I’m usually pretty lazy with this website and don’t post much other than the letters to my kids which I think are worth sharing. But I’ve committed to being more proactive at telling the stories I think add value. That’s not a new years resolution. It’s a now resolution.
Like everybody, in every decision or thing I made over the last 359 days, I was a less experienced, and almost definitely dumber, me. This post is a quick, filtered, list of things I’ve learned over the course of the year and things I reckon are worth sharing.
I sign up to a bunch of mailing lists – most don’t teach me anything I didn’t already know. Some I scroll straight to the bottom for ‘unsubscribe’. For some of you, these notes will be the same, and I’ll be preaching to the converted. But if there’s one thing that’s new, or at least good to hear again, it’s worth me hitting publish.
My number one learning of 2018: Make the most of the moments with your loved ones
|This is about learnings, not grief – but this lesson doesn’t usually come without tears. In 2018, two good friends lost their parents much earlier than expected. Later in the year, I nearly lost two loved ones to addiction and that big, broad thing called mental health. Nobody you care for will be around forever, so enjoy the time while they’re here.
Last week, a friend told me life is like driving on the motorway. We speed along until we see a police car, we slow down for a bit after the sight of that patrol car, then we forget about that reminder and gradually pick up speed again. Life can be similar. We get a reminder about how short it is (77 years is the life expectancy for a Māori male), so we slow down for a bit. But it doesn’t take long before society, work, the grind and day-to-day life make us forget that reminder. We go back to speeding through the day and not taking time where it counts. I’m writing a longer letter on this for Huhana and Kāhu, I’ll probably share it with you when it’s done. In the meantime, make the most of those moments – especially over the holidays, but don’t let it stop there.
Experiment, experiment, experiment
This year I re-learned that I’m never at my best. The way I’m doing things now, that thought, this solution, my approach to mornings, diet, or work, will never be the best possible way to do it. Biologists and software developers know this well. So does anyone who coaches, teaches, or learns.
We can all grow, improve, (and back-track!). Old dogs can definitely learn new tricks.
Morning routine experiment: The Night-owls and Morning People are not separate species
I re-learned how much you can get done in an hour.
When I was trying to make a career of music, and before we had kids, I would work on music late into the night after work. I was not a morning person. At the time, I would have said that was a permanent feature of me, “I’m a night-owl, that’s just who I am.” – Nope.
Last year I woke up every morning at 4.30 to write stories. I was in bed by 9.30 every night so I still had some sort of brainpower in the morning.
My son Kāhu arrived late last year, and later this year, my wife started working weekends. So I had to experiment and re-adjust to keep that writing time and still have space to work on Shoebox Christmas (without losing my day-job from falling asleep at the desk).
So I tried a few different approaches. In the end, what worked best for me was stretching my wake up time out to a luxurious 5.15am, and getting to bed earlier (most of the time). That 5.15 slot became my writing and Shoebox Christmas slot, then I get Kāhu and Huhana up and ready for the day. I’ve been running that morning routine for a while now. Blocking out that time each day is easily the biggest productivity hack I know. I spend an hour writing each morning. That’s 365 hours a year, or the equivalent of nearly ten work weeks of continuous writing.
Alcohol experiment: I had a drinking problem
I’ve drunk alcohol (nearly) all my life and never thought I had a problem. Then I realised I did. The problem was that I’d never been in control of my relationship with alcohol, I’d just followed the crowd, listening to the marketing and social norms. I’d been letting someone else make the decision to drink: “Had a rough day?” “Have a drink.” “Hanging with friends?” “Have a drink.” The marketing voice and industry that drives our drinking culture, definitely doesn’t have my best interests in mind.
It’s not the drinking problem most often talked about, but given alcohol causes about $5b of societal cost on our little island each year… yes, five billiondollars…I think it’s still a problem. I wrote a letter to my kids about it here.
I’ve experimented with different ways and degrees to stop drinking, I’ve tried limiting myself to one or two drinks each ‘drinking occasion’. I’ve let myself drink only on allocated days I’d agreed to beforehand. Then, this year I stopped drinking completely when someone I love went into rehab, and I told them I’d go sober alongside. I learned I don’t need alcohol, full-stop. I can still go out to dinners, poker nights, and meet friends at the pub while they drink (until the repetition and circular conversations get boring – then it’s time to split). That marketed voice was lying.
A year ago I would have said there’s no way I could hang out if my friends were drinking and I wasn’t. People do a second take. “Oh you’re not drinking.” It feels awkward standing there without a beer. People look at you funny. But again, that marketed voice was lying – why should it be weird to hang out with mates and not need to be drunk or tipsy to have a good time? After a couple of months, I stopped feeling like it was wrong to be different.
It was a hard habit to break, most are. That’s what makes them habits.
The second hurdle was that I then became self-conscious about people around me feeling awkward because they were drinking and I wasn’t. Then I realised that’s their problem, not mine to worry about, I should be focusing on having fun and enjoying the time with them. So for the last seven months or so, I’ve been waking up without a hangover, happy that if I spent time with friends, I did what I had gone there to do, enjoyed the moments with them, having conversations I can remember the next day.
Talking about this without sounding like an evangelist can be tricky, because I do think we’re all kinda being tricked into the most expensive and harmful pastime, by an industry that pulls in billions of dollars at our expense. But I am not judgemental about people drinking. That would be super hypocritical. I’ve seen alcoholism up close, and I’ve personally tipped more than my fair share of every kind of drink I can think of. But again, I reckon it’s worth sharing.
If anyone else is doing a sober Christmas and New Years break, I’d love to hear how you’re going – Stuff published this nice little list of non-alcoholc drinks, check it out if you’re stuck for ideas of things to drink.
Quote worth sharing
I am the mother of three galaxies who look like daughters– Mariahadessa Ekere – I can’t quite repeat this one since I don’t have three daughters. But my son and daughter both look like galaxies to me!
Shoebox Christmas experiments
In a ‘less-important-to-my-overall-life’ sense, I treat every year as an experiment with Shoebox Christmas. In 2014, I didn’t have a clue how to deliver nearly 4500 presents to 38 schools and groups. But I experimented, failed at some stuff, and succeeded at others. Every year I experiment, learn, and improve.
It’s a really good practice to get comfortable with – (acknowledging you’ll fail is a good place to start!)
This year’s experiments were pretty major. A couple of highlights that will set us up to be even more useful next year:
- Volunteer drivers helped get presents right across the greater Wellington region – removing the dependancy on a big organisation.
- Scanning presents and barcodes meant I knew how many had been delivered and how many were still outstanding – this is the most stressful part of the project for me.
- Facebook discussions groups – these worked really well at bringing people together and encouraging everybody in the team to talk to each other, answer questions, and lend a hand. Another great step in the direction of a truly self-sustaining team, and not one that relies on me.
Not everything within your reach is meant to be held
My other big Shoebox Christmas lesson was one that I’ve heard a lot, and done nothing with. Say No.
On more than occasion this year I’ve agreed to do something, because I could, and because I thought it would be adding value. But like the saying suggests: Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should. If it takes away from a bigger impact I could be making, then I’m not prioritising right. Say No!
Just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you should do it forever
I learned this through a totally new direction in my career, which I’ve been enjoying A LOT so far. My jobs for the last nine years have all been about people leadership – and while I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to learning, I had become pretty comfortable in that role.
Late this year I started a new job as a Digital Product Owner at BNZ, which means I work with a team to make sure we’re building the right things, in the right way for our customers. It’s the first non-people-leadership role I’ve had in a long time, and I wouldn’t have known how much fun I would have in the role if I hadn’t stopped doing something that was comfortable and ‘me’.
PS, I’m not really saying I’m ‘good’ at leadership, because that’s an ever-extending measurement which I don’t think anyone reaches, and completely dependant on the situation. I do think I’ve had enough practice (in and out of the office) to be comfortable in a lot of different leadership scenarios.
Other things that helped make 2018 good:
My son Kāhu o te Rangi turned one. Nuff said.
Todoist – To-Do lists are nearly as important as my morning coffee. Todoist is the To-do-list app of all apps. Or at least of the ones I’ve tried. Last year, I got caught up in the romance of ink and tried going back to a paper list, but it didn’t work. I would get stuck in situations without my notebook, where I would need to write the task on my phone then copy it over to the notebook – double handling is the epitome of wasted time.
A good to-do-list app means all I ever need is my phone. Todoist is that, it lets me add tasks and complete them from any device, organise them by priority, date due, project etc., put widgets on iPhone and Android plus a bunch of other convenient features. It’s a good one.
I finished re-writing a book I published last year. After writing a few other stories and manuscripts since that one, I knew I had to back and improve on some of the writing. That had been sitting on my shoulder and tapping the side of my head for a while. Now I can get back to some of the other stuff I’ve been wanting to finish.
Whole30 diet – my wife and I did this for the second time this year. If nothing else, it’s a great diet police car, reminding you of the difference your food choices make to your energy levels and moods. The diet itself is basically meat and veggies. Nothing processed. The idea is that you strip out all the suspect food groups for 30 days, understand how your day feels without them, then reintroduce those food groups to figure out which ones your body doesn’t enjoy. This was my first attempt at dieting. And while I’ve always exercised pretty regularly, if I had to classify my eating style pre-diet, I’d classify myself the ‘grab-anything-and-eat-anytime-especially-if-its-in-front-of-you’ eating type!
I’ve never had such consistent energy, with zero slumps in my day. I’d also never realised how much of a craving cycle there is with sugar. As in I craved it for about two weeks, then the cravings stopped and I didn’t even stop at the cafe cabinet to stare.
This is another one that’s hard to share without getting too evangelical, so I’ll leave it at that, but again, let me know if you’re doing, or have done this.
People like TJ Perenara stepped up and called out Israel Folau’s non-inclusive and harmful comments about gay people going to hell.
Te Wiki o te Reo Māori was again filled with good kōrero and discussion about te reo Māori, which I always enjoy. But more than that, I enjoyed seeing, and being a part of, companies investing time and energy into helping normalise a language that regardless of anything else, is an important part of what makes Aotearoa special and unique. I wrote about my experience working on adding the language to our internet banking platform here.
We were reminded how badly it can all go if we all let it. And by all of us, I mean each individual of the collective, who doesn’t do something about it. I’m kinda looking for the silver lining by pointing out the good thing we learned with this one. Hopefully, the picture says it all.
Books I enjoyed
I bought a Kindle this year and started reading on that. I’d always pictured us having a bookshelf full of books, but the convenience factor of having the three books I’m currently reading, and the next one, all in my pocket can’t be beat.
I also got much better at using Goodreads to list and save the books I want to read. That way when someone recommends one or I stumble on to something while I’m in the middle of another book, I’ve got somewhere to note it. There are also some sweet reading challenges that Goodreads will track for you too, if that’s your thing.
Add me and let me know what you’re reading.
Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia – by Anita Heiss.
This was eye-opening and inspiring at the same time. Some of the stories are surprising, some of them are not – but as a collection its a great reminder and insight into what some of our friends just one continent over, have put up with over the last few generations. Read more
The Light of the world – by Elizabeth Alexander
I read this twice, it was that good. It’s an account of her going through the process of losing her husband, and how she carried on finding light in the world. Elizabeth is the poet who read Barrack Obama’s inauguration, so she’s pretty good at putting words together. You can watch the video of that poem here.
After finding out she reads the audiobook herself, I wanted to hear that too. So I ‘read’ the book again as an audiobook. Read more here.
Life on Purpose by Victor J. Strecher
This isn’t a book about how to find your purpose. It’s a book about the importance of doing so. There are some practical tips. But it’s more about the why than the what. And for me, it was a good reminder of that.
The author is a medical professor and the Director of Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation at a university in America.
Definitely worth a read.
Read more here.
Favourite blog article
How to not be a dickhead parent – by Katebook
This is a goodie, action-inducingly true, and hilarious at the same time.
Video that made an impact
What is privilege?
And that’s it. Those are the things I reckon are worth sharing with you from 2018. I’m in Otaki and on Kapiti Island with my whānau for a few days. Hopefully, right now I’m fishing, diving swimming or eating. It’s the best place in the world for me to recharge.
Have an awesome Christmas and New Years break. I hope you make the most of the moments, and I look forward to hearing from you in the new year.