The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Being a Contender

On The Waterfront

In the classic film “On the Waterfront” Marlon Brando’s character Terry Malloy is described as brooding and inarticulate. He is a minor pawn in the scheme of things and is pushed around and manipulated by those further up the pecking order. His life is an example of someone always living at Effect. His verbal and non-verbal language patterns reflect and maintain this way of being and he is a classic case of a “Ship of You” with a poor Crew and an almost non-existent Navigator.

At some point in the film he laments:
“You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am.”
In the film, people, influences and events conspire to fashion changes for Terry Malloy, and in the end we witness something of a character transformation. Certainly his Crew and his navigation skills worked better, in my opinion - though you need to watch the film to really arrive at your own conclusions!


As in “On the Waterfront” there are instances in our lives when we’ll think or maybe even utter some words along the lines of “I coulda been a contender.”
Reflective words that contain all the “what ifs” that may or may not have happened – provided we’d been a contender in the first place. 

And to be a contender, as we know, means we will have had to have been in the contest, at the ball game, taking the shots and not sitting in the stands watching.

Contenders get away from the safety of the harbour and take to the vast uncharted oceans of their lives with a good Crew and Navigator. Their level of success, wellbeing, fulfilment and happiness depends on the balance of the respective levels of artistry and expertise delivered by Navigator and Crew – on each of their separate sliding scales of mastery.

The thing about Life, however, can be summed up in this Zen-like quote from Yogi Berra –

“You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.”

Becoming and being your own expert Navigator plays an important part in being a Contender - getting to where and what you want in the best possible way; plays a crucial part in discovering and mapping the vast uncharted areas of our Lives and – beyond that – influencing the lives of others.

"Where do I start?"

So you want to become an expert Navigator?
Excellent - and the next question you might ask is this:

“Is it hard?”
Not if you have the right attitudes.
Its having the right attitudes that’s hard.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
An enquiry into values
~ Robert M Pirsig

Friday, January 16, 2015

Rights of Passage

The Long Month

Anniversaries and examining the retrospective perspective is a thing we, as humans, engage with. We are, it seems, the only animal that does this. Yet there are times when we overdo it, and it is on these occasions when the effect outweighs the purpose – times when we step out of the present moment and become, shall we say, imprisoned victims of our own thoughts.

Over the narrative of my life, Januaries have been particularly pivotal months. Though they have not had that characteristic in every year, I can mark up significant experiential milestones that have fallen in the passage of those thirty one seemingly endless days. Of course this bears witness to the fact that for many of us, and for many reasons, January IS the longest month of the year.

All change starts with ourselves

In terms of what I now am, February 1st will usher in my tenth anniversary working solely in the domain of change. I’d coached for many years prior to 2005, so what was that significant difference I was embarking on in my late fifties?

In late November the previous year I’d had some passport photos taken in one of those booths in our local post office. They revealed what passport-type photos often do – a brutally honest and unflattering visual appraisal of “right here right now.” My face looked like a death mask, and I knew in that moment that the reasons for that had to change or the prophetic image would be fulfilled sooner rather than later.

I handed in my notice the following day.

Our CEO seemed taken aback yet took it well enough. When the long standing Finance Controller of the business he’d acquired less than nine months previously walks in and lays that card on the table, then he also has changes that will need to be addressed after all.

As the company’s financial year end was 31st December they asked me to leave the firm at the end of January rather than December. This would give them time to recruit my replacement and allow the change-over to take place as smoothly as possible.

That January felt like it was 100 days long. The company moved to new offices during December, so my notice was served out in an unfamiliar environment. The systems infrastructure took a while to be installed and settle in. My replacement and the Finance Director had decided upon installing a new computer system as well. It was – to put it mildly – chaotic. Within this equation were the parameters concerning how they treated me as well. I was leaving at the end of January so I was, in effect, already an outsider. It was a not entirely pleasant experience and I learned a lot about being an expendable commodity rather than a person.


February 1st came like a breath of fresh air. I cannot say what the weather was like, but I can clearly recall the sense of liberation I felt that morning.

I had a project book crammed with endless to-do and to-explore lists. I can remember just reading each page over and over again, savouring every moment. Imagining – projecting – planning – anticipating. 

Each moment reminded me that here was the first day of the rest of my life.

Everything I did was like a frenzy of learning. Mistakes (and there were myriads) were all part of the learning and were, therefore, acceptable. This was all about work in progress, with the emphasis not so much on work, but on progress. I was transforming my life before my eyes and in every moment. I became aware that every moment counted as I learned how to distance myself from the man in the death-mask photographs.

Even now, ten years on, I am still imbued with the zeal, the passion for learning, that all began that February morning. And along the way I rediscovered a very powerful force; a force that is within us all; a force that we are born with yet, the older we get, almost deny the continued existence of.
“I’m too old for that, too old to do that” - sounds very familiar doesn’t it?

The simple truth is this - once we embody the notion that learning is all about change and that change is all about learning, we liberate ourselves.

Old Me versus New Me

Many of our Januaries are filled with resolutions; wants, needs, desires to change; and yet we still want to keep the Old and just add these New bits on.

Ten years ago I didn’t want to keep any of the Old for it was clearly killing me, perhaps quicker than I realised. And for me, that January I really had to serve out my time. I knew it was coming to an end – and that I’d be stepping into an unknown once that journey was over. The thing is, I was already comfortable with the idea of stepping into the unknown. Change was inevitable and I embraced it when it became real, after the January passage of time.

There was also a huge learning on the journey of that January. The crescendo built and all that was the Old Me really did die at the end of that journey. Tipped overboard and buried at sea – leaving just the New Me.

So when you work your own Passage and perhaps in particular it is this January, for you, take stock of how much of your Old you are able to tip overboard. 

If you hear yourself saying, “I just want to get my old self back again,” or perhaps, “I wish I could be how I was when I was younger,” then you need to realise you probably aren’t giving yourself the Rights of the Passage to making all the changes you want.