The end of 2016

So, here we are. Coming to the end of 2016 and for me, the last time this year that I’m going to sit down and write.

Glad it’s over?

Yeah, the prevailing view seems to be that 2016 has been a bit of a sucky year. But I’m not so sure. Beyond the hype and the hyperbole, the media column inches, I see some good things out there, things that warrant a mention.

The first round the world solar-powered flight – This is serious game changing technology. We might be having arguments about who runs this and who runs that. But that all seems pretty pointless if the actual planet that we’re on is going to hell in a handcart. Step forward Bertrand Piccard and Solar Impulse 2. Now imagine if we replaced all of the flights taking place across the world with solar-powered planes and the impact that would have on our ecosystem. I’m not saying that is going to happen over night (no pun intended) but it sure took a major step closer in 2016.

The tiger population is growing for the first time in 100 years – See my previous point about going to hell in a handcart. Are we slowly getting to grips with endangered species? Maybe, certainly not quickly enough, but it’s a positive step. And we did that, human beings. By our actions and changed behaviour. Though consistently coming together to try to make amends. Another small step? Sure. But one that shows what we can do, against the odds, if we really want to. And I know the tigers are grateful.

The fight against HIV moves on – When I was growing up, the fear of AIDS and HIV was everywhere, on the television, in the papers, on the radio. There was a genuine sense that we were sitting on a ticking time bomb. And whilst there is much to be done, the year has also seen a number of major advances in the fight to eliminate HIV, at least in the West. Whether it is the advances in cell therapy in Israel, or the provision of “prep” drugs in the UK, 2016 has been another big step forward.

The ice bucket challenge came good – I’l admit I was a hater at the time. I didn’t get it (still don’t), but you can’t be right all the time. Seems like those of you who tipped water over yourselves for fun and charity were on to a thing. The money received as a result of your collectivity stupidity actually did something good and 2016 has been the year where scientists have identified a new gene associated with ALS and therefore the chance to better figure our how to develop new treatments.

We created a new generation of heroes – 130 million of them to be honest. That’s the approximate annual birth rate I’m told, I haven’t counted. And in a world where we are bemoaning the loss of so many of our existing idols, isn’t it exciting to think that we are also creating the future? The people who will change our world, make us laugh, entertain, build, design, create and lead. A new generation of people to make the most of the planet that we’re trying to preserve.

So the thing is; some things might not have gone your way this year. You might not have got the result that you wanted in some way or another, but I’m sure that other people did. Put that aside and look at the amazing power that we have as humans to change our circumstances and make things better. To innovate, to protect and preserve, to cure and solve and to recreate.

We can dwell on the things that don’t go our way, we can talk about our moans and our groans. But as 2016 comes to an end, try to find a little bit of space in your head and your heart, to think about the future, the opportunities, the positives and the successes. When we come together as a species, we can do bad things, but we can also create the most incredibly beauty.

Have a good break. Peace out.

We need to talk about failure

There is one thing I excel at, it’s failure. I’ve singularly failed at well over half the things I’ve ever attempted to do. And even those of you that are poor at statistics will be able to work out those aren’t good odds.

Learn to play the guitar? Fail
Learn to speak German? Fail
Learn to code? 404

Significant parts of my working life have also included spectacular fails – its hard sometimes to not bring your whole self to work…..

Let me tell you about someone else that failed, my friend Steve. Last week he tried to swim across the English Channel to France. Now that’s not easy, in the same week someone tragically lost their life whilst trying to complete the same challenge. Steve stopped seven and a half hours in to his attempt. In a Facebook post he said this,

“Yesterday was not my day. I’m really disappointed, as can be expected. I trained hard for this for 18 months, and thought I had it covered. Battles were lost in the lumpy sea with wind against tide as we progressed into the open water (albeit that my pilot Simon described them as good for the channel), vomiting everything in my stomach and more after 2.5 hours, and struggling to take on more fuel quickly enough, but the war was undoubtedly lost in my mind, and that’s what I’m most disappointed about.”

Steve failed. And in my book, that makes him great.

In the world of work, we struggle to fail. We invest so much time, effort and energy in making things happen that we become unable to accept that they’re not a success. We make up reasons for the situation, the environment, the market, the opportunity. When you’ve been through twenty-six board meetings, fourteen rounds of business cases and eventually got the go ahead, it is pretty hard to accept that anything isn’t right.

And when we cannot accept that we’ve failed, we pass up the opportunity to learn. We take nothing away, because we create a narrative that explains events through untrue circumstances.

Read that comment from Steve again. Did he blame the waves? The wind? The flotsam and jetsam of our muddied waters? Or did he analyse and own his own performance.

All of us will fail this week in small and inconsequential ways. We won’t all be swimming the channel, or starting new businesses. We won’t be running marathons or climbing mountains. But nonetheless we can learn from our failures all the same.

I love failure, you should love failure. We should embrace failure as our biggest opportunity to grow, not as the biggest threat to our self-worth. At the end of the day, those who don’t try, can’t fail. And the brave will try, fail, learn, grow and try again. That’s what makes them stand out as exceptional.

So as you go about your business this week, remember we can all be successful at not doing a lot, or we can shoot high and run the risk that we miss.

Maybe it’s me, but I can’t help thinking, things could be a whole lot more interesting if we were all just a little bit more Steve.

The HR diagnostic

So here’s a test for you…..

Think of an area of HR (it could be resourcing, talent development, compensation etc).

Argue why it adds value to the organisation.

Argue why YOU need to do it, not anyone else.

Define the value that is being added by doing it (qualitative and quantitative).

Then,

Argue why it slows the organisation down, makes things harder.

Argue why it could be better done by someone else.

Define the total cost of doing the activity (time and budget).

Compare the two.

What did you learn?

 

From strength to strength

You won’t remember, nor should you, but back in 2011 I wrote about you. It was about being yourself, being strong, being able to make your decisions and hold your own in a world where people will be quick to tell you how you should be, how you should feel and what you should say. It was about never being afraid to stand up and have a voice, no matter what people, what society said was right or wrong.

You have one of those moments now. One of those times when everyone else is going left and you’ve chosen to go right. Its time to test your strength and your will and your mettle. It’s no longer about whether you wear your favourite purple jumper in the playground, but how you choose to push yourself, the adventures that you take and the places that you go.

And whilst I knew this moment would come, and whilst this is only really a trial, it feels wholeheartedly like your first step to starting something new The end of the beginning and the beginning of the end. The moment that fills you equally with joy and with fear. The moment that every parent works for, but secretly dreads.

The writing that I do now is so different to the time I first wrote about you. You realise that you’re probably losing me followers, kudos and street cred just by these very words? I know…..to you I have none of these things anyway, so what’s the big deal?

“The world is full of people who will tell you what you can’t do. Ironically they’ll also tell you what you should do. And even sometimes how to do it.  But in honesty they have no idea, they’re just scared and huddling together for the security that mediocrity and conformity brings.  Strength comes from difference.  The way you think, the way you behave, the way in which you treat people.”

And you have never once failed to surprise me in your willingness to grab the world by the neck and forge your own path, with a confidence and assuredness that I can only dream of having. You have never failed to use your strength, your opportunity, your good fortune to help anyone around you that you saw wanting. Not least that morning as you were saying your goodbyes.

I still burst with pride, just less obviously. I still hold you close, just now looking up at you. I am still by your side, just not physically. You’re writing another amazing chapter in the story of your life, one where only you really know the end. Yet as before, my only ask of you is this,

Be strong. Be humble. Be gracious. And beyond everything else. Be yourself.