I’ve been thinking a little this week about the end of days. Not in a jump in front of traffic way, but more holistically. It’s hard not to, really: the excellent Scott Pape’s Bearfoot Investor is extremely open about preparing for retirement and death; Arianna Huffington’s Thrive starts off with eulogies; and then of course the final episode in the Avengers saga is upon us. Nail-biter!
None of this is any source of anxiety or fear. I mean, it’s a damn shame that Avengers has to end – I’m not made of stone, after all!! As for life itself, it cannot go on forever. For me, this brings not distress but peace and perspective. The corporate ladder glitters less: increase in pay, responsibility or pressure don’t run in harmony with, well, harmony. To draw from Thrive, eulogies don’t mention the implementation of a project on-time or that budget you managed successfully. In the grand scheme, no one cares about that rubbish.
The things that count are improving life for those around you, touching hearts, souls and minds, making other lives better. Some do it naturally, others wish to embark on such journeys after achieving a certain stratum - social/power/wealth standing – or never. The key perhaps is determining how much is enough? Contentment, satisfaction, unbridled delight, whatever your attainment goals. Overt concern with the have not’s blind you from what you already have.
My friend Adrianna’s book (we’re amigos now, although she actually doesn't know this yet) is packed full of quotations which I adore, just like the wonderful one from Wumen Huikai, the Chinese Zen master. He sounds like Yoda. Although it's good, it has a long way to beat . . .
Image Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjznkomjVWs
P.S. Go see 'Avengers: Endgame', it's wonderful!
‘Assets, my love of my life, are on the left of the equation’
‘Uh huh’ responded the love of my life, perusing the breakfast menu
‘And Liabilities and Equity, well, they appear on the right’
‘I think I’ll grab a skinny latte, tea for you?’
‘. . . and despite them appearing on the opposite side of the equation, both have debits on the left, and credits on the right’ I persisted, proudly
‘I might grab the Bircher muesli, although I had that last week. It really didn’t fill me up’
‘ . . . now although you increase debits on the left, for liabilities and equity, they increase on the credit side. Same with Revenues, but Expenses are treated like assets and increase with debits’
‘Oh, only one week to go for Avengers! You excited?’
‘Am I ever! I hope everyone dies!’
‘You’re such an idiot’
An lo, Richard presented his findings on Accounting Fundamentals to the Treasury, confirming his status as more of a liability than an asset. The course on the free MBA from Smart.ly seemed perfectly reasonable, if not challenging – although I can generally save money, my brain refuses to let anything in associated with debits and credits. Balance sheets are my trigger-point for narcolepsy. Note that I said narcolepsy not necrophilia, completely different conversational rabbit holes which can only end badly. Walking into a bank when they’re explaining your financials and you claiming that balance sheets are your trigger-point for necrophilia will have you arrested.
In talking with MBA holders, the jury seems to be out on their worth: some have used the skills, others claim it’s a total waste of time and money. The network of who you meet seems to be the key. And what’s the best network in the world? Social, either BookFace or LinkedIn. Let’s see how Smart.ly does (I have no affiliation).
Have a wonderful Easter, here are some pictures of animals at Zoos. No Easter bunnies, though.
Since January, hot cross buns and I have become great friends, and who doesn’t love hot buns? Hearing people say, ‘Oh Easter, hot cross buns!’ is akin to someone treating themselves to a ‘self-indulgent spa’ on their birthday when you’ve been wallowing in a hot-tub naked without a care in the world for four months. Yes, some bits have shrivelled smaller than before, which I thought was technically impossible, but you can’t have everything.
I’ve had wonderfully productive few days – starting an on-line MBA at Smart.ly (dubious, but will keep you posted!), submitting a manuscript to publishers, Spanish, swimming, tennis and reading - but the most fun I had was spending a day at Melbourne Zoo taking photographs which you can check out on Instagram @richardmreed. Speaking of which, if you don’t follow her already, check out my friend @Josie.Doodles. For all those self-doubters, her doodles hit right in the blood pump. Have a wonderful week and whether through massages, spa, hot buns or a cuppa, be kind to yourself.
What have I been reading? The whimsical and funny The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi, and Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto. Next up, The Barefoot Investor!
It’s not often I read a paragraph, gape, put the book down and say ‘well bloody hell’ and then stare out the window cogitating. The Checklist Manifesto is the guilty party, an excellent read from American surgeon Atul Gawande. Am only half-way through, but it’s of no surprise that Atul a) has a bit of a crush on checklists b) will eventually end the book saying ‘create checklists, they’re awesome.’ However, the unexpected part is where Atul relates stories of where checklists are used and their impacts. The allegories are incredible. My favourite is below
Karachi in southern Pakistan, a city twice as populated as London, isn’t anything out of the ordinary in the Indo-Pak region: corruption, political instability, inadequate health services and vast slums on the outskirts of the city. In the impoverished and crowded barrios, there is inadequate water and sewage systems, illiteracy and lack of jobs. Mortality rates amongst children are incredibly high. Enter stage left Stephen Luby, an American working with the Centres for Disease Control and HOPE International, with a crazy idea of how to improve health standards in the slums: using soap.
In 2005 Stephen published a paper after considerable testing in the slums using normal soap, anti-bacterial soap and a control area where no soap was distributed. During the testing period (it made no difference whether it was ant-bacterial or not, remember that next time you’re at the check-out counter in a store), incidents of diarrhoea amongst children in neighbourhoods dropped by 52%, pneumonia fell by 48% and impetigo (a bacterial skin infection) dropped by 35%. The families in these areas were still drinking the same contaminated water, so was soap really that effective? Yes and No – it’s the way the soap was used.
The soap was a ‘behaviour-change delivery vehicle’ i.e. the researchers hadn’t just handed out three bars of soap a week, but gave instructions—on leaflets and in person—explaining the six situations in which people should use it such as going to the toilet, wiping an infant and preparing food. This was essential. This is all positive and noteworthy, but the jaw dropping bit? Take it away Atul:
When one looks closely at the details of the Karachi study, one finds a striking statistic about the households in both the test and the control neighbourhoods: at the start of the study, the average number of bars of soap households used was not zero. It was two bars per week. In other words, they already had soap.
So, what changed? The CDC and HOPE gave soap out for free, removing he economic constraint of buying soap, meaning people were more likely to use it. Secondly, they made a checklist of when soap should be used, a simple step-by-step process to manage it. Long live the humble checklist!
And so, as I work through my own Sunday checklist of things to do, I wish you the very best from a cobalt blue sky over an autumnal Melbourne, and will leave you with this: read more; make checklists; and remember to wash your hands.
Writing and writing...