Parallel Journeys and Sadhu Priests

Parallel Journeys and Sadhu Priests

Parallel Journeys & Sadhu Priests

Parallel Journeys & Sadhu Priests

It’s never just about what you achieve, it’s who you become along the way.

Whenever we’re challenged, take on a new goal or step into uncertain territory, we undertake parallel journeys; the ‘practical journey’ and the ‘learning journey’. Whilst both feed the other, one is often under valued and seldom acknowledged.

Delhi 1999

On my second day in Delhi, I met a Sadhu Priest sitting on the wall of a bridge overlooking the traffic that streamed chaotically past Delhi’s main train station. I took his photograph as he ate some fruit and then in broken English he shared how he was walking the length of India on a sacred pilgrimage. Travelling virtually empty handed, he had a small sack made from white cloth that he carried over his shoulder and a long walking staph. I reflected on my relatively huge backpack back in the hostel room I was was renting in the Grand Bazaar… I had most definitely over-packed!

Practical Journey – What you do to reach your goal.

A practical journey involves the choices you make, the things you say and the actions you follow-through on. These are the ‘tangibles’ that get you from A to B; everything from your to do list, the conversations you have, how much sleep you get, resources you secure and the work you put in to get to your goal or overcome your challenge.

For the Sadhu Priest, his practical journey was moving through and between towns and cities; navigation, finding food and places to sleep and rest.

Learning Journey – Who you become along the way

Parallel to the practical journey is the learning journey. This is who you become along the way; what you learn about yourself and others, your insights and the development of your strengths, skills and knowledge. In terms of emotional intelligence, we can link into the development of self-awareness and social-awareness.

For the Sadhu Priest, I suspect he would have called his learning journey a spiritual journey, which I’d say is hugely appropriate. Personally, I see that those experiences which grow us spiritually, sit also within the learning journey of who we become.

Parallel Journeys and Development

The learning journey is a very important principle in coaching, because it’s the learning journey that grows a person’s capability, develops their leadership and sets them up to continue to succeed. It’s a myth to think that a coach is only focused on helping you achieve you goals or create change; coaching focuses too on developing who you are so that beyond your current goals, you’re capable of more.

What you can gain from the learning journey:

  • Discover, challenge and/or adjust your brain’s model of the world
  • Meet yourself under pressure; assess and refine mental and emotional responses
  • Unlock caged thinking; improve self-belief and expand what you see is possible
  • Become comfortable, where you were previously uncomfortable

Under valued and seldom acknowledged

All of these gains from the learning journey revolve around who you are. However, outside of coaching, my experience has been that the learning journey is mostly under valued and seldom acknowledged. Focus on the practical journey can dominate and at a simplistic level, can too often boil down to success and failure. As soon we acknowledge the learning journey, meeting challenge and achieving goals become vehicles to develop who we are, and the greater the emphasis we place on this, the more we grow our potential to achieve more into the future. Importantly, even in failure, we gain just as much value by assessing the learning journey, which is when failing becomes useful!

Learning journey questions:

(Learning journey questions can be asked ‘pre-journey’, ’on-journey’ or ‘post-journey’, just tweak to make them work.)

  • What strengths can I apply to achieve this goal?
  • How will this challenge grow my leadership?
  • What is it I need to model to others around me?
  • What have I learned about myself over this time?
  • What thinking doesn’t serve me, that I can now let go of?
  • What thinking would be useful to embrace going forward?
  • What has this experienced uncovered as being meaning?
  • Where would I improve next time
  • How would I define the next level from here on in?

After 14 years of coaching and over three-hundred clients, I can say without doubt that the learning journey is as empowering as the practical journey, if not more! It’s where we get to KNOW who we are and GROW who we are.

There are many ways to measure success, yet I think those learning journey insights, such as realising we are far more capable than we had previously imagined, are the most liberating measures. Interestingly, the goal of a Sadhu is to attain ‘moksha’ (liberation).

LATEST POSTS.

 

Crayfish & Conflict

How a scuba diving emergency illustrates key principles of conflict resolution …

Chaos, Collaboration & Sustainability

Chaos, Collaboration & Sustainability

Chaos, Collaboration & Sustainability

Notes from my presentation at the Sustainable Business Network Conference 2016

Chaos, Collaboration & Sustainability

 Great things can come with a little chaos.

There’s a short exercise I often run when I’m speaking and training. I give twelve to fourteen volunteers a simple brief to create a certain formation together but without communicating. When I ask them how they think it’ll go, “Chaos” is the word that normally arises from what they perceive is an impossible task. However, in less that two minutes, they complete the task and it’s mind-blowing!

I then ask them, “What made that work, and how does it link to leadership, collaboration and sustainability?” Their answers define key principles under each of those three headings.

From speaking at the Sustainability Business Network conference in Auckland, here are the key principles from the exercise linked to sustainability.

ONE: Common Goal

When people are potentially pulling in different directions, it’s easy to see chaos in motion. However if there’s a common goal involved that everyone is working towards, then the goal works as an anchor and the people involved operate as a self-referencing system – adjusting their behaviour in reference to the goal.

Sustainability question: What’s one common sustainability goal that different businesses can actively collaborate on together?

TWO: Collective Intelligence

Greater possibilities arrive via Collective Intelligence, many minds from different businesses working on the same goal. Through this, greater possibilities are faster and more effective.

Sustainability question: How do we fully connect our collective-business-genius to achieve our common sustainability goal?

THREE: 100% Commitment

The exercise I run works for many reasons, one of which is 100% commitment. People engage in the process, adapt to the changing environment and keep moving to achieve the common goal.

Sustainability question: What are the barriers that prevent 100% commitment to sustainability goals and how do we remove them?

FOUR: Learning Economy

As people move through the exercise, they latch on quickly to the fact that when they make a big move within the group, it creates a ripple effect through the exercise. With this comes more caution, an awareness of how they are impacting others. This is called a learning economy and is a major insight when it comes to sustainability. How does my business impact others, and is it useful?

Sustainability question: How do we communicate to self-adjust as-we-go and have the right impact on others to co-evolve our sustainability missions?

FIVE: Courage

We live in times of challenge, threat and opportunity. On the road to sustainability, we need the courage to travel through new territory and learn fast.

Sustainability question: How do we build courage to move through the chaos and uncertainty?

SIX: Quiet Leadership

As with the exercise, quiet leadership is essential – holding the space that a common goal provides, define the parameters for people to succeed within and supporting people to figure out the ‘how to’.

Sustainability question: Who can hold the space, encourage and stretch us? My answer to this would be organisations like SBN.

Biz Card Resources

Biz Card Resources

 Which card did you receive?

I wanted to create business cards that are useful, so I put a few ideas out to my clients and they let me know which ones stood out.

Problem-Lock

Problem-Lock is when a person’s thinking is stuck on the problem and the drama of the problem. On the card, you’ll find some break-state questions – some are pretty leftfield, but non-the-less potentially useful! The key is to find an answer to the question as opposed to fighting it. This way, your brain covers more ‘neural-real-estate’, loosens-up thinking and potentially reaches new insights.

Stabilisation Device

Life is too short to put up with a wobbly table in café … With a Solution Focus, use the card to stabilise the issue and enjoy your coffee. Expanding on this, the principle is simple – take action to reduce interference on your performance, do what’s useful.

Ninja not Winja

It’s OK to express dismay, have your grump moments and even throw your toys out of the cot on the odd occasion. But there’s a cut-off time too, at which point it’s useful to become Ninja not Winja. Like a Ninja, take action and respond in the moment – peacefully and with integrity of course – but decisively.

No Parking

You can attach any meaning that suits to this image. It maybe to get on with that ‘tough’ task you’ve been putting off or starting that book you’ve been wanting to write … or perhaps you should rebel, park-up for a while and rest.

8-Step Conflict Resolution Process

The eight steps come from the training, Communication Leadership and are a set of principles used internationally in peace processes.

  1. Calm: Be calm before resolving conflict, get yourself into a ‘peace-maker’ mind-set and demonstrate leadership.
  2. Establish Partnership: If you want a sustainable resolution, then collaborate with the person you have a conflict with to find a solution. At this stage you’re just setting-up that collaboration, solutions come soon!
  3. Elicit Needs: Get clear on what the other person’s practical needs are and share your own. These are tangible needs, not ‘I’m right’ or ‘You’re wrong’ statements.
  4. Brainstorm Solutions: Together, work out possible solutions, brainstorming first and qualifying in the next step.
  5. Choose Win-Win Solutions: Go through your options and choose the best ones. Remember, they are only win-win if you both get your needs met.
  6. Plan, Action & Ownership: Share the load, plan who will do what and by when.
  7. Evaluate: Check post conversation, is everyone now happy? Check again one week later and then a month later if needs be.
  8. Build the relationship: The conflict will be resolved, so invest in building the relationship – good relationship leave less room for conflict to happen in the first place.
Jitti’s Gym, The Long Road to Mastery

Jitti’s Gym, The Long Road to Mastery

Jitti's Gym

The Long Road to Mastery

Jitti’s Gym

Jitti’s Gym, Bangkok Thailand | 1999

Bangkok has a web of backstreets to wander along and be led through by the camera. This is where I came across Jitti’s Gym, a Thai Boxing gym where I found European and North American fighters training alongside Thai locals. It’s a typical hot and humid day in the city and inside the gym the smell of sweat and the thud of punches and kicks in darkened spaces play out. The bruised equipment reflects the hundreds of fighters that have trained here over many years, keeping a tradition alive that’s embedded in Thailand’s national identity, and a growing a sport that’s spread throughout the world.

The Long Road to Mastery

Mastery, alongside autonomy and purpose, is one of the three essentials of Intrinsic Motivation. Professor Daniel Pink describes mastery as getting better and better at something that matters. Exactly what you’re aiming to master depends on what matters to you, for one person it maybe a martial art, for another it could be algorithms – yes, I hear they can be mastered – or for others it’s service orientated. Yet, regardless of what it is, the chances are your mastery mission is not an overnight journey, and so it has to matter to you, for you to be intrinsically motivated to stick with it.

A few questions to help you on your mastery mission:

  • What would you like to get better and better at?
  • Does it ‘light’ you up when you think about it? (If so, chances are it matters to you)
  • Does the long road to mastery ‘feel’ like a rich road? (Stickability)
  • How will it positively impact your life? (wider ecology)
  • Along with your bigger strategies, what does a daily tiny step look like? (Systems create mastery)

LATEST POSTS.

 

Crayfish & Conflict

How a scuba diving emergency illustrates key principles of conflict resolution …

Crayfish & Conflict

Crayfish & Conflict

Crayfish & Conflict

How a scuba diving emergency illustrates key principles of conflict resolution.

Crayfish & Conflict

How a scuba diving emergency illustrates key principles of conflict resolution

Twenty-metres down and I feel a tug on my fin… my buddy signals he’s out of air, his eyes wide and face full of fear… as everything slipped into slow-motion, my first thought was clear, ‘How are we going to get the crayfish now?’

This is a story I share on the Communication Leadership training, about a scuba dive trip that went wrong and how it illustrates key principles in conflict resolution.

I’ll save the details of the full story and the relevance of the crayfish for people on the training, but here are a few key principles;

  1. Keep yourself safe: This is perhaps the golden rule of conflict resolution. In the same way I needed to bite down harder on my mouth piece as my panicking buddy tried to rip it out of my mouth, you need to keep your self safe in a conflict scenario.
  1. Direct your energy to where it counts: When people are in conflict, it’s easy to go off on tit-for-tat tangents. Focus instead on getting the practical needs that matter met. A little like directing my spare regulator (mouth piece) towards my buddy’s mouth so he could breathe again.
  1. Stay tuned-in: As I began an emergency assent with my buddy, I maintained eye contact, letting him know I was 100% with him to get through the situation. This is like giving someone your full attention to solve a problem. If your mind is wandering, they will know and that can make things worse.
  1. Control the situation: As we got closer to the surface, I needed to steadily deflate my buoyance jacket, (B.C.D.) to avoid shooting upwards too fast. This is like moving through a conflict resolution process; don’t rush it, make each step count to control the situation to get the best possible outcome.
  1. A slip is not a fall. As we broke the surface, my buddy panicked again. But a slip is not a fall; it didn’t mean we were in for a bad ending. Use what you know to regain traction and reposition the focus where it’s useful. I pushed my buddy away, dived underneath him and levelled him out by pulling down on his shoulders. This calmed him and we were back out of danger.
  1. Call for help. You don’t need to resolve all conflict on your own. Who can help you? Once stable on the surface I gave an emergency signal for the boat to come over, they pulled him on board and took over from there. Sometimes it’s better to step back and ask someone else to step in. They may have the knowledge, process or mana that can help.

These are just some of the key principles that can help when resolving conflict. Others include clarifying techniques to create greater precision in your understanding, building rapport to build trust, leading with generosity even when others show little, and creating a partnership frame that solves problems collaboratively.

As a final note, conflict resolution is seldom sustainable if achieved on a win-lose basis. Win-lose often means the fight is not over. The leadership opportunity is to resolve conflict on a win-win basis – this may require letting go of the ‘ego’, but it values good relationships and recognises that more can be achieved collaboratively.

About this blog

Leadership Through The Lens. I'm combining my passions for photography and coaching to explore purpose-driven leadership, give it a real-world context and illustrate it’s many different faces.

CAMERA TO COACH

Before I became a Coach in 2003 I was a photographer. I travelled with my camera and met people living in very different realities to our own. It taught me that there are many different faces of leadership, it taught me about human endevour and it taught me to keep-it-real in the training room.

I WRITE ...

I write for purpose-driven people who want to develop their leadership and use it to drive-change and achieve good in the world.

I write on three themes: (1) Know who you are to grow who you are, (2) leading with purpose and (3) dealing in possibilities (not problem or drama).

LATEST POSTS.

 

Crayfish & Conflict

How a scuba diving emergency illustrates key principles of conflict resolution …

Riots and Rapport

Riots and Rapport

Riots and Rapport

Mayday, Oxford Circus London | 2001

Riots and Rapport

Mayday Protests, Oxford Circus | 2001

It’s May day 2001 and the march has reached it’s end point. To avoid the violence of the previous year, Police section off the tens of thousands of marchers into small groups, and gradually drip-feed them out of central London. For the three-thousand people at Oxford Circus, walled in by four-deep lines of riot police, their wait lasted eight-hours. Over that time, a blend of small talk, rapport and a couple of molotov cocktails coloured the scene.

Riots and Rapport

 

Out of three-thousand people, three skinheads sipping on Special Brew chucked a couple of molotov cocktails at Police – both failing to explode – yet, what was really interesting was the play of rapport, a function of our social brain. Conversations sparked-up in a few spots along the line between police and protestors; conversations that were calm, polite and dotted with small talk. And when the police were ordered to push-forward in to the crowd, you could hear them tell their newly met acquaintances, ‘relax, go with it, it’ll be alright’. Other places along the line – void of rapport – were less generous.

With investment and skill, this is the power of rapport, the effect of reducing strong emotional temperature and creating possibilities other than conflict.

About this blog

Leadership Through The Lens. I'm combining my passions for photography and coaching to explore purpose-driven leadership, give it a real-world context and illustrate it’s many different faces.

CAMERA TO COACH

Before I became a Coach in 2003 I was a photographer. I travelled with my camera and met people living in very different realities to our own. It taught me that there are many different faces of leadership, it taught me about human endevour and it taught me to keep-it-real in the training room.

I WRITE ...

I write for purpose-driven people who want to develop their leadership and use it to drive-change and achieve good in the world.

I write on three themes: (1) Know who you are to grow who you are, (2) leading with purpose and (3) dealing in possibilities (not problem or drama).

LATEST POSTS.

 

Crayfish & Conflict

How a scuba diving emergency illustrates key principles of conflict resolution …

A Step Removed

A Step Removed

A Step Removed

Getting closer to the Overview Effect | Flight Wlg-Ack 2011

At several thousand feet high, a different sense of scale is offered that’s a step removed from life with Self at the centre. Within minutes we’ve flown over the lives of tens of thousands of people, each with a story both told and unfolding. We cover hundreds of kilometres of land that in just a few hundred years has been hugely transformed by our presence, and our footprint is set to enlarge further.

Not quite astronauts

Astronauts often return to earth reporting a shift in awareness, a deeper understanding of the planets ecology, of which we are part of.

This state of mental clarity, called the “overview effect,” occurs when you are flung so far away from Earth that you become totally overwhelmed and awed by the fragility and unity of life on our blue globe. It’s the uncanny sense of understanding the “big picture,” and of feeling connected yet bigger than the intricate processes bubbling on Earth. – Business Insider, Australia

Most of us won’t experience the ‘overview effect’, unless we can afford a ticket in to space. Yet, I suggest that with some quiet reflection at a few thousand metres high, we can get close to it – even on a flight from Wellington to Auckland! Importantly, we need these shifts in perspective to get ‘out of ourselves’ and consider what we are part of, how we influence and impact others (and the planet) and how we want to shape the future?

Avoiding this reflection risks entertaining the myth that individually we’re simply a neutral component of life, when actually, however small, we make a difference.

LATEST POSTS.

 

Crayfish & Conflict

How a scuba diving emergency illustrates key principles of conflict resolution …

Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis

Terminal Illness, Inner-Stength & False Alarms | David Savage

Misdiagnosis

Terminal Illness, Inner-Strength & False Alarms 2014 | David Savage

‘A burden and a gift, painful but empowering’

The tests are finished and I’m wrestling my boots on over thick socks. I’m aware the Neurologist is sitting patiently with his two colleagues. At first I’m thinking the silence that’s filling the room is reflecting how long it’s taking me to get dressed – why on that day did I choose to wear thick socks! After finally lacing up my last boot, I latch on to the actual mood in the room. No one is making eye contact, heads are pointed downwards and, as if they’re holding their breath, a nervous tension is pouring from their flushed skin.

I sat down next to my wife Megan. At four months pregnant with our third child, she had felt the unease in the air well before me. My body temperature rose and I felt my skin also flush. Our hands grip and the Neurologist speaks,

“From your case history and the tests we’ve done… it looks as if you have ALS, a Motor Neurone Disease. It’s a very serious and quite terrible disease, and so we wouldn’t take this step of telling you this unless we were very certain…”

In this moment the strangest mix of thoughts and emotions flooded in to play. It’s a challenge to dissect them all to put into words… I felt a physical numbing yet an acute awareness of my body; heat, heart rate, a dry throat and welling eyes. I felt instant pain at the thought of what this would mean to my family, and yet immense gratitude for having them in my life. I felt shock at this proposition that my life was going to end, and yet in a nonsensical way, it made sense that this was mine to deal with … and so ‘deal with it.’

The last time I gave myself that ‘deal with it’ command was when I was sliding down a wet rooftop. It was one of those occasions that was too far gone to be turned around and so dealing with it meant flying past the guttering, avoiding the power-line and landing on two-feet for a ‘parachute roll’. It would have been the perfect landing except for two reasons; one, I didn’t have a parachute and two, I chipped my heal bone.

The Neurologist and his staff left the room and we had privacy. Megan and my children are the greatest part of my life and I felt blessed to be partnered by her in that moment. There was real strength in that love and knowing that she was going to be with me come-what-may, provided a powerful comfort to face forwards with.

Being given a terminal diagnosis like this reveals the assumption that time is plentiful and that we have an abundance of choices ahead of us. All the potential that life holds is suddenly reduced and what’s left is compressed into a short time frame. However, in that ‘deal with it’ state-of-mind, if this disease was mine to bare and if this was to be the final chapter, then I would choose how that final chapter would be written by working with the choices I had remaining. And so leaving the hospital came the first choice; I chose to drive us home, a small act of defiance maybe, but as devastating as this news was, I would protect any normality that was useful to protect.

It took us ninety-minutes in peak traffic to get home and back to our children, who were 6 and 8 at the time. A ninety-minute emotional twister and, most importantly, ninety-minutes to begin setting the seeds of how we’d go forward. At the centre would be our children, including the baby growing inside my wife. Around them was a good community of good people and however traumatic this experience would be for them, it would ultimately make them stronger and wiser. As strange as it may sound, this car journey was the beginning of finding myself with the clearest mind and the greatest internal strength I’ve ever experienced.

Everything in our lives simplified rapidly. All those trivial things that can consume a person’s energy just disappeared. Friendship stepped forward with such strength; I was blown away with gratitude for the support that suddenly surrounded us. A determination to take this on and break the pattern of symptoms became the landscape of our minds. Presence to everything that was great in our lives amplified. Real conversations from the heart were daily exchanges. This disease underlined everything that is meaningful in life – painful, but strangely empowering.

In this new reality, four questions formed;

One: Do my children know I love them?

YES.

Two: Will my family be supported when I’m gone?

As a parent, you want good people in your children’s lives and I’m blessed to say, there is no shortage of these people around my children.

Three: How will my children fair in life?

It’s easy to ‘fear’ for the people we love, but I had a huge confidence that they’d be more than OK and become stronger from the experience.

Four: Have I done enough for their future?

This fourth question was tougher to answer. I wasn’t talking about education or a safe home; those things were in place. I wasn’t talking financial security either, they’d find a way through on that front. This was about the kind of world they inherit. If I think about the challenges the world faces, then had I done enough to influence good solutions? The answer was ‘NO’. I could say I’d applied my strengths through my work to make a difference, and I don’t devalue that, but in all honesty I could have taken this much further.

After receiving the ALS diagnosis, we began telling the people around us. As you can imagine, news travelled like a shock wave through family and friends and I am eternally grateful for the support and love that came back our way. Much happened over the coming days and weeks, but this is where I’ll speed up the story…

I saw the Neurologist for a second time six weeks later. We had lots of questions for him. I asked if there was anything he was seeing in my case that sat outside the pattern of ALS. His answer was ‘No’ and again he took us through the symptoms and diagnosis. His advice was to get our house ‘wheelchair ready’ within six months. As we’d also read, the average life expectancy was 18 months to three years from diagnosis.

Ten weeks after the diagnosis, I met with a second Neurologist. We’d been told he would redo some of the tests and given his greater experience, he’d give us a more accurate prognosis based on those results. This is when the outlook began to change. After the tests he said calmly,

“I suppose you’ve been told you have ALS? [Long pause] … Well I’m not so sure. I can’t offer you any guarantees and please don’t get your hopes up, but I can say that I’m very confident you’re going to live to see your kids grow up, maybe not in to adult life, but you will see them grow up.”

Cue sheer relief, joy and exhaustion!

I asked him what he was seeing that didn’t fit the pattern. He came up with five or six indicators. The first being that I had so much strength remaining in my atrophied right hand and that relatively, I was still so strong. He went on,

“If it is ALS, then it’s very slow progressing, but it may also be something else and we’ll need to do more tests to find out.”

My wife, who herself is a powerhouse of knowledge when it comes to health, asked if ‘Parry’s Disease’ was one of those possibilities, which he confirmed it was.

Three weeks later we had more tests with the second Neurologist. On examination of the results, he shared that he was 80% certain that my condition was not the terminal illness ALS, but actually an autoimmune disease called Multi-Focal Motor Neuropathy, (MMN), a.k.a. Parry’s Disease.

The best news is MMN isn’t going to kill me and I will see my kids grow up. This was a welcome end to a hard-to-describe and life-focusing thirteen weeks. An experience I would not want to repeat, but also an experience that has provided a huge amount of insight.

In summary, I’ve experienced an end-of-life sequence, without – as it turned out – actually being in an end-of-life sequence. Specifically,

  • I’ve experienced what it’s like to be told you have a terminal illness and feel gratitude for the life I’ve had.
  • I’ve experienced the assumption of a long-life suddenly evaporate and find peace with it.
  • I’ve experienced letting go of my dreams and aspirations for the future and refocus on the here and now.
  • I’ve experienced as a son, feeling the weight of my parents grief and feel thankful that I had this illness and not one of my own children.
  • I’ve experienced as a husband, anguish for my wife facing an uncertain future and yet see her strength and courage step forward.
  • I’ve experienced as a father what it feels like to contemplate the impact on my young children, and know they’d be OK.
  • I’ve experienced what it’s like to straddle two worlds in tension; becoming prepared to die and growing a determination to break the pattern and live.

So what are my insights?

  • Death doesn’t need to be feared, next to the sadness it brings sits a gratitude for life.
  • Dying does not have to be tragic, for some people it will create a new level of inner strength.
  • When everything is stripped away, what mattered most to me are my children and the world they inherit.
  • There’s a lot of meaningless bullshit in life that we’re choosing to entertain, but we don’t have to.
  • Friendship and community is powerful. Investing ourselves in the people around us is good, because in a time of need it can provide exactly what we need.
  • Finally, as if I didn’t already know it, I’m even more certain that I married the most amazing woman.

So where to from here?

To put it bluntly, when I do finally reach the end of my days, I’ll be pretty annoyed if I can’t look back on this experience and say, ‘I did something meaningful with it’. I should point out that other people go through worse experiences, but this was an immense challenge for me and those around me.

So doing something meaningful from this experience, how does that look?

  1. Share the love: I was fortunate in many ways. I’m a Leadership Coach and I have plenty of tools and strategies for facing challenge and adversity. I can now say without doubt that I’ve well and truly pressure tested these tools and strategies, and so I’m putting them out there freely for others dealing with a serious or terminal illness to use. Find them here.
  1. Exit bullshit: It’s hard to entertain bullshit after it’s suddenly revealed as meaningless. I can count on one hand the things that matter most in life, and perhaps it’s only a life-threatening situation that can move that idea from a concept into a heart-felt knowing. The challenge now is to not let the bullshit back in and instead question everything; does this have purpose? Is this meaningful? What is this feeding, my soul or my ego?
  1. Be a solution: The big one. This was the fourth question and the one I could not put a YES to. Have I done enough for my children’s future? In terms of a life well lived, I found personally that my measure for this was not derived on an accumulation-of-stuff-basis, but on a difference-made-basis. Our kids ‘take over’ one day and ultimately their inheritance is the world we live in, and so as a loose plan, let’s expand on the good parts and solve the bad part. As I described earlier, I can reflect and say I’m underway, but there is more I can do and I’m accountable for that. Whilst I’m talking personally, anyone can reflect on this for themselves;
  • What are the solutions the world needs?
  • Which solution do I want to be part of?
  • How can I best apply my strengths to be part of that solution?

This is life mission stuff and these are questions people must answer for themselves if they wish to. There are many people already out there in action and the ones who I know are an inspiration.

To close, paradoxically, being misdiagnosed with a terminal illness was a burden and a gift, painful but empowering. It’s underlined what’s most important in life and brought home a deeper sense of purpose. With my children at the centre, my mission as a parent has to extend to positively impacting the world they inherit. This world is beautiful, but it also has some serious and urgent issues that create risk for future generations and so I want to look my kids in the eyes one day and say,

“I took action along with bunch of other people and now the world is now fairer, cleaner and more sustainable than it has been for a while. Enjoy it, protect it and make it even better for your kids.”

Ruapahu Storm (c) David Savage

If you are reading this and have been diagnosed with MND/ALS, then I understand something of what you’re going through. I’ve learned that people’s experiences can be very different, but I do hope that you have people around you providing love and support. For me, this was a source of real strength. If you need some strategies to help, you can tap into the ones that worked for me here.

I wish you well,
Sav

About this blog

Leadership Through The Lens. I'm combining my passions for photography and coaching to explore purpose-driven leadership, give it a real-world context and illustrate it’s many different faces.

CAMERA TO COACH

Before I became a Coach in 2003 I was a photographer. I travelled with my camera and met people living in very different realities to our own. It taught me that there are many different faces of leadership, it taught me about human endevour and it taught me to keep-it-real in the training room.

I WRITE ...

I write for purpose-driven people who want to develop their leadership and use it to drive-change and achieve good in the world.

I write on three themes: (1) Know who you are to grow who you are, (2) leading with purpose and (3) dealing in possibilities (not problem or drama).

LATEST POSTS.

 

Crayfish & Conflict

How a scuba diving emergency illustrates key principles of conflict resolution …

Water, Rivalry & Real Ale

Water, Rivalry & Real Ale

Water, Rivalry & Real Ale

The Falmouth Working Boats 1994

Water

New life for an old tradition. A couple of times a week, Falmouth harbour fills with gaff-rigged boats each bearing unique colours, each sailing new life in to an old tradition. Once used to dredge for oysters on the Truro river, and still very much in the hands of the working class, these working boats are raced by local crews. No engines, no electrics, just muscle and a want for a good wind.

Rivalry

When these boats sink, they go down fast. None-the-less, few crews back-off when the race is on. Stealing the wind to gain advantage and muscling the sails at a moments notice. Everything is invested to win. Close-calls and near collisions see temperatures rise and, on occasion, temperaments flare. Tack by tack, language colours and thirsts grow.

Real Ale

Racing finished, sails down and boats on their moorings… then to the pub. Tensions diminish and the sense of community which brings these seaborne tribes together thrives. Tradition, connection and identity lives strong in these people, as flavoured as the Real Ale that flows from keg to glass.

For two seasons I crewed onboard the ‘Irene’ skippered by Rob Northy. I’m hugely grateful to Rob for the experience and his patience as I switched between camera and jib-line during races. I seem to remember I owe him a few pints too. The collection of images I produced became my first solo-exhibition, displayed at the Green Lawns Hotel.

LATEST POSTS.

 

Crayfish & Conflict

How a scuba diving emergency illustrates key principles of conflict resolution …

Diagnosis

Diagnosis

Diagnosis

Strategies for people with a life threatening illness | David Savage

Diagnosis

Strategies for people with a life threatening illness

Welcome. These strategies are for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness. If that’s you, I’m sharing these strategies because I know something about what you’re going through, they helped me and so maybe they can help you too.

I’m a Leadership Specialist based in New Zealand and when I was diagnosed with ALS, a Motor Neurone Disease, in September 2014, I adapted many of the strategies I train on my courses to help me face the prospect a very short future.

In my case the ALS diagnosis turned out to be wrong. What I actually have is Multifocal Motor Neuropathy, which is treatable. However, it took thirteen weeks before the diagnosis of ALS was officially changed, thirteen very tough weeks for myself and my family and friends. I was told with certainty that I had ALS and advised to be wheelchair-ready within six months, (life expectancy eighteen months to three years). With my wife four-months pregnant and two young children, you can imagine the emotional journey. (Read more about my experience here.)

My mission since is to take this experience and use it in meaningful ways, and so firstly I’m sharing these strategies online with people with a terminal or life threatening illness, and my hope is that some of these strategies will help.

Strategies for the mind

What’s happening in your mental and emotional environment will influence your experience. These are some of the strategies I employed. For me they kept me connected to what was most important, gave me clarity of mind and played the bigger role in empowering me to navigate the challenge of being diagnosed with ALS. As you’ll read, much of this is about reframing the situation, which is not an exercise in denial, but a way of creating an internal environment to draw strength from.

Strategies for taking action

These strategies revolve around actions you can take. Taking control of your situation may seem impossible, but on day-to-day basis action everything you can action that’s useful – a mountain is climbed step by step.

Your experience

Very importantly, I acknowledge that everyone’s experience and responses are different when given such a heavy diagnosis. In my case, it’s like I had the psychological experience of being diagnosed with a terminal illness, without – as it turns out – actually having one.

I make no argument that people facing such a challenge should think and feel as I did or choose to respond in the same way. How it is for you, is how it is for you and so please take these strategies and tools as pathways to explore that may help, as opposed to a template for dealing with your condition that’s guaranteed to provide results. I do believe though that the human mind has a great capacity to influence the outcomes of our toughest challenges, and what ever your diagnosis, I wish you well.

Sav

Intro this blog

Intro this blog

Introducing THIS BLOG

Reincarnation with a touch of rebellion | David Savage

Introducing This Blog

Reincarnation with a touch of rebellion.

A nicely timed kick-up-the-arse can bring a wealth of insight and benefit, and just over a year ago I had one that by all means should have been bruising.

I’m changing things up a little on the leadership front. It’s time to evolve things further and talk more about leadership in human terms. This new blog-conversation will be through images and insight to illustrate the many faces of leadership.

Here’s the reincarnation bit.

I’ve had a camera in my hand since I was six years old. I was a wedding photographers assistant by the age of eleven and I was shooting my first commercial job at sixteen. Over twenty-three years, the camera opened doors for me to travel and meet people living in very different worlds to our own; some painfully dark and others an inspiration. You could call this ‘university of life’ stuff and, although I didn’t know it at the time, this is where I began to learn about leadership.

The image-maker in me fell dormant in 2003 when I dived into the world of coaching and training. However, photography is now breathing life again with a new sense of mission.

The rebellion bit.

I’m just one of many, many, MANY coaches and trainers working in the leadership space, and if you follow closely, most of us are pumping out posts, slideshows, podcasts and alike via social media that describe ‘successful leadership’. And herein lies the problem, it’s mostly the ‘same-old same-old’ with predictable titles; Ten measures of effective leadership, How to boost performance, Strategies for becoming a great leader, Performance essentials, How to get the best from your team … so on and so forth.

Let me be honest, I’ve written a few of these too and whilst such articles can be very useful, there’s just so much of it ‘out there’. So my rebellion is to talk about leadership in every-day real-world terms, covering adversity, growth, purpose and contribution amongst other themes. This positions leadership where it belongs; as a pair-of-shoes we can all step into.

The kick-up the arse part.

In September 2014 I was diagnosed with a Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and told to be ‘wheelchair ready’ within six months. My wife Megan was four months pregnant at the time with our third child, and with a life expectancy of 18 months to three years, it landed like a bombshell.

However, life simplified to an incredible extent and as you can imagine, some deep reflection took place. My kids knew that I loved them, and with an incredible mother and community around to support, I was totally confident they’d be OK and grow stronger from this. The one niggle I had, was that I hadn’t applied my strengths to their fullest extent to make a bigger difference in the world. It may sound cliché, but being told you’re going die defines what’s important and for me, the kind of world my kids are inheriting was right up there – this Astronaut understands!

Three months later, and after more tests, a second Neurologist (confused as to why I was “still so alive”), declared MND a misdiagnosis. What I do have, Multifocal Motor Neuropathy (MMN) isn’t going to kill me or slow me down. Cue RELIEF. (MMN is often misdiagnosed as MND at first).

Going from assuming I had a ‘long future’ to ‘make peace, the end is nigh’ and ‘back again’ was a ‘trip’. Yet strangely, that three months was hugely empowering in that I had the clearest and strongest mind I’ve ever had. It underlined how precious time is, and how important it is to use it in a meaningful way.

So here’s the crux of it. I don’t believe leadership is the domain of the few. I think it’s a role we can all step in and out of as and when the need arises and purpose calls. So I’m bringing my strengths as a photographer and leadership specialist together, to talk about leadership in terms of purpose and contribution, and highlight the opportunities we all have to lead and make a difference.

Life is short. What you do matters. Make it count.

LATEST POSTS.

 

Crayfish & Conflict

How a scuba diving emergency illustrates key principles of conflict resolution …

Acknowledge Your Choices

Acknowledge Your Choices

Acknowledge your choices

Your diagnosis may not be good, yet you’re not without choices! From the article Misdiagnosis;

Being given a terminal diagnosis like this reveals the assumption that time is plentiful and that we have an abundance of choices ahead of us. All the potential that life holds is suddenly reduced and what’s left is compressed into a short time frame. However, in that ‘deal with it’ state-of-mind, if this disease was mine to bare and if this was to be the final chapter, then I would choose how that final chapter would be written by working with the choices I had remaining. And so leaving the hospital came the first choice; I chose to drive us home, a small act of defiance maybe, but as devastating as this news was, I would protect any normality that was useful to protect.

This is a mental agility technique; refocusing your mind away from what you cannot control (powerless) and on to what you can control (powerful) i.e. your choices. So in this moment you cannot control the fact that you have an illness, and yet, depending on your particular situation, you can still make a whole range of choices:

  • What you choose to eat
  • Who you choose to seek help from
  • Research you choose to undertake
  • How you choose to think
  • What you choose to do on a daily basis to increase your energy
  • How you choose to engage with others about your condition
  • Questions you choose to ask your doctor
  • How you choose to prioritise what’s important
  • How loud you’re choosing to play your music

I could keep going! The point is simple, and it’s something I train leaders and teams to do when they’re facing setbacks; focus on what you can control by focusing on what choices you have available to you. What can you choose to do now, that’s going to be useful to you and positive?

About these strategies

Welcome. These strategies are for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness. If that’s you, I’m sharing them because I know something about what you’re going through, they helped me and so maybe they can help you too.

Click here to learn more about the purpose and background of these posts.

Fight or Heal?

Fight or Heal?

Fight or heal?

Does the language you use matter when describing how you’re approaching your condition?

“I’m going to fight this disease!” vs. “I’m going to heal it from my body!”

I believe it’s worth considering as our physiology responds to the thoughts we have and words we say.

When we’re in fight mode, our body is in a stressed state and I’m not so sure if this is a useful internal state to be in when dealing with a disease. And so is language such as, ‘I’m going fight this cancer!’ actually useful?

This from David Hauser and Richard Wassersug in the Guardian‘War language applied to cancer is pervasive, polarizing, but of questionable medical benefit.’

When we get a cold, we rest – we don’t gear up for war! Perhaps it’s common sense; a calm internal environment makes for a better healing environment, and so language such as ‘I’m going to heal this cancer from my body!’ seems to me more useful.

There are other metaphors you can use too, like ‘turning the tide’, ‘climbing a mountain’, and ‘restore to balance’ – all of which are spirited without being war like.

About these strategies

Welcome. These strategies are for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness. If that’s you, I’m sharing them because I know something about what you’re going through, they helped me and so maybe they can help you too.

Click here to learn more about the purpose and background of these posts.

Parking the future and the past

Parking the future and the past

Parking the future and the past

I once coached a cricketer who had a goal of regaining his place on a high-ranking team. His major insight was this; being 100% ‘present’ at the crease is the only thing that would get him there. Nothing else other than his best performance, moment to moment at the crease, would get him back on the team.

Focusing on the past or the future takes us away from the opportunity of now. It’s useful in terms of learning from the past or envisioning the future we want, and yet it’s bringing those insights back to the now where we actually do the building and creating.

Facing illness has the potential to amplify a past or future focus, and not always in a good way.

  • “If only I had done XYZ when I was younger” = regret (lack focus)
  • “All the things I wanted to do, and now I’m scared I never will” = anxiety (lack focus)

At the same time it provides urgency to be in the moment, appreciate what is and engage fully. This was very much part of my experience. I was being told that I may not have a future beyond three years and I may not be functional beyond six months – strangely, from this it became easier to be ‘present’!

About these strategies

Welcome. These strategies are for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness. If that’s you, I’m sharing them because I know something about what you’re going through, they helped me and so maybe they can help you too.

Click here to learn more about the purpose and background of these posts.

Legacy

Legacy

Legacy

Webster’s Dictionary defines “legacy” as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”

The prospect of being in a wheelchair and potentially dysfunctional within six months dis not give a lot of time to create a legacy, so I thought. But not true. Rethinking this, legacy can take on many forms, it may be your life’s work or a difference you’ve made to your community, and at the same time it can be the examples you’ve set through how you live, and you’ve met the challenges in your life.

If your life’s timeline has suddenly shortened, the opportunity to create a legacy still exists. Question: As you face this challenge, what examples do you want to set to the people around you? What can you model to those around you, that in someway shares wisdom or inspires? Your legacy may be to:

  • Reconcile certain things from a place of honesty
  • Let people know what they mean to you
  • Display courage and/or vulnerability
  • Be real about your fears and/or your certainties

We shouldn’t confine ‘legacy’ to material values only, instead it can be based on human values such as authenticity and generosity.

About these strategies

Welcome. These strategies are for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness. If that’s you, I’m sharing them because I know something about what you’re going through, they helped me and so maybe they can help you too.

Click here to learn more about the purpose and background of these posts.

Mantra ‘Live what I love’

Mantra ‘Live what I love’

Mantra ‘Live what I love’

This goes hand-in-hand with reprioritising what’s important to you in life and having daily rituals. For me, moving towards simplicity was about letting go of whole load of things that in my new reality were not important. Instead of this, as much as possible my mission was to ‘live what I love’ … this became a daily mantra that helped me stay connected to that drive for simplicity and pursue the things that breathed life into my day.

Go for essence when creating a mantra for your self. In other words, ensure that it captures the essence of how you want to live and make sure it sets a positive tone, something that lifts your spirits. It maybe a song lyric, a quote, something your Gran would say or words that simply and clearly come to mind.

To supper-charge your mantra, use it as a lead to then do stuff that’s good for you. This transforms a mantra from a simple affirmation in to a healthy thinking and doing combo.

About these strategies

Welcome. These strategies are for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness. If that’s you, I’m sharing them because I know something about what you’re going through, they helped me and so maybe they can help you too.

Click here to learn more about the purpose and background of these posts.

Rituals and Anchors

Rituals and Anchors

Rituals and anchors

Design or refine your daily rituals to help create and embed a positive mindset. In the early days of being (mis)diagnosed with ALS, I wanted everyday to be a day that I could be present with my kids, and if I was going to do that, I needed to be in a good space.

I used a number of ‘anchors’ to achieve this. An anchor is a sensory stimulus linked to a certain internal state and when triggered, the anchor helps create that inner state. For example, if you play a certain piece of music to help you relax, then this is called an auditory anchor, which for you is linked to that feeling of being relaxed. When you play it, it helps you slip into that relaxed state.

These are the anchors I used, mostly in the morning as I started my day;

  • (Self-talk) “Live what I love” – I used this as a daily mantra to remind me to focus on and do the things that energised me.
  • (Music) “Follow the sun” Xavier Rudd – This was the soundtrack to go with my mantra. Lyrically it was perfect for the simplicity that I was bringing into my life, and the important things that I was placing at its centre.
  • (Exercise, fresh air) Most days I took time-out with my wife to walk the cycle track that runs along the southern boundary of our property. Movement does great thins for the brain and helps insight. It also created space for us to talk, set the tone for our day and support each other’s space.
  • (Parasympathetic exercise) Heart Chi Kung and Iron Shirt Chi Kung, old practices of mine that I revived, not only to challenge the areas of my body that were losing strength, but to oxygenate my brain and build internal resilience.
  • (Visioning) Despite the diagnosis, I was determined to be around for a longtime yet, and so I developed a strong image of myself in a healthy body framed way into the future. I find that partnering this technique with taking action, is on it’s own a powerful combination to embed a positive mindset.
  • (Mindfulness) Taking time to stop and notice my surroundings. We’re fortunate to live a small block of land, and so for me it was about noticing the light on the Tarrarua hills, beads of dew on flax leaves and birds on the garden – slowing down, meditation!

There were more I used and you will have your own. Making them part of your day can keep you in a centred and healing state.

About these strategies

Welcome. These strategies are for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness. If that’s you, I’m sharing them because I know something about what you’re going through, they helped me and so maybe they can help you too.

Click here to learn more about the purpose and background of these posts.

What’s in it for others?

What’s in it for others?

What’s in it for others?

I sometimes get told, ‘You never stop coaching Sav, do you!’

What can you learn from this?” is one of the best questions in the world. It requires humility to answer, increases self-awareness and has great potential to progress change.

I had some deep conversations with a few people around me after being (mis)diagnosed with ALS. In my experience, as strange as it sounds, I had the clearest mind and greatest inner strength I’ve ever experienced. Some people around me though were struggling with the news, and this naturally seemed to present an opportunity for them to gain some personal insight. I asked the question; ‘So this [disease] is happening to me, but what can you take from this?’

For one person it meant burying the hatchet with an ex-partner, for another person it meant getting serious about their health, and for another it meant ending a relationship that’s not working.

Having this type of conversation is by no means the right conversation for everyone. It naturally occurs, otherwise if forced, it may not go well. It also needs exercising with a high level of non-judgment and respect for however a person responds.

It can though create some real insight – for me, I felt good that others close to me could gain something positive from my situation. For others, it seemed to lead to a place of honesty. For the relationship, it created a deeper and richer connection.

About these strategies

Welcome. These strategies are for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness. If that’s you, I’m sharing them because I know something about what you’re going through, they helped me and so maybe they can help you too.

Click here to learn more about the purpose and background of these posts.

Letting people know and riding the shockwave

Letting people know and riding the shockwave

Letting people know and riding the shockwave

People will have different responses on hearing your news. My wife and I decided we wanted to tell the people closest to us that I’d been (mis)diagnosed with ALS ourselves, even if by phone.

We discovered a range of reactions:

  • Some people listened and said little, yet were profoundly supportive
  • Some people asked questions to manage their shock
  • Some people went very quiet, not knowing what to say
  • Some people were philosophical
  • Some people dived in with advice
  • Some people melted into despair

The range of reactions to your news might be quite broad. We quickly discovered that whist delivering this news, we needed to take care of people in doing so. Letting the people who care about you know that your life may soon end, will create a shock wave – it’s hard to predict with certainty people’s responses. It’s also not unusual for the person who has the illness to become the strongest person in the picture.

I recently heard a story of a man diagnosed with terminal cancer. He invited his closest friends around for a put-luck dinner and told them the news. Many broke down in tears and he spent most of the night consoling them.

Letting people know and taking care of them:

  • Choose the right moment where possible
  • Prepare them first, “I have some news, that’s not good news…”
  • Let them know the key facts – symptoms and diagnosis
  • Let them know what happens from here forwards – tests, treatments etcs.
  • Describe the space you’re in – especially important if you’re feeling positive and strong as they might assume otherwise.
  • Let them know how they can support you, be specific

Regardless of people’s responses to your news, there’ll be a shockwave to ride. Think of it as a measure of how much people care for you which, I suggest, is something to be acknowledged and to take comfort in.

About these strategies

Welcome. These strategies are for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness. If that’s you, I’m sharing them because I know something about what you’re going through, they helped me and so maybe they can help you too.

Click here to learn more about the purpose and background of these posts.

Bring others into your headspace

Bring others into your headspace

Bring others into your headspace

Many of the people around you won’t have experienced what you’re going through, and so they can only imagine what it’s like. They love you and will want to help, and sometimes this means they’ll guess how you’re feeling and what you need from them.

I found that some people were able to tune in so well, that what they said or didn’t say was perfect and just what I needed in that moment.

Other people, with the best of intentions, were just way off. It’s not easy to hear someone ‘giving you up’ on your behalf, assuming that you will have given up too. Other people may even feel compelled to give you advice on what you need to prepare for, ‘pre-your-doom’.

For these people, as best you can, hold on to the good intentions that are likely to be driving their advice. It’s useful to remember, that the best of intentions aren’t always matched by the best of skills!

THEN, bring them into your headspace;

  • Thank people for their intentions
  • If you see your situation differently to them, tell them you see it differently and if needs be, ask they respect your view
  • Mind reading doesn’t work, so don’t leave what you need from them to chance, describe it specifically
  • Let them know that if they can’t operate with you in your headspace, they need to stay away or at least keep their thinking to themselves
  • Refresh as and when you need to – your own space may change, so let people know

Some people may not like this, but this ‘shits’ happening to you and not them, so set the rules and let them know how you need them to operate. At the same time, we can all operate with our ‘blinkers on’ at times, so be open to challenge here and there!

About these strategies

Welcome. These strategies are for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness. If that’s you, I’m sharing them because I know something about what you’re going through, they helped me and so maybe they can help you too.

Click here to learn more about the purpose and background of these posts.

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