It feels like ages since I last wrote, but it’s been more a lack of time than a lack of interest. I’ve finally had the chance to sort pictures, sort notes, sort receipts, so the pieces are all in place to catch up with myself again.
I was listening to a relevant 5By5 conversation while driving yesterday: When writing, one should be living life instead of documenting it. I agree, and have always looked at my personal essays should be a reflection on life rather than simply a mirror of it. The blog gives me a chance for me to reflect on what’s important and why in my expat and entrepreneurial activities, and to connect with readers about their insights and ideas. So I always feel less put-together when I step away from writing as I have had to this week.
The week included a couple of Marathon Days: Amsterdam on Wednesday and travel to London on Thursday.
Amsterdam was beautiful in late autumn colours under blue skies. I had to arrange for the 2012 taxes to close and for a new business to be chartered, a continuation of a court case and a plan for collecting on a debt overdue a year. I’ve learned that I get charged for time spent on pleasantries, and so we plunged through my agendas and documents efficiently, making commitments and handing out tasks for follow-up within a week.
‘back in Maastricht by evening, then on to the Dunkirk ferry at 3 am. It was a rainy drive on either side, but a clear cruise in between, finally arriving in a park-and-ride west of London by late morning, pre-positioned for a Greek dinner met het wezen. The rest stops and ferry decks were full of Christmas trimmings, all tinsel strands and twinkle lights. I made a few notes not to fall behind on cards and travel planning this year.
‘exactly the sort of travel insanity that I said was past, but this trip was a necessary choice. I changed into suit and tie and headed for two key meetings with key governing and funding boards in London.
The problem is that every week has an increasingly consequential live-or-die milestones with implications for the business. When can results / prototypes be delivered? We’ll know soon. How quickly can you augment our funding? Once you show results, we can raise the investment.
So, it’s a never-ending circle of trading confidence beneath trading information and promises. And it mirrors broader issues in my expat and personal life: is it enough that I have confidence? Or do other people also need to see consistent predictability against plan and regular, small successes to bolster their confidence, independent of me?
It’s an issue that recurred in my Corporate R&D projects: ‘love the vision, uncertain about the execution? And simply Expressing Confidence is not enough to solve it.
Meetings ended, I made harbour at a hotel north of the city before moving on to Cambridge in the morning for some packing. We’ve decided to pull move our St. Johns offices to the Babraham Institute, since our activities have shifted to our microbiology labs. St. Johns has been a good workspace for us the past year, but just not necessary when the group is working at other sites.
It’s a pragmatic ‘new start’: I’m a person who builds things, I don’t tear them down.
When things go wrong, as they will, I get the facts, face reality, create a new plan, then communicate and motivate. Progress is a series of incremental, adaptive steps within funding and resource envelopes that bring us ever-closer to success.
It’s under control and I can fix it when it veers.
But, from an outside perspective, it is a series of surprises and changes. Saying what I will do, then failing to do it for whatever reason, can result in loss of confidence rather than admiration for problem–solving and contingency planning.
It’s a major perceptual disconnect, and a problem that I’m just realizing needs a lot more attention for people who both professionally or personally have to be able to rely on believing what I tell them and live with what I say I can do.
And, failing to address it, people will feel stressed by the unreliability of the process, and some take abrupt steps to deal with the perceived chaos or decline.
Am I still true to myself, building worthwhile things with great people, or just postponing failure?
Am I letting my incremental process impact others needlessly, failing to take account of how my actions are perceived by them?
What is the proper expression of confidence, both explicit and implied, that keeps everyone ‘onboard’ with the ventures?
Am I still respecting the balans en grens that lead to and underlie a healthy life and fulfilled relationships?
Am I becoming a happier, more confident and grounded person again after the summer’s crash?
There’s such a lot of potential and opportunity in what I do, and I still believe that there’s a lot around on hand to enjoy and even more on offer ahead if I keep the energy and resilience to see it though to success.
But I understand that many, maybe most, don’t see it that way. And, I admit, it’s all still an incremental, adaptive work-in-progress that can feel distant and uncertain.
As extends, probably, to me.