2020: A reflection.
2020 has been a bit, well, unpredictable hasn’t it? Regardless of your plans, hopes and dreams at this point in 2019, it’s likely that they have been largely adapted, if not decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
By the time we were noticing the lengthening days and there was a hint of springtime in the air there were rumours of a virus sweeping through Wuhan and large swathes of China and within a week or two Italy and Spain were reporting cases of the virus and its effect on their health services…countries closed inbound travel, locked-down their populations and took action to reduce the spread of the virus and tried to begin to understand the way the disease took hold.
This next bit’s quite political…
The World Health Organisation declared the Coronavirus a Global Pandemic, by which time our Prime Minister had already missed two of his own COBRA meetings on Covid-19 and on 31stJanuary we learned of the first two Covid infections in the UK, it was ‘Brexit Day’ and the PM refused to join an EU project to source and distribute PPE, on the 5thand 12thFebruary Mr Johnson skipped the next two COBRA Meetings on the virus at the point where experts were concerned the virus could infect 45 million British people. Mr Johnson then took a ‘working holiday’ at a stately home and on the 18thhe avoided the 5thCOBRA meeting about Covid-19.
I know this is recent history but it’s a part of recent history which is often airbrushed out of the narrative, on 28thFebruary the UK had its first death recorded due to Covid019 and on the 29ththe NHS bosses raised the issues of PPE shortages and the ‘nightmare’ facing the NHS. On 2ndMarch the PM finally attends a COBRA meeting and then leads the first press conference on 3rdMarch, flanked by scientists who were urging people not to shake hands…the conference at which he undermined the advice by saying he was “at a hospital the other night where there were coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody…”
By the 5thMarch Greece, Iran and Italy were closing schools, France began to restrict public events on March 9thand Ireland cancelled St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Imagine that – Ireland cancels St Patrick’s Day Celebrations – that’s close to Vatican City cancelling Easter (which they did)…on the 10thMarch Cheltenham Festival went ahead, with 250,000 attendees over 4 days while Madrid closed schools on 11thMarch, 3,000 Atletico Madrid fans flew, unchecked, into the UK for a Champion’s League game.
I could go on, but you’ll be aware of most of the sequences of events and that on 23rdMarch – finally – the UK went into lock down to break the spread of the virus and allow the country to get back to ‘normal’. Which seemed to work – the figures were stabilising and the Nightingale hospitals were developed on a wave of hope and enthusiastically weird photo shoots and people were clapping for the NHS on Thursdays, ignoring the elephant in the room of schools but trying to get through as best we could – clinging to kindness and hope-against-reality that we were getting the virus under control.
There was a grudging acceptance that our collective spirit would see us through this crisis.
Then ‘Special Advisor’ Dominic Cummings took a 260 mile trip to Barnard Castle to stay on the estate owned by his wife’s father against all lockdown rules while, it emerges, he had Coronavirus. By April 7ththe UK death toll reaches 10,000 due to the virus and we are starting to see PPE shortages across the country, the consignment of 400,000 gowns ordered by Government procurement via a T Shirt salesman arrive late from Turkey and fail tests for medical use and by 5thMay, the UK has the highest Covid death toll in Europe.
Angry yet? I was raging. The entire spring period I spent angry, frustrated and disbelieving of the incompetence….even when viewed generously our Government were not ‘following the science’- there were not even any checks at airports or entry ports and after years spent talking about ‘controlling our borders’ you’d think they may have put some effort into it.
And then after it had been proven that Dominic Cummings had travelled to Durham on the excuse that he and his wife ‘could not find childcare’ he was permitted a press conference in the Rose Garden at Number 10 Downing Street at which he defended his actions, sneered at the press questions and was then defended for breaking lockdown rules on various news programmes by cabinet ministers and MPs. This was a turning-point in the country’s compliance in my opinion. A carefully curated lockdown where the vast majority had managed to follow the advice: Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives was undermined by one man and his family, on a dubious excuse and was not only unrepentant, did not resign but had garnered the support of ministers in his actions.
One man’s behaviour and the PM’s reaction to it had undermined the messages of the Government. I know all the arguments,enmts about the PM and his job not being easy…I know, it really isn’t an easy job but, if you’d spent your entire career manoeuvring yourself into the job, you would at least think you’d take it seriously and try and exhibit some leadership wouldn’t you?
See? The personal IS political.
Political bit over – the lessons…?
At this point I decided to stop the daily handwashing / dancing videos I was recording in my office and refused to watch any press conferences for fear of putting my foot through the TV regardless of who was presenting it. Was I biased? Yes. Was it justified? Yes. I’m not even going to explore the Government’s decision to ignore discussions about delaying the Brexit transition period during a global pandemic and all that will bring…I’m seriously not going to be drawn on the ‘wisdom’ of that. Nope. Not at all.
So I had a thought…is my anger actually helping anything? Is it helping those around me? Is it helping my mindset? Is it helping me to cope? Is it helping me to be kind?
The answer to all of these questions was a solid ‘no’.
So, I took some time to work things out for myself.
We were isolating as a family of four – four adults in a too-small house, BUT, that house is a cottage not far from a stream in a hamlet of 13 houses. Things could be a lot worse.
I wondered about what we could do to help each other, we planned work to do together in the garden, we helped our eldest by giving her time to plan her lessons as a Primary teacher and helped her with space to deliver those lessons.
We became a solid unit who could rely on one another, we learned to co-exist and had specific jobs to do at specific times…I dealt with the weekly shop, occasional trips to the post office and surgery, offered to collect and deliver things for our elderly neighbours and the rest of the family did their work from home and we worked on garden projects etc in the good weather.
In short, 2020 has allowed us some time for reflection and changes to take place.
Since 2006 Innovative Enterprise has worked with hundreds of schools as clients – some of them for more than ten years – and more than 155,000 young people. It’s wonderful and I never could have dreamed of this when I took the step I did to leave a ‘proper’ job in 2005/6 to start out on my own, driven by mission, purpose and a wish to be who I needed when I was younger.
I have wanted to change the way our business works for years – I’ve spent too much time unproductively driving 20,000 miles a year driving with no let-up…I was tired of being stressed when MY definition of stress is always feeling like you’re not quite in the right place.
But I’d become busy being busy…convinced that my busy-ness was important and useful when in fact it was a treadmill I’d created for myself…and by extension, my family and the team who worked with me.
An enforced stop was good for me and our family…aside from the income that dried up and the dozens of workshop bookings that vanished we did what we could to make the best of it.
Things I did:
- Maintained an alarm and got up at 0730 each day (this was my two hours of calm and writing);
- Maintained health walking as a family or cycling when we could;
- Did a Writing Course – “publish a digital book in 21 days”. (I managed my first after 22 days and went on to do four mini teen fiction books and a paperback);
- Finished editing my book for teachers and students – The Ladder;
- Built a shed from reclaimed timber;
- Left the office we’d had for five years and sorted out years of unnecessarily-kept papers and gubbins;
- Planned and professionally recorded and edited three of our keynote and workshop resources to support teachers and students remotely;
- Designed £BusinessInYourHand and delivered to youth groups and as 33 videos on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn in October and November
- Maintained and strengthened my friends and connections on social media – mainly Twitter;
- Worked with my colleagues at National Careers Week to support teachers with online CPD and resources and launched NCW Skills Days.
As my colleague at NCW Stephen says, we were NOT sitting back! He also says ‘control the controllables’ which is something that’s easy to forget amidst the hullaballoo of everyday life.
And as I reflected during the enforced break and thought and planned and decided…I realised that my working life had become much more fulfilling, much more planned and much less erratic. In essence, I was in a better place to help others by being there in that place – in ONE place – rather than being elsewhere most of the time.
Most of our work in the past 15 years has been around supporting schools and young people, so I’ve decided to now broaden my FOCUS onto helping adults get things done, develop their careers towards new jobs, support the drive to more confidence and more fulfilling futures based on personal choices.
I decided that just as I had Cut The Crap, I would help others cut their crap too.
This was the stuff I was doing too often:
Constantly doing without thinking;
Regularly scrolling Twitter without purpose;
Actively saying ‘yes’ instead of considering whether it was the correct thing to do;
Prioritising nothing and being led by deadlines not my decisions.
As a result I wasn’t focused, as productive as I could be or as successful as I knew I could be.
So, this year, I’m aiming for the following:
- Run Every Day January (I don’t like running so I need to understand that and challenge it);
- Launching my book The Ladder and associated CPD and workshop sessions. https://www.independentthinkingpress.com/books/teachingskills/the-ladder/
- Supporting others with Cut The Crap Coaching. http://cutthecrapcoaching.co.uk(Website coming soon)
- Supporting schools with virtual, online and face to face delivery of our workshops and keynote PSHE and RSE sessions: https://innovativeenterprise.co.uk/speaker/
- Writing a second book on how the world has broken its contract with young people and what they can do about it. Based on this blog: https://innovativeenterprise.co.uk/2020/10/22/their-future-is-in-their-hands-help-them-unlock-it/
- Continuing to develop National Careers Week and NCW Skills Days to support schools and businesses connecting meaningfully without cost to education to support the further development of young people. www.nationalcareersweek.com
- To remain true to the aims of the #Teacher5aDay wellbeing movement by supporting others virtually in their efforts to exercise, notice, volunteer, learn and connect.
I’m going to stay hopeful, helpful and continue to treat people with kindness and respect.
What about you?
Whatever you do, I hope you have a fantastic start to 2021 and a safe and fulfilling year.
With love and kindness,