An Anniversary

Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward. If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down

Roy T. Bennett

I began to write and share with others a weekly ‘positive’ some seven years ago almost to the day. It started as a ‘challenge’ from a friend. A challenge that for every day for a week, I should seek out at least one positive from that day. Then write it up and share. So, I did, and I found it remarkably easy to do. Those positives weren’t always ‘big’ things, but they don’t need to be. Even a tiny positive can change the tenor of the day.

At the end of the week, I could have stopped. But I didn’t. Instead, I realised that searching for something positive every day was helpful to me.

Why did I find it so helpful? I’ve written before that I see myself as a pragmatic person, although others might say it’s pragmatism bordering pessimism. Once upon a time, I pondered whether that side of my personality was nature or nurture. Was I born to approach life that way, or was it the problem-solving type of work I did through my career(s) influence my personality?

In my Forensic Chemistry days, my role was very much about determining what a particular unknown substance might be and, once known, had a criminal offence taken place?

When I moved into Computing (the 1970s name for today’s Information Services), I was initially solving problems of my own causing. I was a programmer — or software engineer as it would be today.

I enjoyed the challenge of ‘debugging’ a programme in those rudimentary times. The battle between man and machine. Especially when the machine gave you little room to manoeuvre in its 64K RAM. I spent many a late night attempting to identify software ‘bugs’ by setting toggle switches on a computer’s front panel and studying its registers to see if their contents were as expected. You literally got your fingers dirty hunting bugs back then.

As my career developed, I faced more problems with organisation, process, and people than technical and engineering. These ‘softer’ problems are much more difficult to solve at times; there is often not an entirely right or wrong solution. One thing I did learn was not to seek a solution to the wrong problem. Changing an organisation’s structure won’t solve a people ‘problem’. You are moving the deck chairs rather than steering away from the iceberg.

For much of my career in major Systems Integration and Information Services, it was about delivering what customers wanted when they wanted it. At a price, they felt appropriate and from which it was possible to make a reasonable profit for my organisation. As an Operations or Programme Director, one constantly ‘juggles’ time, cost, and quality (capability). It’s like holding jelly. Squeeze too much of one of the three, and another will pop out of your hand and fall to the floor. And of the three, time is the most unforgiving. You might find more money to fix a problem. You might agree with the customer on a revised specification for the delivered capability or quality. But you can never get back the hour, day, or week once passed. That time is gone forever. So, you must manage Time most closely and carefully of all three. Indeed, as in industry, as in life.

My father always said that the thing that marked out a good driver was anticipation. Seeking out hazards before they materialise as a problem and being ready to take avoiding action. The same is true in the world of business. Understanding risks and taking action prevents them from becoming issues or becoming problems. Exploiting opportunities too, but my brain was more wired for the former, not the latter. I had a colleague who renamed opportunities ‘positive risks’ and found people with my view of life paid more attention to them.

Of course, spending day after day seeking out potential risks in my business life bled into my personal life and thus gave me a more negative outlook. Hence as I wrote at the start of the piece, there was a psychological benefit to me of always seeking to find positives in life.

Since those early pieces years ago, my ‘positives’ have evolved. They have developed more into narratives on life. Although I always try to offer an optimistic note, it can be challenging.

As a variation on my ‘positive’ theme, I offered a piece of music or song to accompany my words throughout last year. The plan had been to share music or a song each week that had some personal meaning for me. Then share what that meaning was. But, as ever with my writing, I digressed. It became more about sharing the music I enjoyed. Then adding a narrative of what I enjoyed rather than it’s meaning to me. At least, towards the end of the year, I returned to my initial intent.

I can’t say I will ever be a natural optimist, but my weekly offerings such as this and my daily Journal combine to counter my pessimistic (with a small p) view of life. If you share a similar worldview, I’d recommend trying out both of these approaches.

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