Inner Independence

I closely follow and support the current rise of political Independents.

Many inspired by Cathy McGowan AO.

Yet ‘independent’ can easily and wilfully be misconstrued.

Yes, independent from the strictures of old political party mechanics and their opaque stakeholders.

Whilst deeply dependent on the support of the communities from which they emerge.

And naturally and correctly finding common ground with like minded allies.

True independence is strength of character.

Accretion of hard won self-insight, life values that are tested and refined, meaningful experiences which teach us.

These become the anchors which guide and ground our integrity.

Inner independence

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A Long Walk

The view is from Stanwell Tops looking south toward Wollongong.

A familiar sight to all SLF groups, with Stanwell Park home to retreats for the past 25 years.

Last Saturday however, with two experienced bushwalkers, I turned north.

And hiked the Royal National Park coast.

An early train delivered us to shadowed tall timber at Otford.

Steep steps climbed to a well maintained track, descended the escarpment, passed palm groves and isolated shacks.

Crossed hidden beaches, up and over sandstone heads, traversed burnt and regrown wildflower heath.

Witness to spectacular Australian coastal landscapes.

Where the Dharawal people camped and thrived for millenia.     

Walking is my favourite daily exercise, often with our dog.

I prefer to ponder and tune in to local nature, more contemplative than cardiovascular.

On this track, our steady pace over eight hours brought us to Bundeena.

A much anticipated cold beer beside the beach.

Weary bodies, vitalised spirits.

Sydney Leadership Formation

A new group is coming together, with an intent for a February 2022 start.

The course is well suited to those at a mid-career or mid-life inflection point.

Expressions of interest and referrals are welcomed.

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In Search Of The Best Move

As a chess player I’ve spent years searching for the best move.

My dad taught me the basics.

Then as a motivated school boy in the 80’s I studied every chess book I could find.

A sporadic tournament career in my 20’s was sensibly checked by professional and family priorities.

Now I’m an active online player, often top board for Team Australia at chess.com.           

Winning chess hinges on consistently playing strong moves.

But finding these moves is a complex calculus.

Located at the intersection between the games objective variables and my many subjective influences.

“Make the decision, Take the risk, Pay the price”

After minutes, hours or even days of thought, I make a move.

Yet as I play the move on the board, I know my assessment of ‘best’ really means ‘the best I could find’.

To be tested for Truth by my opponents response …


En Passant

As time passes, I realise that my best chess moves are independent of any individual game or result.

One real reward comes from pursuing a passion over many years, through immersion, enjoyment and striving to learn and improve.

And now it’s about sharing my enthusiasm with another generation as a mentor and very tough opponent 🙂

Sydney Leadership Formation

The most recent cohort with well earned smiles.

In a reflective moment toward the end of the Retreat, I asked who it was that first nudged each to start into the work.

The answers were telling and representative: my manager; my CEO; my wife; my friend.
All past participants or closely allied, paying it forward.

A very fine move!

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Marking Progress

Each Sunday morning I join a local painting group.

We learn ‘old school’, classical techniques under the guidance of Jules.

I retain memories of daunting early classes. Experienced peers dashing off landscapes, portraits, animals etc on real canvases!

While I painted aubergines and apples onto cheap, small boards.

Two years later (i.e. last week), carrying a large work-in-progress canvas home, an elderly couple approached.

I noticed the woman looking at my picture.

As we drew level she caught my eye and said, “That’s a really great find you made!”

Huh?

Confused at first, I saw the footpaths were covered with council cleanup junk.

She thought I’d salvaged the painting from someone’s discard pile.

I grinned and replied, “Actually, I’m painting this one.”

Laughter all round.

An unexpected, sideways compliment.

Progress.

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51 Billion To Zero

“There are two numbers you need to know about climate change. The first is 51 billion. The other is zero.”

So begins Bill Gates’ outstanding new book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster“.

Fifty-one billion tons of greenhouse gases generated by human activity are added to the atmosphere every year. This number is increasing.

Zero is what we need to achieve to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

There are some very impressive aspects to this book.

Firstly this is the best overview of the climate crisis faced by the planet I’ve read.

Bill articulates the causes and impacts, the science and the challenges very clearly. He’s applied his obvious intelligence and resources to explore the matter broadly, and as a communicator, shares what he’s learned very effectively.

This book is an holistic education for anyone wanting to get an up to date understanding of the climate crisis.

Usefully the book segments human activity and the various potential developments which are worth pursuing. It’s a non ideological survey of the current and emerging possible pathways to reach zero. I like the way Bill presents, with a pragmatic and open mind.

The five segments explored are:
 

The next most valuable aspect for me was a critical thinking framework of ‘five questions to ask in every climate conversation’ (Chapter 3).

My favourite was, “What’s your plan for cement?” The production of steel and cement creates about 10% of  all emissions, and the question is a reminder that any comprehensive plan needs to account for more than electricity and cars

Finally the most important aspect of the book for me, is that the author is Bill Gates himself, by any metric a World Class Leader.

With his voice and resources now publicly directed toward the climate crisis, our planet gains a powerful advocate.

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Two To Tango

Pablo Picasso and John Lennon are world class leaders I chose for immersion study last year.

Towering, iconic individuals of the 20th century.

Yet with a curious similarity – their creative breakthroughs actually the product of intense partnership. Picasso and Georges Braque pioneered Cubism between 1907-14, in the process revolutionising modern art.

The two painters shared so many ideas, theories, models and inspiration, that it’s difficult for a regular viewer like me to discern which artist painted which picture.

“The things that Picasso and I said to one another during those years will never be said again, and even if they were, no one would understand them anymore. It was like being roped together on a mountain.”

Liverpool teenagers,John Lennon and Paul McCartney formed The Beatles and went on to produce the soundtrack to the Boomers awakening.

Paul said the two had a habit of “answering” each other’s songs. “He’d write ‘Strawberry Fields, and I’d go away and write ‘Penny Lane’ … to compete with each other. But it was very friendly competition.”

Interestingly, on outgrowing The Beatles, Lennon formed a new, intensely activist and artistic partnership with Yoko Ono.

I’m fortunate to know the value of fellowship, encouragement and especially productive rivalry in powerful collaborations.

And have lived the natural cycle, from first meetings, through inspired activity to parting, even death. 

The leader myth is often one of lone genius, the daring radical, a solo sailor or intrepid explorer.

The reality is rooted in vital relationships.

It takes two to tango.

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Roadside Assistance

Walking our dog last week, I came upon an elderly man changing a flat tyre.

Crouched in the gutter, midday sun scorching down, I was moved to ask: “Are you alright? Do you need a hand?”

He turned toward me with a wary, bothered glance. And relaxed.

“Yes. I’m recovering from an operation.”

A surprisingly immediate and frank admission.

So I hunkered down in his place, jacked up the car and changed the tyre.

As I worked he told me he’d had surgery 4 weeks earlier. That he’d visited his doctor for another matter and been diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

He lifted his shirt and showed me the raw scar up his torso.

Surprised again. I told him that four years earlier my father died of a ruptured AAA, alone and undiagnosed.

Tyre changed, he asked if I lived locally. “Yes. Down the street. The house with all the piano music.”

Later in the evening my wife told me a man had knocked at the front door.

He said I’d helped him earlier and he wanted to leave me a gift.

She passed me a bottle in a brown paper bag.

A long-neck of Tooheys Old.

My dads beer.

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Crossing The Great Water

Our dreams are rich with insight, if we decode the messages.

This week, while facilitating a residential leadership retreat, one came my way.   

“A long suspension bridge spanned the ‘Swan’ river. Sagging, it dipped beneath the surface of the water for a great distance. Yet people in cars and trucks were still crossing. I sensed a man beside me and began to question him … how do those cars manage to cross? Is there visibility under the water? Is there a strong current? How do you seal the car? How do they stay on the road surface? etc. And to my growing concern, he gave me no answer …”

In exploring dreams, the literal rarely makes sense, so I seek connections and associations.

First I was surprised how clearly I knew the name of the river. The Swan River. I know it’s the name of the river running through Perth, but this has no strong relevance to me.

Then I remembered the previous evening watching parts of Jonathan Swans’ interview of President Trump. Swan, an Australian journalist and son of Dr Norman Swan, impressed me with his very straight forward, almost innocent approach.

The second obvious association was with Covid-19. The pandemic and it’s impact was a dominant background to all conversations over the preceding two days.

The perilous crossing of the bridge in my dream, seemed a fair metaphor for the unknowns which lie ahead.

Finally my thoughts traced back to my roots where I grew up on a property located behind Fawcetts Creek, in northern NSW.

Each February, during the rainy season, the creek would flood. At times we would need to cross it.

The process was always the same.

First a scouting of the natural ford, to assess the depth of water (above waist deep was too dangerous) and whether the creek bed was stable and unobstructed.

Even now I can recall the mesmerising swirls and power of the red-brown torrent.

If driving across appeared feasible then the Land Rover was prepared.

WD40 sprayed onto the electricals, a hessian sack tied to the grill to reduce the water surge onto the radiator fan and engine. 

The sturdy Rover was revved up and driven into the water at a confident speed.

Momentum is crucial. As is the ‘DO NOT STOP’ principle.

Once committed, there’s no room for hesitation or gear changes.

Fortunately we made each crossing safely.

When however the flood water was clearly too dangerous, we’d park the Rover.

Then hike three wet kilometres, skirting the creek along a track on higher ground, to a welcome home.

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Formation

In 2010 I subscribed to The New Yorker magazine after years of reading dated copies from the local library.

Quality essays, quirky cartoons, a weekly education.

And then occasionally, like in this April article, ‘Baking Bread in Lyon‘, a real gem shines.

An unremarkable pair of sentences to most readers, I am certain. An oblique aside, explaining a French term.

Yet to me, those words leapt from the page, full of meaning.

Describing a special relationship between formation and callingcomme c’est magnifique!

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