John who?

25 pages in: Haven’t yet unfurled a single sticky tab.

50 pages in: I’m concerned the mighty tome I hold in my hands isn’t going to offer the rich vein of insight and knowledge I had hoped for, and I’m beginning to doubt Ryan Holiday’s recommendation.*

100 pages in: Surely by now there’d be signs of the lessons I’d hoped to uncover?  Perhaps they’re in the next Chapter….?  I shall press on, because this is turning into something more that I had expected.

150 pages in: Can’t put it down.  I’ve abandoned hope of uncovering any specific leadership lessons, but am engrossed by the story of this relatively unknown fighter pilot and his campaign against the US Armed Forces, with whom he served from 1944-1975.

200 pages in: My previous fears are unfounded.  It appears I’ve unknowingly stumbled headlong inside the mind of one of the most influential military theorists since Sun Tzu and Von Clausewitz, and there are lessons galore.

It’s like The Matrix.  There is no escape.  I’m a believer.

I can sense John Boyd is smiling…

Took you a while tiger, but you got here”

* note to self: never doubt Ryan’s book recommendations again.

I first heard of John Boyd while reading Ego is the Enemy.  It contained a small piece about a US Air Force Colonel who is considered by some to be one of history’s most prolific military theorists, but remains firmly in the darkness when it comes to notoriety.  In one of his recommended reading lists, Holiday pointed to a book on Boyd, noting it as “required reading“.

It doesn’t matter if you’re interested in the design and function of fighter jets (which I’m not), or the military or military theory (which I am).  The lessons to be learned in the Robert Coram book Boyd: The fighter pilot who changed the art of war go far beyond his influence on aircraft design, and extends into an unwavering campaign of self-belief that spanned 15 years and took on the entire might of the US Air Force.

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It is simply not practical to try and explain the history and detail contained within the book.  Distilling the 504 pages into a short blog post would not do justice to Coram, the book, nor to Boyd himself for that matter – who was a stickler for detail.

So apart from recommending the book, and suggesting you buy it, here are the Top 5 things I learned from Boyd: The fighter pilot who changed the art of war:

Manoeuvrability  it isn’t just sheer thrust, or speed, or fire-power that meant success in the air.  It was the ability of a plane, and pilot, to transition between manoeuvres, turning defense into attack, or attack into slaughter, or defense into retreat.  His Energy-Manoeuvrability (E-M) Theory is still the foundational piece in many elite military, business and sporting programs, and suggests that your ability to adapt and re-adapt is crucial to not just survival, but sustained success both in warfare, business, and in life.

‘Are you Being or Doing?’ – Boyd is perhaps most famous within the US military for a speech he gave young pilots who faced a cross-road in their career.  I won’t do it the disservice of paraphrasing it, so have provided an excerpt from the book directly.  In true Boyd fashion, it needs no explanation.

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The OODA Loop – Boyd spent years developing not only ways to better design fighter jets and methods of waging aerial warfare, but ways to understand how decisions are made, and the cycle within which they live.

Search for John Boyd on Google and you’ll inevitably come up with reference to the OODA Loop.  Management theorists see it as his defining piece of work, and many have since written complicated and detailed thesis papers on it.

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Fundamentally it looks to explain the process that a person consciously, or sub-consciously runs when making any decision, big or small.  The above diagram is lifted directly from the book and while there’s an obvious mountain of potential explanation behind it, this distillation of a complex process that takes place within your brain is particularly elegant, and better left to you to digest the detail.

I believe the trick here is not to try and actively interfere with the process, but simply be aware that it exists, and that if it exists for you, then it likely exists for every other human you interact with.  Understanding that everyone makes different observations, and based on those observations orients themselves differently, and then decides and acts in accordance with those differences, makes for a much less stressful work or home environment during conflicts.

Jocko Willink has a similar approach for those who like their leadership strategies in 6 words or less.

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Thinking strategically – Boyd’s ability to out think, out manoeuvre and simply out play entire arms of the United States military, from the outset looks to be the work of The Prince himself.  Again, you don’t have to subscribe to military might, or even agree with the way the US handles waging war to appreciate the way Boyd moved the chess pieces to play out what he thought, no, believed, to be simply more important than anything else.  His vision of the outcome allowed him to position those pieces better than his opponents, and there were many, very powerful opponents.  He understood that in life and business, as in chess, you need to be thinking not just of your next 5-steps, but of your opponents next 5-steps too.

You can’t do it alone – Boyd had his Fighter Mafia, his Reformers, his Acolytes – a core group of people that believed the same as he did, that, in their own differing ways, sacrificed individual glory and fanfare to do what they thought was right, what was necessary, to protect the lives of US fighting forces.  They worked symbiotically, centred around Boyd, sure, but collectively they changed the way the entire US military fights both air and ground war campaigns in a post-WWII era.

So to summarise my summary….

When you’ve found something you believe in, and are dedicated to seeing it through, find a bunch of like-minded people, think ahead, assess the threats, and when faced with uncertainty, don’t be afraid to make a call, act and understand the entire thing is a cycle.

All that from a loud-talking, cigar-smoking fly boy self-proclaimed “Ghetto Colonel” who grew up rough, and was told he’d never amount to anything.

Seems like sound advice to me, and really, isn’t learning from the everyday what it’s all about?


Do you have something you believe in?  Something you sacrifice glory for in order for it to be realised?  Have you read the book?  What did you think?  So many questions, so many opportunities for you to answer them!

Leave a comment below, or find us on the Contact page.

What I learned from some plastic bricks

Today I was humbled by a kids toy.  Well technically speaking, it was designated 14+ which means I was humbled by a toy for teenagers (or precocious 7-year olds).

Last Christmas I was given an 1,158-piece Lego kit.  A charming Ferrari F40 in fact.  It’s currently School Holidays in Australia, and in between bouts of sheer bewilderment as to how parents over the years have survived this terrifying period, I upended the enormous box of perfectly engineered pieces onto the floor and kicked off the build.

It started off reasonably easy, with the chassis and engine bay the first elements coming to life.  It wasn’t until the body started to take shape that I realised simply how far away I am from being an actual Engineer.

Dramatic revelation for a Lego build, I know.

As the perfectly sculpted, 99.9999% consistent pieces fitted together into small chunks, and those small chunks fitted together into bigger chunks, and the bigger chunks evolved into an elegant feat of engineering magnificence, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat inadequate.

The way in which these little pieces came together was just astonishing.  Now I’ve built a lot of Lego in my life.  Like, a lot.  I don’t however, recall having the eye-widening, brow lifting response to the thought, the intricacy, the engineering marvel that is the 1,158-piece F40 kit.  Chunks were coming together to form graceful curved edges, out of straight bricks!  Chunks that didn’t appear to have any rhyme or reason would effortlessly slot into sub-millimetre exactitude, forming delicate wheel arches and passenger foot-wells.

And here I was calling myself an Engineer.

Did I expect that when I left University I’d be neck deep in calculations, clutch pencils and reams of sophisticated looking computer outputs?  No.  I failed Engineering Computations in 1st year, and probably failed it again in the subsequent Summer School (I think I may have been awarded a Pass Conceded out of sympathy?).

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Confusing then, out of reach now.

No, I was never destined (smart enough) to be a design engineer, and I knew early on that my career would likely be in the people side of things; solving problems together, leading teams, delivering outcomes as a group.

Which as it turns out I really enjoy and appear to be OK at.

What it did show me though, is that as Project Managers in civil infrastructure, we underestimate, and I suspect, under-value the expertise, input and often brilliance of the designers in our industry.  How often have you complained that a design drawing is poorly set out, or about how some element would be difficult (and in some cases, impractical) to construct, or any number of other apparent grievances?  Honestly, for me, it must now tally to the hundreds, if not thousands.

How often though, have you marvelled at the fact that someone, somewhere, has coordinated the design of an entire structure, from function, to form, to reinforcement detail, to integration with any number of complex elements, and shown it all in a set of (mainly) easy to read drawings, and then gone to said designer congratulating them with a hearty “Well done!“?  Honestly, for me, it must now tally a total of about 3.  In 18 years of working construction.

Which makes it about 0.00045 times / day.  Which is just not good enough.

Being a Designer must sometimes feel a lot like being in IT.  How often do you ring IT and say “Hey there, all my systems are working fine.  My email is good, my printer drivers are all up to date, I’ve remembered to change my password in the allocated time, and I just wanted to say Thanks!“?

Honestly for me, it must now tally a total of…..

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We only ever ring to complain.

So the next time you see something that’s smart, or innovative, or just a job well done, tell someone.  Tell anyone.  Send them an email.  Do something!  Make an effort to find the person or team that designed it, or built it, or maintained it, or swept it up, or cooked it, or whatever’ed it, and tell them.

Covey wrote about it back in 1989 and nothing has changed.

“Satisfied needs do not motivate… Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.”

– Stephen Covey

Apart from the obvious, that thanking a person is just a nice, polite thing to do, there are 5 reasons why positive encouragement is important in the workplace:

  1. People want to feel important
  2. Encouragement reinforces the right things
  3. Encouragement inspires people in tough times
  4. Encouragement builds employee loyalty
  5. Encouragement is free, and gives huge returns

All that from some Lego.  Now that’s a lesson in the every day.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?

 

Have you thanked a designer lately?  Have you thanked anyone today?  Grab someone (politely) and tell them you appreciate them!

You get up WHEN??

4:16AM every Monday to Friday.  That’s when I get up.

For those readers who work construction, the following post is unlikely to be revolutionary.  It’s pretty much the norm to start early, but depending on your role and how far away from work you live, ‘early’ is a little relative.

The topic seems to comes up more often that you’d think when you’re an early riser.  People are curious why you’d bother (unless you’re catching an aeroplane to jet off on an exotic holiday, then they share their frustration at having to check-in seemingly a day in advance of your flight….).

“There’s something magical about the early morning.  It’s a time when the world belongs to only those few who are awake.  And we walk around like kings while others remain unseen in their beds”
 – Shawn Blanc

So why write a post about it?

Am I showing off?  Hardly.  I mean who actually cares what time another person gets up in the morning?  I’m writing it because I want others to know about the amazing impact getting up early can (and will) have on your performance at work, your general well-being, and well, pretty much everything else.

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Well for starters let’s look at the maths.

Let’s assume there’s 220 days a year where this is an option (365 days minus most weekends, public holidays, sick days and holiday days).  Then let’s say that 90% of the time you find the mental fortitude to arise at this ungodly hour.  That’s 198 days.  Let’s now assume that most people get up around 6:30AM – 7:00AM.  That gives an additional 2¼ – 2¾ hours per day.  Say 2½ for ease of calculation.  So that’s an additional 495 hours a year.  Or 20.625 full 24-hour days, or 2.95 weeks.

2.95 WEEKS!

When you do the maths, it seems crazy to me now that I didn’t start this years ago.   I wish I had.

Why only weekdays?  Well on weekends I do sleep in, that is until my two pint-sized alarm clocks wake me up at 6:00AM by belting into my room, placing their demonic faces unnervingly close to mine, and subsequently announcing that “it’s time to get up Dad, let’s go!” while pulling off the covers.

Traffic.  There’s literally nowhere in Sydney that you can’t get to in an hour when you leave the house before 5:00AM.  Try it.

If you find yourself at work before 6:00AM (and you don’t have a concrete pour on…), the amount of work you can get done before the next person arrives is simply astonishing.  I find the 90 minutes of clear space before the background hullabaloo kicks off rivals the entire following 8+ hours in terms of effectiveness.

The follow on benefit is that you can still do your required hours and leave work at a reasonable hour.  There used to be times in my old life where for weeks, months on end even, that I’d be at work before the sun came up, and leaving after it set.  I’ll happily do whatever it takes to get the job done, but extended periods like this has becomes unsustainable, and in extreme circumstances, downright dangerous.

If you find yourself at the gym before the sun rises, the benches are empty, the weights are racked nicely, the showers aren’t funky, and early morning workouts are proven to improve your brain function, improve performance, and improve your mood.

Don’t just take my word for it.  If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll have heard me mention a fellow named Jocko Willink (@jockowillink) who I credit with a majority of my development growth over the last few years.

His book Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual is an amazing resource for laying out a simple (not easy!) guide to getting after it.  He’s a true believer of getting up early and has some simple tips on how to get started.

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Is this for everyone?  Certainly not.  Do I recommend simply tomorrow waking up at 4:16AM?  Absolutely not.  You’ll be asleep at your desk at 3:00PM, or worse, asleep behind the wheel on your drive home.  If it’s something you’re keen to try (like this lady did), do it in increments.

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Wind your alarm back by 15 minutes.  Try that for a few days.  You’re likely to just spend longer in the shower in the morning, but that little treat wears off pretty quickly.  A few days later wind the alarm back another 15 minutes.  Then again, and again until you find that sweet spot.  Mine is 4:16AM.  Why 4:16 and not 4:15?  Don’t know.  I’ve never been able to set alarm clocks at any of the 5 minute intervals.  Probably means something.

People regularly tell me “I’m not a morning person, I’m more of a night-owl”.  That’s only because you haven’t felt the exhilaration of being up while your enemies sleep.  The little ‘hit’ of superiority you get when you see that every house on your street is shrouded in darkness, not a single window lit up, puts a certain little spring in your step.

Now far be it from me to suggest there’s a direct causal effect between getting up early and being successful, but there’s a long list of people infinitely more successful than I’ll ever be that get up early and get after it.

The Rock 4:00AM (@therock)
General Stanley McChrystal 4:00AM (@stanmcchrystal)
Scott Adams 4:00AM (@scottadamssays)
Jocko Willink 4:32AM (@jockowillink)

You can read all about their routines and the reasons why they get up early, but for me it comes down to three simple things:

  1. Getting sh!t done before work so I don’t have to do it after work.  There’s now more time to spend with the family or doing my own stuff.  Be it the gym, walking, reading, life admin, RFS, whatever.  This makes me stronger, smarter;
  2. There’s so little traffic at that time of the morning, that whatever mode of transport I take, it’s fast.  This makes me happier; and
  3. I’m 100% certain my productivity levels increase on days I hit the gym before work.  This makes me faster.

Stronger, smarter, happier, faster.

Wish I’d done it years ago.


Are you an early riser?  Do you wonder why and how people get up before the sun does?  Post a comment below and start a conversation!

What can you learn from a purple lion?

I found myself standing alone, after those in the line had suddenly, and all at once, taken a large step backwards.

It had the hallmarks of that movie scene where the person is ‘volunteered’ by the simple fact that everyone else had moved quicker.

Had I won something?  Had I lost something?  Had I been volunteered to join the Army?  Had I been volunteered to make that door entry into a burning building?  No.  It was much more terrifying than that. Continue reading What can you learn from a purple lion?

Action & Will

In a previous post we talked about how by utilising the three fundamental Stoic principles of Perception, Action and Will, Ryan Holiday proposed to attack the elephant-sized problem of improving our relationship with the obstacles in our lives.

In the post, we only got round to discussing Perception, so I thought it was time to follow up with Action and Will.

Of the three principles, I think that Perception is the one that requires the biggest structural adjustment, and the largest investment of your personal bandwidth.  I’ve noticed however, that once you re-frame how you view obstacles, the resource required to then act in response to them, and to then continually endure them appears to be much lower in comparison.

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Where do you allocate your limited bandwidth?

So assuming you’ve read Part 1 of this post, and started to see obstacles as opportunities, and embracing them as chances to improve, you’ll need to foster the ability to act because of them, in spite of them even.

Enter, Action and Will.

Action, hard work and perseverance pays dividends – I don’t think there’s many who’d disagree with that.  What’s harder though, is to paraphrase the book and its concepts into actionable, tactical advice.  As I stressed in Part 1, just buy the book and read it for yourself – it’s incredible.  But that’s not exactly what book reviews and leadership lessons are about – doing all the work yourself.  What you’re looking for is advice, guidance, tactics to improve, without having slog through the textbooks.

The concepts are simple, but not easy – and make no mistake, there’s a difference.  Similar to the lessons Hal Moore offers, when you’re reading them in a book, they appear obvious.  The difference in these concepts is that they aren’t so much reinforcing leadership lessons you may already have come across, but require a substantial shift in perspective.  The effects however are immediate, and surprisingly transformative.

If I had to summarise the principle of Action into a short grab, it would be “Do anything.  Now”.  Just get out there and do something.  Anything.  There’s a power in action that trumps intent, trumps wishing, trumps day-dreaming, and separates the entrepreneurs from the “want-trepreneurs”.

I’ll admit that I often find myself falling into that second category.  My bedside table is filled with notebooks of ideas not implemented, inventions not prototyped, visions not fulfilled, and ultimately, regret.  Why?  Because I never took that first step.

One of my most quoted quotes is “You can’t cross a chasm in two small steps”, and like many of us who are only too happy to hand it out, I’m terrible at taking my own advice.  What’s stopping me?  Fear I guess.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of failure.  Fear of embarrassment if no-one buys my invention, or the new business idea fails.

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I’m not going to dive down the rabbit-hole of ‘move fast and break things’, or ‘failing fast’ and a hundred other FaceGoogle-esque maxims, other than to say I think that if I took a step, made the leap that it’d probably work out OK.

Besides, even if it didn’t, Part 1 of this review would give me advice on how to re-interpret the obstacle!

Unselfish action, now at this very moment”
– Marcus Aurileus

Summary.  Do the sh!t that you need to do to get things started and don’t stop moving.

Easy to say.  Hard to implement.

Worth the effort though.

Will.  If Perception and Action are disciplines of the mind and body, then Will is the discipline of the heart and soul.

Let’s say you’re faced with a problem, any problem.  You’ve taken the advice in the earlier post and re-framed your perspective.  You now see this problem as an opportunity.  Tremendous.  You’ve taken that first step into action.  Tremendous.  You fall at the first hurdle.  Tremendous.  There’s nothing in the manual that says you won’t end up in a feedback loop from hell going around and around and around from Perception to Action with no end in sight.

Enter, Will.

“Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”
– Tennyson, Ulyssess

When Antonio Pigafetta, the assistant to Magellan on his trip around the world, reflected on his boss’s greatest and most admirable skill, what do you think he said?  Turns out it had nothing to do with sailing.  The secret to his success, Pigafetta said, was Magellan’s ability to endure hunger better than the other men.

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We discussed in Part 1, that re-framing your perspective of obstacles was the key to defeating them.  Perhaps Magellan saw his interminable hunger as simply an opportunity to master the demands of his body?  Perhaps he saw it as simply payment for the opportunity to explore the unknown.  Perhaps he just had a small stomach.  Who knows?  What it does show is that endurance, a desire to move forward, simply not allowing obstacles to stand in your way, is not subject to the obstacles themselves, but simply the way you view them.  You can choose to succumb to hunger, to complain you are on half rations, or you can remember that some people, many people, have no food at all.  That you’re lucky you’ve got some mouldy bread and scraps of salted beef to nibble on.

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The straits of Magellan…..pun intended

So how does all this help those who are leaders, or who aspire to be leaders?  Think back to all the bosses you’ve had (or if you’re new to the workforce, the family & friends who hold leadership roles in your life).  Now picture an example where things have gone to custard.  A project fails to meet a critical deadline.  A sales team repeatedly doesn’t hit the monthly sales targets which is now threatening the viability of the entire company.  A piece of heavy plant rolls over and traps a worker’s leg.  A family member dies unexpectedly.

None of these are particularly good news items.  None of these are cause for celebration.

Now then think about the people who stand out in your memory in that situation as being calm, collected and in control.  What was it that separated them from the rest of the team or the family?  Those who weren’t lost in the emotion of the situation, or those who didn’t run around doing ‘busy’ work without getting done what needed to get done?  I’m sure if you reflect on it, these three foundational principles will have been in play – whether you (or perhaps even they) noticed it at the time or not.

Perception.  Action.  Will.

It’s amazing how calmness is contagious.  How a cool head prevails.  How this leader may not necessarily have been the ‘boss’, or eldest in the family, but whose implementation of these principles steadied the ship.

Isn’t that what you want from your leaders?

To see clearly.
To act correctly.
To endure and accept the world as it is.

What did you think of today’s post?  Do the principles of Stoicism interest you – are you keen to learn more?  If you’ve seen examples of non-traditional leaders stepping into the void in a crisis and steadying the ship and you’d like to share, leave a comment below or get in touch via the Contact Page.

So. Do you miss it?

No one likes a fence sitter.

So when I’m asked “Do you miss it?”, I’ve got a pretty standard answer on tap, which I’ve had the last 5 or so years to polish.  A conversation ensues, and depending on the person asking, we chat some more, or we don’t, and we go our separate ways.

What is ‘it’ you ask?

‘It’ is, or was, the construction contractor’s life.  ‘It’ is delivering large civil infrastructure projects working for the big Australian Tier 1 companies.  ‘It’ is what I used to do.

It wasn’t until recently that after giving my answer, I sat down, tilted my head waaaaaay back and looked directly upwards, as I do sometimes when I’m thinking, and asked myself why it was that people even wanted to know.

Think about it, no one ever asks if you miss being sick, or miss being broke, or miss anything that generally sucks.

So with that in mind, is it generally considered that the construction contractor’s life is more exciting, more rewarding, more everything, and that people wonder why I’d leave that life for (supposedly) duller client-side project management work?

If you’d asked me 6 years ago if I’d ever consider moving client-side, it would have been a resounding “Nope”.

 

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But seeing as I’m now into my fifth year as a client side practitioner, I thought it’s probably time to have a proper think about what is actually a tough question to answer.

So here’s my Top 5 things I don’t miss about working contractor-side:

  1. The 11-13 hour days…every day
  2. Saturday shifts
  3. Seemingly endless night shifts re-sheeting roads and rolling out traffic switches (usually in the rain)
  4. End of month (dockets, invoices, accruals, forecasts, budgets….)
  5. The cold.  Early starts for big pours, middle of the night SuperT lifts, even a few years drilling under Bass Strait where it was so f**ing cold that full thermals were issued as standard PPE

And because everyone loves a list (including me), here’s my Top 5 things I do miss about working contractor-side:

  1. The occasional shouting match at 3:00 AM when landing Super-T’s over a live rail line (you know who you are Mr Henry)
  2. The swearing.  Now I’m not really a regular swearer, and never have been, but there’s something quite satisfying about working in an environment where unleashing a few nuclear F-bombs every now and again raised n’er even an eyebrow
  3. The depth of camaraderie of being in the trenches with your team (sometimes literally)
  4. The relationships with the work crews, and being able to direct, in real time, outcomes on the ground
  5. The level of satisfaction in seeing something you planned, sweated over, occasionally bled over, regularly stressed over, played out in your mind 1,000 times before the first agi arrived, come to life as an actual thing you can touch

Now for my current colleagues whose mouths may have dropped open and are thinking I don’t get any satisfaction from my current role because I don’t get to shout, swear, work in a trench, or directly impact outcomes on the ground, you couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s like that ex-girlfriend you had in Uni, who was a little wild, but deep down you knew it was never going to last.

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Client:Contractor OR Contractor:Client?

So if I miss the action, what is it that I’ve gained instead?

  1. Visibility into a breadth of interfaces I never even knew existed.  I deal now with an exponentially larger number of people in different positions, agencies, and authorities than ever before – where my work life before was particularly insular, now it spans not just Projects, but Programs, Government planning and look ahead dates that extend past 2030.  It does something to your immediate perspective when you’re aware that things exist past the end of your Project
  2. The opportunity for strategic thinking.  I’m not sure if it’s just that as I’ve moved up the tree that strategic thinking has become a larger part of  my role, or if it’s being client-side forces that task upon you.  Without the benefit of time travel, perhaps I may never know.  What I do know is that in my current role there are means and opportunity to use a part of my brain that I hadn’t for some years.  In the contractor space, thinking, one, two, maybe three steps ahead was as much as I had the time to devote to, while neck deep in building the job.  Now there’s more latitude to take a step back and see the bigger picture
  3. Time.  Time on the weekends with my kids.  Time to find (or make) my own action outside of work; with the RFS, with my business, at the gym, wherever my mind takes me.
    This new gold mine of time I’ve stumbled across is partly because of my client-side role, and partly because I now actively make time.  I now get up so early it sometimes seems like it’s still the day before, and not working contractor side any more certainly helps me to be able to do that4d431dfa741f9681654958caeb370914
  4. A renewed desire to learn.  Again, I’m not sure if it’s me getting older, (hopefully) wiser, being more protective of my time, or being Client side, however I’ve read more books in the last 3 years than the last 10 combined.  I’ve read books on strategy, books written by Japanese Samurai, a Roman Emperor, a US Army General, and even the coach of the San Francisco 49’ers.  Some have been better than others.  Some offer guidance.  Some offer nothing.  All of them though in some way, shape or form, have ultimately been worth the time invested

So just to recap, I’ve gained a broader horizon, increased brain utilisation, developed a renewed passion for learning and a seemingly limitless bounty of time….

Seems like a good deal to me.

Is client-side for everyone?  Absolutely not.  But it takes all sorts to make this world go round, and if we were all determined to work client-side, who’d build the projects?  If we were all determined to work contractor-side, who’d decide they needed building in the first place?

Can’t have one without the other.  Simple as that.  It’s not a zero-sum game – both can, and must, succeed for these projects to succeed.

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No one likes a fence-sitter.

So when I’m asked “Do you miss it?”, I’ve got a pretty standard answer on tap, which I’ve had the last 5 or so years to polish.

“Sometimes I do miss the action, although I don’t ever miss the Saturday shifts.  In saying that, if I’d never have experienced all of that madness and chaos, and learned what I did, I wouldn’t be who I am, or where I am today.”

Growth.  Development.  Change.  Isn’t that what it’s all about.


So have you made the move from contractor to client side?  Did you find it a good or a bad thing?  Are you interested in making the step and not sure where to start?

Leave a comment or get in touch via the Contact Page.

“Son, you’re on your own this time….”

I realised recently there’s a difference between leadership and true leadership.

In the last few years I’ve gobbled up scores of lessons about leadership, from actively seeking out a range of books, to observations on the fire ground, to random learnings in the every day.  What I observed just last week though, was the purest form of leadership I think I can recall – and it’d been staring me in the face for years.

We were on a family holiday, my wife and I and our two young kids up at Nelson Bay (highly recommended by the way).  Our eldest son, a five and a half year old terrorist, had done something he shouldn’t have, like all five and a half year olds do, and was being told off by my wife.  He responded with  something along the lines of “Well it doesn’t matter what you say because Dad makes all the money and paid for the holiday”.

There comes a time, when despite wanting to protect your child from all of life’s ills, that there’s simply nothing a father can do. Son, you’re on your own this time….

While my wife isn’t exactly prone to bouts of expletive-ridden tirades, this had all the hallmarks of being a reasonable excuse to let one roar.  Instead, she calmly stated;

“I do everything for you.  I’ve given up everything for you.”

The moment of tension quickly passed, and we all got back to enjoying our holiday.  I am certain however, that our eldest (and possibly my wife, until she reads this I guess) was entirely oblivious to the power that statement had on me.

For some background.  My wife is significantly smarter than I am.  First Class Honours in a Science degree I can’t even explain – something about genetics and biodiversity.

Due to, well, life, she went back to Uni later than most, demolished a Science degree, volunteered in Costa Rica doing conservation work, travelled the NSW coast collecting and freezing an invasive species of crabs to monitor their insidious march northward, and got published for her efforts.

What I’m trying to show here, is that she’s no slouch in the brains department, and was primed to kick off a fantastic career in something smart.  Something she was particularly excited about.

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Mess with crabbo – get stabbo.  Photo taken off internet

Then came along marriage and motherhood – both of which I might add, she’s also smashing out of the park.  I have no doubt that without her, our entire mob would be a hot mess of (disorganised) chaos.  I’m not talking about cleaning and cooking here – I’m talking about our entire way of life.  It’s no wonder the kids call her The Captain.

It dawned on me in that brief moment of frustration, that all this time she had been demonstrating the purest form of leadership.  Self-sacrifice.  For the good of the mission.

You can lead a team at work, you can lead a team on the sports field, and I’m sure you can cite examples where you put the welfare of your team above your own – fundamental to the success of any team, and the sign of a good leader.

What you’re probably citing though is when you didn’t take credit for the work your team did anyway, or that you took the accountability you should have regardless, for the team missing a deadline, or when expenditure exceeded budget.  While certainly important – these things don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, and I’d suggest they won’t be things you reflect upon on your death bed.

Your most important contribution may not be something you do, but someone you raise

Want to know what matters?  Kids, legacy, growing a family.  Are they the only things that matter in life?  No, obviously, but I’d suggest they’re on almost everyone’s list above missing that deadline.

Want to know what’s admirable?  Putting a promising career on hold that you worked godd@mn hard for, re-calibrating the trajectory of your life to care for and support 2 small kids (and 1 large adult-sized kid).  Providing an environment where these 3 other humans are given every opportunity to achieve their own successes (and failures), in a space that’s structured, organised, has high standards, is clear, supportive and never-failing.

We are defined by what we choose to reject”
– Mark Manson

What I observed was leadership not towards a short-term goal; hitting a sales target, pouring a slab, winning a contract, but true leadership – for a vision, for something that means something, and dedicating everything to achieving it.

It was a German-born theoretical physicist that said it best.

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
– 
Albert Einstein

I guess the lesson I learned in that moment was, apart from my wife being a superstar, is don’t just employ leadership techniques you read in a book or a blog, but find something, anything, that inspires you to live true leadership.


As we approach Mother’s Day – take some time to reflect on the sacrifice your Mum made, or is still making, to create an environment where you can achieve the successes you’ve had.  If you can, call your Mum today and tell her she’s awesome.