Poetry of solidarity in hard times

Creeping into our shells

Some people are already having a hard time in the recession.  I can see it on their faces in the village.  And I’m sure there are also many others who are having worse, and who are at home, deeply worried.

If you are one of them, and arrived at this post this weekend, I hope I might persuade you to think back to when you were a kid in the school yard.  What you really hated were the times when other kids wouldn’t play with you.  It was in these times, that we creep into our shell.

But not so, when the teacher took our ball away.  We didn’t go home, or shrink back.  Not at all.  We thought up another game.  And we stuck together.

Solidarity

Sticking together, or solidarity, is the key to surviving bad times, and enjoying them too!

Two poems

If you are still reading, I have two poems for you.  The first is called Wild Geese, and it is by Mary Oliver.   In short, it tells you not to beat yourself up, and to come back out to the yard to play.

The second, I stumbled on the web last night.  It is a love poem, by Nizar Qabbani, and though written by a man for a woman, it reminds us, that togetherness and belonging come from commitment.

Back in those school yard days, there was always one kid, who kept us together and suggested other games.

Come with me

Reach out to someone this weekend?

It does not need to be expensive.  A smile for people in the shops.  A chat over the fence with your neighbour.  A walk with a friend.  A companionable cup of tea.

You may not know whom, but somone may need your solidarity very badly.

Here are the two poems.  I hope they give you comfort and inspiration.

+++++

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

+++++++

Love Compared

by Nizar Qabbani

I do not resemble your other lovers, my lady
should another give you a cloud
I give you rain
Should he give you a lantern, I
will give you the moon
Should he give you a branch
I will give you the trees
And if another gives you a ship
I shall give you the journey.

+++++

P.S.  If you own the copyright for either poem, please do let me know.  And to the authors, I thank you.

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Complicated is horrible. Complexity is beautiful.

Oh, I am so irritated.  I’ve been doing tax returns all day.  They have to be one of the most irritating things in life, and not because someone is taking money off us.  They are irritating because they are convoluted, fiddly, and complicated.

There are plenty of other complicated things in life too.  Airports with signs that send you anywhere except where you want to go.  Bosses who change their minds quicker than change their socks.  And road signs!  Zemanta, the Firefox Addon which searches the web while you write your blog, found this humbdinger of signage from Toronto, dubbed ‘The Audacity of Nope‘.

The opposite of complicated is complex

Instead of the stop-start sensation we get when details are allowed to disrupt the flow of the whole, complexity is when the parts come together to make something bigger themselves – like the mexican wave in a home crowd.

Is eliminating complicatedness and creating complexity the essence of professional life?

Do architects create buildings where we flow, never having to stop and scratch our heads, or to backtrack?

Do brilliant writers grab attention our attention in the first line and take us with them into a world where we follow the story without distraction from out of place detail?

Do leaders describe our group accomplishment, and draw us into a collective adventure, to play our part without constant prodding and cajoling?

How do you create complexity in your work?

In what ways do you help us experience the whole where parts fit in without discord?

  • What is the ‘whole’ thing that you make?  If you can’t name it, can you visualize it, or hear it?
  • What are the essential parts of the whole, and the linkages between the parts that are essential to form the whole?
  • What are the signs that you look out for that the whole is ‘forming’, or ‘not forming’, as it should?
  • What are the extra bits of help that from time-to-time you add for the whole to come to fruition?

I’m interested in the complexity you manage, and the beautiful and satisfying experiences you add to the world.

Come with me

Share your experiences with us?

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Where will you be when the recession ends?

Where are you going to be when the recession ends? And when will it end?daffiodils-by-john-morgan-via-flickr

Out-and-about the parks and landscapes of the internet, three broad scenarios are being discussed:

  • Nothing has changed. This is a temporary downturn. Be careful with your money. Try to avoid being laid off. We’ll be back to normal in 2010, or soon thereafter.
  • The end is nigh. Capitalism is over. And if capitalism is not over, we are going to have a Depression. So go down to the video store to get out some movies on the Great Depression because that is were we are headed.
  • In recent years, we have been spending beyond our means and we need to rethink the basis of our wealth and political power. Cutting back is not the issue. Re-jigging the economy is the issue so that we can emerge ‘re-conditioned’ for the next 30-40 years.

Which camp do you fall into? This is my thinking.

Rough summary of our economic position

The USA has an economy around 5 times the size of the UK’s, and and they have 5 times the population. So we differ in size but not so much in wealth.

China and India have either overtaken the UK last year, or are overtaking us this year in the size of their economy, but they have around 15-17 times our population (each), or over 3 to 4 times the US population.

The US is well ahead of everyone else by a long margin. To stay ahead, though, whether there was a financial crisis or not, they have to do something about their economy.

Obama has been spelling out the issues. The US economy is too dependent on oil. Too many people are reliant on ‘old’ industries, which can be run more efficiently in China and India who also have lower input costs. The numbers of well-educated Chinese and Indian graduates far exceeds the numbers of comparable US graduates.

The issues are not dissimilar in the UK.

My sense of what is important

I get so annoyed to see people being advised to ‘hang on to jobs’ in industries which are in their twilight years. It’s true that as parents we may feel that we have to hang on to whatever income we have, just as as immigrants, for example, run corner shops and drive taxis to give their children a good start in life. But to be too defensive, is not wise.

Since I arrived in the UK, almost one and a half years ago, I’ve been amazed that so many people want to leave. And almost all the young people do.

This is ‘discourse’ to some extent. People talk about going to New Zealand as a way of getting away from something that irritates them. They don’t mean to go, but the idea that they could, relieves them of the trouble of sorting out what bothers them.

When young people say fiercely, “I am going to get away from here”, this too is ‘discourse’, and in part, a currently fashionable way of expressing ambition and determination.

My sense of what we should be giving priority

But, what if we treated the young people of the UK differently?

What if we celebrated their achievements more? What if paid more attention to their dreams? What if we put their dreams more clearly at the top of our national agenda?

Would that be molly-coddlying them? Would that sap their ambition and drive? I don’t think so. I think that knowing we value their dreams as much as their achievements would allow them to pursue their dreams with more confidence and to waste less energy on worrying about failure.

David Whyte, British corporate poet, talks of the dreadful alienation that adolescents feel when they realise that their parents are burdened with life. If we are not living joyously in expectation of where the economy is going, how do we expect our children to?

Come with me

Which industry do you believe is fit for the teen years of this century?

What is catching your eye?

How big will this industry be?

What are its opportunities?

Why does it fascinate you?

I would like to know your dreams.

Which industries do you feel are like daffodil bulbs,  and like to be planted in a good frost, so they can burst into exuberant life at the first hint of spring?

P.S. Thanks to John-Morgan for this wonderful picture of daffodils via Flickr

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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Frazzled? Get a one line job description

I don’t know about you, but the last two weeks have been pretty busy for me.  People are coming-and-going, new projects begin, tax returns are due (January 31 deadline for individual online returns in the UK) and I have all those New Year resolutions swirling around my heads, too.

Poet, David Whyte, talks about being so busy that every one around you appears to be too slow.  The person walking in front of you on the street is in the way; your partner left dirty dishes in the sink, again; you colleague, superior or subordinate has dropped the ball, again.

I hate it when I feel like that. I feel like that now, and I know my ‘job description’ is to blame.   It’s just too busy!

Prune

In December, I ruthlessly cut out anything that is rushed or disorganized.  I learned this trick from commercial bankers.  If you are in a hurry, the answer is No.  You are obviously disorganized and your project will fail.

And lest I forget, I staple evidence of disorganization to the front cover of the file!

But I have pruned and pruned, and still, I have too much that I want to do.

Prioritize

I spent much of my life working in universities.  It surprises most outsiders (and students) that the main job of university lecturers is not to teach.  They are required to teach adequately – I was even told by my Dean once – CHEAT don’t TEACH.

Research is their main task.  It is the only thing they can be promoted for and to protect this priority, people get up to work early in the morning and it is a big no-no to disturb any one ‘working at their papers’ or ‘in the lab’.

Admin or community service comes a poor last and tasks are shared and rotated.  Even being Head of Department is rotated.   You do your share, perfunctorily.  That’s it. And it is done in the afternoon.

I’ve tried priotiising, but I don’t have three goals.  I don’t even have five.  I got down to nine and the list has lengthened since the New Year.

My difficulty is that when I am doing one task, I am worrying about the others.  Once we get beyond entry level jobs, it is not the tasks themselves that is important, it is the interrelationships between tasks that are critical.  To shift sectors, triage is more important than task.  University lecturers add value by showing students where a field is going rather than by reciting the lecture they gave last year and the year before.

Picture

As yet I have never found a system that allows us to track the inter-related progress of several projects and whether we will achieve our grand plan.  What I do, when I need to work at this level, is draw my goals in a circle and imagine bringing all the goals in successfully at the same time.

Pictures are great for seeing interconnections.  Systems theorists are pretty good at drawing pictures of how the world fits together.

What I did this morning was to write my job description in one line.  A job description should only have ONE goal, shouldn’t it?  Basic Fayol.  This how it begins

My job is to achieve, simultaneously, .  .  .  .   .   .

I took a blank piece of paper and put 2009 in a circle in the middle and started putting my sub-goals in circles around the page.  Hey, presto, they fell neatly into five groups.  I thought some might fall away but they grouped quite naturally.

My next test was whether I could I set quarterly and monthly goals for each of the five groups.  I took another page, put 2009 in the middle and drew FIVE spokes, marked off quarters and months for the first quarter, and jotted down some notes.  Yep, this works.  And I got better names for the spokes, making it clearer what I do, why I do it and how each spoke makes the others possible.

And best still, the pull on my attention seems to have resolved a little.  The tasks that have been getting short shrift, somehow feel like they should be done first thing in the morning, though some can be prepared the night before, and the tasks that I enjoy doing but have more elastic timescales can be done in the late afternoon.

Mmmm, definitely worth trying.

Come with me

a) I’ve already said ‘no’ to one or two people this year (amazing), though in each case I’ve been able to follow through with a good introduction or significant friendly help.

b) My prioritization has sucked, but at least I’ve been aware of it. I’m feeling a bit better.

c) I’m testing out my one line job description: my task is to achieve simultaneously .   .   .

A picture would be better still.

Can you state your job description in one line?

Positive psychology for losing weight

Those extra pounds

Have you ever tried to change your diet, and ended up making it worse?  Have you ever resolved to eat more fruit, and then discovered that you are eating to much sugar?  Have you tried to cut down on snacks, then got so hungry that you raided the automatic vending machine and bought a chocolate bar?

The NY Times, this weekend describes a community weight-loss programme, that doctors believe will be no more successful than our solo attempts to lose weight.  Despite its laudable goals, and ideas like taxes on carbonated drinks, doctors believe, it will ‘bounce back’ just as our personal attempts to diet come back to haunt us.

Why is it so hard to change our behaviour and achieve important results?

Dieting is hard, partly because we go about it the wrong way.

What I want to do today is to show you what the relatively young field of positive psychology offers, to help us with the age old problem of  ‘too much of a good thing.

What is positive psychology?

First, I need to tell you what positive psychology is, and somewhat ironically, it is easier to say what is not.

Positive psychology is not positive thinking.  I don’t say to myself it is OK to be overweight, or that everything will be alright.

Positive psychology is not the setting of high but isolated goals such as “I will get more exercise”.

Positive psychology is not the righting of wrongs such as “I will eat fewer calories” or “I will eat less junk food”.

Our behaviors exist in a network of behaviors, and changing one thing requires changing others.  We may badly want to do more exercise, for example, but we may have such long commutes that we have no time.  We might be able to park our car further from the train and walk, but that also might take us past junk food outlets when are tired and hungry.  Often our ‘bad habits’ are locked in to a system.  To ask ourselves to change behaviours, flys in the face of reality.

Positive psychology and losing those pounds

Positive psychology advocates setting positive goals, living life sociably and in context, and doing more, of what we already do well.

Here are five positive approaches that will work for you.

Stage One. Write down all your good eating habits and the ways you take exercise, underline the ones you really enjoy, and do more of them.

Stage Two.  At the end of each day, or at a suitable time like on the commuter train, jot down what you have eaten and what exercise you took, and ask yourself “Why did I do so well?”  Disregard the parts you bombed out.  Concentrate on why you did so well during the last 24 hours.  The strong systems will become apparent and you can do more of them.

Stage Three. Savor your food.  I know we were told to eat more slowly as kids.  That’s important, I believe.  I mean enjoy what you are eating.  Eat what you enjoy and really savor it.  Celebrate each mouthful.  Enjoy the taste, the texture, the smell, the colour, the combinations.

Stage Four. Say grace if you are religious.  If you aren’t, look down and count up the things on your plate that you really love.

Stage Five.  Eat with others, if you can, and make a meal into a social occasion.  Cook together.  Thank the cooks.  Cook what others enjoy.  Wash up together.

I am almost certain that never, ever, in all the times that you have dieted, have you tried Stage One writing down your good habits and doing more of them.

Come with me

Shall we do it together?

And compare notes at the end of the week?

Shall we see if  life becomes more enjoyable and more stylish, and if we are feeling a little more comfortable, and a little less stuffed with the excesses of Christmas?

Are you up for it?

P.S. If you are unwell, or already under the supervision of a doctor, nutritionist or other health professional, you can join us in writing down your good habits, but please don’t change anything until you have consulted your medical advisers.  And if you are unwell, do that soon, you hear?

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Psychologists, 2009 AD, recessions, life

Ned’s challenge

Ned has solved my dilemma about what to write about this weekend.  Commenting on my post on Hope, he asks:

How do positive psychologists quantify this information if you are no longer studying behavior? In other words, how do you maintain empiricism?

Learning to be systematic

As I said in my post on Hope that during my training as a psychologist, Hope and such moral virtues, were out-of-bounds.  Like most psychology departments at the time, we were behaviourists and positivists.  We studied what we could see, and we looked for the underlying ‘laws’ of behaviour.

Learning to watch carefully

I am still in favour of psychologists being taught in this way.  A lot of psychologists arrive from the ‘Arts’ and the ‘laboratory method’ is a good counter-balance to their prior training.  The first step in developing empathy is to recognize the ‘other’.  And even psychologists (particularly psychologists) struggle with this.  If I have to describe you, and you alone, and if I am given the challenge of describing you in exactly the same way as the next person sees you, I begin the journey of separating what I want, from what you want. And as a result, I will be a lot more effective in everything I undertake.

Practically too, quantitative questionnaire-based studies are heaps easier to do for your dissertation!

Learning to tell a story

The analytical tradition is not, though, the whole story.  When we work as psychologists, we have to learn to synthesize information about a  person.  We have to bring together all the measurements we have gathered, and understand the person as a whole.  Regrettably, even at the post-graduate level where people are training to go into practice (as doctors do in the clinical part of their training) psychologists are given little help in this formative task. They are taught, after all, by people whose university careers depend upon being analytical.

At this juncture in a psychologist’s training, people who came from the ‘Arts’ have a better time.  Our measurements need to be woven together into a coherent narrative and people who studied Literature and History at school are now at an advantage.

The new age is the age of synthesis and morality

Practising psychology has been a journey, for me, towards learning to synthesize information.  I was pleased to see that Mihalyi Cziksentmihalyi, who you probably know for his concept of Flow, has predicted that synthesis is the new science.  And more so, synthesis with a moral edge.

  • It does mattter that we can walk in other people’s shoes.
  • It does matter that we can judge the effects of our actions on others.
  • It does matter that we can understand how our actions hurt others, and how an action that seems essential to us might be repulsive, disgusting and quite repellant to other people.
  • It matters too, that we have the capacity to imagine a narrative, or story line, in which we are not at each others’ throats.  Development and world peace depends on our imagination.

We are part of the contests and conflicts of life

The difficulty with the analytical tradition is that it pretends that we are above the fray.  We are part of the story of this planet.  Thankfully.  And I intend to play my part in making the tough decisions of life.  To raise issues. To look for ways forward.  To press my case and the case of those dear to me  To negotiate. To look for common ground.  To apologize when I have it wrong.  And to go to war when necessary.  But understanding that to do so might put me in a position where I get a heap lot wrong.  I’ll try the diplomatic route first.

But above the fray, No!  Always right?  Good lord.  The only way to be always right is to be in a laboratory.   To lock oneself up and throw away the key.

Rethinking psychology

The world is not like this.  We are giving-and-taking all the time. That is life.  That’s the part I like!  Can psychology cope with it?  We need to learn an expression common in management theory.  A business is path-dependent.  It is completely unique in other words.  From studying other businesses, I can develop a sense of the possible.  I can learn to look at my situation methodically from a variety of perspectives.  But they way things turn out is not predicitable.  The way things turn out is the result of all our actions – yours, mine and people we don’t even know.  All these taken together are far too complicated to predict with any specificity.

Occupational hazards

The unknowability of life may be depressing if you are wedded to the idea that the world is predictable.  But who said that it is?  The analytical tradition asks, only, what can we predict?  Unfortunately, if you spend to much time in a psychology laboratory, being rewarded for finding phenomena that are amenable to analysis, you start to think that everything must be analysed and if it can’t be subjected to experimentation that it is not important.  An occupational hazard of being a research psychologist is that you gradually lose your capacity for synthesis under real life conditions.

Are we up for the fullness of life?

David Whyte, British corporate poet, has a wonderful poem that he calls a Self-Portrait.  It begins:

“It doesn’t interest me if there is one God or many gods”

and ends

“I want to know if you are willing to live, day by day, with the consequence of love and the bitter unwanted passion of your sure defeat.  I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even gods speak of God.”

So while I endorse analytical training for people embarking on a career as a psychologist, training in synthesizing information is also a necessary part of our ‘clinical’ training.  At the same time, we learn to understand that it is not about our clients getting it right, or avoiding the downside of life.  It is about our clients entering the fray.  Of putting their passions at the disposal of the collective.  Of living with glory, and with defeat.  And doing so knowing that a full life for the collective and themselves depends upon they doing their job ,with their special talents, even though sometimes it feels like a ‘cross to bear’, and a ‘cross to bear’ with no certainty that we are even doing the right thing.

One age at a time

That is life.  For most twenty-somethings, this is very hard to understand.  I am happy they take the first step in understanding their personality is different from others, and that to have winners, by definition we must have losers.  Those concepts are hard enough.  They will learn more later, just as our stumbling one years olds delighted us by running like gazelles in their teenage years.

What’s next?

2009 promises to be a hard year.  The financial crisis is even worse than most people understand.  My analytical training helps me here and I am collecting visual explanations on the page Financial Crisis Visually.

This month has also been a horrible month with out-and-out conflict breaking out in Gaza (hence some of the fiercer imagery, perhaps).

But it is our year.  It is our time. And our life, in 2010, depends entirely on what we do together, now.

Come with me,

life is contested, but it is ours.

P.S.  Ned has persuaded me to re-orient this blog more to non-psychologists.  Please let me know if I am on the right path and what you think I should be doing!

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Hope: how can this touchy-feely stuff help me during the recession?

“I hope so.”

How many times have you said that, and in the true spirit of England meant “I very much doubt it”, or ,”It had better, or someone must watch out.”

Hope was out of bounds

When I studied psychology, we didn’t study phenomena such as hope.  ‘Behaviour’ was ‘in’.  If we couldn’t see it, it didn’t exist.  If it didn’t respond to the experimenters’ manipulation, it was unimportant.

Character, intent, and morality were out.  Be like a rat, or psychologists wouldn’t pay any attention to you.  (Hmm, good idea perhaps?)

Virtues

Positive psychology, under the leadership of Martin Seligman, has changed all that.  Now we study virtue.  Are you zestful?  Are you prudent?

And we aren’t going to impose a menu on you either.  We’ll help you label the virtues that are dear to you, and have been dear to you for a long time.

Then we’ll help you build your life around them.

Hope

Hope is one of these virtues, but it is a tricky one.  It has a double meaning for positive psychologists as it does in lay language.  Some of us ‘specialize’ in hope as others ‘specialize’ courage, humility or love of beauty. If you want to label your ‘specialities’, you can take the virtues test here.

This is how positive psychologists define hope.

Hope [optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation]
Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about
Hope, optimism, and future-mindedness – You expect the best in the future, and you work to achieve it. You believe that the future is something that you can control.

Hope is linked to control

Sadly, this defintion does not distinguish what we can control  from what we cannot.  People who want to control everything are likely to get very frustrated.  Too much hope of this kind is likely to be anything but a strength.

Equally, we know that hope is essential to all of us.  It is not just a ‘speciality’ chosen by some.  When we have hope, we are less stressed, even when conditions, objectively, are bad.  Those of us who design organizations and institutions as part of our professional work know that leaving control in the hands of individuals is the foundation stone of a viable, vital and vibrant collective.

Torturers understand the importance of hope and deliberately take control out of people’s hands. That is the nature of terrorism, whether it is a bomb on the tube, bullying in a school or factory, or threatening to drown someone when we question them for information.  The intent is to break our will by inducing “learned helplessness”, or the collapse of hope.

Hope is not just a virtue; it is as necessary as air

And there we turn the full circle.  If we are living in the shadow of a bully who is intent on removing hope, it is so, so, important not to let them get to you.  They are likely to succeed, at least in part, because we aren’t miracle workers.  But for every glimmer of hope we retain for yourself and others around us, we are winning.  They only win if they remove hope completely.

Positive psychologists often quote a concentration camp survivor who went on to train as a psychiatrist: Vaclev Havel.

“Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.”

Sometimes life sucks

We have to remember that sometimes life sucks, and sometimes ‘shit happens’.  And sometimes it is big stuff that we didn’t invite and cannot control.  When focus on the randomness of life, we rehearse our sense that life is nonsense.  We deny hope.  And we break our own spirt as surely as a torturer.

But what can we do instead?

How do we nurture hope?

When we start to ‘take inventory’, to ‘start close in’, we express faith that our strengths were given to us to use in the situation we find ourselves in, and that we should use them even if the situation is awful and indeed, because the situation is awful.

Hope is not belief in an end point.  Hope is belief in a beginning point.  Hope is a belief in you and in me.

Come with me

What is your beginning point?  What is the best part of being you? I need to know too.  It strengthens my hope that it will all ‘make sense regardless of the way it turns out’.

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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The art of sailing in rough financial waters

Yesterday, I was talking to a young man who apologized for his loss of confidence.  He has had the spectacular privilege of being shipwrecked not once, but twice, in the grand drama of the 2008 financial crisis in the UK.

“Of course your confidence has been knocked”, I replied.  “But you’ve lost confidence in the world rather than yourself.  You just don’t get that yet.”

The earth is moving under our feet and I am seasick

The first time I went on a cross-Channel ferry,  I found myself suddenly feeling immensely ill, almost as if I had woken up in the middle of the night with food poisoning.  I was wide awake though.  I sat down abruptly, quite alarmed by the sensation of being critically ill.  Fortunately, my companions were experienced sailors and they realized the cause of my distress.  “We’re moving”, they said, very gently.  I would have worked it out eventually, but their kind words saved me from several minutes of worrying and the magnification of my physical discomfort.

I still get seasick, though I pride myself on my ability to puke neatly, to lie down quietly, and to take the discomfort without disturbing the rest of the party.  Yachting in the Caribbean last year, I resolved this has simply got to stop.  If I want to go on boats, and enjoy swimming in a warm sea, I have to learn to cope with ‘the earth moving under my feet’.

The unknown and the unknowable

I would rather not be made redundant of course,  and I would rather this had not happened to my young friend and many of his friends.  But it will happen. To many of us.

We have no way of knowing how long the recession will last.  This recession fits into the category of unknowable rather than unknown.  I learn all about it that I can.  I am collecting good explanations on the page Financial Crisis Visually.

But it is not knowable. Not even the experts know what is happening, or how long it will last.

So how do I cope with this ‘unknowableness’ and the equivalent feeling of being very seasick?

I need to plan for the very short term and keep lots in reserve.

  • What can I get done right now, today?
  • What are the wide range of choices of things I might do tomorrow?

If I can keep those two in balance, I’ll do OK.

A practical plan

Practically-speaking:

  • I need to spend some time every evening going over what I achieved each day, and adding it to my resume.
  • I need to be on top of my finances, to the last penny, and know exactly what I’ve spent and what I owe.  I also need to collect what is owing to me, promptly.
  • Then I need to list all my opportunities in a file or a loose leaf binder.
  • My fourth evening task is to pick out what I must do and will finish on the morrow.   I want achievements in-hand and on my resume.
  • Lastly, I leave plenty of time for the unusual and the unexpected.  About 80%.  That’s what’s needed in uncertain times.

It’s OK for me

Yes, I know. When we are facing a crisis, all of this feels like busy work. We just want it done.  We want it over.  Look at my posts from yesterday and last week.  I was in a blue funk myself.

But if you are in a ship wreck, the last thing you do is start swimming madly hoping to chance on another boat.  You must get clear of the boat that is sinking, but it’s best to get in a lifeboat with as much food, water and safety equipment that you can.

You can bring the sense of panic, or sea-sickness, down by sitting down every evening and doing the exercise I listed.

And if you miss a night, don’t beat yourself up. This is not a religious ritual.  It is a process which helps you get the results you want.   Get back to it the next day.

And let’s do it together

Let me know how to improve the advice.  When all is said and done, we are in the same boat, on stormy seas.

Plan for the near term, finish today what can be done today, put it on your resume, and keep lots in reserve.

See you on the beach!

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

Frog or fly: surviving the pain of the recession in style

I’m a frog, watch me!

Do you wake up in the morning determined to survive the recession in style?  To leapfrog over your friends in style? To sail ahead?  To not look back?  To just call over your shoulder, keep up mates, keep up!

No wait, maybe I am a fly

Or, is your day more like a fly’s?  Do you feel as if you keep bashing against a window?  Sore and bruised, you try harder and harder, yet the window doesn’t shift?

Well this is the point. When you’ve figured out the window, you will feel like the frog. But you will need to figure out windows first, and right now you don’t even have any idea about windows and glass.  All you know is that you hurt .  . .  a lot.

I invite you to step back and take inventory

Like the fly and the window, there are so many obstacles in the world that we barely apprehend, never mind comprehend.  The key in these times is to step back.

  • The smart fly remembers his goal is to get to the other side.  It would be nice to act like a frog and show off to his friends.  But getting to the other side is the main point.
  • The smart fly stops repeating himself.  And hurting himself in the progress.  He tries twice, at most, but once does just as well.  He bashes the window, notes the pain, then flies back a little, not to worry about window, which is beyond understanding (he is a fly), but to take inventory.
  • The smart fly doesn’t reset his goal (or spend hours on the internet looking for better ways to set goals).  He knows what he wants.  The fly doesn’t chant mantras – I am a good little fly, I am a good little fly.  He has something he must do first.
  • The smart fly flies back a little, as soon as he feels the pain, and takes inventory.  Wings intact? I am still flying.  Check. Eyes OK? Can still see the goal.   Hey, what is that I see?  A door?  Eh?  If I take a slightly longer route, if I just fly other there, and then there, I am where I want to go? Is it that easy?

The smart fly steps (flies) back, takes inventory of what is working, and gives himself a chance to spot other possibilities.

So I am not a frog.  I am probably a fly

At least I can be a sensible and quick thinking fly.  I will not try to defeat windows, nor will I ignore them.

When I feel the pain, I’ll immediately step back and start counting what I have in hand. My leap in faith is that possibilities will emerge. They usually do!

I’ll worry about windows another day!

****************************************************************

P.S.   This post began as a follow up to my post last week on fear.  It began as a tribute to fellow Tweeter @GaryJDay, who in some brisk repartee on Twitter about my bashes against windows in a difficult project, got me to fly back and take stock.  Inevitably, I spotted opportunities at once. Thanks, Gary.

Then as it happens from time to time, I managed to delete the completed post (I’d spent a lot of time on it too!).  Life had already moved on by the time I got back to rewriting it.  Ned had persuaded me to try shifting my focus from other professionals to the people who what to know how to find work they enjoy (how am I doing Ned?); and an NLP practitioner, Yvonne, in my village, had sent out the story about the fly in an email.  If you want intensive personal coaching to keep your head on a difficult project, do talk to Defining Moments.

So let’s say it once again!

Remember, worry about windows another day.  If I am a fly, I don’t even know what they are.  Nor do I care overly much.

But the pain is real, and as soon as I feel it, I will use it as a signal to step back and start taking inventory. Wings, eyes . . . Hey, what’s that? Maybe a possibility!

Let me know if it works for you!

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

You, me and the woes of General Motors

I’ve been collecting every visual and pictorial explanation of the financial crisis that I can find and storing on my page: Financial Crisis Visually.

Today, via @flowingdata, I came across this poster chart of the collapse of GM.

fallofgmwallstats545

Wouldn’t it be a good idea if every company had its strategic position boldly displayed on the canteen wall?  What internal factors matter?  Where does our money go? What external factors are we watching?

I am sure Jess would be happy to have the commission!  She is also the artist behind other visuals I have stored.

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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