Have you noticed lately, how mad everyone is? Angry, hurt, frustrated and vocal. Anger that ranges from casually inconvenienced to visceral rage, from all strata of society, throughout much of the Western world. I cannot speak to the East, because I don’t hear so much from the second and third world, it certainly seems though, that the privilege of first world habitation brings with it a desire or inclination to be whipped into a frenzy.
‘Road Rage’. Literally anger at THE ROAD. “HOW DARE YOU NOT DO THE 20km/hr OVER THE SPEED LIMIT THAT I WOULD LIKE TO DO RIGHT NOW…. GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!! ARGHHHHH”
‘Race Rage’. Exaggerating differences and the impact of these differences, causing various pockets of us and them. The Us invariably being denied opportunity due to the ever-present spectre of Them.
How so many people can reconcile in their heads that the problems caused in an entire country can be attributed to the smallest percentage, lowest socio-economic groups is beyond me, but it is certainly easy to whip people into a rage about it.
This anger has somehow lead to a shift in leadership across the world. In the Philippines death squads have killed thousands of people without trial, while allowing the President unprecedented approval ratings from an enraged population. In the United States, a President who lives in a GOLD TOWER somehow was elected on a platform that he understands the needs and lives of every day (angry) Americans. They are rallying around Confederate and Nazi flags and literally CARRYING BURNING TORCHES! In Great Britain voters approved a Brexit scheme that had no real details, and are now staring down the barrel of economic uncertainty off the back of voters that believed a small minority of immigrants were the reason they were denied personal opportunities and falling behind economically. In Australia, people are mad. I don’t actually even know what for. Mad at renewable energy, mad at incarcerated minors, mad at boats filled with desperate asylum seekers, as though a boat with 20 people on it will cause the economic destruction of our entire way of life. Mad at same sex marriage, mad at politicians with dual citizenship, mad at renewable energy and coal. It seems like people are angry wherever they possibly can be.
Politicians speak about where we are, and why that’s terrible. About the ‘mess they have been left with’, deflecting anger to people and parties that have long since lost their power. Encouraging people to rage at the past, as though that somehow improves the present, or absolves them of the responsibility of how things are now not how they were.
Newspaper headlines have rage inducing headlines splashed across them every day.
SOMEONE DID SOMETHING.
A PERSON SAID SOMETHING.
PEOPLE WHO LOOK DIFFERENT TO YOU DID SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULDN’T DO.
BE SCARED OF THIS THING.
BE MAD AT THIS OTHER THING.
It’s not that we are simply being incited to rage, we have our rage and our anxieties pointed down all the time. Pointed at people we don’t know, pointed at things we don’t understand, pointed at people who are down the chain from us. The upper class rage at the middle class, the middle class rage at the lower middle class, the lower middle class rage at the lower class, everyone rages at the unemployed, uneducated, freshy emigrated, incarcerated and disadvantaged.
Surely these unknown elements are the source of all our problems…. Or maybe they aren’t.
When I was a teenager, we were warned about Asians. Vietnamese Gangs. Cambodian Gangs. Truth be told, as a teen I was chased by some of these gangs, brandishing knives, samurai swords, trolley poles (the handles from shopping carts)… Alongside the Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrant kids there were as many Caucasian kids in the gangs too. In fact, in the case of almost every gang ever, you can just refer to them as ‘Disenfranchised teenagers, who lack support, vision and encouragement, building their self-esteem and self-worth through a community of similarly difficult teens’.
Nowadays I couldn’t pin all the problems we face in society on Vietnamese… Their cuisine is too delicious, I can get it on Uber eats and Menulog for Gods sake! Most of us know a Vietnamese person and can vouch that ‘they’re ok’. The same goes for the Greeks and Italians that we all know and love. It’s hard to be mad at Italian immigrants when I look forward to the next opportunity to be fed to the point of bursting by my mates Nonna. There was a time though when they too bore the brunt of a country’s anger and spite.
How many of us know Sudanese kids? APEX is the gang du jour. The newest and most significant threat to our safety and way of life. Just like the Vietnamese, the Italians and the Chinese were at some point in time. How many of us know Muslims? They make up less than 2% of the population, but somehow they are ruining the very fabric of our society? Those newest to our country? Not the entrenched, the powerful and wealthy, the people who make decisions that decide whether we have access to welfare, healthcare and infrastructure?
Why do we allow these views and opinions to proliferate our social fabric?
Perhaps it is because people are blinded by anger, and enlightened by truth. Blind people are easier to lead, more inclined to give up their autonomy of direction.
One seeks the truth, making them harder to lead. If you are seeking, then by definition you must have some control over where you go looking. Being angry requires nothing more than just your own internal dissatisfaction. I don’t need facts to know I am angry about something, I just know that I feel mad about it.
Anger allows you to shift responsibility to the person or situation that ‘made you mad’. Never mind your choice to allow yourself to be enraged by things that make little logical sense, or that have no real impact on your life or even basis in fact. You can be mad. Didn’t get the job you wanted? Be mad at the person who got it.
Didn’t leave enough time to get where you were going? Be mad at traffic.
Can’t afford a house, or earn enough in your job? Get mad at refugees, who are obviously the reason housing prices have inflated astronomically in the past 30 years, even though the ones you are mad at they have only been arriving in the last 15 years.
Being mad at each other advances nothing, solves nothing and puts blinkers on society to the real things that oppress us. Looking down at the very small and the few things we do not understand prevents us from seeing the great problems that lie above us. Seek the truth, and look for reasons to help and solve problems rather than reasons to be mad.
With your eyes open, you will be harder to lead astray. I am no conspiracy theorist, but look to the actions of those in charge, look beyond the words and fear mongering. Look beyond the headlines and labels given to things we do not understand. The more you know, the harder you are to trick, just like the more you appreciate, the harder it is to be enraged.
Make an effort to understand. Make an effort to appreciate. Make an effort to Just Be Nice. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to create extraordinary positive change.
Congratulations and encouragement. Two positive nouns no doubt, but are they being used appropriately in this current age of ‘start-ups’, 'intent' and declarations of purpose?
Congratulations; words expressing one's praise for an achievement or good wishes on a special occasion.
Encouragement; the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.
Too often we are congratulating people for starting something rather than encouraging them. Too often we save our congratulations for people who are the most visible, the loudest or standing at the front of the line rather than those who have had their noses to the grindstone getting things done.
What could be wrong with congratulating people for starting things you might ask? Good question, let’s look at what congratulating someone implies.
Firstly, it implies an achievement, and frankly, simply starting something is not really an achievement. I could, in the next couple of days start 10 new businesses, 12 books, 15 marathons and 28 training sessions in the gym. I can guarantee you that none of those would be worth congratulating me for, especially if I have only started them.
It would be worth encouraging me, however, letting me know that pulling out the notepad and pen is a fantastic way to start writing a book. That getting into the gym is a great way to start getting into better shape and that you have to start a marathon in order to possibly finish it. The congratulations however need to be saved for the end, or at the very least, for some progress that can be reviewed.
Congratulations imply a special occasion. By congratulating ‘start-ups’, ‘starting-up’ and ‘grand declarations of intention’, we are implying that they are special occasions. Again, the truth is that the start of something only becomes a special occasion upon its completion. Mentioning that I am starting a marathon is not a special occasion, the start of a marathon becomes special by virtue of the work that follows. At the end of the marathon, having finished and achieved a complete outcome, the start, middle and end all become significant. By starting and pulling out 300m into the race, there is nothing to congratulate, there has been no special occasion.
Championing starting takes away from those who work hardest. It dims the light of the finishers. We fund Start-ups rather than Keep-goings, we congratulate massive statements of intention, rather than consistent execution of simpler outcomes. We invest in what we can say is going to happen, rather than invest in things that are happening. We look to what people would like to achieve, rather than look to how people will achieve it.
Focusing on starting up, and considering it something worth congratulating has given rise to a culture of the ‘elevator pitch’, the ‘tell me what you want to do in a minute or less’, the ‘explain what you’re doing in 50 words’.
When you focus on the start, you no longer need to explain all the things that are about to happen in order to achieve a goal, rather you simply focus on the outcome you haven’t achieved yet. Time and time again we are being forced to simplify the process at the beginning, so that people can better understand what is hopefully about to happen.
Elevator pitches are better utilised for the end. It is very simple to get a shorter pitch to understand what has already happened, because outcomes are easier to explain than processes.
Congratulate – “I lost 20kgs.”
Don’t congratulate “I would like to lose 20kgs”, Encourage them.
Encouragement acknowledges an impending process, or period of work, effort and output. Congratulations implies that the work has already been done. Congratulating Usain Bolt at the starting line of the 100m would be silly. Understanding all the elements that will go into Usain Bolt telling you that he will be the fastest runner in the history of mankind will also take a lot of time and effort, across many years. Congratulating him for finishing in the fastest time anyone has ever seen, that makes sense, fits into a small elevator pitch and can be communicated simply as “I am the fastest man that ever lived.”
If you are going to encourage people we intrinsically know that simply saying “I’ll lose weight” is not enough. Saying “I’ll be an Olympic Sprinter” is not enough. It needs to be backed up with effort, and that effort needs to be targeted, measured and repeated over and over again. This effort is what we need to encourage.
Encouraging sits and listens to longer presentations. Congratulations wants bite sized chunks of simple information that is outcome focused rather than process focused. In my line of work its seeing organisations simply say things like “We want to end poverty”, “We want to end homelessness”, “We want to cure all the diseases known to mankind”. We cannot congratulate these statements, we can only encourage them. If we are to encourage them, we must know what the processes are that these organisations are going through to achieve these lofty goals.
When you break down encouragement into a process based discussion, you open up the door to understanding how someone is going to go about achieving or finishing their outcomes. Lose 20kgs is not necessarily a simple process, it involves many factors and will require multiple revisions and tweaks along the way. ‘Ending Poverty’ is even more complicated!
Encouragement is necessary, Congratulations should be reserved for accomplishment. To encourage well, we need to take the time to understand the processes that people need to achieve their goals. To congratulate well, we need to take the time to hold people accountable to outcomes. Over time, we can change from a culture that applauds starting, to one that applauds consistency and outcomes. Look for the people that are doing, not just saying, and give them a shout-out. Congratulate them on their achievements to date, encourage them to continue to achieve, and as always, Just Be Nice.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of speaking with Julie Ann on the Mere Mortals podcast, based in the US!
Talking about how to pay more attention and give people better help.
How to incorporate the Just Be Nice principles into your life or organisation.
How to approach conversations around helping people.
The original link to the page is HERE
To subscribe to the Mere Mortals Podcast on iTunes check it out HERE
Have a listen, share, subscribe or like it on iTunes and feel free to pop some comments below!
This past week my father passed away. I received a phone call from an old family friend to inform me that he had not only passed away, but had taken his own life. It took a couple of very sad phone calls, with some heartbroken people to be told "He was bitten by the black dog."
I have to say that it was unexpected. I had not heard from him in about 18 months, and in the last decade, we had only seen each other and spoken a handful of times. It is no secret that there were some traumatic and disappointing experiences that my family suffered as a result of my father’s actions. In many ways, the negative aspects of my own childhood had a significant impact on my development into the person I am today. He himself had suffered at the hands of his father, and his father at the hands of his grandfather. Ultimately, those experiences also shaped the man that he was to come to be.
I was once told that to move past the negative experiences, and ensure you don’t repeat the sins of your father, you need to forgive them. Some of us are able to forgive to some extent (although forget is still beyond me at this stage). Some people are not. It is a heavy weight to carry if you cannot forgive though.
A couple of things had to happen almost immediately after the phone calls. First was my own refection. I’m the eldest of three, and so I had the most time with him when he was still a functioning father. It would be a lie to say that we had no positive experiences together. My life started with two wonderful, engaged parents, and I was lucky in that regard. As a boy, like many boys, I looked up to the big, strong, clever man that my father was in the early years.
Sometimes I wonder if the good times make the tough times worse, or if it is better to have had some good times rather than none. Given my temperament, and the way I look at the world, I tend to side with the ‘some good times are better than none’ argument. We are all the sum of our experiences, both good and bad. While I was lucky to see what a good man looks like in practice, I also experienced the heartbreak of that same good man becoming an agent of disappointment and eventually leaving us all behind.
The second thing that had to happen was to go and tell the family. My Mum, my brother and my sister. The death of an estranged relative is a difficult one to process immediately. It is certainly far too fresh for any of us to really understand how we will feel about it in the long term. We are lucky that even though our family is small, we are very close and open to candid discussions, so with a few tears and some reflection and shock, we all set about beginning the process of dealing with it in our own ways, together. It is a blessing to have an understanding and caring family and friends, and already I owe a debt of gratitude to the kind words and support we have received.
Over the last decade, I had talked about not even knowing whether I would find out if he ever passed away, I was never sure if anyone would get in touch with me to let me know. I had never expected that the black dog would get him like that, but I guess the nature of mental health troubles is that they often manifest in unexpected ways. Honestly, I had said that I wouldn’t be fussed when he passed away, but then, having received the call, maybe I am fussed. I certainly never expected the call to go the way that it did. Maybe I care that my father got a to a place where he believed this to be his best option. I feel deeply for anyone that feels so alone that they can walk through a door and never return.
I have been open in discussing some of the trials and tribulations of my life to date. I don’t have any answers now, and I am at the beginning of a process of dealing with what has happened. I know that ultimately, I will be ok. If I do hit a roadblock, I think that it is worth speaking about it on behalf of those who maybe don’t have the words to express their feelings themselves.
Once again, it’s time to practice what we preach. It is ok to not be ok, its ok to not know how to feel. It is ok to not be sure how to deal with the curve balls that life throws at you, and certainly reconciling the complex emotions surrounding this particular circumstance will take some time no doubt. It’s ok to be ok as well, there is a feeling that some of the responsibility of the expectation to be really upset is offset by the fact that many years ago this man decided not to be a part of my life. In that regard, I am not entirely sure how I am supposed to feel, or indeed how I do feel.
It has made work a bit difficult this week, I’m a thinker, so when my mind is occupied, it can be harder to just focus. I have written this to deal with that, maybe to get it off my chest and begin the process of moving forward. Our family is fortunate to have a wonderful network of beautiful humans around us to help, unfortunately that isn’t the case for everyone, so should you need to speak to someone about any issues you, or a loved one might be facing, the numbers are below.
At the end of the day, now is a good time to go give someone a hug, a smile, tell your loved ones that you love them and as always Just Be Nice.
Lots of love – Josh Reid Jones.
Should you or anyone you know need someone to speak to call:
Lifeline for 24/7 crisis support on: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service for people at risk of suicide, carers and bereavement: 1300 659 467
Kids Help Line – Conselling for people 5-25 years old: 1800 55 1800
Griefline – Counselling service for people suffering grief: 1300 845 745
Are you happy? It is a question that I get asked from time to time, and this week I was asked twice! So I thought I might take a moment to discuss the reasons that I don’t really have a great yes/no answer to that question.
I have never really been too focused on being ‘happy’, perhaps as a defence mechanism to events in my life, I took out the need for super-high highs, in order to take out the opportunity for super-low lows. Paying more attention to how I lived my life and who I am, rather than focusing on what is going on at any particular individual point in time. I would say that by and large I live a life that I am happy with, a life that keeps me content, based on me having the opportunities to act in a way that matters to me.
When it comes to happiness, there are few kinds of situations that might be the focus of what many people call ‘being happy’. There is feeling joy in the Current Moment, there is feeling inspired for Future Possibility and there is a pride that one feels reflecting on Past Achievement. There is also a kind of contentment that comes from Consistent Character throughout the entire process.
A lot of people consider happiness to be the feeling of joy in the current moment, while I think I derive more satisfaction from the constant attempt to live a life of consistent character.
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson believes that happiness relies on four elements.
In asking ‘are you happy’ I believe a lot of people associate a positive state as the primary example of happiness. Unfortunately, that comes at the expense of three other pillars of happiness. I have developed an ability to bounce back from negative states through years of having to develop that resilience. My negative states rarely get too deep, and even more rarely hang around for longer than a day or two. I am constantly working on ways to improve my ability to focus, routine, effort and a drive to improve the world help keep that on track (even though I lose my way from time to time). My entire life, The Just Be Nice Project, my other businesses, my personal development, is all about improving my capacity (and the capacity of others) to be generous, and help people in a meaningful way.
I might not reach the absolute peaks of positivity regularly, but I am absolutely working on the four pillars of happiness every, single, day.
The idea that we deserve a life that is full of outrageous joy every single day has always seemed crazy to me. Tough times are just as important as the good ones. Without the juxtaposition of light and dark we wouldn’t know the difference between the two.
I have always been amazed at how beautiful things are in the half light. As the sun sets, we get the ‘golden hour’. The beauty of life lies in contrast, in the difference between shadow and light, blemishes become highlights, boring landscapes reveal their depth in these moments. I believe life and my own feelings of happiness and contentment to function the same way.
It is not to say that I never experience joy, or even significant joy, but no one lives at the top of the mountain. Once you get there, you are ecstatic with your achievement, you have a unique view and a special moment just for you…. But those heights do not support life full-time.
..no one lives at the top of the mountain.
You descend again, to once more make plans for another big adventure. I find joy in the planning, in the journey, in the achievement and in doing it with a character that I strive to be proud of, every single day.
Take pleasure in the journey, the achievement and the moment. Build yourself into a person that you can be proud of in every situation. Learn to focus, to not only be positive, but to bounce back from being negative and always look to improve your understanding of others so you can improve your capacity to be generous and of course, Just Be Nice.
Today an article of mine was published in The Mighty.
It was written for the team at RUOK Day, who are doing fantastic work in the space of helping peers look after each other.
It means a lot to me to have people share the stories of wonderful men like Greg. They are the unsung heroes of the success and happiness of many people, and they need to be celebrated.
Thanks for taking the time to support publications that spread the good word.
You can check out the article HERE
What a great privilege it is to be able to work with such wonderful humans. The Just Be Nice Project is all about keeping people doing what they are good at. Enabling them to amplify the impact they are able to have alongside other people and organisations with specific skills and resources.
It all starts with Just Being Nice, but it doesn't end there, and on this Podcast the Design & Play team interview someone who I am privileged to work with.
Summer Howarth is kicking serious goals supporting teachers Australia-wide with Education Changemakers I can't wait to be around the collective genius of Australia's teachers at the upcoming EduChange Conference in Melbourne.
Summer talks about the great opportunities that lie withing empowering teachers, the exciting things that are coming up for EduChange, and the Just Be Nice Project even gets a mention.
Check it out, and keep up to date with the great work these awesome humans are doing.
Summer on Twitter: EduSum
Design and Play Link and further info/Podcast Notes: Design & Play
Podcast Link: Design & Play - Summer Howarth
One woman is killed every week from domestic violence.
From 2005 - 2012 20 people we killed from coward punches in Australia and there were 176 reported incidents of coward punching.
1 in 3 women over the age of 15 has experienced physical violence in Australia.
These aren't terror attacks, but Andrew Bolt has decided to hero his own punching and kicking prowess in response to having glitter thrown on him, while making pariahs of an entire faith based on the actions of a few sick individuals.
I couldn't not respond to such an out of touch, insincere, rabble rousing, inconsistent, embarrassing and inappropriate article. This kind of rhetoric points peoples frustration in all the wrong directions, encourages all the wrong behaviours and solves nothing.
Andrew Bolt. You need a serious reality check.
This week I took a couple of hundred staff members at Sensis, from the CEO to the sales teams, through training to improve the quality of their conversations. Working with the great team at RUOK Day whose mission is to improve connections and conversations across the community.
I was dealing with the second step of the 4-step process to looking after people who are having a rough time.
Ask – Listen – Encourage Action – Check In.
Listening seems to be a pretty intuitive thing to do, especially after asking if someone is ok. Listening without judgement can be a little bit more difficult. I believe that we have issues with judging problems from two sides.
Often the things which cause distress to people are embarrassing, shocking, unusual, socially unacceptable or difficult to talk about. These circumstances can sometimes be hard to hear without passing some kind of judgement.
“I wet myself on the weekend at the club.”
“What on earth did you do that for you idiot?”
The immediate judgement statement is likely to prevent me from continuing my conversation about what upset me in the first place. It is ok to be shocked, its ok to be confronted by something that you haven’t really got any experience with, but we need to temper that shock and try not to pass judgement right away.
“I wet myself on the weekend at the club.”
“Oh my goodness! I can’t imagine what that’s like, and I wasn’t expecting that! Are you ok?”
You can still be shocked, but by avoiding the judgement piece, you are encouraging the person you are speaking with to continue to tell their story and discuss how it affected them. Our preconceived notions of what it is ‘ok’ to talk about often prevent people from speaking about issues that are important or extremely upsetting to them.
I bet you were shocked by my example earlier, and it is such an entry level embarrassment on the scheme of things, that I ask you to consider what else you might be unconsciously preventing people from talking about. Bodily functions, accidental stuff ups, things that happen when we are drunk, sources of shame etc. It is important that we open up lines of communication for those close to us, no matter what the issue is. Etiquette and timing aside, we should be doing our best to listen to problems of any kind without judgement. We don't need to have the answers, we simply need to be able to listen.
The other end of the judgement scale is to judge issues that aren’t deemed serious enough.
“How are you today?”
“Arghhh terrible, I dropped my donut on the way into the building.”
“Come on mate, Is that really a big deal? Don’t you know what is happening overseas?”
Now, we all know someone who loves to make a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to complaining, however, our judgement on whether a problem is serious or not can prevent us from seeing when something really is wrong. Without judgement, the same conversation could go two ways:
“How are you today?
“Arghhhh terrible, I dropped my donut on the way into the building.”
“That’s annoying! Are you ok?”
“Yeah mate, it’s just a donut!”
The problem wasn’t a serious one, and the colleague/friend/family member was just having a little morning complain, which is fine. Everyone agrees a dropped donut isn’t the end of the world. The conversation could also have gone a little differently though:
“How are you today?
“Arghhhh terrible, I dropped my donut on the way into the building.”
“That’s annoying! Are you ok?”
“Not really, it just feels like this is the millionth thing to go wrong this week.”
The donut could simply be the straw that broke the camels back. Listening without judgement provides an opportunity to have the real issues come to the surface so they can be heard.
The other valuable listening piece that is perhaps not spoken about enough, is to take a moment to understand what upset the person about the story they are telling. We get told to pay attention, summarise what people are saying and repeat back to them what they’ve said so that they know that we’ve heard them. Perhaps we share an anecdote of our own experiences to relate to them better.
What we aren’t doing so well is working out why they were upset in the first place.
“How are you today?”
“I’m not amazing, my parents were up all night fighting.”
“Your parents were fighting all night?”
“Oh man, I know how that is, I used to hate when mum and dad would yell at each other, its pretty confronting.”
What’s wrong with that? Summary, paying attention, relating to your friend. Its good right? Well, it isn’t terrible. But it could be better.
“How are you today?”
“I’m not amazing, my parents were up all night fighting.”
“Your parents were fighting all night?”
“What upset you the most about that? Are you ok?”
“Yeah I’m fine, they fight all the time, it’s just how they are. I’m just tired because they kept me up all night.”
In the first example, we assumed what upset them from our own experiences. Turns out, they weren’t upset by the fighting as much as the lack of sleep. If you take the time to work out why people are upset by particular circumstances, you can better help them through it. In this case, perhaps all that is needed is a double shot espresso.
I take my hat off to the team at Sensis who came through with open minds to improve the way they look after each other, from the CEO all the way through. It’s great to see everyone getting behind a few simple things that can help them look after each other better.
For more information on RUOK and the 4 steps to good conversations head to RUOK.ORG.AU There are valuable resources there regarding looking after your peers and what to do when people are in need of help you are unable to give. Check out the resources there.
Keep listening, keep asking RUOK and as always, Just Be Nice.
- Josh Reid Jones
Josh Reid Jones - Founder of The Just Be Nice Project and Odin Sports