back on a favourite

I hope your Easter was good. Mine was. In part because it was prefaced with some time away. It helped me regain some perspective.


Perspective is as close to a silver bullet as you can get. What you see affects everything. It’s a simple formula but there are a couple of elements that are crucial for living with purpose and contentment.

1. Know what it is that is important. What matters to you? We’ve got to have clarity on this.

2. In frenetic urban living, what matters most can so easily get crowded out … not intentionally, just because urgency is so noisy and the pressures of work and life impact what we see and the choices we make. We’ve got to find ways to regularly keep aligned meaningfully to these things.

For me, it has always been a fundamental of wellbeing to find ways to regularly re-connect with the things that matter, the things that elevate my thinking and regenerate my spirit. A week in Inverloch in South Gippsland and reflecting over Easter on ‘new life’ has been very helpful.

One of the implications for me is that I will need to be more disciplined in reflecting on my own journey via my journal (old fashioned pen and paper) that has taken a back seat since I started more public reflection via blogging 15 months ago. I do not intend to cease blogging, but I expect it might be less frequent …

In the meantime, have good week and I hope you are making choices based on the stuff that matters to you in the long term.

Beyond a point of view

There is one idea that shapes my work and dominates my thinking more than any other. I run into it everyday. I lay awake at night pondering its impact. It holds the key to relational effectiveness and business strategy. It determines whether I am grumpy after a Carlton loss and … wait for it … it is the foundation of world peace. You might think I’m joking; but I’m not.

It is perspective.

Most of our lives we get taught to defend our point of view. This is a great skill and provides us with confidence and a sense of conviction. In a western democracy we are led to believe that in the market place of ideas the competition for truth will yield a worthy winner. Undoubtedly this is a noble context in which to live, much more desirable than a forum that is regulated to the point of public censorship. (Not withstanding the argument that in the West big media shapes the public consciousness.)

I think it is time to add another major idea into the mix. That is, ‘We cannot presume to understand reality until we have explored it from alternative vantage points.’

As I write I sit in a North Melbourne Café, only a pane of glass separates me from the people walking past, presumably on their way to work. I wonder what Monday morning means to each of them. I wonder what home context they have left behind. I wonder if they are loved, and if they love. I wonder how they process the news that an Australian soldier was killed this morning in Afghanistan, or if they care. All this might be interesting, but does it matter?

It matters when we share a stake in something. It matters particularly when they are the ‘other’. For too long we have presumed that we know the ‘other’. Who is the other? Today the other might be: an Afghani soldier, a teenage binge drinker, our difficult customer, the family member with whom we are frustrated, our indigenous neighbour ….

Einstein changed our appreciation of the world by introducing a simple idea; what you see depends on where you see it from. The predictability of Newton, as brilliant as it was, unraveled. We need a similar revolution in popular sociology. The rigour of argument and defence of conventional wisdom must be challenged by learning to see from the vantage point of the other.

We can start by asking some questions that we may not be used to asking; Who else is involved? What do they see, what are they experiencing? The critical piece of this is not to presume we already know the answer. We might think we do, but we don’t.

Our family lives will be enhanced by stopping to ask and listen. Our workplaces will change radically when we seek the perspective of all stakeholders and make decisions that embrace the collective good. Our communities will be healthier when we develop ways for people from different perspectives to come together to share. Our nation will adopt a radically new direction when political divides offer opportunities for new insight rather than lines for petty combat. Our world will feel a more hopeful place to be when difference invites dialogue.

What are some experiences you’ve had that on one hand have challenged your view of reality, and on the other have enhanced your appreciation of the ‘other’?

Bookshops and the nature of truth

Only two weeks ago Melbourne was sweltering in nearly 40o, last weekend we were with thousands at the beach, and as is typical Melbourne, the weather has now turned. (I spent the weekend with Paul Kelly’s Wintercoat playing in my head as background music.) Our growing 9 year old needed some warmer clothes so Maria was off with her for a shopping excursion; I decided to tag along and wander the shops for a couple of hours. I didn’t make it past Borders.

I find myself jealous for the wisdom and perspective of the authors. I admire the creativity and discipline necessary to write a novel, let alone a good one. I browse the table of the latest releases and get drawn into the amazing experiences of the writers. Inevitably I wander to the leadership and management sections …

I smile inwardly at the variety of voices competing to convince the business world that their ideas will make a difference. I find some familiar and trusted authors, it feels a bit like wandering though a big house and finding a room you’ve spent lots of time in … comfortable and engaging. Then, as is my custom, I intentionally seek out some odd titles, ones that challenge my comfort and sense of what is right or worthwhile and it reminds me again how wonderfully diverse people’s experience and knowledge is. How can so many people’s views be simultaneously important enough to warrant telling the world?

I used to think that ‘truth’ was about purity of knowledge, a kind of an essence that could be distilled by investigation and rigour. The discipline of truth finding was about peeling away the layers of subjectivity and discarding that which was tainted by experience and limited perspective. The bookshop invites another way seeking truth.

Everyone’s perspective and experience has legitimacy, they teach us something. Everyone’s beliefs make perfect sense to them. No one behaves in ways that don’t fit with their view of reality at the time. To get a full appreciation of reality, the task is therefore not so much to attempt to eliminate the ‘impurity’ of subjectivity, but to embrace it as another window into the world as it is (experienced). In other words, an accurate picture of truth is developed by considering as many perspectives as possible, not by convincing ourselves over and over that our particular vista is somehow paramount. This of course doesn’t mean it is not appropriate to argue the case for what we ‘see’, simply that our wisdom in ‘seeing’ is enhanced by appreciating what other are simultaneously seeing.

Every single title in the bookshop offers a ray of perspective on the object at the centre called life. I find the prospect of basking in as many of those rays as possible over a lifetime journey immensely attractive.

And by the way, with two (and one soon-to-be) teenage daughters, the purchase for the day was Kaz Cooke’s typical witty, candid and insightful tome called ‘Girl Stuff’.