“Sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away, sitting on the dock of the bay, wasting time…”
A lyric about being lazy is perhaps the most productive advice anybody’s given to us, the digitally distracted and continuously chaotic dwellers of the 21st century.
I followed the advice and started my year by chilling. Mostly, I drove around the country towns of NSW and Victoria. Just signifying old streetscapes and older landscapes. Swimming in the public pools that other generations of civil Australians scrimped and saved to build, and devoted to old soldiers who sadly never made it home to cold beers at the Royal or the Railway pub.
Pausing my harried head was a healthy way to actually decide what’s right for this year. Usually, when I pause, something broader in my being eventually and intuitively locks in on the few half-decent ideas I’ve ever produced. Under-thinking is good.
I’m drawn to the beginning of the previous year when I struck on three things: to listen, to be clear, and to invent. I wrote this then:
The Year of the Ear. Work is changing, as technology goes faster. Futurologists don’t know where “Uberification” will lead. For me, there’s one sound response to uncertainty and risk. Listen. To hear where my clients and my colleagues are coming from. To understand what’s inspiring them and what’s worrying them… In a context that’s so fast and fluid – technologically, politically, socially – the smartest approach for me is to try to connect to those who matter the most.
UnFake News. Complexity is obvious. But adding to complexity is the changing nature and volume of information as sources diversify / tailor / micro-target. My answer to complexity is simple: simplicity. A mentor said: “Clarity is king.” A productive thing I can do is get to the essential. To cut clutter and get to the sweet spot. The why, to borrow from Sinek. That which makes most difference the best way – be it in policy, financial, management, emotional or social terms.
Make Stuff. Our work can be a practice of what Buddhists describe as mindful contact, thought, emotion and deliberate measures forward. It’s about pausing to understand the energy around an issue; to seek insight; to decipher with sound, scalable analysis, and; to come up with imaginative ways forward. To be my own Einstein and Edison – and invent.
I ask myself: how’d I go? Did implementation follow intention? Did I listen deeply, provide clarity, and invent new things?
As with most things, I plead WIP – work in progress.
On listening, I’m proud of leadership projects in Ukraine where the key was not to lecture but to respect and reinforce righteous people’s capabilities. However, if I counted the words out of my mouth as opposed to the words into my ears, I’d be net negative.
On clarity, I helped my industry here in Oz – the resilient recyclers – put forward a more specific yet more ambitious agenda for public policy. At the same time, like a kid running laps in a junior high school gym, I cut corners in cultivating consensus about that agenda.
On inventing things, I churned out more op-ed pieces than any other year, but for one more trip around the sun, I avoided going to the light that I somehow am scared shitless of: writing the fiction that I actually know I’m capable of. Just chickened out in large measure. Again. Cos I know that such yarns mean real and uncomfortable accountability before the Higher Power of my life.
There’s no point in new goals. Last year’s are fine and dandy. But how to ensure more progress?
Perhaps, the way I’ve started the year is the way to savour and succeed through year. Through more pausing and more moderation in thought, word and action. My tools for these tasks are my ‘Have I Truly’ questions:
- Have I truly heard to this person and really tried to understand their point of view?
- Have I truly looked for the ‘why’ of this situation and what’s most essential?
- Have I truly trusted my creativity, eg, my Higher Power’s purpose for me?
And, I also share this: I’m getting divorced. Not from the Sensational Suzi. Heaven forbid. But from crazy-making, my own and sometimes that of others. From convenient cynicism, from self-inflicted conflicts, from the folks that I occasionally seek out just to jab at my own scabs, and from the social media scrolling for scrolling’s sake.
And, I’m getting remarried. Here, DeWitt Jones, a photographer for the National Geographic, soothingly spends 18 minutes teaching us to celebrate what’s right with the world and with humanity: “It’s not the light that shines on us, but the light that shines from within us.”
Let it be so.