2016 in summary
2016 has been a shocker for me. It started off when my workplace decided to restructure and my position was among those that vanished. So I left at the end of January only be told three working days later that I needed an eye operation to stop me losing my sight. The best (sarcasm) thing about that was that it would take around 12 to 18 months to recover. Nicole was not working, hadn’t for seven years, and completely lacked confidence in herself to even try. So we become a home without an income. Rhiannon started High School and within a couple of months was the object of some rather nasty bullying. The year progressed with my eyes being sensitive and painful and appearing not to be healing too well. I even had a crisis when the rejection began and my vision temporarily looked like opening your eyes a couple of metres underwater in the ocean. Seriously. All dark and green with floating things going back and forth. That is now better.
But finance remains at the top of my fears. In May I used my funds and time to try to start a consulting business (mentioned in my previous post). Alas it did not fly. Since October I have applied for around 60 jobs, helped by a wonderful employment advisor at Vision Australia. She told me that with my four university degrees and decades of IT and management experience that I would be snapped up. Well, no that has not happened. However, when Nicole finally sent out feelers for work she was snapped up almost immediately (at least in a temp position). This said, her income may not be enough for us to keep the house, so I need to get some work.
The few good things of this year started with Rhiannon’s academic abilities thriving in High School. The low-ability child of Primary school was suddenly getting 90% in English and other great marks too. I also volunteered my free time to sing and entertain in a nursing home and realised that I loved it. Finally, I was asked by a friend (a project manager) to be his business mentor. I said yes and I have since seen him take and follow my advice and he reckons that the changes as a result have been remarkable.
OK. Enough said there. The following lessons are born of:
- challenges experienced this year
- interactions with other people
- self reflection
Passion is not an excuse to steam-roll other people
During my down time I have come to know better the son of a friend. He is heavily into comics and considers himself an excellent technology user. Now I used to be heavily into comics in my youth (am not now) and have a career in technology. So I have tried to have intelligent conversations with him. Tried. But he only wants to lecture me and won’t let me get a word in edgeways. When I thought that he had said something that was incorrect he blatantly refused to listen (yes, I did turn out being right). When I get my smart phone out to look things up he tries to snatch it out of my hand because he reckons he can use it better than other people. I know, he sounds annoying. But each time he does any of those things his excuse is “I am just passionate about it.” So passion makes him talk over people, treat them like they are dumb and refuse to let go of an argument.
OK – why is this my first point?
Well, I am ashamed to say, I realised this year that this is precisely how I have often behaved in the past and now I was on the receiving end. Eeeeeek.
Yes, I am passionate about a lot of things and I have been so caught up in conversations in trying to get my own perspective across that I have not given a damn about other people’s ideas or feelings.
For several months now I have been retraining myself to be different.
Being calm is always a good thing
I admit that I used to have a fiery temper. I really could not tolerate fools. The problem is that displays of anger do not fix the issue or achieve goals. Getting angry at an idiot does not magically make them smarter or more willing to accept your perspective. But being calm and addressing them in a polite and thoughtful manner will go a long way.
Throw the laundry in the machine first thing in the morning
This is one of those more pragmatic life tips. Before Nicole started working this year the usual routine had been to have breakfast, go for a walk to a café and enjoy life before coming back home around 11 am and starting the daily chores. Given that our machine usually takes over 2 hours to do a load of laundry, that means that I only have half a day to perform the rest of the laundry processing (drying, ironing etc). No wonder it carried on into the evening.
In recent weeks I have thrown the clothes into the machine almost as soon as I get up of a morning (6 am). I get to hang them out to dry before I go out to a café and then around 11 am all the rest of the laundry processing can happen. So it is all done by early afternoon and it seems less effort.
Clean up immediately after doing anything
I admit that I was always the kind of person who would do a task, make a mess and then leave clean up till after a break of some variety. This was particularly a nuisance when I cooked dinner (yes, I have always cooked for my family). So I would cook around 7 pm, and eat about 45 minutes later and then relax to watch TV and then at about 9:30 say to myself “I reckon I will do the washing up tomorrow.”
Bad idea because you wake up to a messy kitchen. Given that I usually make the breakfasts, this means a messy working environment.
However I noted on many TV programs (yes, this has been a big year for watching TV) that chefs clean as they go. So I tried it myself and am now a convert. This means a clean kitchen! Yippee.
I also reckon that this can apply to any number of things that I do, not merely cooking. So that is what I have been trying to do.
The more you do something, the better you will get
I know that this is fairly obvious, but I was always the impatient type who wanted to be good at something now. Right now! Hear me – now I tell you!
So I have started a few things with the premise that it is OK to be bad and just keep practicing. My guitar finger picking is improving. Sure, still pretty average, but improving. And my fiction writing is starting to really show a difference (at least to me).
This is connected to my next lesson.
It is OK to make mistakes
I have always hated making mistakes. Sometimes even the tiniest of mistakes would get my mind churning. Why did I do/say that? How stupid am I? What do other people think? I wish I could go back and change it.
Well, yep, I need to own my mistakes. I made them. I said them. No excuses. It was me.
This year Boxing Day fell on a Monday. Mondays are usually the day that my family visit my wife’s parents and have dinner at their place. We forgot and Pam cooked us steaks and we did not turn up. Now my wife is practically guaranteed to forget. Remembering things like that is just not her forte. But me – I’ve always been the one who remembers, and yet I forgot. Sure, I had a lame excuse: the label Boxing Day made me forget it was a Monday. Or I could say, well Nicole had just as much responsibility to remember as me. In the latter case it doesn’t hold – she really does rely upon me to remember just like I rely upon her to pay our bills (we have defined roles within the family). Once I would have felt terrible about this, tried to make excuses, walked around for hours annoyed at myself.
Not this time.
The following day we bought some chocolates, hopped in the car, and drove there to humbly apologise. Sure, it didn’t make Pam (my mother in law) feel any happier or less angry, but it helped me to cope. And being forgiving of myself helps me to be forgiving of others.
Accept criticism – really
For much of my life I have hated any form of criticism. Even when I politely listen, inside I am thinking “what the f#$% do you know?”
This is a mistake.
This year I started listening to criticisms, trying to figure out what people were telling me and why. It’s not easy because a lot of the things that I do are deeply connected with my sense of self.
For example, in conversations I tend to use humour a lot. I always felt that it amused others and it also slowed down conversations sufficiently for me to think about the topic while people were laughing and then make some insightful observation. I thought that it worked. I also thought that it made people like me. Problem was that through most of my career, people senior to me said that it made me look less responsible. I ignored them. After all, everyone knew that I was responsible. I always have been. Ask me to do anything and it gets done. Ask me to keep something confidential and I will.
This year gave me a lot of time to think and reflect and not a small bit was upon my career. As I reviewed my career it dawned on me how many of my peers (and even my juniors) have been promoted over me. These were usually individuals whom I considered bland. They were not intellectually outstanding, did not achieve as much as myself in the workplace, and did not display original thinking and a desire to improve things. Yet they were promoted. Unfair? On reflection, no. Each and every one of them branded themselves better than myself (they looked the part), and none of them were “jokey”. Essentially, “professional” and “humorous” are not two words that usually sit together.
This does not mean that I am going to be serious all the time, but I will pick and chose my moments. And I will also listen more to criticism and advice.
I am good in front of crowds
I know that I have performed before and been a teacher in front of a class. I know that I have given presentations before business crowds. But being a regular entertainer in a nursing home really made me realise my comfort in this field. I would like to pursue it further.
I have more business insight than I realised
This is a realisation from my mentoring of a friend. I have advised him on internal politics, performance of employees, project management and so on. And everything that I advised has been a success. The advice came from years of personal experience.
I’m sure that I have probably learned other things too, but these readily came to mind.
Thank you for reading and I wish you all a great 2017.