Friday, 20 October 2017

Holden Joins Other Manufacturig Closures

It is all over.

It has been a long time coming but today has probably been inevitable since the 1960’s.

Today, Friday 20 October 2017 is the date mass manufacturing ceased in Australia.

General Motors – Holden followed Toyota and Ford today when they ceased local production and the last locally manufactured Automobile rolled off their South Australian assembly line.

Many readers may not remember or even know that Australia was a manufacturer of white goods. Washing Machines, Dryers, Refrigerators rolled off production lines in numbers that met the demands of a population buoyed by post war prosperity. Our homes and businesses were full of appliances manufactured locally, kettles, toasters and even lawn mowers.

We also manufactured radios and record players and other electronics.

And of course, we made cars.

Our manufacturing industries were highly protected by import tariffs. This protection resulted in our industries failing to keep up with world quality and process practices. This left us highly vulnerable to quality goods that were able to be produced offshore at a cost that still made them price competitive even after tariffs were paid. The Japanese did it better.

It was the same with our automotive industry when Japanese brands became acceptable.

Competition drives innovation and continuous improvement. We had neither.

The Hawke/Keating Governments recognised the damage tariffs were doing and set out to progressively remove them. This came in conjunction with the plans devised by then Industry Minister, John Button to support the Industry with the 3 Car Brand Policy. It was a sound, sensible and well implemented policy framework.

The result was, we started to produce quality, world class motor vehicles but eventually, other factors became evident. Korean vehicles, a GFC, high dollar value to name a few.

Ultimately, it was determined the extent of Government subsidisation needed to maintain a local Auto presence was too high. The merits of this decision will be debated for many years to come.

The cold hard fact is, we largely stopped buying our locally made vehicles.

As a community, we used to be split down the middle. You were a Ford or a Holden family.

Mine was a Holden family. I have personally owned or had custody of 9 Holdens.  

My passion for the brand did not diminish, I just stopped buying them in favour of European vehicles.

I was sad to see the last Commodore to be built locally come off the production line today. It marks the end of an era.

Equally, it signals the start of another era and a chance for our innovators to create.

Thank you, Holden, for many of the memories of my youth.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Bipartisanism – more like Bicrapitisan

We offer the Government a Bipartisan approach to this issue.

The Government is seeking a Bipartisan approach to resolve this challenge.

Absolute rubbish.

We are hearing calls for, demands even for a Bipartisan approach. However, it seems the definition of those offering and those asking for bipartisanism is for the other side to agree 100% with what the other is wanting to do.

The offer of bipartisanism is the first thing offered.   

Surely bipartisanism is the result of a process and not the first thing offered?

Surely, two opposing parties discuss their ideal approach, make compromises and hopefully achieve a more balanced alternative they can both support. It is the outcome of meaningful, mature and respectful negotiation.

And how boring is the other rhetoric?

Bill says Malcolm is beholden to the Radical Right and Malcolm says Bill is subservient to the Left-Wing Unions. Have you any idea how childish this sounds and how incredibly unengaged we become as a result.

To politicians everywhere, take a look at yourselves because we have lost faith in you and your intentions.

We do not believe you are governing, or for that matter opposing with the intention of a good outcome in mind. We believe selfish interests are your motivation and we, the people you serve are paying the price.

Single issue and no issue political parties with flexible idealism are becoming increasingly popular, not because they are attractive, but because the major parties are disgraceful.

Malcolm and Bill, you are both becoming equally unimpressive. 

How about a display of Bipartisanism to sort it out?

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Tuesday Conversation - AI, Future of Work and Recruiting (Hypothetical)

The sentence that commenced yesterday’s “Tuesday Conversation” was in the form of a very broad question that went something like this:

“All this talk about AI and the future of work as we know it, do you think it’s for real and how far away is it?”

I confirmed my belief it is real and commented first on the pace of change.

I suggested that based on my experience, the change would be very slow for a period of time, before all of a sudden moving to hyper speed. I provided several examples to back up my view including the slow adoption by business of e-mail, before it exploded to be an essential tool, almost overnight. The same with the move from mainframe to PC computing in the workplace.

The person I was conversing with is at a “career age” that may be challenging.

In their late 20’s and having worked for 5 years, they have not yet reached a level of seniority where they are no longer doing routine work, including the activities that will disappear in the new world.

The change to the concept of work as we know it today is considered to be most challenging for those older, but I can see a much younger cohort being severely affected. Sadly, the older you are, perhaps the cynical you are too. The under 30’s retain the optimism that comes with their generation.

My conversation partner was not overly distressed, more interested in thinking it through.

We moved on to what ancillary changes may look like.

We discussed many things including that of recruitment. Rather than matching people to jobs, it may be a more targeted approach of matching skills to tasks. I referenced the Michael Lewis book, Moneyball where each act within a baseball game was allocated a value. To be a successful team, it was necessary to have players with the combined skill set to equal the sum total of the values needed to win a game. Each player was then paid accordingly.

I suggested the recruiters challenge of the future may be to provide a person or people who possess the collective skills needed to “win the game” and to do so within the allocated budget.

As far as each person is concerned, their suitability for a specific role is assessed based on qualifications and past experienced performing that role, or a similar role. In future, the formal qualification may be a platform however their actual ability to perform individual tasks may be what is valued most.

For example, an individual may be an excellent writer, a very capable public presenter and a creative thinker who also has an accounting degree.

Possessing these skills, they will be paid for their ability to take the work produced by AI, interpret it, produce a report and present it to the Strategy Committee or Board together with a set of options for consideration.

And, they may perform this task as a freelancer for a number of corporates.

Speaking of the subject of the future of work, I recently read this excellent article by Petra Zink titled "Why the future of work won't feel like work".

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

A Special Birthday - Day

17 October each year is a special day.

It is special because two of my favourite people celebrate birthdays today. And being fellow Librans’ is not what makes their birthdays' special, although being so can only be a good thing.  

They share many similar qualities including being my former work colleagues, be it one for just a few months and many years before the other.

It is far too simple to say they are resilient and courageous, however both are certainly that.

They have each suffered personal loss over recent times and endured separate personal challenges.

Resilience is an overused word; used now as an almost throw away adjective.

The qualities shared by these two people are far more valuable, and all too rare. It is these qualities that make them the people they are. It is personal qualities that represent the basis of resilience.

To start with, they both have a commitment and respect for their parents, a true intense and deep respect. Sadly, one has lost theirs' over the last 15 months.

They also have an intense loyalty to friends and give more in support of their friends than they may ever hope to receive. They default to giving, and perhaps do so to a fault and at times, to their emotional detriment

They have both experienced significant relationship challenges over recent years, however this has in no way diminished their ability to love and support those they love. One lost their Partner within the last year.

They also share a sense of humour that is just a little bit off beat and have the ability and confidence to laugh at themselves.

Finally, they both light the room with their smile and whoever they are talking to at any given point of time is made to feel valued and special.

They have never met.

Happy Birthday Ladies  – you know who you are.

And, thank you for the privilege of knowing you.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Improve Everything - Add a New (Simple) Daily Ritual

It is day one of a new working week.

If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, your day is coming to an end whereas for others, it is in the process of starting.

Chances are, you are one of many who look at Monday with a degree of dread. Monday represents a return to the daily commute. It may be your battle with traffic, or just staying dry and warm in the hopelessly inadequate cover provided at the bus stop. Maybe you are a member of the “eyes down” flock heading for the train platform to be confronted by already fully carriages.

Of course, you may be one of those who are excited and hopeful for the working day that lies ahead and the prospect of a week of satisfaction and fulfilment.

You may even have conflicting emotions. There may be a degree of concern about a family matter, a child who is unwell while at the same time being excited about the performance review taking place today to be followed by a pay rise, stock bonus or both.

No matter what your state of mind, the start of the week represents an effortless glide back to the regularity of a daily routine, and the comfort that comes with it.

I encourage you to make an addition to you daily routine.

The action I encourage can be performed physically using your preferred list making method (paper, tablet, phone etc) or may be performed mentally, in your mind only.

There is a scientific basis for what I am encouraging you to do. The benefits are listed as including:

  • Expansion of relationships
  • Improved Physical health
  • Improved psychological health
  • Enhanced empathy
  • Reduced aggression
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Increased mental strength

A rather compelling and valuable list I am sure you would agree.

The benefits listed can be obtained by the simple habit of practicing “Gratitude”.

Make a list, physically, virtually or mentally of all the things you are grateful for.

We find it easy to list the things that annoy, peeve or upset us; we do this well, because we are well practiced at doing so. 

Adding the practice of gratitude to our daily routine provides balance and allows the positives in our world to be closer to our conscious minds.

Let me give some simple examples:

I know my daily commute will include being stuck in traffic. Equally, I know there is nothing I can do. I am grateful for the chance to listen again to the new CD I bought, or to listen to the next in the series of podcasts I was introduced to a few days ago.
I am frustrated at the repetitive nature of the work I do; however, I am grateful for the supportive people I work with and grateful for the lunch break where a few of us sit and shoot the breeze.

These are two really simple examples. It can be anything and everything.

I recall a conversation recently where a friend was complaining about how annoying his ageing Father was becoming. I suggested he be grateful, adding I would do much to be annoyed just one more time by my Father. It stopped him in his tracks and he eventually said he had never thought about it like that before.

Practice Gratefulness, daily to be even Greater, in every way. 

For more information, go to Psychology Today and/or Happier Human. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

Wanting and Doing

I have always wanted to run a marathon.

I have been meaning to start a blog.

I have always wanted to learn photography

I wish I could speak insert language

I have often dreamed of going to insert wherever

You are so lucky to be doing……………

How often do you hear, or say something similar.

My weekend challenge to all, is to re-visit the things you have always said you wanted to do or have been meaning to do.

Make a list in whatever your preferred format for list making is. Phone, tablet, laptop or writing pad.

List the things you have said you always wanted to do, all of them.

Now you are ready for the hard stuff.

Cross out or delete those that are motivated by reasons not all of your own.

For example:

  • Was your desire to visit Everest Base Camp authentically your dream or was it said 15 years ago to impress the cute backpacker you met at a cafe?
  • When you said you want to go to the South Pole, was that because of genuine curiosity about a wild frontier or just so you can say you have been there?
  • And that book you said you want to write, do you have any idea what it will be about or is it more about the glory associated with being the next J. K. Rowling?
  • Why do you want the Ferrari? Do you know what you would do with it or is it more to do with an overt display of success?
Can you see what I am getting at?  You will now be getting down to your authentic list.

As Parents, we tell our children they can do whatever they want to. Chances are our Parents said the same to us.

What better example to set to the next generation than to go about doing what it is you really want to.

Some the things on your list will be easier to do than others. After all, you are busy, because busy is what we do.

You want to learn to surf?

Prior to your next visit to the beach, look up where the surfing lessons are and book in. Many popular beaches have locals running surf schools. Introduction lessons last about an hour. It is a start.

As for those foreign language lessons, you don’t need to sign up to expensive classes. I attended local community classes when seeking to get a basic grasp of French. This was 3 hours, one night a week for 10 weeks and cost me less than $100.00.

If you have a genuine desire to get properly physically fit, perhaps forgo that repeat of NCIS three nights a week and get up half an hour earlier and go for a walk. The hardest thing about achieving a fitness desire is starting, it is taking that first step. But be warned, exercise and the associated benefits can be addictive.

Naturally, there are “want to do’s” that will be in the future.

I know several people with a desire to walk a good part of the Comino Trail. The fact they have school aged children means this is something for quite some years in the future. However, they are using the intervening years to learn as much as they can about the Comino, accommodation and food options along the way and places of interest where they will spend more time.

A friend has had a long held desire to run a Marathon. In 2015 she decided she would run the New York Marathon. Coming from a zero running base, she has started taking the small steps towards her goal and has completed a 10 kilometre run and then a half marathon as part of a slow and sensible build up to her goal. Chances are she will enter New York in 2019 after her son has completed year 12.

Another friend has an obsession to attend the US Golf Masters, but is doing nothing about it other than talk

Weekends present an opportunity to separate ourselves from the pressures of the working week, even just for a moment. It is an opportunity to look inwardly and examine and test what it is we really want, and want to do.

And then to put in place the steps in order to do it.

May your weekend be precisely what you want it to be.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Value of Work – It is a Personal Thing

I received a call today from a former colleague. We had not spoken for some months and the call was prompted by the article I posted yesterday talking about Idealism and Career Choices

We spoke for some time and on conclusion, my thoughts turned to the different ways we value ourselves and our work, and what we are prepared to endure, overlook or enjoy in return for remuneration.

From time to time we may feel increased levels of workplace frustration. We might blame this on process or workplace changes, staff movements or just the sheer tedium our role may have evolved too. It may also be due to loss of belief in what we are doing or in the broader corporate culture. It may be a Leader trust matter.

Imagine you are experiencing one of more of these emotions when you receive advice of an immediate 15% pay rise. How does this change how you feel about your job and employer?

In many cases, your mood, attitude and general feeling about your role will revert to the positive and enthusiastic.

Let’s now reverse it.

You have enjoyed a sustained period of high engagement with your role. You are enthusiastic for each day, derive much satisfaction from what you do and are part of a high performing ethically aligned team.

Your Leader enjoys your trust and you theirs’s. There is scope for development and you have a clear pathway. To top it all off, the overall Culture is one you can easily buy in to and contribute too.

You are called in to a meeting where it is announced their will be a 15% pay cut? How do you feel now?

These two scenarios can be simplified in to two questions:

  1. Would you happily accept a significant pay rise to do something you don’t like with an employer you don’t believe in working with a Leader you may not trust?
  2. Would you work for an organisation you believe with Trusted Leaders, in a role that fulfilled, enthused, motivated and satisfied you for less money?
There is no correct answer, there is only our answer, there is only your answer.

If you ask yourself this question, answer it honestly and retain the answer as a consistent reference point, you will have made progress towards understanding why you do what you do, where you do it and with the people you do it with. You will also have removed the seemingly ever-present issue of remuneration, from your work/life/happiness equation.

Ask yourself the question, write down the answer and keep it as a handy self centreing tool.

I dare you.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Idealism and Career Choices

Why do some of us find it easy to make and execute decisions that appear strange, high risk and even bizarre?

We may raise our eyes on learning of the successful lawyer who decides to turn their hand to performing comedy, or the Airline Pilot who gives the high life away to make their way as an author.

Interestingly, it is only the success stories that attract our attention when in reality, there must be many who have attempted such a large change with limited success.

Do we look at such decision makers with envy or wonderment? Maybe we silently or openly applaud the new course they set for themselves.

Perhaps the answer is influenced by the underlying motivation. Are they leaving a way of life or are they starting a new life and if so why? Then again, they may be driven by more ideological factors. 

I got to thinking about this today when the story of Allan Ishac came across my Medium feed.

Allan Ishac was working as an Advertising Copywriter while becoming increasing concerned about the growing momentum of the Trump Campaign to attain the Presidency.

His response was to post a daily article satirising the would be President.

He was motivated by the words of Mark Twain who once said “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand”.

When Donald Trump achieved victory, Ishac quit his job to devote all his energies to his “Satire Attack” against the new president.

He has since built a monthly readership 950,000 and had just published his first book.

My interest in this story is twofold. Not only did Allan Ishac move away from the security of permanent employment, he did so to pursue a path that he felt was important to him and his country.

I am not here to pass opinion on the work he is undertaking. I do however admire the choice he has made and the commitment of conviction he has to make a contribute to and attempt to influence the national political debate. Here is Allan's website.

How many of us have the courage of our conviction to make such a move?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Activity Based Workplace - A Tuesday Conversation

Being Tuesday, it is Conversation Day

This morning I shared coffee/tea with a charming and talented Change Management Professional. We have known each other for about 4 years and it is reasonable to say she has helped me transition from a Change Manager Sceptic to that of Advocate.

Our conversation was broad ranging including the project she is currently engaged with.

She is consulting to a Major Corporation to assist their change to an Activity Based Workplace.

The Corporation in question is rolling out a new workplace concept to all departments and divisions across more than 20 locations spanning 4 continents.

In short, they want more people working from home, more often.

I can see significant benefits in this strategy.

From an employee perspective, greater flexibility allows ease of parental sharing and both parents being able to pursue chosen careers.

Many working Mothers talk of the guilt they harbour on returning to work, and this too could be minimalised. (it has always interested me that Fathers don’t harness the same guilt).

Corporately, the volume of office space needed in each location lessons, reducing capital and ongoing costs.

There are also numerous benefits for the community. For example, imagine the positive impact on transport infrastructure if there were 1000 people taken off the roads, trains and buses each day.

There may also be an economic transplantation. Arguably, 1000 cups of coffee would be made in the suburbs instead of the CBD.

I have mentioned only a few of the very many benefits of such a work place. 

I may be old fashioned, too much of a traditionalist even, because I also wonder about the social impacts of Activity Based Workplaces where more staff are working from home. I also wonder at the impacts, positively and negatively on mental health.

Traditional workplaces require the development and ongoing practice of social skills. They teach and hone negotiation skills, giving and taking and collaboration. They also require a certain level of face to face conflict resolution.

And then there is the pure social interaction, the water cooler conversation. There is also the support provided for a colleague enduring personal challenges.

There are also people who are naturally shy and/or introverted. They benefit greatly from the necessity a workplace has for the development of relationships and the practice of conversation.

I am not sure removing this daily interaction is a good thing.

It is important to add that encouraging staff to work remotely is only one facet of the Activity Based Workplace Concept. There are several other key components that I have not addressed.

The organisation in question is doing a very good job in preparing staff for the changes they are implementing and have executed what appears to be a very good connectivity strategy via common hardware and having all offices throughout the world connected to a single platform. 

In technology and operational terms, it actually works and works well.

My question or concern is, as workplaces provide greater access to connectivity, are staff in reality becoming less authentically connected?

Time will tell.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Questions Applicants Should Ask - And Employers May Not want Asked

When we receive applications for a role, the review and shortlisting process will inevitably have some focus on past employment history and lengths of tenure.

We dissect if they have been job hoppers particularly between jobs that are quite similar.

And opinions here differ. A very stable employment history with lengthy periods at one employer to one person suggests loyalty, commitment and reliability. To another it may imply mediocrity, lack of ambition, set in their ways and even laziness.

How valuable would it be if the applicant was provided details of the average length of tenure of staff with the employer they are applying to join?

How would the employer view such a question and would they even have an answer?

The applicant may view longer average tenure periods as indicators of a caring employer who values their staff in tangible and cultural ways. They may also perceive an employer who invests in the development of their staff and seeks to provide opportunity for advancement and progression.

I clicked on a link today motivated by it being shared or liked on LinkedIn by numerous connections. I was curious.

It turned out to be an advertisement for a role with a what in local terms is a major employer. I skimmed through the detail and was surprised and impressed by what had been outlined at the end of the add, presumably by the website.

There was a graphical representation of the number of employees in the group together with staff number growth details.

This is a group that boasts nearly 1000 employees.

Of more interest was additional information of the average length of tenure of employees of the Group.

It prompted me to wonder just what length of tenure would be considered a positive by a strong and talented applicant.

In this case, the average listed is 3.6 years.

My first reaction is this was low, and not a positive for a Group of this size. However, I had nothing upon which to base my reaction so I sort additional opinions.

The first feedback was provided by someone who was aware of the advertisement and therefore the name of the employer. They felt it was very low and therefore a negative.

The second opinion only knew the size of the employer and not the name or industry. Their view was that is depends on the business climate and felt acceptable minimum in the current environment is in the order of 4 to 6 years.

The third opinion provided was more detailed suggesting 3.6 years is very good for certain industries such as Hospitality but not so good for less transient, more traditional industry sectors.

The employer category in this case is Financial Services and most definitely a traditional industry.

I reached several conclusions as a result of this exercise:

When looking at employment histories of applicants, we should asses this against the average tenure of each of their past employers in order to determine loyalty and stability. If they remained in their last role 3 years and average tenure for that employer is 1.8 years it is arguably more positive than a 5-year term for an employer with an average of 8 years.

When seeking new staff, we want the best we can attract. Making a bigger deal of average employment periods for our organisation may well contribute to attracting good and motivated applicants.

Executive and Line Managers/Leaders should have tenure targets as part of their performance assessment’s and these should be accountable objectives.

Finally, with this information being provided, we may well see more applicants asking the question about average length of tenure and perhaps those who do, should move higher up the short list.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Celebrating Teachers and Community Health

It seems every other day, we are called on to celebrate or acknowledge an International Day of “Something”.

Many seem trivial or perhaps appeal to a smallish cohort. Others are truly and broadly significant, providing a chance to pause and acknowledge an event, a profession or a concept.

There are two International Days of Celebration this week that garnered my attention.

The first literally impacts all of us, commemorating a group of people who have been highly influential to all of us.

On Thursday October 5, we celebrated the teachers of the world. Those who inspired us, imparted skills and knowledge, set an example and instilled values we often only appreciate as adults.

October 5 was International Teachers’ Day.

Thank you to:
  • My teachers (some long suffering);
  • Those who taught my Sons’;
  • My teacher Family and Friends, Sheryl, Ross, Alison, Polly, Marianne, Ben, Toula, Anne, Judy, Karen, Greg M, Dale, who have pursued or continue to pursue this profession, be it primary, secondary or tertiary.
Tomorrow is another “International Day”.

It celebrates a day that has made a huge difference to very many people the world over, but in a very different way to Teachers.

"Parkrun" is a world-wide movement. It is a free, volunteer run community based activity encouraging all and everyone to move 5 kilometres at the pace they determine. Some run the distance, other walk, walk with children, push strollers and take dogs on a lead.

Children walk/run with parents and over 80’s walk or wheel 5 kilometres.

Parkrun is totally inclusive and totally non-judgemental.

Tens and tens of thousands of people all over the world have improved their health and lifestyle by regularly participating in Parkrun.

Saturday 7 October is International Parkrun Day. Find an event near you and get involved.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Trump Presidency Can Achieve Historical Greatness

At the risk of being accused of ludicrous positivity, I present a scenario only a Leader possessing the characteristics of President Trump could achieve. Further, I strongly suggest the scenario I outline, would see President Trump go in to history having achieved one of the most positive and long lasting contributions to the lifestyle of all Americans irrespective of background, race, religion or origin.

Further, it is the unique components of the Trump Presidency that mean he is the only President who could achieve this, at least in the past 75 years and most likely the next too

Why can President Trump do what no other could, or can do?

·       First and foremost, he is not a career politician. We have repeatedly seen him ignore traditional political process. For example, directly negotiating with the Democrats for a deal on the debt ceiling, much to the annoyance of his own Republican Party. He doesn’t adhere to usual protocols and he doesn’t need the usual alliances or affiliations.

·       His own Republican Party has little or no control over him. He makes his own decisions and executes his own agenda, and this can be very fluid. He does not feel bound by traditional Republican Party positions and policies.

·       He has a core group of supporters who will stay with him, no matter what. If he says it, they believe it.

·       His Democrat opponents are pragmatic in the traditional USA Political sense. They will support an action that meets their policy agenda.

·       He will form whatever alliance suits his purpose, in the moment.

·       He doesn’t rely on external funds/donations in anywhere near the same way as other politicians.

·       He would like to be remembered forever, for doing something that would be forever hailed as “great”.

Basically, he plays by his own set of rules and while this makes him unpredictable to the traditionalists, it gives him independence together with policy and decision-making flexibility.

President Trump could lock in a positive legacy that would be forever talked about and admired.

He could introduce Gun Control.

Further, he could appeal to President Obama to support such an initiative and I suspect he would receive his support.

Call me a dreamer, accuse me of ludicrous hopefulness, tell me I am ridiculous but at the same time consider just how much about this administration is different.

Here is a chance for the Donald Trump Presidency to be forever remembered in a positive light. It would outshine everything he has said and done, and will say and do.

He may even get himself re-elected running as an independent with grass root Democrat support.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Until Tomorrow..........

The severity and length of my jet lag has surprised me as I have rarely suffered it before. Maybe I am ageing or maybe it is simply a combined legacy with Marathon fatigue.

Until tomorrow………..

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

It Is Your Story - Keep Writing Fresh Content

Travel opens the mind to many things and presents new questions.

Seemingly endless border security checks, x-rays and on one occasion, a pat down. Different countries have different requirements. Boarding an aircraft in Germany required presentation of all electric items for inspection. I was a little amused at the interest in my quite basic compact digital camera.

On another occasion, the metallic buttons on my pants generated some interest and a bonus once over with the metal detector.

Should I feel more safe travelling by plane from, and within Germany, or more concerned?

And, when the next stop is Australia, there is an additional search of hand luggage.  At least from Abu Dhabi anyway.

But, these little events are all a part of my story.

And there are the people you meet.

On the flight from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne, I sat next to an 85 year old gentleman. He lives in Hawthorn with his daughter and son in law. A more polite person you would never meet. I assisted him with a number of things during the flight including his seat belt and immigration forms. His expressions of appreciation were almost embarrassing. He was of Iranian descent, spoke with a very heavy accent and held an Australian Passport. I suspect he has a most interesting life story.

He was a charming and content Gentleman, understated and happy.

I met a  30 year old Singaporean lady. She had attending Oktoberfest with two friends prior to seeking some alternative German culture after which they were each taking their own journey home. Her next stop was Paris. She was saying she would like to be away longer however her clients were wanting work done. She owned her own Interior Design Business and travelled the world to visit clients. She referenced several long standing high-profile clients.

So, what have you planned for Paris I asked and the answer was evasive. I sort clarification and she advised she has not been to Paris for nearly 3 months and the apartment she bought there needs to be occupied by her for a minimum number of days each quarter otherwise she is obliged to lease it. She has many clients in Paris however her work has unusually not taken her there for some time now.

She suffered from severe Ornithophobia and our conversation started by her asking if I would help protect her from the birds in the trees.

She was an articulate friendly, down to earth lady, easy in conversation with everyone. No airs and graces, just happy and inclusive. And most successful too.

The lady from New Zealand did tell me her name but I cannot recall it.

I noticed her peering through the windows of the restaurant as I crossed the road. The restaurant was my destination for dinner.

I entered and was shown a table and shortly after she did too.

Well dressed, she was perhaps in her 70’s.

We paid and left at the same time and she spoke to me as I held the door for her to exit. She asked how you tell if a restaurant is happy to accommodate sole diners, adding that when she noticed me going in and sitting by myself, she followed, comforted by my example.

I explained that I had not even considered that question and suggested restaurants probably quite like solo diners as we tend to eat and leave and they have a table free again.

She explained she was recently widowed and this is the first time she has ventured travelling alone and tonight the first time she had dined outside of room service.

I suggested she should be proud of herself for that, she thanked me and we went our separate ways.

There were many more encounters and conversations during my brief trip. Most were interesting, often they were educational and all were valuable.

I have highlighted these three for their cultural diversity, unexpected outcomes and overt politeness. I have also chosen to write about these three because in the space of a short time, they each openly and comfortably revealed fears and concerns.

They are all writing their own story and importantly, continuing to write it.

It is important that our own story is not one of repeating the same chapter over and over. We are better for embracing new experiences, sharing our learnings, expanding our mind and our sole and acknowledging rather than conceding to our fears.

What is your story, and are you still writing new chapters?

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Travel and Sameness

Travel is many things; Inspirational, Educational, Entertaining, Revealing and so much more.

When overseas, I do not watch TV, listen to radio or read newspapers including Australian on-line papers.
My lack of knowledge of the German language meant that from Berlin, I sent a message to Australia asking who won the German election.
I arrived back in Australia this morning and grabbed a copy of the Melbourne Age at the Airport Lounge eager to catch up on what is important locally.
Having scanned the first few pages and finding nothing to inspire in depth absorption by my jet lagged brain, I turned to the sport. I read the few paragraphs of trade discussion concerning Gary Ablett.

I returned the paper to the stand.

I simply had no interest in what were fundamentally the same articles and story lines as 10 days before.

It was like a slow-moving soap opera, the ones where you catch an episode after 2 or more weeks absence and it really doesn’t matter.

It appears the same people are still advocating for coal fired power and regulating the gas supply.
The quality of the Marriage Equality debate has not changed.

A high-profile sportsperson has been charged following a bar incident; same story, different name.
A certain President continues to be outrageous on Twitter and grand final entertainment is yet again detracting from the spectacle of the contest of skill and athleticism of the teams actually playing in the game.

We need leadership, particularly in areas of energy, transport infrastructure, environment, economic, social and technology. We need leaders that have the courage to make decisions for the future and commit to them for the long term. We need leaders with courage.

Instead, we have a former Prime Minister, the current Federal Attorney General and Leader of the Party that holds much power in the Senate talking about a song to be performed at a sporting contest that most attending would not know, if they did would not know what it was really about and is being performed by an international act that most would not know about.

My return from a period removed from the news cycle revealed just how futile, petty and juvenile our Leaders have become.

We deserve better.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Seeing Green and Writer Revelations

As I write, I am hurtling through the German countryside on InterCity Express. And I mean hurtling as the speed reading is 248 kilometres per hour.

I have just been served a cup of tea and 50 minutes in to the journey, I am feeling relaxed and contemplative.

The view outside is a sea of green, all shades of green. The blight on the landscape comes in the form of power lines and their supporting steel structures. I have never before so starkly noticed this visual pollution.

I leave Berlin with a heavy heart. I loved Berlin and if I was 30 (or more) years younger, living there at least for a period of time would very attractive.

It appears to have a lower cost of living than many other so called major cities. It also has a lower cost of living than Sydney, Melbourne and possibly Brisbane. In several conversations with people from other countries who have chosen to live in Berlin, relative low rent was mentioned as an attraction.

Our group from MND and ME referenced the low cost of restaurants and other services and goods. One item I pay $8.00 for in Brisbane was 2 Euro.

Berlin is a City I felt very at home in, language aside.

I made new friends in the MND and ME community and re-connected with others I had met previously.

I was also hoping to establish new contacts in relation to my business plans and at least two people I met will become the focus of future projects.

There was an unexpected unfolding that initially challenged and subsequently energised me.

On the first day in Berlin, a lady from Canada asked me what I do for a living. My answer was initially less than articulate. It was the first time this question had been asked of me since I departed my past Corporate Life. I eventually replied that I am a “freelance writer” and further discussion followed.

It was most liberating and exciting to answer this question on a dozen or so other occasions, and far more instantly articulated too.

It also provided unexpected reinforcement of my decision which on Sunday, will have been in effect for 3 months. It has gone quickly and I cannot recall a single moment when I have wanted to be back at my old desk.

It is surprising the opportunities that arise from nowhere. Perhaps the most extreme came from a conversation with a most interesting, successful and high-profile gentleman. He asked me a few questions about my writing before asking to swap contact details, adding he is seeking a ghost writer for his book. I reluctantly explained that I was not a book writer, however further discussion revealed other opportunities for collaboration including content for his website.

As much as I would like to spend longer in Germany and Europe, I am looking forward to heading home. There is a collaborative project I am working on and we will be launching before Christmas.

There are several other ideas I am keen to “pitch” as well as following up opportunities coming from this trip.

Melbourne beckons in a few weeks’ time and there is a bike ride in the Snowy Mountains in December to ensure life is not all work and no play.

My question to you is, if you could answer with anything you wanted, how would you answer the question “What do you do for a living”?

Monday, 25 September 2017

Berlin Marathon Wrap and Meeting Marathon Man

Well, that was fun. Seriously, yesterday and the Berlin Marathon was fun, from the time I woke and got ready, breakfast, making our way to the start, the marathon itself, the after party and then dinner.

It was all fun.

I have never thought much of the Ossie, Ossie, Ossie, Oi, OI, Oi chant that first became popular during the Sydney Olympics. I have always felt it was a little “simple” and we really could do better.

However, hearing it yesterday when Australians’ in the crowd noticed the flag on our shirts was an entirely different experience. It was wonderful. And there was a dozen or more groups of Australian supporters, some with the obligatory inflatable kangaroo.

The Belgium supporters had large inflatable pretzels.

There was a more overt multi-cultural feel about Berlin compared to New York and many more runners of my age and older. I recall being in the starting compound at New York and realising how few runners were of my age and wondering if I really should be there. I had lots of company yesterday.

Our MND and ME team seemed relaxed although some later confessed to nerves. I have tangible evidence of my relative relaxed state.

At the start in New York, I was standing with Matt from the MND team and we checked our heart rates. My stationary standing heart rate was 91 (would normally be low 60’s) and his was a few beats higher. I checked it yesterday with a minute to go and it was 71. A tangible indication of my more relaxed nature.

At about the 28 kilometre mark, a runner from Australia came beside me asking how I was going. He was wearing a neck to ankle superman suit, inclusive of cape. As you do.

He happened to be at the after party last night, still in the Superman costume. (as you do).

He recognised me from our chat during the run and (bizarrely) asked if I remembered him. He would be about 50 and started running in 2008. Yesterday was his 317th marathon. He ran Sydney last weekend, Berlin yesterday and over the next three Sunday’s will compete in the Cologne, Munich and Melbourne marathons. When he completed the Gold Coast Marathon on 2 July 2017, he achieved a new world record. It was his 313th marathon.

He doesn’t look like the typical endurance athlete, was a little taller than me and I estimate some kilograms heavier. He just loves it.

The costume he wears is not Superman. It is actually Marathon Man. His name is Trent Morrow and this is his website . It was great to chat to him and he was very generous.

What is next on my agenda?

There is a group trekking to Mt Everest Base Camp in 2018. This has enormous appeal and I was very keen to be a part of it. However my cardiologist said I was not to go into such thin air.

So, what is next?

I have no idea, but I do know something or someone will materialise. It always does.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Life Lesson From The Berlin Marathon

It is the eve of the day I have been working towards for 12 weeks.

I sit in my Berlin Hotel Room feeling a sense of anticipation and excitement. I also have a degree of concern about the weather that will greet us in the morning. Will it be wet, windy, humid or hot? Then again, I have no desired formula for what perfect weather will look like. 

The weather will simply be, what it will be.

Tomorrow is the day of the 2017 Berlin Marathon.

I do struggle to articulate why at just a few days short of my 59th birthday, I am setting out to run my second ever marathon.

The first was in New York in 2015 and as amazing experience as it was, everything about it was hard and just hurt. I was injured through much of the preparation and went into the event still injured. It was satisfying to finish and it was a sensational experience to be a part of an amazing event and to see New York from a vantage point that relative few get to enjoy, but it wasn’t fun as such.

I said I would never do another, but here I am.

The constant injury and the drudgery of training for New York were drivers in my decision to not make my way to another marathon starting line. A huge part of my motivation for New York was being a part of the MND and Me foundation team and fund raising. This was the reason I entered the event and the reason I persevered.

I was also driven as much by wanting to be a part of a unique event, to be able to say I was not just a marathoner, but I was a New York City Marathoner. 

Very little about New York, was to do with the actual running of a marathon. It was a combination of a Charitable commitment and perceived kudos of the New York City Marathon. Ego was a factor.

In Berlin, I am again a member of the MND and Me team and proudly so. The foundation does extraordinary work.

However, I am here for “me” this time too. I am here because I want to run the Berlin Marathon. This time it is about the event, the 42 plus a little bit Kilometres that make up the Marathon.

I am not obsessing about a time, I really don’t care what it is. I am here to enjoy the event for the sake of the running. In New York it was about something else; in Berlin, the sites of the City and the size and encouragement of the crowds are looked forward to, but it is the run that is my primary sense of enjoyment tomorrow.

I am incredibly grateful for, and humbled by the messages and support from Family and Friends. It is really very moving, emotional at times and motivating always. Thank you.

All that is left in the preparation is dinner, a good night’s sleep, breakfast and the starting line.

And the lesson I have learned is, if we take action in life for true and authentic reason, everything is far more enjoyable and satisfying and I think this is a lesson to take to all aspects of life.

I am running the Berlin Marathon tomorrow, for all the right reasons this time.

NB: Apologies for the layout and other issues in recent posts. The European version of the site operates quite differently to Australia, making layout and editing somewhat difficult. (I am also out of time sync with my wonderful volunteer proof reader which doesn't help)

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Berlin – Two Tales, One City

By the title, you may be expecting an article about the East and the West but that is not the prime intent of my musings today.

Berlin appears to me to be a City at ease with itself.

It is not in a hurry like New York; It is not manic like Paris can be. The pace on the street is more akin to an Australian City.

The people I have come in to contact with have been friendly, welcoming, eager to help and happy.

There appears to be many foreign residents and they too speak well of the City.

It is a seemingly young City and it looks to me as if there is a very high proportion of people aged between 20 and late 30’s. However, there also appears to be few children.

Berlin is proud and positive.

Much of my day has been spent surrounded by sadness. I had identified “The Story of Berlin” museum as one I wanted to visit. Attached to it is a Hitler museum documenting his rise to power and we know the rest.

I also visited the Jewish memorial and the Topographie des Terrors.

Berlin is incredibly open about the scars on its history, the atrocities performed on a wide range of minority groups, the deportation programs and the horrors of the concentration camps.

They in no way celebrate it. They do however understand it is a part of their history and outline the facts in a straight forward, detailed and often pictorial way. Almost too detailed at times.

The ability of this City to re-build physically after the destruction endured between 1943 and 1945 is amazing. However, more amazing is the ability to confront its history, presenting it for all to see and understand.

I haven’t been to Japan but I doubt their history is available for all to see and read.

Berliners are courageous too.

There are also many situations where Berliners have protested against Government policies, taxes and wrong doings, and often with success. Other times the guns were turned on them but they still presented next time.

If you are over the age of 20, chances are you will know someone who was in Berlin during the war and worked in the war effort. 

Friday, 22 September 2017

Face to Face With a Little Cold War Reality

I caught a Taxi this afternoon. It wasn’t a long trip.

I travelled from my Hotel in Berlin to Berlin Vital Expo where the formal registration took place for the Berlin Marathon. I am number 58,818.

It was a most enlightening Taxi ride.

But I will come back to that later.

Earlier in the day, I joined a Fat Tire Tours Group for their “Berlin Wall and Cold War” Tour. Our tour guide was Ciaran who hailed from Ireland. Our experience was enchanting, educational, entertaining and thought provoking.

Ciaran took us on a tour tracing the Cold War history of the East and the West, the events preceding the raising of the Berlin Wall, the Eastern architectural changes that occurred as “dictators” changed and the way of life of those in the East compared to the West.

He outlined with physical examples the efforts the East went to in order to protect their way of life by inhibiting exposure to western culture, manipulating information, restricting discussion and a regime of propaganda. Residents of the East had little say in how they dressed, what the read and the music they could listen too.

I wasn’t exactly shocked to learn that one in nine residents of East Berlin were registered secret police informers, but I was disappointed.

We learned of children falling in to the river that separated east from west and how they would be allowed to drown. If help came from the West, they would be shot as soon as they entered the water and if help came from the east, the saviours would be shot also, by their own under suspicion of attempting to escape.

We went to the Russian Memorial and learned about the history that resulted in its establishment. We also learned about the Berliner’s less than complimentary take on the centrepiece of the memorial referred to by Russia as being the Unknown soldier.

We also heard about the events that lead to the fall of the Berlin wall and these are well worth researching because at the end, a “stuff up” at a press conference directly hastened reunification.

Something that came as a surprise to me was learning that a few years after the fall of the Berlin wall, many of those previously living under the suppression of the East wanted the wall to go up again.

In the East, they lived a controlled, consistent life with job security and life certainty. Each day was a mirror image of the last. When Germany became “whole” again, they were subjected to market pressures because “the state” no longer provided for them. Many struggled to adapt.

Back to my Taxi journey.

My driver was older than me. He asked why I was going to the Vital Berlin and was impressed I had travelled to Berlin to run their marathon. Berliners have great pride in their marathon.

He asked about my day and my reply resulted in further discussion and me asking if he was from the East of the West. He was from the East.

He was very clear that the falling of the wall was positive in all ways. He conceded many struggled to survive in the new world of the west but said the concern they expressed about this were with the security and knowledge the wall was never being re-instated.

He said the struggles he has faced as an under educated East Berliner of the separatist days finding regular and reliable work since re-unification are irrelevant compared to the freedom of thought and expression he has enjoyed for nearly 30 years.

He told me he was 21 years old when first locked up for political insubordination. Further, he told me he has no idea what he did or said that resulted in being locked up at 21 years of age.

I gathered he was incarcerated on several subsequent occasions.

He admitted he was a free-thinking young Eastern Berliner who despised the subservience his family, friends and countrymen had been subjected too. He said he was also aware of the rules however his concerns must have filtered through to his everyday way of life.

He suggested that those who say they want the wall restored, do so for political reasons and in reality, do not want a return to separate states and all the fear that brings. However, my taxi driver is most proud that they get to express their desire because for so long, opinions were not allowed.

It was a fascinating day, made even more so by my short taxi ride that brought the learnings of the day in to reality.

I also suspect very many people here will have similar stories to tell, and tell them they should.