Euen Semple

Why my brain hurts

Euen Semple

Why my brain hurts. In many ways the actual driving is the easiest bit of my truck driving day. Getting stuff on and off can be challenging and hard work but by far the hardest thing is the sums!

Life’s banksmen

Euen Semple

Building sites of any size will have at least one banksman. Their job is to manage trucks off the public roads and onto the site safely. They wear specially marked high-vis jackets and carry an air of authority. They will stop traffic on the main road if necessary and then walk behind you as you reverse onto the site, normally waving their hand to give you directions.

How To 135

Just enough…

Euen Semple

Being a commercial lorry driver allows me to experience management from the sharp end. Most of the businesses I work for are really impressive, not only in terms of the systems and processes it takes to do my job, but also in terms of focussing effectively on the key importance of safety. There is a real skill in giving me just enough information, delivered in the right way to encourage me to take notice.

Skills 126

Reality

Euen Semple

The world we each live in is constructed in our brains. The stimuli that we experience through our sense organs get interpreted on the basis of previous experience, cultural conditioning, and the mechanics of differing biology. There is no such thing as a shared real world. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not taking solipsism. There is a real material world out there. When I snagged the truck I was driving on a weigh-bridge on Friday it caused real physical damage.

Destructive distractions

Euen Semple

We fly around the world chasing a dream of fulfilment somewhere else. We spend our lives putting up with boring pointless jobs to fill our houses with stuff that we are told will fill an imaginary void. We pollute our silence with the endless noise of words from other people. We expend so much energy running away from ourselves. Global warming could be solved overnight if we increased our ability to "sit quietly in a room on our own

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Giving up on LInkedIn

Euen Semple

I've been in there pretty much from the start (user number 1400 and something) but it always felt like a chore, something I "should" be doing rather than a pleasure. A combination of the design of the site and the people who tend to spend more time there than on the rest of the web. In recent years I have re-posted my blog posts there in an attempt to stimulate conversations and drum up business but to little effect in either regard.

Thingification

Euen Semple

The process of thingification (turning a useful idea into the latest thing and thereby rendering it useless) appears unstoppable. In the context of work it happened with collaboration, innovation, and creativity. It is even happening with disruption! It happened with blogging, it happened with YouTube, it's happening with podcasting. All these potentially powerful attempts at building a new world using new tools being rendered safe by assimilation into the old.

Old dogs, new tricks, and competence.

Euen Semple

I don't want to go into too much detail online about my driving jobs but some days are hard. They test my limits both in terms of skill and psychology. I know that I will pass through the feelings of incompetence that something new brings, I almost always do, but the feelings are nonetheless uncomfortable while they are there. It may have been easier when I was younger, when everything was new and you were learning constantly, but I am not sure.

Skills 109

Half full

Euen Semple

On a good day I believe that we are seeing a great falling apart of old ways of looking at the world and our place in it. Ideas like "the establishment", isms like Capitalism and Socialism, Nation States, "the media", assumptions about consumerism and even materialism, all past their sell by dates and struggling to maintain relevance. All developed nations will face the challenge of building a new world out of the debri.

Toxic workplaces

Euen Semple

Well, let's face it, it's not the workplaces that are toxic, it is people. Not just any people but particular people. And more often than not we all know who they are. But will anyone do anything about it? Will anyone have those early conversations about behaviour before it builds into an apparently insurmountable problem? Will anyone care enough to ask what is driving those troubled individuals to behave in ways that can do so much damage both to themselves and those around them?

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Being heard

Euen Semple

I try very hard when I write my blog posts to be as accurate as I can; to express the ideas that I hope to get across as simply and clearly as I know how. Over the years I have had a lot of practice at this, and have often been commended for my ability to get complex topics across simply. And yet sometimes when I read the comments on my posts I wonder why I bother.

What do we mean by “social media”?

Euen Semple

I often wish we didn't have the phrase. We didn't in the beginning. There were tools that we used, different tools for different purposes at different times, and that was it. It was clear that it was an ecology rather than a single thing. We used the tools that helped us achieve our ends, in my case better conversations, and moved on when they stopped doing that. It was up to us what we used, how, and for what purpose.

Tools 149

Blogging equals thinking

Euen Semple

Well, writing equals thinking. I can't remember who it was that said "I don't know what I think until I start writing " but certainly for me it has always rung true. I've not been writing much for a while, and it feels like I've not been thinking. Sure, ideas flit through my head and I can ruminate endlessly as we all do, but by not writing I've not focussed my thinking.

Being brave

Euen Semple

Most of the organisations I work with have clearly defined groups whose needs they are intended to serve. Increasingly these days there is a desire reach out online to foster a real connection with those people, but most staff in most organisations find it ridiculously difficult to do so. As a participant in a workshop once said "How do you find your authentic voice while working in a stifling bureaucratic environment?"

Groups 126

Thoughts for a Sunday

Euen Semple

Religion is the structured process of steering and reinforcing the narrative of "him", "me", "us" , and ultimately "them" Despite reinforcing the idea of community this leads to separation. Spirituality is the challenging and slippery process of revealing what is left when the narratives stop. Despite being a personal and often lonely path this leads to unification

Body Politic

Euen Semple

Each day we get the bus along the packed beach here in Poetto. People board that bus in all sorts of beach wear. Never having had a problem with her attire before Hannah got on the bus in shorts and her bikini top. In front of the whole bus the driver decided to berate her and insist that she cover up. Seeking a riposte which would express my irritation the first word that came out of my mouth was fascist. Sign of the times I guess

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Lag time

Euen Semple

It is disconcerting how often ideas that I have been banging on about, for years in some cases, are only now beginning to emerge in mainstream media and podcasts. I list them here for handy reference: We all have a volume control on mob rule. The future is too important to leave to technologists. The ideology of algorithms is an inescapable challenge that we all have to address. We can all change our worlds, one conversation at a time. And of course, Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do

List 126

The three Cs

Euen Semple

I recently wrote a post about the potential for systems to be self organising and the way that we compromise this ability by attempting to exercise control over the world around us. In order for systems to become self organising the networks that make them up have to be comprised of healthy cells. It occurred to me yesterday that in order to become healthy the cells need to be encouraged to work on the following three characteristics. Curiosity. Wondering why things are the way they are.

My workplace

Euen Semple

As I am speaking at a workplace event soon I thought I'd talk about mine. This is my office at home but all of the tools in the photo can be put in a bag and seconds and the whole thing reassembled wherever I am. The various bits and how I use them are listed below.

A Sufi Story worth remembering in our polarised times.

Euen Semple

“Upon entering a new country a traveler noticed an old man sitting under a tree. He approached him and asked about the people in his land. The old man answered by asking, ‘How are the people in your country?’. ‘Oh’ Oh’ said the traveler, ‘they are friendly, hospitable, and cheerful.’ Well,’ the old man said, ‘you’ll find them to be the same in my country.’.

The Five Whats

Euen Semple

Some of you may be familiar with the idea of "The Five Whys" If you want to really uncover the reason for something ask why, ask why again, and keep doing so until by the fifth asking you are likely to be getting to the real reason. I reckon we need "The Five Whats" When someone in business comes out with a stream of nonsensical business bollocks ask them what they mean.

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Oh, it’s just a fly.

Euen Semple

The other day we noticed a bee buzzing around our house. We decided to take our chances and co-exist with it rather than throwing it outside where the freezing temperatures would certainly have killed it. This morning I heard a buzzing again and started to imagine a scenario where I found the bee, tried to look after it, feed it etc. But then I saw where the buzzing was coming from. It was just a fly. My caring instincts evaporated. It could look after itself and didn't matter.

Feed 136

Zen and the art of HGV driving

Euen Semple

The other day I was headed to a location I hadn't visited before. The postcode that I was given wasn't recognised by the SatNav (it was a building site so the postcode was new) so I entered a nearby location and set off. On top of this imprecision I reckon there had also been an incident blocking a more obvious route because I and a couple of other HGVs ended up down this relatively small road and faced with a bridge with a 7.5 Tonne limit which our SatNavs appeared not to know about!

Skills 122

To see a world in a grain of sand

Euen Semple

Yesterday as I was filling my truck with diesel at the end of the day I looked down at the ground and started noticing the concrete surface of the petrol station forecourt. It wasn't just concrete, there were tiny flecks of stone in it. Differently shaped bits, varying in colour and likely origin. It was raining heavily so the surface was wet. It was glistening under the bright lights of the canopy above me.

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Sticking our oars in

Euen Semple

Most systems have the potential to be self organising. With the right feedback and thoughtful, aware, tolerant, adaptive individual cells it is amazing what is possible. Just look at nature and the incredible complexity, and adaptability, that it achieves. Look at what our unbelievably sophisticated bodies achieve every day, often in spite of our attempts to derail them! So why do we get it so wrong?

Groups 154

Zen and the art of truck driving.

Euen Semple

"I am lost, I am useless, I will never be able to do this." " Sound familiar? This is what goes round and round in my head every time I fail to find a building site that I am meant to be delivering to. The locations are not always obvious, even with a sat nav, and they are often in busy and crowded parts of towns. So the pressure builds, the feeling of incompetence increases, you get tired, you get frightened.

Change 109

Happiness is.

Euen Semple

I know it is not everyone's cup of tea but as I negotiated my fully laden 32 tonne truck along the Chelsea embankment, into the centre of London and south to Elephant and Castle, negotiating tight narrow lanes, cyclists, pedestrians, everything London could throw at me, listening to my particularly good collection of bangin' house music on the truck's half decent speakers, I could not have been happier

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On not having a job

Euen Semple

When we dropped Mollie off in Cambridge for the start of term I got to meet her best friend's parents for the first time. As the dad and I started chatting it became apparent that we actually worked in very similar, or at least related, fields. We hadn't realised this until we met and it occurred to us that neither of our daughters had been able to explain to the other what we did! People not being able to describe what I do is not new. I face that all the time.

As the world turns

Euen Semple

Doing a night shift on New Years' Eve at the World Service was always fun as you got to celebrate on the hour each hour as the various time zones passed into the new year. Having as many friends as I do around the world these days means that birthday wishes on social media afford the same pleasure. First Australia, then Europe, then the US. Thanks everyone for your kind wishes

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Perception is reality

Euen Semple

Fake news is good news. It is making us question truth. It is making us less lazy. We are learning that we need to take responsibility for our perceptions. They are the only reality we will ever know

News 109

No news is good news

Euen Semple

I haven't watched or listened to news broadcasts for years. I became tired of being presented with a litany of things to be frightened about, that I could do nothing to prevent, and that had minimal direct impact on my life. I also lost confidence in journalists. With a few very rare exceptions they barely understand the subjects they write about, always have an agenda, and certainly in the case of podcasts get between me and the people I want to learn from.

News 116

All you need is.

Euen Semple

Over the past few weeks I have had the privilege to be amongst Chinese families, indigenous Australian families, even half a village worth of Turkish families on the flight from Melbourne to Doha. All bantering amongst themselves, telling jokes, smiling at each other. Pretty much the same behaviours the world over.

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Mutual aid

Euen Semple

The main focus of my workshops over the last couple of weeks for Jobs Australia has been helping people to catch up with the impact of technology on how we live and work. In our conversations I was reminded yet again how people have varying levels of comfort and ability in even the most basic use of technology. There is a very real risk of an emerging digital "underclass" if we don't do something about it.

Civilisation?

Euen Semple

It is interesting to be back again in remote Australia where the incoming population exists pretty much in parallel with the indigenous one. These "first people" struggle to fit in with our modern world and are often disparaged for their lack of ambition and success. There is also a lot of alcoholism and drug use in their communities. Yet in their own past they were clearly deeply in tune with their environment and respectful of it in a way that we are only now beginning to learn.

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Facing Fears

Euen Semple

Doing something new is always challenging. The possibility of screwing up, looking foolish, creating problems for others. It is invariably stretching. Taking a truck with a laden weight of 32 tonnes through tight winding London streets, with barely a foot clearance on either side, into busy and unpredictable building sites, and with potentially dangerous loading and unloading environments at either end, has pushed my limits.

Skills 122

Today’s workplace

Euen Semple

First day of proper HGV driving (I'd previously done a day but in a 3.5 tonne van). Great fun. Lots of complicated reversing, having to unload gazillions of window frames on my own, and the general nervous wear and tear of manipulating 7.5

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Keeping up standards

Euen Semple

It fascinates me how often people rant at me about the rubbish on Twitter or Facebook, invariably delivered in a tone intended to convey their intellectual superiority, but apparently unaware that what they are describing is their network and that managing that network is their responsibility!

Being places

Euen Semple

I never take for granted the opportunities I have had to be places. Interesting places, different places. One of the appeals of truck driving is the opportunity to be lots of new places. But I am always reminded of Jon Kabat Zinn's "Wherever you go, there you are."

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Getting annoyed

Euen Semple

One of the aims of mindfulness and practicing meditation is to get better at responding to things rather than reacting to them. To take calm, appropriate action when needed rather than to get bent out of shape because things aren't how we expect them to be. This isn't to say that you end up as some chilled out, passive, punch bag for the world.

It's always the small things.

Euen Semple

In the current turmoil brought about by Brexit and Trump it is so easy to think that we need to do something, to take action, to do something grand, to join a movement, to wave banners. But if we see the world as dominated by grand things, big things, things that we have no control over, then we either go numb and feel powerless, or we overreact and provoke a counter-reaction.

Muddling along

Euen Semple

Over dinner last night someone used the phrase "muddling along" to express optimism about the future. It seems a particularly British, or to be more precise English, phrase and attitude. It goes with the landscape. It goes with the weather. It goes with the "nation of shopkeepers" image. I have often thought that one of the greatest strengths of The Church of England is it's non-dogmatic, village fete, muddling along attitude.

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Celebrating sameness

Euen Semple

I used to worry about the homogenising effect of modern culture - the fact that every shopping malI the world over is selling the same brand dominated tat - and I would still bemoan the loss of diverse and fascinatingly different cultures. And yet.here I am, sitting on the harbour front in Hong Kong, watching Chinese girls wearing ripped jeans taking selfies, and wondering if this will make it harder to start wars with countries whose daughters also wear ripped jeans

Wherever you go, there you are.

Euen Semple

It feels odd that I will set off for Hong Kong tomorrow. That I will think it sensible to sit in a metal tube, speeding through the air, thousands of feet off the ground. And then I will be there, somewhere else. Or will I? more than likely I will be stuck in my head - just like I am here. The odd truth of this always strikes me in the context of mountains. I spend a lot of my life wishing I was climbing a mountain. On the way up I wish it would end because it hurts so much.

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