I wish I was a little egg ....

Way back in the Dark Ages (top years of primary school actually) I had a wonderful English teacher.  Her name was Mrs Howse and her lessons were a joy.  She had a way of making her point by making us laugh and sharing her wonder at the way language could help us understand different and often deeper concepts.  Obviously, I didn’t get that back then but I do so appreciate it now.  I have loved this magical little ditty ever since she taught it to us:

‘I wish I was a little egg

Way up in a tree

Sitting in my little nest

As rotten as could be.

I wish that you would come along

And stand beneath that tree

And I would up and burst myself

And cover thee with me.’

-          Anon

She used to recite the last couple of lines with absolute relish and we would howl with laughter every time so it really stuck.  Somehow in the middle of all this she would convey the truth – that we can’t always do what we would really like to do because it might have repercussions for us personally, however good it felt at the time.  She was a very wise woman.

There have been times in the last year when I have been forcibly reminded of this poem and its associated life lesson.  So, I offer it here in the hope that it will raise a smile and you find it useful as you go through your working day and then find yourself able to laugh at the provocations, not fall into the reaction trap.

In terms of professionalism or personal integrity, it’s hard to express that doing what you want to do at any moment has consequences, whether you have cause to react or not.  Every personal decision has repercussions and, if we react to provocation in a way that diminishes us, then we are forever changed – and not for the better.  If we make bad or wrong decisions, they can diminish us personally and in the eyes of those around us. So, when the provocation strikes – and it inevitably will – the best route is to try to take a deep breath and pause or count to 5 or whatever you do to give yourself that essential moment to think clearly about your next action.  You won’t regret it.  I still shudder when I think back to an incident many years ago, when I reacted angrily to extreme provocation in the workplace and I regret it to this day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Over the years, I have searched in vain for the poem's author but have been unable to find one. Perhaps Mrs Howse wrote it herself or maybe you know differently.  If so, I'd love to hear from you. 

PAYING IT FORWARD OR GIVING SOMETHING BACK

"The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself. "- Oscar Wilde

As the increasing longevity of the population means that the government continues to struggle with the question of where to peg the age at which we might all receive our bus passes, I recently attended the festivities surrounding the retirement of a long-serving colleague.  Listening to the stories relating her personal history to patterns and methods of working which have long ceased to be relevant in a modern environment, it occurred to me that, over time, her capacity to adapt had been severely tested but that, in amongst the other elements of her day to day tasks, she had found the time to train and assist those around her.

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LIVING BY THE GOLDEN RULES

Whether you are looking for a professional, a tradesman, or a particular service provider, the chances are that you will first ask friends and colleagues for recommendations.  The social networks are also full of requests for trusted advisors and ‘proven’ abilities on an endless range of subjects and specialisms. Why does this work?  Because we all believe that anyone with a decent reputation, someone who has delivered excellent service before, will do so again for us.  This person is therefore to be relied upon and will turn up when expected and give us the service we need.

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Professionalism attributes - Somewhere over the rainbow

We are all very familiar with the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz – on our screens again over the holidays - and especially the most enduring song from the film ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, sung by Judy Garland.  In the years since the film first appeared it has become accepted as the ‘standard’ version, now full of memories and association for many people.  Although lots of other singers have since offered their own versions, no-one ever really made a dent in Judy Garland’s ‘ownership’ of the song.

Then, in the late ‘90s, a new version appeared and did something really surprising.   It was a fabulous new version, beautiful in its own right and utterly different from the original.

TRULY   MEMORABLE

I can clearly remember the first time I heard it. I was listening to my car radio and, even though I arrived at my destination while it was playing, I had to stay in my seat until the end of the song because I wanted to hear all of it.  Then I waited for the name of the singer because I knew that I would want to hear it again - Eva Cassidy.  Next step was to go and buy it for myself and, unsurprisingly, I liked everything else that the singer had to offer and am still listening to it all these years later.

Why am I telling you this?  Hearing the song again the other day triggered the memory of my feelings of surprise and delight at discovering this new way of looking at something I was so familiar with.  The content was the same but the delivery was new and unexpected.  I also realised that I did not have to decide whether it was an improvement on the older version but that I had quickly accepted that the two versions could exist side by side.

DIFFICULT  BUT  NOT  IMPOSSIBLE

How had the singer achieved this?  She had found a new and intensely personal way of looking at something familiar and had made me, the listener, appreciate the content afresh.  She triggered an extraordinary reaction in me and a great many other people who also heard the song that day.

I have huge admiration for the singer, having the courage to take something so familiar and do something truly different with it.  A huge gamble that could have backfired badly but she made it uniquely hers with no detriment to what went before - just completely different.

POSSIBILITIES

At work and in our everyday lives we all allow ourselves to continue doing what we have always done before without questioning it – it’s easy that way.  Have you ever wondered whether easy is not always best?  Now would be a good time to apply a fresh pair of eyes to what you have been doing for a while, giving it a good shake and seeing if perhaps there might be another way – perhaps better, definitely different, maybe leading you to other changes.  Change for its own sake is not always the best route but it can occasionally lead to improvement, even just by relieving the tedium of unending repetition.

Use the key attributes of professionalism of integrity and the search for excellence.    Have the courage not just to do the right thing for you but also look beyond the ordinary and the mundane, beyond entrenched attitudes to find something better, something newer and, by upsetting the status quo, perhaps produce something for the benefit of everyone.  Give yourself permission to dream and you might just find your rainbow!

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves” – Thomas Edison

True professionalism - Respect and trust

I was recently wandering around in the LinkedIn listings looking for someone’s email address and stumbled across the entry from an ex work colleague.  The entry had me rooted to my chair as the detail was claiming that this individual had been in a particular role for several years whereas I know that it had been occupied by someone else during that period.

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Professional Associations as hubs

In the last few years mathematicians working on small world phenomena have developed network theory which looks set to revolutionise the way we think about our global systems of interconnectivity.The theory talks about naturally occurring hubs which form as communities of interest of one sort or another.They drive and make sense of the ways in which we are able to connect with known and not-yet-known individuals across the globe and are the basis for the success and rise of multiple social media formats.This blog is a perfect example of me reaching out to like-minded individuals who share my beliefs about the critical importance of professionalism.The theory is also the basis for the concept of six degrees of separation.For those of you who may not be familiar with this idea take a look at the Kevin Bacon Game or check out Google or Wikipaedia entries, which seek to explain how you are no more than six steps removed from anyone on the planet.

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