Posts Tagged ‘work’

the lesser of two evils

Some days, a small success can make you feel invincible. It can make you feel as though all your efforts and experience have been valid. It gives you purpose, and meaning. It makes the statement:

“I give something to this world. What I do is valued.”


Some days, a set back or disappointment can make you feel like crap. It eats away inside you, stripping the heart of it’s feelings, the brain of it’s logic, the nerves of their senses. It makes you question your existence. It asks the question:

“What if I just disappeared?”


I define myself in no small part by what I do. The work I produce, whether creatively or in employment says a great deal about myself.

Everything I make has a part of me suffused through it.

Everything I make is the product of my skills, experience and world-view.

Everything I make is in effect, a snapshot of who I was at that point in time. It is a record of me as much as a photograph, or a memory.

How could it not be so?

Take away or diminish my work, and you take away and diminish a part of me.

The separation between ‘work’ and ‘self’ does not exist in my mind.

How can it be achieved? Is it something I want?

Or, do I come to terms with the fact that I may always feel this way, I may always have this reaction? Even if it harms my career, my creativity and ultimately pushes people away?

That is a frightening prospect, for sure. And yet the alternative is to care less, to stop fighting for what I believe in.

I genuinely do not know which ‘lesser’ evil to choose from.

a line in the sand

wtf? (why the face ;))

This is all about order, the means to move forward knowing that what has been done, is done.

Please, let me be clear, this has nothing to do with Cosmic Ordering or Noel Edmonds, for that matter.

please sir, can we have some more?

chart showing ratio of cuts to debt£6.2 billion of public service cuts have been announced in the last few days, as a means to reduce the budget deficit (which currently stands at £157bn) against a total national debt of £890bn. This debt is equivalent to 62% of our GDP(*).

That, to be frank is a frightening amount of money. It is obscene that we, as a nation, now face massive and continuing cuts in public services in order to prop up a capitalist economy that no longer functions. Bankers have recently claimed they create jobs and wealth, that without government support of the bank’s, the whole global economy would have collapsed. Research into the benefit of bankers, differs.

That may be true, but what we would have lost is an economy that is corrupt beyond measure, that works only on selfish accumulation of wealth rather than shared benefit and growth. Would it have been so bad to throw that out and start again?

If most of the money lost during the recent financial crisis was “made-up” or projected based on potential, then what would have been wrong setting things back to zero and starting again?

We now face a time where £850bn (*) and counting, has been found by our Government to prop up the banks. In return, the first £6bn has been cut from Public Services spending.

This is just the start.

This is just from central government.

Local government will feel and face cuts too, and for years to come.

tightening belts

That is the back-drop to the need for order. I’m not talking revolution or a New World Order, I’m talking the need to put aside what has happened, and do what’s right to move forward.

Like it or not, we can’t undo what our MP’s have done to keep their banking mates happy and ensure their non-executive directorships upon leaving office. We can’t undo the years of treating property as a cash-cow that reached a hysteria and collective greed we should all feel rightly ashamed of.

We can’t find out where the money really went (if it ever existed).

What we can do, within our homes, within our jobs (especially those of us who work in the Public Sector) is prove, and demonstrate our own value.

We work hard, we genuinely believe in public sector work as a force for good.

  • The vast majority of us hate waste.
  • Reckless spending upsets us.
  • Delivering quality services pleases us.
  • Being proud of what we do fulfils us.

These are truths, these are values that we all share.

How can I prove this? Not in word, but in deed. And we all can. The Public Sector is going to be vilified and subjected to greater scrutiny than even recent years have demonstrated.

For society to function, for community to exist, the Public Sector must also continue to exist. David Cameron would have us believe that the voluntary sector will step in to fill the gaps created by cutting public services. Truth is, the voluntary sector can only exist by having as many people as possible in work, and being useful. If people are in work, they have money to donate monthly. They have job security, which affords them the ability to donate time for voluntary work.

The Public Sector needs to be leaner, needs to focus on it’s absolute priorities of health, welfare and protection of the most vulnerable. This is not up for debate.

I am scared of the challenges to my job, to my future career – I can be honest about that.

But I am excited about the changes it will force, especially if they align to my beliefs and values for the role of the Public Sector as vital, effective and efficient.

drawing the line

My job is changing radically. The industry I work in is, it would appear, going to change beyond recognition.

I have two choices:

  • Go with it, forge a path and prove myself to be a valuable asset.
  • Complain, moan, feel terror at the change that is gonna come.

It’s a no-brainer really. My career hasn’t yet gone where I want it to. Our country isn’t where I want it to be. But I can draw a line under what has happened, and do my damnedest to contribute in whatever small way I can to make things how I believe they should be.

In these respects, I am drawing a line under the mistakes of the past – both my own and those outside of my control. It’s a CBT technique, but also sound common-sense advice.

What I am going to do is focus on tomorrow, and what I can do to make a brighter day.

the Solutionist

Continuing the long-running trend of trying to figure out who I am and what I bring to the world, and the lives of the people that I effect.

Yesterday I was browsing the web, reading up a bit more about Robert Hoekmon Jr, the author of “Designing the Obvious” (a book which I regard as a must-have for any web developer or designer) and I stumbled across a rather interesting post about a new kind of role, the Solutionist.

I’ll allow Robert to summarise it, after all it’s his idea:

“Solutionists, I’ve come to understand, are people who apply critical thinking, creativity, and strategy to problems to find paths to their resolution. And I’ve known quite a few of them. Looking back, in fact, it’s a skill I’ve always admired and respected in others. Many of the people who have influenced me most in my career have been solutionists. I just didn’t notice they were teaching me to become one. These are people who look through to the core of problems while remaining cognizant of the big picture. They’re people who, given a little room for research and thinking and collaboration, can propose creative, well-considered, positive solutions to almost any problem. They’re people who believe everything can be improved, that old solutions need fresh perspectives, and that the future can be great—not just better, but great.”

Well, speaking immodestly, this struck quite a few chords with me, and has given me a great deal to think about over the course of the weekend.

I think that, insofar as a title can really suit anyone, Solutionist is a title that matches not only my view of myself, but the way I think and the value I try to give to others.

I know that I am not a master of or technical expert in any one field, but that I have a good, rounded expertise in many areas. I also know that (despite what may sometimes appear here!) I am not, by nature, a negative person. I always want the best of people, and the best in situations. I always strive for improvement in the processes, tools, methods and solutions that we use within the workplace. I always strive to improve the work that I do, whether it be within my job, with my painting, cooking, even how I am with friends and family. In all aspects of my life, I try to improve myself, and by extension, improve the things I do.

And I know I don’t always get it right. I know that by seeking out new solutions, by stretching myself, by setting the bar high – I will fail sometimes.

As a Solutionist however, I will continue t0:

  • think creatively;
  • strive to innovate;
  • seek to better myself;
  • produce work to a high standard;
  • believe that things can be made better.

This starts by focussing on the future, and learning from mistakes, rather than being beaten by them.

My name is Carl, and I am a Solutionist.

On… Reflection

Hello, thanks for coming back.

lofty heights of disgrace

You last saw me feeling thoroughly sorry for myself, and berating myself as a failure and a worthless human being. If you recall, it was because I had not been able to clear, board and insulate our loft to a standard that I was happy with.

Looking back to how I felt, how I wrote, and how I tweeted on Sunday, I feel, quite frankly, embarrassed. Embarrassed that I allowed my emotions and my inner rage to consume me so completely.


This can be done in a weekend with £50 of chipboard, right?

I had, it is clear, set myself an impossible standard. With the time, budget and experience available to me, there is no way on earth I could have ended up with a finish that matched my mental (in all senses of the word!) projection.

I imagined a perfectly fitted loft-board floor. Insulation board that would tile flawlessly around the rafters. I imagined a space that I would be so proud of, visitors would be hauled upstairs to inspect the attic as soon as they rang my doorbell.

In short, I imagined something along the lines of small-scale loft conversion, just for storing my toolbox, a tent and some old tennis racquets.

down to earth

I slept badly on Sunday night, and woke early, early enough to be in the office well before 7am. It was Monday morning when my mindset began to change.

I reviewed the work that I had done the previous week, and actually, my designs for a partner organisation were pretty good. My draft proposals for developing User Interface standards and implementing Design Patterns are actually sound and will deliver real value to the business. Work began to suck less than it had when I’d finished on Friday.

On Monday, I was also able to help one of my very best friends who was having a tough day. Readers of this blog will know that I write at length about the value I bring to my friends, the worry that I only take and give nothing in return. Now, I’m not feeling fulfilled or glad that my friend was feeling sad and frustrated – I’m not some sick monster who takes pleasure in and validates themselves by someone else’s pain. But, I felt a sense of calm and detachment from my own trivial worries as I was able to focus on something far more important. Namely, the well-being of someone I care about.

Tuesday, and a day’s leave to see my Grandfather, who I’ve not seen since January when I attended the funeral of my Grandmother. Not the nicest of circumstances for a reunion, so I was really pleased to be able to spend time with him yesterday. He looked really, really well. I believe the term ‘rude health’ was invented to describe how active, alert, fit and strong that my Grandfather looked. At 84 years old, he is a real inspiration.

Oh, and I cleaned the house. Proper, thorough clean from 8am-2pm. I love cleaning and tidying, and I love even more doing it to a deadline – the pressure is a real boost to me getting my cleaning “freak on”!

the only way is up

Today, I am struck by the benefit and fresh viewpoint that both distance and other events can bring.

Things I have learnt (I feel a list coming on, make some space):

  • I’m never going to make a business out of converting lofts. So what? I don’t really want to spend the rest of my days crawling around in attics, breathing in fibreglass and being coated in thick black cobwebs and spiders’ eggs.
  • Things go wrong at work:
    • Sometimes it’s your fault, and you try to fix it.
    • Sometimes it’s someone else’s fault, and you hope they do same.
    • Sometimes you work together.
    • Sometimes you have disagreements and are unable to forge a common path.
  • The fact is, you put a bunch of people together with their own skills and abilities, their own goals and aims, fears and wishes – and you create an environment for error. You gotta just accept that it’s not perfect, and move on.
  • That’s not to say that we shouldn’t continue to work towards perfection, but if the environment is such that perfection is unattainable, don’t be surprised if you don’t achieve it.
  • Sometimes, good enough is pretty damn fine.

But the most important thing the last few days have taught me is simply this:

  • Love, family and friendship.

this just feels like spinning plates

Hey, thanks for dropping by. I know you’ve only just got here but I’ve got some questions to ask you:

  • Can you be all things to everyone?
  • Can you do all the things you want to do?
  • Is it possible to balance everything?
  • Can it be healthier to be a bit unbalanced, all the time?

I have my work, my home life, my (umpteen) hobbies and interests, my friends and loved ones, home improvement projects, chores, self-confidence building, self-learning – so much that keeps me occupied. And yet, I can never devote enough time to everything. Giving time to one area of my life must always mean taking time from another area.

Something’s always got to give.

And so, dear reader, what do you do? I’m asking in all honesty, as I want to know what goes through your mind. I want to know if an inability to achieve everything in life worries you, as it does me.

Is there too much pressure that we put upon ourselves – or that we perceive to be coming from the world around us – to be able to be good at everything, all the time? To be able to devote just the right amount of time and positive energies to every one of our goals?

Balancing these many and disparate pulls on our time and energy can never be done ‘once’ as much as we wish it were so. Life is always throw something new at you, something that causes you to wobble, and correct your course.

In the pursuit of self-fulfillment and self-actualisation, we end up more often failing (or believing we have failed) and then feeling that we in turn are failures.

“What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization… It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation

Maslow's Hierarchy - view larger

To become more than we are, to become everything that we are capable of becoming. That is a tall order. And yet, it is what drives us forward, what spurs us to get out of bed in the morning and grasp at any strands of ‘life’ or ‘experience’ that float our way.

It is this balance, between the ‘base’ drives – employment, property, health – and those higher needs – love, esteem and creativity – that takes so much skill and care. Getting to, and staying near the top of the pyramid, while keeping the foundations stable – how do you do it?

So, while you ponder, and maybe come back with your own insight and experience, pardon my leave while I get back to my spinning.

emotional detachment

On the back of a few bad days at work, I’m very much aware of how little difference there is between the work ‘me’ and the non-work ‘me’.

There are people at work who I’m sure are human, somewhere deep inside. Buried under the slopey-shoulders, the ‘business benefits’ and the ‘process’, there must exist thinking, breathing, feeling souls?

So why do I feel like I’m often the only one screaming at the top of their voice “this isn’t right”, “this isn’t fair“, “people deserve better than this”? Have I really got to grow-up and grow a pair to take on the world of work? Or does being cold and detached, unable to empathise and unable to do the right thing – diminish us all?

Maybe I’m just being childish, still being held hostage to my emotions. Maybe those who put on their ‘game face‘ and play the role of the workplace adult are merely guarding themselves against hurt and rejection.

My emotions run close to the skin, I’m aware of that. I take everything way too personally, I’m aware of that too. And yet, I spend 40 hours+ a week at work. I think about work issues in the evenings, at weekends. I believe strongly that the work I do can be a force for good, a force for change. My work – my job, sad as it may seem – in part defines me.

So why shouldn’t something that goes wrong at work be something that hurts? Why shouldn’t a rejection or alteration to my designs be a criticism of me? My work comes from the heart, it is an extension of myself.

The political and business landscape of my employer has changed so much in the last few years, that I no longer recognise it. That either means it’s all wrong, or I’m a relic of a bygone age.

Shape up or ship out as they say.

And I’m thinking about home
And I’m thinking about faith
And I’m thinking about work
And I’m thinking
How good it would be
To be here some day
On a ship called Dignity

Deacon Blue, Dignity