phone belonging

Belonging

At first it seemed normal.  Nothing untoward.

He was one of many making their way along the busy London station platform.

He walked a few paces ahead, a little to the side.  The left.

Like many of us today, he walked one hand held aloft.  Not at eye level, but held in front of his lower face. Face and hand locked at a fixed distance apart, hand leading face, almost as if invisibly tied together.

It seemed like he was following the scent of a delicate flower, cupped within his hand.

Instead, his hand held his mobile phone.

His eyes flicked down, then up, down, then up.  The time spent down seemed to dominate.  Maybe two thirds down, one third up?

My pace was slightly quicker and I began to draw almost level.

I glanced across.  Then lingered.

His screen contained the calculator.  A familiar sight. There were no numbers entered.  Just a blank calculator screen.

We walked on.  I adjusted my pace to match his.  Half a yard behind, just to the right.

We walked in synch. No buttons were pressed.  No numbers entered.  No calculations computed. His eyes flicked down, then up, down, then up.

He was one of the gang.  He was a phone walker.

Like me, maybe others who walked past this phone walker, or those who approached from the front, we might assume he was checking the latest news, scanning his social media timeline, reading a text or an email.

But no.

He was staring at a blank calculator app.  Content in the knowledge that he belonged.  Belonged to the morning throng of commuters who held their phones aloft. Scenting their technology like pungent hyacinths. He was no longer alone. He was accepted. He was a phone walker.

the search for lost things

I’ve lost my job.

I’ve looked in all the usual places … gone through my trouser pockets, scanned the mantelpiece, looked under the car seat, been through the ‘man drawer’, checked the bedside table, looked on the kitchen shelf where the important stuff resides.  I’ve methodically been through my jackets, looked down the back of the sofa, searched behind the fridge where things have a habit of falling. I’ve shaken some boxes at the back of the garage. I’ve asked my wife to go through her handbag, I’ve re-traced my steps around the house, drive and garden, I’ve looked on the table in the hall and felt the lining of my coat.

No joy.

Strange we say we’ve ‘lost a job’. Like we’ve lost a pen, or our car keys or our favourite sunglasses.

Actually I haven’t lost my job at all. It wasn’t ever mine really.  Not mine to lose.

The reality is that my employer decided to reorganise the work which constituted the role I was paid to do.  Some work was stopped, some new work added and the way in which my former employer set out to carry out that work no longer included a package of work previously called ‘my job’.  I haven’t lost it, the organisation has removed it.

Time to find another path, another ‘thing’ to occupy my time, feed my interests and my family.

So where do I look? Not under the car seat seemingly. Not in my coat lining. More a case of looking inside? Under my skin, in my gut or in my heart perhaps?  Searching there is not as straightforward though as looking behind the fridge or in the loft.

A search more rewarding perhaps?

So, it turns out, the removal of my job isn’t a loss, it’s a gift. An opportunity. A chance to reconnect with what matters to me. A chance to get closer to myself. A chance to be more me.

Maybe having a job all this time has been masking the true loss – the (temporary) loss of my connection to self? A temporary blindness to what drives me and why I am here.

Well I’ve found that again now, so all is good.

how long until you leave?

how long until you leave

Typically we work during the week and have the week-end off. On Friday though I don’t think I’m leaving. Yes I know I’m leaving the office, but not leaving my job, my organisation, my career. Consequently I don’t experience the emotions of leaving.

With friends and family too, sometimes we don’t see people for days or weeks, yet we don’t think of it as leaving. Somehow this ending isn’t an ending. Maybe because we know we will reconnect, return?

Do the emotions of leaving only come when we know it is an ending? Or do they come when the period extends sufficiently to allow the emotions to enter? If the period is long enough that we begin to miss someone or something, does that make it feel like leaving? If the period is long enough that we lose connection or a sense of belonging, does that invoke the emotions of leaving? If the period of absence will mean much has changed and we might return to something new, something different. Does that make it feel like leaving?

I am about to go on holiday for seven weeks. I have never had a holiday even half that length before. Somehow this feels like leaving.

Yet I will be coming back.

So experiencing some of the emotions of leaving when I’m not, leaving… is new to me.

How long does the leaving have to be before it feels like leaving?

 

moving to a new age

image

The world is changing.

We hear that a lot lately. Technology, society, East catching West, globalisation, consumerism, social media, virtual reality, robotics etc. Much is indeed changing.

But are we changing with it, or are we trapped, caught in our own story?  A story spun by the very creators and enablers of the change. Much of what we refer to as change is simply the inevitable out turn of the industrialisation age. These early industrialists promised us: work hard, fit into the schemes of work we define, do what’s asked and you will be looked after, you will get what you want. Factories, mass production, even the idea of management, all born at this time.

Now, we’re caught, in this late-capitalist phase of our society. Our narratives about work remain oriented to this thinking. Work days and weekends. Home and the workplace. Career. Professions. Trades. Status. Money. Recognition. Security. Control. Management. Competition.

We learn, more or less successfully, how to mould ourselves to the categories already on offer in the world – factory worker, administrator, school teacher, manager, accountant, doctor…

For the most part we cope. Some thrive. Many however become disenchanted. Disenfranchised. The system isn’t working for them. The rewards may come, but they’re not enough, or they don’t bring happiness. The ‘have nots’ judge the ‘haves’ – the rewards aren’t fair, equal. Our hearts and souls are stunted by the repeated self-abandonment that fitting in can require of us. Square pegs, round holes. Freedom lost to a defined, managed, measured way to do, to be.

And now, a looming challenge is that many of those roles themselves have gone, are going, or will go in the next twenty years. Falling victim to the very possibilities the Industrial Age and its offspring the Technological Age, have created.

Time for a new way of thinking? A new paradigm?

One with enhanced caring and social responsibility perhaps? One that champions a calling maybe? One that redefines contribution and reward? One that places humanity ahead of hierarchy? Who knows? One thing seems clear though, we need to start to define and move to a new age.

 

quit your job today

second-job

Many of us come to work and do two jobs.

One, we get paid for.

The other we do to survive. We spend time and energy looking good, making sure our boss and our colleagues like us, appreciate what we do, can see the value we bring. We spend time and energy hiding weaknesses, making sure any inadequacies are kept buried from view, protecting our vulnerabilities. We spend time and energy manoeuvring through the political and cultural slime of the organisation, hoping to escape its quicksand-like pull. We spend time and energy concealing mistakes, showcasing successes, managing and preserving our reputation. We spend time and energy on relationships that might protect us, on gangs, tribes and clans of people like us.

This second job gets a lot of attention, but largely goes unnoticed, because we all do it and we all conceal it. It’s like an unconscious game we all have to play, because anyone who doesn’t play may lose out.

What if our organisations were able to shift so that openly bringing our whole self to work was encouraged, so that mistakes, errors, weaknesses were seen as opportunities for learning and personal growth? Not learning to develop our weaknesses per se, but freedom to acknowledge them with equal weight to our unique abilities. Learning that we’re good, able, confident people really and learning that this ‘other’ job is directed at preserving a myth. The myth that we need to do that job at all.

We could all stop. All quit this second job. Together. Now.

This is an underpinning thought behind the concept of
the Deliberately Developmental Organisation here

is it off?

I wonder sometimes how far away we are from the office dying?

I don’t mean my office specifically. I mean the concept and the physical manifestation.

Huge swathes of land used to hold them. Resources expended through their sustenance, upkeep and running. They form visual blots on our landscape; splatterings of glass and concrete across our towns and cities.

Millions of us still travel to the office.  We walk, drive, cycle, commute. Time is lost, travelling. Pollution generated and scarce resources lost, through travelling.

When we arrive we sit in a box, or at a desk and we type and talk. We respond to emails, fill in forms, write presentations and papers. We sit in meetings, we talk in groups, we phone people. For many, the majority of the day is spent more engaged with a keyboard and display than with another human being.

Yet still we come.

Still we come to a physical building miles from where we live to sit with others who also come. Why?

Is this just a hypnotic pattern we succumbed to in past decades? A trance-like manoeuvre we replicate without thought? A pattern so ridiculous, yet so intoxicating, that we cannot see beyond it?

Many have seen the light. They work from home.  Some play with the light; they work from home on Friday.  Some tease the light; they come to the office, but continue working when they get home.

Some say they come for the interaction. To meet people. I wonder what future for this? The other day I heard someone say to their neighbour “I just sent you an email.” They didn’t then have the conversation. Alerting the recipient to the message seemed to suffice.

Nowadays technology either can, or is close to being able to, replicate our ability to perform all these office tasks from anywhere. Social media heralds a new way. We can already share screens, documents, hold chats, share video, see each other via Skype or Facetime. Virtual reality, an imminent reality.

So will the office die? Is the office off? Will it fade away as a construct of the 20th century, lost to the annals of history like cave dwelling or the medieval neck ruff?

Maybe we will convert them all to care homes for the elderly?  Or to shelters for the homeless?