Just because I wasn’t there doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile!

I have guilty parent syndrome.

The challenge of fitting 4 weeks annual leave into 16 weeks of school holidays every year leaves me thinking that my boys have missed out; that their holiday experiences have not been worthwhile.

It’s not that my wife or myself do not spend time with our boys during the school breaks, it’s just we simply cannot spend ALL the time with them. We tend to assume to role of holiday program coordinator for when we’re not available – arranging incredible people to hang with them and for visits to friends. This often includes park trips, movies, swimming, sleepovers, theme parks, sport and for one of our boys this recent holiday, even a speed boat adventure!

So on the face of it, I reckon our boys thoroughly enjoy their holidays. And they enthusiastically (well, mostly…) proclaim they do.

It’s just that if I’m not there, I tend to think it wasn’t worthwhile… guilty parent syndrome.

Whilst my presence changes the dynamic and is certainly important, my absence does NOT equate to a lack of value. And this is something that seeps into other areas of my life. It’s almost as if I’m suggesting that without my direct involvement, something isn’t as worthwhile for all the other participants. This is more about my insecurity than anything else.

I need to have confidence in the plans I have developed, the people I have engaged  and allow them to create an experience with their touch. This then allows for those times when I am directly involved, for experiences to be flavoured by me, a genuine point of difference!

Whether it be family or work or anywhere else, we need to ascertain when we can be directly engaged and those times when we can’t, or perhaps, even shouldn’t. Empowering others should make an activity more worthwhile, not less.

Let’s create an experience-rich environment for our families and colleagues, with and without us!

LET HOPE RISE.

Think better

Have you ever been presented with a problem and delivered an expected solution? Most likely.

This is the usual response when addressing a challenge. We employ known ideas, known methods to deliver a known solution. Those who know me, will attest that I am a conservative thinker, but I’ve been challenged recently to think a little differently. This isn’t different for the sake of being different, this is in an attempt to deliver solutions that go beyond the easily digested and expected outcome.

I do not believe we should be diverging from an established path simply ‘just because’; but if there is an opportunity to be truly innovative that could potentially deliver a shorter or more efficient route for future challenges, then I suggest it must be considered.

Case in point is the marrying of social welfare and economics. Did you know it costs over $4 billion to simply administer the social welfare system in Australia to deliver $165 billion in payments (source: Australian Government Dept of Human Services 2014-15 Annual report)? That’s a weekly outlay of $3 billion with an administration cost of $80 million.

Traditional thinking has been to tweak eligibility requirements, strengthen the compliance framework, modify or revise payments… an alternative view is to replace the system entirely with what is known as a universal basic income. At its simplest, a basic income is a common universal payment to each and every member of society, irrespective of income or employment status or health profile. This payment would be designed to meet the basic living costs and, perhaps surprisingly, is not a new concept. It can trace its origin back to the 1800’s with it afforded greater prominence in the 1960s (thanks to noted economist Milton Friedman) and has been the topic of debate periodically since. Finland is trialling this concept.

Now I’m not intending to deliver economic or social rationale for either of these approaches in this post, that’s for you to discover! I am hoping, though, to encourage all of us to innovate our thinking by exploring an alternative view to a current challenge, seeking to understand its merits or otherwise.

If we want better solutions, we need different thinking, better thinking.

LET HOPE RISE

Do I need an umbrella?

Looking out the window across the cloud-covered sky to the street below I made an assessment that it was not raining heavily enough to impede my lunch time walk.

This assessment remained correct for five minutes, after which the grey clouds decided to dump significantly more moisture. I castigated myself for not bringing my umbrella which I had originally deemed as not being required. How could my assessment have been wrong?

The fact is, my assessment was correct, at that point in time. Circumstances beyond my control then changed the situation.

How often do we make decisions that are relevant to a particular point in time and then become frustrated or disappointed when the situation changes?

What may seem entirely reasonable and attainable with one particular set of circumstances, can quickly become distant and improbable. This shouldn’t prevent us from making decisions, rather it should encourage us to consider what factors are likely to change and then plan accordingly.

This is contingency planning. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just considered. In my case, I should have taken an umbrella – a minor encumbrance that would have meant I was prepared for the situational change. Some things cannot be planned for, but most can! The grey clouds were the indicator that my point-in-time assessment could be short-lived.

For what situation do you need to take an umbrella?

LET HOPE RISE

When is failing, failure?

This is a question I’ve had the opportunity to consider in my work role that I commenced earlier this year. A core component is determining the presence of the scientific method in assessing complex research and development projects.

In science, I’ve learned failing is a lesson, a pathway to a revised experiment. In life, failing is more often seen as being unsuccessful. The reality is, though, that failing only becomes failure when we cease trying.

Muhammad Ali was a great boxer, deemed by many to be ‘The Greatest’ of the 20th century, perhaps all-time. As a boxer, he was knocked-down by opponents. How many world titles did he win from the canvas? He won world titles not by staying down, but by rising up and continuing to fight. Boxing analogies are well-used I know, but that’s because they reflect what many of us do not do. When we’re struck down, floored by an unseen challenge, we spend too much time working out how and why when we should be readying ourselves for the next round.

Are we using failing as an opportunity to learn and go again, or we allowing it to nudge us closer to failure?

This is where we need to adopt the view of science, not the world. We need to measure our efforts, our plans, by the systematic progression of work we’re employing, not by the immediate outcome.

Adopting the scientific method into our own world means that we begin with the idea, the dream, the goal. Around this we develop a framework of what we think is required – the skills, the knowledge, the relationships, the courage. This provides the platform for our ‘experiment’ where we infuse the idea with effort, where we give it a go.

At this point, the immediate outcome may not be the final result. If our effort delivers the outcome we desired, fantastic – move onto the next idea! If the outcome is not what we desired, fantastic – move back to the framework we created and alter, refine and expand. If the result remains the same after several iterations of the framework, we may even need to go back to the original idea to determine if this is valid for us at this point in time.

The famous quote attributed to the inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison, epitomises the scientific method ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’

Failing only becomes failure when we cease trying.

LET HOPE RISE

A beautiful mayhem

A television ad caught my attention recently when it described family life as ‘beautiful mayhem’. Across my 16 years as a parent I have sometimes used ‘organised chaos’ to describe the mundane activity of family but never beautiful mayhem.

Family epitomises something which can be in equal measure beautiful and chaotic. Frustration for parents arises when we expect it to be solely one or the other.

Parents (I’m looking at myself right now!) can set the bar too high, expecting that family life is meant to be some form of beautiful simplicity; smooth-sailing with compliant children, parents managing outcomes as they navigate the parenthood path. The converse is also true – an expectation that family life equals pure mayhem, chaos following disaster with parents resigned to a lack of control and influence. The reality is somewhere in between – this ‘beautiful mayhem’.

A challenge I’m all too aware of is seeing the beauty amidst the mayhem and calling that out. We can routinely allow cherished moments to pass by without bringing them to the surface, archiving them as lost in the mayhem. Our kids then recall only the chaos, the challenge, the confusion.

As parents we need to train our eyes and our hearts to create, identify and reinforce the beauty of each situation. This will equip our kids with an instinct for finding the beauty which then positions them to bring encouragement and life.

In the midst of chaos, we can feel overwhelmed, weighted down by the challenge. As parents we have to decide that we will do things differently, view situations with a fresh set of eyes. This starts with how we view our role as a parent.

Are we there to simply ensure our kids survive until adulthood when they’re on their own? Or are we called to equip our kids with the tools (attitudes, beliefs and practical skills) for them to be life-bringers? By adjusting how we see our critical role as a mum or dad, we will not only impact how we parent but also the destination to where our parenting guides our family.

Amidst the mayhem, what are you doing to call out the whimsical, the fun, the ridiculous, the beauty?

LET HOPE RISE

Getting your life off pause

The song is on the playlist but there’s no sound. It’s all quiet and serene when it should be happening and upbeat!

The equipment is in order so what can it be?

We’ve hit the pause button! We didn’t hit pause consciously so what happened?

Many of us experience this in a much more significant fashion – our life seems to be on pause. It hasn’t finished, we know that, yet nothing’s happening.

How can we get our lives off pause? It’d be great if it was as simple as pushing the play button… it can be, kind of 🙂

Getting your life off pause starts with alignment. We need to align our actions with our aspirations, those goals that demand us to stretch. We can gaze upon where we’d like to be or consider the person we believe we could be and see only the gap between here and there. This leaves us parked in the gap, on pause.

Stepping out of the known, taking a risk, can be both challenging and confronting. This action, though, will help build a personal culture of growth and opportunity. It will close the gap between here and there.

Aligning our actions with our aspirations starts with everyday decisions. We can have amazingly productive days or weeks, crossing multiple items off our ‘to do’ list, but if finalising them do not move us towards our goals, then we need to re-prioritise. Consider the macro goals and make decisions that reduce the gap between here and there by one step. Start. Daily.

Find your play button and let’s close the gap between here and there!

LET HOPE RISE

Mark Mahoney's reflections on life as a husband, father and a jack-of-all-trades leader!