Friday, 21 May 2021

Week Minded

Highdown Hill, West Sussex - Photo NJG
It's Friday, one of my non-work days. With some time to myself, I've been reflecting on how it's gone.

What's been happening? How did I show up? Did I learn anything? Did I apply any of that learning? 

Well, yes and no.

Being present in social media channels means that one gets exposed to a lot of noise. Sometimes I contribute to that noise; sometimes, I hope, helpfully.

The week started off really well, with my weekly walk and talk with my Counsellor followed by my continuing to walk further, exploring local pathways not previously walked, but trusting my sense of direction and following the waymarks. In total, some 10k in uncharteristically glorious weather, the benefits of which for my mental and physical wellbeing lasted well into Tuesday. Joyous.

This week also saw two "[insert cause/subject here] Week" campaigns which are both areas of personal interest to me - "Learning at Work Week" (#LAWW21) and "Dementia Action Week" (#DAWW21). 

One of my professional bodies (for whom I work part-time) is an active sponsor of LAWW and we have discussed and acted on this both internally as a team and in our support for the HR, L&D and OD profession externally.

This blog is my activity recognising that, enabling me to reflect on and share what I've learned this week.

It's also Dementia Action Week, a cause close to my heart, for family reasons. I'm a research volunteer for the Join Dementia Research (@BeatDementia) programme, and have been contributing to their online studies since 2014. A few weeks ago, they asked their volunteer community of study participants if they would be prepared to be interviewed to share their story of how and why they got involved. I was selected, interviewed and my story was published this week, as part of their DAW campaign, here: "Making a difference through online research studies".

My hope is that people reading it may be prompted to get involved themselves and thereby add to the data which will hopefully speed understanding about and prevention or cure of this cruel disease.

Then on Wednesday morning, I learned from a friend on facebook that another friend from my college days back in 73-76 had died suddenly of an aneurism. A year younger than me, a wife, grandmother, photographer, generous sharer and all-round lovely person, her death hit me quite hard. 

I've spent a lot of time in the last few months discussing and sorting out my and Mandy's end-of-life admin - Lasting Powers of Attorney, Wills, Funeral Plans - and, having survived heart surgery myself six years ago, death has been much on my mind. Sheila's death and her family's loss really brought this to the fore.

Wednesday was probably the low point of my week. Thursday, however, was satisfyingly clear-minded, focussed and productive.

And here we are, it's Friday already, and today I chose not to join in the weekly 08:00 am #LDinsight tweetchat with my #PLN (Personal Learning Network), and had a long lie and leisurely breakfast instead.

So, what, if anything, did I learn this week?

It's good to to talk | Sometimes you don't need to have a clear destination in mind and you can just enjoy the journey for itself and for whatever physical and mental nourishment it provides | It's OK to have a down day; don't beat yourself up about it | You don't always have to show up; the world will keep turning.

Have a great weekend, folks.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

What's in a Number?

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov from Pexels
Ten years ago today, I wrote and published my first ever #blog - "The Blog Bullet - Bitten!", the first of an inconsistent series of musings, commentary, reflections and occasional rants, the culmination of which is today's blog marking that 10 year 'anniversary'.

I've said before that, for me, posting into the digital and social media space is not - and should not - be a numbers game. Twitter, for example, has never been about the number of followers I have, or the number of retweets I get. Blogging has similarly not been about how many posts can I get out per week/month/year, or the number of pageviews (although you bet I do check the stats!).

And yet, with an absolute acknowledgement of the irony herein, here I am writing a blog specifically to make up the numbers and celebrate a spookily serendipitous numerical milestone - 120 blogs in 10 years. That's an average of 12 blogs a year - one a month.

Almost like there was a plan.

But there wasn't.

My purpose in blogging was to reflect and expand on my professional interests and experiences in learning and development, and my interaction with others in related fields, beyond the then 140 character limit of Twitter. I hoped that it would be a two-way street, that others would engage with my posts and that dialogue would ensue. Sometimes, that has been the case.

I've tried to be guided by the mantra "Does this need to be said? Does it need to be said by me? Does it need to be said by me right now?" (Attrib. Craig Ferguson).

Sometimes I've even managed to follow that rule.

Blogging remains a very personal thing for me, and I've taken a very non-systematic approach to it. For example, last year (2020), I posted just two blogs - both about how I was coping with and feeling about COVID-19 and its impact - and in 2019, I posted 15! 

This flies in the teeth of all the accepted wisdom about consistency and audience-building. But, sorry, if I ain't feeling it, it ain't getting written.

That said, I'm grateful to everyone who's ever taken the time to read and comment my posts. If you've found any value, inspiration or just entertainment, then that's good enough for me.

I can't promise anything different in the months - maybe even years - ahead. 

Twitter will continue to be my go-to micro-blogging channel but there will always be that longer blog thing, that blog thing needs to be said, that blog thing that needs to be said by me, that blog thing that needs to be said by me right now!

Like today.


Wednesday, 7 April 2021

The Garden of Ignorance

This is our garden. When we moved here 6½ years ago, it was just a grassy rectangle with a small square patio.

Once we had settled in, we got some quotes from gardeners to design an easy-to-maintain layout and planting. This is what we ended up with, and it has proved to be sufficiently low-maintenance for me to engage with trying to keep it tidy, planted and pleasant to look out onto and relax in. 

But I'm no gardener.

I do what I do from an ongoing position of horticultural ignorance.

Like many people, I suspect, I want to have a nice garden (be able to play the piano / be a Digital Learning Expert) without necessarily doing all the heavy lifting (practising / theoretical & experiential study) required.

But I’m happy to get stuck in.

I Google / read up / ask others / observe / try out stuff / persevere / try again – with the incentive that others have an expectation of me so doing but are also willing to work with me and support me to achieve the desired outcomes.

Does that make me ‘lazy’ / a ‘chancer’ / a yet-to-be-outed imposter? 

Or a learner?

Judge me by my results.

And keep challenging me to be better.

I might just surprise you.

And myself.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Sea Seen

I love the sea. I love living by the sea. I love walking by the sea. 

I love it's size, its weight, its indifference.

But I can't sit with it for long.

It asks me questions, the answers to which I rarely have.

And that makes me melancholy.

But we see each other.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Treading Purposefully

I took myself off for a long walk 'up-country' on Friday last week, with the intention of putting some kilometres under my boots without worrying about who else was around or was likely to cause me any concerns (see last week's blog). 

I was able to walk from home up into the South Downs National Park and National Trust land, and westward from there into the flatlands beyond the village of Angmering.

For four and a half hours, I walked into the wind and away from the day-to-day niggling concerns and worries which seem to predominate my thinking nowadays.

And the way I was able to do that was to follow pathways hitherto unexplored by me, but helpfully - and literally - mapped out for me in the Ordnance Survey map in my hand.

Much of the walk towards and into Angmering, I knew already. From there on, I relied on the map to take me further.

And I still went wrong almost immediately. The pathway wasn't as clear on the ground (up a side street) as it appeared to be on the map. 

But I was reminded that "a map is not the territory" (mathematician Alfred Korzybski, 1931). So I back-tracked, without giving myself a hard time about it, and essentially 'got back on track', mindful of something @CraigTaylor74 said on a map-reading and navigation exploration day a couple of years ago, "The landscape is never wrong".

Further on, back in the open countryside, I got to a point where I could turn left or right to start the farthest North/South leg of my walk before turning back East again. I had a choice to make - right (North) or left (South). Consulting the map, I went North, following the more interesting track indicated, around and between ponds and forest, until I found myself back in Angmering, where, once again, I got slightly lost in a housing estate.

But my sense of direction is good and I completed the circular part of my walk and had a wee break again in Angmering, before setting off for the final leg back home over known and previously-walked paths, with renewed intent and, despite tired legs, at a decent pace.

When I got home, I was invigorated and pleased to realise that both during my walk, and afterwards, my mind had quietened; that the volume of the  'noise' which usually accompanies me on shorter, local walks, had been turned down and I felt more at peace with myself.

The difference between walking just to get out of the house (Covid wandering) and walking with intent, albeit without a geographical destination in mind other than coming back home, and supported by a map and compass by which to navigate, was considerably more significant that I had realised.

My internal, noisy map had been taking over my wanderings. By navigating with intent and appropriate tools, I was able to focus on the landscape, looking up (there it is again!) and enjoying the physical and mental benefits of being in nature in those moments.

To steal from someone else again, "When map and terrain differ, follow the terrain".*

fs blog

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Treading Carefully

I went for my 'Covid' walk on Worthing promenade at 09:00 one day last week. It was a lot quieter than it is later in the day, when I normally head down to the seafront. Far fewer people about. 

I liked it.

Why did I like it? 

Because I could see the way ahead. I could anticipate who was going to be coming towards me, to my left or to my right, or, indeed ploughing straight ahead and assuming that I would get out of their way. I could adjust my trajectory accordingly. 

And I had space to look up, and out, to lift my eyes to the horizon and to the sky.

Similarly, I wasn't having to keep looking over my shoulder, to see who was coming up on my blind side. 

Lone runners announce themselves by the sound of their different gaits and running shoes. Walkers and talkers can be heard as they approach. Again, I find I can move to one side or the other to allow them clear passage (although I tend to 'step out', walk quickly, when I'm on my own, trying to press on and maintain some pace, so not many 'talkers' keep up with me). 

The only ones you have to be aware of and check behind you before you alter your direction quickly, are the silent cyclists, who sweep past you suddenly and unannounced - and rarely two metres distant.

In many respects, I think going for 'a walk on the prom' is both an artifact of how we're living and is analogous to how we're working in a Covid world. Trying to find and carve your own path, looking after your own and others best interests and health. Watching out for those who could get in your way, could - through their own ignorance or indifference - bring harm to you and your's, or prevent your plan coming to fruition. Being aware of the ambushes that could catch you unawares, knock you off track - or over! Delay or derail your plans and progress. 

Whilst all the time you're trying to keep a sense of perspective, an awareness of and behaviour that recognises and navigates productively through that landscape.

It's exhausting. 

I'm sure you can recognise and construct some deeper analogies to your own personal and professional lives here, so I'm not going to over-think and thereby over-egg that. 

It's important, however, to remember that these things are far more intertwined, far more interdependent now than they have ever been in the past.

So, if you can, get out. Look up. Don't hide. Ask for help if you need it. Try not to judge. Adjust your path, cross the road, as circumstances require. Aim to reach your intended destination,

And keep looking over your shoulder.

Be safe and be well.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Command and Control

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile from Pexels

I've just been to the pharmacy to collect my heart drugs. I wore a face mask in the shop for the first time since Covid19 struck. On my walk home, I was pondering why.

It's not to protect me, it's to protect others from me (in case I've got it and don't know it). 

Having exercised pretty strict social and physical distancing from everyone except Mandy, including our grown-up children, I'm fairly sure that I'm not infectious. But I felt the need to reassure the hard-working - and similarly masked - pharmacy staff, that I was being careful on their behalf; that it mattered to me.

Because it does. In the face of what I see as an unseemly and ill-judged race to lift restrictions, I am genuinely concerned that we will soon experience a second wave of the pandemic in the UK.

And I am fearful (that word again) that many others think that it's worth taking the risk of that possibility, to regain some semblance of 'normal' life and freedom of movement and association. To take back control. 

Sound familiar? I'm not judging (well, I'm trying not to).

In the early days of Lockdown, the Government instruction was unambiguous: Stay Home - Protect the NHS - Save Lives. Who wouldn't want to get behind that? It mattered to everyone. So the instruction was pretty universally followed. And the numbers started to go down.

Now it's all gone a bit wooly, a bit less directive, a bit more discretionary. It's introduced an optional element into how we can behave. And we're seeing people respond according to what matters more to them now than it did initially - social interaction, being physically closer, shopping. Their own needs have superseded their willingness to recognise the continuing greater risks of taking the brakes off.

So I'm sticking with it. I'm continuing to maintain 2 metres distancing, to cross the road when someone comes towards me, to use click and collect for the weekly shop rather than go into the store, to wear a facemask if and when I absolutely have to be in a 'confined' environment, to sanitise and/or wash my hands, to work from home.

In my small way, I'm trying to keep you safe from me, just in case.

Footnote: There's a training analogy that could be made here about one of the reasons why people do or don't buy into different kinds of learning - whether it matters to them, whether there's a benefit for them or for others. Compliance training springs to mind. But that feels a bit contrived, so I won't go there. You could probably write that bit yourself anyway.