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Tag: British

Did you have a good adventure today?

Whinging poms seem to like adventure ~ a lot

I’ve lived abroad all my life so I still notice things in Britain that other people take for granted.

Like many noobes here, particularly from the ex-colonies, I’m amazed at British whinging.  People don’t complain.  They whinge.  Like satire, which I must admit I enjoy, whinging expresses criticism and negativity, but doesn’t try to change anything.  It is essentially the icing of negativity and complacency ~ an “I’m alright Jack” outlook on life.  Hence the colonial mystification.  We are doers.  We get jumpy when we aren’t fixing a fence post or shoring up a bridge. (Remember that!  Always put us to work.  We are insufferable otherwise.)

Brits enjoyed the closure of European airspace

The great grounding of aircraft across Europe, courtesy of the Icelandic Volcano and ‘winds blowing the wrong way’, brought out another side to the British.

After the first day of irrational rage from some passengers yet to leave British shores, Brits set to figuring out places to stay when all hotels were chock-a-block.  They set about crossing Europe, taking each leg at a time, leaving fate to find the hotel and transport for the next leg. Young and old traveled for days sleeping in vehicles or on any dirty floor that they could find.

They enjoyed the scenery.  They explored cafes normally patronized by truck drivers.  They helped each other out.  Uniformily, they talked about the ‘adventure’ and their new appreciation of what and who they met along the way.

Maybe Brits whinge because they are bored?

And it got me thinking.  Maybe Brits whinge because Britain is boring.  I don’t find it boring. It’s big and anything you want is here, somewhere.

But the daily grind of long hours on public transport to do dull repetitive jobs is boring.  Maybe Brits are predisposed to enjoy the unpredictable where they have to solve real problems with other people.  How people have come alive!

Turn work into an adventure?

Maybe we should jettison all these tiresome employee engagement forms and ask one question as employees leave the building: did you have a good adventure today?

Did you have a good adventure today?

What do you think?

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Don’t achieve your goals! Enjoy them. They’ll be gone far too soon!

I Want Rhythm Not A To Do List

When I was young, I loved To Do lists. What a buzz! I would list everything I had to do, set a priority and set about ticking it off!

I loathe To Do Lists now. I threw away my diary years ago when I worked on an MBA programme and the lecture times changed so frequently that my diary looked like a dog’s breakfast!

Now I like a rhythm. I like to sense the time during the week, the month, the day, the year that I should be doing whatever I should be doing!

Rhythmless Britain Where Seasons  Take Us By Surprise

It is difficult to dance through life in Britain. Bills arrive at odd times and are paid at odder times. The tax year begins on the 6 April – why? Who knows. There is no rhythm to anything. People even seem surprised when winter approaches. “It’s cold”, people say. It’s December. What did they expect? I know what I expect.  “Good!  It is cold.  Now I can  .  .  .!”

My Seasons By The Bottle

I want my life to be a dance with my goals. Like these bottles at the Vesuvius Cafe on Canary Wharf in London. 52 bottles laid out in 12 sets, I want to mark the passing of the seasons with the right wine and the right food. I want to celebrate the seasons of life by going to the market to buy food in season and cook it with a sense of adventure.

I want my head around learning to dance with life. I don’t want to spend my time chasing the clock and ticking lists. Lists and clocks lower quality of life as surely as squalid air travel and grubby packaging around supermarket food!

It is not only Luddites who like to savor life

Now believe me, I am no Luddite. Never have been. I like progress. I like thinking up better ways of doing things.

But I want to savor life. I want to have time to listen to people. I want to notice the seasons and enjoy them, not complain about them.

To represent the season of my life, I have a handful of goals

I’m not sure I have the system right, but at any time in our lives, I think it is good to have 3 to 5 ‘goals’. When I was in New Zealand, I had 3.  I had my rather large university course.  I had settling in a new country.  And I had departing from an old country. That’s enough! What didn’t fit into those three folders had to be put aside.

Now I have five ‘goals’ ~ I wish I had three but I have 5!

  • I have settling in a new country
  • I have my writing ~ this blog mainly
  • I have my community and town of Olney
  • I have my next website supporting career decisions
  • And I have the website I want make – a gratitude site.

My goals change with the season of my life

In due course, the season of settling in (another) new country will pass and my goals will change.

For now, I can ask whether what I am doing helps me learn how to achieve these goals. What do I learn about my own thinking? What do I learn about my overall story from each of these goals and the way they come together?

It is the way I explore these 5 goals that will give me the rich life that I take into the next season as surely as my summer harvest must be full to provide a good autumn and a good Christmas supports an energetic spring.

I’ll achieve my goals better if I slow down and explore them well

My goals are a framework to coddle my efforts and softly support the tentative explorations of the land in which I live.

The way I explore my goals determines how well I meet them.  To explore them well, I must make plenty of space for them and stop rushing around being in a hurry.

Put that to do list aside!  What are your goals?  What are you learning about how to achieve them.  Enjoy!  In a few years, these goals will be gone from your life and replaced by others.

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Are you like a zombie bank? Zombie life on borrowed time and money (Part Three)

Are you sleep walking through your life?

Well are you alive? Do you have pulse? At best, are you sleep walking through life? Are you wandering from one thing to another not particularly enthused by anything, maybe grumbling when you have a chance, spreading your vague dissatisfaction but wishing you weren’t?

Are you keeping company with people who are dull and dusty? Do you work in an industry or a company which is really a zombie? Slowly dying, but not aware of their slow decay and certainly not in the market for anything lively or exciting?

Deteriorating as slowly as possible is not a life. Denying that we are just deteriorating as slowly as possible is not a life either.

6 symptoms of stagnation and deteriorating as slowly as possible

John Olgbert listed 6 symptoms of a community that is “slowly deteriorating”, stagnating in self-satisfaction and lack of urgency.

1. “Phoning-it in”

We go through the motions. We take short-cuts. We do our second-best work in the belief that we are so good that 2nd best is good enough. When we are challenged, we even argue that no one will notice – and probably laugh.

Assessment: What task will take the longest this week – either in one go or when you do it repeatedly? Are we going to try a new way of doing it or are we going to use the same methods and words that we have recycled for years?

5 If you will add a completely fresh and flourishing look

3 If you are making an improvement

1 If you are following a script written by you or by any one else.

2. Cynicism

When other people do better than us, are we are jealous or envious or admiring and curious. Do we find some way to diminish the successes of others so that we don’t have to take any action ourselves, either to catch up, or to advance our own dreams?

Assessment: Who does what we do so much better than we do? What do they do that we would like to do just as well? Or are we able to dismiss our dreams readily with “don’t have time”, “not important”, “not my priority”? Of course not, :), that’s why we noticed in the first place.

5 I know someone who does a better job than I do and I watch what they do with curiosity

3 I am jealous of someone but I do try to find out how they do what they do

1 I don’t care!

3. Nostlagia

We spend more time describing what used to be and how good it was than talking about what we are doing now and the people we are with now.

Assessment: What were the best conversations that we had during the week. How many were about the past and how many are about now!

5 Our enjoyable conversations about now exceed enjoyable conversations about other times, other places and other people by 5:1

3 Our enjoyable conversations about now exceed enjoyable conversations about other times, other places and other people by 3:1

1 Our enjoyable conversations about now exceed enjoyable conversations about other times, other places and other people by 2:1 or less

4. Few volunteer

We don’t volunteer to lead and no one else does either! Fewer and fewer people want to be part of this game!

Assessment: How many young people are banging on you door to be taken on as an apprentice? How many tasks did you volunteer to do with a spring in your step knowing that this is a community that you really want to be part of?

5 We have more good volunteers for leadership positions and they volunteer without cajoling

3 We have enough good volunteers for leadership positions but we have to put some effort into attracting them and rewarding them

1 We have not been able to find enough people to take on leadership positions

5. Dull tasks don’t get done

The little things that make the difference don’t get done and feel like drudgery.

Assessment: Do you spend all day chasing people to do what no one wants to do?

5 Everything is shipshape here and I wonder how and when all this work gets done

3 Work gets done but I do have to make a list and double check

1 There are small tasks everywhere that are yet to be completed

6. Self-importance

Even though the celebration is over and we are in a new race with new people and new priorities, we are still introducing ourselves as winners of the last race.

Assessment: We are rightly proud of what we achieve and so is every one else. Everyone admires us and we rarely hear any negative feedback. Of course, everything is perfect around here 🙂

5 We are alive to differences in opinions and interests and when we agree to differ we do so respectfully expecting to join forces on other projects

3 We do have goal but we expect to be respected by our rivals

1 Rivals? What rivals?

Rate your life and your involvement with our community and company!

I’ve used this to rate the various places I have worked. It provides a good summary of when we should be thinking of “recrafting” our jobs. A rating less than 25 and we should we listening to Dr Rao on Googletalk (YouTube) and doing some career housekeeping!

Of course, if you have rated 18 or below, you will be feeling so energy less, you will click away and look for another diversion.   Do you yourself a big favor and right this minute, right a short summary of your day, figure out what you could do better.  Then right away, write down Why you did so well. Do that now.  Recover your life.  Fall back in love with life again.  Even if it seems the most impossible thing to do.  Begin.

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Are you like a zombie bank? Zombie life on borrowed time and money (Part One)

My Saturday mornings are zombie time and this week I have been pondering zombie-lives

How do you spend your Saturday mornings? Some people race around. I find that the best review programmes tend to be on radio and TV on Saturday mornings and I like to let the world wash over me, get up late, and spend some time reflecting on how the week went before I go out to do the shopping and join friends for a meal.

During the week I tend to push observations that are not particularly practical to the back of my mind. In my Saturday morning time, I pull them to the front and tidy them up – make sense of them.

This week I kept brushing up against full-scale denials

In quite unrelated incidents I remembered and noticed a peculiar habit that some people have ~ that we must all have ~ of denying reality.

Of course, it is absurd to think we ever have a completely accurate grasp of the world around us. And we know that there is nothing more delightful and shocking than the view of the world from a completely different perspective. But sometimes we actively deny reality.

Mother of an abused child syndrome

  • I once lived and worked with people who had what I called “mother of the abused child look.” Whenever anything difficult came up, they looked past your left ear.

No one else lives here syndrome

  • I lived previously in a place with quite shocking art. It had no depth perception and the background was often blurred. The background certainly never had people in it except as a silhouette on the horizon.

We are invented the moon, we really did

  • I’ve known communities who live a perfectly Walter Mitty life. They have quite grandiose ideas about their contribution to the world matched only by shocking squalor of their physical circumstances and sparseness of their professional knowledge.

Denial in the big bad West

In the big bad West of the developed world, there is another phenomena. This is not necessarily an individual phenomena, I might add. We all do the things I describe, so it is a cultural phenomena – a collective way that we experience our collective life and express our collective purpose.

As it happens, as it does, a good description of this phenomenon arrived in my Google Alerts in a post on leadership from by John Ortberg, whom I don’t know, but I take it from the details is a Christian minister in the USA. Sadly there is no comment box to leave a note appreciating his work. It you are running an Alert on yourself, thank you.

Deteriorate as slowly as possible

John makes the point that many people seem to live by a motto “Deteriorate as slowly as possible.”

When you have been big, rich and powerful, inevitably there is some decline ~ at least in bigness, richness and power.  Inevitably when you live in a country that is big, rich and powerful, then you have, say, a 66% chance of not really being big, rich or powerful yourself and you live in the reflected glory of people who make your country big, rich and powerful.

The flip side of success then is deterioration. That is is just reality.  It is not a psychological phenomenon.

It becomes sad, it becomes a denial or reality, when we aren’t aware of our deterioration, or we are stuck in deterioration ~ moaning, complaining and whinging such as the English are prone to do. Deterioration is part of our life. It has to be as the shadow of success.  But we must live well within it.

How should we deal with deterioration?

How should we deal with deterioration? Gracefully? That is one option. Gluttonously – that is another option – I know someone who said she enjoyed living in decadent societies. But why not exuberantly? Why can’t we enjoy the morphing and regeneration that is a natural part of life as a snake changing its skin? Why can’t we celebrate the cyclical shriving? Why can’t we celebrate newcomers and mourn the departure of old ways in dignity?

I’ll list John Orteg’s questions for recognising communities who are deteriorating in an unhealthy way in Part Three: Questions to Recognise Cultural Deterioration and What To Do About IT

Part Two: Deny Deterioration at the Cost of Your Love of Life

Part Three: 6 Symptoms of Deteriorating as Slowly as Possible

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Menus are for strangers: Good menus=Good strangers=Good business

Eating at your local

I love walking  into my local restaurant and being greeted by name. Isn’t it wonderful to go where our preferences are known and the proprietors add that special touch that takes the food from great to delightful?

I love it. I work at it. I always want a ‘local.’

Menus for strangers

At my ‘local’, I never look at the menu. I leave the choice of my meal to the chef. They know what is is good today.

But a stranger, as stranger, as stranger needs a menu. Menus help them get oriented. Menus lay out the terms of a contract clearly. Menus help a “noobe” get through the first stage of finding their way about. If it is clear, they settle down, and fit in.

A modern economy needs ‘good menus’

We hear a lot about trust these days and the converse ~ targets. UK seems to have got itself in a muddle.

  • We do need good menus,.so that strangers can find their way around.
  • We need to put back the road signs that were taken down during WWII as well and rearrange the others so they aren’t cluttered.
  • We need clear ‘menus’ for all public services so that people know what is on offer and what they must do in return (the price).

But menus aren’t there to limit people

We don’t have to stick to the menu precisely. It is not an “offer” nor a “contract”.

We look at the menu and then we make an order.  That is followed by a confirmation. It is OK for a restaurant to say we are out of fresh scones but we do have some delicious waffles.

It is also OK for a restaurant to vary the price because the menu is not an offer. Restaurants just don’t do vary the price because it would cause a muddle and muddle is what we are trying to avoid.

Menus are for noobes

The menu is there to help ‘noobes’ quickly establish the main points.

  • It’s infuriating when the menu is garbled.
  • It’s soul-destroying when the menu is full of spin and is nothing like the “real contract”
  • It’s unwelcoming when the provider wants to stick to the menu and can’t move up to a real-relationship when we are ready to do so

Successful economies have good ‘menus’ to welcome strangers

In a fast-moving modern economy, most of us are strangers most of the time. We need good information to keep the movement going easily.

  • Good menus welcome strangers whom we need to prosper
  • Good menus help strangers get oriented so we move quickly towards a contract
  • Good menus are not the contract and should not be confused with the contract. Confusing the menu with a contract is, well, confusing.   is not good manners. It is not legal. It is not honest. It is neither good business nor good running of the economy. It is certainly bad politics. People understand when they are getting ‘done’ even if there is little they can do about it a the minute.

First good menus. Get a sense of what is possible at what price. Then make the order. Then give the confirmation. Then deliver. Then pay.

That’s how it works. Good businesses move people to status of ‘locals’ as quickly as possible and let them tweak what they want at step 3 where they vary

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The ONE big reason why I am not worried about the banking crisis

The banking crisis is bad and a lot worse than most people think.  But I am not worried.  And this is why.  On front after front, scientists and science-based professions are making enormous technological advances.

As I am a British resident, I am interested in this:

Who and where are the top scientists and technologists in UK?

Juan Enriquez talking on science at TED (via YouTube).

UPDATE July 2010:  The science appears to be out there but business seems to be sitting on its hands  . . . or on its cash rather.

Business isn’t moving spare cash from old industries to new.  The failure to allocate capital to new productive industries would be catastrophic at any time.

In the midst of a financial crisis, not funding growth will bury us.  Couple the removal of cash from the economy by business with the austerity measures in Europe and by state governmnents in the US, we have a recipe for  a depression – not a double dip recession – a depression.

It’s time to find businesses that are going somewhere and going somewhere despite impending chaos.  Get behind them.  Put all your skill and connections into making them work.

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Recruitment agents and Opportunity UK

Andy at SironaConsulting reported earlier today that the former CEO of Woolworths has started a new recruitment agency.  For non-British readers, Woolworths was a High Street chain which, at its peak, was a precursor of $1 shops.  This year, it finally went under and put a lot of people out of work.

Andy wondered how the CEO of a failed company could front a start up and his question led me to a question of my own.

Which recruitment agencies in the UK (or elsewhere) specialise in the 4 BCG segments?

Cash cows

Cash cows dominate their own market but are growing slowly if at all.  They typically offer stable careers, plenty of training and good benefits, such as final salary pension schemes.  They are a great place to raise a family.  And  importantly, cash cows tend to recruit from other cash cows.  There is an inside track of cash cows, so to speak.

Downside:  If you have been working in a cash cow, you’ve been living a soft life.  You are ill-prepared to enter the hurly-burly of a small business and the other 3 segments.  Once in cash cows, it is better to stay.


Question-marks are typically start-ups.  They don’t have much cash and pay low wages with stock options.  If the company makes it, like founding employees of Google, employees get very rich indeed.

Downside:  If the company does not make it, you have little to show for the years you spent with them.  This is not a good place for someone with a family to support or someone who wants to return to a cash-cow.


Stars are in a high-growth phase.  Basic pay is still modest and benefits are not luxurious.  Indeed, bonuses are linked to performance and may be lavish to compensate for the low pay and the very real possibility of not receiving a bonus at all.

Downside:  The official downside is that if growth does not happen, you will not get a bonus.  The real downside is two fold.  You only know how to do business in growth conditions.  Anyone can do business in an up-turn.  Can you also succeed in a down turn?   And as we have all learned, some growth is fictious.  If you don’t really understand the business, you might be involved in a Ponzi scheme.


Dogs have had their day.  They no longer dominate their segment and they are no longer growing.  Oddly, though, employees are paid very well in a dog and in cash, not benefits or stock-options or performance bonuses.  Why?  Well obviously, no one with any sense will work there unless they are paid almost in advance!

Downside:  You make a lot of money helping to squeeze the last pennies out of a dog but you become a dog specialist.  You would be disruptive in the lazy life of a cash cow.  Startups and their delayed payments will scare you. And you don’t know anything about growth.  Once in a dog, you move from dog to dog.

Recruitment Agencies

The credit crunch has changed the trading conditions for companies in the UK quite and it is likely that many companies have switched segments.  The star of yesterday may well be the dog of today.

An intuitive understanding of the four segments and the HR policies that go with them seem to play beneath current public discussion about the credit crunch.

  • Should cash cows have been managed like stars and hasn’t this confusion led to their collapse?
  • Can the banks be reformed back into the slow, passive cash-cows they once were?
  • Now that derivatives hang around the bank’s necks like albatrosses, are they not indeed dogs?

For my part, I suspect the banks are simply stars that were managed with insufficient understanding of the business.  But if they had been managed as startups (which is consistent with a level of ignorance about a business and its trajectory), they should have had delayed stock options.   And given their strategic importance to UK, the powers-that-be should have insisted on some careful modularization and ring-fencing of risk.

It might be possible to mould the banks back into the slow and cautious form of the cash cows that we once knew banks to be, but I wonder if cash cows are made so readily.   I suspect that banks need to be unbundled into the four segments: safe operations of cash cows,  unknowable outcomes typical of start-ups, growth related work of stars,  and cashing-up operations of dogs.  But I’m not on the inside.  This is only armchair analysis.

What I am curious about, given Sirona Say’s post of today, is which recruitment agencies specialise in cash-cows, which in startups, which in stars and which in dogs?

And how has the credit crunch changed the mix of companies you deal with and hence your own focus and service?

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A plan big enough to include now!

Feb 8 2009 High Street South & Steeple snow pi...
Image by joolney via Flickr

Will your degree really take you where you want to be?

I’ve just read story in the TimesOnline about a mature student who returned to university and read psychology, very successfully, only to find that there are insufficient places for students to complete their professional qualifications.

I am sorry to hear this story. There is a breach-of-confidence here that shames us all.   When students go to university, they accept in good faith our implied promises of progression within their degree and access to their chosen profession.

Very sadly, these promises are often made lightly.  And quite often universities deliberately conceal the facts, if not by commission, then by omission.  They quite consciously don’t collect information on student destinations, and they just as consciously don’t make these facts available.  It is certainly time for regulators to insist that these facts are published on University websites and kept up-to-date!

Not only do I think publishing student pass rates and destinations should be mandatory.  I think universities should loan fees to students and recover the loans themselves!

Caveat emptor

Until the day that regulations are tightened up, then I afraid it is a matter of caveat emptor, buyer beware.  Students need to be wary of making large investments in services that have no warranty!  Should they discover that the university’s promises are inflated, they will be able to recover neither their money nor, more importantly, their time.

Craft a life plan that is far bigger than uni and the professions

So what can students do to avoid this trap?

The advice from contemporary positive psychologists is this.  Don’t plan your university studies around a specific job and employment route! Neither is guaranteed.  Indeed, we have seen from the banking crisis that nothing in this world is guaranteed.

Rather, see your university education as a supplement to your life plan.  Let me give you this example.

Young Nick Cochiarella from my village of Olney has already launched his first social network, SpeakLife while he is at college.  He’s a hardworking guy and he also has a job at the local Coop.  He is taking a slightly circuituous route doing technical training before he goes to university.  But he is not waiting for anyone.  It is true that his hard work still guarantees him nothing.  But he is not deferring his dreams, and his university training supports, rather than defines, his life’s purpose.

But I need a job now!

It can be tough to start living our dreams.  We often get into an enormous tangle.

The biggest distractor is the desperate belief that we will somehow be safe when we follow a road carved out by others.  But it is not safe, as we have seen.

And even if it were safe, why do we think that other people’s dreams will be enough for us?

Wouldn’t it be better to have our own dreams and to work with others to find where we can temporarily work together to make the path easier and broader for both of us?

A plan big enough to include now

Ned Lawrence has been challenging me to refocus this site on the needs of the ordinary person – the person who lives these dilemmas.

What do you think?

Is it possible to make a plan that is big enough to include now?

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From anger to effective action

Anger: Stage Two of the Banking Crisis

Today, senior bankers fronted up to a Select Committee to make their apologies.  Shortly afterward, BBC ran a chat show and asked the public whether apologies were enough.  The public had a lot to say and the BBC presenter was clearly testing the depth of our anger.

Anger is Stage Two in the FIVE stage process of receiving bad news: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

So what does acceptance look like and how do we get there?

David Whyte, corporate poet, tells a good story that helps us understand the beginning and end of the five stage process, what we have to do to move from start to finish,  and why it is so difficult to take the first steps.

Whyte was trekking in Nepal.  He had left his friends and came, alone, on a ravine with a rope bridge in poor state of repair.  He was horrified.  It was too dangerous to use the bridge and too late to turn back and rejoin his companions.

So many situations are similar. We are stuck. It is too dangerous to do what we want to do and we cannot immediately see a way out of our predicament.  We are overcome by a mix of frustration, anxiety, shame and fear, and are in Stage One and Stage Two.  We are ‘all emotion’, and reasonably so.  After all, we are in trouble.

But in that funk, we cannot think clearly and cannot find a way out of our dilemma.

Tomorrow, I’ll break the situation into psychological terms and point out what we have to do if we are ever to move on.

Come with me!

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Sing and dance to the music of the recession!

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance & the financial crisis

Over the last one -and-a-quarter years, since the run on Northern Rock, I’ve been making a concerted effort to understand the credit crunch, the financial crisis and the recession.  The nature of understanding big, bad events is that we are so busy trying to understand them that we have little time to reflect.

Typically, we follow a five stage process.

  • First, we deny the crisis either saying “I’m OK – it doesn’t affect me” or conversely ranting “This can’t be happening.”
  • Then we move on to anger, when we are quite clear we are not to blame and that someone else such as politicians and bankers should be punished for getting us in to our mess.
  • When we are a bit further along, we work out what will stay the same in our lives and what we can can cut out.
  • The next stage is to resign ourselves to our mess dragging on for twenty years or so,  and we are actually secretly relieved because if the mess is that big, there is nothing you and I, ordinary Joe citizen, can do about it.
  • And eventually we begin to dig beneath the surface of the crisis and, in this case, set about upgrading our financial know-how and skills.

Where are you?  And where are the people around you?

My job as a psychologist

I have a page where I store good, accessible explanations of how we got into the financial crisis and I will expand it to include the financial know-how that you and I should have.

Being a psychologist though, I think it is my job to bring to your attention key psychological ideas that equip you for understanding the recession and the ways we react to it.

  • The first psychological idea in this post is described in the at the beginning.  We often respond to bad news in five rough stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  We go through these stages when we hear of the sudden death of a loved one.  And we are going through similar stages as we get our heads around the idea that our financial system has been subject to a the equivalent of a major earthquake.
  • The second psychological idea in this post is that objective knowledge matters.  Positive psychology emphasizes that our attitude to a problem makes a big difference.  It does, and I will return to that in other posts.   But objective information matters too.  It is foolish to pretend that a large box isn’t heavy.  We are much better off when we understand the principle of levers.  We do need to take charge of our education about the financial system.  We clearly did not understand it well enough to play our role as informed voters, wise buyers and sellers of stocks and shares, and savvy consumers of mortgages and credit cards.
  • The third psychological idea is the one I wanted to highlight today because I think it will be key to the mental housekeeping required to come to terms with the recession.

In the west, we have a weird idea that time is linear

Of course, we ‘know’ that yesterday was before today and today comes before tomorrow.  Unfortunately our separation of time into yesterday, today and tomorrow, has some peculiar side effects.   This works in two ways.

  • In good times, we spend like mad and rack up debt.   We take ‘Carpe Diem‘ or ‘seize the day’ far too far.   Tomorrow features insufficiently in our thinking about today, and when tomorrow comes, we are in a mess.
  • Equally, in bad times, we look ahead, see a diminished tomorrow, and we feel dejected.  In short, we bring tomorrow far too much into today.

This inability to act appropriately in time is an inability to ‘give unto Ceasar’ or to accept that ‘for everything there is a season’.  The net effect is that we enjoy life a lot less.  We also rack up unhealthy deficits and one day we wake up very disappointed with our lives and where we have taken ourselves.

And then we are into the five stage process I described at the outset. This cannot be happening. It is not my fault.  OK, I will compromise.  Oh, this is impossible.  And then ultimately: OK, I’d better get on and understand this.

Are you acquainted with philosopher Alan Watts?

At the end of this post is a video presentation, about 3 minutes long, that accompanies the late English philosopher, Alan Watts, talking about the way we confuse time.

He begins “you get into kindegarten, then you get into first grade  .  .   .”  And ends, life “was a musical thing and you were supposed to dance or sing while the music was being played”.

Do watch it!

I grew up in a competitive culture so this resonated with me.  I have long protested that we should let 3 year olds be 3, and 18 years olds be 18.  Preparing for the next year is part of a 3 year old’s experience but it is not all of their task.  And being 3 should never be dreary.  Nor should being 84!

Recessions are simply part of life

Like preparing for a test or examination, they are there to be enjoyed (!) along with all the other activities that come at the same stage.

It takes time to work through the five stages of our reaction to bad news.  And we work through at different paces.  So we need to be patient with ourselves and each other.  But we also do need to resolve not to become stuck at any stage.

We may be in for a long and difficult time in this financial crisis.  What I am suggesting is that we sing and dance to the music nonetheless!

Come with me!

Here is the link to this great presentation accompanying Alan Watts.  Do enjoy it and have a good weekend!  There is a season for everything!

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