2012 – The wrap

Dickens most eloquently captured the paradox that was the year I had in that most evocative of openings to A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us,

Milestones, surprise meetings, nostalgic memories, nights outs with the guys from work,  a Nigeria trip and a wedding, difficult conversations, un-requited ‘love‘ and a keenly felt dose of disappointment all contributed to what was an unusually topsy-turvy year. If I had to find one turn of phrase to caption the year, it would be that it was a season of detoxification, and that in many more ways than I had imagined at the beginning of the year.

On a positive note, there is a lot more clarity around a number of the uncertainties that followed me into the new year – and given what lies ahead, that just might be all that counts…

#Selah

 

2012 – The Year of the Detox

 

Although a  year and some ago I thought I had truly gotten over the pain of the EJ debacle, I still managed to spend Christmas stateside attending a wedding, hanging with mutual friends and kind of hoping I would run into her. Neither happened, and when push came to shove I couldn’t bring myself to take the short hop across town to the city where she now lived. Coming into 2012 then, the target was to resolve a number of the other friendzoneships  I had somehow gotten sucked in over the years.

Clarity would end up being delivered spectacularly through the year – hanging with R when she passed through my city in March confirmed what we both knew since our undergraduate days, that we were great as wingmen/women for each other, but lousy at everything else besides, my hankering for my Dalglish conjecture came and went  – appropriately chided of course, P and I managed to let crazy work schedules and a significant time difference wreck what had seemed like a pretty good start, and then there was L.

L was the kick up the backside I needed: smarts, attractiveness, a big heart for God and children and an appreciation of the arts ensured she ticked all my critical boxes. It helped that she was also in the same city (for a change!) and we had similar work interests. Being around her put the last eighteen months in perspective and showed me quite starkly what I had missed by failing to move on. We didn’t quite work out – my penchant for complicated women rearing it’s head one more time – but the one thing meeting her did was finally hammer home what my wing-women extraordinaire Izz  & Dee had harped on all year round – that I needed to get off my backside and explore.

Once again, there have been lessons learned this year – that there is a shed load of stuff I need to learn about me, about women, about my long term direction and the type of woman I am attracted to.  That, and a paradigm shift of sorts, perhaps best articulated by Clay Christensen in his book How Will You Measure Your Life:

The path to happiness (in a relationship) is about finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to.

I suspect that when/if the annals of my life are written in the future, 2012 will feature prominently as the year of the big reset, the year wherein the penny dropped. All told, it’s been a year of pruning, spring cleaning, gaining clarity and working out the toxins and nascent hurts from the past. I suspect 2013 will be the year of learning and re-learning… And hopefully finding and building… :)

#FabReads – How Will You Measure Your Life – Clay Christensen

In his 2012 book, How Will You measure Your Life, Clay M Christensen attempts to analyse three key life pursuits from the perspective of the theories he teaches to his MBA students at Harvard Business School, looking to extract ideas which when applied to life will ensure that the outcomes we get are aligned with the outcomes we say we want. The three areas he concentrates on are Career, Relationships and the very aptly captioned ‘Staying Out of Prison’. A few highlights:

Career

Christensen describes the way to finding happiness as:

In order to really find happiness, you need to continue looking for opportunities that you believe are meaningful, in which you will be able to learn new things, to succeed and be given more and more responsibility to shoulder.

The process of finding these rewarding opportunities, the theory suggests, involves continuously evaluating the outcomes from a deliberate  strategy against one from an emergent  strategy. [Deliberate strategies are designed to achieve anticipated outcomes. Emergent strategies on the other hand evolve from having to optimise around opportunities and threats we can’t (or haven’t) anticipated. More information here]

Three key components to achieving this goals are identified as:

  1. Identify Your Priorities: Money often is the default metric, but it can be misleading. Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation sheds some more light on the difference between hygiene factors and motivational factors.
  2. Find the balance between deliberate and emergent strategies: The key issue is finding the balance between calculation and serendipity form the looks of it.  Honda’s entry into the US motorbike market is highlighted as a classic example of how an emergent strategy can trump a deliberate one. Finding the balance though can be difficult, hence the use of a discovery based planning process to assess the relative chance of success of a deliberate strategy versus an emergent one.
  3. Execute the strategy: The distinction between merely paying lip service to a strategy and actually implementing one is made time and time again. And it is in how we allocate our resources that our true strategy is shown. Strategy is not what you say it is, it is how you allocate your resources – time, money and energy – through your hundreds of everyday decisions. Our lives are modelled as businesses – family, career, relationships etc – each requiring an investment of our resources. This is complicated by the time frames over which pay offs occur, and we are often tempted to focus on initiatives which deliver value rather over the long term.
Key Quotes:

If the decisions you make about where you invest your blood, sweat and tears are not consistent with the person you aspire to be, you’ll never become that person

 

Relationships

The premise here is that the greatest and longest lasting sources of happiness or sadness in our lives will come from our relationships and connections. The business theory applied here is Bhide‘s good capital and bad capital framework which simply stated is that in the initial phase of building investors should be patient for growth and impatient for profit, i.e. find a small to medium scale strategy that works, and only then begin to address the up-scaling issues.

Key points:

  1. Time scales are of importance: There is a risk in trying to sequence life. By the time we need a harvest, we may not have one!
  2. The job-to-be-done theory: The causal mechanism of every purchase of a good or service is that we have a job that needs doing, and the service fills the role. The big question for our relationships then should be what ‘job’ are we being hired for in each of our relationships. On a relational level, the key to happiness is counterintuitive; the path to happiness is about finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to. And in sacrificing for something worthwhile, you deeply strengthen your commitment to it.
  3. Building Capability: Three components to capability – resources, processes and priorities. 
    • Resources are the what of value creation, ie the raw materials that we turn into value
    • Processes are the how, ie how we turn resources into value
    • Priorities are the why, ie our decision matrices, culture etc.

More:

Money Quote (For finding a spouse):

The path to happiness is about finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to.

Staying out of jail – the ethics question

A great summary of the marginal thinking trap’s over at the HBR.

Money Quote:

The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts

– CS lewis

Finally, On Purpose

Three components of purpose.

  • A likeness (the target destination, anticipated personality traits hoping to be built),
  • A commitment
  • Metrics for measuring progress towards attaining the likeness

His talk at TEDxBoston on YouTube, and a great precis at the Harvard Business Review website.

 

J. Winterson: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal

WHEN MY MOTHER was angry with me, which was often, she said, ‘The Devil led us to the wrong crib’

So begins Jeanette Winterson’s autobiography, a meditation of sorts on growing up adopted and the descent into dystopia that was her childhood; spent growing up in a Pentecostal home being groomed to be a missionary. It is a childhood that is quintessentially evangelical, replete with very regular church meetings, Biblical literalism, corporeal punishment and a feening for the apocalyptic dawn of the next world to the detriment of the enjoyment of this one. Looming large in that phase of growing up is the image of her adoptive mother, a controlling creature, intensely fundamentalist and addicted to her cigarettes, who both in her quiet moments and in her moments of rage ruled the roost,with the young Jeanette and her adoptive father as collateral damage.  Being adopted, and the uncertainties this brings to family relations is a recurring motif in the book, and her successful search to find her birth mother takes us through an emotional wringer.

A few choice quotes:

On the waves of Pakistani immigration to the North West of England:

Then, as now, nobody talked about the legacy of Empire. Britain had colonised, owned, occupied or interfered with half the world. We had carved up some countries and created others. When some of the world we had made by force wanted something in return, we were outraged.

On forgiveness:

Happy endings are only a pause. There are three kinds of big endings: Revenge. Tragedy. Forgiveness. Revenge and Tragedy often happen together. Forgiveness redeems the past. Forgiveness unblocks the future.

On writing:

It took me a long time to realise that there are two kinds of writing; the one you write and the one that writes you. The one that writes you is dangerous. You go where you don’t want to go. You look where you don’t want to look.

In the end, she evolves into perhaps the antithesis of an evangelical missionary – she falls in love with a woman –  which prompts the statement from her mother which becomes the title of the book.

Listen to the Radio Open Source interview here.

114 days in…

This year I decided I would only have seven focus areas – from which twelve things for 2012 were derived.  Interestingly, whilst there has been progress in some areas, quite a few other areas have been the equivalent of a Lagos traffic jam for progress. 114 days in, here’s my review.

  1. Develop a daily practice of prayer and meditation: This has come along in fits and starts. there definitely has been some progress, but nothing sustained so far. I’d rate myself as ‘poor’ here.
  2. Lose 20 kg:  An epic fail here. I suspect I may have actually gained half a kilogram!
  3. Read and review 25 books:  Currently on book number four. No real reviews have been completed so far. I’ll need to decide a format and start progressing these ASAP.
  4. Call Parents and siblings at least once a week:  I’ve made some progress on here with phone calls, but again not on the level of consistency that I’d be hoping for.
  5. Save £1,000 each month: One of the areas where I’d say I have performed very well.
  6. Get Chartered Engineer Status: In progress, I hope to send in my initial applications this May and kick start the process of getting C.Eng registration through the IMarEST.
  7. Get a Driver’s Licence: A couple of false starts here. The intent is to get the CEng application done and dusted and then focus on studying for the theory test and passing it in May 2012.
  8. Resolve long term settlement options:  Canada featured heavily in the plan for a while, but at the moment it’s looking like the UK is the base plan. The intent is to sort out the CEng status and then take it from there.
  9. Resolve my dating issues:  Not quite progress here. Met Q who ticks a lot of the boxes (geek, recovering bookworm, under 31 yrs of age, Nigerian with the added benefit of real life mutual friends/ connections). The one quirk is she’s very into the Grail Message thing which ended up scuttling my dalliance with EJ from back in the day. I’m not quite sure I can risk lettnig my heart go when there are these issues.
  10. FAN integration/FOL Service:  One word, abysmal.
  11. Find a mentor: Some progress, O’s essentially become my non work mentor what with his interest in getting me married and his listening ears, and the three gorgeous kids he’s got. 🙂 On the work front, I’m getting along quite nicely with the QNX* team now – RG seems like a good candidate for a work mentor. Getting him to sponsor my CEng application cxould be the key.
  12. Finding a hobby:  New item on the lsit, thanks to pressure from CS & NP at QNX and my buddy Chizz. I’ve signed up for the company touch rugby team – hopefully that pans out nicely.

All in all, there’s been areas of progress and some of none. The top targets for Q2 through end of June are getting the CEng application through, passing the theory test and heading off to Nigeria.

 

2012 in Twelve Things

In what is going to be a first for me, I will cross over into the new year aboard an airplane, albeit one headed homeward. It certainly is a far cry from how 2011 started, but perhaps this unconventional start will afford  me the chance to pause and ponder a few days early, and agree on 12 things for 2012 all aligned with my seven priorities for life. Here goes:

  1. Develop a daily practice of meditation, prayer and journaling:  Taking time out to examine life, capture things as they happen and improve daily has to be a key component of my daily routine going forward. The seven priorities are great on paper, but unless progress on the continuum towards achieving them is measured and recorded, I suspect the end of the year will come, and I will still be where I am as of today, stuck in a rut. Target: 4 of 5 days a week of reading the identified text in the Our Daily Bread app.
  2. Lose 20kg: I am overweight – no amount of faffing around can gloss over that simple fact. I tried for a month, before slipping back into my my routine of Nandos, large potions and baguettes at work. Losing weight has to be a focus in 2012, the target is to lose 20kg for a return to c. 80kg weight and a healthy BMI. Target: Walk to and from work daily, take 2 days in the week to eat only fruits (seedless grapes, bananas and apples only), stay off coffee, eat half of what I would normally eat.
  3. Read (and review) 25 books in 2012.
  4. Call parents and siblings once a week: Quick phone call to Dad/Mum every two weeks; hopefully I can catch the siblings weekly for a quick chat.
  5. Save £1,000 a month: The YE spend data for 2011 was abysmal. For a net (ex. taxes) increase in pay of c. 600 pounds, I ended up doubling my expenditure versus 2010. Some of it was unavoidable  – the house move in late 2010, increased bills and rents hit for the full year 2011 versus the one quarter in 2010, but large swathes of cash remained unaccounted for. The plan is to move 1,000 each month from my net pay prior to any expenses coming through, as well as refuse to get involved in providing soft loans to the lads.
  6. Get chartered engineer status:  I didn’t make a lot of progress professionally in 2011. There were no conferences attended or certifications gained. This is a focus area for 2012 – I am looking to get at least one of either the C.Eng designation or complete my NACE certifications before YE 2012.
  7. Get a driver’s license: I have had a provisional drivers license for over a year already. The focus in 2012 will be to use the 1st quarter to write and pass the theory test, and the summer months to practice for and pass the practical test for a full drivers’ license. Given my traumatic car crash from 2008, and the fact that I haven ‘t driven since then, I suspect this will not be a trivial pursuit.
  8. Resolve long term settlement options: 2012 will be crucial for me as I decide where I will lay down my long term routes. TheBZ would be a good place, but the increasingly louder anti-immigrant rhetoric is a niggling issue at the bottom of my mind. Canada seems to be a longer term option – one that I will explore to a greater extent in 2012.
  9. Resolve my dating and meeting issues: I am at a stage where I can truly say that I have let got of my EJ issues. Having said that there remain pockets of memories I need to ditch finally. The target through 2012 is to bring myself to the place where I can truly say I have forgotten and moved on, a position where I am free in my head to meet and date again. 2012 in this regards has to be the year of de-cluttering.
  10. Complete FAN integration: Given my constant moaning about how mind numbingly boring the little city I live in is, that I am not taking advantage of what opportunities there are to meet people is a shame. Through 2012, the intention is to reconnect with the Youth and Singles group at church once a month.
  11. Re-engage with FOL service: My service in the group I work with in church was shocking in 2011. Granted, part of it was a busier, less controlled work load, but my worldview issues also contributed in no small measure. The plan in 2012 is to reconnect and reengage with the group, and be useful once again.
  12. Find a mentor: I’m looking to get more intentionality in life, a mentor would definitely help for the accountability bits here.