Killing my ego

As someone newly ‘fun-employed’ I’ve only just realised that the frequent humiliations of my  new job, with its repeated reminders of the ‘uselessness’ of the skills I’d acquired over the past 30-odd years, is not only painful but hugely beneficial. In short it is killing my ego. Being a lowly trainee shop-assistant may well be the modern version of ‘the monk with the broom’.  It is a philosophical practice.

Whilst working in Alicetronics is no picnic, it is the steady stream of customers that, like a stream of water, ripple and bubble over the technology that both underpins and occasionally undermines the smooth flow of their lives. Maybe my job at Alicetronics is actually a picnic on a river bank?

To our customers I’m no longer the invisible ‘old guy’ that I had become (transparently?) in corporate Australia. I am now the visibly old guy who might just be able to find the doohickey that they need. However, in order to be effective at that I need two things. I need to acquire an encyclopaedic knowledge of the thousands of items on the shelves (and beyond – we can order in the thing that is needed, once we know what that thing is) and I need to learn how to drive the fiendishly complex POS system that has evolved to run this equally complex business. Oh, and I also need to be friendly, non-threatening and approachable whilst at it. The eradication of my ego will surely help with that. Maybe it’ll even put me on the pathway to enlightenment?

Why being a Grandparent is important – to me

I have long been concerned to ensure I’m not pressuring my own sons to replicate. There’s 7.6 Billion people on Earth  which, to me, sounds like enough- with just 12 of them owning some 70% of the world’s wealth (that’s 12 individuals – NOT 12% of the people). That kind of inequity surely can’t prevail. Perhaps one of my sons will have a hand in its patently necessary resolution (revolution?). Or perhaps it’ll be one of my grandkids?

Maybe one of my grandchildren will engineer the solution to global warming? They will have to face into that problem after all.

Being a life-long Utopian, I can imagine that the World will become a better place. Problems of climate, economics and politics can and will be resolved by Human ingenuity.

Anyway, whilst it might be nice to imagine such possibilities, they are not the reason why it is satisfying to be a grandparent. No. 

The real reason is that grandchildren demonstrate to the grandparent that they, the grandparent, didn’t completely stuff up their own children! Indeed it has come as a great relief to me that those of my sons that have produced ‘offspring’ appear to be exceptional parents . They chose their wives wisely, too. My kids seem to be much better at parenting than I was. I take this as evidence that I didn’t completely ‘fuck them up ’ to paraphrase Philip Larkin. It may also be a measure of the value of their genetic makeup (maybe I chose their mother wisely too?). 

Anyway, the grandparents task is to witness this. This is evolution. Important? Yes!

60. The new 80, or the new 90?

If ‘thirty is the new twenty’, or forty the new thirty, or even fifty the new forty, then how the hell did sixty become the new ninety?

Perhaps I should post this to Quora or similar crowd-sourced oracle? FYI this is not a click-bait ‘IQ test”, nor is the answer 42!

I ask, as it would appear that I’ve been effectively ‘retired’ by the world’s recruiters. I typically apply for jobs which I am eminently qualified for – both by formal qualification/training and by actual experience – only to receive either no response or some canned response along the lines of “we’ve had a large number of highly qualified applicants…” so naff off! ( my summarised conclusion in italics). This has me somewhat bemused.

I have long accepted that technology change is accelerating – and that the technology that I studied at University has very much been supplanted by more recent stuff (albeit largely based on the fundamentals that I learned first-hand). I had the good fortune to enjoy an extended stay at technology’s leading edge (some may have called it the bleeding edge) by working exclusively for only the ‘best companies’ throughout my career. My science skills – my knowledge, logic and reason – remain relevant to today’s technology. However, one of my biggest and (I would argue) timeless learnings was that problems are rarely wholly technical – and that invariably it is the humans involved in technology that make it problematic. That I have acquired some skills in the art of dealing with people, their expectations and habits is, to some extent, due to my life experience, my failures (learnings!) and my (still growing) self-awareness. Technology only works when the people who must use it actually want to. I know how to get them to want to use it.

It seems recruiters are in the main ignorant of this , or that they are of the opinion that only ‘digital natives’ can understand modern technology. Whilst I may be in my 60’s I would consider myself a ‘digital native’ having written code in my teens and having had an email address since 1983. Having been an internet user since the 80’s I think I can justifiably claim to be digital native.

I care about what technology can do to deliver a utopian future for my kids and grand kids. Then again, if I were 90 I probably wouldn’t care. But I’m not – I’m 63 (younger than Bill Gates, Richard Branson and many similar folk who are still very much in demand). Maybe our 60’s are the new 50’s – wisdom with remaining vigour?

Oh well – another dream dashed on the rocks of reality!

Seems either my age or predominant IT experience has gone against me in my application to become a bicycle mechanic. Only the truly cycling afflicted would understand the level of devastation I feel right now :-(

I was told, by some presumably well meaning ‘assistant manager’ of Outback Cycling – Alice Springs, that they were “looking for someone with more bike-shop mechanic experience” which is kind of weird given that it is the actual doing of the the mechanic-ing that gives you the skills and experience to be a mechanic – and I’ve done a lot, albeit mostly on my own bikes, or those of family and friends. That I was taught how to refurbish and build air-suspension components by a licensed aircraft mechanic (they know a lot about hydraulics) means that I have appropriate technique, and use the right tools. That I understand the underlying technology, partly due to my education in Applied Physics and partly due to the fact that I’ve been working on bikes, motor bikes and cars since childhood, has given me the confidence to work on complex stuff made of strong but delicate (i.e. carbon fibre) components. E-bikes are also something I can understand better than most – particularly as they are evolving very quickly right now.

The good news from this outcome is that I won’t have to work for people who don’t ‘get’ the value of knowledge and wisdom – and, of course,  that I’ll have more time to go riding! Naturally, I’ll be buying my future bikes, parts, tyres, etc. from the other bike shop in ‘The Alice’ – the vastly superior “Ultimate Ride”. I will also use my significant and proven influencing skills to ensure that others do the same.

My first love

I’ve just applied for a job as a bicycle mechanic in Alice Springs!

Yes – I’ve always loved bikes, as those who know me well will attest. I figured that as my age seems to be going against me in IT, which I can’t understand – given the wisdom I’ve gained through the experience I’ve actually had (and not just read about).  Anyway – one of the gifts of wisdom is that you begin to see what really matters to you in your life.

What really matters to me these days is that my wife, Preeti, should have her chance to fulfil her long-held ambition to be a counsellor in Alice Springs. That will take us to Alice early in the new year. As luck would have it, one of the excellent local bike shops (there are two) is looking for a bike mechanic. Such a job would, I realise, actually fulfil my passion for working on and with bikes. I just realised how big a thrill I got from reading about the opportunity, so I applied. I hope my IT background doesn’t go against me (or my age for that matter).

I hope to see a lot more of this ahead of my front wheel

Wish me luck!

Pivot or Parallel Path?

There comes a time in most businesses when one has to question whether there might be something else you’d like to be doing. And whilst I’ve already done a lot of different stuff through my IT consulting gigs and my work as CEO of Vastigo Ltd, I believe it is time to explore something I’ve had an interest in since childhood – human behaviour.

As a kid I’d sit with my mum and watch Herbert Lom play a psychiatrist in “The Human Jungle” and think to myself “I’d like to do that”. Sadly, academically I wasn’t the medical type and my natural talent favoured physics not psychiatry. However, I’ve always retained a strong interest in human behaviour – which I parleyed into a successful sales career. 

Being married to a Psychotherapist I have been very much exposed to current thinking  on human behaviour and the many ‘modalities’ that might be used to influence it. I have also read much on the subject and attended some of the trainings that my wife has undertaken too. Whilst I wouldn’t pretend to be ‘expert’ in the way that my wife demonstrably is, I do have a strong interest. 

The other thing I have is a keen understanding of sales and marketing – and the need all business has for a powerful value proposition. From what I’ve seen of humanity, we rarely consider investing in our understanding of ourselves or our relationships. And yet if you think about it, we are our most important possession – and our relationships our most valuable.

I am joining my wife in her business, Change Made Real, to support our collective business’ Why(motive): “to be free and connected”, and to promote our business’ What(purpose): “to equip the individual, the seeker, the courageous, with the confidence to be free and connected”

It’s tempting to view this as a ‘side-gig’ – but in reality this work is more likely to meet my need for self actualisation and perhaps even transcendence – maybe Maslow was right? 

WordCamp Brisbane – a Gutenberg try out

Amazing things can happen online – and in the virtual world – but for truly amaze-worthy-ness you really can’t beat a physical gathering.

Word Camp Brisbane was one such ‘happening’ (to use an evocative term from the 60’s). Whilst it didn’t merely spontaneously ‘happen’ (there was a vast amount of organisational work done before and during the event by a large and loyal team of Word Press supporters) it was truly inspiring and heartening. The various presenters not only shared their knowledge and experience but also their passion for ‘the tool that builds the Internet’ – Word Press – the tool that builds knowledge, the tool that builds awareness and the tool that builds businesses too. That said, I personally found great inspiration from the presence of the many attendees – ranging from hardcore and commercial developers through committed digital disrupters to writers and bloggers and beyond.  All ages and all skill levels were welcomed and included. No question I asked was treated as ‘dumb’ and everyone I spoke with was genuinely friendly, open and excited to enlighten me.

The folk I met mostly spotted that I hadn’t even changed the default image on my theme (I like the photo – OK!) and I guess that qualified them as true nerds (the very best folk in my opinion). They weren’t being judgemental – merely observant.

Since the sessions have now been posted, I’ve taken the opportunity to re-watch some I attended – and catch up the ones that I couldn’t attend on the day. This has proven to be a very valuable resource. That said, whilst it may be convenient to have the ability to recap – it doesn’t quite match the inspiration-factor of actually physically being at Word Camp. The coffee and food (thanks to sponsors, I understand) gave ample opportunity to practice a little bit of networking – and to reflect on just how powerful a bunch of folk with web content skills might be.

FYI – I wrote this as my first post in Gutenberg – I made no attempt to do anything clever (I’m not clever!) but it was a very easy process and intuitive too. Try Gutenberg – you’ll like it!

Thanks

I’d like to thank all the driven, intellectually capable, parentally pressured, often self-critical, high-acheiving types who studied endlessly and worked tirelessly (or who have, at the very least, been worked with insufficient allowance for sleep) to advance medical knowledge to the point where it was possible for a mere regular citizen like me to receive ‘the gift of life’ in the form of a stent. This effectively removed the 80% constriction in said artery (the so called ‘widowmaker’). With all my other arteries in seemingly good condition I find my self with ‘new heart’ and a renewed passion for life which, quite frankly, I’d had enough of earlier this year and was eagerly looking forward to its end.

Of course this new found ‘lust for life’ presents new challenges. The challenge of ‘what will I do for a living?’ immediately comes to mind. Sadly there is no miraculous medical technology that can help me with this. I’lll have to think of something myself!

I well realise that at the age of 63 it is way too late to consider a career in medicine – particularly as I was, at best, an average student – and a lazy one at that – so medicine never was an option (and my laziness knows no cure). That said, the one thing I might be able to do is bring recognition to the many medical heroes.

The epithet Dr may have lost some currency in recent years (Is the Internet to blame, or is it perhaps the anti-science Climate Change denialists?) but perhaps the collective ‘we’ need to remember that without these focused intellectuals we might all be dead! It is time to honour the encyclopaedic medical doctorate. Perhaps it is the overgrowth of PhD’s – with their ‘learn more and more about less and less ’til you know everything about nothing’ approach to scaling Academia’s vertiginous heights that has devalued the breadth of knowledge necessary to be an effective Doctor.

I’d like to start by recognising Dr Phillip Stowell – General Practitioner, who, when presented with a mole on my elbow – proffered as possible melanoma (I was seeking confirmation that it might be my ticket out of here!), suggested it was likely nothing but then started: to grill me on my family medical history, to take my blood pressure, and then to prescribe a bunch of blood tests and ambulatory blood pressure logging. All this apparently triggered by his alert observation of my “Frank’s sign” (earlobe crease) an apparently strong marker/indicator of cardiovascular disease (Really! Check it on Wikipedia). On the basis of those initial results he requested I get a “Calcium Score” which I duly did. It came back as 674 which apparently put me in the 90th percentile – I assumed this was a good thing. It wasn’t. He then referred me to a specialist Cardiologist by the name of Dr David Calquhuon. Dr Stowell also said I must cease and desist vigorous exercise.

I got to see Dr Colquhoun a few weeks later (He’s a busy man!). I immediately liked his office as it featured a book with a title along the lines of ‘1000 ways to Die’. I saw that he had the ‘dark humour I find in many of the medical persuasion – a trait I share despite my status as a medical ignoramus . Dr Colquhoun is not only a specialist doctor but also an associate professor at the University of Queensland medical school. He has a doctor’s typical encyclopaedic mind – which in his case seems to run very quickly too (quick enough to follow my grass-hopper-like ‘stream of consciousness’ questioning-style). President of the Queensland branch of the National Heart Foundation of Australia (NHFA), a member of the Scientific Committee of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), a member of the Scientific Committee of the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF) and Chair of the Clinical and Preventative Cardiology Council of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ), Dr Colquhoun is also a Lipidologist (expert in fats and oils) so knows a thing or two about cholesterol and the like. He was, at least initially, somewhat less alarmist – he said that he’s seen and successfully treated people with much higher Calcium Scores! However, he too said I must cease and desists vigorous exercise (or I’d likely drop dead before he’d had chance to fix me). He also booked me some more (expensive) tests – and summoned me for an echo-cardiogram the very next day (which gave him immediate cause to book me in for a ‘stress-echo the following week). That stress echo was followed by another slightly more rigorous one the next day – and the subsequent ordering of an Angiogram that he would perform at the earliest opportunity (about a month later – I guess the facility at the Greenslopes hospital is somewhat busy!).

Following (or rather during) the aforementioned Angiogram the name of Dr Paul Watson was mentioned. Apparently the Angiogram, performed by Dr Colquhuon, identified that I was very much in need of a stent in my LAD (Left Anterior Descending) artery. Dr Watson (no Sherlock, not that Dr Watson) it turns out, is the ‘Interventional Cardiologist’ of choice. A comfortingly confident man of fewer words than Dr Colquhoun, but with the essential decisive demeanour you really want in someone who is going to thread a wire into you heart, push a metal tube along it and inflate a ‘balloon’ inside said tube (stent) to 20 Atmospheres (that about 300 pounds per square inch in the old-money) in order to stretch it into place, pushing aside the arterial blockage and (hopefully) holding it all in place so that it doesn’t become a potential stroke initiator. Anyway, Dr Watson has, like all the above mentioned doctors, studied hard, practised lots and thus created the confidence in his own skills – a confidence his patients will, like me, greatly appreciate.

Anyway, the very next morning after my angiogram, a thankfully painless experience, I was again back in the now familiar operating theatre with the big computer screen. Dr Watson and his team of expert theatre staff quietly got on with it (quickly too) I swear it was less than 5 minutes between me being slid onto the operating table and Dr Watson saying “inflate to 20 Atmospheres”. A few seconds later they re-inflated to 18 atmospheres (presumably to make sure it was in nice’n’tight!). Seconds later still it was all over as the catheter was withdrawn and my wrist was wrapped with an inflatable cuff to stop the red stuff leaking out. The speed and dexterity – the sheer matter of factness of it – is a tremendous tribute to the Doctor’s skill (and to the skills of all involved). Whilst I wouldn’t recommend Cardio-Vascular Disease, I would recommend the experience of having a stent fitted (if needed) by such an expert team – it will put you in awe of: their skills and the immense debt we as individuals (and society) owe to the scientists that have developed such understanding and technology – and in particular to Dr Ulrich Sigwart.

You may also want to consider those early ‘guinea-pig’ patients who were brave enough to risk their bodies on testing these techniques at their inception (around 32 years ago). ‘Thanks’ seems barely adequate.

The invisible man

I was listening to Radio National recently and heard a very thought provoking discussion about women’s ‘invisibility’ – the fact that in our doubtless misogynistic society (pretty much the whole world as far as I can tell) women are roundly ignored (except as sex objects/objects of desire). One of the speakers (a business leader and renowned public speaker) explained that as a more ‘senior women’ she was seemingly even more invisible – but that she fortunately had acquired the wisdom to remain unoffended so that she could live her life as she wanted – without anger.

It struck me – as I was beginning to get angry about the fact that I too had become invisible (at least to recruiters) despite my male advantage – that I should practice similar equanimity (something my gender did not include in the manual) with regard to my new found status. It then dawned on me that such invisibility could potentially be seen as a super-power (if that makes sense).

When one is ignored by a group the first thing you might feel is disempowered (followed by anger, embarrassment, depression, etc…). We are, after all, social animals and enjoy the comforts and protection of the herd. But think about it. They (the group ignoring you) maybe don’t see you but you can still see (and hear) them. You can study them without their being aware that they’re the subject! As a life-long salesman, and occasional consultant, I can state from experience that the sort of intelligence you can gather when people are ‘off their guard’ can be very valuable – and often impossible to get via other means (even Cambridge Analytica would likely come up empty handed).

Why am I sharing this realisation? Because it may help recruiters understand that if they’re looking for the sharpest strategic sales folk they may want to reconsider the invisible ones – you know, the grey hairs. Gender should be optional (a very 21st Century development – and most welcome I’d further suggest) but their super-powers are the thing!

Thoughts on Consciousness

Join me on a little journey into the oft uncharted territory of love.

A newborn baby knows love. It knows when it’s being loved and it knows how that feels. In fact it has no way of telling these two things apart. Sure it can also feel hunger and discomfort too (from a full belly or a full nappy). All of its ‘knowing’ is in feeling. It has no language and no prior experience to act as its frame of reference. It is, in effect, love – just love. Beyond hunger and discomfort it knows nothing but love. Hopefully it receives plenty.

Over time a baby, as it grows, receives a lot of other stuff – much of which goes on to form it’s ‘personality’. It learns language which it begins to use to try to make sense of what is going on around it. It also learns that love is not always forthcoming. It learns that its own behaviour can sometimes influence that which is forthcoming, and it tries to encourage that to be love – but may have to find love in the form of attention. Unfortunately, for some of us, any form of attention appears more like love than ‘no attention’.

As the baby grows on its journey toward adulthood it goes through a number of changes. At various points on that journey it acquires, or is given by education, new ‘traits’ or behaviours that it subconsciously ‘thinks’ (or feels) might help it get the love it needs. Its understanding of what love actually is might be changed by this process, too.

Each new trait becomes part of that individual’s personality – the eventual complex combination of those traits becoming that persons ‘unique individuality’ – which some might refer to as ‘ego’. Some of those traits may work against the others. All of those traits make use of the mind – even if subconsciously. The initial objective, of seeking to feel and indeed be love, is easily, and typically, lost in this process.

In simple terms, our development might look like this:

Baby: unconsciously directed by feeling – living and feeling love in the moment (‘innocent’).

Child – Juvenile – Adult (under construction): unconsciously directed by acquired ‘traits’ (personality/ego) – primarily living in the past (reflecting, dwelling) or in the future (projecting, worrying) and hence compromised.  This is often compounded by a possible changed understanding of ‘love’ (‘corrupt’).

Adult (whole): consciously directed, defying traits – primarily living, and feeling, in the moment, aware of past and future and the effect traits might have on reactions – choosing instead considered response influenced by original (‘innocent’) feeling of ‘love’.  Some might refer to this state of being as ‘enlightened’.

I’d suggest that the objective of our journey in life is to get from Baby to Adult (whole). There is no time limit. It’s never too late.