Thursday 1 September 2011

Let’s not let the status quo sink society

This is the first of two major articles I will provide this month as my changing what's normal newsletter. You can sign-up to receive my newsletter here.
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Often when I work long term with a client I have an office at their premises and usually I leave quotes and other visual reminders of what we are working on together on the door or window. Recently I visited with a past client and as soon as I walked past the office I once used, I remembered once leaving the following on the door. (part of what we were working on at the time was personal responsibility)

“I thought someone should do something, and then I realised I was someone.”
John F. Kennedy

The above was replaced by someone unknown with
The definition of stupidity is:
“Expecting a different result by continuing to do the same old thing.” Anon

and then within a short time someone unknown also put the following on the window.

The definition of idiocy is:
“Doing something different and still getting the same result.” Anon

Very soon the focus of everyone became not being stupid or idiotic. It was a lot of fun, much learning took place, and everyone improved their personal responsibility. And so I reflected fondly when I walked past that office.

There is a lot of stupidity going on in the world today (and some idiocy!).
In many ways the status quo is sinking society.
Here just a few examples of what I think is stupidity:

Many politicians think taxing us solves a myriad of problems and so they go on taxing us and as a consequence create bigger problems and we pay the price.
Tax as a solution to all things is so 18th century and in some cases as old as time.

Many politicians think they have to tell us what to do and when to do it and even when we are using legal products such as gambling machines, they think we need help to be responsible for ourselves and try to take over what we should be responsible for.

Minorities get heard more than majorities and this masquarades as democracy.

Very little of what children learn in school actually matters in the real world.

Interruption marketing still invades our privacy every night on televison via advertising that in the main is the same as it was 60 years ago. It is rare that an ad catches my imagination. I wonder if the big companies who run most of the ads know that most of us have become immune to their advertising.

I know of a self-funded retiree couple who qualify for a dollar each per fortnight pension and they each duly receive a $1 cheque in separate envelopes.

I am sure you could add lots to the stupidity list.

Yet a key question is: What are you doing that is normal (status quo) for you that if you really thought about it is stupid or idiotic?

Until I was around 17 I thought I was personally stupid.
Here’s my story which is sparkenation 2 of 58 in my changing what’s normal book.

I’m not normal and neither are you


Most people hold an inaccurate image of themselves that is much to do with what they think other people think about them. Sadly this kind of self-image can last a lifetime.

Changing What’s Normal

The biggest message I heard from my teachers at school, when I was a teenager, was that I was stupid. A common phrase from many of them was: “What are you doing, stupid?”

On Sundays in those years I heard a different message, “You are a sinner in need of redemption.”

On many Saturdays I heard yet another message. After sport on Saturday mornings I would often visit my Grandparents on my way home. My Nana Sherriff, whose shepherds pie I can still smell and taste whenever I think about it, often used to look across her kitchen table and say, “You know you’re special!” I didn’t know who I was, and strangely enough, when I look back, I wonder why I chose stupid as the picture I had of myself most of the time.

When I left school the only job I could get was working as a brickie’s labourer for a construction firm owned by friends of my family, a firm my Grandfather Sherriff worked for until his death at age 76. I also worked for a time as a painter for another friend of my family.

One day I was painting a church, the same place where I’d heard over and over that I was a sinner. My mother’s friend, Mrs. Murray, who lived across the road, came to get me, on this particular day, because another friend of the family wanted to talk to me on the telephone. There were no mobile phones in the 70s!

Noel, who worked for a recruitment organisation, was calling to tell me he had an interview for me with the National Australia Bank, and that I needed to cut off my long hair, shave off my beard, buy a suit (I didn’t own one at the time), and to do so quickly.

The only good thing my school report card said was, “Ian has a sense of humour”, so my interviewer didn’t waste any time cutting to the chase saying, “There is no way I could give you a job son, I’m sorry.” I thought “I’ve got nothing to lose” and replied, “I am not going to get on my hands and knees and beg, however I promise you, if you give me a chance, I won’t let you down.”

My interviewer then shocked me when he reached out, shook my hand, and said, “You’re hired!” A few days later when I started work, my hirer, who became my
first mentor, told me he wasn’t sure what came over him, saying, “I just had the feeling you were someone special!”

So Nana Sherriff was right and for the first time in my life, at age 17, I believed her and I have never looked back.

Deep down I always knew I wasn’t normal. The reason I got into so much trouble at school was because I felt other people were forcing me to be like everyone else and I rebelled. I was fortunate that my first employer in the business world didn’t think I was normal either. His mentoring taught me that my quest in life was to be the best one-of-a-kind that I could be and that authentic leadership is about creating cultures where everyone has opportunity to shine.

My first mentor had a great philosophy which I later discovered was popularised by Goethe, the great German philosopher:

"When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be."

Sadly very few of the so-called educators I experienced in my youth understood the truth of these words. I have been fortunate to work with some remarkable people who get Goethe’s truth, and I have been honoured to meet several more. Are you such a person?

Possible actions:

How normal do you see yourself?
Could you be more of a non-conformist?
If so what would you do differently and when will you begin?
How often do you celebrate that you are special?
Could you do so more often?
How often do you see people as they could be and celebrate the
special nature of every human being with individuals?
Could you do so more often?
Do your work.

Key question again: What are you doing that is normal (status quo) for you that if you really thought about is stupid or idiotic?

Discover your specialness please. Claim it. Step up to your significance and standout. Let’s never allow the status quo to sink society.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

1 comment:

Krishna R, Sydney said...


Thanks for that- yes status quo is indeed sinking our society. The other day I became glaringly aware that 19 billion dollars lies unclaimed in "lost" superannuation. This is folks simply not claiming their super or not joining or merging their super accounts when they move employers, and just letting to lie dormant.
I came back and told my wife that, and said "how dumb is that, particularly in times like this?" Her rejoinder " Well we've all been guilty havent we? (now you know what that means!)", So I said "what do you mean?" Her reply : " Well there's the landlords that wouldnt pay back back deposits, that we never fought, theres the losses suffered because of negligence of third parties - cars, other episodes/accidents, that weve let go, theres the investments matured that havent been harvested, do you want me to relate some more? Its the same thing, just the quantum of money thats different!" Humbled I realised, yes, thats spot on, we keep talking and finding others losses but are blind to our own. Why keep talking of difficult times when we ourselves by our negligence and lack of timely action, create these conditions?" Stupidity ? idiocy ? Or Status Quo running roost ? You decide.

Krishna R