Archives for the Month of March, 2011

Consideration and Respect

Room with a view

Near Horizon

I started a new job recently. Beyond the glass walls of the building, in the near horizon, is a curious and distinctive message: “Let’s adore and endure each other.” Writing on the wall always makes me think.

At first glance, the message seems like a useful reminder. To remind us of the value of being generous in spirit and kind to our fellow man. One thing’s for certain, the work is by an artist who lets their art speak for itself.

As I stare at the wall from afar, a new perspective starts to emerge. I begin to wonder about the words and what they mean in practice.

Adore” and “endure” are both emotionally-charged. The first makes me think of love and the second of tolerance. Both are united by passion. Both require us to pass some judgment on the object of our passion, in this case, “each other”.

Thanks to Marshall Goldsmith highlighting the top 20 flaws that prevent people from becoming more successful, I’ve learned that being over-judgmental and passing judgment too quickly is something to be aware of. As with so many things, bad habits die hard.

The Dangers of Loving and Hating

“Loving and hating” is one of the coping stances many of us adopt when we are imbalanced or feel stressed out, according to Gerald Weinberg. Both represent two sides of the same coin. Loving often materialises itself as favouritism while hating often manifests itself as prejudice. Either way, both of them impair our ability to consider a situation objectively.

Tolerance and Thinking

The idea of “enduring each other” sits uneasy with me. It conjures up a multitude of negative ideas. The first is that tolerating someone usually stems from and reinforces a lack of respect. The second is the idea of putting up with a situation instead of looking for ways to improve.

An example of this is when people say, “That’s the way Jane is. She’s got some skills, but it’s her personality”. What if continuous improvement meant that we can turn everything into a skill and a choice? This would mean we could learn, unlearn and re-learn things that define us as individuals. If we choose to change. I’ve seen people go through transformational change when they realise that a) you can only change yourself and b) only you can change yourself.

Strangers to Ourselves

In the words of Marie Curie, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” Acknowledging this is the first step towards making sense of the many tenuous threads of the nest in our heads.

A Dip in the Ocean

A dip in the ocean and a swim in the sea

Back in February, I attended my first TedX event, TedX Granta in Cambridge, UK, a city well-known for its academia, research and creativity. Among the many live and recorded talks, the one that moved me most was Sarah Outen‘s story of being the first woman to ever row across the Indian Ocean.

How Sarah let go and went rowing

The start of Sarah’s journey began with the sudden death of her father during her time at Cambridge university. In order to come to terms with her grief, she set herself the daunting challenge of becoming an “ocean rowing racer” in order to raise money for charity in her father’s memory. At that time, not only had Sarah never done ocean rowing, she’d not even done all that much regular rowing. But she’d set her mind to it and nothing was going to change that.

While some people might have considered her sudden decision to take up ocean rowing racing as “spiteful” or “whimsical”,  Sarah needed to let go of her family and herself. Sarah described this point in her life as a need to “survive” in order to deal with her grief. What better place to be alone than in a sailing boat in the middle of a big blue ocean with nothing but radio assistance?

The route less travelled

Sarah shared many anecdotes about her first trip from Perth to Mauritius which became a circuitous “warmup lap“. Instead of rowing in a straight-line, it was much more of a squiggle fraught with tenterhook moments like when she literally found herself unclipping her lifeline but for a moment to upright her overturned boat in a storm in order to survive.

“You can do whatever you want”

Sarah attributes her success in ocean rowing racing to 3 things: having a dream, a vision and belief. She learnt to “let go of naysayers” and focused on turning “bad nerves” into “good nerves” and making them work for her.

Sarah’s 7 tips for achieving your dreams

  1. Focus on your goal. Steel your mind and spirit with the mantra of “Just keep rowing”. The tough get moving to keep going.
  2. Persevere. Try, try and try again. Keep going. The key difference between winners and losers is that winners keep trying.
  3. Teamwork is dreamwork. Big dreams require teamwork. To reach your full potential, you need great teamwork.
  4. Don’t run from fear. Things that make you afraid are often learning opportunities in disguise. Sometimes, the greater the fear, the higher the return on investment.
  5. Re-define “safe” in your head. Your comfort zone  is eroding a bit every day. Continuously challenge yourself in order to be at your best.
  6. Stop worrying. Concentrate on the things that you can change. Let go of things you can’t. In Sarah’s words, learn to “look at things with equanimity”.
  7. Take calculated risks. Be bold and smart to give yourself the best chances for success. In the words of André Gide, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

When was the last time you unclipped your lifeline and dared to lose sight of the shore?

“A Dip in the Ocean”

You can read more about Sarah’s memoir of her ocean rowing races in her new book “A Dip in the Ocean“. If her writing is half as compelling as her storytelling, the book is sure to to help free your mind from the shore to which its currently tethered.