Eyes Up #11 – Courage can be a quiet thing

9-roaring-tiger-981I saw a quote today on Facebook.

“Courage doesn’t always roar.  Sometimes Courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow'”.

We are constantly told to be courageous these days – to speak up, to be different, to innovate.  This quote actually brought tears to my eyes as I considered it, because so many different takes on courage suddenly flooded my mind and challenged me to consider what the word means for me.

I’ve bungy jumped, sky dived, taken off on my surfboard far to late on waves too big for me, driven my car too fast, trekked in Nepal and even been on the Funnel Web at Jamberoo.  All required a form of courage but honestly, mostly the motivation is to be one of the group I was with, or to prove something, rather than to show genuine individual courage.

My true moments of courage came almost 4 years ago when I felt my life was in ruins, and I had decided the world was better off without me.  I had to find the courage to accept help, and rebuild myself piece by piece – sometimes hour by hour.  This was a slow and steady process, but it became a solid foundation which has changed my perspective on life and altered the benchmark for what is really the worst thing that can happen – my aspiration is that I can take this foundation forward and ensure I make the most of the potential I have to make a difference in some small piece of the world.

In the business world this week I came across an interesting example of courage which I have admired: the retirement of the CEO at the organisation I work – the subsequent appointment of her successor, and the associated internal candidate who came second in that race.  The courage of the retiring CEO is out there for all to see – roar and all!  But for the 2 candidates for succession, this has been a long hard road chasing a goal that only one could attain.  Both internally and externally, we treat these contenders as public property – we all have an opinion, we de-humanise them, we may even mock them.  But they’ve both shown ongoing tenacity, dedication and passion.

So today I want to highlight the respect I have for the courage those guys showed to put themselves out there, knowing one would fail… sure, they earn the big bucks, but they’ve both had the courage to move forward with a goal in mind each day; and in the process, they have provided me with inspiration to aim high, despite the possibility of failure.

I hope they can both sit down quietly after a turbulent week, reflect, and try again tomorrow.

Eyes Up #10 – I believe in YOLO, but I still iron my sheets?

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Yes it’s true.  I iron my sheets…  even on evenings like today when I have better things to do.  We all have things we do that no one else understands, and that is just one of mine.

I’ve found YOLO (that’s “you only live once” in case you’ve been living on another planet recently) a very interesting and useful acronym.  I never really understood the “LOL” plague – which had to be used with caution as it could mean either laugh out loud or lots of love depending on the context.  But YOLO really strikes a chord with me when I’m walking the line between the plan ahead, risk averse culture of my upbringing and the current generation of knowing and doing everything now before it’s too late.

To me it’s the modern version of “don’t die wondering” – if you get an opportunity, take it, as it may not come along again.  Quite a few years ago, after a few drinks, I agreed to go skydiving in place of someone else.  Great idea late one night, not so good when strapped to a madman about to jump out of a plane -I did obtain a new understanding as to why people become addicted to the adrenaline rush – but I definitely won’t be back.  But 3 years ago when I tried surfing, despite not being a water person, I discovered a new passion which has become a life changing outlet for me – all an unexpected side effect of another dare set over drinks (is there a theme there?)

But the other side of YOLO is that we need to consider the way we are living and how it impacts others in our home and workplace.  We really only get one shot at this, so as discussed in Eyes Up #9, do we want to demonstrate generosity of spirit and kindness to others and to ourselves?  In most case the answer is yes.  Particularly in the workplace this can be hard to do – balancing career opportunities with our home lives is another challenge.  I know I’ve missed some of my children’s school events because I was at work, particularly when they were younger, and as they’ve grown I’ve realised those moments will come round less and less.  So whilst I can’t be at every game and every art show, or help out at every function, I now prioritise things differently to ensure I will be involved in their school lives wholeheartedly.

So back now to my sheets – which are still waiting for me when I finish this blog.  Why do I bother to iron them? Because I love the feeling of getting into a freshly made bed with crisp sheets, and if I only live once, I want to get that feeling as often as possible.

 

Eyes Up #9 – Generosity of Spirit, Costco and Current Events

Screen shot 2011-09-14 at 10.10.25 AMI started writing this post some time ago and it was almost finished when MH17 was gunned down over the Ukraine. For most of us, it is impossible to fully comprehend events like this, let alone explain them to our children.  We’ve nearly all flown in passenger planes, many of us on that exact route.   Collectively we all share a shake of the head, murmurs of “what’s the world coming to” and may even shed tears with our family, friends and colleagues – despite the fact the victims may not be personally known to us.

These feelings of despair, though, certainly make me lift my “Eyes Up” and take a good look around at what I have, particularly in terms of human relationships and how I chose to interact with other people day to day.  So I ask myself, am I practising generosity of spirit every day?  Am I treating people the way I would like to be treated?  Am I being “nice”? I do know that I have sometimes felt strongly enough about someone else at work, or in my family, that I approach all dealings with that person with the expectation that they will fail me in some way, or that they are actively trying to undermine me.  As a result I am rude, abrupt, negative and using defensive, barbed language before a conversation even begins.  This open hostility puts everyone on edge, breeds tension in the air, and restricts people’s responses – particularly if they are subordinate in the exchange.   My kids will clam up if they see me cranky about the fridge left open or dirty clothes on the floor – and they won’t open up about their day, tell me any good news or share any issues they have.  At work the fear culture results if team members are afraid to point out issues that invoke a negative response and too many useful comments are left unsaid.

I don’t think being “nice” is purely about wanting people to like me.  I believe it’s ultimately an authentic human way to conduct relationships – even with people who we know are not our closest friends or family.   And so to my experience at Costco – which I visited for the first time a couple of months ago.  Now I was wary of the warehouse shopping experience – expecting something similar to the carnage seen at the Boxing Day sales.  But I was wrong.  Without exception the staff and fellow customers were polite and patient.  It took an hour to get there, there were queues to sign up, you had to fetch your own trolley from the car park, and find your own way around – but everyone EXPECTED this – and they were happy about the experience, as their expectation was this was the trade off for the marvellous bargains awaiting. Once inside the store, there was some sort of strange camaraderie pervading my fellow shoppers – people opening shared overwhelmingly positive opinions on this and that, sought advice from strangers on shoes and offered guidance to the best fresh food or bargains.  Even the checkout guy stopped for a friendly chat – whilst we packed our haul into boxes ourselves.

If a warehouse shopping experience can provide this type of positive human interaction, surely we can all make a little effort every day to be positive in our attitude to all our relationships at home and work.  There will always be difficult moments where anger, conflict and frustration are present.  But this week in particular, try to be human and genuine a few times each day.  Ask people how they are, how their day is going, see what goes unsaid, and be accommodating, polite and courteous.  Chat to a stranger in the lift at work, to the cleaners after hours or the mail man.  Remind yourself that not everything in the world is bad and practise generosity of spirit – and we might all feel a little better about humanity.