21 blog links to ignore (including this one)

SHTAAAHHHP!

Our time is precious. It’s one of the few things in life we can never get back. Treasure it. Spend every second wisely.

Now go. There is nothing to see here. But please accept this free hug, because hugs are never a waste of time.

Advertisements

Silence the squeaky wheels

58% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are six feet tall or more but only 14% of all men in the USA are this tall. On the face of it, being tall means you’re four times more likely to get the top job than if you’re not.

Here’s another: after dipping to 21 in 2016, the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies rose to a ‘whopping’ 32 in 2017. Reading this stat literally, having a Y chromosome means you’re nearly 16 times more likely to become a ‘grand fromage’ than if you were blessed with two Xs.

Our physical attributes play a part in how much of a boost we get in life – that is hardly earth shattering news – and so do our personalities and predilections. Consider extroverts, people who are extreme – and so attract attention, the charmers, those who love the limelight, etc. Put all of this together with the physical, and you end up with, errr… a tall, white, male who is a polarizer rather than a unifier, not exactly mortified when people are talking about him, and with an overwhelming compulsion to claim vocal credit for everything from a rising stockmarket and low unemployment, to the end of the Jurassic period and the invention of gravity. (If only I could think of an example.)

The rest of us can get on in life despite not wanting to be Youtube-famous, not being over six feet tall, not being extreme in our abilities, or opinions (especially our opinions of ourselves). We want to be ourselves, indeed we are told to be ourselves. However, it’s all well and good preaching the merits of authenticity but that will only take us so far. We still need to neutralize the imbalance, and so we end up having to work harder, try to be something we’re not, or find a different path.

But there are things we can do that are within our comfort zones, and that don’t require much effort. We can begin by challenging accepted norms, and not just those related to conventional lines of discrimination. Did you know, for example, that those promoted internally to lead an organization tend (on balance) to perform better than those recruited from outside. Yet the prevailing wisdom remains to hire from without. How many of you have seen well deserving colleagues passed over for promotion as a revolving door of charming, but less competent strangers join an organization with a golden handshake… and then leave it with a golden parachute? Here is one of many articles on the topic, Share this news. Begin a discussion. Challenge the assertion. (To me one of the most laughable suppositions of why external hires want more money is because they need to be compensated for having to navigate an unfamiliar environment; shouldn’t the internal hires actually get more money because if we are paying according to level of experience then they are already intimately familiar with the environment?)

We need address our own biases, perhaps by focusing on results rather than words, and in this way we may be able to silence all those squeaky wheels who hog the oil. Moreover, we need to not just shut our ears to the squeaky oil hoggers but we need to take our own lights and collectively shine them on the good deeds we come across in case those making them happen were born with a broken torch; we need to look out for one another, people!

Change is coming. Social entrepreneurship is on the rise. But we need to be a part of that change rather than wait for it to happen; we can choose to shape our destinies or we risk becoming victims of them. It’s on us. Look out for one another. Refuse to accept what is not right. Let’s do good things.

That hot potato is a total banana skin

Recently I was reminded of the brilliant comedy writing in two TV shows from my formative years: Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. The genius of the writers, Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, was particularly clever in the way they blended idioms, mixed metaphors, and interspersed malapropisms. The memory prompted me to begin a list of my favourite word play combinations, some from these shows, some I’ve genuinely heard used, and others I’ve stumbled across in writing:

  • … like a stampeding herd of vultures
  • You don’t put the cart before the horse if you want to lead it to water because that would be like locking the stable door
  • I wouldn’t eat that with a ten-foot pole
  • We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it
  • It’s not rocket surgery
  • Leopards don’t change their stripes
  • It’s like shooting fish off a ducks back
  • I hate all generalizations
  • Half of one, six dozen of the other
  • We don’t want to have the dog wagging the cart
  • Time is fun when you’re having flies
  • I‘m not a negative person
  • You say potato, I say whatever
  • Let’s not jump at straws
  • Enter your names in numerical order
  • They broke the mould before they made you
  • Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice… can’t get fooled again
  • We’ve climbed to new depths
  • There is only one way to eat an elephant and that’s by starting with the low hanging fruit

… and then the one I’ve never heard:

I’ll need this later rather than sooner

I’m an expert at nothing

It’s an old analogy but when asked where his talent lies, a fish that has spent many years diligently practising the violin, making huge sacrifices to become as accomplished as possible, could justifiably cite musicianship as his or her thing… and completely ignore the fact that he or she is not only a bloody good swimmer but one that can breathe underwater.

It’s hard to identify our own strengths. Those most noticeable to us are where we’ve suffered to acquire them; where we’ve had to make an effort, or make sacrifices, usually for a sustained period of time. But we ignore those things that come naturally to us.

When we can do something without thinking, there is no effort for us and it seems too easy to be worthy. Or perhaps we think others must find it as easy and as natural as we do. This was the case with Greg Louganis, the gold medal winning Olympic diver. I heard an interview with him in which he explained how, from a very young age, he would execute all of his practice in his head, and when he had it right in his imagination, then he would execute it with his body. He thought everyone went through that mental rehearsal and it wasn’t until many years later that he realised how rare this was.

We also tend to think first of sports, arts and trades when it comes to expertise: she is a good runner, she is a good carpenter, she is a good sculptor, etc. We forget those attributes that are less visible: he is a good organiser, he is a great lateral thinker, he is one of life’s connectors and he’s the one that keeps our social network together.

I emerged from school without any A grades in my national exams (of which there were 15) and this was despite being able to choose most of the subjects myself. I didn’t win any sports events at school. If I’m looking for my own expertise then I need to look at my life in a different way. Or maybe we need our friends to tell us, because what is natural for us might not be for them.

If you’re a fish, make friends with an elephant. If you’re a painter, make friends with a mother who only has time for their family. If you’re a runner, make friends with a weightlifter. You may see in the other what you are not. You might be able to help one another. And you’ll have someone to remind you that it’s really pretty cool to be able to breathe under water.

Endurance training is like spinning plates

There are 8 plates, and each plate has a name, all begin with ‘S’:

  1. Strength
  2. Speed
  3. Stamina
  4. Skill (or Technique)
  5. Sleep (and Rest, or Recovery)
  6. Suppleness (aka Flexibility)
  7. Sustenance (Food, or ‘Sprouts’ if you want a food beginning with ‘S’) and
  8. Sychology

We like our numbers when we publish blog posts or write book titles, and since I’ve managed to shoehorn the letter S onto all of them, I was tempted to call this “The 8 Ss of endurance sports”, except that half of them have noms [sic] de plumes and the eighth S is a son-of-a-nutcracker. But I’m beginning in the middle of the story, so let me be kind, rewind (and generally Swede this blog post) a little.

In running, triathlon, freediving, and so many sports and physical activities, we are constrained by one of the 8 Ss. Sometimes it’s our schedule that stops us from cramming them all in and sometimes it’s our preference. (I just don’t like yoga.) It might be a persistent lack of sleep that prevents us from being a faster swimmer, or a lack of speed work that prevents us from running faster, a lack of strength that prevents us from cycling harder, or a lack of attention to what is going on in our head (sychology) that prevents us from holding our breath longer during freediving.

That which constrains us at any one point in time will depend on the person and the activity. Strength is more important in running than freediving, where flexibility and sychology feature more prominently. But where these 8 Ss have really helped is when my life has been too disrupted and disjointed to follow a strict training plan.

In weeks with no training plan I know what constrains me and I can give that one S more attention. But I also try to hit them all to some degree. Strength might come from a random set of burpees, or a high gear workout on a bike; suppleness gets some focus with a foam roller work in front of the telly. As I go through the week I can mentally tick off the Ss I’ve hit and those I haven’t until I get to the eighth day, when I can reward myself with sprouts.

This post was inspired by reading a wonderful book called “The art of running faster and I have shamelessly taken the lessons from one of the authors, Julian Goater, to heart.

You are good enough 

To those of you who are not captains of industry, you are good enough. 

If you haven’t climbed Kilimanjaro or run a marathon, you are good enough. 

To you who weren’t valedictorian, who didn’t graduate summa or magna cum laude (and who think if you speak Latin at all it should be used to say things like nunc est bibendum) you are good enough.

I visited a university campus last weekend and I had a flashback to my own college experience. On getting in and getting out I felt that pressure to prove I had milked every last second for every bit of opportunity so my prospective college/employer/friends could see I am smart, hard working, creative, sociable, a leader, athletic, responsible, reliable, charitable, determined, focused… I had it easier than it must be today. That pressure now feels like it’s all the way up to 11. 

You don’t need to prove anything to me. Be a good person. Do no harm. Get enough sleep. Try not to be a dick; know that sometimes you will be and for those times I only ask you feel humility and remorse. Life is not a competition but if you want it to be, if that’s what makes you happy, I don’t mind that either.  If you feel that pressure to be better today, know that your mere desire to want to be better means that you already are good enough. 

Justification and excuses

The girlfriend of the leader of a political party in the UK made a racist statement when talking about Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s fiancée. Then came the excuses, the same sort of excuses I read and hear from politicians on this side of the pond, and probably the world over.  

The excuses largely fall into two camps. You have the flat denial, “it wasn’t me” (as they stand next to a large plate full of crumbs with chocolate sauce all over their face). And then you have the you misunderstand me responses:

“My bigoted statements were taken out of context.” (And presumably blown out of all proportion.)

“My misogynistic conversation happened over 20 years ago.” (When I was still more than 50 years of age.)

“My racist tweet was actually referring to a different foreigner.” (None of which are my own immigrant ancestors.)

But it’s when we start making the excuses for them that I really worry.  

“The president may be a murderer but he’s only murdering criminals.” 

“Sometimes you just need a murderer to catch a murderer…” (… and then sometimes you just need to elect them into office. )

But when is such behaviour bad enough? Why do we hold those in positions of power to a different standard from those around us? And why do we make excuses for them?

All of us make excuses for those we support. I’m just wondering at what point we flip our stance and finally say, “ok THAT is not acceptable”.

We’re not consistent. Little Jamie didn’t mean to hurt anyone, they were just playing. Jan wasn’t really lying,  they just didn’t say what actually happened. My son isn’t really racist, he was just using words he heard.

We hold those outside of our circle to a different standard. And we hold those inside our circle to different standards each day depending on how much $h!t we can deal with at that moment in time. (We’re only human, and we all have a limit.)

Maybe we need a checklist of questions:

  • Would I be sacked if I said / did this to my boss? 
  • Would I let my child get away with this? 
  • … 

But a checklist will only work if we also throw out our own checklist of excuses:

  • Ah but home is different from work.
  • Ah but children don’t know any better.

Loon, tit, cock, and booby

… all feature in the names of bird breeds.  

Place names have hilarity too. In Ireland you can find Bastardstown, in the USA we have Big Bone Lick, and from the UK we have Fanny Barks, Brown Willy and Bell End. 

But it’s the onomatopoeic quality of words that delights me the most. Some are just so much fun to say. The shape your mouth has to make and the way you move your tongue to form them is a joy in itself.

Words with “oo” in the middle… words ending in “-t” or “-k”… we need these words in our lives. And when the words have a story, an exoticism, a heritage, they are more beautiful still. 

Words like papoose, cacophony, solipsism, baboon, salacious, purple, mama mia, Tuareg… 

I could go on. I already have. Find your words. Say them out loud. Enjoy them. And on that note I’ll leave you with a bushtit.

Your discomfort zone (version 2) 

As the saying goes, if you keep doing what you did, you keep getting what you got. The way we progress is by doing differently. Differently can mean a more uncomfortable version of what you are already doing, or something entirely new. Either way it’s not what we’re inclined to do or else we would be doing it already.

It takes mental effort to put yourself in a place of discomfort, and more to stay there. When I think of this, threshold training comes to mind. A former running coach summed it up quite well: 

“… you know that feeling you have when you get to that running pace where it stops being comfortable, but you’re not throwing up; you can live with it but given a choice you wouldn’t choose to – you’re kind of at the ‘point of yuck’ – that’s your anaerobic threshold. That’s what you’re looking for. Just hold that pace.”

There you go then. Just find that point of yuck and live with it. I can say from experience that the longer you live with it, the less uncomfortable it becomes. It’s just not a natural state, and you can’t live with it all the time. For those other times I recommend whatever hedonistic joy takes your fancy. After living at the point of yuck, I guess you could call this embracing the state of yum.