Colonoscopy time

cropped-img_0483.jpg

It is one of the things I dislike most. Following the death of my father via Lung Cancer then bowel cancer a regular colonoscopy is part of growing older. The actual procedure is nothing, as drugs take care of any discomfort. It is the lead up and the anxiety that bothers me so much.

For three days prior to the procedure one can only eat dull white things. White bread, pasta, nothing with skins on like tomatoes and beans, in fact no vegetable unless its mashed potatoes and no fruit unless it is clear in a bottle like apple juice. Then there is the drinking of two litres of disgusting cleanse mixture that means ten feet from a bathroom is nine feet too far away, for about four or five hours.

Then there’s the water. I hate the stuff. It’s, well frankly, its watery. Litres of the stuff is required to make up for the fluid loss. Don’t bother suggesting I could do it with red wine, I have already asked and it’s not suitable. So I drink more water in the lead up to this than I would the rest of the year I reckon.

Then there’s the thinking time. I don’t like that at all. This time is a little bit different from the others, as it’s symptom driven and not a regular scheduled visit. I toyed with the idea of discussing this with Anna and for a range of reasons I thought I would just keep it under my hat for the time being. We have a few things going on, with trying to get our new house underway and Tom and Amanda’s recent engagement announcement, this would only get in the way. Obviously if I don’t get the all clear then we will have plenty of conversations about it, but for now it is just me and my brain in over-rotation.

I normally have quite low blood pressure but i am informed today, with a few minutes to go before the test, my blood pressure is a little high. Go figure. Pretty much the next thing I remember is sitting in a chair with a cup of tea and a biscuit. It feels almost naughty eating the biscuit. Around the same time I am given the all clear from the doctor. Phew. I am super glad I kept my concerns under my hat. Now I’m looking forward to a good meal and a glass or two. Cheers.

6 Reasons for team dysfunction

bowlers1

Having worked with a range of representative sports teams for the last dozen years I can see some patterns in teams that don’t or can’t win. The good thing is that most of the elements can be altered or fixed. Even by just altering them, the outcomes will be different in line with the old adage “if you keep doing the same things, you will keep getting the same results”. Here are the six main reasons teams fail, in the reverse order of their importance, but in the order that most people imagine them to be.

Number One. The wrong people are being selected. This is generally a little more complicated than most people understand and surprisingly it occurs less often than outsiders would imagine. The very nature of selected teams means that someone will miss out. Take it as read, that person will be disappointed. When selecting the right people however, consideration needs to be given to team balance and roles. As an example, you may not select the best talent but prefer to select the people who would best represent, and be in no doubt they are two different things. I have long been a fan of work ethic before genius.
Number two. Poor coaching or poor tactics. Mistakes are made at this level all the time. Coaches either overestimate the ability or the preparedness of their own players or underestimate the opposition. It is part and parcel of competition. Great coaches rarely make tactical mistakes but it still happens. Improving tactical awareness is a significant part of improving as a coach. Poor coaches are those that don’t understand that last sentence.
Number three. Team inclusion. In many teams there is a feeling that it is the players against the world, but more importantly it is the players against the administration. The players feel they are the only ones with “skin in the game.” There is a feeling that coaches, selectors and admin staff are all on the periphery of the competition as players come and go. It is hard to convince someone to put their body on the line if they feel you will still be there waving them goodbye if they don’t do it often enough. Good teams have a completely inclusive atmosphere. This is one of the reasons that leadership teams have supplanted team captains in many teams. Players are seen as one part of the puzzle. Coaches, selectors and support staff are all integral parts of the same puzzle.
Number four. No personal growth. Regardless of the sport, regardless of the competition, it is going to be harder to win this year, than it was last year. Teams develop and get better. Your team needs to be better this year than last year and to do that individual members are going to have to be better as they play their part in making the team better. If there is no personal growth of the team members, the team will inevitably stagnate. Great teams all have a growth component. This is equally true of the coaches and selectors. If they fail to improve each year what hope do the players stand?

Number five. Fear of failure. In many sports there is the understanding that each person in that team is playing for their representative future in every game. I understand that fear of failure can be a strong motivator for some people, but it rarely works for teams. Team members need to feel a sense of security about their position in the team. By this I don’t mean they will remain in the team regardless of their performance. Each team member will have a clear understanding of what is required of them. If they fulfil that requirement they should not feel their post is under threat.

Number six. No start to finish process. The final dysfunction is lack of process. Many dysfunctional teams I have seen have had new players selected and others discarded without any considered process. The first the discarded players hears about being dropped is reading a team post or online or in the news. The new player is meant to slot into the side seamlessly and without any communication other than a handshake. Representative teams, by their very nature are ultra sensitive entities. The foibles and insecurities of each of its members is compounded by joining them together. This can all be set to rest with a clear induction process, clear lines of accountability and clear end processes. Though this requires work initially it will eventually make it much easier for the coaches and selectors in the long-term and makes the team much more cohesive. Obviously this process is much easier if your team is part of a squad where the next person into the team is very much part of the existing process and understands the team nuances.

We still have sports, almost unbelievably, that have completely untrained and unskilled selectors and in some cases even coaches. Most often it is these very people who adhere to the revolving door policy of the team they govern. When I say change needs to happen at the top I am saying a fish rots from the head. Sports that still have board members as selectors or other inappropriate people in positions of influence will never create a team that wins. It will just lead to more gravy stains on team ties. It’s time to move on. They of course will continue to blame the personnel at their disposal, arrogantly disregarding their own shortcomings in the process.

Finding friends

11110997_834968159884188_5818465203748345370_o
It is the worry of every parent at some time or another. Their children may not be hanging out with the right people. Do we attract people to us though, or are we attracted to people and why? How is it possible that years of upbringing can be undone by a bunch of grotty friends in a few weeks. Science can provide us a clue.

Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin are all said to have read the work of social scientist Gustave Le Bon. His research was published under the title The Crowd – A study of the popular mind, and was reinterpreted by American scientist Solomon Asch in the 1950’s with his famous “Black line’ experiments. In the renowned experiments Asch observed that people changed their opinion according to the group they were with. Guessing the length of a simple black line on a simple white card, the answers were markedly different, either shrunk or augmented according to the remarks of those around the subject.

The ‘altered’ opinion was once thought to be simple peer pressure and merely expressed as one thing or another with the subject secretly harbouring their inner truth, however that is not case a lot of the time. As we understand the mental process a little better, it now shows that merely agreeing with our peers gives us a little inner reward that is almost impossible to ignore. Our opinions can actually be changed, just by having our peers express them. We are not pretending or faking or cheating.

This has ramifications for bringing up your children. Fathers sitting down and trying to reason with their teenage daughters using words like “can’t you see what is happening?” or “can’t you see what they are doing to you?” just wont work. Because in truth they cannot see. Their brain has been altered in a way that logic plays no part in.

It also has ramification for those people trying to logically argue against racism of course. As many people have surrounded themselves either literally or figuratively with people of the same opinion and therefore can never, and will never be subject to simple logical argument. Their brain will not allow it.

The science tells us the parenting and influencing work needs to be put in much earlier than this. It is best expressed by author Mithu Storoni in her work ‘Stress Proof” when she says “When you pick people you want to be around, you’re choosing the person you want to become – choose wisely.

Invasion Day

I can remember clear as a bell the book by Alan Dee that was an assigned text in High School all those years ago, called “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee”. It was about the systematic slaughter of indigenous Americans. The great “indian wars” as they were called. The book was astonishing, even though I didn’t finish it, for no other reason than I was such a slow reader it would have taken me all year to get through it. I am pretty sure I was not assigned a single text in any subject, in any of the schools I attended about the slaughter of indigenous Australians.

We white Australians get very huffy when Australia day is labelled “invasion day” by Indigenous Australians, which tells me that collectively we are a little confused about what happened in the hundred years after 1788. I think we may be the original victims of “fake news”. We seem to have in our heads that indigenous Australians should be grateful that we stole their land and killed them when they complained. After all, we gave them such a great deal. Ha.

I have written previously about my disappointment in those people who drove Adam Goodes from the game of AFL. Almost all of them defending their behaviour in exactly the same way settlers would have done way back in the day. I heard intelligent people proffer arguments that were so ill-considered and so obviously racist it brought a tear to my eye. I can only hope they will eventually look back on their own behaviour and hang their heads in shame, but I won’t hold my breath.

I heard people say they didn’t like the way he picked on a young girl. I heard them say he staged for free kicks, I heard them say, and this is probably my favourite, we just don’t like him. None of these are sustainable arguments for the outrageously racist behaviour. It showed me there is a moron inside all of us and it doesn’t take much to drag it out. I have never been more ashamed of Australians.

But I have wandered off my point. Stan Grant has recently written a book every bit as powerful as the work of Alan Dee. Mr Grant too has come under fire from sections of the media for not being black enough and also for being too black. I have heard criticism mounted against Mr Grant along the lines of, “he is only black when it suits him”, “he didn’t used to be that black” and the classic standby, “we just don’t like him.” All of which display the same mature consideration and cognitive dexterity as the football crowd mentioned above.

I cannot for the life of me explain where that thinking comes from. Mr Grant is not saying, you pulled the trigger, you shot my great-uncle, or you should be held accountable. We need to get out of our heads that this is personal. It is history. History that we are yet to honestly acknowledge on a personal level. Our sheer huffiness at the description of “Invasion Day” clearly demonstrates that we have yet to acknowledge it. Personally I am really comfortable with indigenous Australians calling it Invasion day, it is difficult to see how they could think it was anything but that.

Once we acknowledge the atrocities, it stops being personal. It will remain personal until that happens.

Building teams is different to team building

bowlers1
Team building is the process of improving the communication and goal setting functions of existing teams and that is most commonly done by programs of shared experience. There are plenty of these available in the market ranging from single day in-house activities to daring multi day adventure programs. Building teams though is starting from scratch, and that is entirely different.

Building a winning team is about building culture. You need people to buy into that culture, not just pay lip service to it. People do that by being part of the culture and having some input into the establishment of that culture. Everyone must buy into the culture, or leave. By leaving I mean you may need to provide them with an opportunity to find an organisation into which they are a better fit. If a person doesn’t want to buy into the culture that is being built-in your organisation they are not going to be happy, they will not perform to the best of their ability and they will likely hinder the development of those around them. Worst case is that they become cancerous to the aspirations of the rest of the group.

Examples of developing a winning culture can most easily be found in sport, but it is equally valuable in all areas of business. Paul Roos is brilliant at it. He has achieved it now at two different AFL clubs, both seen as challenging environments. Both Sydney and Melbourne have benefitted from his approach to establishing winning cultures. He understands that it needs to be business-wide. It is not sustainable in the long-term to have a small segment of your organisation focussed on the winning culture and other areas doing whatever they want.

That is why it is so difficult to build winning cultures in not for profit organisations and sporting organisations. Simply put, they are run by volunteer boards. Though often well-meaning, many of these directors are completely unskilled in the area of high performance. Without the assistance and integrity that comes from professional input at the very top, it will be virtually impossible for any winning-focussed system to be sustainable.

Those people who do not place value in winning, have no understanding of the processes, sacrifices and changes involved and equally place little value in those processes. They regard the effort and the processes as silly and over the top. I have seen it first hand where directors of sporting associations believe that winning is not part of their goal setting and then are perplexed when their representative teams start to lose. They are usually very happy to start pointing fingers at everybody else in the organisation. Coaches and selectors are the first to be replaced in most situations.

Building a winning culture is about integrating standards of excellence into the everyday processes of the organisation. From the way the phone is answered to the way board meetings are conducted. From the goal setting processes of elite performers to the goal setting of the board. It includes the language used in the office and punctuality and dress standards. Equally these processes need to be underpinned and supported at every level so that everyone in the organisations knows where to go to get support, to improve.

Businesses are ideally placed to implement winning cultures. If you are part of a losing culture, perhaps it is time to have a look around and see how changes can be made. Sport is a great place to start.

13 Reasons to move to the country

IMG_0944
I have just finished recording a short 5 minute video for the YouTube Channel on why I want to move to the country. This is the third video I have recorded and for the first time I have included a short ukulele introduction and also a short tag over the credits. As you would know, playing ukulele is one of the things I do for pleasure so it is extra special to be able to record a tiny refrain and use it on the video.

Learning how to record that little 4 second piece, then edit it, then load it onto the video was such an exciting thing to do. When you hear it, you wont believe that such a tiny piece took so much care and attention to get where it is. It makes me smile, a lot. Some of my friends would not be able to do that at all, so that also makes me proud. I have a few friends that do little else other than record music so it is no big deal to them at all. I would like to think that they would appreciate the effort I have made, to get it right.

Recording the video and the music piece has been an interesting challenge. My lovely neighbour is fixing his bathroom, by fixing I mean completely removing it and replacing it all himself. He really is amazing. For a few days as soon as I started recording he started working, so that was less than ideal. I was happy to have the real sounds of the city in the background, but that level of authenticity was a bit over the top.

So I waited until he went for a walk and did it all as quickly as I could. Does it show? I hope not. To listen to the video you can either follow the link below or type in Barjols Sth to YouTube and you should get delivered to the video anyway. If you have ever thought about moving to the country, the video series may be of interest to you.

Sharing something quite beautiful

Sharing something quite beautiful

If I sound like a doting parent, then so be it. If you click on the picture below, you will see an advertisement my son Elliot painted for a european chair company. I think its amazing, but let me know what you think please. If all ads looked like this, I would watch them, rather than muting and turning the channel.

The gift of the gab

IMG_0588
I was born with the gift of the gab, or so I was told about one million times growing up. Spending time in church and youth fellowship groups as a young man I also knew one other thing, we are all equal. I don’t believe either of those things now.

Both statements strongly resonated with me as a child. Who doesn’t want to be ’gifted’ after all. I wasn’t even sure what it meant to be completely truthful, it just sort of registered with me that I could ‘gab’ my way through, around, under or over things, events and people. I became an auctioneer partly because of my confidence in my ‘gift’. I played in bands for the same reason or at least a branch of the same reason. I had spoken in public many times therefor playing and singing in public wasn’t so scary.

I didn’t ever challenge the notion of being gifted in this way because it was a nil sum game in my view. If they were right, nothing was going to change and if they were wrong I was in a deep dark hole with nothing to pin my hopes on. None of that is true in reality of course, but this was the battle raging in my head and heart. The reality is, the label was not helpful, and this is why.

Because we are all born equal, my gift meant i was deficient in some other area. So every time I came up against something I struggled with, I was way too quick to write it off as the pay back for my gift. For example, I struggled to get any enjoyment from reading as a kid. So I simply wrote that off as the other side of the coin to being able to talk. You can’t do both obviously, I could talk therefore it was OK to be really bad at reading. Once again, not reality or sensible, just what was going on in my head.

I didn’t hit puberty until my eighteenth year, so I was a little gobby brat. Poor organisational skills was another of those gaps in my development that I was way too quick to write off as the price to pay. I would have been so much better off knuckling down and working on getting organised. I spent a lot of my youth keeping people at bay lest they figure out just how deficient I was. What a waste of my energy that was.

So the moral of this little tale is, while it is lovely to point out strengths in young people as they grow up, make sure that young person is developing a well-rounded personality. Self assessment will almost always leave us feeling short of a pass mark, so providing assistance to a young person while they develop their personality can be invaluable.

 

A change of plan

IMG_8332

As regular readers of this blog will know I have a small grassy hillside in the country that I escape to. Ostensibly I am fiddling around building infrastructure on the land preparing it for the time when I can afford to build a house on it and retire. The views are sublime and the bird life is incredible from tiny busy-body little baubles of winged colour to majestic soaring eagles. Every star in the universe has chosen that piece of land to hover over as they fill the sky, in complete contrast to the sky over Sydney.

For the last year and a bit, I have driven the three hours north with a plan laid out for the two-day visit. Either digging, building, problem solving, creating or mowing and thanks to some sage-like advice from a mate of mine, I make sure I spend a little bit of time doing nothing. The doing nothing usually means trekking up to the house site and taking in the magnificent sweeping view to the north-east and off to the west over hills and ridges forests and fields.

When we first purchased the block I paid a bushfire consultant to do a feasibility study and let us know where we could build and we all agreed on this spot. Now that we are close to submitting plans to council, the process involves engaging a bushfire consultant for a full bushfire report as well as some other experts prior to submission. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I was told that the house couldn’t go there. I gritted and ground my teeth and furrowed my brow for a week as we tried to find a compromise, which was going so badly at one stage I thought I may have to just sell the place and move on.

My quiet time, on each visit has been spent standing on the spot where the deck will go imagining the future and picturing my state of contentment and satisfaction. I really struggled with the idea of having to move the house block entirely. Not helped by the fact that Mr Bushfire consultant was now advising me to move the house to exactly the spot my mother in law thought the house should be built on in the first place. That’s just not fair at all.

It took another pair of visits to reconcile myself to the new building site. I have recorded a short video from that site. I am itching to get started.

Im about to start the Life Log Project YouTube channel

IMG_8332

I have said to myself many times that I have a good head for radio, and indeed that is where I worked for a while. The screen has always been a scary no-go zone for me. I have terrible teeth and I’m old and grey and overweight, hardly the ideal specs for any sized screen. However I have recorded a few trials and I’ve decided that Barjols Sth is too good not to share and recording short video pieces up there is the perfect way to get the message across.

I will let you know when the first piece goes public. There is just so much stuff I would like to talk about, way too many things to cover in a blog. My book is in the works as well, Ive completed the first draft and waiting for the proofreader and editor to tear it apart and then the real fun begins as I try to put it all together again.

In a strange way it was in the process of writing the book that I veered toward doing some video logs. There were subjects that I covered in the book that really needed to be explored on a deeper and more personal level and the book was not exactly the right channel through which to do that so it got me thinking about blogs, and vlogs.

I have always been very self-conscious of my very crooked teeth. All of my siblings were born with the same ridiculous teeth. My parents could only afford to pay for the girls to have theirs fixed at the time, and eventually my little brother had his done, by that time the folks were earning a little more, and could cover the expense, So in the end I was the only one in the family that didn’t have braces. Bitter? Me? No I don’t think I am to be honest. It hasn’t held me back much, I still got on the rostrum and performed the task of auctioneer for almost fifteen years professionally, so it didn’t make me shy or anything, that’s for sure. I have a silly (smile for the camera) grin rather than a full hearty laugh that I have cultivated over the years to cover up my horrible teeth, but thats OK too.

Now I’ve said I’m over it OK? No really, I am not that fussed about the teeth anymore. At 57 Im not about to get them fixed that’s for sure. I will just record the video blogs and forget about them. Im excited about the Vlogs because I get to show you beautiful Barjols Sth, it is amazing. Im also excited because I will be able to talk about things that I can’t really cover in the blogs. One of the young women that read the blog, described it as ‘cute’ the other day which I guess is a good thing.

I’m not exactly sure that ‘cute’ is where I was pitching it, but Im fine with that. The Vlog I am guessing will be a little more about the process of the impending tree change that Anna and I will undergo, and the preparation for that. Regular readers will understand I have ZERO farm skills, so learning it all from scratch is a bit of a task. No doubt that it will morph into its own thing as time goes by. Whatever happens with it, it is me telling my story, as part of the Life Log Project. I hope you can check it out and join me from time to time.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbSlt56fySCktpfgx2SlAhg