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Monday, January 9, 2017

Leadership Hack Playlist - 12 Songs to Blow off Steam

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Back in early November I wrote a blog post, The Fear in the Belly, 11 Leadership Hacks to Overcome It, more of a reminder to myself that I was quite capable of getting through the tough days that are Term Four.  In that post, under leaderships hack number Four - 'Blow off the steam',  I promised I would put together a post of the songs that have been my 'go to' when my day has turned to custard and I am in the mindset where I am seriously considering and wondering how hard it is to be an Uber driver, walk away and have a fresh start.   Fortunately the super tough days are more anomaly (why was that word so dang difficult to spell)  than reoccurring cycles stuck on repeat!   

This is not a definitive list.  

There are many songs that I love to sing loudly in my car (and most days that is just because I love them and they make me happy - but that is another list for another day) and often they change, depending on what is popular for me at the time or what has struck a chord.  Some are oldies and on reflection, only really come out of the archives on really tough days.   Some I sing (or is that scream) out at the top of my lungs, with the volume so high it vibrates the car, possibly worries people on the sidewalk, and is probably impacting on my hearing!  As a stress release, there is nothing like it!  Others, I sing and they make me cry; yes the tears are ones of sadness, but they act as a healing balm, washing away my day. And this, this allows me to walk in through my front door and be mindful of those at home.  

1. Miaa - Dynasty



What is not to love?  This song is passionate, stirring and when you crank up the sound system and sing it loudly and with the same passionate verve it invokes in you, you can not help but feel the beauty of the music wash over you, and this, for me, instantly lifts my mood!  

2. Sia - Alive 





I will confess her Videos are a little weird but this song is a reminder that I am indeed ALIVE, and I am still BREATHING and I SURVIVED!  The message is powerful and when I play it, I feel grateful.  Tomorrow is another day, I am able to brush myself off and I have this!  


3. Andra Day - Rise Up 



The words speak for themselves!
"And I'll rise up
 rise like the day
 I'll rise up
 I'll rise unafraid
I'll rise up
 And I'll do it a thousand times a day"

I crank this song up very loud, play it more than once and I sing this with as much gusto as I can muster.  If the day has been particularly tough and I find myself in a fragile frame of mind,  this song will bring me to tears, and for some reason, when the tears fall, I feel the weight of the day lift.  

4. Artists of Then and Now - Forever Country 



This song brings me straight back to my roots.  I love this mash up of all the country songs of my youth, and it makes me happy.  I can sing along, tap my toes and be transported back in time.   It makes the list of blowing off steam because it is a great distraction.  Its' time capsule abilities make it a great soothing track.  The older I get, the more I stand up and embrace country music.  I love many genres and I am a little tired of pretending to 'dis' country when I know its a big fat lie.  

5. Glen Stapleton - Tennessee Whiskey 



OMG, what is not to like!  This bluesy, laid back song is my current favourite piece of country music and I love, love, love it.  As soon as the first chords ring out, I start to feel relaxed.  I can almost imagine myself sitting down in front of a roaring log fire, in a Queenstown bar in the middle of winter with a class of 'smooth whiskey' or 'warm brandy'.   Hmmm.  Listening to it now and I can feel the knots in my shoulders start to unwind.  This song is a pure indulgence and my advice to all you country haters is do not knock it until you try it! 

6. Disturbed - The Sound of Silence 





This song is a little darker but for some reason, its darker tones make me feel lighter in my own soul, as if by singing its lyrics I can offload the baggage to someone else.  As far as a remake goes, this is one of the best.  

7. Imagine Dragons and Lil Wayne - Sucker for Pain 



What is not to love?  This is a most definitely 'turn up loud and pretend you are a rapper of some note' song!  I love the lyrics, the beat and the movies one of my favourites!  As far as a stress release kind of song goes, this is one of the best.  

8. Muse - Uprising 




This is my anti establishment song and when you hear this song belting out of my car stereo then you know its been a rough day and I am pretty mad at someone or something.  This song came out during a particularly tough period of my career where it would be fair to say my distrust of bureaucracy was born, resulting in a certain aversion to risk taking (by that I mean messing with bureaucracy but that is another story for a more brave day).   This song reminds me of what is important and that I need to have faith in myself - that it is ok to be an advocate and to stand strong, and not allow the scars to sway me. Avert eyes now if you are easily offended.  It is my 'FU' song.  

9. Pentatonic - Hallelujah 




Actually, I am usually a bigger fan of Stan Walkers version, but either way, this is the one on my music playlist right now, and one of my current favs.  It could be because it coincided with the Christmas season, but regardless, I love this song and singing it loudly makes me feel less anxious and a whole lot more chilled.  On the rare occasion when the universe aligns, I have been known to hit some of the tough notes; it has to be super loud and if I pull if off, I feel a sense of accomplishment that nothing in my office that day could provide.  For that itself, it is priceless.   It just makes me happy.  

10.  Twenty One Pilots - Stressed Out 




Kind of speaks for itself really.  The lyrics really tickled my fancy.  I Play it loud, sing with pride and let the music do its thing.  

11.  Blake Shelton - Do You Remember 




Yes, it is another country song, and in fairness to Blake, I could add most of his songs to this list.  There is something about his music that makes me feel warm, safe and bundled up in a warm and comfy blanket.  His voice has the power to relax and chill.  I first heard his dulcet tones on a plane trip across the ditch on the way to a conference - I had finished my movie and was flicking through the music playlists and found his 'Based on a True Story' album and its been a love affair since.  I did not notice the plane landing (and that is the bit I dislike the most) and to this day his music makes me happy.  

12. Siaa - The Greatest 



Again, the lyrics speak for themselves.  "I am free to be the greatest here alive...don't give up, I won't give up...I've got stamina'.  It is a good reminder that we can do this, we can own this and we have the stamina to fail and stand back up!  "Don't give up - no, no, no'  

                                                                .......................................

Only twelve songs - but twelve songs that can revive me from a leadership low, and make me feel whole again.  I have more, but for the time being, these are my top (as witnessed by the 'recently played' playlist on my phone!!)  I have always found music to be one of my biggest sanity savers, and I have noticed over the years that the music I love at the time, relates a lot to where I am at.  I note that, for the most part, most of this playlist is about being strong, holding on and believing in your own strength and resilience.   

I guess, at the end of the day, it is not important whether you like my playlist but if you have your own things (it may or may not be music) that help you 'blow off steam'.  I have colleagues that like to run, and others that are Jazz aficionados (not my cuppa tea by any means), so what is yours?

Whatever your blower of steam  is - may it be the magical antidote to any leadership lows you may have!  


Monday, January 2, 2017

Beware the 'Creep Up'

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Let me begin with a clarification.  By bewaring the 'creep up' I am not referring to your underpants or the weird fella down the street with the dodgy van.  By 'creep up' I am referring to those things in life that sneak up on us, practically unexpected (I would like to say completely unexpected but if we were to be honest with ourselves, we are given signs we are more than likely to just be in denial about them).  

The life of a busy person is an interesting thing.  Sometimes it is in our 'busyness' that we fail to see things creep up on us until it feels like they have smacked us on the side of the head with the full force of a pro boxer!  Sometimes this 'busyness' has the by product of the above denial! 

One thing I like about this time of the year (Summer holidays) is that it is the only prolonged 'time out' that gives me enough breathing space and navel gazing opportunities to rediscover who I am, WHY I am and it gives me the time to do a bit of a stock take of my life; especially my health and general wellbeing (physical and mental).  

I have noticed a few things that have 'crept up' on me, which I am working to rectify (or have peace with, as the case may be).  Here are my top 5. 

Middle Age 

Actually, this is just a simple case of denial really.  I know how old I am, and soon, I will be half way to ninety, which, because my brain has not caught up or gotten the memo, seems a bit surreal really.  We spend most of our younger years pretending we are older than we actually are, and our middle years pretending the opposite.  No wonder our brains get confused!  I am not sure about this middle aged thing - nor am I confident I understand the rules!  So sod it, I will just have to do it my way.   I read the other day that the new phrase for middle aged women is Midult (which Collins dictionary defines as the 35-55 year old, digitally literate female Gen X with a disposable income, demographic) and I LIKE it.  Pretty much sums me up nicely (not so sure about the disposable income bit - that gets eaten up by Miss 13 who can consume disposable income faster than a starving puppy).  So, in order to make peace (because I can not really rectify it) with 'middle age' this Midult is going to own it her way!  (sounds great - unsure what it actually looks like but watch this space anyway) 

Winter Padding 

Oh alright, by winter padding I mean those extra kilograms that snuck up and attached themselves to various parts of my body when I wasn't looking.  Yes, you are correct dear reader, this is yet another example of denial in action.  Lack of self control on the 'delicious but should not put it into my mouth so often' front, combined with a job that has lots of pressure (I am refraining from using the S word in an attempt to take some of its power off it, much like in Harry Potter where they say "he who shall not be named') and a bad habit of leaving work too late and too tired to go to the gym!  (yes, that was an excuse - soz) My gym gear travels to work with me every day, but alas, that is mostly all it has done - come for a free ride!   On the plus side, several layers of padding have been dealt with already and the basis of good habits are being underwritten each day.  The added bonus will be that the the health effects from the 'S' word will also be minimised - so theres that to look forward to! 

The Impact of Clutter 

This was a legitimate creep up - promise!  On the last day of term I looked at my desk/office/laptop desktop and wondered how on earth I had managed to let it get so BIG.  I notice that when I am juggling many things, I have a bit of a terrible habit of putting something into what I affectionally call the 'when I am not so busy' pile.  Ha.  That is a bit of a joke, because the kicker is that I am always busy!  This term 4 was a particularly harrowing and frantic term, and I ended up with quite a few of these piles - digital and real life.  The digital piles have been cleared - I had to migrate to a new computer (which I should have done A LONG time ago but the job was too big for the schedule until now) and migrating a new laptop is a great opportunity to clean up.  The physical piles have been attacked a few times - I try and leave the term 'tidy' but with all the dramas of the last few days of school never quite finished so came in prior to Christmas and attacked them then.  Sadly this clutter is not confined to just my office, but had invaded parts of our home.  This is still a work in progress!   Every summer holidays I clear out the 'plastics' cupboard - how the heck does it even keep growing?  As for those lost socks - resistance is futile - you will be found and assimilated!  Sigh.  

Things don't work like they used to 

Your limbs don't move the way they used to, things hurt at random times and for random reasons, and your eagle like eyesight is less reliable than it was.  All key features of being  Midult and not something that should really come as a surprise, but when somethings refuses to work the same efficient way it used to, it really does feel like it has crept up in some nasty game of 'surprise, guess what doesn't work now'.  


Being a Midult with a Teenager 

Like Middle Age, your child becoming a teenager shouldn't be a surprise, but for some reason, this has felt a bit like it has crept up on me.  One of my areas of expertise in Education is behaviour management (I've even written the books - true story) but all those things go out the window when you have one living in your house.   It is amazing how your own child can render you from competent to incompetent in a matter of moments.   Sometimes, It is a little like living with a mercurial nuclear weapons operator (in fairness this could describe either of us).  One moment, you see glimpses of the beautiful adult they are blossoming into, the next, the crazy 'could push the nuclear button that will annihilate the world' mad person emerges.   Goodness knows how difficult it is navigating the murky waters of being a 21st Century teenager, best we can do is be there as they make the journey and hope you don't get driven to sample the special 'lemonade'  too often!  


Overcoming or rectifying the 'Creep Ups': 

Whilst I would love to offer you all some wonderful and sage advice, if we were to be honest wiht ourselves,  overcoming the 'creep ups' is really about employing some basic time management tools and a little bit of common sense.  

1. Read this post.   Some of these ideas can be found in a previous post 'Confessions of a Procrastinator' which includes some handy hints that will help you avoid a 'creep moment'. 

2. Be mindful - obviously if you feed yourself too much of the not so good for you foods, fail to look after your health and keep fit, then you are going to have some issues.  Live in the present!

3. Remind yourself that sometimes life is messy, try not to dwell on it, learn from it and move on.  

4. Be kind to yourself.  You are human - see number 3.  

5. Embrace the unexpected - see if you can find the sparkle in the dark and chalk it down to the beauty that is the journey of life.  If you can reflect on it and find the lesson, then all the more for it! 

6. Develop the growth mindset of a warrior.  Get up, brush yourself off and own it!  

7. Breathe!  Take a break, and remember, you have got this!

8. Ask for help - from a friend, family, colleague or a professional.  

These are my top 5 'creep ups' and some ways to overcome them.  What things creep up on you and what solutions do you use?