Do I like myself as much as I used to?

I recently had a delightful lunch with a colleague from my past. My colleague
and I worked closely together nearly 20 years ago when we shared the passionate
idealism of youth for innovation within our chosen calling of education. As
it happened, during the time we worked together my friend witnessed my
transition from idealism to a disillusionment which led me to leave education
to pursue a career in private business.

In the meantime, my colleague has risen to a senior management position.

During the course of our lunch she surprised me with the question "Do
you like yourself as much as you used to?" When I look back on my decision
to leave education, I am left wondering if it was the right decision or was
it just based on chasing personal financial gain. I miss teaching. But as soon
as I think about it long enough, I know I don’t miss schools and neither do
I miss the bureaucracy that surrounds them. Regardless of how my decision
will weigh in the balance of my future, it has given me the opportunity to
do things I never would have if I had stayed in teaching.

Surprising as it may seem, running my own business has given me the opportunity
to know myself more fully. To be truthful, given my personality, I think I
would have learnt more about myself whatever I did. Indeed, as I will come
to shortly, I think my colleague’s question was prompted by her reflection
on her own actions in the positions she has held and the personal dilemmas
that go hand in hand with increased responsibility.

Staying in the moment however, my immediate response was I thought I
liked myself even more than I used to. As I have pursued my business interests
I have had to reflect on the decisions I’ve made. On occasion I have trusted
people I ought not to have trusted. There are times when I have invested time
and money in ventures that were unlikely to, and in fact did not, succeed.
As I reflect on those actions I have looked deep into myself to understand
what attracts me to trust untrustworthy people and what attracts me to invest
in unsound investments. In this deep reflection I have discovered a lot about
myself. I have a tendency to avoid the difficult decisions – so it is easier
to trust someone than probe their integrity. I believe in myself but I am afraid
to really present myself because you may not share that belief – so it is easier
to hope that the unsound investment might come off rather than confront what
I am not putting into it.

Regardless of all this and more, I have had the opportunity to look into
and have a glimpse of my deepest self. When I speak of this to some people
their reaction is to regard me as self obsessed, that I think I’m better than
other people. One associate in a potential business venture, with undisguised
disdain once said to me "You
think you’re so special." That hit me hard and forced me to think. After
a moment or two’s thought I told him I did think I was special, but equally
I thought he was special and indeed every single one of us is special. No one
of us is more special than an other but we, each of us, are very special.

This all led to me to reflect on my colleague’s question and pose it back
to her. "You wouldn’t like some of the things I do." She replied,
emphasising the "you" meaning, I thought, me in particular. I took
this to mean that after the idealism we had previously shared, I would think
she had sold out on some of the principles we once shared.

It made me think of two young revolutionaries who met many years later. If
I enter this analogy, my colleague’s original question seems on the surface
to be the wrong way around. In this scenario, I am the one who sold out. I
left the revolutionary army to join the bourgeoisie, while she remained true
to the revolution and, in this play, is indeed now a senior member of the new
government.

However she went on to speak of the decisions she now makes. I thought she
was going to fall into the jargon of saying "decisions she has to make"
but either she corrected herself before the words came out and said instead,
or always intended to say, "the decisions I choose to make."

Oh, the dilemmas of leadership. As young revolutionaries
we could criticise our incumbent self serving and incompetent masters. When
we find ourselves in their position however, things become so much more complicated.
There is never, as it once seemed, one single obvious solution to a problem.
No matter what we do, someone will be hurt, we will under-resource,
or cut a program that should not be cut, we will never have a complete command
of the whole picture and, being human, from time to time we will simply make
bad decisions.

So do I like myself as much as I used to. Once I find it within me to
forgive myself for my mistakes I truly can say I like myself more than I used
to. A teacher in one of my postgraduate programs once made the comment "We
miss out on so much in our organisations because we can’t bring ourselves to
forgive." In
my personal journey, I have found it necessary to learn, and to continue to
learn, to forgive myself as well as to forgive others. Indeed to forgive myself
before I can forgive others. I am human. I make mistakes. I often don’t care
as much for those close to me as I want to. I get bound up in my own selfishness
when others around me offer me so much. Yes, all of that is true. If, however,
I can accept that as my human frailty find forgiveness I can move on to generosity.

The Gift of Pain

I borrowed the title of
this post from the book of the same name by Dr
Paul Brand
and Phillip Yancey.

As the Zondervan synopsis puts it

Pain is not something that most of us would count as a blessing; however, what it is and why we need it if we’re to live life fully is brought to light in this book.

I was caused to think about this because I have recently had the experience
of being unwell.

Normally, I would think of this as being an unfortunate experience. I don’t
like being unwell. I’m not a good patient.

However, this time, even though the experience was very unpleasant, I felt, even
when I was still unwell that something significant (perhaps even profound)
was happening for me.

My illness was depression expressing
itself mainly in the form of severe anxiety. I am not particularly prone to
depression although I have experienced a significant episode once in the past.
It has been a long time since I have experienced anything that you could call
more than mild.

Last winter, I can remember getting out of my car on a cold and gray day. I
felt dull. I had mild to low anxiety about my prospects for work. I just felt
unhappy. I knew if it had been a sunny day I would have felt happy. From time
to time I wake up and feel that familiar feeling of the beginnings of depression.
I fight it. I get up and do something and the feeling goes away.

Having once experienced a prolonged period of depression, I felt strongly
that I didn’t want to return to that place. I made sure that I made
myself active. I knew that physical exercise was a good antidote for depression.
So I make sure I swim at least four mornings a week. It wasn’t a mania trying
to hide depression, it was just some techniques I had learnt that were good
for managing it.

It all seemed to work. I knew depression could return, but I thought (and pretty
much still do think) I was managing it OK.

Then, one day about two months ago, pretty much out of the blue it pounced
on me. I had experienced waking with that familiar dull feeling a couple
of times in the days preceding but after my morning exercise, it went away.
It’s a bit like a cold. You get a sore throat and wonder if it is going to
develop into anything further. Often it just goes away. It’s
the same with depression. I get those first feelings and wonder if it is
going to develop. Later I’m relieved that it hasn’t.

There is always somethig to get depressed about if I let it. Work prospects.
Whether I like the work I’m doing. Whether I will ever get to do the work
I really want, and feel called, to do. What other people think of me. The
list goes on and on. Most times, it is a reminder that I need to do something.
There is something on my mind (often only semi consciously) that I feel I
should do. Really something I want to do in order to achieve a goal – something
like developing a proposal to a client or, harder still, making that first
contact with a prospective client. I am avoiding the hard thing and depression
is my reminder. Most times I respond with some action and the black
dog
is
sent away again for the time being.

This time seemed no different. I had been through a difficult experience
which made me quite angry but at the same time left feeling quite helpless
and impotent. The experience involved my life partner being portrayed in
the media (probably the first time in her life anything she did had been
the subject of media attention) in what I thought was a very unfair and very
inacurate. However, I thought I was handling it OK.

At the same time, I am currently in the process of establishing a new
business
which is an important gamble for me. This business is about doing
what I feel called to do – if it doesn’t work, I will feel I have failed in
my life’s mission.

So it was one day I woke up feeling deeply depressed. I knew the feeling
but had no idea how long it would last. Would it be a couple of hours, a
couple of days or would it really set in? This time, it did set in. Over
the next several weeks I was on a roller coaster ride, many times experiencing
overwhelmening anxiety and helplessness.

I ended up taking almost two weeks off work – something I would have told
myself I couldn’t afford to do. Often just having to sit in a chair for
an hour at a time telling myself over and over again that it was OK to stop
and rest. I was no use to myself or to anyone else if I did not get well.
Other times I just had to go for a long walk just to manage these overwhelming
feelings which often came on as suddenly as being hit by a truck. One night
I had to get up before we had finished our family meal and go for a walk.

Over this time, with the help of medication and the support of those around
me the highs and lows of the roller coaster have levelled out.

Looking at myself now, I would say I was well again.

So, why is this a gift?

It is a gift on many levels.

At one level, it forced me to stop for a while and look at my lifestyle
and what was really important to me. What did I really want to achieve in
setting up this new business? What did I want to achieve for myself in my
personal life? Included in this level was the opportunity for my partner
and I to spend many lovely hours together doing things we would normally
think we were too busy to do. Things like visiting nurseries and buying plants
for the garden.

On another lever, this experience has given me a stronger empathy for others.
It has deepened my committment to the work I do – guiding others to find
their deepest purpose. It has reminded me this is my purpose. It
enabled me to reconnect with my strong as steel commitment to this personal
purpose.

At yet another level it has enabled me to experience connectedness with
others on a plane we often do not get a chance to do. I decided early on
that I would be honest with others about my illness. I wouldn’t say I had
the flu, I would say I have been suffering depression. I was a little afraid
of doing this initially. How would people react? I need not have been. Every
time I have discussed it with someone it has led to a deepening of the conversation.
Often, very quickly it leads to us discussing life’s greatest issues as the
concern us personally. Have we achieved what we wanted to achieve? Is our
current path leading us in the direction of achieving what we want? What
do we think about the work we are currently doing? How do we think about
ourselves in our work? Do we like ourselves?

None of these conversations would have occured at the level they did if
I had not had the experience of being unwell.

I didn’t like it at the time. It was awful – and I have only experienced
it for a few weeks. Yet, without doubt, it was gift.

What do we mean by “Rich?”

This week’s edition of BRW is another of
its so called ‘Flagship editions’. These editions invariable involve a list of
the top so many of such and such. It was a landmark when they produced the first BRW
1000
list of the top 1000 companies in Australia. However, I’m getting
a bit tired of what seems like every month they produce a new list of the "top"
whatever. This time it is the Rich
200
. A list of Australia’s wealthiest people.

It made me wonder what we mean by "rich" and why it matters to us so much?

My current book is Phillip Yancey’s volume Soul
Survivor
(How my faith survived the Church.). A book I highly recommend
– even if you are not interested in the concept of faith. Yancey writes about
his journey of faith by reviewing the lessons he learned from the lives of people
he has either met or he experienced through what they wrote or what was written
about them. Chapters cover people such as Martin
Luther King Jnr.
, Leo
Tolstoy
, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mahatma
Gandhi
and C.
Everett Koop
.

In each case, Yancey both praises the contribution each made and clearly portrays
each person’s failures, complexities and personal dilemmas.

While I have been rivetted by each chapter, the BRW Rich 200 made me think
of Gandhi. Here was a man who held no formal office, wore only a rough hand
woven loin cloth and possessed only what he carried with him. Yet Gandhi almost
certainly procurred the independence of the world’s second most populous nation
and profoundly influenced not only India, but the United States (through his
influence on King) and other parts of the world. Could any of us imagine how
different the world would be today if Gandhi had never lived? In one hundred
years will Kerry or James Packer even be remembered? Probably by some. Will
anyone regard their legacy as profoundly good for the world?

Gandhi’s life challenges almost all of what we stand for in the West. When
we compare our wealth with others we fret not that we are not wealthy, but
that we are not as wealthy as someone else.

Like Yancey, I found Gandhi’s life challenging. I like my gadgets. I write
this on an Apple MacBook Pro 17 which
goes with me everywhere and an iPod. I have a mobile phone, a NextG modem
which enables me to connect to the internet anywhere I am. I live a 200m2
home and drive a new car. There a five computers in my house. I haven’t even
begun to describe the extent of my posessions. Am I happier than Gandhi? Do
I feel more fulfilled? I can’t imagine doing what Gandhi did giving up posession
after posession and living more and more simply. Living simply itself appeals
to me, but I can’t imagine myself taking even one hundreth of the steps Gandhi
took to this end.

This challenges me and I don’t know the answer to this as a personal dilemma.
However reading about Gandhi has brought home to me that acquiring more and
more wealth is not going to make me happier. It has caused me to re-examine
my personal and business goals. It has led me to think once more about how
I set my fees. I don’t know where this will lead me. This could sound trite
and self serving but I hope it doesn’t – "all I can say is that I am on my
own Spiral Path."

Clash of purpose

Therese
Rein
has decided to sell
the Australian arm
of Ingeus
– the business she has built
up
from herself
and a part time assistant to a multi-million dollar company employing over 1400
people over the past twenty years

I hesitate to mention that Rein is married to Australian opposition leader Kevin
Rudd
because if you google "Therese Rein Ingeus", you will scroll
a long way before finding a link that does not mention this fact. This despite
the observation that Rein is a successful business person in her own right.

It’s hard to find details about Rein on the internet because there is so much
comment on her latest decision and the
events leading up to it.

My angle in this story is the clash of purposes rather than the conflict of
interests. Before making her decision, Rein passionately spoke of how her work
was much more than a business but was her life
support
. She passionately believes in what she does – helping disadvantaged
people find work – and no-one seems to suggest that she doesn’t do it well.

But what happens when two people are tied together and their purposes clash?
I am often asked this question in terms of leadership teams. What happens when
the members of the team have different purposes (this is often expressed as
‘agendas’)?

This is a difficult question. I don’t have an easy answer because there is
no easy answer. However, somewhere, I believe the answer lies in the higher
purpose that ties the people together. In the case of Rudd and Rein, him becoming
Prime Minister does not directly affect her business. But her remaining in
her (at least Australian) business does affect Rudd’s ability to do his job
if he becomes PM. What is the higher purpose? Only the people involved can
answer that. In politics, it is often the politician who wins out and the politician
is usually a man. I wonder how it would have been if it was a woman running
for PM and her husband was running a successful business?

Regardless, it is the difficult task of those involved to find their higher
purpose. In many cases, this leads to each individual finding their deeper
purpose.

Feedback on this blog

Due to an overwhelming amount of comment spam, I have changed the restrictions on commenting.

If you do want to comment you will find you now have to log in via Typekey.

It only takes a moment to get a Typekey account and you can use the same account
for any blog powered by Moveable Type.

After just deleting nearly 1000 trackbacks, I have also disabled this feature.

I will try to change this in the future, but for the moment, this is the way it will have to be.

As with many of us, when we started blogging we spent lots of time setting up our blogs. Now the reality of the amount of time maintenance takes has set in. I don’t spend nearly as much time as I would like blogging, I don’t want to be spending large amounts of the time I do have on maintenance.

Changed Perspectives

It’s amazing how a seemingly small event can so profoundly change your perspective.

Two events have had this impact on me in the past week.

The one that made me think about this post was actually the second event –
the resignation
of Margaret Jackson as chairman of the Qantas board
. I have had deep
qualms
about the APA
private equity takeover offer
for Qantas.
My initial reaction to Jackson’s
press comments
was cynical. She stood to make a substantial personal gain
if the bid succeeded. How could she avoid a conflict of interest I thought?
I took some perverse enjoyment from the collapse
of the bid
. I don’t like the arrogance of Private Equity much and it worries
me that a consortium like that can have such a huge impact on people’s lives.

But when Jackson announced her resignation, I felt sorry for her. Margaret
Jackson
is recognised as one of, if not the, leading business women in
Australia. She has been on the Qantas board for fifteen years and chairman
for seven. When the bid was announced she would have to have thrown the dice.
Would she throw her weight behind the bid (with the personal cudos and financial
reward she would receive if it succeeded) or would she fight it. I don’t
know how long she agonised over this decision, but it could not have been
automatic. There was never a guarantee the bid would succeed. In the end,
it sat on a knife edge and failed by the slimmest
of margins
. Had the late offer been accepted, or received by the deadline
she would have been seen as a master strategist, placing the airline in a
position for its next phase of growth.

As it is, she is seen to have mishandled the whole affiar. In business, you
are either one or the other. A hero or a villain. Never a real person with
strenghts and weakness. With both doubts and courage.

The other event to spark my thinking about changed perspectives was the screening
earlier this week on ABC TV of the
drama series Bastard Boys
a fictionalised account of the 1998 Australian Waterfront
Dispute
. Nominally this was a dispute between the Maritime
Union of Australia (MUA)
, (led by John
Coombs)
and Patrick
Stevedores
(then owned by Chris
Corrigan
). This dispute was a seminal piece of Australian industrial relations
history about the power and place of unions on the one side and the right of
management to make changes to work practices on the other. The dispute involved
almost everyone of note in industrial relations in Australia at the time, including Peter
Reith
(Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business)
in the Howard
Government
; Greg
Combet
(then Assistant Secretary of the ACTU)
and Bill
Kelty
(the Secretary of the ACTU).

At the time, those of us on the left were horrified by Corrigan’s tactics
(backed by Reith) of sacking his whole workforce, putting balaclava clad security
guards with guard dogs around the docks and bringing in a non-unionised workforce
trained in Dubai.

Having been brought up in a working class family, I still too readily see
bosses as the enemy and unions as on the side of good. Although I could see
there was obviously a desparate need for waterfront
reform
I felt Corrigan’s approach was beyond forgiveness. When Patrick
bought a share in Virgin Blue,
I considered not flying with the airline anymore.

Although, I have yet to watch the whole of the two episodes, Bastard Boys
jolted me out of my comfortable oversimplification of the issue. In particular,
it gave me a totally different view of Chris Corrigan – even though he
believes
he was misrepresented and charicatured by the series. I realised
that like Margaret Jackson, Chris Corrigan was a real person. In his case he
had invested all he had in Patrick and his own livelihood was on the line.
It took me another step along the path in realising just how much my childhood
view of unions as the good guys was also an unreal representation of the truth.
Yes, wharfies had been treated badly in the past and the MUA had won protection
for them. But the reality was that we needed new work practices on the waterfront
and the unions were using bully boy tactics as well.

My own message to Chris Corrigan is to take heart from the series. No you
weren’t portrayed exactly as you would have portrayed yourself. But from the
perspective of a deyed in the wool leftie like me, it made you a real person
to me.

Another changed perspective.

,

Avoiding Boring Meetings

Leon Gettler has a good piece on meetings here.
The trouble with meetings is not meetings themselves but the people who attend them. None of us say what we really think.
Although how we create an environment in which it is OK to say what we think is another matter. Now that sounds like something I would like to write about.

Lucky Entrepreneurs

What type of person makes a good entrepreneur?

I am currently a student at the Australian
Graduate School of Entrepreneurship
. It won’t suprise you to know that
we spent one semester studying Entrepreneurship
and Innovation
. One of the big questions of the seminar subject was the
one I posed at the beginning of this post, as well as the related question
"How can we tell if an entrepreneurial venture will be successful?"

I value the research that has been carried out in this area, but I wonder
about the questions. How do you define success anyway? Even if we agree on
what success is, can we really tell what made a venture successful and what
characteristics of the entrepreneur made it so? In the popular press, we look
at "successful" entrepreneurs like Richard
Branson
. How do we know that for every Richard Branson, there are a thousand
people out there with exactly the same mindset, the same life experience, the
same outloook on risk taking and venture formation who have eitther tried and
failed or never tried at all.

All of that is to assume that you can take two people and say on these range
of measures they are the same. Who is to know that the single most important
measure is the one you left out. Of course just like no two people have the
same fingerprint, no two people are exactly alike. So what’s the point of trying
to find what makes and entrepreneur?

I seriously considerr the possibility that it is all a mattter of luck. The
right person in the right place at the right time with the right idea and with
the right lucky breaks.

I was prompted to write by this piece [sorry can’t login to afr.com to provide
a link — It was the main Leadership piece in the May 3-9, 2007 issue] in BRW.

Kevin
Hindle
is commenting on the 2006 Global
Entrepreneurship Monitor
which, according to the article, found that

Australia is still very much a ‘milk-bar economy’: a nation of small business
owners whose ambitions are limited.

James Womack goes on to say

You’ve got one guy, and the product concept is between his or her ears — no marketing
system, no no supply base, no media, no apparatus, nothing. It is esier to do
it right when you begin with than it is to rework it into right once you are
a way along."

The article then suggests:

A common failing is neglecting to define the business’s purpose.
Womack says most managers say the purpose of the business is to make money, which
is not an observation that leads to action.

The Spiral Path is dedicated to guiding people to think not so much what the
purpose of the business is, but what their own purpose is in starting and running
the business. These two are related but not the same.

Churchill’s never give-in speech

I have often retold the story of Winston Churchill visiting his old
school, Harrow during
the second world war.

According the story, the boys were told that Churchill, as Prime Minister
of Great Britain was a very wise man and they should listen very carefully
to what he would tell them. The were ushered into the school hall and
sat ready to hear to words of the great man.

At the appropriate time in the assembly, Churchill was introduced
to the boys. He stood up solemnly, looked at the boys and said “Never
give in, never give in, never, never, never, never give in.”

I was sure I first heard this story reading Martin
Gilbert’s
work
Winston
S. Churchill: Finest Hour, 1939-1941.

I will have to go and re-read Gilbert’s book because according to The
Churchill Centre
, Churchill actually gave a much
longer speech
.

(Updated Churchill link 4/4/2010)

65 Roses Day Volunteers

I just received this email from Cystic
Fibrosis Victoria
:

CAN YOU = HELP?

We would love the support of volunteers to help us = promote
National Awareness of cystic fibrosis on 65 Roses Day, Friday May
= 25.

  • We need volunteers to = help
    at 14 locations around the CBD to sell merchandise
  • Roadside collectors to = assist
    at 3 main intersections in


    Melbourne at St Kilda, Elsternwick & Toorak
  • Shifts are between 8am =

    11am & 3pm – 6pm.
  • All proceeds will be = donated
    to research to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis
  • Training will be = provided
    if volunteers are available on Tuesday May 22 from 3-4pm & 6-7pm
    = in the lead up to the event
  • If you would like to sell 65 Roses Day merchandise
    in your own network please contact the office for an order form

Please call CFV on 03 9686 1811

  • If you would like to sell 65 Roses Day = merchandise in
    your own network please contact the office for an order = form

Please call CFV on 03 9686 = 1811

Cystic Fibrosis


Victoria



80 Dodds = Street

SOUTHBANK VIC = 3006

Ph:   +613 9686 = 1811 

Fax:  +613 9686 = 3437

Email: = njessop@cfv.org.au

Website: www.cfv.org.au