Commuters agree to be deprived of life for eternal slumber

Frustration by greencandy8888 via FlickrfYesterday evening, the M1 motorway heading north out of London was closed – for 24 hours.  Thousands upon thousands of commuters going home and people heading north for the weekend were stranded.

Staying in London overnight is a large expense for a commuter.  Outgoings will be at least 100 pounds.  Your dogs and cats back home remain unwalked and unfed.  And I put that first because I am British.  Your partner and children might be ill amused too.

There is no insurance for commuter travel.   And no liability for the operators or the utility providers.  The commuter bears the risk as an Act of God.

Yet we don’t treat our commuter travel as part of the reason why we travel.

@documentally was grumbling.  I don’t blame him because I would have been worn out with frustration too.  And if I am honest, I’ve cut down my use of public transport to the minimum.

But the irrelevant frustration, the signs that we are going along with senseless commodification of our lives that only hurts us led me to wax lyrical.

My tweet of the morning that infuriated @Documentally even further

@Documentally We’ve been duped into believing that several hours travel isn’t an adventure – deprived of life for eternal slumber?

Respectfully describe reality and it will respect you

Sign No.
Image via WikipediaWhere are you in your life?

Where are you in your life?

  • On a complicated English roundabout with 15 exits and cars whizzing around on all sides of you?
  • Streaming down the motorway, very happy that there is no tailback but a little bored?
  • On a country lane with hedges to the left and to the right – you feel lost because you cannot see ahead?

The situations seem very different.  Yet they are not!

  • Pay attention to what is happening around you

In your worry about where you are going (or boredom on the motorway), don’t ignore the traffic around you!

  • Don’t rush

The best thing you can do is keep moving with the flow. If you miss the exit, keep going and “turn around when possible”.

Don’t fret that you missed the exit!  I know it is annoying.  But you will get where you want to be much faster if you keep going smoothly and double back when you can.  Write the missed exit off to experience.

  • Slowly, very slowly, plot your path ahead

Impatience is not going to get you anywhere!  As you have a moment, start to imagine the road ahead.  Don’t try to do it all at once because then you will take your eye off the road.

If you are able to pull over, take a deep breath and get you bearings, good.  Do it.  Otherwise, keep going smoothly and slowly work out where you are going and what you should be anticipating.  Slowly and patiently.

How does this lesson on driving relate to what you are feeling about your career, your work, your life?

Feeling frustrated at work is not much different from feeling frustrated on the road.

  • We feel agitated because getting there on time is important to us.
  • We feel irritable because we feel out of control
  • We feel powerless because we can’t make a solution happen right now.

Yelling at reality won’t make it behave

That is the secret – we are antsy because we can’t make a solution happen right now.  Well we can’t.  And yelling at reality won’t make it behave.  Reality won’t here you (and if it does, it won’t like being shouted at).

Reality likes to be taken seriously and treated respectfully

So start describing reality. Leave your temper tantrum for later.  No one cares – least of all reality.  Just start describing reality.

  • I am driving down the motorway. To my left is .  . .  To my right is  .   .  .
  • I am on a country lane  .     .   . To my left is a hedge (I am driving in UK!).  To my right is a lane for oncoming traffic.  There is or is not a car behind me.  It is so close that if I act abruptly it will bash into me (This is England!  People tailgate like mad.) In front of me . .

Well you get the idea.

Bring your attention in and start describing reality

Be respectful.  Reality does not like being shouted at or ignored!

But it is hard to put our agitation aside

Yes, it is so hard to put our emotions aside. They clamor for attention!

OK.  So listen to them.  Say to yourself, I am feeling confused/frightened/annoyed (hey, embarrassed) to be on a road where I don’t know where I am going.

Feel better for listening to yourself?

Good.  And know I’ll tell you a secret. So is the guy to the left of you, the guy to the right of you, the (****) who is tailgating you.

You aren’t in this alone. We are all slightly confused.  We should all start paying attention to reality.

Respectfully describe reality and it will respect you!

He or she who is able to do that wins -they get to their destination and they get there in a good mood!

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The first steps together?

Ideas whose time has come

I had an email today from someone I worked with a long time ago.  It was interesting.  Though we have barely been in touch, many of us who worked together ten years’ ago have pursued similar interests in different corners of the globe.

Great minds think alike?

The loneliness of the corporation executive

I don’t think my old friend reads my blog, but we were thinking alike yesterday too.

Yesterday, I wrote:

What do we trust each other absolutely and entirely to do?

His brief note on Facebook said that he feels optimistic about the future of the world economy but depressed by the ‘ostriches’ around him

Are we agreed?

There is plenty of opportunity.  Our task is to find the ‘sweet spots’ where people feel they can take the first step together?

5 poetic steps for exiting a Catch 22

Пробка на Космодомианской набережной в Москве.

Catch 22! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Have you ever been caught in a situation where you cannot move forwards and you cannot move backwards? It is like getting caught in a traffic jam. If you barge forward, you won’t be popular, and you won’t succeed. If you do nothing, nothing will change.

Chill?

Now sometimes, we do have to ‘sit tight’. The police are on their way and they will clear the jam bit by bit. It is best to chill.

Or change one thing at a time ~ strategically?

But sometimes that isn’t the choice. Sometimes if we sit and do nothing, that is where we will stay.

But what if there are cars to the left of us and cars to the right of us; cars ahead and cars behind. What can we do?

Obviously, we have to start just like the police will: with one car at a time. And we have to be strategic.

Remember those kids games?

Did you have one of those games when you were a kid ~ they had 8 squares in a 9 square space and you had to move them around? And at first it looked as if there was no solution?

That is what we have to do: unravel the situation like those games.  Move one square at a time. Patiently, and strategically.

This is easier said than done though, particularly when our emotions are involved.

Kids’ games prepared us for life

Corporate poet, David Whyte writes about a cyclical pattern in our lives where we come periodically to a place which is ‘a traffic jam’. Our task, in such times, is to find the smallest possible thing to ease, not just ourselves, but everyone around us, out of the impasse.

I have picked FIVE quotations from David Whyte’s poems to illustrate the process.

1. The beginning. “anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you” (Sweet Darkness)


2. The call. “You are not a troubled guest on this earth, you are not an accident amidst other accidents, you were invited . . .” (What To Remember When Wakening)


3. Reawakening. “When your eyes are tired, the world is tired also. When your vision is gone, no part of the world can find you” (Sweet Darkness)

4. The departure. “Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take” (Start Close In)


5. Begin the conversation. “”Your great mistake is to act the dream as it you were alone . . . Everybody is waiting for you.” (Everybody Is Waiting For You)

How long will we delay the first step – recognizing that there is a situation to be dealt with?


In more prosaic terms, our first step is always to notice we are in a jam, and rather than bluster and curse, consider the best thing to do about it. It is amazing how often we delay this simple first step.

How long will we take to recognize that the situation is not going away just because we don’t like it?

Our second step is equally as hard. We chose after all to be on the road at that time. We didn’t want this result, but after all, we chose to be here, and when think about it, the jam chose to happen when we were there. The jam is an integral part of us and we are integral part of it. We are part of its story, and it is part of ours.

How long will we take to signal to people around us that we would like the situation resolved?

And it doesn’t get any easier. Are we communicating? Or have we taken it for granted that everyone knows that we want the traffic to flow again? Do they think we are just trying to push in? Are we alert to other people who want the traffic to flow again. And can they recognize us? What is it that we do, or notice, that alerts them to our sense of what is possible?

How long before we imagine in our minds what the resolution would look like?

And are we holding back because it all seems too big? If the traffic were to flow again, what would we all be doing in unison, and what would be our part?

How long before we realize that nothing is moving because everyone is waiting for us?

And who is really holding everything up? Is it us? Is everyone waiting for us, to pay attention?

Is everyone waiting for us, to start the conversation?

ReadWriteWeb has come alive . . .

. . . with great and interesting posts every day.

Today Alex wrote on the recession, which is worrying lots of people. I’m a Zimbo so I am going, ahh! this ain’t so hard. Forgive me. This is what I have to say.

1. I have never worked with a lazy person, ever.

I have worked with people who were thoroughly disengaged and very unhappy. I have worked with people who I thought were misdirected (yes I thought, they didn’t).

People like working. The great trick is integrating people. And I will be the first to say that can be hard. I always take the view that we hired someone because they are good. If we are falling out, the responsibility is mutual and we should help the person (typically with the least power) move on to a better place – where they are highly valued, better paid, etc. And if we are so far down the road of conflict we can’t see the good anymore, we should back off and let someone else manage the relationship. I want to kiss goodbye (with relief as right now we are on a path to hating each other) and recover our friendship in due course. We both mismanaged our relationship. It is time for us to recover and make good.

2. I don’t want to work in a place where some pigs are more equal than others . . .

I’m a conventional HR-based psychologist. I do selection – you know those awful tests and reports telling you who you are. I can run up a comp-and-benefit scheme explaining who gets more money and why. I predict labor demand within organizations and match supply (to make sure we don’t suffer too much when you leave). I run the hello and goodbye programs. And I bollock anyone who gets into a disciplinary scenario because of the paper work they make for us all.

But I don’t want to work in a place where one person is more important than anyone else.

Everyone is important otherwise why did we hire them? Floors are not cleaned as a luxury. Clean floors are essential to the smooth running of our business, etc. etc.

I hate the idea that we look after the top 10% of people.  Why do I select people, then, I hear you say? Because we have the technology to identify the matches that will never work – the extreme cases. Let’s make ourselves useful, folks. I am also happy when my deli refuses to sell me something because what I intend to do with their food is just plain horrible. There is nothing wrong with someone who knows, leaning over to someone who doesn’t, and saying, if you want to achieve X, do it like Y.  What a wonderful expression of goodwill. I am saved disappointment and I feel great that someone cared enough to tell me.

3. Can organizations be egalitarian? Don’t we need leaders?

I discovered Barbara Sliter’s blog Creatorship – courtesy of Galba Bright. Thank you so much.

I have stopped believing in leadership. I believe we thrust up people to represent us. It is a dynamic process, as we are seeing the States right now. The answer is not given, and the person who most respects the dynamic will win, by definition.

On a daily basis, in my conventional role as a work psychologist, leadership is shared. I deliver data, collected professionally and organized to inform action in the circumstances we are in. Our understanding of the situation evolves during discussions, as mine does. And “leadership” shifts with the part of the situation we are considering. The “leader”, be it the senior line manager present, or any one else, leads by representing our collective and considered view to us and to others.

Sometimes the senior line person is so much more experienced than the rest of us, they add an overview we all recognize immediately as bringing us together. Mostly, they are sufficiently experienced, in our line of work and in leadership roles (they probably started practicing at pre-school!) and recognize when we are reaching agreement which they sum up effectively so that we can move forward with full confidence in each other.

Often, they find the group view is very much at odds with their own, but they represent our view effectively anyway. They value their people. We are on the team for a reason. Together we will make good decisions. We won’t always be right. And sometimes we will be right, but won’t win.

But we will put our best foot forward! They know that.

Barbara Sliter puts this so much better than I do. People who haven’t had the privilege of working in professional, collegial settings are ready. Ready to co-create meaning at work.

What I can do, is add the stories and the robust HR technologies for the pay systems, etc. I’ve seen places where the “least senior” person chairs the meeting. It works. And why not? They will be the least opinionated after all!

4. Recessions offer opportunity too.

Go back to Zimbabwe I hear you say. Maybe I will. I haven’t heard that for a while – at least 6 months. I must be keeping good company.

What counts in life is finding opportunity in what looks like a negative space. A 3% downturn is not trouble, believe me! But it is disconcerting. The firms that sit down, and openly talk about what is opening up for them, will thrive.

To refer to the American elections again, I deliberately engaged with Obama-skeptics to find out their objections. They don’t want universal health insurance, presumably because it may cost them a little. My scampering mind screams OPPORTUNITY! Where is Melissa Clark-Reynolds? I don’t know if you are Kiwi, Alex, but Richard will know whom I mean.

Whomever asks the best questions under frustration wins! I’ve also just found Galba Bright’s blog. He has posted today a great heuristic for managing meetings and particularly tricky meetings. I am going to look at that more closely today.

Thanks, Alex. I liked your post. It is closer to the egalitarian world I like (provided I am in charge of course!). I like working with knowledge workers. And BTW, Gen Y really get this. I had a conversation late last night with a colleague’s son who had been deputed by his father to help me with a website. At one point the young man said to me: tell me a little more about your skill set so I know what you will be contributing. Yep, indeed. They hold their own!

To centre our sense of self in our relationships

Feeling stuck?  Not looking forward to 2010?

From guru to psychologist, all the people who know about this sort of thing say the same thing.  Start close in.  Begin with everything and everybody right here in life with you now.

“Arrgh,” you say, “That is exactly what I am trying to get away from!”

Uh-uh.  You are trying to get away from the feelings of frustration, irritation and stuck-ness.  You simply need some places to push off against.

Ask some questions

This is what I want you to do ~ ask some questions.

  • Who is around me?  What is around me?
  • What does my relationship with [these things/people] want more of?
  • What’s working, and what should I be celebrate?
  • What would help create a sense of fun and ease in this relationship?

and . . .

The checklist where I found these questions is at WidgetWonder.  I just worked through the whole list checklist for reviewing 2009 and thinking about 2010.  It asks much deeper questions than most goal setting and life purpose blogs.

How we hold the conversation

It is how we hold the conversation.

Consider the space

  • The list helped me put my finger about what I will be doing to contribute to my relationships with others and allow them to be more enjoyable

Store away what is no longer needed

  • The list helped me put my finger on what I feel is ‘done and dusted’ and what I still need to resolve, one way or another. It was amazing how quickly I could resolve things once I had put things like that.

Include more people!

  • The list reminded me that all my plans for 2010 depend upon other people.   What support do I need?  How is this a community project?  The list helped me identify where I was trying to take 100% responsibility when the project is not my responsibility alone.  The responsibility is mutual.  Taking a step back and asking what support do we need to make this happen together has been an invaluable for me.

Clearing our minds for 2010

I strongly recommend you print out the list at Widgetwonder and work through it.

It will help you clear your mind, relax, and enjoy 2010 no matter what it brings.