Friday, 23 June 2017

Making Better Decisions

It is Friday and time to do what so many do on the last day of the working week and reflect on the week that was.

The theme that appears to dominate the week is that of “decision making”.

We are constantly making decisions. What to do, when to do it, why we do this and should we do that? But, how many decisions do we make “truly consciously”?

I got to thinking about the benefit of having an underpinning philosophy to fall back on when making decisions.

How often do we hear someone say “I had no choice”?

Have you ever heard the reference to having “no choice” used in a positive way? It is always used as an excuse for a decision made that will have certainly impacted another in what others perceive is a less than positive way.

It is an excuse, a cop out, a refusal to accept responsibility.

If we have an underlying philosophy or belief system, we need never make an excuse for a decision or it’s resulting action. This doesn’t mean a decision or action we take will be greeted with universal approval. It just means we can explain our actions and do so with conviction.

You might call it a life with purpose and meaning,

I had a meeting first thing on Monday morning. We discussed a number of things, life, business, family, you might say the universe in general. My colleague was suggesting the single biggest thing that could be done to help others would be the creation of a framework to facilitate the making of better decisions.

We explored this idea a little more. What was interesting is the quality of a decision we make individually, is inevitably subjected to the judgement of others and it is this judgement that we pay too much attention too.

The outcome of this is, we will allow our decision making to be prejudiced by our perception of how others will judge us, therefore compromising what matters to us.

In order to make better decisions, we must first be able to identify, adopt and believe in a frame work that we can reference when making any decision.

I may want to be healthier, more energetic and more engaged with my family. Making a decision to have a few drinks after work tonight (Friday) and grab a burger on the way home is not going to deliver the desired outcome of being healthier and more engaged. I am not going to wake in the morning as the best version of myself that I can be.

However, I will have satisfied the need of my work colleagues to be seen as one of the team letting my hair down after a long week. If I am committed to my framework, I would have made better decisions, and had a basis for making the decision.

So, to my colleagues question, how do you help people make better decisions, better choices?

As always, no two people are the same and no two people have the same objectives. Providing the framework to determine what we want and then providing the basis to make decisions in accordance with that framework, irrespective of outside pressure and prejudice is the challenge and the solution.

Easy really.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Climate Change, Global Warming - Why Argue?

I am sick of the climate change, global warming, clean energy generation argument.

I am over the Paris Climate Agreement and the Stockholm debacle.

I don’t want to hear any more from the Right-Wing advocates of coal mining or the Green Politics of emission free living.

The intellectualisation of solar v wind v gas v coal argument is of little interest.

We hear sound and principled arguments advocated articulately by well credentialed scientists providing dire warnings about the demise of the planet.

We have the same arguments discredited by seemingly similarly well qualified whoever’s.

On one hand, it is easy for a politician to claim to be “not climate change sceptic” while on the other hand insisting climate change is in no way "man made". Naturally, they try to appeal to everyone’s self interests.

It is popular to talk up the need for reliable and cheap power generation without taking responsibility for having a system at breaking point. It is not as if politicians from either side, since the Keating and early Howard years have had courage of foresight for long-term infrastructure investment.

But back to the climate change, global warming scenario – the one I am sick of.

As I see it, the issue is really, really simple.

It doesn’t matter if climate change science is real or false. It doesn’t matter if clean coal is a genuine alternative to dirty coal, or if natural gas is the way to go.

It just makes sense to me that irrespective of the science or the politics, we simply should stop pumping dirty stuff in to our atmosphere, river systems and oceans.

If making a decision to maintain a clean and sustainable artesian water system means ceasing coal seam gas extraction, lets do it for the clean water need. It is not a global warming decision but a clean water one.

If we make a clean air decision, the need to retrieve carbon stored in the ground over many thousands of years in order to release it again in to the atmosphere is non existent. 

If the health of our reefs and tropical oceans is threatened by way of a huge coal mine, lets make a decision to keep the reef clean. Keeping the reef clean may mean insufficient coal for generating power, resulting in solar or wind generation, however the reason is keeping the reef and waterways pristine.

Forget about climate change and simply make decisions to have the cleanest air possible and the purest of water systems, inland and ocean.

If this guides our basic decision making it doesn’t matter if the climate science is true or false, if global warming is man-made or not. What matters is having a safe and healthy environment for ourselves, our children and their children.

Clean air and clean water just makes sense and you don’t need to be a scientist to know this, or make decisions accordingly.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Power of the Negative

What is it about Negativity and why does it get such a bad wrap?

I mean, it is seriously popular, is all around us and always there.

Most of us do it really, really well and we should because we practice it constantly. It’s easy and it makes us feel  - -  actually, what does it make us feel?

I visited a friend in hospital today.  She is a Lawyer, a Businessperson, a Mental Health Advocate, an Author, a Wife and above all else, a Mother.

Like most people, I hate going to a hospital, it is a negative experience which I mentioned to a few people as I explained my coming absence.

But why is it negative?

I have been in hospital and experienced major surgery. It wasn’t pleasant. But, it was certainly one of the most positive experiences of my life. I am fit, active, healthy and alive, and chances are I would be none of these things if not for my hospital experience.

She had major surgery on Monday and is doing ok. The outcome will be overtly positive in every area of her life.

She will return to her full life being her whole self and her children, partner and all in her sphere will be better for it.

How is this negative?

Hospital is positive in the overwhelming number of cases, but we are conditioned to think and speak otherwise.

Like so many things, we focus on the negative or difficulty of the “now” and not the positivity of the ultimate outcome.

In Business, we spend more time addressing what might go wrong than we do ensuring it goes right.

We act and speak “negative” so easily, because it is so easy. We are skilled at saying what should "not be", telling others what "not to do" and finding fault all around us. We are good at it because we are programmed to do so from a young age.

Consider the difference it would make if we swapped “don’t” for “do”, expressing our intended actions in terms of what we "will do" rather than what we will "stop doing"..

Likewise with our thoughts, swapping the positiveness of the outcome for the difficulty of the now, could, would change our whole life outlook.

And, the return on investment in all we do would be astounding.
Think of the benefits, in everything, everywhere, always.


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Race - To The Next Red Light

I was driving along a three lane carriage way midday today.

The traffic was solid, but moving freely and as with many similar roads, there were traffic lights every kilometre or so.

A Tradesman was closing in behind me so I changed lanes to let him pass and he spent the next 6 sets of lights in my vision.

He was in a hurry to be somewhere, and over the next 5 or so kilometres I counted 14 lane changes however at each subsequent red light, he was never more than two car lengths in front of me.

In effect, we were in a race to be the first to stop at the next red light.

It also occurred to me that the level of stress inside his vehicle was very many times more than inside mine, and I suspect there was an equal and opposite level of attention to the act of driving.

It got me wondering if what I was observing is really a metaphor for much of life.

Are we also racing to be the first to discard, or throw away our latest purchase?

The fashion industry is one, but not the only one to encourage the disposal of our latest purchase. Styles change with the season and seemingly within the season. This year’s “in” colour means the little worn accessories of last year become disposable and disposed of.

Look at the queue outside an Apple Store the night before a new phone is released and you will see hundreds of people eager to dispose of their perfectly functional phones – to be the first to dispose of their latest technology purchase. The reality is, for most of us, we use a tiny percentage of the computing functionality of our current phone or computer, but feel the need to discard it.

What motivates us to participate in such “races”?

The driver in this story, given the vehicle he was driving was almost certainly running late for a work related meeting and was wanting to feel as if he was doing everything possible to arrive at his destination as close to time as possible.

It is tempting to compliment him on his diligence however chances  his need to rush is due to failing to plan the day to allow proper time for the travel. From my experience, I would be almost certain today is a repeating pattern of behaviour. Maybe being so rushed helps him feel important and needed. It is possible he judges himself that way and wants to be seen and judged by others accordingly.

It is almost certainly the judgement of others motivating many of our discretionary purchasing decisions. We feel having the latest phone or piece of technology will have us judged by others as being successful or even better, as being “cool”.

I also suspect much of the expenditure in the race to discard our latest purchase is achieved via a credit card.

In Australia, according to ASIC total credit card debt exceeds $32 billion and at the precise time of writing, was growing at the rate of $1000 every 7 seconds. I know this – because I timed it.* (with the stop watch on my phone).

Each credit card holder pays an average of $750.18 interest per annum.

That is a lot of “throw a ways”.

I wonder what difference it would make to our financial, physical and mental wellbeing if we withdraw from the race to be the first to discard our latest purchase.

Monday, 19 June 2017

General Practice Business Model Impacts Wellness

One teaching reinforced when studying Journalism is the importance of reading a wide variety of Authors and subject matter. 

Accordingly, I subscribe to a number of Blogs and websites and was interested in a new Post on one such site today.

The story is written by a Doctor, a General Practitioner of some 30 years standing including many years working in under serviced rural areas.

She writes about her decision to retire from General Practice and why.

In short, she is frustrated with a health care model that drives less than holistic outcomes. An incredibly powerful and equally concerning phrase she uses to describe the core layer of our health care services is “Time Poor and Drug Rich”.

I recall a time when going to the Doctor was incredibly frustrating, inevitably involving a long waiting period way past your scheduled appointment time. A crowded waiting room with ageing magazines and little entertainment for children was not the most looked forward to experience. Surgery times were scheduled between home visits and I also recall being visited at home by our Family Doctor.

Now a day, if you have an appointment time, chances are you will start your consultation within a few minutes of schedule.

As General Practice becomes increasingly corporatised, it seems Patients are scheduled to meet a financial model. Did the Super GP Policy taken to the 2007 election by Kevin07 ever get implemented? I am sure terms such as Return on Investment were foreign to the GP of the past.

Were the bad old days of lengthy periods in a Doctor’s waiting room really for the better?

In those days, the Doctor took time to know the patient and what factors may be influencing an illness. Is there a wattle tree outside the bedroom window, what type of pillow are you using, is there a food type that dominates the diet? All these factors may be causing an irritable throat, a running nose, sneezing or sore eyes. Making such life style discoveries makes use of the very thing the modern GP is not afforded today – they are time poor.

Arguably, the “Business” of General Practice forces the Doctor to turn to their keyboard and prepare a prescription for a drug to cure hay fever, when a feather free pillow could solve the problem, permanently. Or to put it another way, they feel pressure to take a drug rich approach.

The alternative medicine industry is growing. Perhaps the “alternatives” are actually delivering “holistically”. Or maybe the “alternative” is really a return to the traditional, at least by way of time taken to understand impacts life style decisions have on health outcomes. 

The full article is here.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Business Practices Learning From Political Process

The short termism of Politics is blamed on the instantaneous or 24-hour nature of the news cycle. A secondary factor is social media while the regularity of opinion polls and a need to be popular drives many decisions.

We see election campaigns that appear to be a ‘race to the bottom’. Rather than outlining a clear policy position backed by a strategy to execute such policies, our Political leaders defer to criticism, and personal attack.

It is harder to put up a Policy Position of substance based on belief because this takes time and communication skills to explain to the electorate, and the accountability that comes with delivery.

I can hardly recall a comprehensive policy position put forward by an Australian Political leader in 10 years. I can certainly recall 3 word slogans and never to be delivered almost trivial things like a national fuel price monitoring plan. Popularist Policies prevail, requiring little conviction and no need to deliver, let alone being accountable for.

And when a dip takes place in an opinion poll, it is out with the old and in with the new.

All this has educated an electorate to be cynical, volatile and disillusioned. Political Parties once enjoyed strong numbers of loyal, committed, believing supporters. People who will trust the party year in year out because there is a long-term consistent belief based plan, referenced constantly and has visable actions underpining the plan.

There are fewer and fewer “rusted on” followers of Political Parties resulting in more swinging voters and a more volatile, less predictable electorate.

I wonder if business is going the way of Politics, or is in danger of doing so.

How often do we see a repeating cycle of shedding staff and then employing equal numbers in similar roles? Surely, if there was true commitment to a genuine plan, short termism would be avoided.

We see many plans announced by ‘Corporates’ and ‘Not for Profits’. These are regularly 5 year plans, as if 5 years is long term.

However, how often do we see the detail of the plan followed, executed and accounted for?

All too often panic prevails and instead of staying firm to a plan that was (allegedly) believed in, it is cast aside and a new mantra outlined starting yet another cycle. I am not saying a Business Plan should not be tweaked, but if it was based on sound and educated assumptions in the first place, it is unlikely the market place has changed so radically and unexpectedly as to warrant radical overall. Perhaps senior executives are really hiding behind a cloak of insecurity.

In Business as in Politics, perhaps increasingly the art of convenience is practiced with more skill and belief than the practice of conviction and commitment.

It may be an extreme case, but I am aware of one organisation announcing a changed strategy and structure in September 2016 and appointing Management and Staff accordingly, who this month announced a new structure and redundancies for some of those who took up new roles some 7 months prior.

And as for those people made redundant, all too often within days, and sometimes hours of redundancies being made public, the people being ‘let go’ receive hard offers of employment with competitors, often with improved conditions.

It all seems a little crazy, and ever so wasteful – In Politics and in Business.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

This Time It Is All About Me

This time, I am doing it for me.

I have committed to running a marathon in September.

This will be my second marathon, my first being New York on 1 November 2015.

While waiting for the start of the race, I was very clear in conversation this is my first and last marathon.

My reason for this was just how hard the preparation had been. Long hours running and what was a constant spiral of one injury after another. Besides, if you only do one marathon, the world’s biggest and most prestigious is not a bad one to have done.

In the weeks and months afterwards, I was unwavering in the decision to have retired my marathon career and the only time I had regrets was when the 2016 New York event came around and wishing I was there again.

The New York Marathon is an experience that I still find difficult to describe. The crowds are amazing and I will never, ever lose the memory and feeling of coming off the Queenboro Bridge in to Manhattan and the start of First Avenue. The crowd was extraordinary in size and in noise and it felt they were there for me only. It was perhaps also amplified by way of the contrast of the silence that was the Bridge.

The Marathon starts in the Borough of Staten Island and goes through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Bronx ending in Central Park. And the 5th Avenue Crowd and supporters in Central Park are almost as incredible as First Avenue.

A huge part of the motivation to run New York in 2015 was being part of a group of over 30 all running to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease research and for support services to those who have this terrible disease. Everyone completed the event and in excess of $200,000 was raised.

I surprised myself by continuing to run regularly the last 2 years, and more so, have been shocked at enjoying running. I started thinking about another marathon a few months ago but had to decide if it was running another that appealed, or was the main motivation or inspiration  more the going to a new City where a marathon was being held. I figured if doing another marathon was the main issue, I could do it in my own State or Country.

I also gave much thought to how I was going to avoid the pain that was the last marathon preparation.

My decision was to run another marathon because I wanted to. While I will be part of an MND team and will be raising funds, this time it is more for me than anything else, therefore the location doesn’t matter.

So, given that, it may as well be Berlin.