It’s been a few weeks . . . but I see the light! With lockdown a sniff away as the country rapidly vaccinates, things are progressing nicely towards normality. I feel like coming out of a chrysalis, with Spring in the air too. But as one door opens, another closes. In August I received legal notice that the owner of my flat had stopped their mortgage, meaning the bank was repossessing. They’ve been very nice about it – as nice as someone kicking you out can be - but over the past five weeks of gleaning as much about the process as I can, the outlook is bleak for not-quite-my-Chez Reed.
At the same time as moving out, I’ll be getting a bone spur on my foot removed too, which will make things tricky. And ruin my Steptember march for Cerebral Palsy – if you want to support a great cause, you can do so my donating here. Thinking I was doing pretty well for the first 19 days sitting at a not-too-shabby about 300kms, some son of a bitch has completed 5.8 million steps, averaging 244km a day. I assume “Tim” is a crack-cocaine addicted border collie on roller-skates.
In addition to walking lots, I’ve been working out every other day and running too. I’ve never worked so hard to look the same! I also had my very first COVID test 17 months into a pandemic in preparation for surgery on Wednesday. Not too bad, Reed! I restarted an audiobook for my uncle, which is taking time but is quite fun – there was too much extraneous noise on the first few goes so ended up having to redo the lot. If anyone wants a first listen, please give me a shout.
I don’t think I’ve picked up my camera in months now, but I have been reading a great deal: Richard Koch’s classic 80/20 Principle, a guide for concentrating on the 20% of activities that give you 80% of the value; Paul Carter’s outrageous stories from working on oil-rigs across the world; and The Road To Wigan Pier by George Orwell. The latter provides a glimpse into life in colliery towns, and kerrrist was it bleak! The galling thing is that in a hundred years, the same underlying problems exist: “even people on the verge of starvation can buy a few days’ hope . . . whole sections of the working class who have been plundered of all they really need are being compensated, in part, by cheap luxuries which mitigate the surface of life . . . it’s quite likely that fish and chips . . . cut-price chocolate and the movies . . . have averted revolution.” Netflix: proudly reducing public lynching since 2020.
The news in Australia remains rather tepid but it’s nice that we’re still making headlines on the world stage. As the PM agreed to buy submarines we don’t need from France, then instead bought them from the US in some kind of trilateral security deal with the UK, Biden gloriously forgot our Prime Minister’s name, as we all tend to. Nothing like signing a billion dollar deal only to be remembered as ‘that fella’. Magical.
Fecking lockdown . . . however! With all this alone time, it provides opportunity for reflection. After topping 203 days in lockdown since March 30th 2020 (510 days ago), and staring down the double-barrels of another thirty more, that reflection has gone into overdrive. I reflect so much that when the sun is out, I blind passers-by. I don’t moisturise, I buff. Women stop to adjust themselves in front of me (that bit isn’t bad, actually).
I remain though immensely grateful. Last week I had my second 40th in lockdown. I’ll celebrate that bastard one day! I was lucky enough to receive well wishes and kindness from friends and family, even seeing some in 3D and everything. And yesterday I joined an online quiz with friends to unexpectedly see my face in an Andy Warhol backdrop too. Again, so much to be grateful for, really made my day!
I’ve picked up two books recently: Essentialism and Daring Greatly, the latter by the wonderful Brené Brown, a brazen, funny, recovering alcoholic that specialises in shame research. As you can imagine, as shame covers the vast topic of vulnerability, she has a lot to cover. It’s refreshing when Brené dispenses advice yet openly reveals how she is still grappling with doing these things herself, that it’s a journey we all take, and we make the best decisions we can. If you’re a female, parent or human being, it’s worth a look.
Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, I picked up this morning, focuses on doing less. This seems counterintuitive in lockdown. We already do less! I mean, no cinema, no seeing friends, no going to cafes, no going to museums, no going . . . full stop! We’ve never had more time! Yet it’s amazing the time we squander. A common idea proposed is that if you reached the end of your days, what would you want your life to look like on reflection? . This book digs a bit deeper: if you’re viewing your world from the outside right now, with all the wonderful abilities you possess, what would you focus on? Equally, what would you not focus on? Do what’s important. We need to make choices. We need to choose to choose.
Regardless of lockdown duration, I don’t want to come out of this horseshit with nothing to show for it but a stench. Despite the difficulty, I want to flourish. I want to be the rose. You mean, prickly and very hard to manage? Not quite . . . ahh, you mean still covered in horseshit and prone to wilting often? In all honesty, am not sure this analogy works . . . prone to giving everyone a fungal disease? Forget it. You’ve become so annoying in lockdown, you realise that? Who me? Yes, you. Always you. Wherever I look, it’s you. You know what you need to do? Spend time reflecting . . .
I deserve a medal. Number of days without mass genocide: 14,966 days. That doesn’t actually seem that long, does it? Maybe it’s the Olympic games, but certainly there should be some convivial hoopla for containing one’s ability to just march to the capital, Canberra (for those that forgot) and mow down the uselessness. I see the dichotomy, of course. I’ve never liked the thought of killing lambs or pigs or doe-eyed cattle, humans should fall into the same vat (not literally). Although I also don’t want to eat humans, let’s be clear about that, there’s just so many of them. I’m thinking more along the lines of population control, just thinning the herd. A little trim now and again. There are numerous measures, like use to society, perhaps a values-based system or which football team you support. I’d start with anyone within the top 7 of last year’s Premier League table. Just an idea, nothing to do with Arsenal’s miserable 8th place finish. There are one or two issues with this plan, of course. The vegetarian diet doesn’t provide a lot of energy. I probably don’t have the strength to swing my katana I don’t even possess. I’d have to settle for mildly verbally haranguing them and then going for a lie down in a dark room to recover. Then listen to The Smiths
I rewatched The Matrix a few days ago, and missed the bit where they liquidated the old and infirm, feeding them to ourselves, much like we did with cattle until mass-disease sparked a thought that this wasn’t the best idea. The fact that up until the disease someone thought this was acceptable, is beyond me. Cloud Atlas cites the same morbid future, and I’ve been reliably informed that Soylent Green has the same dystopian outlook, set in the very distant future of 2022. Fu**!
In other uselessness news, the Australian government have announced a huge rollout of Pfizer and Moderna. In September. We do of course have vague small numbers of the sought-after Pfizer vaccines, but these are busily being distributed to those in their 30’s in the Australian Capital Territory (a tiny place that houses our capital, Canberra, in case you forgot already, and where hope goes to die). Whilst protecting the capital seems like a good idea, they currently have zero active cases. And it’s been doughnuts for the last week. Their last active case? 30th April. What’s even more irksome, is the well-known fact that no one in their 30’s lives even lives in Canberra (that’s the capital). There are old people, middle-age old people, and any children are born like Benjamin Button but just stay old. They’re effectively born wearing beige cardigans. It’s bullsh*t. Burn the place to the ground.
Melbourne is currently enjoying Lockdown 6.0. Not having any effects whatsoever. I’m fine, really. Where is Canberra again? I forget.
Not that I’ve had time to watch any of it, but I love the positivity (less the COVID positivity) seeping from the Olympics. Heroic tales and achieved dreams. Of course, there is plenty of heartache to go around, but amongst the huge wins is the first Philippine gold medal at an Olympic Games. Ever. I’ve never given much thought about how life-changing winning a competition can be: sure, there’s a medal, and if you’ve been lucky enough to get sponsorship, that’s great too, but largely I figure you’ve got there off your own back with a support crew you’ve probably had to pay for yourself and a huge amount of self-sacrifice.
For renowned athletes like Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic, winning an Olympics medal, one would imagine, is a bauble amongst the masses. But what of Hidilyn Diaz, a Staff Sergeant and Airwoman for the Philippines Air Force? Well, things are a bit different. Winning gold in weightlifting, she took home an incredible $650,000 in prize money from the Philippine Sports Commission and private donations. On top of that AirAsia offer her free flights for life, and she has also been given two houses. And a condo. And free petrol for life by one of the fuel companies in her home country. A national hero, undoubtedly numerous celebrity endorsements will increase her reward too.
I love stories like this. It ticks a lot of boxes. From a woman that in successive Olympic Games was second to last, didn’t finish and then won Silver last time out, finally winning gold must have been pretty sweet. All this despite being implicated in a supposed conspiracy to topple the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, and deluged with threats as a result. That was only two years ago.
So, no complaining and bitching this week (I know, habit of a lifetime, gone!), no snide remarks at useless politicians or debacle vaccine rollouts, just admiration for amazing athletes, and more importantly, amazing women. Having just finished Women and Leadership by Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonko-Iweala, women put up with a lot of shit. The book is a who's who of incredible women leaders. For any male readers (or readers, actually), this is an eye-opener to sexism and gender bias that often passes us by. We must do better.
When an Aussie politico on live tv said ‘the vaccine roll-out is a fu**ing shit-show!’ it made my week, I have to admit. There are other highlights too, which is a beautiful segue into more good news: grey hair is reversible! Apparently, anyway, according to the ABC. Sure, we’ve known for years that stress or extreme fright can startle grey hair from passivity, but I had no idea that reducing stress may diminish silvering too. So, if you’ve got plumage like a battleship, those dark brown locks may just be around the corner (in a bottle, probably).
This week I picked up Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, focusing on the very smallest components of our daily lives, how we form instantaneous impressions when meeting a new person or confronting a complex situation, how packaging impacts our purchasing choices and how we know someone is a liar. Gladwell consistently sits me on my arse and has me muttering, ‘well bloody hell! That is fascinating!’ every few pages, which would be immensely annoying for anyone within earshot. Thankfully as Melbourne embraces lockdown number five (five, FIVE!) I’m not torturing anyone with my constant exclamations. Apart from you, obviously. Although this is a ‘snap-lockdown’, I had no expectation of this lasting five days, and this morning there are murmurings afoot to lengthen it. As my American friends said, ‘you’re in lockdown for 18 cases?! Americans would fu**ing riot!’ We’re very meek, risk-averse lambs down here in Australia, what can I tell you? We have a grand total of 911 deaths from COVID, contrasting to Americas 630,000 deaths and 34 million cases. (America has roughly 15 times the Aussie population, and 700 times more COVID deaths). Apropos of nothing, the UK had seemed to turn a corner, reaching only 1,300 cases a day on May 1st. Many a pint was quaffed. They’re now sitting at a not so pretty at 54,000 cases a day. Why? Delta strain and humungous football crowd gatherings, probably. Still on track to release all restrictions on July 19th? Abso-sodding-lutely!
So back to my favourite news of the week. Many years after giving up the throne of being an ineffectual opposition leader, the ex-Labour head-honcho sent lips-flapping for calling the Australian vaccine roll-out a fu**ing shit-show on live television. If he’d have grown a spine a bit earlier, he may still have been leader. Still, his comments were very well received by at least me. “Scott Morrison (our Prime Minister, for now) is missing, you want to put up posters like the neighbourhood cat, 'has anyone seen Scott Morrison?' No wonder people hate politics, when the people you pay to do the job don't want to do the job . . . the political class are letting down the punters.’
Yup, that pretty much sums it up. Grey hair is reversible, eh? Huzzahh!!
Having clicked over 100 books on self-improvement and leadership, the latter a role I’ve worked in for over a decade, I figured I'd write a leadership book of my own. This may take a while! What the hell is a leader, anyway? We’re all leaders, whether inside of work or outside, and being a parent is a great example. When your kids are young, you tell them what to do, and as they get older, you yell instead. At some point comes the tough explanation of ‘why?’ and you have to relay it in terms they’ll understand, like the back of the hand! (jokes!) If you’re very lucky, you’ll set an example, hopefully a good one. Maybe they’ll want to be ‘just like mum/dad!’ Now that could come from daily tongue-lashings and career advice – ‘so . . . my moon and stars, my apple of my eye, what do you want to be when you grow up? You can be anything! You can be a doctor or a lawyer . . . anything!’ – or it can be that you’ve inspired them. That’s leadership. Taking people on a journey, inspiring them to be better.
Sometimes I come across a passage in a book, ruminate on it, spill tea all over it, forget about it, come back to it, wonder how that tea-stain got there, and ruminate more. I love those head-nod passages of text where you realise, I’ve done that – shit! Bridgewater, one of the most respected and successful investment management firms of all time was started by Ray Dalio, and his Principles (over 200 of them) are echoed from the top-down throughout his entire company. Here’s one:
“Don’t ‘pick your battles.’ Fight them all. If you see something wrong, even something small, deal with it.” Dalio’s point is that small things that you let someone get away with can lead to bigger problems, more serious divergence from the desired behaviour. Show courage, speak out, don’t let people off the hook. Ask the important questions, don’t take their word for it, independently check for yourself.
I love this a lot; it specifically targets your integrity. This is the extension to the argument that the standard you walk by, is the standard you accept. If you see something, say something. The more we let accountability and responsibility slide, the less complaints we have when that person impacts us instead of our colleague or neighbour. It doesn't mean jumping onto social media platforms to argue why BTS will never usurp Take That's place in my heart, I've found.
Reading for this week: Think Again: How to reason and argue by Walter Smith Armstrong, teaching the fundamentals of reasoning and how to see the fallacies in arguments (definitely a ‘I’ve done that – shit! type of book) ; Robert Sutton’s Weird Ideas That Work, which needs a ‘could’ in there somewhere, as innovation ideas include hiring people you don’t like and defying authority/processes – genuinely some bloody good advice in this book, which may also get you fired; Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, an oldie but a goodie focusing on the smallest components of everyday lives such as the instantaneous impressions you get from the people or when confronted with a complex situation under stress. The trick, as I’m hoping to find in the book, is when to trust that first impression. Put $50 on black, now, now now!!! . . . oh, red . . . farkkk!!!
I think I shall choose the ability to heal. Mostly myself, sure, but there’s no point in living forever, constantly healing yourself, if you can’t bore someone along the way. I assume that’s how the injections work, anyway . . . just thinking really hard about what your superpower is going to be. I had the second jab a few days ago, so any day now . . . I’ll be a healing monster!
So, pending my immortality, I’ve been reading, but out loud. Seriously, how sodding hard is that?! I remember doing this easily in school. Sure, I’d fumble my way through tough words, and if the chance arose, pronounce sex imitating Sean Connery just for fun. But reading aloud wassshh sssshiimple. At present, I’m trying to narrate my first audiobook for my uncle – being blind, he’s spared reading my usual rubbish, so am going tactical! I can’t go through a paragraph though without screwing it up, letting forth vile tirades of expletives. I shock myself. The difficulty is pausing on the breath, making sure the audio doesn’t sound like I’m in a phone booth with my pants warming my ankles.
Reading aloud isn’t the only reference to a bygone era. I have the upcoming week off, and considering it’s been 6 months since I had a break, it feels like the lead up to summer holidays. This is more keenly felt with my northern hemisphere chums relishing their summer solstice shenanigans! And here we are, in winter, passing our shortest day of the year. The future though, is bright!! Unless the COVID Gods are hard of hearing and I turn into a gila-monster. Just my luck!
During the month of mostly lockdown, I’ve noticed I’ve become a little more socially distant so will need to change that. During my introversion though I’ve churned through some tomes: In Praise of Idleness & Other Essays by Bertrand Russell; The Naked CEO by Alex Malley and the surprisingly excellent Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen. I hadn’t expected much from the latter, but I learnt a lot, and if you’ve ever needed to provide or receive feedback this book helps – in work, life, relationships . . . basically anytime, anywhere, where there is an interaction with a human. If you were talking to a chicken or a cupboard, this would be next to useless. Do not buy this book! Perhaps go and seek some professional help though. You know, a gila-ing hand.
Inalienable life certainties – death, taxes and England being piss poor in football. With morally bankrupt billionaires avoiding dues, they have plenty of cash to jettison themselves into space, living forever in a cryochamber circling Mars. That’s two down. Maybe they’ll regenerate in the year 3041, about tea time, just as Lichtenstein non-binary Brownies thwack six past the super-bots of England.
Population growth was a certainty, now I’m a little unsure. The average household in the UK used to be 2.4 children, meaning every adult couple had two heirs and a bit. Basically, a growing population. Now the UK fertility rate is 1.7. Europe is at 1.5. Japan is even lower still. By reducing poverty, increasing education, giving women autonomy over their own bodies and throwing a few billionaires at the sun, the planet’s population will naturally reduce. Sounds like a lot of thirsty work though, ammarite? Well, we’re running out of water too.
Only 2.5% of the water on the planet is freshwater - stuff we can drink or use to cook, clean, feed animals, grow crops i.e. live with. Johannesburg ran out of water in 2020. California is running out too, which is impacts everyone as they’re the sixth largest contributor to GDP in the world. Britain certainly has famous amounts of rain, but isn’t exempt either: 3 weeks of sunshine and hose-pipe bans begin. There is though good news! Ish. Good news ish.
99% of the planet’s freshwater is locked in glaciers and snowfields. So, with a warming climate, we’ll have more available. Huzzahh!! Most of that though will flow directly into the sea. Boo! Islands are already disappearing in the Pacific. The answer may be renewables powering desalination plants. More water means more growth, means more trees, means more oxygen. We breathe oxygen. See? Good news!
Australia, always a fierce advocate of doing fu** all, has already set its stall out. We can survive quite well as long as 90% of us die: with its current desalination plants, we can water perhaps 10-11% of the population including some pigs, cattle, sheep etc. So, if England bored everyone to death every week, we are covered. Happy Sunday!
Lots of love for the week, Richie xx
P.S. Gorau Chwarae Cyd Chwarae, Cymru am byth . . . C'mon, Wales!!
Australia Desalination water full-capacity: 20% of Adelaide is roughly 0.34m, 33% of Melbourne’s 4.8m (0.96m), ~ 40% of Perth at 0.85m, 27% of South East Queensland (1.026m), Sydney 19% of roughly 5m (0.95m). Not so good for Cairns, Darwin or Alice Springs eh?
Lockdown Volume 4: More Moribund. This time the villainous COVID escaped quarantine, jumped state-lines and in tasting freedom, went mental. A side-effect of contracting the virus must be becoming hyper-social, like some kind of catholic cocaine rabbit. ‘Hosts’ always seem to have spurious jobs like licking cutlery clean at eleventy-seven restaurants a day and providing low-cost heating solutions by breathing directly onto as many faces as possible. And so here we are again, week 3. Then today, just as it was getting boring, people in head-to-toe Hazmat suits arrived and entered a building a few doors down on my street, like something from Outbreak or ET. Awesome. Number of active cases in Melbourne? 64.
Still, lockdown has its advantages (he says, trying to be optimistic). In Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness, he hypothesises dropping the common man’s working day down to four hours – huzzaaahhh!!! Let’s get pissed!! - leaving the rest of the day for education – whaaaaaaa?! Russell believed that by gaining intelligence, the commoner not only advances themselves but the community around them, the rising tide of educated people lifting all boats in the country. And, you know, licking less cutlery. Alternatively, we could opt to retain the eight to ten hour working day, and just shut down all other distractions and activities. To that end: I’ve consumed Brene Brown’s excellent Dare to Lead; the not bad Naked CEO by Alex Malley; entrepreneurship stories from Guy Raz in How I built this; Phil Town’s Rule #1 concerning stock market investment; and the overrated Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I may end up in the loony bin yet.
The unfortunate truth in Russell’s ninety-year-old text, is that the ruling rich have implemented high costs for education, thus reducing its accessibility. For those that have the daring to better themselves, they are saddled in debt. The plutocracy has the gall to award their own family government contracts worth millions whilst espousing that manual labour is noble, praising the valour of salt-of-the-earth types, whilst robbing them blind. And no, you can’t take a toilet break, pee in a bottle like a man. In contrast, the story of the fortnight is that the top 25 wealthiest Americans collective coin surged $401 billion between 2014-2018. They paid an effective 3.6% tax rate. Jeff Besos of Amazon fame is now worth $200b. Does anyone else feel that Besos, Musk et al aren’t so much heading to space for the adventure, but because they know at some point the 98% are going to fucking lose their collective shit? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wear all my gear, sit on my motorbike and make engine noises. Brrrrrmm-brrrmmmmm!!
‘So, do you go to the gym at all?’ is not a welcome question when you’re topless and pulling your belly in. If you don’t, then perhaps your interlocutor is hinting that perhaps you should. And if you do attend the gym, busting your ass to obtain a shape that isn’t round every other day, it’s even more unwelcome. ‘You mean you can’t tell? Farrrkkkkkkk youuueeewwwwww!!!!’ I screamed, in my head, as my doctor asked me to put my t-shirt back on and went about his business of punching kittens and making babies cry.
Work have enrolled a lot of us on a High-Performance Mindfulness course, increasing resilience, trying to help people take control of tough situations like doctor’s visits*. If you’re wearing a t-shirt and a frown about imagining ‘mindfulness’, try this: exchange ‘meditation’ for time you spend winding down and ‘mantras’ for what you tell yourself when you’re in a tight spot, and it might sound more appealing. I meditate every morning and it helps me focus, but sometimes in the afternoon it can just be a cup of tea on the couch in complete silence, letting the mind drift. The shoulders relax, tension drops away. Late on Tuesday night I was then asked to present to the CEO.
On Wednesday I was due to present to a bunch of company executives on what my team have been working on. It’s not every day you get plucked from the doldrums to present to the big cheese, and I tried to calm myself down that this guy heads up a $26billion company across thirty countries and has the fate of 26,000 people in his hands. I did my breathing exercises, which makes sense to anyone that has done any sports in their lives – some slow, deep breaths. The nerves abated and I felt calm. All I had to do was not make a career-limiting gaffe. ‘Hi, I’m Richard . . . t-shirt back on or . . . ?’
* or maybe they have something in mind already!
Writing and writing...