A Sort of String Theory

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, as the great Robbie Burns wrote, gang aft agley.

How ironic that my post on my Word of the Month — INTENTION — should come at the end of April instead of at the beginning, as I had originally planned.  Then again, given that the word intention derives from the Old French word entencion, which translates as both stretching as well as purpose, perhaps it is fitting that I have somehow managed to stretch out my time sufficiently to squeeze this post in before April bids us farewell — and while I’m sure there’s some witty astrophysical reference I could be making here, my knowledge of string theory is woefully inadequate to make an appropriate cosmic joke.

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Intention is a very powerful tool.

Strangely enough, the reasons why this post is so late also relate to intention. A valued client, who over several months had carefully planned and then (seemingly) successfully executed a handover from one administrative support person to another, was let down suddenly and unexpectedly when the new staff member got cold feet and left without notice or warning. This outcome was, quite obviously, not intended.  And having seen the lengths that my client had gone to to ensure a smooth and stress-free transition, stepping into the breach to provide them with on-site administrative support was a no-brainer for me — even if it meant my own plans, including writing this post, were delayed.

Now, I’m not one to sugarcoat things: the situation was stressful for everyone involved. But what impressed me most was that my client, despite being sincerely disappointed, maintained a positive outlook in the face of such a massive setback. And when I asked my client how he had managed to continue being so upbeat — which went, genuinely, beyond putting on a brave face — he gave me this response:

I’m not going to let one person’s quitting stop me from doing what I set out to.

And there it was: intention in action.

Life is full of unexpected twists and snarls, where the strings we attempt to smooth and straighten and follow along their slender lengths sometimes slip out of our grasp or snap altogether. When confronting such circumstances, however, it is worth returning to your original intentions: recalling your original purpose and remembering the reasons behind your actions can provide sufficient impetus to keep you moving ahead, even when it feels like everything around you is turning into a twisted, tangled mess.

I know my client will go on to hire someone new, and will probably end up with a better, more functional business because of it. In the meantime, it has been a privilege to work with someone who fixes their mind firmly, with intention, on their goals and who sustains their business by working deliberately towards achieving those outcomes, even in the face of unexpected setbacks.

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Suspended Stone Circle II, by Ken Unsworth.

There is great strength to be found in such an approach — in setting your intention and sticking to it. And for some reason, my experiences in April reminded me of an installation by Ken Unsworth at the Art Gallery of NSW that I have visited time and time again. It is called Suspended Stone Circle II, and for me it sums up visually what it’s like to successfully manage a business, or a family, or even the thoughts in your own head.

This is the power of intention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Connection

together

We’re all connected…

Connect.

That’s the word I’ve chosen to focus on for February at Blue Jai Creative — not least because here in the Great Southern Land, summer has heralded its annual leave-taking with hot and humid weather. The Silly Season and its many distractions are over, New Year’s Resolutions have (hopefully) taken hold, and our children have dutifully trouped off back to school for the year.

It’s time to get back into the swing of things. To ramp up our efforts. To take the plunge.

It’s time to connect.

Since February began, however, I have realised that there’s not much point in doing any of these things unless our actions are focused.  And now is the perfect time to paint a clear picture in our mind’s eye of what we might want to achieve in the upcoming year — hence, my word of the month and my current plan:

Connect with people. They are our most valuable and — frequently — most overlooked resource. Call someone who is a positive presence in your life, and when you’ve had an uplifting chat, pay it forward if you can — even if it’s just by smiling at a stranger. Find a mentor. Thank a supporter. Ask a colleague for help if you need it. Compliment someone. And connect especially with your clients; listen to what they have to say, and let what you hear help you map out your plans.

Connect with your inner voice. Know what your First Principles are, the guiding tenets that keep you and your journey on track. For example, my First Principles (which revolve around words, music, and food) remind me to keep on creating, to listen to things that bring me joy and peace, and to eat well so I can sustain myself properly. Living and working in alignment with your own First Prinicples will always bring you greatest satisfaction, because you will be living and working authentically.

Connect with what inspires you. In the normal, real world, what you do for work may not take you to dizzying heights of bliss. For many of us, some or even much of what we do can feel repetitive or mundane. Taking the time to seek inspiration — whether it’s playing a particular song, baking a cake, reading, swimming in the ocean, getting up early to see the sunrise, updating your vision board, taking a walk in the rain, or whatever else delights you — can help to keep you motivated to turn up and take the next step.

Connect the dots. No matter how winding the path you take, make sure that each step along the way is bringing you closer to your goals. Connecting the dots helps you bring perspective to your decision making and can help you stay the course when you feel discouraged or distracted. And if you’ve already connected with people, your inner voice and what inspires you, you’ll already know that the quality of your journey is just as important (if not more so) as wherever you’re hoping to get to.

Connect.

tesla

…throughout history and around the globe…

Focusing on this one word (talking about it, reading about it, writing about it, in alignment with my own First Principles) has made me realise that throughout history, around the world, and across every discipline of human endeavour, some of our deepest and most innovative thinkers have all been saying the same thing: we are all connected.

Here’s what Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) had to say during the Renaissance:

To develop a complete mind, study the science of art, study the art of science, learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else.

Or the Upanishads, the ancient Sanskrit texts that inform much of Hinduism, written in India six centuries BCE:

Who sees all beings in his own self and his own self in all beings, loses all fear.

During the Romantic era the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)  wrote, “I am a part of all that I have met”, while in the twentieth century the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (born 1926) reminded us that, “We are all the leaves of one tree; we are all the waves of one sea.”

Perhaps, in more recent years, it has fallen to the scientists to spell things out in their usual succinct fashion. In the words of American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson:

We are all connected — to each other biologically, to the Earth chemically, to the rest of the universe atomically.

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…and we’re all making journeys towards the same end. That’s our greatest connection.

Or, as Nikola Tesla (1816-1943) — inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist and futurist — summed it up even more simply when he said “We are all one.”

We all make these journeys — weaving in and out of each others’ worlds and crossing each others’ paths along the way. We’re all doing the same thing, each day, to take the steps to get us to where we want to be. We really are all connected.

And should these words of mine, spiralling out into cyberspace, connect with you today, may you discover connections with people who support you, with experiences that inspire you, with the guidance within you, and every last dot along the way.

 

 

The Real Pengilly

Lollipop hero

The Lollipop Man — or Crossing Guard, to you non-Australian types…

Every now and then, a person pops into your life who brings a smile to your face just about every time you see them. They might not be someone you’re particularly close to, but you see them often enough to know their name and to stop to have a quick chat about the state of the world when you see them, instead of just passing them by with a smile and a nod. These people are positive presences in the world — the kind of folks who restore your faith in humanity, and who make this planet a better place to live.

Today, I want to salute a man whose smiling face and cheery welcome brightens our lives — twice a day, Monday through Friday: our favourite Lollipop Man, Drew Pengilly.

For those of you who are unused to the unique way in which Australians name objects and occupations, the term “Lollipop Man” does not mean that Drew works in a candy store — as if I’d let my kids anywhere near a lolly shop twice every weekday.  It means he is the Crossing Guard who stops the traffic at the pedestrian crossing near Marvel Girl’s school and Miss Malaprop’s preschool. He’s the guy who keeps us safe.

Why “Lollipop Man”? Well, the stop sign Drew carries looks like a giant red lollipop. Obviously. (And, equally obviously, Australians don’t feel the need to name things quite as literally as they do in North American other countries — which is also why we drive our cars through roundabouts, walk on pavements, ride up and down in lifts, dry things with tea towels and wear thongs on our feet.)

But all this is beside the point. Drew, our Lollipop Man, is our hero in a high-vis vest — and here’s why:

Drew remembers all our names — and I mean all our names, including children, animals and sometimes even teddy bears —  and he greets us every morning with a welcoming smile that makes you forget, momentarily, the massive struggle it was to simply get out the door (you know the one, where you yell random words like “teeth”, “shoes” or “schoolbag” to unresponsive children in various states of dishevelment while holding an increasingly cold cup of tea).

Drew also notices details: he spots recently lost teeth, merit awards, band aids on injured knees, new shoes, haircuts, and all manner of minutiae at ten paces, and celebrates these little things with a high five or commiserates with a sympathetic word or two.

Drew is remarkably adept at picking which child is hiding within which costume come Book Week every year, and he’s also very good at remembering kids’ birthdays — which may or may not have something to do with the fact that he gets reminded exactly how many sleeps it is until the birthday of the child in question every time they cross the road (and yes, I do mean every time).

Drew is also brilliant at offering words of encouragement and praise — particularly to the preschoolers who visit his crossing each afternoon, proffering whatever artistic (and I use that word loosely) creations they have fashioned that day in his general direction. It doesn’t matter whether it is a stick covered in glitter, a page covered in random blobs of paint, or a couple of boxes and cardboard tubes taped together, Drew is always ready with an enthusiastic comment or an admiring remark…and those little people walk off that crossing feeling ten feet taller than when they stepped onto it.

October 2015 027

Thank you Drew! Goodbye and good luck!

But now, alas, our days with Drew have drawn to a close: he and his lovely wife moving house, and today is his last day of being our very own Lollipop Man before they head south.

Needless to say, Drew will be sadly missed.

Drew, thank you for brightening our mornings and afternoons, for being one of those people who makes a this world a happier, more positive place to live. And thanks for the multitude of “lollies” you have pretended to dispense to the my kids and their little mates — you’re the Lollipop Man they will never forget.

Move over McCoy — we’ve had the Real Pengilly.

UPDATE FOR FRESHIE PEEPS: Don’t despair…Drew’s last day is actually next Friday…so y’all still have time to say so long! Apologies for the error — Blue Jai 🙂

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