Sunday, 18 February 2018

Habits and Addictions - For Better or for Worse

Our habits can serve us well or cause us harm.

Like it or not, we are all a creature of habit. Do you put your left shoe on first? You may have no idea but there is a high probability you have a habit that ensures it is always the same foot that receives the shoe first.

We can therefore update adding the concept of ‘neutrality to those of serving us well or causing harm. I would argue that a habit of putting one show on before the other is neither good nor harmful.

Often, we explain habits by referencing routine. Are they one and the same?

We have good habits that may aid our health, education and relationships just as we may have poor habits that do the opposite.

We will probably be aware of our destructive or harmful habits and express a desire to reform them, even if only inwardly . Something most of us are highly skilled in is finding a reason or excuse for staying the same.

I will give up alcohol after my birthday, stop eating chocolate after Easter or commence an exercise program on the first day of Spring.

We deliberately delay the start of forming  of a new habit to a date in the future, secretly knowing this will also be the day we devise another “future” start day.

How different is a habit from an addiction?

We think of addiction in terms of substances like drugs, coffee, alcohol and nicotine.

Is repeatedly staying up late watching trash television an addiction of a habit?

Perhaps it depends on how we feel when our habit is disrupted or our addiction cannot be fulfilled.
A power outage may mean we miss our favourite TV program. Do we feel agitated as a result of our habit being disrupted and perhaps the extent of our agitation is a measure of addiction? Then again, am I addicted to the program or to making a meaningful contribution to the discussion about the show over morning coffee the next day?

I am writing this on a Sunday and it will be posted today too. So what?

About 4 weeks ago I announced I would be posting an article here every week day meaning I have Saturday and Sunday off.

As each day starts, I find I am constantly seeing or mentally formatting potential ideas for that (week) day(s) post. It is a day long piece of work that only ends when the article is published, when the search for the next day’s article begins. It is all absorbing.

I have realised these last two weekends that I am so in the habit of doing this, that come Sunday, I start to become a little agitated about not having written anything.

I am yet to decide if this habit serves me well, causes me harm or is neutral.

I am just relieved it is Monday tomorrow and I will be able to write and publish an article.

Friday, 16 February 2018

School Safety - How Many Sharks Have to Die.......

A few days ago, I heard someone on radio advocating the hunting of sharks in order to make the beaches in a particular area safe for swimming.

I heard a spokesperson for the Australian Greens respond with the question, how many sharks do we have to kill to make it safe? Is it 10, 20 or do we need to kill every shark to make it safe to swim in the beach?

My next question may be overly dramatic, even silly, but none the less, I will pose it just the same.

How many children and teachers have to be shot and killed in American schools before they are safe? Will schools be safe again when all are deceased?

Silly and dramatic question but as I sit in my comfortable office, 10 or more thousand kilometres from America, I am dumb founded that this so called great country can continue to see NO correlation between criminal killing by firearm and their right to bear firearms.

To the best of my knowledge, the mass slaughter of citizens by another citizen for no religious or military reason happens nowhere else but America.

President Trump quite correctly was quick to express his condolences and to tweet outrage. But he also referenced a need to improve mental health management.

He is right about mental health management however how does a 19 year old with no obvious or stated need for a high powered fire arm, legally purchase one including an accessory that makes it more dangerous. (according to reports)

I get the power of the gun owner lobbies and the money they use to fund campaigns, or campaigns against anti gun owner rights candidates, but at what point can we expect change to happen. When will Politicians do the right thing, stand united irrespective of political persuasion and say enough people have been shot, in classrooms.

President Trump claims to be the drainer of the swamp, the President most independent from outside influence and most immune to corporate and other donations. Surely, he is the one who can make change happen and forever be remembered in history as the greatest reformer ever.

Or, does every shark have to be killed before it is safe to go back in the ocean?

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Substance v Celebrity

Who remembers Christopher Skase, Robert Holmes a Court, Bruce Judge, Laurie Connell and of course Alan Bond?

For better or worse, I am old enough to remember the high profile corporate careers of all these heroes of 1980’s Corporate Australia.

Between them, they seemed to own everything, or if they didn’t, were in the process of buying it.

From transport to media, brewing to banking, they were the high flying, high worth corporate superstars of the era.

The binged on freely available debt and a stock market that was on a bull run. They wined, dined and travelled in style and when they arrived at the travel destination, luxurious accommodation was normal.

Private jets and private yachts were complemented by art collections acquired at record prices and of course, some were players in the racing industries.

They were media stars too, happily appearing on TV, in glossy magazines always comfortable showing the lifestyle of the rich and seemingly famous.

They were celebrities, although less so Robert Holmes a Court.

Then it all unravelled and in more than one case, jail terms were served while another escaped legal scrutiny by fleeing overseas and then being deemed to sick to travel home.

It was very much a case of celebrity over substance and many retail investors lost a lot of money as a result of buying their shares.

This experience should be a reminder that substance is always more important than celebrity in all walks of life.

There are sporting example too with Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova being one of the best examples.  Her celebrity certainly out shone her ability as she achieved an extraordinarily high profile, despite never winning an open singles title (source Wikipedia).

The world of politics seems to be moving in the direction of celebrity too. The French and Canadian Presidents may well prove to have substance however there is much concentration on the appearance and personality as on their policy and political courage, something they embrace and encourage.

Boris Johnson appears to be pursuing his political ambitions more on celebrity than substance, although time may well prove otherwise.

When celebrity is embraced by a politician and where there personal and professional lives mould in to one, the fall in the event of an indiscretion is all the more rapid and all the more damaging.

And of course, America is the hoe of the Celebrity Politician. We have had a movie actor become President and another become a Governor and of course, we have the reality TV star in the White House at the moment.

Be it business, sport or politics, substance will always be the ultimate victor.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Love - It's Valentine Day Afterall

I really didn’t know what to write about today.

Being Valentine’s Day, it feels I should write something about “Love”.

I had a long conversation today with a friend who has been fighting a few health challenges. The good news is, an exploratory procedure a few days ago revelled no issues.

We spoke about a number of things.

She has an elite sporting background and is beginning to learn that she no longer needs to be the best at everything she does.

She works in health and has an interest in reducing diabetics in the community. She provides a lot of support to many people and is a natural “giver”.

She said she has realised she needs to be a bit more selfish and to look after herself first. (My response was predictable)

It is interesting that people who have lived a life of high achievement, where by its nature requires a high level of selfishness, are out of touch with the need to look after themselves. They manage their performance before their overall well being often failing to realise these are of parallel importance

Everything is centred on achieving the ultimate performance, a personal best or a victory. Nothing else matters.

For all the attention placed on diet, training, recovery and injury management, there is little attention paid to the overall person.

Or, to put it another way, the self-love is conditional.

The same applies to high achievers in business. The focus is so firmly placed on the next development, innovation, balance sheet and performance data, often the need to look after yourself, your self love, is neglected.

When you buy that bunch of flowers, box of chocolates or other special gift for your loved one this Valentine Day, add an extra rose or freddo frog for yourself too, from yourself.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Equality - Give Credit Where Credit is Due

I have been avoiding entering the debate currently dominating our airwaves.

I am not talking about the latest scandal in My Kitchen Drools, Married at First Bight or “I’m a pretend celebrity keep me here”.

The debate I have been avoiding is that surrounding Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, his broken marriage and new relationship with a former member of his staff.

To allow you to decide if you will read on, I will provide a list of the things the following paragraphs will not address. They are:

·       The morality of otherwise of extra marital affairs

·       Use (if any) of Public Money to facilitate the relationship

·       The rights of wrongs of employment of the staff member

·       Political future of the Deputy Prime Minister

The family of a high profile public figure suffers in many ways, and none more so in this matter than the wife and 4 children of Barnaby Joyce. To have matters so private and emotional playing out in the media would be devastating to an extent most of us will never know.

However, it is the commentary directly and inferred about the third wheel that has annoyed me.

First of all, relationships in workplaces happen all the time.
Secondly, they are often between people of different hierarchies within an organisation.
Thirdly, the vast majority, very vast majority are not due to any abuse of power by the person of more senior rank.

Further, sadly, marriages break up and affairs happen.

Vicki Campion is the (former) staff member who is now the Partner of Barnaby Joyce.

She is an experienced Journalist and has worked in the cut and thrust of newspapers and television news.

She is an intelligent, strong minded person.

If you work in newspapers and TV, you very quickly lose any feeling of being overwhelmed by “celebrity”.

To suggest her decision to enter in to a relationship with Joyce is the result of being “star struck” is an insult to her.

The other comment that has been made, particularly on social media refers to the age difference and his looks. To simplify it, the question posed is “what does she see in him”?

To reduce everything down to a persons appearance is the very thing we are seeking to get away from. We are seeking to reverse the tendency to “objectify” people irrespective of their gender identity.

Let us give her some credit as an independent, intelligent woman who has made her own well-informed decision.

Like Barnaby, she made an independent decision as an equal, and in doing so, was equally aware of the consequences of entering into a relationship that when becoming public, would have consequences for many others.

Let’s give her some credit and stop implying she is some start struck, overwhelmed, subservient person.

And in saying that, please again refer to the first bullet point above

Monday, 12 February 2018

Royal Commission, Banks and Balderdash

I am wondering what to make of the Royal Commission commencing today.

Its brief is to look in to Financial Services. Concentration will be on the banking sector however insurance and superannuation funds have also been included.

Banks are an easy and popular target. We don’t like them. Well, not quite because we tend to think “our” bank is ok, it just the others we don’t like.

What annoys me about the Royal Commission is the basis under which it has come about.  The ALP and Greens have been going on about the need for a Royal Commission for some time while the Government has been rejecting the idea.

A Parliamentary enquiry in to banks was looking likely when some (right wing) Nationals started making noises about supporting the ALP/Green proposal. It was suggested they were annoyed at the passing of Marriage Equality and were looking to embarrass the Prime Minister who they held responsible for it.

The Prime Minister responded to the potential of such an enquiry by calling a Royal Commission.

By doing this, he maintained control over the terms of what could be investigated and added superannuation to the list. There is a strong, if not certain possibility he did this to annoy the ALP who are the architects of the not for profit superannuation system that dominates the retirement savings landscape.

The Government wants to change the make up of Industry Fund Boards; the ALP doesn’t.

The end result is a Royal Commission born out of Political point scoring. I am wondering if it will be effective.

We have had a raft of financial planning issues become public and much distress has been caused to many as a result of what occurred in Bank owned Financial Planning operations.

We have had allegations surface about money laundering as a result of improper transaction reporting practices.

There have been, and continue to be allegations of swap rate manipulations. Some have been admitted and settled while others are being defended.

In financial services, we have numerous acts of parliament overseen by multiple regulators

Would more be achieved, more quickly by having a proper independent investigation to determine the effectiveness of the regulators, what is expected of them and ensuring they are resourced correctly? From the outside looking in, it appears they are almost exclusively reactionary when a proactive approach to provide leadership and guidance to industry would be better.

Having an independent review to determine a simple set of standard objectives for all lenders and deposit taking institutions, investment managers, insurers and underwriters does not need a Royal Commission.

Reviewing the role of each regulator, determining their objectives and then deciding resource requirements does not need a Royal Commission.

However, the Royal Commission will achieve one objective.

Bank bashing will be front and centre of our daily news and will be a leading hashtag on Social Media.

Politicians will get air time and will have another topic over which to have a race to the bottom.

Employees in Banks and other institutions will begin to feel undervalued and ashamed of what they do.

And, will anyone be better off for it – other than Lawyers and Politicians?

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Chris Froome - I have a question

I have a question for Chris Froome.

You may not be familiar with who Chris Froome is.

He is an African born Englishman and Professional Road Cyclist.

He has won the Tour de France on 4 occassions and last year added the Tour of Spain (Vuelta a Espana) to his palmares (prize list). In doing so, he became the first to do the Tour de France/Vuelta double in the same year since the Spanish race was moved to its current date in the calendar.

He is the outstanding cyclist of his era and rides for the wealthy, dominant and well organised Team sponsored by Sky. Sky of course are a part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

So, what is my question?

I have been fortunate enough to hear Chris Froome interviewed in person on a number of occasions. He has always appeared relaxed, respectful, cautious, accommodating and often amusing. He also possesses a degree of self derogating humour so often displayed by humble champions.

I have witnessed him show unlimited patience answering questions and posing for countless “selfies” with fans and admirers. He does all of this with a smile and a high degree of natural engagement.

I have attended two “in camera” sessions with him and his openness and insights about the world of cycling, its characters and villains has been informative and entertaining.

I have met him face to face on one occasion, having a short conversation with him. I suspect only one of us recalls this.    

I asked him a question when we met and I have another to ask now.  

I have heard him speak lovingly, respectfully and affectionately about his partner and very naturally, proudly and authentically too. Further, his partner spoke openly in his defence some time ago when he was under attack from that other British Tour de France winner. 

There is much about Chris Froome and his family that is similar to another great sportsperson who is also the outstanding achiever in his sport in his era. He speaks well, accommodates fans and is generous in the media. His partner has also spoken in his defence and he speaks lovingly about her and her contribution to his career.

A common quality of a Champion is a respect for the history of their sport and an understanding the opportunities afforded them are due to the efforts of, and the industry created by those that have gone before. A Champion also takes responsibility for the future of the sport and aims to leave it in better shape for the next generation.

A Champion not only respects opponents, they also know they contribute to the image, credibility and success of their sport. They accept a responsibility to the industry that serves them knowing sponsorship and positive exposure benefits everyone. They respect the entirety of the sport.

Some months after the Vuelta a Espana, it was leaked that Chris Froome had returned an adverse finding to a urine test during the event.

An adverse finding is different to the use of banned performance enhancing substances. An adverse finding relates to there being too much of an allowable substance in the athletes system. Chris Froome tested as having twice the allowable level of asthma medication in his system. He is well known as a suffer of asthma.

Because this is not an illegal substance, the athlete is allowed to continue to compete while the matter is under investigation. (at least that is my reading of the reason).

However, should the result of the investigation find the athlete liable (in this case Chris Froome) any results achieved while racing from the time of the test to the guilty finding will be erased. For example, if he were to win a race, whoever came second would be retrospectively declared the winner.

Seems fair? On the surface it may however the simple presence of a cyclist of Chris Froome’s ability at a race means the event will be raced differently. Trust me, it just does and could adversely impact the careers of other cyclists.

Chris Froome is under a cloud and his competing in a race, any race, when it may be determined he should not be racing, changes the outcome.

Chris Froome has decided to race in Spain next week.

All the publicity surrounding the race will be negatively focused on him and his team.

Is he entitled to be there? Absolutely? The rules allow it.

Is him being at the race good for the sport of cycling? No.

Is a cyclist of his calibre racing while under investigation good for the brand of cycling and its ability to attract and retain sponsors? No.

Now to my question to Chris Froome.

If he was under similar investigations and was aware of the damage his playing in a tournament could cause the image of his sport, sponsorship, TV ratings and attracting new participants, what would Roger Federer do?    

I think we all know the answer.