Passion to do the job well

Passion to do the job well

I had a good old-fashioned whinge today. 

Bizarrely it was about templates or more strictly the lack of them. 

A document I had prepared got scrunched when transferred from Google Docs to Word because the system I was using wouldn’t let me use the obvious PDF route. All the tidy layout, fonts, headers and footers went haywire. What I needed was a neat template with a standardised look and feel that despite bucket loads of resources the organisation had not provided. 

After decades of trying to make things look good on the smell of an oily rag, this imposed dagginess just pushed my buttons. I got loud and went a little red in the face as my complaints bounced wildly around the room.

I mean it doesn’t take much to get a consistent internal look and feel. 

These days you can get an Airtasker to do it in a jiffy. Large organisations with their own Comms units just have no excuse.

Not a happy camper.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Calmer now, my curiosity asks why? 

What is it about tidiness and a neat layout that is so important?

Well, the obvious answer is that I like documents to be very different to the inside of my car. I want them to be neat, professional, elegant even. Achieving this is much easier with a template.

A good template makes for consistency of message and that makes perfect sense.

I certainly don’t like the optics of viewers seeing a scrappy document and assuming the author can’t even find their way around a simple Word layout. 

Not cool.

But this whinge is a sign of deeper trauma. 

Ever since I was out of diapers I have strived to high standards in order to fit in, to be liked and accepted. 

This need stems from a weird upbringing where I felt like an alien among the local inhabitants. It can happen when you are raised in the church, the Salvation Army in my case. 

Achieving accepted practice in the real world was a way of making sure that I wasn’t tainted by all the religious weirdness. A template and a consistent look and feel suggest professionalism.  

“The skill, good judgment, and polite behaviour that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well” 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I like the skill, good judgment, and polite behaviour that is expected of a professional. I knew that if I had these things then it would be much harder for the real world to reject me.

I did say it was deep.

“‘Professionalism’ is commonly understood as an individual’s adherence to a set of standards, code of conduct or collection of qualities that characterize accepted practice within a particular area of activity” 

Universities UK

And I was right. I learnt how to be skilled in fitting into real-world situations by learning quickly what it took to do well. It didn’t matter if it was cricket, soccer, or undergrad assignments, I went for it with passion after first finding out what the standards and code of conduct looked like.

This was handy of course. The qualities of professionalism bode well in modern society no matter your background or motivation. What was different for me was that its absence became a trigger.

Somehow I assumed that everyone would be just as motivated as I was to do the job well. 

When they are not or just display an amateurish approach I get annoyed. No suffering of fools.

My early career was in the academic world where accepted practice dominates the discourse, sets the hoops, and decides if you have jumped through them. Silly things like 30 refereed publications by the age of 30 was an unwritten standard that was worth achieving as it made careers. I came up just shy with 28 papers. Peer review, learned argument and being well-read in your discipline were similar codes and qualities that mattered to academics. 

I thought this would be true everywhere.

Sadly it isn’t.

It is not about the absence of a simple Word template, although there is no excuse for such sloppiness, it is the lack of passion to do the job well.

To have even half a chance of fixing the many challenges that humanity faces in the coming decades we all have to find the template and become professional.


If you have five minutes, why not read another Alloporus post

Should a country be self-sufficient?

Should a country be self-sufficient?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The other day my youngest son, now in his late-twenties, was very proudly telling me how he was living within his means. He had an account for all his various bills, one for unforeseen expenses, he had his play account and… Basically, he’d bucketed his money. 

He felt he was saving and was asking what I thought would be the best type of investment given his age and where the world was going. He had of course already decided how he was going to invest in a combination of cryptocurrency, shares and eventually, his gold standard, property. 

And good on him. 

It was a proud moment for a father to hear his son getting his shit together. Particularly after several years of it looking a bit dodgy as to what would happen. 

That notion though, of living within your means, is rarely extended beyond our personal affairs. 

A COVID opportunity

The pandemic has given many people pause for thought. The time to think about their own personal means and for many, it’s been a horrific and very scary time. 

Job losses and uncertainty around income causing problems for families all around the world. 

What we haven’t done yet, but we should, is to see what this pause means for jurisdictions and countries living within their means. 

Why can’t we extend the concept to whole economies? 

The kneejerk has been to assume when COVID is over that the old normal will return, as though we’re all just desperate for it to be like it was before. You know, a life full of problems and constraints and difficulties and working all hours God sends just to pay the mortgage. As though that situation of stress is the one we want for the new business as usual. 

Meanwhile, governments rack up debt levels never before seen, not even in wartime, and whistle along as though printing money was actually what they had in mind all along.

In Australia, the politicians are desperate to return to pre-COVID neoliberalism. They are planning everything as though it’s what everyone wants, even to the point of ignoring the opportunity to ramp up structural change to energy, agriculture and what to do when the country can’t sell any more iron ore, coal or gas. 

The immediate challenge is not so much what an alternative normal should look like, more that leaders don’t seem interested in looking for alternatives. Or even imagining what those alternatives would be. And yet this is essential if we are to move forward. 

This is all at a time in human history, the first when resources do not match demand, when we’re already living way beyond planetary means. 

As one measure of this overreach, the day on which the renewable resources of the world are used up for that year has been creeping earlier and earlier for decades.

Source: Global Footprint Network 

All those severe lockdowns when most of Europe stayed at home, global travel came to an abrupt halt and tourism tanked, changed the date for overshoot day 2020 by just three weeks

Despite a pandemic slowdown we still need 1.6 planets worth of natural resources to get us all through the year.

Self-sufficiency for countries

Perhaps the numbers for earth overshoot day are too daunting. 

More realistic perhaps is to extend the personal means test to countries or jurisdictions, a city or a county for example. These smaller, more compact economic units should be easier to handle and have more autonomy than the global economy.

Attempts at country level self-sufficiency start with a mindset of wanting to live within means. This will require a shift from a growth model to something that is more about what happens if we didn’t try to live within our means. Collapse is the extreme but shortages and strife are nasty precursors. There has to be a desire to mitigate these risks.

Next would be the inventory of needs and necessities together with the current modes of delivery for goods and services. Then some thoughts on the efficiency of these modes asking what sort of changes would be required? What resources are essential, what resources are a luxury that we could easily live without? Resource use decisions would also require a focus on what is understood by well-being. 

Much of what happens in the West is unnecessary for human well-being. We are over-consuming and stressing out whilst failing to think about and utilize the resources that we have. We don’t imagine resources being the limiting factor because the only limiting factor is our desire and our greed. 

The conversation about living within means requires a shift in thinking away from what we could potentially have, the yacht and that 10-story apartment block bringing in enormous amounts of passive income to fund the luxury villa on the coast. 

Instead discuss and decide on a semblance of what we understand by well-being, especially how well-being can be enhanced by being people rather than consumers.

Self-sufficiency

Any discussion on economic self-sufficiency quickly ends up at the individual. It is self after all. 

It may be that a top down sufficiency is not possible, only from individuals can a collective living within means happen.

Bitcoin then.


Please share or browse around on the many other posts with ideas for healthy thinking

Leadership of the masses

Leadership of the masses

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

Think back to October 2020, a few weeks before the US presidential election. According to the polls, the Democrats nominee has the upper hand. In a normal election cycle he would be a shoe in. Instead the media is in a frenzy in case the polls are wrong given that they fooled everyone the last time. 

There’s discussion of what would happen if the result is close and contested or the sitting president chose not to leave even if the voters said otherwise. The US is on tenterhooks and the whole world wants to know what is going to happen. 

The normally politically lazy Americans would turn out in numbers that would again favour the Democrats, however, it also means the rusted on Trump supporters will be out in force as well. 

Then a few of them took over the citadel.

I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to figure out what makes a ‘rusted on’ Trump supporter. What thinking makes a person vote for a candidate with no ethics, no morals, no substance, no empathy or sense of fairness and has broken every rule there is and got away with it? 

It’s what we used to call back in the day ‘dodgy brothers’, the kind of person you would keep well away from your daughters. 

And yet there he is, the sitting President, running a campaign of disruption and division in order to get voted back in again. Relying on that rusted on core to put him back in office. Arguably, despite the impeachment ruling, inciting them to violence and to deny the result of the democratic process.

What is it that allows that to happen? When does humanity wake up and say ‘no, this is not the kind of guy we want to lead us into our future’? 

Well the Americans did, just. But the divisions are still there, painful and as rusty as ever. 

It could be the power of the fear and loathing that exists in people prepared to back a person who will go against everything rather than build confidence, partnerships and forward thinking. There was a quote just before the election to the effect that  there is this man high on steroids and should any foreign jurisdictions be listening, to keep well away lest they spark something that they didn’t want involving red buttons. 

More scary than funny.

Leadership qualities

Leadership gets more than its fair share of posts on this blog. 

I think I’ve always assumed that we look towards leadership that is progressive and inspires confidence. Leaders pull people together so we can become more than the sum of the parts. 

Such individuals need talent, a lot of energy, commitment, and balls. It takes courage to bridge tribal divisions and innate prejudice from all sides. 

It’s much easier to be a leader who divides and conquers. This has become common practice (Trump, Johnson, Putin, Bolsonaro, Modi et al) but a relatively easy practice. The only real skill needed is to identify the points of difference between people and then just accentuate them. And you have to admit Trump knew exactly the points of difference and played them like a fiddle. 

So my vision of leadership, the egalitarian bringing people together for common cause and making the sum much more than the parts, is not everyone else’s vision of leadership. 

It seems that there are a lot of people who want ‘us against the rest’ leaders, the guy that supports me against them, whoever ‘them’ might be. 

Historically humanity has often fallen for these leaders. Us against them is the main paradigm in wars of conquest. So perhaps what’s ‘rusted on’ is our limbic requirement to fight. And you can’t fight unless there’s something recognizable to fight against. 

I can’t fight time. I can’t fight the planet even though we try. I can’t fight the weather. These are too big and brash to take on, but I can fight my brother. I can fight the neighbor. And I can certainly fight those funny dudes with their crazy religion across the water. 

And maybe I am naive to think that leadership on commonality and of gathering together is our default. It is not. Our default position is exactly what we’re witnessing around the world, the leadership of us and them. The only way that the leadership stays in office is if you have slightly more of us than of them. 

Where do we go from here?

All this begs the question of where humanity goes from here? What type of leadership is possible if everyone is battling a limbic system that wants to fight, flee or freeze?  

At one time I thought the best option was to raise awareness and move people beyond their limbic thinking. Encourage the majority to become more aware, more understanding of the consequences of their choices, and so take more responsibility, especially when they place their ballot. 

I even wrote a book about it, Missing Something, on the premise that a raised awareness would help understand all the various problems that humanity faces including political leadership. 

Self actuation is a huge challenge in itself, especially when it is so comfortable to live off basic instincts. Political leaders understand this and trigger the instinct all the time. Trump is the quintessential embodiment of the approach. He locks onto base fears and fuels them all the time. 

Other political leaders recognise the base instinct and then bend it to their own ends often through authoritarian even military methods. Humans are easily manipulated by our slavery to base instinct with the stick and the carrot. 

Just saying ‘raise awareness’ is naive. Even if it would work, making it happen is daunting and likely not possible.. 

Whilst awareness helps bring people to a heightened sense of self, we need something more. 

The leadership humanity needs to give us a reasonable chance of survival can’t rely on scented candles and incantations. We have to play a ‘Trump light’ game that latches onto limbic responses for the political leverage needed to make progressive changes. 

This sounds horribly like moving to the right rather than the centre left. I am hardening towards the draconian on some of these things. Responses to COVID-19 show that it is possible to impose strict rules on society and get away with it in the public interest. It’s a small step to a benevolent dictatorship that could tackle the equally huge issues of inequity, food security, and a stressed environment. 

The risk in forcing people into decisions that you believe they’re not capable of making due to their basic instincts getting in the way is a slip of the tongue away from control for nefarious purposes. Blink and we are in the dangerous territory of the end justifying the means. 

Horrid as it sounds, such control must be part of the conversation because the limbic system in human brains has got us this far. It will be part of what comes next.


Please have conversations about leadership and benevolent control. Whatever comes next it must be better than populism.