Thrive

Thrive

Sometimes in life you get a wee boost of something that inspires. When a copy of Arianna Huffington’s book – Thrive, dropped on to my mat a couple of Saturdays ago, courtesy of Random House Group (humble thanks to Neil Morrison (@neilmorrison on Twitter) – I suspect you know what you were doing… damn you!) – I was making a cuppa and had about half an hour to spare…. I started flicking through the book and ended up tucked up reading for over an hour (apologies to my mate Liz – I was late for good reason, honest!)

The basic premise is this: we are mostly operating in a world where success is defined through money and status. This brings about emptiness, stress and burnout. It means we are encouraged to spend our lives striving for money or getting one over on others. We end up divided and filled with compromise as work & life are seen as binary and non-inclusive…..In this particular reality – we battle ourselves and each other. Not. Too. Smart. Continue reading

For those who choose to run Up life’s Down Escalator

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I’ve slightly got back in the blog-reading swing this week. This morning, I read Being You is Hard by Neil Morrison. At the risk of detracting utterly from his point, the blog gave me pause particularly at the point of “some people have to walk up the down escalator” and then again with “never be afraid of being yourself”.

I’m someone who is drawn to walk up life’s down escalators.. actually, I prefer to run, to be honest – it means I get somewhere. This leaves me exhilarated, but in need of a breather usually. Yet as an escalator-runner, I recognise a paradox in myself. I know I’m pretty much going to stand out and despite my propensity to take the more awkward path, I’m also someone who is oft afraid of being herself and being truly seen. So I sometimes find myself a little torn.

Because folk are going to look at the person going against the flow, against the sensible path… and probably point a bit and say stuff (I know this, because I would too). So going on the basis that I can’t wear an invisibility cloak AND run up life’s down escalators (health and safety); I figure I end up faced with a choice: Be exhilarated, exhausted and seen, or be less awkward, less visible, less knackered and maybe just a little less alive.

You don’t get to stand out without consequence. That’s not how it works. You want to run up a down escalator? You have to commit to that action or you won’t get anywhere – and even if you commit, there is a high chance of falling over, of getting too tired & having to ride the flow back down to the bottom.

But if you make it all the way– Oh. My. Imagine that.

So you have to choose to go against the flow AND keep making that choice – and if you are a leader, in an organisation and you are pushing for change, for transformation, for a restructure or a re-navigation of “The Way Things Are Round Here”? You are going to be seen. You are going to be tested.

People will whisper. They will point. They will say you won’t make it, can’t make it. You might face sneering. Or outrage. It might tap into old wounds, insecurities and doubts. You may question yourself deeply.

But not everyone will question you– and that’s the point. Some people will look at your antics and want to join in. Some will ask you how you got up the down escalator and work out new and easier ways to do it. Some will gamify the process & have fun with the journey. Some will cheer.

The very best will walk down the up escalator beside you and yell you on and put their hands on your back to push you forward every step of the way

But at the core? At the heart of whatever reaction you have evoked and provoked? I reckon you end up with a few things:

You made your choice to be yourself.

You broke ground for others to follow.

You know exactly who has your back.

So for those who choose to run Up life’s Down escalator, I say this:

Pick your battles, then run at them hard; understand that invisibility isn’t an option, given the choice you made; love and thank the folk who put their hands on your back.

And smile to yourself – because you did it.

 

Image of the Copenhagen Metro – by Bill Lancaster

Working with What Works.

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I’m in America. The MSc studies have moved for a week to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where I, along with my AMOC15 ( Ashridge Masters in Organisational Change) classmates/ cohort are learning more about Appreciative Inquiry and about Complex Adaptive Systems. It is, frankly, an amazing opportunity and experience….and I’m determined to make the most of it.

We started working with Appreciative Inquiry yesterday (Monday) Part of what immediately piqued my interest is recognising a tendency to be asked to work in the “deficit” – to focus on what isn’t working, paying most attention to the Department that has the lowest engagement scores; coaching people’s performance based on assumption that “development” is about growing what we don’t have.

It’s raised some good questions in me about the areas I work on with my clients. How often, for instance, have I been drawn into conversations about lack, deficiency or shortage-of –competency/will/ capacity ( add your own words here)? How often have I worked (colluded?) to attempt to help “solve” a departmental or organisational “problem”? It’s a little disquieting.

What is intriguing me about Appreciative Inquiry is the invitation by Caryn Vanstone & Kevin Power at Ashridge Business School and Ron Fry at CWRU to work with what works already. To look at the very best in ourselves, in our businesses and arrangements ; to pay attention to how these can be grown and perpetuated. What I’m loving is this is NOT an invitation to be relentlessly, steadfastly positive. No one is suggesting we facilitate an away day or pick up the aftermath of a staff engagement survey and work with a fixed grin and a neat clap of the hands to only hang out with positive messages and dismiss the stories that aren’t “happy”. This AI stuff isn’t about the pink and the fluffy.

Far from it.

What’s emerging for me is that, in the face of a powerful, deep narrative of “We must be careful, let’s identify the risks” or “We need to bring this up-to-speed” or “We must get to the root of the problem”; asking ourselves to pay attention to the areas where we’ve already overcome risk or are relentlessly innovative is actually bloody challenging. Organisations dismiss good stories with frightening ease. We disappear the stuff we do well… literally vanish it “Yeah, Yeah – that bit is already fixed & done. We have already successfully implemented that, it’s in place…but what we REALLY need is to focus on the bits that aren’t done.” We fragment and focus on broken bits, rather than looking at the whole, bigger picture. Curious.

My questions yesterday were largely around “how can you ask a client to work in an appreciative way, without being seen to be a bit ( a lot?) Happy Clappy or having the term hippy/ dreamer/ not understanding the “real” problem bandied at you?” (for the record – NOT an appreciative inquiry. I have much to learn). What does appreciative dialogue in ourselves/ our organisations look like/ feel like/ sound like? ( better question from an AI perspective.. Quick learner?).

It feeds strongly into my wish to support different/ more productive discussions and stories in organisations….and that was just day one.

The image is an art installation outside the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh – I’ve been slightly slack on photo taking in the US so far.

Inspiration…

Monday’s post felt a little shouty. Today, I’m blogging out in a different space, trying to occupy more gentle, expansive territory, trying to think of the things that inspire.

Tomorrow (Sunday 1st July) I undertake a mini Triathlon, a physical challenge inspired by my family’s very real, very long and very raw struggle to come to terms with early onset dementia suffered by Margaret Drybrough (AKA my Mum) over the last 10 or so years.

As I swim, bike & run my way round Hawick in the Scottish Borders, I’ll be thinking of my parents and brothers and my husband, my sisters in law, nieces, nephew…I’ll be carried by every single person who has donated sponsorship in a recession. Everyone who has sent encouragement on the JustGiving site.

I will be inspired to move.

For me, to be inspired by something means I stop in my tracks a little and connect to something bigger than myself. When I’m inspired, I want to stand a little taller, do something a little better, breathe a little deeper, create something a little more meaningful.

I’m laying out inspiration so it too will carry me round tomorrow and in the hope that other people will share their inspirations & thoughts back with me.

Here’s my list of Things That Inspire:

Seeing true bravery in people – massive bits of bravery like speaking up or speaking out or little bits of bravery, like trying something new

The ocean

Meaningful lyrics

Melodies which haunt

Words which move me

My nieces & nephews – for their energy, wisdom and ability to make me belly laugh

Cities at night

Swimming

Flying… I get weirdly lyrical & thoughtful on flights…

Anyone who asks these sorts of questions – stopping me in my tracks & asking me to think….

And a good, balanced wine – how do they do that?

Gorgeous scents like orange peel or perfume or cut grass or aftershave

Shameless eye contact

Bright, cold, clear mornings….

A fast ski run

Old gnarly trees

Running freely

Hearts on sleeves

A good coffee

A great conversation

Intimacy

Dancing with a dirty big grin on your face

Staring up at a massive star-filled sky

My folks still being loved up after a lifetime together


I’m running on behalf of Alzheimer’s Scotland for the support, research and work they undertake: http://www.justgiving.com/joolstri2012