a bit of scratching about

By robynjay On March 12th, 2017

The promise of a cooler day and some free hours enticed us down to the SW corner of the block to weed this morning.
<The dreaded succulent is creeping its way down towards the creek and I’m determined to stop it in its tracks and then work my way back uphill.>

There’s nothing the hens like more than to accompany us into the forest. They don’t wander far, spending most of the time within a few metres of where we’re working, scratching about and feasting on insects in the leaf litter. I’m sure they think we’re scratching too 🙂

 

the place called home

By robynjay On February 27th, 2017

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a year since we left Sydney, friends, careers, familiar spaces and packed our precious belongings in pouring rain to head north to Qld. It’s been exciting, blissful, stressful, relaxing, frightening.

Each day is an adventure and it’s time to start capturing that. So here we go. New characters; same loves. New challenges; same focus.

We’ll see where the next year leads.

 

[CC FlickR image by tanakawho]

with grace he goes

By robynjay On January 28th, 2016

Today my beloved Steph leaves his workplace of 16 years for the last time. To those who matter, he will be remembered for his intelligence, energy, unending support, innovation and skills. Those that matter grieve the loss. It is of course not (only) about technical assistance. It’s about providing informed advice and guidance, patiently, generously, at any hour. It’s about designing effective learner-centred solutions to the issues and challenges that appear, often with little warning. Looking from the outside in, the programs Steph led were cutting edge; the organisation as a result, was seen to be a leader in the elearning field.

Despite this, he is ‘unsuitable’ for the reformed institution he has dedicated the bulk of his working life to. The fact that he is a ‘deep thinker’ is now seen as a liability.  Somewhere along the track, someone decided Steph was an IT guy; the person who managed platforms and upgrades. How did they get it so wrong?

He has no role in a space of vacuous agendas, stilettos and gym jocks. Few of the ‘old guard’ do. The Whitlam generation of educators that fought for innovative, learner-centred, service-focussed, life-long public education, driven by social justice and learner centred design, is either retiring, resigning or being retrenched. This brave new world of enterprise, business growth, efficiency, performance, risk management, competition,  and operating models has little regard for the values we hold dear.

Sometimes it’s best to just walk away; he will do this with grace and humility. When the pain has passed I’ll see this man’s spirit revived; I am certain of that. His skill and passion will find new avenues; his qualities will be valued. They know not what they do.

Steph at beach

common threads

By robynjay On May 24th, 2012

I’m not sure that I can remember the last time I conversed solidly for 2 days about things that matter. Not work things, life things.
It was a gathering of intelligent minds, varied lives and experiences with common threads: social justice, a desire for change, care for our environment and humanity, equity.

It grew from an increasing awareness that good people were butting heads with systems, values, leaderless bureaucracies, complacency etc. I’ve watched inspired innovators lose their ‘fire’ and burn out. I’ve watched the results of what I call the ‘shit floats’ syndrome: uninspired, conservative thinkers, rising to management ranks recruited by higher level bureaucrats who don’t want their own thinking questioned.

It struck me that we fight this within our own sectors and industries and areas of life but there is little opportunity to move beyond this and to look at the underlying issues, and the common threads that link us regardless of circumstance.

So we gathered, 8 of us, around a table with sustenance, heaters, blankets, and despite not knowing everyone well, a strong unspoken sense of trust and respect. The conversation pretty much flowed freely around areas of concern: the media, education, politics, environment/sustainability, change. The organisers among us brought us back to ground from time to time for refocus and direction, and I attempted to capture the essence of discussions with sketchbook and pens.

Many of us were self-described introverts so the size of the group and the ability to drop in and out was important.

A few of us began the weekend with 2 sessions at the Sydney Writers Festival – one on ‘D.I.Y.’ and one on Resistance -and the ideas raised were remarkably relevant for the weekend as a whole. Day 1 ended with a long walk and a chance to connect 1:1

We didn’t save the world but we did leave with a sense of connection and support that will continue. Michael summed it up well in a post-gathering message:
“The moment I left our little gathering on Sunday I had the feeling that we had just done something amazing. A group of people had spent the best part of 2 days just talking about what concerns us – without time constraints or a goal in mind. An aberration in this speedy world.”

getting unstuck

By robynjay On January 20th, 2012

The energy for creating new opportunities comes from the tension we feel between an inspired vision for the future and our current reality. When we feel stuck or unclear about our careers, often it’s because we are either compromising our vision or denying reality–sometimes it’s a little of both.

Michele Martin

This week in our Career Clarity Camp we’re exploring what we need to help us thrive.

We’re considering some 30 day trials, side projects, stretch assignments, courses, volunteering options etc. After a long week of ‘slog’ to overcome my procrastination I’m finally free to give this some attention.

As usual we’re inspired by some practical thinking (rituals in our lives) and great posts from Michele ( dreams ).

Interestingly (and perhaps thankfully) I had already begun down the enrichment/ visioning/ project path but I’m also inspired to trial a couple of other things that have been lingering in the back of my mind for some time. So here are my ideas for projects and experiments:

  • I’m already finding time each day to draw. This has become an evening ritual to relax after a busy day. Uploading to FlickR (something each day) is a driver but not an onerous one – if I don’t make it, I don’t!
  • I’ve applied for a small community-based contract – I if I get it, I know I’ll love working outside the regimes of formal education. I can see opportunities for REAL outcomes and opportunities for creativity within it.
  • I’m instigating a blog for creative kids activities – I’ll need input to make it sustainable
  • I’m going to have a go at creating a multimodal e-book publication and will use the next month to research production options. The new Apple releases are very timely, and
  • I’m going to test the water  to host a monthly conversational gathering for people I know think and/or work on the boundaries of or outside the mainstream. I see it as an opportunity to affirm non-conventional thinking, generate and share new ideas etc. Now for a name ….

“Before we can undo a knot we must loosen it to understand its structure;
pulling on it only makes it tighter.”

CC FlickR image & Tracy Luff cited in Kate’s Photo Diary

i am enough

By robynjay On January 16th, 2012

Despite all good intentions I’m dawdling with this weeks activities for our Career Clarity Camp. I HAVE been reflecting but I wanted to also write. So a bit of a catchup here…

We’re meeting online for 90 minutes each week. It’s an interesting mix of people from around the world and I enjoyed the diversity very much. We’re using a visualisation tool called The Image Centre – a service by VisualsSpeak . As a visual person I loved the platform but would have liked to be able to text chat to the group as they described their ideas. It provides a canvas on which participants can select and display images to describe their response to different trigger questions. Our last task was to select images in response to the question – If success was completely guaranteed, who could I become? We had about 50 images to choose from and about 3 minutes to complete the task. Here’s my response:

Then to the analysis.
I see myself as the fish in the top left (happily) swimming against the flow. My thoughts were around creativity, pathways, resilience, tenacity and choice.
We’ve been asked to seek input from others who know us well so I’d love to hear your comments.

I’ve revisited my post from a year ago untapped & unrecognised and realised that if self-employed, management of my skills and talents is entirely up to me! I AM able to combine them into the directions I take as well as drawing on the strengths of others to complement. The challenge is to think laterally about what’s possible and perhaps to create new possibilities, and to market those as worthwhile without falling into the trap Michele describes in her Dreams for sale post – making career decisions based only on what the market will bear. The questions posed in Michele’s post (from Peter Block & Michele) to help us step back from an ‘economic monoculture’ view of ourselves are useful I think –
* What does it mean when we lose contact or faith in our ideals, or our dreams and desires?
* Why would we give up the pursuit of our desires, of what matters to us, if the right offer doesn’t come along?
* Why have we placed our desires up for auction?
* When did we decide that we could live without what was important to us or postpone our desires until we have implemented an exit strategy?
* What would my career look like if I wasn’t worried about selling to the highest bidder?
* What really matters to me, regardles of how much someone else is willing to pay for it?

I’ve also taken time to think about Michele’s post Courage, Vulnerability and Being Wholehearted at Work and really enjoyed the TEdTalk from Brene Brown which I’ll share again below.

 

A few points that resonated:

  • is there something about me that if other people see it will make me unworthy of connection? 
  • whole-hearted people have the courage to be imperfect and the compassion for themselves in their imperfection and
  • they had authenticity–the courage to give up their image of who they thought they SHOULD be, in order to be who they actually are
  • in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen

I’m taking the last point forward into the next session.

in absentia

By robynjay On January 5th, 2012

I’ve been pondering Harriet’s post If you’re not present, you’re absent over at her Technology Twitter blog.

In the post she describes a period of creative reinvention – a ‘rich and a valuable time, productive and exciting, if challenging and complex’ ; one in which she shut off from her networks for personal reflection.
She says:

The creative process is wonderful – at the end.  In the middle I found it complex and contradictory.  My  online networks felt too public a place to expose such fragile thinking.  Do online spaces in their ephemeral nature provide pressure to present finished thought?  Is it really ok to be fragmented and indecisive?’

Perhaps with the exception of Twitter (which still can be archived and curated), I don’t think online spaces ARE ephemeral. That’s the problem. These are not fleeting remarks; they are there for good. They can expose mistakes, foolishness, naivety and raw emotions.

The public transparent nature of contributing online, which ever media it might be, scares most people. There’s a big difference between scribbling in a journal and posting to a blog. There’s a big difference in confiding semi-formulated ideas with a person you trust, or with yourself, and sharing them with the world or even an extended network. Gauging what to share online, when and with who is in itself a digital literacy skill I think. It will vary from person to person according to the issue, thickness of skin, and personal space needs but I’d certainly respect anyone’s right to withdraw at a time when intense personal reflection and introspection is needed.

Perhaps what we can share is metacognitive. Not the details as such, but an understanding of the strategies and processes. We DO need to encourage wacky creative thoughts, lateral thinking, risk-taking, and change. The final product often fails to illustrate the rich, turbulent and harried nature of the creative process but it is often after the process is complete and a result is evident that the significant moments along the way become evident. We do not, for example, see the working sketches of great artists before the final work is published.

From a personal perspective, whether I’m formulating creative projects or pondering life directions, I do most of it in private. When the change or project is substantial it will become all consuming. Shutting down to enable focused attention is a coping strategy and one to be acknowledged.

Best wishes with your new directions Harriet. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of your deliberations when and if you are ready to share them 🙂

[CC FlickR image by Invisible Lens]

CCC: getting started

By robynjay On January 4th, 2012

Michele is kicking off our month long Career Clarity Camp with some personal reflection time and we’ve been asked to consider all or some of the following:

  • What questions are you asking yourself right now? What’s the stuff that wakes you up at night or intrudes during the day?
  • Where do you feel clear?
  • Where do you feel muddy  or confused?
  • How do you currently see yourself at work?
  • How do you spend your days?
  • What do you want more of at work?
  • What do you want less of at work?
  • Who are your colleagues? How do you feel about them? Are there people who are particularly inspiring? Particularly challenging?
  • How does your career seem to fit with the rest of your life? How does it not fit?
  • What are your overall feelings about your career?
  • How long have you been having these feelings?
  • What steps have you already taken to find some career clarity?
  • What steps are you considering right now?

A year ago I resigned from a well paid job to work for myself again. Looking back now at my last 2 employee positions I realise the importance of skilled leadership and talent management when supervising and supporting staff strengths. I experienced neither. It was soul destroying.
I love working for myself. Michele sums up the benefits here – 7 reasons most professionals should work for themselves

But it’s not easy! There are two things I battle with most and which keep me awake at night – uncertainty and focus.
That fortnightly deposit that magically arrives in your bank account regardless of effort, outcomes or even attendance is seductive.
How do I find a niche, or should I spread myself widely?

And of course there are archaic systems to stymie opportunity. Do you work with them or treat them as road blocks and head another direction?
Often acceptance brings with it an unnecessary waste of time and money. Probably the biggest road block for me at present remains the Certificate 4 in Training & Education but more about that later.
Right now I know I need to take time to promote myself better, to focus in on particular strengths as niche areas, and to find some detours around those road blocks.

[CC FlickR image by Irargerich]

I know my sanity depends on remaining artistically active, so I need to find the mental and physical spaces to enable that. I know my health depends on more exercise, and I need to allocate time and energy towards that. And when it all feels too hard I need the reassurance and support of a loving partner, and I’m blessed with that.

Mid 2011 those uncertainty fears drove me to begin looking for paid employment once again. What I discovered was a) when times are tight the public service closes its doors and recycles (often) ‘dead wood’ rather than bringing in fresh blood, and b) the private sector wants low paid work horses NOT innovators.
Already, with Michele’s encouragement I’m willing to refocus efforts on making self-employment work. Step #1

Over the next month I’m looking forward to making time for reflection and finding tools and strategies to move forward. Thanks Michele for facilitating this!

the art of giving

By robynjay On December 26th, 2011

In a culture overrun with commercialism and gift one-upmanship, its tempting to react by simply not engaging. But was does this mean for kids?

I grew up in a home where creative pursuits were both encouraged and valued. As the last child at home and living out of town I was never bored. When I wasn’t roaming rocks and gullies or inhabiting the secret nooks of our shed, I was creating. Paper craft, painting, sewing, clay, puppets, drawing, sculpture projects were resourced and guided. The best times were when I worked alongside my mother.

My products, however humble, were admired and valued. There was never a suggestion that gift cards would be purchased. ‘Works of art’ were the most valued gifts, given pride of place.

The act of gift giving is a precious thing; an opportunity to thank and an opportunity to share something of ourselves. For children its about reflection and humility; taking time to consider another and give time to create something that is lovingly wrapped and delivered. Its about connection and relationship.

As adults we can encourage this by valuing hand crafted produce above factory produced, by appreciating the efforts of kids as they develop the self-confidence to create that many adults lack, and by providing the time, resources and guidance for kids to stop consuming and take time to put themselves in the shoes of others.

2011 reading list

By robynjay On December 16th, 2010

Alex Hayes asked for a list of what I’m reading. I have to say it has not been a big reading year for me but here’s a couple I can certainly recommend:

Cognitive Surplus – Clay Shirky

The Element – Ken Robinson

I have, however, a rather large pile awaiting my 2011 change of direction.

So here’s my as yet unread bookshelf of non-fiction (somewhat work related) :

The future of ideas – Lawrence Lessig

The wealth of networks – Yochai Benkler

Leadership for the disillusioned – Amanda Sinclair

The new influencers – Paul Gillin

Made to stick – Chip Heath & Dan Heath

What do you do for a living? – Stephen Johnston

What is your dangerous idea? – J Brockman (ed)

What makes us tick? – Hugh Mackay

What’s mine is yours – R Botsman & R Rogers

Multipliers – Liz Wiseman

Drive – Daniel Pink

Socialnomics – Eric Qualman

The power of pull –  J Hagel et al

Digital Habitats – Etienne Wenger et al

The brain that changes itself – Norman Doidge

What I find interesting is the underpinning themes and how they differ to Alex’s list over here.

Same field; different directions

CC FLickR image by lanier67