Brace for impact

boy playing on slide in playground
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

Yesterday with my wife, I did what turned to be an 8 mile walk along a river canal near Milton Keynes in the UK. We usually take a few pics on our smartphones along the way – photogenic narrow boats, rolling green landscapes and any wildlife we see. And the occasional selfie too. As you do.

Anyway, at one point along the walk, we passed over a short, concrete aqueduct, with a concrete spillway channel coming off it at right angles, to take excess water down to a lower channel, some 70m away from the main canal path.

I sometimes see a photo opportunity in my head ahead of time and thought I could pose, standing in the middle of the spillway, while my wife took a pic from above. At first glance, the spillway looked fairly dry and not a drop of water was trickling down it. I climbed partway down the waste ground (about the first 20m in distance from the main canal) next to the spillway and stepped down onto it, with my wife watching from the top. The spillway seemed walkable at first and not too steep to walk across. My hands left the side wall of the spillway and I gingerly started walking across it, to the mid point.

I noticed in the bottom section of the spillway, about 50m from where I was, that it flattened out. There were a series of concrete pillars on the flat section, regularly spaced. Each pillar was about one metre high – presumably to stop tree branches or other debris from going any further along the drainage channel.

Suddenly, both feet started gently sliding downwards. I used to roller blade and ski. So I knew about upper body balance, when you start moving in a diagonal direction. It was one of those moments when several things start flashing through your mind in quick succession. My first thought. This isn’t going to plan! The surface isn’t as dry as I thought. I can’t retrace my footsteps. Or quickly put a hand on the side wall of the spillway. I seem to be picking up speed. I can’t seem to use the edge of my walking boots to create any friction.

By now, most of me is touching the slimy surface and I’m moving my hands outwards for balance. I look below and see the row of concrete barriers that I’m heading for. As I approach, my speed is accelerating. I’m out of other options, so I brace for impact.

I think about trying to hit the barriers with both feet fairly close together, my knees slightly bent. I hope I’m going to hit one barrier square on and not slip half through the gap between them. My body is like a child’s body going down a slide in the playground. I’m not panicking.  But I do have time to wonder how hard I’m going to hit. I decide to use my legs as a giant shock absorber and hope for the best.

The soles of my feet hit and I keep travelling. I’m still wondering whether my legs will stop me in time. Then just before my torso slams into the concrete, I stop. I have a second to register that nothing is broken and that I’ve made a clean landing.

It could have gone much worse. If I’d have panicked, or not acted quickly, I probably would be in hospital right now, with parts of my body in a plaster cast. If I’d been less lucky and there had been some metal or wood debris clogging up the concrete pillars, my landing would have been a lot more painful. Ditto if the spillway was longer or steeper. Or had potholes in it.

On the positive side, my wife is still speaking to me and I haven’t lost all credibility for making judgements. I also surprised myself in acting quickly in the heat of the moment. It’s been a long while since I’ve been in an unplanned adventurous situation, with skin in the game i.e. being out of control with a likely painful and hazardous ending coming for me personally.

What did I learn? That sometimes in life, the unexpected overrides your plan. That when it does, you become resourceful real fast, or suffer the consequences. That you can’t always change the unexpected. But you can ride it out and try to control the outcome. And also, that the work you put in earlier (lots of walking previously to strengthen my legs), sometimes pays off big time in a momentary crisis situation. And most of all, have faith in yourself and don’t panic. Brace for impact instead and hope for the best!

Simon

Not for the faint hearted…

Have just been listening to several Ray Kurzweil TED talks about the pace of technology.

Apart from the speed, one of the most interesting & surprising things is how well technology progress measures, of all kinds, over the last few decades, fit an exponential curve. It got me thinking more about those curves in our own lives:

Since exponential curve behaviour is transforming our lives, understanding the properties of those curves is arguably the most important maths we all need to master.

Perhaps our biggest blind spot is not seeing when we’re on the ‘flat plains’ of a curve. One with the ever-steeper ‘mountain face’ of the curve ahead, still cloaked in mist. And like mountaineers approaching a steep mountain face to climb, our options are greatest before the ascent.

The least blurry view of the curve is early on, before the meteoric rise kicks in and things change at the fastest rate.

Some technology exponential curves must surely accelerate others. Probably less a case of ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’ and more a case of ‘hold tight with both hands, for the ride of a lifetime!’

The more exponential curves swerve and jolt our lives, the more flexibility in the driving seat we require. And the bigger the flexibility toolset we’ll need for the ride. Note to self: spend more time thinking about the relationship between flexibility and exponential curve behaviour.

What do you think?

Lastly, if you find these blogs interesting, feel free to click ‘follow’.

Simon

Reflections H-P

Health living – is a series of choices. Unhealthy dying is a consequence of not making the right choices. You may not care what others think, but ultimately, your body will care.

Hope – is like gravity. It anchors us to a great planet, surrounded by people we can help. And those who will reach out to us, if we let them.

Human creativity – a lucky dip inside your head, planting an action point in someone else’s head. Mentally reaching for the sky, flying solo with eagles and rainbows, then making a perfect landing. Problems in our neighbourhoods cry out for design ideas in our heads and courage in our hearts. The creative process is more Picasso, Dali and Pollock. The dependency process is more still life and pointillist.

Management – bountiful control over scarce resources needs to become scarce control over bountiful resources.

Parenthood – a mission to the outer limits of your character. To boldly go where you never thought you would go before. Starring as the support actors in your own long-playing, family adventure movie. Becoming a parent is like being a fashion photographer. You get to help the subject on their own road to success, yet they think they alone have all the talent!

Personal growth – life isn’t about finding Nemo. It’s about creating yourself. Making progress depends both on finding truths and accepting them as friends. Look on the bright side – the winds of change take us through some pretty amazing scenery.

Politicians – some politicians hope to use politics to achieve a beautiful result. Some supermodels use beauty to achieve a political result.

If you like these posts, feel free to follow my blog for future posts.

Simon

Flexibility and Internet downtime

business computer connection data
Photo by Josh Sorenson on Pexels.com

Last week in my home, I had an internet outage.  Presumably somehow related to contractors putting in fibre broadband in the nearby streets. It was a good test of dependency on the internet controlling how we can be productive.

Fortunately, reflecting time & planning time are different from online-research time & trend-monitoring time. Waiting for digital service restoration is simply an opportunity for more thinking and reflection time. A chance to review previously downloaded files that are stored locally, not in the Cloud. To improve the online filing system on my laptop i.e. spring cleaning.

Instead of taking reassurance from online sources, I had to look within.  Fortunately, I don’t yet have a self-employment business heavily reliant on internet connectivity. Note to self – today is a lesson in making such a business more flexible. And even if such a business was internet dependant, I can still drive to a nearby town and use their café wifi, to keep such a business operating.

Spotify might be inaccessible. But the iTunes library on my nano lets the music play on. TV, radio and the mobile phone network are unaffected too. I can cook on electric or gas cooking devices. Getting some lunchtime exercise and taking a hot shower afterwards are options too. I may not be able to do any internet banking.  But I can always visit an ATM for cash and review my account balance.

The outage reminded me that Plan B’s have to be scalable. People need to remain productive and contribute.  Whether it’s just a local outage, or a wider one. Like in a romantic relationship, if the other party steps away for a bit, your life needs to go on regardless.

In the age of the machine, people need to be bigger than digital. And keep an identity outside of digital too.

Simon

Reflections D-G

Dignity – the quiet dignity of old people should be the quiet dignity of everyone.

Education – education opens a door to awareness. Awareness opens a universe to discovery.

Ego – make ego an acronym for enthusiasm, generosity and originality.

Envy – if we spend excessive time bashing the wealth creators, instead of upskilling, we’ll get the economic wasteland we deserve.

Family legacy – where your children become investors in the parent company.

Fashion – the magical stitching that binds values with expression. Jewellery- the best is elegance without extravagance. Hats – fashion landscapes for the head. Hairstylists – cut away tangled confusion to reveal the style underneath. And like international diamond traders, live for style, cut and colour.

Fitness – sweat the small stuff in the gym. Enjoy the big stuff everywhere else! Fitness feeds the body, the way information feeds the mind and friendship feels the soul.

Friends – are the mirror lens to help us see things afresh. Old friends are like a roaring fire. They warm our bones, radiate light, crackle with life and make short work of dull objects. With friends, you don’t just walk the journey together for a while, you carry new destinations along the way. Reunions with friends help us over-write the mistakes of the past, with the goodwill of the present and some fun plans for the future.

Goodwill – goodwill banks are the best banks of all, allowing a person to put in at least as much as they take out. The less you deposit, the more risk you take.

The march of time’s flexibility

A child is flexible in mind & body. They aren’t too proud to imitate others. Nor too self conscious to role play. For the child, unconscious competence slowly introduces itself to personal flexibility. They then become firm friends, all the way to secondary school.

The teenager suppresses their innate flexibility, for social group acceptance. Kind of ironic since that versatility and adaptability is their strength to the social group concerned. Fame, glory and sex appeal are cool. Staying physically flexible isn’t. Unless it leads to sporting prowess/physical strength, on the path to fame, glory and sex appeal. Conscious competence sits quietly in the back row, out of the spotlight. Until just the right kind of audience enters the theatre.

The twenty or thirty something embraces flexibility. Simply to cope with juggling career, relationships, finances, set backs and opportunities. Conscious incompetence staggers out of the back row. While walking up on to the stage, it looks within for character and its attitude is sheer bloody mindedness. Less addicted to the spotlight. More hoping its talent will rise up and face off its destiny.

The middle ager embraces a different kind of flexibility. They use decades of life experience. And memories of what worked when, to draw & channel the best response to a given problem. They don’t necessarily get things right. But notice that as their mental flexibility reigns, their physical flexibility wanes. Primed on stage, they visualise the perfect flexibility moves. The perfect actions. The delivery however is hit and miss. Their final act of flexibility is to learn to rationalise. To register the applause and count their blessings.

The senior, quietly watching the next generation project from the stage, finds they have to channel their waning mental flexibility to manage the reducing options of their physical flexibility. An ultimate indignity is their inability to clap & cheer the very talent that parades before them.

And so it goes.

Simon