The BIG to do list

We have a lot going on, as humans, right now. Climate change, social divides, increasing wealth gap… We do have a fairly large team to work on this though, 7+ billion people and counting…

So, what to do and where to start?

The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are a good place to start. This has been called “the world’s to do list” and that’s what it is. The big key issues.

Have a look:

The Sustainable Development Goals

Some of these might resonate more with you than others. Some of these might be areas you are already active in. That’s great. Start with that. You don’t have to cover all of them, and not all by yourself. Pick a topic and make a start. Make this part of your work, or find other ways to support this.

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If you are looking for help to align your life better with your values, check out my book “Values-based – career and life changes that make sense” or ping me for a chat.

Peace is a verb

Reposting a twitter thread from last year for remembrance day. Still holds true.

Remembrance Day. (1) walk with me… The picture of Macron and Merkel made me well up. I grew up in Germany, and at every family reunion, the second toast (after the one to the person/occasion) was always to “l’amitie franco-allemande”. To the French-German friendship.That stayed
1:13 PM · Nov 11, 2018
(2) stories of what it takes to make reconciliation happen. Learning each other’s languages. School exchanges. Exchanges between farmers, students, business people. Living under somebody’s roof, sharing food. Talking about hurt, wrong and things that connect(still sharing food).
(3) my family has a distillery, making fruit schnappses in Germany. One was always “Mirabelle de Lorraine” Brought from my auntie’s Dad with his tractor. The old men sat in the distillery and had a grand old time. Once the schnapps was ready, so had everyone else.
(4) he always shared buried all his good liquor in the garden when the Germans came. When my auntie Genevieve married uncle Franz, he brought out one of the bottles. Allegedly finishing the story with a big smile shouting “and now the %$£ Germans ARE drinking it” dispensing hugs.
(5) I was raised on these stories. (and some of the Mirabelle…) And, music teacher father of playing the Ode to Joy at full blast whenever something towards greater freedom, love, peace, democracy happened. 1989 onwards he played it a lot (remember? The hope? The love?)
(6) I hated growing up German, with that unbearable guilt, the full weight of history. I and did everything I possibly could to become as international as possible, studied history, politics, social sciences, postgrad in peace and conflict resolution studies for the Never Again.
(7) My grandfather was born in 1898 (that’s not a typo). He fought in WW1. He didn’t like war. He came home. His brothers didn’t. He was as internationally minded as a baker’s apprentice turned farmer could get with a few years of primary school education.
(8) I am sad I was too late to be able to have political historical conversations with him. I would have loved that. I imagine he would have loved seeing me do what I do. His body lived till 97, sadly, his mind left quite a bit earlier.
(9) Wherever he is now, I hope he sees the good bits that have happened in Europe. “Not letting the Nazis win” a key theme. And the news sometimes not looking all that encouraging. It would have broken his heart. It breaks mine.
(10) I now live in London. This month, people sell poppies for remembrance in front of every tube station. I am always a bit conflicted if I should buy one or not. If it is weirder to participate or not to participate. This one is on my laptop bag.

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(11) I felt too embarrassed to have my accent heard so I bought it in silence. Brexit Britain is a weird place. It would have hurt Granddad as it hurts me. Some things can’t be solved with a bottle of Mirabelle. And often, the conversations aren’t going so well either.
(12) what got me into what I do now (leadership development, coaching, working with values) was a mix of the German army (thank you!) (training me to be a warzone correspondent), and a UK/Italian NGO

@wysengo where I did a leadership program. (thank you!)
(13) I am not cut out for living in a war zone. Few humans are, actually. That is not how we are meant to live. It’s a disgrace. We should be better than that by now. And, apparently, aren’t.
(14) The older I get,the more I realize, peace is a verb. A “doing-word”, as we say in German. It is fragile. It is iterative. It can crumble and needs rebuilding. It is work on the outside and quite a lot of work on the inside. You trust, you get your heart broken. You try again
(15) Nobody is in this alone. We are all a lot more connected than we think we are. We can remember together, be grateful for the work of those who came before us, and share their stories. And maybe share a Mirabelle and a hug. And then go back out into the rain to keep fixing…
(16) thank you for walking. And thank you to these two for the gesture that means so so much.

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Play outside the fence

We all have our routines, our events and networks, our ways of making sense of the world. It all kind of makes sense in our little patch, we know where things are, and that is why we like it. Nothing new happens here.

I am going to propose something different: Go somewhere else (this might well be virtually). This research is absolutely crucial if you are looking to make changes in your life and your work, as part of your research and networking and exploring where you might fit. 

Find out where your field of interest is gathering and playing, and go where they are. Dive into what matters to them. Embrace the discomfort of too many abbreviations and half-forgotten theories from way back when, in a different time and country. See who their luminaries, gurus and hotshots are. Who they like and don’t like, and why. How they see the world and what significance they attach to the same outside reality. Suspend your snappy inner judge for a bit and just roll with it.

I’m updating this post in early spring of 2021, where life is still largely virtual. That actually makes this a lot easier as there are plenty of opportunities to join a webinar and you won’t have to take a half day off from your current job to go somewhere. Find more of these opportunities. Use the flexibility that this online world gives you to research. A lot of this is free. Make the most of it. 

Curiosity and genuine interest are always a good look, so whoever you are, and whoever they are, go for it. Get yourself in there. You will be fine. Listen and learn. Whatever you are interested to find out more about – find where people meet, go to their (virtual, for now…) events, conferences, and consume their media, hang out on their platforms. Meet some new people. Network magic is in the weak links, not in the folks who know your jokes and finish your sentences.

The way things are going, these boundaries between disciplines will soften, and we are likely going to work in more portfolio-type of setups. We might have several different careers altogether, as one path weaves into the next, or a disruption resets the dial. You are going to need this, so get your practice runs in. It is also a whole lot more fun to work like that anyway. There are good people everywhere. They might be completely different from you in every way, but you’ll find they are people who care and who want to do something good that makes sense, and who have a craft they hone and that they use to make things better. I always take great comfort in that realization, it makes me appreciate the diversity and vastness of the human family.

What is something you are curious about? Anything that tickles your curiosity? An industry you are curious about? A hobby you are looking to take into something bigger? A passion waiting to become a potential business? Or a friend or colleague with a hobby completely different from your own?

Get your antennae out. So much is happening online and a lot of this is free. Take that time as your R&D time, immerse yourself, make some new friends. If everything goes wrong, you will have stories to tell. If everything goes well, things to read up on and lots of new friends. And even better stories. In every case you will learn more about the new space, the rules there and the people in it. 

(I wrote the first version of this in 2018 where most things were face to face and doing this kind of research was time consuming and expensive. 2020/21 is offering much more opportunities to start putting feelers out at a much smaller scale, to learn, meet, mingle. Go use it!)

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Rebounding from values conversations gone wrong

You wanted to do the right thing. You went out on a limb. You floated a conversation about values, or it got sprung upon you. It flopped. Badly. Now all you want to do is take it back so you can hide back into your shell. Pretend nothing happened. Pretend you didn’t just hear and see what you heard and saw. It doesn’t quite work that way.
I have been bruised more times than I can count. Sometimes I learned things about time and place to have these conversations, and I fine-tuned my approach going forward (it takes two…). On some occasions, I cut people out of my life as a result (I don’t do this lightly. But just as a reminder, this is a valid move).
Sometimes a conversation flopped spectacularly in the here and now. And then a few years later I got feedback by either that person, or people from that orbit, how much of a difference it made, and how that was a massively powerful intervention (sometimes you influence an organization more by leaving than you could by staying). And sometimes the content was right but the form and delivery might have been off on my part, which, too, is a learning opportunity.
Here are a few pointers to get yourself back together if needed.
Rebound qualities matter
On some occasions, your values in all their strength and delicate beauty will get crushed or people will start using this against you. If this happens, take the invitation to take a closer look, don’t ignore the pointers. This is where the stuff happens that truly matters. This can make you stronger in the long run.
Values matter, so when you get hurt, it will hurt more and deeper as it will matter on a whole different level. This work will lead you to bigger questions and decisions and they might be disruptive in the short-term. I have lost money and career opportunities over this and some emotional bruises took a long time to recover from. Looking back on 20+ years in the business world, the regrets I have are usually about not being radical enough and waiting too long, the regrets were NOT about speaking up (although arguably the form of speaking up could occasionally have done with an upgrade, I do have regrets around some of that). Try to look at this through a longer-term lens (values help with that, too).
Acknowledge the pain and use it as reinforcement that this matters.
So, remind yourself of your values, what they are and why they matter. And how they contribute to the kind of world you want to see. For yourself and for everyone else. This is the foundation. This is the anchor.
I still remember a few messy conversations down to where I stood and what I was wearing. One situation stood our in particular for how utterly bizarre it was. In my youthful zeal at 22, I had been pretty outspoken about values and pointing out intercultural biases and privilege, which earned me the reputation with my then boss to be a “friend of humanity” (he meant that as an insult ?!?!). Assignments and communication deteriorated rapidly as that moniker increased in usage and the delivery of the moniker got more and more acrimonious. If you are looking for pointers on cultural fit – that was one.
My slightly more grown up self would have handled this situation differently. I’m a lot more radical now and at the same time a bit more skilled in raising issues if there are any that need raising. I wear “friend of humanity” as the badge of honor it really is (in my books – and I hope, in yours). And hopefully I am getting slightly more attuned to what people call “cultural fit”. That place and I clearly weren’t, and I moved on soon after.
And sometimes you might have to heal first, it is OK to withdraw, lick your wounds and do whatever you need to do to get yourself back together. This is crucial stuff. This is, so to speak, open heart injury recovery. Look after yourself (and allow others to help you). Do what you need to do. Also, depending on what happened, this might require seeking professional help like counseling or a lawyer. Do whatever it takes. This too is self-care.
Find surroundings where you are welcome
In the long-run (reminder: this is your life, this is the long run) you will be better off in an environment that embraces you for who and how you are and where your values flourish. And where you can have the conversations you want and need. The deeper you get into this, the more the bar will shift for what good leadership and a helpful organizational culture looks like. For yourself as your own ongoing practice, and for the people you want to surround yourself with. That is a good thing. This will make you more outspoken where you are (this might or might not be welcome).
Your planning horizon becomes more long-term. You will no longer get lukewarm reactions as people will either gravitate towards you, or you will exit each other’s orbits. That is not a bad thing. You both become more humble/compassionate and more fierce/radical at the same time, and in this tension discover strength and radiance second to none. And you will find more places where you are truly welcome. You might transform where you are, or you might find new horizons and groups of people.
Preparation for next time can help
Some of the conversations can be anticipated, so you can prepare at least a bit. Ask yourself:

What is the quality I want to bring to this conversation?

Which one of my top 5 values needs to be particularly present to make this happen?

How does this value show up in a conversation? When it is there, what does the conversation feel, sound, look like? What words would I use? What sort of setting would that have to be? How would I set up the encounter?

How might this look like for the other person? What might they be bringing and what would that combination look like? What can you do to keep grounding and reminding yourself of the value you want to bring – regardless of how the conversation goes or how the other person is approaching you?

Paving the way for others

Wherever you are, don’t underestimate the amount of reach and radiance a person has with clear values, who stand up for them and for others when they get violated. That is what leaders do – regardless of your job title. Your wingspan is bigger than you think, and you will reach and inspire people even though you might never hear about it. Trust that.
Thanking those who did this for you
A note on that: When somebody does that for you, tell them what difference they made. This can be a tough fight and bring on some of the deepest moments of loneliness in the midst of it, as a lot of the crucial conversations are private or in small groups (and often rightfully so). Knowing something you did made a difference for someone else out there is so important to keep the strength to keep going. As a bonus, when you do reach out, these might well be some of the best apprenticeship/mentoring type of conversations you will ever have. Go for it!
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Want to explore your values more?

Today’s value: Playfulness

Even if you feel you no longer got it, you probably had it as a child. Being playful is one of the ways to stop time, to fully be in the flow, to be immersed in what is going on right where you are. It requires concentration, lightly held to allow room for new things to emerge. What about this? What if I put this over there? Let’s see what that does. There is a lightness to it.

Playfulness does not have a goal, except itself. In our overscheduled lives, this makes it a radical act. It also makes it a necessary one, for playfulness is what gives birth to innovation and new ideas. It is also the perfect antidote to adulthood turned calcification. Ever watched how a grandma’s face changes when playing with her granddaughter? Life itself flowing right back. Kids often allow parents to have a second round at this. Nieces, friend’s kids also work to tickle that side in you. Or the puppy from the shelter. The art workshop.

But its been so long. But I have forgotten. But I don’t have the time. What will my boss think? Oh you adults. It really doesn’t take much to get back into that mood… using what is there and creatively exploring its for maximum enjoyment. Play with the water a bit when you do your dishes, you got that fancy shower head faucet for a reason (nobody is watching). Use your hands to make the burger patties (it’s OK to play with your food). Hop along the sidewalk stones making a pattern (ignore them, they are just jealous they don’t have the guts). Find words that rhyme and switch up your favorite song lyrics as you go for your run (park animals love early morning songs). Wear that tie or scarf that you never quite thought you could pull off. Hang up that wonky drawing from your niece, right next to your fancy credentials in your office. Try out a different thing when opening your next team meeting. And if you feel you can’t quite pull it off yet, invite your team to make a start and let them know you are genuine. And for the sake of your younger self, play along. Let life back in. It will be good for you.


Check out the values worksheet here.
Or
go deeper and get the book.
Or
ping me about how coaching might help.