Tag Archives: Future

Out of work: A new venture


I handed in my notice this week.  I have done that a couple of times in my life, but this is different. I am not going to a new job; there is no pay cheque waiting; there is nothing out there but good intentions and interested people. While I’m taking early retirement, I’m not retiring, and, having received a salary every month for the past 40 years, that’s a rather scary prospect. 

I have spent the past few years thinking about my future and what I am going to do with myself until retirement age and beyond, and more important, who is likely to pay me to do it.  I have seven years before compulsory retirement age, but I have a mother alive and well at 84, and a father still working as a pharmacist in a local hospital at 86.  You will understand, therefore, that, however uncertain life may be, long-term planning is called for.

What I do know is that I do not want to run an organisation’s Human Resources Department for another seven years.  A training department, now that’s a different matter, but there are few of those opportunities around this area. 

I knew that training would have to be part of what I do; I knew also that writing should play a role, but exactly what I could offer to whom was elusive.  After a long time wondering, praying and generally feeling somewhat inadequate for anything, we finally have a plan.

Raymond Ackerman, of Pick ‘n Pay fame, wrote about four legs to a business table.  Perhaps I am not aiming high enough, but I have three “legs” on my model.  The first is training and development of people.  This will take various forms, including part-time lecturing, workshops and seminars, and individual coaching and mentoring.  The focus of the seminars and workshops will be management skills, so-called soft skills, writing, and other themes that may take my fancy (and that I can persuade enough people to pay for).  Some will be my own material while some will be in partnership with quality training and development specialists.

The second leg is writing.  Having spent 16 years working with journalists I know that I will not, in the short term, make a healthy living from writing (I am no J. K. Rowling).  But my love for writing came as a serendipitous discovery a couple of years ago, and I have been indulging myself (with your help, of course, Dear Reader) ever since. Any form of writing or editing will do, and a couple of possibilities have taken shape.

The third leg will be general consulting work in the field of people management.  There is a surprising oversupply of HR Consultants, from the highly qualified to the not so, in this small city, so I do not expect to do much here, but the other two “legs” may feed work into this area.

I am creating a website with its own blog called Simply Communicate where I hope to draw readers (and clients) to my wise words and helpful hints geared towards managers of people. Do pay a visit, but it will be a work in progress for a month or so. Although some themes are universal, the emphasis will be on the South African workplace, and managing people in the ever-changing landscape (some would call it a minefield) of this country’s labour legislation.  Personally I never complain about the legislation.  Its complexity (trying to bring order and certainty into the mess of human relations) and it’s employee-centred focus has helped provide me a good living for 16 years, and long may it continue.

With the internet, of course, writing is no longer restricted by geographic boundaries, so if you have any writing or editing to be done come 1 September 2012, do let me know, I shall have some time on my hands—not too much time, I hope.

I plan to continue this blog with its particular focus, so don’t go away.

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Filed under General Writing

Too Busy to Listen


Listening is such hard work; waiting for the future to happen is so difficult. I struggle to get to retreats and quiet days. I’m too busy; there’s too much to get through; I want to read, to write, to learn, to do. But always, when I eventually do stop to listen, usually on a retreat or a quiet day, I am reminded (again) of how much I need to listen. The growth I strive for, the ability to serve, to preach, to be whatever God is calling me to be, will not come about by being pasted on to my life. It won’t come from reading more (although the seeds may be there); it won’t come from “wandering to and fro upon the earth”. It comes (for me at least) from within. It comes from listening.

I was privileged to spend a morning last weekend with Jim and Heather Johnston and about 30 or so friends at Beth Shalam, celebrating Jim and Heather’s ministry there over the past 20 years. The time has come for them to retire.  Many of those who were there had been to multiple retreats and quiet days over the years. Most had been through Jim’s Life Revision course (an eight-day retreat followed by two three-day retreats). All had been blessed beyond measure by the healing and nurturing that has been the mark of this home.

I have attended a couple of retreats at Beth Shalam. We are fortunate to be in the same city, just down the road, but I haven’t enjoyed the privilege as much as I could have. Then during last year (2010) I went through the Life Revision course. It was a transforming experience for me and, among other things, I began to write.

On this final, celebratory, retreat Heather pointed out that one can only harvest what has been sown; we bring out what is within us, what has grown there. I want my growth and my becoming to happen now, or at least by tomorrow morning. Perhaps one more book will do it….

Heather quoted from John O’Donohue’s meditation, “For One Who is Exhausted”. One line was particularly poignant for me: “The tide you never valued has gone out”.  Heather expanded on it saying that we often move too fast (in “the fast lane of nothingness”) and we get ahead of ourselves.

These thoughts distilled themselves into the following meditation during a quiet moment in the beauty of their wonderful garden.

O God of the mighty oak and the tiniest flower,
Of the soaring eagle and the wandering ant;
God of a future beyond my knowledge and beyond my reach,
Hold me to the present, its pain and delight.

I long to be an eagle, a significant oak,
But that longing consumes me and leaves me unfilled.
I am lost and ungrounded in a future that arrived too soon.
For the plant does not grow if the seed is not nurtured;
The harvest is barren and without any substance.

Lord, keep me from the fast lane of nothingness,
Hold me to the present, deep in the soil of your grace.
For it is here that the future takes root.

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Filed under Meditation & Prayer, Poetry