Fifty at Fifty

If the importance of survival to a particular age is measured in celebration and an outpouring of generosity, love and goodwill, then staying alive for fifty years is quite the achievement. The lovely people I know have made acknowledging the reality of ageing a total pleasure so far (I only turned 50 on October 28th so there’s time for me to change my mind on that yet!).

In the run up to this milestone, I’ve been accumulating a bunch of brain farts, a few quotes (mostly lyrical) and other assorted things that matter to me. Fifty things sounds a lot, and I’ve tried to keep it brief. As such I’m sure most of these things are unfinished. I sincerely hope something in this pile of stuff I’ve cleared from the attic of my brain resonates for you.

1 – Less hope (hoping?), more action

2 – More now, less future. I am tired of people going on about the future of work. Fix the now of work first, please. I know it’s less sexy, but it’s much more important.

3 – Taking what works for you. I recently watched some interesting TED talks by people I would normally shy away from. A friend recommended I watch the talks and not get hung up on the personalities, just take what I needed. I enjoyed the experience and I will use this method to help me see past my limitations and dislikes.

4 – Counter point: Offer an alternative point of view, it’s usually needed and often wanted too. And if you find that it’s not wanted on a regular basis, maybe get another job?

5 – You are never more dangerous/stuck/scared than at the moment of committing, of making the decision, of believing you are right. At that point you close your mind to all other possibilities and are at great risk of being wrong. People, including me and you, don’t like to admit being wrong.

6 – Absolutes are rarely the answer.

7 – Trust chasm – The gap between what you say and what you do. Mind the gap.

8 – Building Trust – investing time to know your stuff, and knowing when to ask for help. Taking decisions and actions which go beyond self interest, caring about your work and people.

9 – ‘Without People You’re Nothing’ Joe Strummer

10 – Event + Response = Outcome. Your response ability changes everything. I recently heard Jamil Qureshi say this, or something very close to it.

11 – Think, feel, act – in that order.

12 – Mixed feelings. You cannot know joy without despair, happy without sad. Life is a wonderfully mixed bag, and to deny this is unhelpful, even dangerous.

13 – Belief: I’m fascinated by my (our?) ability to talk ourselves into and out of stuff. We all know from experience that finding the courage to have a go at something different can be tough, and we see good things happening to others and without even trying ourselves, we believe ‘that will never happen to me’. Try it – prove yourself wrong. I did.

14 – Meditation…time to just be there. Don’t call it meditation if the word puts you off taking time out for yourself, but please practice the art of being.

15 – Going for a walk – I don’t know may things that can’t be improved by a long walk. Except maybe sore feet.

16 – Willing participants beats hostage learners

17 – Blame looks backwards – responsibility looks forwards

18 – Taking it personally leads to growth

19 – Letting grief work with and through you is a hugely painful, rewarding experience

20 – Coaching is great, and sometimes I just want you to tell me what to do (see trust)

21 – Draw for the bin

22 – Honesty built on sharing your observations of your own shortcomings creates a powerful invitation to reciprocate. Good people don’t expect you to be invincible.

23 – Show your work. Get over yourself – it’s ready.

24 – How much is enough? Only you know the answer – and this is such an important question to ask…often.

25 – Facilitation. Don’t assume. Ask: What is a good outcome to leave here with? What do you need from each other, and from me to make that happen? I attribute this to Meg Peppin.

26 – Write often, draw oftener

27 – Small things make big differences

28 – All exits are final

29 – ‘The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect, so hard to earn so easily burned’ Neil Peart

30 – I just can’t be happy today. Sometimes, feeling miserable is the best option. Give a happiness guru a slap, you’ll feel much better.

31 – Don’t be stingy (see how much is enough?)

32 – Clarity. It’s always on the move, always worth searching for, refining.

33 – Don’t forget to breathe

34 – Try to be kind, and when you can’t, save your unkindness for those who really deserve it. You know who they are.

35 – Most work is coercive, it is done to you. The best work is coactive and cocreative, it is done with, for and by you. It is totally human to want, need and expect that our views be taken into consideration and yet we defy these wants, needs and expectations at almost every step in our working lives. Never do anything about me, without me. I am hugely fortunate to relate the positive aspects of this point to so many people I have worked with and do work with – thank you folks.

36 – We are all artists

37 – We stop being artistic because we are judged. Do someone a favour – suspend your judgement once in a while and watch them flourish.

38 – ‘Nothing is original. Steal with pride and acknowledge your inspiration.’ Yours truly, stealing from Pablo Picasso, Jim Jarmusch, Malcolm McLaren, and no doubt a few others besides. Acknowledge and disclose.

39 – ‘I think I’m in love. Probably just hungry’. Jason Pierce

40 – Grab a pencil and paper and write someone a letter.

41 – Coming up with 50 brain farts at my age is tough.

42 – ‘It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n roll’. Young, Young and Scott. See 41

43 – Want something? Ask for it – nicely.

44 – I went to Summer Brandcamp this year – it changed how I felt about going to conferences, in the best way possible. I encourage you to find an event outside the usual tracks and furrows you plough and invest in it.

45 – Facebook is great for birthdays – real life is greater.

46 – Buy a book, read the book, pass it on. Repeat.

47 – I went to a conversation recently which employed the ancient method of using a talking stick. There were a few other simple conversational guidelines too, but for now it’s noting the stick which is important. I sat and listened in total silence for 45 minutes before saying anything. This experience showed me how much of a battle conversation can become. Thank you Johnnie Moore.

48 – Go gently. With thanks to Julie Drybrough

49 – The road of true love is the best road to follow. Thank you Carole and Keira.

50 – Proceed Until Apprehended. Come on – you were expecting something else?!

And The Winner Is…?

At the beginning of September I offered up a spare ticket I’d bought to this year’s Meaning Conference. If you are interested in why I decided to do this – you can read a short interview I gave to the conference organisers here.

Nearly one month later – a total of fourteen people asked to go into the draw for the free ticket, and this morning I asked Carole to draw a name from the pile. Congratulations to Colin Newlyn, you’re off to Meaning 2015.

And the winner is

Thanks to everyone who entered the draw, and if you are still mindful to attend the conference, you can find more information and book your ticket here.


A Review of The Power of Compassion

Matthieu Ricard
The Power of Compassion – Change Yourself and The World

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, author, translator, and photographer. I recently enjoyed listening to him speak about compassion at The RSA. He has a lovely disarming nature about him and his ability to weave humour into serious subjects is rare. Here are a few thoughts and notes I scribbled at the time, outlining some of the conditions in which compassion can flourish, and some of what gets in the way. Subsequent additions to my notes are in italics. A link to a video (runtime just over an hour including introduction and Q&A) of the whole talk is also included at the end of this post. I’ve intentionally left this post quite loose, on reflection it felt more helpful to put my scribbles forward as an offer to ponder and discuss a few ideas, rather than a more tightly formed review of Matthieu Ricard’s talk. I hope you find a few useful threads to grab hold of.

The banality of goodness is overlooked. Banal – adjective. Mid 18th century (originally relating to feudal service in the sense ‘compulsory’, hence ‘common to all’): from French, from ban ‘a proclamation or call to arms’.

Compassion Challenges

We have enough for everyone’s needs, not for everyone’s greed.

We are currently enslaved to economy, why be rich and unhappy? We need to deal with poverty in the midst of plenty.

Emotionally we are simply not equipped to deal with long term concerns, Ricard suggests we find it hard to see, and think about events beyond our life time. Add into the mix the short term way politics currently operates, and you begin to see why it is hard to change.

Equality. Social justice. Education. We need all these, and we need consideration for others first.

Stable climate needed. Livestock methane emissions are a significant part of the problem.

A cow farts out approximately 100kg of methane each year *shocked face*. This is equivalent to around 2,300kg of CO2, about the same emitted by a car travelling 7,800 miles. All ruminants on the planet together emit the equivalent of around 2bn of CO2 equivalents each year, and the clearing of forests etc to create more grazing and farm land is currently responsible for an additional 2.8bn metric tons of CO2 per year. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) agriculture is responsible for 18% of the total release of greenhouse gases world-wide (this is more than the whole transportation sector). Source.

Choose not to eat meat. I’m currently experimenting with a meat free diet, only a few days into this but so far no cow related cravings. Compassion not just for other humans, but for other species we co exist with too.

People don’t always want to lead…

A well known environmental conference offered a vegetarian meal option and the organisers were surprised when only 20% of guests chose it. The following year, the vegetarian choice was made the default option and 80% of guests stayed with it.

Environmental stuff in general – 20% of people see the environment as an issue and are actively engaged to limit climate change. 20% of people disagree that it’s an issue they can help solve, and 60% say they will act if/when others do. I don’t know where Matthieu Ricard sourced these figures from.

Cooperation is a source of joy. I just love this phrase.

Mindfulness needs care, a psychopath can be mindful, not caring.

Individuals recognising the need for change and taking action is good. Don’t worry that when an altruist meets a selfish person, selfish wins. When a group of altruists meet a group of selfish people, the group of altruists always win as the selfish ones inevitably turn on one other. Find your fellow altruists.

There is immense joy in practicing and noticing each moment. As someone who is 150 odd consecutive days into a meditation experiment, I’m starting to relate to this and yet I do so like to let my mind wander too. Ooh look, a squirrel!


Sorry about that – where was I…?

Compassion > any religion

Economics – it’s presented as analytical stuff yet it is practiced/done/responded to emotionally.

Trust is open minded caring.