Evusheld – #forgotten500K

1,000 days of lockdown… and HM Gov. withhold the keys

A blog to mark the passing of the one thousandth day my wife and I have been shielding from Covid-19. Please remember the forgotten 500K in the UK

A milestone we were hoping not to make, but it is now one thousand days locked away from the world due to Covid-19. Locked away, forgotten by government, and only of occasional interest to the media. It is now a government decision that keeps us locked away. And that is not going to be forgotten. There are 500,000 people in the UK still in this situation. Please share this post, or others which will no doubt follow from others in the coming days. #forgotten500K

Severe acute respiratory syndrome i.e., SARS-CoV-2 or Covid-19, remains deadly to people such as my wife. She has severe lung damage due to long-term disease. plus being immuno-suppressed means vaccines do not work.

This continues to effect 500,000 in the UK. Five-hundred thousand people plus their families – and of all ages. These are all severely clinically vulnerable category people. They may be cancer patients, or transplant patients, and includes many more suffering all manner of disease. Only in the UK.

A drug called Evusheld is a known solution. HM Gov approved its use on 17th March 2022. However, unlike the rest of the world, they have opted not to buy it. HM Gov have opted not to buy it. It is now in use throughout the world but remains withheld from NHS use by HM Gov. The solution is being withheld.

500k UK citizens denied freedom to leave their homes – today!!

Once more for clarity. There are now 500,000 people just like my wife being denied this possibility being able to leave lockdown. We have been at home, often alone, and without interaction beyond hospital visits for 1,000 days. These are the forgotten 500K. And it is HM Gov finding reason to delay. Evusheld has been available and used effectively in US, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Italy (i.e., the G7) and the whole of Europe throughout 2022. HM Gov are acting against the consensus view by the rest of the world and these most vulnerable at home.

One thousand days and counting, but hopefully not too many more. I feel sure Evusheld will be in circulation in early 2023. It should be available now. High profile and united appeals by charities, health professionals, MPs, select committees, and protests on behalf of we who cannot leave our homes, continue to fall upon deaf ears. But there is ongoing cross-party support. It has been 1,000 days, but there is reason to think there will not be too many more.

One thousand days so far. A forgotten 500K through the whole of 2022. Please share this post and help make it not so many more…

Links embedded in this blog. Much more detail available here

#twitterquitter

💩 Cancel culture or a dirty protest 🪧

I suspect my decision to deactivate my Twitter account will be almost universally unnoticed. But occasionally it feels good to just severe ties. To see enacted sociopathic attitude, malevolent intentions, and belief so opposed to my own that it was time to pull the plug.

Bye bye Twitter. You were my least liked platform of misinformation, anyway. Bye bye to the baiters, the denigrators, and the hateful propagators. And thank you Ego Must for making such an overt effort to confirm the lack of humanity and humility by such an exemplary disregard for care. I understand the reasoning but deplore whole heartedly the callousness – the classlessness – in how the deed was done.

Those were human beings waiting for those emails. How ridiculous that redundancy pantomime was.

Get yourself to Mars, Elon. You’ll be happier alone…

PhD and me – which conversation

🗣Lesson #2. the conversation you’re in👀

A blog to briefly declare something I did not know, I did not know. A truth of academic research that is perhaps true of many exchanges, except in academic conversations only the words need to be alive…

Have you ever observed two people who are evidently having different conversations with each other? Each exchange appearing to further distance one from the other, but both using the same phrases whilst meaning quite contextually different things. Both are people you wish to converse with, but what conversation are they actually having? And what are you to add to such confused disagreement between friends?

As the observer you initially just note disagreement. Only by listening a while, and understanding the friends wider positional norms, does the disconnect become heard. You note it first, because you have tried to ground both sets of comments. But soon one or both talkers note it too. One space of discourse, but three people with three ideas of what conversation is being had, or what arena it is sitting within.

This is lesson #2 of my PhD journey – second lesson of so very many. Lesson #2, entitled “know what conversation you are in”. Lesson #1 {here}

🔎Finding the right conversation📚📕📗📘📙

This notion of academic discourse as a conversation is from chapter 1, of Anne Sigismund Huff (2009) “Designing Research for Publication”. This seems such an obvious insight once pointed out, but one I have been blind to up to now – it is key to understanding what it is I am really engaged with. A better way to explain what academic writing is, and the role the scholarly contributors represent.

As my supervisor explained last week, “we are not seeking problems to solve, we are advancing what was until now partially unknown”. Or as was observed when comparing notes on presenting in conference settings, in an academic conference you are presenting to the experts, and who is not nervous in doing that? Expect those experts to engage from the last thing or the better thing already said. Put another way, the scholar finds themselves in the middle of an ongoing conversation, and we are expected to have heard all that has been said despite not being there.

That is in essence what my first month of a PhD has taught me. That not only am I yet to elucidate my problem, but even as that now emerges, I am yet to even know the conversation I am joining – and which ones I am not.

🙋🏻‍♀️🤦🏽🙇🏼‍♂️Scholars collectively converse – intellectuals individually know💁‍♂️

A second part to this lesson is the reorientation of my assumed role. This PhD is not about becoming the intellectual, but about the scholarly pursuit. In the same way that the problem solving is the consulting role. Problem clarity is the role, and the understanding that emerges is all.

Huff (2009) explains this both as the conversation we are engaging in, and that the scholarly role is both as sense-maker and as sense-giver. We are contributing to the advancement of the knowledge, but we are also restating clearly what has been said before. We are conversing, and revisiting the discourse that has been had. The reader of our work is both being offered what is new, but being given a chance afresh to validate what understanding it adds to. And by extension, to have clarity of the many other conversation it could be, but is intentionally not.

⏰time you need x3📆🔍🧮📚

So here I am, the scholarly wannabe. Not yet able to articulate my problem. Still shaking off the default setting of problem solving, not defining. Not yet familiar with where the one conversation runs parallel to the next. Not even close to the understandings which oppose, which align, or how conversations may intersect or just confuse. Already a month into speaking with my peers and my supervisors. Yet with each new guide I read; with every re-reading and new connection found to academic work; all these conversations are going on – and for me now just the first hint of a whisper as toward what grounding all their words juxtapose.

It matters that I still know what it is to listen. And why it matters so much to follow the conversation a while, and not simply try to jump in. Landing knowingly and landing well, but first working out the next conversation to read. And of my planning, as a peer said today, “...whatever time you think each activity will be, multiply it by three…

Recognisable language from understood ground. All necessarily a means to listen better, long before seeking to be heard. Another lesson found.

…to be continued

blind to omens

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. An hour in mourning, or a longer PM?

If omens are your thing maybe you have noted a partial solar eclipse over Westminster today.

The photo image is a lunar eclipse 28th September 2015, but the eclipse effect similar to that seen today.

If celebrations are your thing, maybe you noted a festival that celebrates good conquering evil the day Rishi Sunak was announced our next PM.

If fiction is your thing, then at 42 years old, his age happens to be Douglas Adams’ Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy answer to “life, the universe and everything”.

close up shot of lighted candles during diwali
Photo by Ravi Roshan on Pexels.com

If concern for others is your thing, then perhaps it is to such coincidence that one must turn. Symbols of hope, when symbols are all that is left to present reason to think the change coming next is better than of recent past.

Image via BBC News

For me privilege begets privilege. I grew up in its light, and sit comfortably in my skin. For others this is a day of celebration because of the symbolism of a what, not a who, the door to No. 10 now lets in.

I too applaud what this symbolises, if such symbolism is what this day proves to become. But with a cautionary note that symbols reflect both belief from our past, and possibility of a future. Symbols quickly become whatever those empowering belief and possibility intend. So the talisman of hope anyone reads into symbolic interpretation, had better be backed up with future actions that suit.

I hope this one platform of personal change reflects more profound change, and is not simply further endorsing debate about Winchester vs Eton to get into Oxbridge. In the Rishi example, thereafter a means to study an MBA at Stanford, and experience the “real” world of work life from the walls of Goldman Sachs and various hedge funds. And the small matter of marriage into true wealth.

This could still yet just symbolise what the UK is perhaps most symbolic of. A dual society that continues to put the Masters of the Universe, as a them. Can we hope this is a perspective that can now quickly be set toward enabling the many to build just as capably too? Colour-blindness perhaps, or just further blind-eyes turned inward to the few.

Hardworking parents, sacrifice toward building a platform for the next. Symbolic perhaps of the role of us all, to the generations yet to come. As symbolism of today, perhaps this is a moment of eclipsing what has come before, and seeking new meaning of what is indeed good over evil. For me that is certainly the only choice of light over dark that should ever have been. But if this just becomes another shade of wealth privilege and the self-serving of the few, I fear for what more let down may symbolise for the many, and what they may next choose to do.

Good luck, Rishi. The latest unelected stewardship servant with much to do. Symbolism aside, it is in the belief and the intent of your next actions, to which we place all eyes upon you.

PhD and me – the problem

the pre-start start

A few weeks into my PhD, now. Still finding my way. I have prepared a detailed plan of a year ahead. However, beyond my detailed reading I remain blissfully ignorant of what is coming. This is preparing to report to my boss perhaps, but that is no-one but myself…

👀where to start🔜💬🏁

The truth is I find myself writing this blog as a procrastination. Much as such planning to extreme is another example. I know well how this goes. It is my weapon of choice when facing cognitive dissonance. That feeling of angst when upheaval is all around, and yet the revolution or evolution is happening without outward sound. And these are moments of great dissonance – for I sit upon a perch between two truths that cannot both be – truths that are only living internally within me. I perversely enjoy this feeling. I admit it. I delight in its possibility. I also know by experience the danger of forever pondering. It is time now to mobilise, and acknowledge distraction.

🆘What’s your problem?🆚🛅

The truth is I have a problem. Gloriously and beautifully so. It is all consuming, and lives with me night and day. Yet, despite its presence it is refusing to announce itself in any meaningful way. This, I am assured, is completely normal. It is also good discipline to be writing all this down. This blog therefore lives as a moment of learning, for me. One of the many I am signed up for, and am excited to see.

📖The brain-fart start🧠💨

The truth is I am my problem. At least that is how it presently feels to me. Another week begins in my PhD journey, and I am so very far yet from the start. I am being asked the most basic of questions about my idea, as a problem. And every answer I offer sounds and reads more like a brain fart [sic]. All completely normal I am assured.

📚learning to learn (again)🤹‍♂️🧩🎯

The truth I have learnt first is that initially “the problem is the problem” – a phrase I borrow gratefully from Steven Terrell, PhD (2016). His, one of many guides I have sought counsel from as I arrive and begin the process of trying to mentally unpack. Not only is the problem “the problem”, it is a nest of problems from which choices must be made and by which academia can prepare its many options in its attack. But that is much later. Right now, the problem is the problem. And as to its clarity: well it is contained deep inside somewhere – or living upon another’s page.

🔭Crack-up, to crack-down🔬

Truth be told, it’s been two weeks and if “the problem” – my research purpose – is opening up, it is only by the smallest of cracks. Which is just fine. More time to read, more time to write. This is all part of the careful preparation long before the real starting line.

…to be continued.

PhD and me – starting with realism

Projecting a realistic ideal

A blog offering a little reality into what a nerd considers to be a summer well spent. My preparations towards the start of my PhD. And how reality really is far from ideal.

📆 My formal introductions to my PhD are almost upon me. This summer has perhaps been my final dalliance with free time for what may be years. The little prof within me is quietly pleased. I’m excited, like only nerds can be, at going back to school.

🗄 Administration is still real…🖇📎🪪

Registration at University of Leeds felt quite familiar last week. All online and a few weeks ahead of time. A wrestle with new systems, weblinks, passwords, ID checks, and proofs. But all-in-all pretty slick. Very much akin to my online registration at University of Nottingham a year ago, almost to the day. And if I think back to City, University London, in 2019, registration has become easier. No disrespect to City, I am sure they are improved too. I just think the post-Covid era has moved us all on. The same admin required, but queuing at a desk beats standing in line. Especially 4 hours away from my campus, dealing with lockdown still, and less enthused at standing amongst a mostly near-teen cohort, me being aged 49.

📉 Reality check in a bear market

Did someone say recession three times in early July? Because the housing market has suddenly dried up. That’s the summer experience I can offer, anyway. So I’m starting my next degree very much like the last – remotely – albeit I hope not for long. My supervisors are being wonderfully understanding – my estate agent doing all that they can.

💭 Philosophically speaking 🗣

Ongoing lockdown has afforded me more time spent philosophically engaged. I have spent the summer in the company of phenomenology, transcendental idealism, and existential fear. Heidegger’s 1927 Being and Time as the spine from which wider reading has ballooned. This meant revisiting Kant, introductions better made to Kierkegaard, Tillich, Barfield, and an inevitable flirt once more with Jung, and all manner of those living with the greater crisis of meaning – more meaningful at least than any crisis of my own.

📚 The reality of learning what is hard

Philosophical works can be impenetrably hard. Assistance is almost compulsory for us mere mortals – especially those of us hobby readers with no prior philosophical training or formal learning. For me, that has meant books and academic papers to help unpick that puzzle. A few friendly post-grads (found via LinkedIn) willing to offer up a list of those secondary sources from whom experience has confirmed explain all best. But also so many lecture series that are worth watching. Audiobooks of some of those great philosophical works. Most are freely available on YouTube. I wonder how many know how much there is out there? Knowledge just waiting to be watched.

👥 Real networks for real people 🫂

I must also mention the ongoing generosity of peoples’ time. I give mine up too, but it is still amazing how many people are happy to speak openly about subject matter that is otherwise so hard. LinkedIn is full of possibility, if one just asks. So much welcoming active-learning and sharing.

As a PhD student I now have a new title to use in introductions. However, I think my success in making such connection is simply by being actively engaging in discourse online. Demonstrating some shared interest. Finding those with something to say. That creates a trust enough for strangers to become willing to give up their own time. This summer that has included a few friendly and generous professors and project practitioners equal in their kindness in sharing precious time. One of whom knows Heidegger’s work well enough to use in business school teaching – wow! – and he was delighted to receive an invite to chat – I think I may have struck gold with that cold call. We have spoken once a week all summer, and will probably do so for sometime more.

Such two-way engagement, one-on-one real-time discourse, is unquestionably my preferred mode of building. Building my network and building upon knowledge at the same time. Each of us in it for nothing more rewarding than a little discourse. A possibility of loosening the grip upon one mindful perspective at a time, enough to let new ideas in. That’s how ideas become real. Leaving the mind, and let free into the world. Free and for free, for those willing to be.

💭 Real thought lives outside the mind 🧠

Manage your network, and make that the value of your time. These are the projects of learning and the projects of future possibility.

Producing thought leadership is sometimes as simple as “you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine”. The output need not be a formality or a production. I’ve made connections and friendship over the summer that I hope last a long time. Trust builds that way.

“…projects are about people, not spreadsheets…”

Real advice I recently offered to Euromoney Project Finance students

As I said as part of some training production materials I participated in creating recently, “projects are about people, not spreadsheets…”. In my career I have had the privilege of being part of problem solving moments and all come from time spent with people. I feel sure it is that human interface that will be central to any success I hope to have in my PhD.

↪️ a real change of mind ↩️

Now for the bigger reality check. For me a lesson, or perhaps affirmation, or reward, for keeping an open mind. Despite the hundreds of hours of spare time I’ve given up towards new learning this summer, the philosophy I have spent so much effort to better understand may have fallen short in the end. I can best illustrate this by offering an examination of the final book of my summer read. I hope the real reason for my reality references are herein revealed.

Tom Sparrow (2015) “The end of phenomenology: Metaphysics and the new realism

[with a foreword by the Object Orientated Ontologist, Graham Harman – editor of this wider speculative realism series]

Tom Sparrow has proved a fitting – if phenomenologically devastating – end to my summer reading. He made quick work of the future failings of “phenomenology” and with it perhaps much of the truth I have gleefully read over this summer.

He concludes that my beloved phenomenology is doomed, and can only hope to be “…the handmaiden of science” (Sparrow 2015 pp188).

Sparrow is drawing upon the clashes of past masters – Husserl, plus his rebellious 20th century defining protégés Heidegger, and the almost greats who have since stood upon those shoulders: notably Merleau-Ponty; but Derrida, Sartre, and much of the continental tradition are herein drawn into view.

The result is a beautifully crafted critique. All pointing to a mind that is going to work methodically and cautiously; but with critical verve and devilish mastery of building a critical case. I loved his analysis of the dissonance and squabbling within the one phenomenology palace. His courage enough to professionally stand with those on the southern more impoverished side of the tracks is also noted, given he comes from a phenomenology orientated university accord. He appeals to the speculative realists, although admits to the further need of building a critical case toward their speculative place. Indeed his lean upon Graham Harman is extensive, freely admitted, and becomes the basis of a large weight of arguments made, including the predicted future orientation of the philosophy of things in themselves without transcendental idealism or hard-nosed materialism (cf Chapter 4 in particular).

All is not lost, he assures me, of my summer spent with Heidegger or phenomenology. We are advised that phenomenology’s strength is when it is put in opposition to scientific reductionism to offer another perspective, thereby, “…locked in a dialectical relation to scientific naturalism…” pp187. But it’s future is no less a relegation. Destined to be the “…irreducible supplement to natural science…” pp188.

Notwithstanding these huge blows, Heidegger has made a lasting impression upon me. As has existentialism and the recently claimed limitations associated with intentionality, consciousness and the object:subject phenomena pairing of correlationism – the eidos or intellectual core that makes phenomenology what it is (to which eidos our Sparrow has helped deny from within). Tom Sparrow pulls the latter asunder and my summer living with phenomenology may have just flown south as a result, at least as a complete philosophy.

The Sparrow that took the intentions of consciousness and thereby denied phenomenology a means to breath real air. Pinning it into its “correlationist” corner, branding it a “philosophy of access” – siding with Meillassoux and Harman by their critique and those boundary defining terms.

Meillassoux and Harman are both from the Goldsmith University origins of speculative realism. Both of whom tell us phenomenology demands those living by its name must also be tamed by the human lens by which all reality (if one is to stay true to phenomenology) is therein framed. Speculative realism rejects this. Objects are not so easily assumed to be as we subjectively perceive them. That claim cannot be made from within phenomenology. And Sparrow assures us the philosophical fashion of the day is speculatively turning, and that continental examination is on the wain. The real, not the ideal.

🧰 Ready-to-hand 🔨🔧🪛

This book threatens much of my summer preparations. Phenomenology appeals to me because my research up until now suggests we need to better explain what a project is. What being in a project represents. My whole summer has been spent reading this philosophical perspective of seeking what it is to be, because I think it offers some machinery, a tool, or device, that may help me refine my own arguments as to what a project is. What it is in a meaningful and wider sense, beyond any pithy definition. And here is Tom Sparrow successfully (in my opinion) presenting fundamental questions to that ontological grounding.

Mercifully, Sparrow (together with Harman and the speculative realists) do at least permit me to embrace phenomenological method. I merely delegate its primacy. If I have a tool, one that enables additional perspective alongside more scientific rigour, well that might actually suit me just fine. I do not need a complete philosophy, I just need method or examination of those limits, as to apply to matters of human interaction and ways to be. And how best they can be applied as projections towards better outcomes in projects by grasping better the needs to control what is yet to be. Surely I may be permitted to have claim on what is not yet present, to not yet be real? So my Sparrow, and his hawkish SR clan, perhaps leave me that future carrion at least to plunder as I go.

🌞 My summer summary 📚📕📗

That perhaps better summarises my summer project, or least in it’s aim fulfilled. Hardly reflecting the pedagogy, or the praxis, but certainly the teleology.

It further supports the next project I embark upon this week. I have that knowledge imbibed, at least. That goal fulfilled – as the insight I sort. Insight that further exemplifies the dangers of committing to a position as much of the late 20th Century philosophical canon has committed to. But it also confirms the necessity to commit one way or other anyway. How else can one find the limitations from which all knowledge grows? That is the reality of learning, the participation, and the experience, even when driving beyond what can be propositionally known.

💼 Ready for school?

I pack my metaphorical school bag again, and I reflect upon those more concerned with such fundamental truth. I remain unperturbed – unperturbed by knowing I cannot hope be the disrupting ideas or reality as Sparrow or the hawk-eyed Harman et al are perhaps moving us all to be. Them the realists. Me just being realistic. Realistic to the time I have left. Realistic to my intellectual neglect or the capacity it reflects.

🎯 Teleologically clear 🎯

I am however, seeking to conclude my own purpose in this cacophony of noise, and in a sometimes too constrained academic space. I can at least press to understand a little more those grander notions of what is. And towards a question of doing that sustainably.

In the end, is that not what project management becomes or can ever hope to be? A scarcity of resources and time, conflicting perspectives and interests necessarily but temporarily aligned (or at least cajoled) and directed towards an end. Managed to maximise likelihood of intended outcome, or more cynically to facilitate a distancing from blame. Realistic or idealistic is therein moot – speculative or otherwise – because if we are not being sustainable that is now our shared existential threat. Indeed if I may play with a word learnt today, we share culpability for iatrogenic risk, now as existential threat, and all project priorities teleologically clear.

“…the handmaiden of science”.

Tom Sparrow 2015 “The end of phenomenology” (pp188)

Everyone’s goal now needs to be orientated around sustainability. My purpose, or at least my intent, is to seek evidence that we can find ways to assess the appropriateness of the how. Ways that I suspect are best accepted as “…the handmaiden of [project management] science” but a compliment to risk assessment all the same. So perhaps, I am well placed enough to contribute in some modest way toward this fundamental enquiry all the same.

…to be continued

Is “Quiet Quitting” really a thing?

‘Quiet Quitting’ is not laying flat enough for me

27th August 2022

Tang Ping : is to lay flat.  A controversial phrase popularised by its supposedly being banned in State control of social media in China.  Supposedly.  It is associated with possibility of social rebellion of industrial scale apathy.  To lay flat at work, is to be present but unproductive and unseen.  Quiet Quitting has therein become the August phrase of choice to collectively approximate disengagement of a workforce, especially of the young.

Quiet quitting. I am immediately on edge by this trending phrase.  Simply because it seems to have captured the imagination of folk-psychology and has happily landed into immediate everyday language as something to be diagnosed and cured.

I found myself saying the following on a LinkedIn post today:

“Quiet quitting” will be the next great harm. Not as a thing, but as a grouping of issues that become hidden by this term. Just as “wokeism” becomes a convenience of debate.  We get to the heart of a problem by pulling it apart. Not bundling constraints up into a pithy phrase. Mental health starts with the dissonance being exposed, not upheld. Quiet quitting is not a phenomenon to manage, it is a false-step of pseudo-diagnosis being shared in the dark.”

LinkedIn chat

Unsupported in academic writing. A few hours of searching through my university library is a cursory look. I have not researched this thoroughly.  But I have found no academically obvious links to bring “quiet quitting” into my corner of science i.e., psychology.  Psychology Today have found means to comment using the term in blogspace, but this quickly moved into surer footing.  As to peer reviewed papers, I have had to turn to a management journal piece from 2018 that offers pre-quitting behaviour as a connection of sorts.  However, the more socially constructed truism or appropriation seems the less rigorous source of a term I suspect is already here to stay.  Please let me know if a more thorough check of academic literature offers more support than my brief examination uncovered.

Let us find ways to engage. This is not to discredit the notion of what quiet quitting is suggesting overall.  We must certainly have the discussion about engagement.  Let us widen this out to the full teleological discussion of life, or the subsets of priorities, meaning, and how to better share goals.  Let us perhaps further widen this challenge towards long-term objectives; innate motivations; autonomy of action; all of which I believe brings sustainability discussion to the fore.  But let us proceed with more rigour and less reaction to trend.

PhD and me. I will have such teleological challenge close to hand in my PhD research into project threat.  I begin that in earnest in a month from now.  And if personal observation from consulting and discourse is indicative, “engagement” is an emergent discussion – one I am now having regularly.

Fashions are not facts. But please, please, let us not fall into the easiest of all traps – and ironically be directed in our efforts based upon nothing more than the hearsay of popular everyday truisms.  Truisms that are founded on nothing other than the media circus that now distracts us from longer-term purpose in the today.

Five reasons to keep a journal

Do you keep a journal? Or, just wonder if you should? Then read on…

A blog offered as a personal insight into my measured but unbalanced calm. Here are my five reasons to journal.

Writing is my sanctuary. One discovered late in life, but all the more delightful because of that novelty. My hiatus from my blog of late is because I have my head back in my journal, and a less public period of reflection on my part.

Here are a few reasons why I sometimes favour my journal over either social media or my blog:

Reason one:
avoiding oversharing

It is good to talk. I am pretty bad at sharing my emotional range, but even beyond my willingness to do this now, I still like some semblance of Pre-Frontal Cortex control. This really does not need to be a spectator sport. Tears and social media seem a misplaced public display again this week. A CEO can cry. Who knew? Who cares? Both the real, the fake, and those tears in jest all seem to be an overshare, at least to me. When you really need to explore your feelings – and you really should – do it safely.

  • ✅ Best mates
  • ✅ Professionals
  • ✅ Journal
  • Not social media

Maybe talk it through. But if it is to be written, the journal is only ever going to listen, not laugh or mock. Writing it down can however also be its own therapy.

Have you ever written a caustic and undiluted email, and then just deleted it?

I share personal stuff on this blog. And that automatically lands on LinkedIn. But writing it down is often done long before the share. That’s just basic risk management – of both mental welfare and reputation. Have you ever written a caustic and undiluted email and then just deleted it? You should try it. It can feel great to both write it and then not have to deal with the reality of sending it. Same with a journal entry, plus you get to read it later in private and laugh or quietly chastise yourself. You should see some of the stuff I say but that never goes anywhere…

2013 Blackberry – don’t send that drunk reply!!

In the 2010s I would joke that all company Blackberry (remember them) should have a breathalyser test.

Maybe everyone should journal? Imagine if half the nonsense on social media just went into peoples journals and never saw the light of day – how much happier might the discourse that is aired then be.

Reason two:
manage your dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance is that pang of angst you experience when two truths collide – collide because they cannot both be true. There is a wealth of social psychological literature explaining this in detail (cf. Leon Festinger 1947 onwards).

Cognitive Dissonance Theory as summarised in my MSc Psychology notes

Evidence of this dissonance it is everywhere in daily life, and often helps explain cancel culture, them and us disputes, individual agitation, but also an inner sense of unrest between action and incompatible beliefs.

Bringing dissonance toward a positive conscious end

Harnessing dissonance: I actually enjoy the feeling of dissonance – at least when I have some sense of what it is highlighting. It can however sometimes consume me, torments me, or inwardly mock. Two truths that cannot be is a sign I am close to something interesting to uncover. But it can be exhausting just letting it fester within.

Nurturing dissonance: With practice – in my case therapy, extensive reading of psychology, meditative practice, and a permitted openness to hold for longer what just cannot be – this dissonance can be better felt, used, and even reached for. In other words, it can then be extrapolated and the threads captured and written down. Furthermore, with a little Heidegger in mind, I am minded to think it may be encourage to reveal insight (see the end of this block).

Parking dissonance: I sometimes just park the threads upon a page and suddenly my dissonance is less, and I can temporarily walk away. That is not to repress the issue (which is what most of us do), but it is a means of revisiting the conflict of ideas with less felt need for early closure or rejection of its relevance at all.

Inviting challenge when dissonance is missing: Other times I may note my absolute conviction towards something, by the way it has been written, and actively challenge that certainty.

Reason three:
Personal growth

The method not the show

Carl Jung embraced his own theorising and developed a process of “individuation” to which many of his personal books attest. Not that this is new, he borrowed much from philosophical classics, medieval, and modernity before him.

Throughout history the more private inward side of known figures have been elucidated posthumously by their personal note books.

The tortured soul: Carl Jung, Frederick Nietzsche, and Martin Heidegger, are known to us more from such writings in ways that I think each relate to growth through their writings. Each fair rather badly as people in this posthumous light (IMHO). Brilliant minds, tortured souls, and seemingly unsettled accounts at the end. But this also shows their process, and their changing perspectives over time. They each built their work out over time through their reflections.

The stoic goal: Marcus Aurelius’ meditations are quite possibly the best stoic treasure of all time. The whole Roman Empire was his burden, and mostly that was filled with war. His meditations are almost all his journal to himself. Humble he remained, and ever watchful to seek means to grow from his burden – his stewardship burden – and the grace he perpetually rediscovered to do this well.

Personal space

In the close care of my therapist, my journal became something of a free write for about a year. Very Jungian in its approach, very personal, very frightening, or exciting, or revealing at times. By comparison to the great minds like Jung or Nietzsche, my archetypal examination was somewhat comedic. From a Heideggerian perspective I was perhaps more Disney than profoundly Dasein. It became about 200 pages of personal fiction but based upon characters I was developing from within. Lockdown gave me that time. My journal gave me that safe psychological space.

Here are a couple of characters born out of that exploration. I found creative outlets came more easily once this process opened up:

Jack is my inner wit, guide, and mischief-maker, to shake the paradox of self-certainty
Jaqueline guides when I may leap toward shadow

Maybe that is my oversharing for the day. Only my therapist and I are ever likely to read all 200 pages – a singular example of a very open yet covert journey of change. And that is absolutely its rightful and surreal place. This was my intense Jungian phase – a child enabled to express all upon a creative stage – a place I emerged from to move to the next, but which I occasionally return to for fresh insight. One of my examples. For my journal allows for more – without need of such close fiction or psychoanalytic reflection. Only a journal permits that level of personal examination. Or the space to move beyond it without anyone witnessing that personal growth – but perhaps seeing the uplift in that change.

Reason four:
A dumping ground

We all have great ideas. Or at least we think we do. A journal is a great place to park them and later find them or rework them anew. I am currently reading Heidegger – because that’s what I am currently into – and many of the notes I am accumulating now sit in my journal. These aggregations are easily found, and easily contextualised alongside my wider writing accordingly. Before that I was reading Thomas Aquinas and Soren Kierkegaard. Last summer it was Immanuel Kant.

Often times, it is nothing so profound, or hard and/or pretentious. LinkedIn often generates the start. As my journal connects my notes I have much more to hand. Happenstance and odd connection happens occasionally. Soon a few strands may land toward my PhD, but having the notes in my journal makes them all easily found and contextualised.

The pre-journal or mobile notebook

I also use iCloud notes. Any flight of fancy or pithy phrase I hear myself say may prompt a quick note to myself. Most are nonsense (they are of course genius at the time). Some prompt further thinking. A few get completely forgotten but find place anew at a later time. When I am being organised I bring those notes back into my journal. It is interesting (in a very inward and personal way) to find a stray thought – and surprising how much extra recall it then brings back to life. No one else wants or needs to be privy to that. LinkedIn content creators please note…

Reason five:
Expanded practice

Society and technology seems to now be converging around the written word in near real time. If we want to be heard, in reality we are increasingly required to be read. Why would we not want to be at our best in such written exchange?

My journal is often my first draft of something important. My iCloud notes may be that first capture of an additional perspective I need to include or a record of a perspective offered in discourse, social media thread, a book, or as it pops into my head.

After a few months of journaling or otherwise capturing notes, something rather odd happened to me. I found my writing temporarily bound by a rhythm of poetry. Terrible poetry – my wife assures me – but it was something that just emerged. It still does occasionally, and that’s okay. Okay, because it lands in my journal and very rarely leaves.

And finally, can we Heidegger a little deeper?

Timothy Clark (2002) writes of Martin Heidegger’s philosophical stance on the primacy of creative mediums. This refers to Heidegger’s assertion that the very best of literature and of art did not just present itself to us into the open, but that it changes the Open into which it appears (see full quote below).

Clark, T. (2002) Martin Heidegger: Routledge Critical Thinkers essential guides for literary students pp44

This very best of art, Heidegger tells us, is not a mimic of life, or a reflection of the world, or simply the aggregate of material and skills that put all into one place. It is beyond the artist or or those observing it (Clark 2002). Clark advises that Heidegger scorned poets who explained their work. If the art was being revealed before the artist, and not completed by them – who were they to explain it?

The being-at-a-distance that necessitates the revealing that Heidegger observes is one I like. Not that I am suggesting any journal – certainly not mine – can be a self-emergent possibility, autopoietic if you will, but it is certainly a thrill to glimpse upon a personal insight written before it is even inwardly heard, or see an image emerge beyond the initial plan.

Is that the better dissonance?

And perhaps there is no finer dissonance than the one that is participated in, and thereby revealed, before it was even knowingly felt – and beyond being propositionally real. In our modern norms we are rarely permitting ourselves to be more that the logical of propositional thought. This is Heidegger’s criticism of the entire Western Philosophical tradition. Accordingly, might he argue that you cannot later record that participatory process, only be present when it appears. Why not let that possibility into your day? The journal, and the language itself, the mode of disclosure, not the re-presenting of what was on your mind. Maybe your journal will unlock unexpected insight.

Thank you for reading my personal insights all the way to the end. I will now return to my loosened strands and thoughts, in that more private space. I enjoy these busy but outwardly quiet days. Perhaps I have convinced you to try it too. If so, just write that down, and only share it with you.

Random invites

Three reasons random invites fail, and why you should be worried if they succeed…

This blog is prompted by a noted increase in the number of random invite connections received on LinkedIn this month. I love connecting with new people, but some basics can be identified which seem to offer a universal truth.

visibility | behaviour | trust

I conclude this is principally a question of trust. But this connects to visibility, and to behaviour, with both necessarily increased if trust is to be found.

v | b | trust

Random invites. Context free and no prior history. Unless of course they can find you off-guard, but that is intent (i.e., behavioural) which should be inviting more than distrust because of the hidden truth that reveals (i.e., visibility).

v | behaviour | t

This is the behaviour of someone in a rush; or grouping you with many others; or hiding their intentions, concealing their real identity, and/or attempting to appeal to vanity where the less information offered is enabling more directed distraction. As such invites are also more likely part of a cluster, this offered more indicators that the invitation is intended for spamming or farming or otherwise hidden intent (i.e., purposeful low visibility)

visibility | b | t

This random invite is offering minimal visibility. With no note to bring to attention toward the intent of the invite. Less information, offering more uncertainty. Or targeted information without intended subterfuge (i.e., negative behaviour). Perhaps this is overtly using a profile title or photo image to attempt to skip past checks. Note how much more suspicious it is when with minimal extra effort you reveal there is limited information in the profile to offer context.

These are three categories to consider why random invites fail. Low trust, reinforced by minimal information or positive action.

The intentional deceit. And so what of covert attempts to overcome these signals? When might these random invites succeed? How about appealing to that covert side of our own behaviour, using that same overtly visible shallowness against us. Why might that work? I think deep down, we all know. It’s the means to override our more attuned sense of when to trust. Am I alone in being doubly suspicious when an unnecessarily dressed up face wants to say hello? Too right, I am. And if you are selling yourself by your image, that’s precisely the unsaid term I have just used. Without apology. Without limitation to ones preferences or bias. There are plenty doing this from all sides. These seem to me the most common-sense flags to avoid the many fake accounts that overtly play this game.

Examples of invite warning signs:

  • reliance upon shallow appeal (e.g., photo, title, pod followership)
  • offering little in way of content or prior chat
  • nothing relatable in profiles
  • industry or geography that seems completely left field

The interaction of visibility | behaviour | trust

So let me finally return to that telling lack of a note. That should say plenty. Why would you think someone is going to accept an invitation without a note that has something that connects you?

Conversely, I do actually send invitations without a note. But only because prior discussion has made that blatantly unnecessary. But then that’s increased trust, built via prior visibility and relatable behaviours.

Trust is built upon these principles, but should also be where it is lost…

Coaching more…

“…are your people empowered to spot quality issues, and the conditions that breed them, and speak up…?”

Dave Stitt (2022) “Coach for results”

A blog to briefly congratulate Dave Stitt on a book worth a place on the desk of any construction manager (and people managers everywhere).

Coach for Results : Empower your people to achieve the extraordinary. Dave Stitt (2022)

Dave and I connected instantly when we first spoke last year, completely unrelated to this or any other book. Our discussions have been varied since, always with shared enthusiasm, and unabashed confidence of where we have been, or going. His energy is infectious, his perspectives easy to align to, with pithy anecdote never far behind.

It was therefore no surprise at all to read his 2022 book in similarly attuned frame of mind. His passion comes through on every page; and the anecdotes help keep a steady pace, fixing each new point firmly into the construction paradigm.

Coaching Leadership

Here is Dave explaining what is different in engaging with your people in a coaching style

“…you stop seeing them as a problem to be fixed and you start seeing them as a treasure to be discovered…you say, ‘what do you think?’, and then you listen…you the coach and them the thinker…”

Stitt (2022) Coach for Results pp9-10

and Dave of the wider cultural transition possible

“…courtesy, respect, and esteem are universal…it is the antidote to exclusionary micro-cultures…”

Stitt (2022) Coach for Results pp25

The premise of the book is not new. The coaching leadership style is well documented and has probably not passed by any MBA or well-read manager or consultant. But Dave’s writing is to the point, backed up with pertinent example, and just enough academic reference to be assured the bridge between the two is secure. Crucially, everything is directed back to what counts most: the day to day of management and leadership, as it connects to the construction project world; and the care and growth of those coming through that are its future, and it’s today. Chapter 4 of this second edition offers confirmation of this appreciation, from at least a dozen cohorts from his accompanying training course.

Self-Determination Theory

As part of my psychology MSc this year, one module focused upon classical and contemporary social psychology. I have concluded that much of the management jargon I have been fed over the years, at least the decent concepts, have been influenced from here. Dave has a chapter outlining one of the most significant revelations (in my opinion). He does not name the series of connected theories per se, but he cites Dan Pink who is well respected in this psychological field, and Dave describes this and related theories perfectly.

It is called Self-Determination Theory, one I have written about before {here}. It helps explain why our obsession with motivation by cash incentive, as employer of internal teams or of external contracts and work packages, ultimately causes organisational or project harm. As Dave states “…external enticements…extrinsic motivations…are not very effective…” pp11, to which he then makes the comparison to command-and-control style management which is very much the abrasive construction norm most can relate (be that employee or supply chain relationship carrot and stick, comply or die culture we all know).

In Dave’s words:

“…command and control…sucks initiative, confidence and accountability out of a team…”

Stitt (2022) pp26

“…risky when…commercial agendas are indifferent to the success of the project as a whole…. Are your people empowered to spot quality issues, and the conditions that breed them, and speak up…?”

Stitt (2022) pp27

Understanding these implications of externalising motivations are lessons we should all have close to hand.

Managing the coaching conversation

Thereafter Dave offers some excellent practical advice in managing the coaching conversations. As an empathetic manager myself, with training from several multinational organisations seeking to enable this style of communication and learning leadership, these chapters resonate. Learning the right way to prepare and start such discussions, how to direct them, and how to conclude them in empowering rather than directing ways. These are important things to give your people their means to find their why. I am reminded of my own why in reading his words here, but also improved by these practical chapters and how they can be applied.

How far can coaching go?

I do disagree with Dave on one thing. His pragmatic stance is one in which the fundamentals of construction are considered beyond absolute change – it is just how it has evolved to be. My opinion, is that this confrontational industry norm is a reflection of how we set projects up. And if this more engaging coaching style of leadership were present in senior political spaces – where expectation was on leaders to bring teams with them, not just drive them hard to the next staging post – the projects serving these masters would be less caustic from the start. A world better informed and more real in its possibility in consideration of this project management style. But that is my research challenge – and therein my bias.

There is more I could offer in review. Dave has given plenty more insight and well reasoned connection to contemporary thought, similarly linking other behavioural thinking to construction project application. But I will let you read the rest for yourself. At 126 pages this is an afternoon’s single sitting read. But one to keep close by as that next chance to try “…a tool for challenging and supporting your people…”, pp14, to which both you and all your leaders-in-waiting should be demanding and apply.

Stitt, D (2022) “Coach for Results : empower your people to achieve the extraordinary” 21CPL Productions