Windows Down

There is a new rule on the compound. When approaching the guards, drivers need to put their windows down so that the guards can verify whom they are before opening the gates.
This, I thought, was a bit much. Usually when I approach the compound I raise my hand in acknowledgement, the guards open the gates and I give a firm nod or thumbs up as I drive past. Today, since there was an admonishment written in red, that the gates will not be opened unless the driver’s window is down, I reluctantly complied.
When I put down the window I greeted the guard, “Good morning.” The guard cheerfully replied, “Good morning Ms Attong.” When I drove through the open gate I said
“Thanks” and he replied “You’re welcome.”
I thought how pleasant was that. When the glass is up, I never hear the guards’ voices and they never hear mine. How sad is that? I pass these guys every day and I never say hello, I just toss my hand into the air and I am off, without stopping to find out how they are. Here I am yearning for human connection and I never thought that my car glass was shutting people out. In the simplest of ways I can connect with others on a daily basis when I say hello to the guards.
What was I thinking? That a nod could replace a thank you, that the wave of a hand is a greeting. I am wondering where else in my life I have my glass up, where else in my life do I nod instead of saying hello, where else in my life am I shutting people out because it is expedient to do so?

What about you? Where in your life is your glass up? What would it be like if you were to put it down?

I like you

Tonight I was reminded of how connected we all are and that in that connection how natural it is for us to like each other. Liking someone is not something that I am accustomed feeling. I may appreciate the physical or intellectual aspects of someone, be fascinated by his/ her accomplishments but rarely do I sit opposite someone and just plain like them.
It was therefore rare feeling to sit and notice that I like this person. It was amazing to sit opposite someone, watch his words form , listen to his tale as he spoke about to what he did, what he wants, who he loves and just to feel in that moment connected.
Maybe the meditation class that I took this evening helped. I learned to focus on my out breath and count to ten. As I counted I stayed in the moment and whenever a thought formed I would start over counting and refocus on my breath. I learned to keep my mind clear and listen to only the birds chirp.
And so it was over a table, I followed his breath and his words staying in the moment of his thoughts, not judging just listening and the reward was a feeling of pure likeness, joy to be in the company of another as I sat in the perfect cadence of the moment.
It was a powerful moment for me, connecting with someone whom I knew when we were both much younger. It was amazing that after many years, I could still conclude that he remained a sweetheart while he experienced me as jovial.
Maybe our younger connection was always real, maybe we always presented our true selves so it was easy to connect, or maybe we both want the same thing in others – to be truly connected.
Whatever the reason I enjoyed it, a moment of friendship, a moment of connection, a moment of liking someone intensely.

Who do you like? What’s it like when you spend time with them?

FIVE QUESTIONS

I stopped making resolutions years ago, so I made none this year. Instead of making promises that I don’t keep I have been focussing on themes each year. This year, thus far I have had no thoughts on what to work on. As a result, I have not been writing since I wanted no surprises when I started writing.
Tonight, my friend who shares the same birthday as me ( Jan 4) sent me five questions
1) What worked in 2014 that’s worth bringing into 2015?
2) What would you like to experiment with to get you to the next level in 2015?
3) What changes need to be made for you to see what you want to see happen in 2015?
4) What does a successful 2015 look like?
5) In other words… what would you like to say you are most proud of at the end of 2015?

My answers
1) I want to bring connecting with people into 2015
2) I would like to experiment with meditation, getting still and listening to the Universe. I want to be led and not take control.
3)I need to take more risk, be more honest with myself and stay in awareness
4) A successful 2015 sees me connected with men and women. I am not in control and I trust and surrender to the Universe
5) I will be most proud of my meditation practice and my ability to surrender and the awe that I feel about the abundance of the Universe.

What are your answers to the five questions? Please share them with me.

Starting at zero

2014 is over and I am happy to celebrate it. It was a remarkable year for me during which I published another book, achieved more dreams, connected with new people and learned tonnes about myself and unlearned a lot of what I was told.
I am reminded of what Trinidad’s record breaking cricketer, Brian Lara, said when he was interviewed after a record breaking performance, (ad libbing of course)“ The next innings I start at zero.” I keep that in mind as I go forward into 2015. When I get up tomorrow I will continue to do what I need to. Tonight I am going to pop some bottles.

Thanks for being with me in 2014.
Best Wishes for the New Year 2015. May you get your heart’s desire. May you be well supported and connect well with all the people in your life. May you find and live your passion, exercise your power and make the choices that honor you.

To my coaching clients – I am grateful

I have often been a coachee – a coaching client – as I looked for ways to change some aspect of my life or get something done, or just needed some space to think. Whenever I sign up for coaching sessions, the first session is always the most difficult. Even when I am familiar with the coach it takes a few sessions for me to warm up and to trust that this relationship will work for me. I have often wondered “How effective is this coach? What can she do for me? Does this even work?”
Now that I am a coach, I remind myself of the uncertainty that the client must feel as they enter into a coaching relationship with me.
As a result, when clients are in front of me I am awed at their bravery, stunned by their openness and admire their courage in reaching out to me. I am also humbled by their willingness to sit in the hot spot and examine their life choices and the honesty to admit to what is keeping them back.
My clients have taught me the true meaning of intimacy – into you I see – as they show me themselves, and let me in behind the veil, to the truth of the person and to what lies beneath. It is a rare privilege to be allowed a front row seat to another’s life, behind the public face to the very essence of them. I have mixed emotions of honor and humility as they strip to their core and lay themselves open and bare, vulnerable and exposed in front of me.
I am grateful for my clients, because they show me what connection really means and what it feels like to be connected. I feel the connection on my skin when my hair stands or my pores raise as they express themselves. I feel the connection when my body mimics their movements, and my emotions range with theirs. I feel the connection when the air between us goes silent, and a dropped pin will deafen us. I feel it when the air between us becomes tangible and no one wants to be the first to cut it. When I hear the client’s brain click when they are on to something and see the “Ah Ha” form in their heads just before it spills out of their mouths, I am connected. When the question feels right as soon as it leaves my mouth I know that I have connected.
Clients remind me of my humanity, the beauty of it, its transience, and its frailty. They display for me the power of human connection and remind me that we are infinitely wise with the amazing ability to change our futures. Most importantly clients reaffirm for me my purpose – to enhance the lives of all with whom I make contact.
Thanks to all my coaching clients, you have given me so much.

Coffee builds relationships

Today I met with one of my longstanding colleagues for coffee. It was a planned affair since we needed to coordinate our schedules. This was so important to us that we both, took time from our schedules to be fully present and engage with each other.
We sat opposite each other for two hours and chatted. We exchanged where we were at and asked each other questions, gained insights about where we wanted to be, while offering thoughts and ideas on what may be next.
It was so good to be with someone whom I knew and who knew me and to just be. It was great to meet over coffee, instead of over mind altering drinks and consciously sit and chat.
As it turned out we both wanted the same thing. We wanted to connect with each other, we wanted to express ourselves without dumbing down and enjoy a conversation, and that was exactly what we did.
We explored the idea of networking and discovered that neither of us were good at it nor interested in it. We realized that we were dissonant with the word and that it did not speak to us and what we hoped for when meeting people. We were not interested in where people worked or what they did, we were interested in whom people were and what made them tick. We were interested in relationships.
We shared that we had both withdrawn from the networking events, the Friday night limes and we were both looking for the place that we could be, the people who we could just be with and the people who were genuinely interested in whom we were and not what we did.
We acknowledged the importance of relationships to us and our need to connect with people in the simplest of ways.
It was wonderful to sit with a kindred spirit and to be with someone of another gender and to hear him express my feminine desire.
This was more proof to me that we all want the same thing. We all want to be connected and we all want to be in right relations with each other. It is that simple
It was so good to connect with someone, to spend quiet time, to listen and be listened to.
After meeting with him, I resolved to spend time, precious time with all my friends over this festive season and into the New Year. I want to show up and be in relation with each and every one of them; yet I am not going to network, or to pump hands at a party.
My commitment is to build new relationships where possible, and to cement the good relations that I have.

How do you network? How do you maintain your relationships?

December is Party month

December is a time of parties. Sunday evening I went to a friend’s birthday party and today I attended a client’s end of year event. I usually dread these events. I attend out of a sense of duty – it’s my friend, she invited me or it’s part of my job. Sometimes I am in a state of dread, wondering if I will speak out of turn when I hear something stupid, or if I will eat or drink too much because I am totally bored.
These concerns were unfounded, as both yesterday and today I had a great time at each event.
I met wonderful people and we chatted for extended periods. On Sunday I met a female executive at a traditional male organisation and we chatted about power, misogyny and navigation of a political system. Later that evening I met a man who lived with chronic arthritic pain for over 10 years and was celebrating his new found mobility courtesy his monthly intravenous drips.
Tonight at the client’s event, I met a colleague and learned about his career moves, challenges and successes since last we spoke.
These for me were two perfect evenings. Sure the food was tasty and the wine was decent, but these details are secondary for me. When I go out I want to connect with people, to meet them as they are and to hear from them where they are at and what they are doing. In that moment when I am with them I am not interested in anything else, I want to plug into them, to hear their tales, their point of view and to share mine. I want them to tell me how they feel, what they are thinking and what they are hoping for. I want to find some nugget in what they share, take away something to ruminate on and to appreciate at least one thing that is unique about them. In the moment of our meeting I want to congratulate them and cheer them on to whatever they want to achieve.
I want to connect, I want to make contact, I want it to be real. In return I open up my world, my aspirations, inspirations and my challenges.
Before this December month, I have not been socializing much. I am tired of chitter chatter, mindless networking over drinks and the pointless exchange of business cards. I am fed up of being re-introduced to the person who never remembers me
as we ridiculously pump up in a meaningless handshake. I have been turned off by the diminishing value of socialising since I often walked away without the smallest of connections.
The last two evenings have restored my faith. If I met three interesting people in two nights maybe in a week I can meet ten?
Since I know that when I point a finger, there are three pointing back at me, I contrasted how I showed up in the last two nights.
For the last two nights, I stayed in the present time, I was not distracted ( no phone) and I was genuinely interested in others’ stories. I phrased my questions appropriately and listened as the answers were given. I did not exchange business cards nor numbers. It was all about that moment, and making that moment pleasurable. I was totally focussed on the person in front of me and I responded in the moment to whatever was important to us in the moment.
Now I am now looking forward to attending the other events that I have for the year. I am going to enjoy all of them.

What was the last boring party that you went to? How did you contribute to the boredom?

For Maxine

Elaine Thompson, a long time friend and colleague of mine, who attended the book launch last night, posted this note today to me. Thanks Elaine. It is always wonderful to feel your support.
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Hans, Martin and I attended the book launch yesterday of my closest and longest lasting professional friend, Maxine Attong.

We started off in the trenches in November 1990, while the city of Port of Spain was still reeling after the looting and devastation which came in the aftermath of the 1990 terrorist attack . The fact that the event was held in the shadow of the Red House, which was ground zero for the attack, was not lost upon me. Neither was the recent death of Mr. Michael Mansoor, who passed away this month, and was the financial comptroller of McEnearney Alstons Ltd while we were there.

The concept of as safe space created by a leader in the workplace is absolutely a conversation which we need to have, especially as accountants. I have not managed to read the entire book yet, as I only bought my copy yesterday, but from the first chapters which I read immediately after buying a copy yesterday, I think that this concept is particularly overlooked in the work space of today. So often do we blindly follow in the traditions of authoritarianism which were passed down through the generations of managers and Directors. The first question which Maxine asked , back in the Training room on 69 Independence Square, where we spent the first week in training lead by the Human Resource Director and his team was “Why is it so quiet here?” It was a bombshell of a question, and as we sat around the horseshoe seating, all of us, Trainees and trainers alike were at a loss for words. Mr. Gordon Draper, Human Resource Director of the McEnearney Alstons Group who was in charge of the session, managed to answer.

Maxine embodied all that was young and gifted at the time – we were reminded that over 200 people had applied for the 16 internships sitting around the training room. She was never afraid to challenge the status quo, and the fact that she has decided to follow her natural inclination to teach and coach is not surprising. It is important that the insights which she shares are informed by her grounding in finance and the rigours of the profession. Twenty years ago I was at her graduation from the Certified management Accountant course which she began while we were management trainees. Human resource professionals are in a sense generalists – in the trenches of Accounting and Finance lurk certain peculiar monsters which can only be understood by being in the trenches. This book, in fact, I consider should be required reading by Human resource professionals.

A lot of the stoicism which I see in Maxine reminds me of her mother, who was in attendance– if we are a composite of our experiences and our caregivers, then I hope that what is reflected of Mrs. Janet Attong in Maxine is pleasing to both of them.

I was strangely reminded of a poem we studied for “A” Levels – Ulysses by Alfred , Lord Tennyson, which ends thus:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

http://www.amazon.com/Lead-Your-Team-Maxine-Attong/dp/1632990091/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416416175&sr=1-1&keywords=maxine+attong
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Who supports you?

Smokes and Mirrors – Blog 99

Life is all mirrors and smokes. I thought that redecorating the house was about my ability to manage money and being precise in budgeting.  It so was not.

This has been about relationships.  Everyone who walked through my doors for the last week was a complete stranger.  The decorators recommended them and because I trusted the decorators I extended my trust to their contractors.  The relationship that I built with the decorators manifested in the relationships I developed with all the people who walked through the door.  Connections beget connections.  Now I have access to contractors that I did not have before.

It also was about asking for help.  Sometimes I could not leave work to meet a contractor so I had to ask others for help.  I had to rely on others and work with their schedules.  At times this meant that I made no decisions about the times that contractors could access to the house.  It did not hurt but it is something that I never considered since I am a do it myself type of person.

All of this meant that I had to trust people.  Trust that they would do as they say, show up when they say and give me a job that I would be happy with.  I was blind and had to be lead through the process.

I had to surrender.  The schedule was off, life happened and things did not go as planned.  I had no control over anything that happened.  When the painters were late I could not make them come early, when the delivery guy showed up an hour later I still had to pay him for the service.  I learnt something more about money.  I am an accountant so I thought that I could budget this thing to the last dollar.  My budget was completely off and the cost kept growing, yet the money kept showing up for the payments.

Tonight I am happy with the work that was done.  Still one or two things left to do which will be completed by the weekend.

The rest of the work is deferred to 2015, since at this time of year workmen are all booked up in advance for the Christmas season.  So I am also marveling at how lucky I am to have gotten the services without much delays or fuss.

I will reboot the work in the new year with a few changes.  I am not doing a budget, I have a general idea how much it will cost and that is it.  I will accept that I have no control and let things happen as they happen and  I will get some help so that someone else can open the house for the contractors.  New year, new attitude.

Looking forward to see how that works out.