, would be held accountable for their actions.  It would also be nice to think that anyone who acts with the utmost integrity - even it that means being the very person holding another accountable - would not be maligned for such action.

But, as it turns out, this is not always the case.  In fact, I'd say it hardly ever is.  I have a friend who is affectionately described as ''always landing butter side up''.  I think that's a brilliant description - not just for that person (who is also, by the way, someone of high integrity).  My issue is with the ones that land butter-side up, time after time, despite leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, including, often, the people who chose not to compromise their integrity and didn't follow the maelstrom.

The reality it would seem, is that in the short term at least (and in my experience often the long), ones actions on this earth, whatever their motivation, process and outcome, have little bearing on the success, or lack thereof, of the unscrupulous.

Sure, we can use trite remarks like ''they'll get their come uppance'', or ''what goes round comes round'', but...really?  I accept that consequences really can suck.  And never is this more true that for the whistle blowers, the outers, and the uncompromising.  Because it's those people who end up with an ever decreasing circle of friends, or in terrible health, or no career prospects.

I find myself saying, more and more often: It's not fair!  I know it's a ridiculous statement - life isn't fair, I think we've all figured that out.  But it's true isn't it? Doesn't actually matter what your standards are, how strong your ''morals'' might be, or how strongly you believe in the triumph of good.  Doesn't matter how well you sleep at night because you did the right thing, Integrity, it would seem, is not necessarily the right way to win friends and influence people, after all.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

GAY MARRIAGE - where will it all end (in Heaven I'm guessing)

There's been a storm a-brewing here over the past few months.  Following the legalising of ''gay marriage'' (I despise that term...after all it's not like I'm going to announce I want a straight marriage is it), there has been much debate about where church and state intersect on this issue.

This post starts from the point of view that there is a God, so if you're of the agnostic or atheist persuasion, probably not much point in reading on, just sayin', unless you'd like a (loosely) theist view.  Similarly, if you are in the 'gay is not biblical'' camp (haha) you're probably going to find this a bit confronting. Anyhoo:

Most churches (or church leaders) have been fairly quiet on this issue.  A couple have been ''openly embracing'', such as that previously led by my friend Matt, and the location of this country's first gay wedding (read about it here). And the group that has been the most noisy, and it would appear, the most divided, are the Anglicans - the church of my own family.

To cut a long story short, the Vicar at my family church has left the church (read: invited to reconsider his employment) as he feels most strongly that marriage between same sex couples is unbiblical, and he will not therefore support it.  The whole church has voted to leave with him and it happened today.  For me, this issue is further muddied by the fact that the Anglican church actually agrees with him according to this article and yet still he is leaving.  It's all very confusing, and in my view, rather caught up with the passion of a preacher who is with out doubt an intelligent, measured and Godly man and his loyal (albeit also godly) community, but messed up by a bunch of other moral issues that frankly, I think have no place in church.

I'm not quite sure why this particular issue upsets me so much.  I've talked it through with people on both sides of the fence (in every sense of the word) and still I find myself, ultimately, deeply offended on behalf of homosexuals and all others who have been marginalised by the Christian church.  It shouldn't matter so much - after all, I'm not gay, nor is any of my close family, and in fact most of the gay people I know aren't really rampant campaigners of issues like this - they are simply getting on with life, like I am.

So here's the thing that worries me about this:  A few decades ago the world, with full support, even leadership,  of the church, based on it's biblical interpretation, embraced slavery.  It also disapproved of (among other things)  inter racial marriage, people getting divorced, children out of wedlock, divorced people remarrying, and women preaching.  For many, alcohol and gambling were, and are, considered unbiblical practises.  Some denominations, like Catholics, beleive that it's biblical for priests to not marry. Due to the tireless campaigning - and it could be argued, the call of God - from a few, we no longer tolerate slavery, would be horrified at someone opposing a marriage between people of different races, and not only welcome divorced people and single parents in our church, but gladly allow them (even women, gasp!) to remarry AND if they are called, to be ordained as preachers, healers and teachers.  For some reason that I can't fathom, these things don't feature on the unbiblical list any more, even though the Bible is quite clear that these things should not be allowed.

So for those who say that the homosexual law reform bill in the 80's was the thin end of the wedge, that gay marriage is the next step in this moral decline, and what, goodness me, will be next, I suppose one could argue that they were right all along.  If only we'd not let women start preaching, let deserted women get a divorce, and worse, get another go at marriage, and kept those floozies who had babies without husbands well away, then maybe the world..would not be in the state it is in now.  Maybe they're right.

But what if they aren't right? What if allowing, encouraging and welcoming these marginalised people (and yes,by definition I fit in more than a couple of these categories), has in fact enriched the church, made the Christian community more open, accepting, loving and a reflection of the true people in the world? Then what?  Is it really OK to say, actually, all of these things are OK but gay marriage is not? Seems a pretty thin argument to me.  And if in fact, those campaigners were wrong, and in fact ''the church'' shouldn't have allowed all this moral decay in, in the first place, then where the HECK does that leave me!!??!

Frankly, I'm offended. Deeply offended.  We are saying, if we go with the 'gay is not godly'' argument, that it's OK to choose which things are now acceptable to God and which aren't. We're saying that the people who felt called to campaign for those other things (lets assume God did actually lead them here) were Godly, but the ones who want to lead the way with welcoming homosexual people into our church, are not.  And for those whose argument goes like this: ""oh we're not saying gay people can't be in our church, in fact our church even HAS a couple, but we don't believe they should be allowed to get married"", then it follows that either a. we believe that being gay is a choice (yeah right) and then they can just change and we're all good and they can marry a person of the opposite sex if they want to, or b. they can be gay but not act on it.

(Lets not even START on the argument of being able to change persuasion. or worse still, the numbers of actual gay people (some of whom I know) who are stifling those feelings because they want to believe its ungodly not to.)

None of this seem to stack up with the argument that we are all made in Gods image. Particularly when the Bible is SO big on marriage (per se) being important and that we are designed to be in union and that sex is normal and healthy and needs attention (yeah it really does say that, look it up)

One could argue that ended up a divorced single parent means I wasn't made in Gods image too I suppose. I'd say that it's probably not Gods ideal that this is what I am - assuming I need to actually identify by these labels, which I don't -but He thinks I'm OK anyway (or actually he's got bigger fish to fry than worrying about my marital status, moral compass or perceived lack thereof). It may well be not God's ideal that lots of his people are gay.  But they are. No one is arguing that homosexuality doesn't exist. Any more than they are saying infidelity doesn't. Or divorce. Or drinking too much.  Or that in some places, there simply aren't any decent men preachers but there's some darn good women ones.  And all of the people affected by these things were made by God too right?

Like I said, it's all very confusing and difficult and fraught with emotion.  And worse still when I learn today of an entire church who has upped and left with their leader over this issue.  That grieves me.  I don't want to have to explain to my children why they can no longer attend that Sunday school (actually it doesn't exist any more because the minister left over something he felt so strongly about and the congregation went with him, but I don't agree so I won't be following).  AND I don't want them to be the next generation of people who judge people (yes people it is judging it just is).  According to this church's website they welcome all people - and they list all the things like race and marital status and so forth. But not sexual orientation (they have a programme to sort that out which is another reason I want to run, run far away from there).

So, the bottom line for me is this:  I'd like to think that if I get married again, God will be fine with it even though I'm a divorcee.  That if I felt the call to preach, He'd be OK with that too. (Actually I have worked in ministry post marriage and to date no smiting has occurred).  That if I had been that girl unlucky enough to get pregnant but not have a husband I wouldn't have been cast far away. That if my child turns out gay (also, early indicators suggest highly unlikely) God would love them anyway - or not actually mind either way.  And if that child fell in love and wanted to get acknowledge their relationship BEFORE GOD, He'd be pretty happy about that too.

To get another perspective, jump over and read this fantastic blog.  And as always, I wait with anticipation for you to post your comments below.

I acknowledge that regardless of the outcome, this has been a very distressing time for my parents as they have been part of this church since it was built (were in fact on the fund raising committee), married there themselves, and brought my brother and I up through Sunday school. Please note that this post represents my own opinions only and not that of anyone else in my family, nor is it intended to judge them in any way.

Monday, May 12, 2014

at your service

Over the past few weeks I was on a mission of buying costumes for dance competition.

This included ordering shirts on line for 12 guys, and trouping around goodness knows how many women's clothing shops looking for 12 tops that would suit 12 different body shapes, that were identical, and that were of a fairly specific style and colour way - and in summer weight fabric.  Nothing made it easy.  It was end of season.  Hard to find anything in the right colour, let alone shape and size. The shirts had to come via two different suppliers.  I was also looking as some DIY options which necessitated visits to a number of craft shops.   The challenges went on and on. Don't even get me started on hair, jewellery and makeup!!!

But, to cut a long story short, all's well that ends well, and we ended up with 12 couples in suitable attire, for a very very reasonable cost to each person.

The point of this story though, is not to highlight the problems associated with fitting out a dance troupe, but to commend the (literally) dozens of shop assistants and help desk staff that I dealt with over this time.  Much is made of the poor service in NZ and I would have to vehemently disagree with those naysayers.

Without exception, every person in every shop went far beyond the call of duty.  Even though in many cases the clothing was incredibly cheap, and found  in chain stores seemingly run by teenagers, everyone was cheerful, helpful, obliging and tireless in their attempts to help me (and others) find exactly what we needed.  Most were happy to ring around other branches of their shop, and all were more than OK with pulling piles of clothes of racks and putting them on hold.

Similarly a recent experience at a hotel was, simply, outstanding and left me feeling I would be loyal to that place forever! From the moment I arrived and was greeted by name, I felt like I was valued.

I spend a lot of time assessing customer service in my town (and further afield) because a/ it's part of my job to do so and b/ I'm a bit precious about it.  And sure there are some exceptions, but I would have to say that by far and away the majority of businesses that I deal with do it extremely well.  Of course retail and hospitality are the most scrutinised.  And have the biggest risk of ''getting it wrong''.  The staff has high turnover.  Seven day a week operations potentially don't get the staff training other businesses might.

It's said that good news stories go nowhere but a bad story will be repeated a dozen times.  If that's true then it only goes to prove my proclamation - because it is a rare thing to hear a bad story about service these days.  Most businesses (I believe) want to give good service - sure doesn't the survival of their organisation depend on it?

I go out of my way to provide feedback (good and bad) to businesses. Do you?

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Shall we dance

I started dancing Ceroc about  3 1/2  years ago - the idea had been sloshing around for rather longer than that but it took me quite a while to get the nerve to go to a class. In fact, the first time I went I sat in the car for half an hour before I even mustered up the courage to go into the class! (I found out later this is quite a common phenomenon...)

After just a few weeks I helped out that the first Champs to be held in the Waikato (2011), and in 2012 competed in one round of one ''DWAS'' (random pairing - dance with a stranger) competition, which I didn't enjoy at all.  I did however love watching all the amazing dancers, and promised myself that one day I would take part in a team (which seemed an impossibly exotic dream at the time), and maybe, just maybe be better than the 'beginner'' I then was.

Time rolled on, I stopped and started classes a bit, depending on availability of babysitters, but stayed involved in the ''business end'' of Ceroc - helping on the door, and attending dance parties whenever  I could.  Earlier this year I had another go at a competition, not doing well, and finding the defeat particularly galling considering I was dancing with who was arguably one of the best male dancers in town.

My young man  (MYM) and I, through a number of circumstances, ended up competing together this weekend just gone. We were in a team together which was, I won't lie, flipping hard work, but incredibly satisfying all the same.  We went and had a private lesson with teachers in another town, whose style we both admired.  And we competed as a couple in a freestyle event and individually in DWAS - although neither of which we got past the first cut of.   Also, at the last minute I found on line (as one does in this modern age:)), someone to compete in the over 45's section, since MYM was not old enough - and this was a little nerve wracking as I knew nothing of this guy - his dancing style, or skill level. (And since mine is not fantastic I was a bit nervous I might be a bit under par).

To cut a long story short, the team placed third, and I made the final in over 45's.  It was disappointing that MYM and I didn't do better -we had one of the teachers cheering from the sidelines and got good feedback afterwards -  but it was a learning experience, and the competition was incredibly tough.  There is room for improvement for both of us , individually and as a pairing, should we continue to compete together, and also opportunity to do things separately too.

Dancing is a funny thing.  Away from the eyes of the judges I am sure I dance better.  I know the things I need to do better - eyes up, shoulders back - but also know there are things I can do well - stay in time, follow a lead, break out a bit when I am able.  Together, MYM and I are great if there's no pressure. We had heaps of fun. Add on a judging eye and it's still good, but there is that constant feeling of wanting to do better, and, I am sure, subconscious judging of our own performances.

There were many people at this competition dancing with new partners. MYM did it at the last comp and also did well. There was something to be said for dancing the other competition with a virtual stranger - no expectation, inhibitions checked at the door.  Maybe I got lucky with a great partner, maybe there is potential to repeat and do better - maybe it was a fluke.

The clear winners on the day largely had long term partners.  There were people who stood out as being just so much better than the rest.  And there were a couple of dark horses who surprised everyone.

Whatever the science, or not, in this dancing competition lark, it was still a fabulous experience.  I thought I wasn't competitive, but maybe I am...The taste of small success remains on my tongue and I think with some dedication and focus I could do better next time.

In the meantime, I am incredibly proud of my achievement, of the great dance MYM  and I did in the the team (we came third, and in the playbacks, our own performance was almost perfect), and of course of my result with Mr over45 , and of the experiences I had dancing with some of the best in the country.

Dancing on air indeed.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The material world

When I was  14 years old, my well travelled Aunt gave me a gold lipstick holder she had bought in Japan (when on her latest overseas adventure).  I wasn't even wearing lipstick then but I treasured as only a young teenager does.  You can read more about my Aunt here.

That piece of ''Chokin Art" represented a big wide world, impossibly exciting experiences, and also became more special as I visited Japan so many times myself and saw 'Chokin' products on sale there.

As years went by that holder went everywhere with me - and if it could talk would tell of going round the world with me three or four times, accompanying me to parties, dates, and special events - and  being witness to decades of colour trends (blood red, dark maroon, frosty pink, and more latterly conservative rose).

But this week, the worst happened.  The lipstick holder has gone.  I can only assume that it fell out of my handbag as I raced between appointments.  I have scoured the car, the house, the office, to no avail.  I know it shouldn't matter - it was worn and old and the mirror was cracked - but this little thing had been literally everywhere in the world that I had been, and I have to say - I'm kind of grieving for it.  It represented so much, it had BEEN THROUGH so much with me!  It reminded me of the lesson my Aunt taught me (never leave the house - or the car - without fresh lipstick on.

A search on Google suggests i could replace it without too much trouble - and for not much money. But it's not the same.  I don't want another one.  I want THAT one - the one that reminded me every day (often more than once) of my impossibly glamorous Aunty, that thing that has seen everything in the world that I have - that was my most used possession.

I know material possessions don't matter (after all am I not the queen of minimalism) but there are some things...a few things... that really do. And this was - is - one of them.

I vainly hope it will turn up.  But if it doesn't, I can only hope that the person who might find it will not idly throw it in the rubbish, but wonder where it came from and what it might have meant to the person who lost it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

a little more than a hundred days of happiness

I've been following a few people as they chronicle blessings for one hundred days. I'm not quite sure how this movement started, nor how it had the ability to get so popular and so long lasting (100 days is a long time on the Internets after all...)...but it's nice reading warm fuzzies and positive stories.  You can read my favourite here.

Never one to follow the crowd, I have been musing about how I might take part in this phenomenon but in a different way. (Actually, the stark reality is that I'm a big picture person and I already know there's no way I'm gonna get to 100 posts in 100 days...).  Instead, I've decided to list 100 things that are my ''small pleasures'' and blessings in life.  In no particular order here are the first 50...

1. impromptu dinners with my favourite people
2 a new toothbrush
3. a new hairbrush
4. cats purring
5. rain on the roof when you're tucked up inside
6. moonrise viewed from the spa pool
7. something fabulous and coveted on sale for a fraction of it's original price, and in my size
8. scarves
9. high heeled boots
10. Nana's and Grandads
11. Real letters in the mail
12. Clean sheets on the bed
13. An empty laundry basket and no ironing to do either
14. A freshly ironed shirt
15. Kid cuddles
16. Grown up cuddles
17. A favourite song on the radio in rush hour traffic
18. Random ''thinking of you'' texts received in the midst of a busy day
19. Lie ins on a weekday
20. New paint
21. Car washes
22. A simply awesome cup of coffee
23.Dark chocolate
24. Best Friends and enduring friendship
25. Siblings
26. Knowing I can always ask my Mum what she thinks
27. Knowing I can listen to the advice but I don't have to act on it
28. Panadol, disinfectant, and toothpaste - three of the greatest inventions of the 21st century
29 that moment you walk out of the hairdressers feeling a million bucks
30. Comfortable underwear (especially if it actually looks good too)
31. A shared sense of humour and the ability to share a laugh at the most inopportune moments
32. Discovering a great new restaurant
33. Dancing
34. Two people, one motorbike and a long road on a sunny day
35. Campfires
36. Fireworks at New Year (or any other time really)
37. The precious half hour between waking yourself, and the kids getting up
38. Watching your children when they are asleep
39. Reading a great book
40. Ticking something awesome off the bucket list
41. Sharing that something awesome with someone awesome
42. Fabulous kitchen utensils and appliances (never underestimate a good knife)
43. Spending time with a friend you haven't seen in ages and picking up like it was yesterday
44. Christmas morning. And Christmas Eve.
45. finding a great recipe and reproducing it
46. staying at goal weight longer than you ever thought possible
47. losing the last couple of kg that makes all the difference
48. capturing something on camera and realising it was a perfect moment and it's a perfect shot
49. Hearing I love You
50. Saying I love You

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The culture of business

Back in my days as a trainer, when working with a company that was undergoing a massive organisational change, much of what we were asked to deliver to employees focused on 'company culture'.  In this case it was the merging of two very different organisations that required gentle handling: a community bank and a large international one, joining forces to create a new business.

It took a long time for the two ''cultures'' to merge - physically it was literally an overnight transformation but it was several years, and a fair amount of staff churn, before there was a real gelling happening on the shop floor.

There can be challenges in all sizes of  organisations too, not just monoliths like this one. Consider the ''mad inventor'' who suddenly - or not so suddenly - finds himself running a large organisation on the back of what was once just one guy and a great idea. Often unskilled and usually unprepared, the poor entreprenuer can easily get trapped by thinking that their sole trader model can simply grow into a larger version of itself.

The culture of the workplace can make or break the success of an organisation. And so I offer this as my 8 point guide to creating a great business that people want to work in, stay in, and be proud to tell others about.

1. Lead from the top. The Board and/or CEO need to live and breathe the (carefully developed and clearly communicated)  values of the company - to the extent that their own behaviour/s need to be ''beyond reproach''
2. Start at the bottom. The way people dress, the language they use, the layout and decor of the office all impact on the way a business operates - even the kind of music playing in the background will contribute.
3. Make it clear. Expectations regarding the little things (clothing, language etc) need to be spelled out (better to be obvious than obscure).  Similarly, the big things (strategic goals, long term plans) should be shared freely with your employees as a way of engendering trust and buy-in. Demonstrate zero tolerance for behaviours that don't fit with your company values.
4. Stop look and listen.  That message is especially for business leaders, who are often too busy running the business to see what's happening on the shop floor.  Pay attention to the lunch room conversations, see what is on the office walls of employees, take heed of their feedback in meetings (and act on it)
5. Make room to move. Whether it's little (what kind of coffee is in the lunch room), middle size (changing the seating plan) or big (allowing team members to contribute to planning, or to give feedback on the company and it's leadership), get people talking.  Encourage conversation and open communications. A secretive organisation is unhealthy. As is an inflexible, prescriptive work environment.
6. Act on it. If something's broken, fix it. If there's an opportunity to improve, take it. If your values include generosity, for example, act on it - buy coffee, give vouchers!
7. Tell a good story.  Develop a great narrative about your organisation and share it.  Live it, believe it, and let others continue to share it on your behalf.  That doesn't mean ''spilling company secrets'' but it does mean creating positive messages about the business and letting word of mouth do the rest.  And if you're telling porkies you're going to get caught out. Refer points 1 through 6.
8. Stay balanced.  If you're a leader, act like a leader - but remain connected to your team.  If you're on your way up, be mindful of your position in the company but keep striving.  If you're in an unbalanced work environment by way of age/gender/other diversity, consider how you could change it. Embrace differences. Listen to advice, take the best from it. Surround yourself with people who are honest in their opinions.  Don't just listen to the things they know you want to hear.

Lower staff turnover, higher productivity, reduced costs, better marketing and publicity. It takes time for sure. It requires effort, sometimes a dash of bravery to maintain. But a strong and healthy company culture means nothings but good things for the business.

a definition of Corporate Culture from Investopedia

The beliefs and behaviours that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company's culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction and every other aspect of operations.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

when less is still more

Have you read this blog?

This is truly a woman after my own heart - not because I too have stopped shopping for clothes (in fact far from it) but I like her philosophy about STUFF.

The problem for me I think, is more that I am addicted to the decluttering exercise.  In fact I have moved to the computer NOW because I can feel a 'chuck out session'' coming on, and there really isn't much left for me to get rid of around here!  Yesterday I worked through the kids wardrobes and pulled out all the too small clothes. I did my own wardrobe the day before.  I'm currently working on the pantry and the bathroom again, using up all the things that end up relegated to bottom shelves.

I'm planning to move house soon (anyone want to buy mine), and so figure the less stuff I have to move the better.  And yet despite selling/dumping/giving away more things than I care to imagine in the past few weeks (but hazard a guess it's about 3 trailer loads worth) I still feel like I have too much.  It's all those things that are put away for rainy days, or are in ''storage'' and only used a couple of times a year. Those things get me down.  I wonder why I keep them.  After all, how many table cloths/plastic bags/ garden implements/ kitchen appliances/pairs of gumboots/sleeping bags/blankets/pillow cases/candles/chilly bins/extra photo frames does one person actually need?  Only one or two I would have thought...and still these are the very things I find I just can't get rid of.

If you visited my house, you'd probably wonder what I was on about. It's a pretty spacious, uncluttered kind of place.   But it has storage.  Lots and lots of storage.  And I make the most of it.

I wonder how people who have LOTS of stuff get by.  Maybe they don't mind? Are you like that? Do you mind having a lot of stuff?  For me, it makes me stressed.  I'd rather give it away than try and sell it, rather recycle than repair.  

I'm no saint - I buy lots of clothes for examples, but do my best to replace rather than add to, my wardrobe. I use the library rather than buy books. I have very little in the way of camping gear, or exercise equipment, or any of those other things that only get used occasionally, but there's still enough to fill some shelves in the garage.

Right now that's where my energy is focused. I have enough garden stakes to plant out an orchard I am sure.  A few broken bits of technology. Some tired old crockery from the kitchen.  Some raggedy towels.  Tomorrow it all goes to the dump.  Can't wait.

Monday, March 10, 2014

In praise of volunteerism

I have heard it said that if it wasn't for the volunteers who willingly and generously give up so much of their own time and resources, this country would grind to a halt.

I can well believe it.  Just here in, in a village of barely a thousand people, I'd hazard that aside from one or two organisations that have (a couple of) paid staff, most of the hard work is completed by people passionate about their sport, interest or that of their child's.  School PTA, the  coaches and referees at the Rugby Club, Playcentre, Soccer, preschool activities, tourism, community events, the group who work on restoration of the Mountain, the ones who look after the Historic Centre, Guide and Scout leaders, Golf Club trustees, Kapa Haka leaders, Plunket leaders, parent helpers for camps, St John ambulance staff, fire fighters....the list goes on. And on. And on.

How lucky we are to have these people! And how especially fortunate I feel to have directly benefited from the hard work of so many of them.  And, to be fair, to have been - and continue to be - one of the people who gladly 'mucks in'' when I can.  Despite my occasional inward groans of ''another working bee/donation box/half an hour on a stall'' I am usually pretty happy to do my bit towards helping out - after all, these are the things that make the culture of the village what it is.

There are annual awards of course, that acknowledge and honour many of the volunteers in our communities, but by far and away, the majority simply get on with their work, largely unnoticed (until they resign from their posts!), but absolutely necessary to the smooth running of their organisation and the good work they all do in our towns.  Its not everyones cup of tea, to give up a weekend or evening for the ''love of the job'', I acknowledge that.  But there are many many unsung heroes in our communities, that do give up their spare time - and  allow us to get on with enjoying that cup of tea.

And as well as personal satisfaction, the reality is that ''volunteering'' is a great addition to a CV.  As an employer, I value the work done by a potential employee in their own time.  As well as learning all kinds of valuable and transferable skills, there is the added, unwritten,  dimension that tells me that this person cares about their community.

 As we head into our seventh year of publication, The Village Voice (my baby...)remains completely reliant on the goodwill of the team of people who contribute, compile and deliver each issue, and for this I am especially grateful.

So next time you are asked to give some time, or money, to one of these groups, do so with a generous heart. And if you are the beneficiary of such kindness, take a minute to thank the person giving up their own time to make your life a little better.