Revelatory moments

Last night Fight Club was on the TV. I remember seeing it at the cinema. It was the first R rated film I ever saw at the movies. I went with my brother to the Academy cinema in the city. I’ll never forget marveling at the Tyler Durden reveal and piecing it back together on the bus ride home.

Just like the moment Kevin Spacey walks away from the interrogation in the Usual Suspects, when Bruce Willis has his moment of self discovery in the Sixth Sense, the final dialogue between Richard Gere and Ed Norton in Primal Fear. They don’t happen often, and its much harder these days, but every so often a movie delivers a twist in the narrative that most of us don’t see coming.

Life isn’t like in the movies, of course. But once in a while it too dishes something up that surprises us. These are often not the happiest moments in life- a cancer diagnosis, an accident, a global pandemic.

It feels like we’re in a total shit storm now, for sure. It’s hard to see a way through it that isn’t going to be a long hard slog. But you never know. Paradigm shifts mean a new world order. Maybe a solution will bubble up that most of us never even knew was possible until we were hit in the face with it like Ed Norton’s fist. Maybe there can be good surprises in life too.

Resilience in Uncertain Times

I listened to this podcast episode this morning and it was exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve been feeling really un-focussed this past week or two. I work from home usually, and am typically quite disciplined, but the uncertainty of not knowing what’s going to be happening with schools/childcare, feeling guilty about not working as a proper pharmacist, and my husband also working from home has made me feel completely un-moored. Well maybe not completely, but definitely not my usual self. I trust that I’m just going through a readjustment period, but I’ve got to say that the readjustment kind of sucks a bit.

This podcast was what I needed because I found it balanced two things really well. It acknowledged the chaos without being alarmist, and it provided practical strategies for getting through that chaos, without the superficial “take this time to learn a hobby” or “marie kondo the house” type stuff.

I’m not saying that I find myself completely focussed and ready to write a chapter of my thesis after listening to it. But it did firm my resolve that it is resilience that is important in uncertain times. We can help make ourselves feel more capable and more resilient by making a contribution. Helping others in whatever way we can and supporting one another.

I’m sure that many of you who are working in clinical practice know very well that you’re making a contribution at the moment; the challenge for you will probably more likely be managing that contribution and effort so that you can sustain it over time without burning out.

The only bit of it that I do not endorse is the CBD oil sponsorship bit and the claim that making a spray water soluble would make it better absorbed…not so sure about that. I think its more about the size of the droplets. Anyways, other than that, I think this is a really honest conversation about dealing with the world as it is today. If you’re feeling like me lately, give it a listen and see what you think.

Kimchi Problems

The kind of problems where the deeper you bury it, the hotter it gets.

I heard this on a podcast episode this morning and it’s my new favourite saying.

I think a lot of kimchi problems are making themselves known at the moment. And there are a lot more to come over the coming months. Problems with the health system. Social support. Individuals and their relationships. We’re all being tested in so many different ways all at once.

As tough as this is though, this difficult time is going to present us with a valuable opportunity to face up to such problems and deal with them once and for all. Reduce the red tape that’s standing in the way. Focus on what needs to be done rather than who might be offended by our actions.

If we can keep our heads and remember what’s important I really do feel that some pretty cool stuff could happen. Especially in healthcare. And we all know we need it to.

Swimming No More

Walking back to the car from after school care, I was surprised by daughter’s reaction was so calm. Maybe it was moderated by the freshly baked muffin that was warming her hand. She had just heard the news that the week of school swimming was no longer going ahead because of the corona virus. And she seemed kind of cool with it.

This was not the reaction I was expecting. On Monday she was literally skipping to school, telling me how this is the best week of the whole year. I thought I’d see some disappointment at least. I mean, I’d seen much worse reactions from adults finding out that a concert was cancelled three months from now.

At 8pm her reaction was not so calm. The reality hit in a flood of emotions that can only be experienced by a small child who is too late going to bed. “I hate the corona virus” “this isn’t fair” “what if there’s no more swimming ever?” “what if it goes all year?” “this sucks”.

Yes, it does suck. Uncertainty is not easy to deal with for anybody. We can’t do anything about it, and that’s hard. We need to adjust to a new reality, and that’s hard too. It’s ok to feel pissed off about this every now and then. It’s an important part of getting through it. And we will get through it.

Slow down, you move too fast

Twitter feels like a scene from Trainspotting at the moment. The pace of information sharing is so fast I feel like it needs to be backed by some sort of old school techno with the bass turned up so loud that it replicates a pounding headache and sense of rising anxiety.

And just like Renton I return multiple times a day to get my information fix. To know what’s happening in that moment. Get across the key issues quickly. I can’t look away.

I enjoy seeing the different archetypes emerge. The educators, generously sharing their research and learnings for all. The cheerleaders, trying to maintain some optimism, posting non-covid-19 related tweets only. And the advocates, persistently campaigning for recognition of their profession or population niche. I can see how this frenzied type atmosphere energises people. But it’s way too fast for me. It makes me feel more like that seen where the camera is zooming in and out and Ewan McGregor has the sweats.

I’m torn, because I want to stay connected, but I know it doesn’t leave me feeling good. Perhaps I’ve just got too much time on my hands. Maybe. I feel like I’ve got a lot on my to do list right now but I feel kind of frozen in my progress. The sensible part of me says that if there is a risk of schools closing then I need to make the most of this working from home time while I can. Before my productivity goes completely to zero with two young children being home to deal with.

It’s why I’m persisting with trying to bring about another option to the table. An anti-social network, if you will. Somewhere where we it’s possible to actually process information before moving to the next bit. To dig a little deeper. Because Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, LinkedIn, they’re all the same. Built for high throughput content, rapid fire newsfeeds that keep you on their platform consuming their ads or being targeted by recruiters. They’re designed not for meaningful engagement over time. Yet, meaningful engagement is exactly what we will need amongst healthcare providers over these next few months.

Persisting through this inertia is difficult, I’m not going to lie. It is so against my nature to post things to public forums, and extend invitations/ask favours of people that I know. It is making me very uncomfortable. But I’m going to persist because I believe it is needed. Healthcare professionals need a private forum for meaningful, open and honest dialogue. Now more than ever.

 

 

Toussaint Louvertoure


I have come across the name Toussaint Louvertoure twice in the past week from two very different sources. Both used him as an example of strong leadership who influenced culture change. He was born a slave and became a General who led the Haitian revolution. I never thought I’d say this, but I think a book about the Haitian revolution is in order. Bring on the social distancing, I’ve got an ever growing reading list to get through!

Femme Fury

I try my best to avoid using this blog as a platform for me to vent my personal frustrations, because usually I don’t think there’s any real benefit in doing so. Afterall, the purpose of me doing this is to get better at writing, not to just blurt stuff out that annoys me. But today I’m going to take a quick break away from that on the extremely off chance that sharing my frustration may help to validate someone else’s. Because I think it’s something worth talking about.

Last Friday I eluded to the fact that my husband was resigning from his work to help me build a business. This sounds riskier than it is – he can always take on contract work or get a ‘real job’ if need be. He has technical skills that can enable opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be possible without external investment, he was looking for a change and a challenge and it suited him. This business is based on the insights I’ve gained through the work I’ve been doing over the past 8+ years. He knows, and I know, that this business will be my baby (better option than a third child I say). He knows, and I know, that I am just as capable as anyone else to start and run a business, especially those in their early twenties who’ve never worked a real day in their lives.

Now it’s not that people haven’t been supportive of him doing this, they have. But there has been an underlying line of questioning that I just don’t think would be there if it was the other way round. Questions that wouldn’t be asked, assumptions that wouldn’t be made if it were me leaving my secure career to support him. Which, by the way, is essentially what we collectively decided I would do six years ago when I went on maternity leave and chose not to return to full time work so that he could focus on his career instead.

How many women do you know that do work to support their partner’s business? Maybe do the invoicing, look after the books, some admin work, cover some shifts? I’m guessing heaps. Because women have been doing this forever. We are expected to do it and we are used to seeing it. And that’s a perfectly OK thing to choose to do, just as it’s perfectly OK for a male to leave their career to support their partner.

We have an archetype in our heads that white men make good entrepreneurs, an unconscious bias. This isn’t based upon a skills analysis, it’s just because we see it all the time. We’re comfortable with it as a society, so the path for them to pursue it is easier, and so we get more and more white male entrepreneurs.

Consequently, women (and others) don’t fit the entrepreneur archetype so we don’t think they’ll be as good. If we don’t think they’ll be as good we don’t encourage them to do it. We don’t remove the barriers for them, we put up more. But it’s just because we’re not used to seeing it, it’s not because they’re less capable.

This was the subject of discussion in this podcast I was listening to the other day with Amy Nelson. She moved on from being a lawyer after getting fired up about the number of capable women that are lost from the workforce coupled with the 2016 US election result. So she started a startup building co-working spaces, training opportunities and an online community in the US to support women and their allies in business called The Riveter.

I think Elizabeth Warren summed up the challenges women face in the workforce pretty well last week when she was talking about her withdrawal from running for democratic nominee for President.

You know, that’s the trap question for any woman. If you say , ‘Yeah, there was sexism in this race,’ everyone says, ‘Whiner.’ And if you say, ‘There was no sexism,’ about a bazillion women think, ‘What planet do you live on?’”

I don’t know if I’m just sensitised to it at the moment, or if it’s because I’ve moved from a more traditional job of practising pharmacist to whatever the hell I am now, but I feel like I’m being smacked in the face with examples of inherent sexism at the moment and it’s really giving me the shits. It’s not going to stop me doing what I’m doing, but it is going to result in a rant every now and then.

The rant is over, but the fight is not.

Chunks and Sprinkles

Since I left the WCH Pharmacy Department in 2011 my work has been almost entirely self-directed. That has made time and attention management really important considerations. Sometimes I’m better at it than others. This week I haven’t been so good. I have tended to think that it’s about routine, but today it occurred to me that one of the factors influencing this may be meetings. I find that when I have a meeting, it often throws off my whole day, or half the day at least.

I didn’t reach this epiphany by myself, it came about as I was listening to this podcast episode yesterday. Adam Grant was talking to Tim Ferriss about the concept of chunking vs sprinkling. He cited some study that looked at people giving random acts of kindness – either by sprinkling them throughout the week or having a dedicated chunk of time set aside each week. Apparently the chunkers were happier and more energised than the sprinklers, which was a surprising finding.

Paul Graham wrote an essay on a similar theme around ten years ago. He talked about managers and makers schedules. How managers days are made up of one hour units to be allocated as necessary. Makers deal in half day units because the nature of their work requires bigger units of time (e.g. writing). Taking a short meeting is no big deal for someone who has a manager schedule – they just slot it in. But if you have a maker schedule that meeting can disrupt your whole day.

It was at this moment that the lightbulb went off for me. Not just regarding my own schedule, but that of colleagues. I don’t have a manager schedule anymore, I’ve got a maker schedule. I work in half day units now. Grabbing a coffee with someone, taking a phone call, or attending a meeting has a different sort of opportunity cost associated with it these days.

If there’s one thing I’m grateful to the coronavirus for, it’s that there might be less meetings occurring in the world. Don’t get me wrong, the one yesterday was speculative and very enjoyable. But there’s also a lot that aren’t. More mindful meetings perhaps.

 

Windows and Holograms

I’m currently reading the book The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge. I am making painfully slow progress. It’s a book that is heavy in relevant content, but not one that I find to be a particularly engaging read. But I persist, because I know it’s stuff I want to learn about.

One section related to mental models. The structures underpinning our perceptions and resultant decision making that we often don’t even realise we have. It talks about how when you’re in a team situation if you want to achieve successful outcomes then it starts with recognising we each hold different mental models and being open about them. The desired result isn’t necessarily a consensus view. It may be that the group is helping to make the main decision maker’s mental model more complete.

To illustrate this, he compares two different metaphors. The first is the idea of each individual’s mental model as a window through which they see the world. Everyone looking out the window from a different angle sees something slightly differently. This adds diversity of viewpoints, but not necessarily depth of understanding.

The other metaphor is a hologram. That each individual contributes a slice of the image that is unique to them, but combines with the others in the team to create a more detailed rendering. In this case, diversity of viewpoints result in a deeper understanding.

 

Flutters of butterflies

I’m writing this from the airport, where I’ve arrived ridiculously early for my flight to Melbourne. I’ve had a feeling of nervous excitement, bordering on anxiety all day and I think I’ve just made it past the peak.

This is due to two things. To start with, it’s the first time I’ve had a night away from my son since he was born just over two years ago. Now I’m having two nights away and will be in another city, which makes me nervous. But I’m going to attend the wedding of a long term friend, so I’m also very excited.

My husband is already in Melbourne. Which leads to the other reason for my nervous energy. He’s making a big career decision today which we hope will help in moving closer to my dream of building a more connected healthcare system. This means we’re really going to have a crack at this whole building a small business thing. I’m simultaneously excited and scared.

What makes me feel somewhat comfortable with feeling so uncomfortable is that this is how I’ve felt in other meaningful moments of my life. I wouldn’t say it feels good, but it feels like the conditions where interesting things can happen. Whether or not they end up being the things you thought they’d be, well that’s a different story. But they’re the types of experiences that move you to somewhere new, and in my experience that’s a good thing.