Men and their rites of passage…

Walking past Mullumbimby library recently I paused at the trolley they always have outside the front door with books and magazines for sale.  It’s not often I find anything of interest… there seems to be an insatiable appetite for fantasy and science fiction today and I haven’t yet managed to cultivate an interest in that genre.  This day, though, there was a gem worth buying, Peter O’Connor’s (1981) Understanding Mid-life Crisis published by Pan Macmillan.
O’Connor wrote a newspaper article where he talked about the way men can experience the years between 35 and 45, and he described this as a period ‘when feelings of frustration and personal inadequacy may surface and marital strains may be felt’. Although about men he suggests that the same could be felt by women, especially those who are/have been working.  His article generated many letters from men feeling they had experienced the same issues he described and offering to take part in his research as interviewees.  There are many interesting facts in the book but one I want to share today is where he talks about the four fantasies most commonly mentioned by his interviewees.  I thought these worth passing on.

Farmer one

First, the farmer fantasy, the most prevalent one, O’Connor describes as ‘To own, run and live on a farm or farmlet, to belong to the land, to know the pace of nature and the rhythm of animals’ (1991;59). Secondly, the nurseryman fantasy, ‘more to do with nurturing and growth’ (1991;60). The helper fantasy frequently took the form of doing social work or similar, with the desire to give back’ but the irony being ‘that often these men have sacrificed the well-being of their own families in the pursuit of their materialistic goals. In such cases the fantasy has much to do with attempting reparation and meeting needs for warm, caring relationships as it has to do with a desire to help others (1991, 61).


The writer fantasy or being some form of creative person, was next. Those whose ‘lives were lived predominantly on the intellectual plane’ tended to predominate in his group. Here the fantasy was of writing ‘the great work” which mainly meant a novel. O’Connor says this fantasy ‘has to do with an inner demand, arising around the mid-life period, to give some time and space to the neglected sides of one’s psyche’ with this fantasy expressing ‘he inner drive to be creative and to experience an alternative mode to the rational, empirical, logical mode’ (1991; 62). O’Connor argues that one should not deny these urges as ‘the desire represents an inner prompting, a reminder of a needed growth, an inner direction for partly resolving, in a creative way, the mid-life crisis (1991;62). Men, he argues, should not deny these urges saying “I’m too old for that now” for ‘To deny such possibilities sentence oneself to death and to allow oneself to be captured like an insect in a web of inertia’ (1991;62).


Personal gamification

Is there such a notion as personal gamification? I was recently sent an email asking me to help with someone’s research on the use of apps etc. by academics. I didn’t have the time to fill this in (shame on me… I found the time to write this rumination), but it has made me think about the way I use apps for my own work. My ruminations are:

· I seem to change apps quite a bit. Some frequently (the five second test… download the app, don’t like it or have one already that is better), some after a while (use a particular one because I am near a phone or spending more time on the PC or spending more time on the ipad so apps seem linked to the type of technology I am attached to that day/week/month).

· Some I re-discover and think ‘why didn’t I continue to use this?’ One I re-found this week is the Stickynotes app for Windows. I am now using it to note action lists for each of the writing project I have. It is definitely making me both more productive and I like playing with it.

· Most of the ones I use are the free ones, as the extras you get for a subscription doesn’t always justify the cost (apart from Endnote as I need to access this when I am travelling).

· Some actually make me more productive, such as ‘25 minutes’.  That one forces me to focus (most of the time, although not today as it is very humid and concentration is rather lacking for what Cal Newport calls ‘Deep Work’. See it on Amazon).

The point of this rumination is that the app is probably not designed for gamification but it produces a behavioural response in me where I engage in its use as a sort of gamification process. But not all the apps I use are personal gamification, such as Stickynotes.  With that one I don’t put myself in competition with myself when using it and I don’t reward myself when I write one up, whereas I do when I use 25 minutes, probably because that functionality is built into it… …

The myriad of elements that make up your personal talent management

I have a colleague who is doing a doctorate study of managers managing autistic talent. I send her web links and academic references occasionally as I come across them. I found this tale from a young guy particularly impressive about the lived, meaningful experience of this condition.

It made me think of how talent management practice and writing takes little account of those aspects of the individuals which don’t match the common competency frameworks many organisations work to.

It also reminds me how the telling of personal stories is so powerful in enabling people to make sense of themselves and to provide learning and enlightenment for others.




Talent tale from the (tennis) field


What talent Martina Navratilova had and probably still has.

I was talking to a woman in Mullumbimby the other day who has had an interesting life. She had been a private school girl with many privileges, including being able to play tennis competitively. She went on with her life and as she got older she had fewer opportunities to play tennis, other than having a knock-about (a playful time). One day, at a house party of a friend who just happened to have a tennis court, she was invited to play by another house guest. On the tennis court it was soon very clear that the other woman had played tennis at a very high level and was getting into the ‘zone’ pretty quickly. Ann felt the talent she had developed over her younger years revitalise. She found strength and power she thought she had lost. Her strategic thinking skills switched on as though it was yesteryear. Other guests began to gather around. They watched in awe as the two mature women powered around the court.

As she told me her story, Ann was right there again. The glory of her victory was remembered through the telling. I listened, marvelled with her and complemented her. Reflecting on her story afterwards gave me hope that, failing illness or debility, we could all continue to feel such power by drawing on those talents we had previously honed over the years.  My (sad) feeling is that very few of us identify what talents we have and most of us fail to capitalise on those talents, particularly as we get older.

Thanks for being a role model to us, Ann.

How do you survive the doctoral supervisor’s comments?

As a Director of Studies working mainly with part time Doctorate in Business Studies (DBA) students, I look at a lot of thesis drafts and my mode of working is to use the reviewer’s tool and make a comment on the draft that way.  I tend to have a particular pattern of comment. Firstly I notice the English and the typographical errors.  I get so irritated at these that I have to make a comment, then I can concentrate on the actual content of what the doctoral student is saying. (I tell myself it is a useful set of comments as it is teaching the student that a lot of examiners are also like me in this way…).


Then I look at the way the paragraph is crafted in light of the argument coming through.  Depending on how my day is going I can be super-kind and supportive or sometimes I can be quite direct. Here is an example:

‘This is an important section of the thesis, [student], and it needs really good crafting to rhetorically demonstrate the implications you are suggesting are right. It reads as though it was written in a rushed way. Several of the sentences are too long, as are the paragraphs. Go through the whole of section one here, address the clumsy writing and re-craft the text to bring out the goodness. This includes ensuring each paragraph is a good size and contains the main elements of the part of the argument you are putting here’.

I often wonder how the student feels when they read this. I can imagine it also depends on where they are psychologically in their doctoral journey, how well it is going, what the doctorate means to them in identity terms, if they are resilient in taking criticism, even if it is well meant and is designed to help them get their thesis draft to a level which will attract a pass.



So you want to be a (celebrated) doctor?

….then once you have completed your doctorate (successfully!) why not enter a competition to get your thesis celebrated as a true contribution to knowledge?

Emerald Publishing have a nice competition at the moment… See

And there is one which is specifically for HRM students at the HRIC conference in Sydney in February  2016….

Apart from the kudos there are cash prizes.



E. B. White on the Role and Responsibility of the Writer

Who am I writing for

My reading today has been this article on about E.B. White’s view on the role and responsibilities of the writer.

As academic writers this is an important aspect of our work, whether we are writing a thesis, a journal article, a blog or Tweeting. This 1969 quote from E.G. White is informative for all of us in the web age:

‘A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his [her] fancy, stirs his [her] heart, and unlimbers his [her] typewriter.

I feel no obligation to deal with politics. I do feel a responsibility to society because of going into print: a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He [She] should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.

A question to ask ourselves are have I REALLY considered who I am writing for and why?