Different People

pencilsAs a HR professional and coach I spend a lot of time encouraging diversity.  Diversity in terms of race, creed, nationality for sure – but most importantly diversity of thought.

It is patently obvious that none of us knows as much as all of us. Having a pool of knowledge, ideas and interests that is as a broad as possible can surely only be a good thing.

Yet there are increasing calls to protect our historic culture and values by keeping ‘different’ people out.  This goes much deeper than mere (ill informed) protectionism around jobs and wealth.

Most people judge their worth by comparing themselves to others.  If others are judged to have achieved less  (on whatever criterion is most damning) they are clearly inferior.  They must be lazy, stupid, untrustworthy etc.  We see this in in society at large – increasingly the poor are seen as undeserving.  If my riches are down to my effort your poverty must be due to you being feckless.  It has to be your fault as it cannot possibly be mere luck or family ties (or old school ties) that made me successful.  Penniless immigrants washed up on the shores of Europe are not only poor but foreign and must be kept out at all costs. Never mind that they have the resourcefulness,courage and strength to undertake a massive, highly dangerous journey.

This then creates a real problem when we find someone has achieved more – that surely makes us lazy, stupid, feckless… Of course that can’t be right.  They are obviously undeserving of their success – they stole it, got lucky, had rich parents…  But above all else they are different and must be made to conform or be driven out of the tribe.  After all someone ‘better’ than me is a constant reminder of my shortcomings.

We are social animals.  In our evolutionary past remaining part of the tribe was a matter of life and death.  We have evolved to be conformists, to fit in and follow the strong leaders rather than risk being exposed as ‘different’ and face expulsion.

Many (in)famous experiments have shown how we conform even when we ‘know’ our actions are questionable.  Otherwise bright students gave obviously wrong answers to very simple questions when following the lead of the planted stooges.  Subjects gave what they believed to be potentially lethal electric shocks to others when instructed to do so by ‘authority’ figures.

And so those who feel they have achieved less than they desire attack those who threaten their cosy mediocrity by having the talent, skill, persistence and creativity to achieve success.  They also deride those who have achieved less, those who choose not to or can’t afford to wear the ‘right’ brands and those who are poor as they are an unwelcome reminder of what might have been. Others in the tribe soon join in – maybe too weak to start the the pogrom they are still eager to conform and join the mob.  Some may feel uneasy but make sure that they are seen to throwing their support behind the attacks for fear of being next.

In this connected world of social media these attacks and exclusions are no longer physical, hiding behind a smartphone they are easier to commit by the weak but are no less wounding for the victims.

It takes real strength to dare to stand out by being different.  It takes strength to champion high achievers and see them as aspirational role models rather than threats.  To discover what can be learnt from them instead of silencing them for fear of having your own accomplishments diminished shows a real desire to be the best you can be – not simply the top dog in a weak pack.

It takes equal strength and compassion to stand up for those who have less than us, to support and nurture them.  Help them to be the best they can be. It takes real humanity.

Despite the fact that our differences make us collectively stronger it takes real courage to stand up to the mob and declare support for difference.  When we understand that the mob attacks from a position of fear and weakness they become much less intimidating.

Ask yourself if you have gone along with the status quo and stood silently on the sidelines, supported the mob or even joined in the attack.  How good do you feel about that?

Baby when you hold me
I can feel so wrong
You’re trying to console me
Your chance has long gone
So baby won’t you take my hand?
So we can do what the others can
We are alive tonight, we are alive tonight

I am going home forever and ever more
No I was never born and there’s no such thing as home
We used to stand so strong
That’s why the others have gone

Different person, different argument
In my shadow, no more compliments
One more person breaking the rules again
I’m still waiting for someone else to join in

Stand where the others stand
We’re alive tonight
Land where the others land
We’re alive tonight

Biffy Clyro – Different People

Advertisements

Thank you (fallettinme be mice elf agin)

view-from-the-terrace-outside-the-edgemoor-innA week or so ago I was fortunate enough to have the time to get out on my bike whilst the UK was bathed in unseasonably warm sunshine (the warmest Halloween on record).  I was conscious that I hadn’t posted a blog for a while and tried to direct my thoughts to create  the structure of a piece.  I did have a couple of great ideas – now I cannot for the life of me remember them, they were great ideas though!

I have just reviewed the ride in my training log as it was a great, flat route.  The headlines as captured for posterity by Strava were 56km in 2:18, averaging 24.4kmh, total elevation gained 220m (it is pretty flat around here), on my 16 year old Scott Vail MTB.  The weather was a sunny 22.2 C and I burned up around 1,900 calories.

If I had been using my heart rate monitor, cadence meter and a power meter I would have captured more data about the ride.

That evening I was finalising a presentation and I came across the old maxim:

what get’s measured get’s managed

That of course leads to various conclusions around “measures that matter”.  Reflecting on the day I wondered what really mattered. The data captured was of use only from a training perspective.  The bare facts don’t come close to describing the experience.  If asked why I run, cycle and swim my Strava account is the wrong place to start looking.

The truly important things about the ride were the things that can’t be directly measured: my emotions and feelings.  I started out in a fairly flat mood, a few opportunities I had been pursuing were looking less likely to come off and those that were promising were not the most exciting.  I finished feeling energised, relaxed and renewed.

We keep a jar in the kitchen into which all of the family put small notes of gratitude on a regular basis (we’ll review them over New Year in a celebration) and I found I had a whole list of notes to write:

Thanks for the time and fitness to be able to get out;

the glorious sunshine;

the privilege to live in the Cotswolds;

the wonderful views;

the Autumn colours…

None of which can easily be measured.  Maybe if what get’s measured does get managed, do we fall into the trap of simply managing what we can measure? I wonder if we should really focus on those things that defy simple measurement?

Dance to the music
All nite long
Everyday people
Sing a simple song
Mama’s so happy
Mama start to cry
Papa still singin’
You can make it if you try

I want to thank you falettinme
Be mice elf agin
(Different strokes for different folks, yeah)
Thank you falettinme
Be mice elf agin

Thank you (fallettinme be mice elf agin) – Sly & The Family Stone

Point of View

Reading-Festival-2I spent the Bank holiday weekend at Reading Festival. Being well past the age when camping in overcrowded conditions with thousands of insomniac teenagers stopped being fun I now temper my festival experience by staying in a local hotel. Being a true Yorkshireman and appreciating the value of money (or being mean if you want to apply that reframe) I stayed in a basic bed and breakfast with my brother in law. He had booked it about 9 months in advance and called them to confirm all was well and there was on site parking. His text to me was typically cryptic.

Hi just checked B&B all booked in, check in from 1400.
No alcohol
No talking
No having fun
No music
😉

But it did set the scene for my first meeting with our hostess.

On the Thursday my daughter was keen to get going to secure a reasonable place to camp and after grinding through the traffic I arrived at the B&B at 13.30. I parked and leaving my bag in the car, in case , went into the B&B to see if I could check in or at least leave my car in the car park while I went for a stroll to the pub.  The Landlady greeted me with a gruff:

it’s 1.30. Another one who can’t tell the time.

I said I knew I was early and if the room was not ready I was happy to come back in an hour or so. The landlady said that the room was ready and I was welcome to come in.

I’ve had them here at 9.30.  It clearly says 2pm.  And checking out, asking if they can check out later.  It says right here on the key fob 10.00.  This weekend of all times.  You get all sorts, especially this weekend

I took it from the tone that ‘all sorts’ was not seen as a desirable state of affairs. But wanting to help her achieve a higher state of being (OK wanting to wind her up a bit) I said “How lovely, it must be great to meet a different type of guest than the usual business travellers”.

Her expression suggested that it wasn’t great at all.  She showed me to the rather tired room.  Never has the word ‘adequate’ been so apt.

It will soon be getting busy.  The great unwashed arriving.

I said that it was already very busy and when I dropped my daughter off the town centre was at a near standstill.

I don’t call that traffic.  Soon it will be nose to tail all along here.  That’s traffic.  Every day it’s terrible it is.

“That does make getting about awkward but it’s great for you having so many people pass by, no need to advertise!  And great for the town too.  If the town is busy it must be good for your business.”

Apparently not.

Looks like another muddy one.  Last year the mud was terrible.  They walked it in everywhere they did.

“Well” I said, looking at the grubby decor “I am surprised as I was at the festival last year and don’t recall any rain. In any case, it doesn’t seem to have done any lasting damage.  I guess a wet festival must be good for business as it makes people more likely to use a B&B ”

Forecast for rain, even snow.  That will be nice for that lot.

“Oh, the forecast I saw is for it to be a bit chilly but mostly dry.  Snow in August.  That would give us all a tale to tell!”

The next morning over breakfast the landlady chatted with various guests about various guests.  Interesting as I wondered what she was saying about me.

I wonder if we’ll see those two girls? I doubt it.  I bet they won’t surface.

“That saves you the trouble of cooking and the cost of the meal.  All extra profit.”

That Indian girl’s dad rang at midnight last night to see if she was in.  He booked her in here and paid for it.

“It’s wonderful to see a father allowing his daughter the freedom and yet keeping a discrete check.”

One guest asked if the doors were locked at any time and was treated to a sarcastic refresh on how one of the keys opened the front  door and the other his room followed by threats of physical harm should anyone lose a key and require letting in late at night, further followed by a critique of the headline acts

Noisy rubbish.  Dreadful thumping all night, no proper tunes.  Hasn’t been an act worth seeing for years.

“The organisers have to move with the times. Most of the people sitting here paid a lot of money to watch these bands, 90,000 people will be watching tonight plus a large TV audience.”

I’d love to report that my repeated reframing changed her in some way.  I doubt it did because she was rarely listening out for anything except a lull in the conversation into which she could inject her opinions.  It wasn’t even annoying her so I gave up.

It did change me though.  I decided not to ask if my daughter could pop in mid morning to use the shower in my room and I decided to hide the fact that I spilled a large glass of red wine all over the bed.  I am sorry – not to the Landlady, the laundry would get it out anyway, but to my daughter who had to go a few days as one of the great unwashed.

At least it didn’t snow.

Two different people, two different places
Through a one way window with two different faces
Agreements are not reached, faces are forgotten
The other person’s shoes, you’ve not got in

Stubborn minded enclosed to your own world
Wake up and see someone else’s morals
What right to you
Might be true

It’s a different point of view to you
You cannot see things that are different to me
And I can’t understand why you cannot see
The things that I cannot see

I see what you don’t see
I see what you don’t see
Turn around and the shadows are all around me

Two different people, two different places
Through a one way window with two different faces
Agreements are not reached, faces are forgotten
The other person’s shoes, you’ve not got in

Point of View – Blink 182

Silver Lining

m8Y2XvNTP735TMxklc55qgQ

These days I am spared the daily commute into London.  The occasional trips I now make serve to remind me that life is better without the 7.10 am from Swindon, even when things run smoothly.

Last week I only had to make the one trip. An 11.00 am meeting followed by lunch meant I could avoid the rush and get the first off peak train.   On my way to the station I heard on the car radio that there were problems but at the station I was assured that the 8.59 and 9.11 would be on time and the issues were resolved – they were just clearing up the backlog of trains.  So I cheerfully bought a ticket and presently got on the train which did indeed leave on time.

When we did slowly come to a halt I accepted that this was to be expected and there was little point in raging or stressing.  I had half an hour cushion in any case.

Eventually the train Supervisor made an announcement.

 On behalf of First Great Western I apologise for the slow running of this service.  This is due to congestion caused by an earlier closure of the line because of a fatality.  The line is now open but due to the backlog of trains we can expect a delay.  I’ll keep you updated.

It’s worth pausing to reflect on the cause of the problems – a suicide in Slough.  Not that long ago I might have moaned at how selfish it was to hurl yourself in front of a speeding express train during rush hour.  Now I am genuinely saddened that someone was driven to the point where suicide felt like their best option, to a point where they truly believed that their friends and family would be better off without them.  If you have ever stood close to a passing train you will realise that throwing yourself in front of it must take a huge effort of will, it isn’t a cry for help it’s a desire for oblivion.  I spare a thought too for the driver, powerless yet left with truly horrific memories and often feelings of guilt.

We did move forward very slowly.  My 30 minute cushion had been eroded but my client was understanding and we exchanged emails joking about my OCD tendencies when it comes to timeliness. Then we picked up speed and moved on, to palpable relief in the carriage.

Then we stopped again.   The next announcement came

 …All lines are now open, there is congestion due to a backlog of trains.  All platforms at Paddington are full but as trains are coming out of the station they are freeing up platforms…

Surely that must mean we’d soon be moving on?  Once again there was a flurry of texting, but I sensed a general feeling of acceptance.  The issue was not one created by First Great Western and certainly not by the train crew who were busy helping passengers who had onward connections to make.

However we stayed where we were for a long, long time.

Around an hour after the scheduled arrival time I was reflecting on the stoic way that the passengers were waiting.  I couldn’t hear any angry complaints, most phone calls I overheard made light of it and that traditional British characteristic of smiling in adversity was coming to the fore.  Strangers were even talking, breaking the cardinal rule of public transport in and around London – under no circumstances must eye contact be made with fellow passengers.

A further announcement came

Once again I apologise for the delay to this service due to an earlier fatality. There is congestion getting into Paddington station. All the platforms are full and we are fourth in the queue.  Unfortunately a fire alarm has now been triggered and the station has been evacuated.  Therefore there can be no movement until that is resolved…

I was, I admit, getting a bit stressy.  Being over an hour late for an hour and a half meeting was bad form.  Worse still my client confessed that he had nearly asked to switch the venue but left it in the City as it was easier for me.  However I was deliberately trying to see the positives in the situation and not allow this to ruin my day.  It was important that when I did get to my client I was on good form.  Likewise the rest of the carriage seemed to be bearing up and the good old ‘blitz spirit’ was coming out in force.

Then the next announcement came.

We apologise for the continuing delay to this service.   I am pleased to say that the station has now re-opened.

Unfortunately due to the combination of issues many trains and crews have been displaced and are not where they should be.  Crews are only allowed to work for a given period before taking a break.  Many crews have reached that limit and so there is now a shortage of crews to move trains out of the station.  Therefore we are now waiting for fresh crews to come, or the break period to be over before trains can be moved and free up platforms.

For most people on the train that seemed to be the straw that broke them.  No longer was it ‘one of those things’ it was now ‘a bloody shambles’.  Train crew became ‘jobs worth’s’ in that instant.

I started to smile because it occurred to me I had found the silver lining.  Here was a clear demonstration that in being open and honest in his communication the train Supervisor had initially won the support of most passengers – but the last disclosure was a step too far.  It seems that generally being open pays off and sometimes discretion really is advisable.

The trick seems to be knowing when to fully disclose and when to be more circumspect.

 

PS  I was very late for my meeting but my client worked round it and we still managed a pleasant lunch.

PPS I tried to get to Town today and left very early to avoid a repeat. Arriving at the station there were  obvious problems.  There was a train at the platform and another outside the station.  The board simply said delays and suggested that slightly later trains were on time. I later discovered that due to a broken down freight train all services were in fact suspended.  After 30 minutes of waiting staff did finally advise us that there was little prospect of movement for at least another hour, then there might be slow running ‘due to congestion’.  Being a quick learner I took a refund on my ticket and am sat writing this in my sunny garden, another silver lining.

And it’s hi-ho silver lining
And away you go now, baby
I see your sun is shining
But I won’t make a fuss
Though it’s obvious

Hi Ho Silver Lining – Jeff Beck

Smile like you mean it

suru portraits 073

We’ve just returned from holiday and yes thanks, since you ask it was very nice.  We stayed in a large hotel complex and round the pool all shapes and sizes of humanity were on display in varying levels of undress.

It struck us how many of the young women who had enviable figures seemed unattractive.  One such girl with ridiculously long legs kept her boyfriend running round after her like a lap dog.  Others seemed to maintain a perpetual air of bored indifference, many refused to smile.   I christened these types ‘butter face’ (nice legs, but her face!).

Then there were others less obviously perfect specimens who seemed to be open and friendly, who clearly cared about and enjoyed being with their friends and family.  These were much more attractive.

Ah ah I thought, there is a blog post in there.  Maybe you can think yourself pretty.  Maybe if you just adopt the appropriate behaviours and smile like you mean it then you become attractive.  Of course if you are too skinny or are overweight, have a genuine physical imperfection these won’t go away, but maybe most of us can and do look beyond such superficial things when really evaluating someone as a friend or partner.

Whilst we were being tourists, sunning ourselves in Greece my eldest daughter was travelling in the Himalayas. Trekking and working on a couple of community projects.  She returned the day after we did.  With tears in her eyes and a passion I have rarely seen she talked about the two sisters who had given her a henna tattoo in Leh.  The girls were about the same age as she is but there the similarities end.

As my daughter put it:

“While we were stressing about what outfit to wear that night, whether our A-level choices were perfect and precisely which new laptop to acquire these girls left school so they could support their families.  Day after day they sit on the hot dusty kerb.  They might not want to be in this situation but they somehow accept it, they still have ambitions but they accept that for now this is how it is.”

“We get jealous because someone has some ‘stuff’ that we don’t even need and these girls have nothing, they have the one set of old clothes they wear everyday. Their faces are worn from lack of care and sun. They were so happy and smiled so readily and they found genuine pleasure in talking to us about our lives. ”

“They wouldn’t accept a small tip, even knowing how little is is to us and how much it is to them.”

“They said that we are beautiful, but they are the beautiful ones.”

Yes.  That’s what I was going to say.

Save some face, you know you’ve only got one
Change your ways while you’re young
Boy, one day you’ll be a man
Oh girl, he’ll help you understand

Smile like you mean it
Smile like you mean it

Looking back at sunsets on the east side
We lost track of the time
Dreams aren’t what they used to be
Some things sat by so carelessly

The Killers – Smile Like You Mean It

Get on with your short life

There’s a huge amount being written at the moment about positivity.  And there seems to be a rising backlash against this.

The critique goes that it may well be possible to cultivate an attitude of acceptance.  It is indeed what it is.  Acceptance may take away the negative emotions but it does not change the situation for the better.

Certainly we can choose our mood and we can choose to be happy.  We can picture a future in which we are successful and feel very positive about ourselves.  Happily sitting and positively hoping for something to turn up may feel good but it is not going to create success.

Surely a dose of reality, a little suffering, acts as the motivation to take the necessary and possibly unpleasant steps to actually change things.

It is not possible to think yourself successful and people should ‘get real’.

I agree with the logic but not the conclusion.  A happy fool watching daytime TV dreaming of ‘making it big’ is not my idea of positivity.

My view of positivity says that accepting that ‘it is what it is’ takes away unnecessary suffering.  The issue still exists but we can stop the futility of worrying about it.  Thus in a calmer state we can seek to address the issue and if it is something we cannot change, we can move on.

My view of positivity says that if you accept that you are the cause of everything that happens to you, you become much calmer, more likely to make changes and are more agreeable to be with. If you choose your mood and choose happiness you are much more likely to engage positively with others.

If you have a positive goal you are much more likely to take action.  By putting images of future success in our timeline we are asking our unconscious mind to find ways to achieve the goal.

The key certainly is taking action. And I prefer to get on with my short life with a smile on my face rather than a grimace of pain.

You keep saying that one day things could
Be fabulous,
If only you had the right shoes, new
Clothes, the dream team doing your hair.
Why do you have to waste time on your
Waistline when you could be having
Dinner with me?
Will you really be the winner
If you’re thinner?
How can I make you see?

Get on with your short life,
Get on with this sweet precious time,
You know you’re only dreaming
So why don’t you wake up and get on
With your short life

You keep praying that some day things
Will be different
If you only had the right lips, killer hips,
A sun kissed permanent tan
But does it really matter if you’re fatter
Than everybody else on the screen
It’s more important to be truthful than just
Youthful on the cover of some magazine

Get on with your short life,
Get on with this sweet precious time,
You know you’re only dreaming
So why don’t you wake up and get on with
Your short life 

Brian Kennedy

All The Small Things

This morning I took the dog for our usual circuit.  He’s just been prescribed some new anti-inflammatory drugs for his arthritis and I was watching him closely to see if he was walking any easier.  He was very excitable and the reason soon became clear.  The remnants of someone’s takeaway were strewn around.  A few drinks cans, milkshake cartons, polystyrene boxes, chip papers and, for the dog, discarded chips and kebabs.

index2

http://litterheroes.co.uk/index.htm

I’d heard some cars racing around late last night and it looks like someone had used the quiet lane as a late night picnic spot, thrown the rubbish out of the car and then raced around the field.  All depressingly familiar.  Looking more closely it was clear that this was not a one off.  The area was covered in plastic bottles, cans, paper and plastic.  I particularly appreciated the way a number of drivers had emptied their ashtrays on the road.

Walking back towards home I met someone who also spotted the rubbish.  Their considered wisdom was that someone ought to do something about it.  It made them angry. The parents should bring their kids up better, they should be ashamed.  The authorities ought to stop it and clean it up.  Someone should report it.

All sentiments I could easily agree with.

I finished the walk, put the dog in the house (his rickety legs wouldn’t cope with a further walk), grabbed a pair of gardening gloves and a black sack, walked back to the spot and started collecting litter.  At first I felt vaguely embarrassed.  This soon passed.  It felt good. Certainly better than raging, anger is a useless emotion.  After 10 minutes I had filled my sack and made a big improvement both to the area and my mood.

The small things do make a difference.  And small acts of compassion make us stronger.

All the small things
True care, truth brings
I’ll take one lift
Your ride best trip

Blink-182