Information Overload – 1st World Problems

The most striking thing I have noticed since returning to New Zealand is the amount of information there is to digest. I suppose I have been fortunate in that I quickly weed out the stuff I want to read, vs the stuff I don’t need to read. It also helps that since returning to NZ, I’ve largely been a “man of leisure” and focusing on looking after the house and my kids as my wife has slid back into the workforce here. I can say – it’s really hard to figure out what to cook for dinner, and hence I have a huge appreciation for the mum’s and dad’s out there that fulfill this role in their family unit. Looking after the pennies whilst I’m not formally engaged in employment is a priority, as is trying to make it easy for the family unit to reintegrate back into kiwi life.

So what does a “man of leisure” have the luxury of doing? Well – I do get to decide what we are having for dinner (I generally have to cook it too), I keep a reasonable house, and I can now keep up with the huge volume of information out there. I am dabbling in things that interest me, doing some mentoring, and helping friends without needing to schedule it into my previously busy schedule – although over the past 2 weeks I’ve lost time due to being a little bit too busy…. I am reading a lot of innovative and thought leadership articles, but I’m also discovering that there is a lot of “made up bullshit” out there, a…lot. I am reading a lot of LinkedIn articles and opinions, and honesty, the gullibility of some people just makes me shake my head. Quite obviously, people are making up or exaggerating “stories” just to get likes and shares – it’s sad that people do this, but this is the world we live in – so pragmatic..

I’ve also been really interested in both the PNG and NZ political landscapes with both countries having very contrasting elections this year. I find PNG politics to be fascinating, and this year social media played a huge part in some really dirty dirty politics. It also exposed some ballot box scams and put it all out there for the nation to see. I was very excited for people I grew to know, either by word, or personally, that really achieved in these elections. Amongst what people hear about corruption in PNG Politics etc – there are some astonishing nice people that just want to make a difference, lets hope they all can.

I’ve blogged. A lot. I have literally written pages and pages of blog posts, however have not published them all. I’ve listened to MY music, LOUD, all day! No one to stop me, no one to say “Dad, your music is sooooo old”… I’ve relaxed. I’m energised. I’ve read some novels. I’ve looked into new technologies. I’ve got my own seat and table at the local cafe! My new friends are retiree’s and cafe owners. I’ve gone to the kids schools more times than I can remember, the Principal and his PA at the local High School actually know who I am – we have a great relationship. I have reconnected with old colleagues, and I have built things. I have wireframed new apps that I want to develop, and I’ve even played some video games. Who has time for that when you work in a 24/7 job in a 24/7 country???

I tried fishing, but the weather hasn’t been right – but I have got all my gear ready to hit it as soon as the fishing gods allow. And I’ve been there for the kids, and my wife. Or at least I think so… They still think I am a grumpy old bugger, truth be told, I just want them out of the house so I can listen to Joe Walsh and Bob Seger – hahaha.

I’ve been able to reflect on the past 6 years in PNG, and use those reflections for me and the future. Sometimes, when you are busy just doing it, you never get a chance to look back or mentally celebrate your achievements.

One of the striking things that I have reflected on, was the amount of innovation we delivered in PNG. And that was set up by having a strong strategy, and brilliant team – we couldn’t have done it without each other. I often remark to friends, that the work you can do in PNG sometimes isn’t just about the company you work for, I believe that you can really make a difference to the entire country by the actions you take, and the ethos you bring. Certainly, my team are the future (if not already current) leaders of Papua New Guinea, albeit quietly achieving behind some of the fluff that is happening out there.

But it somewhat annoys me, that companies aren’t giving Papua New Guineans a fair crack. But then I see young men and women that fall into the trap of “I’ve got it, I’ve made it” and then proceed to stop learning, stop doing, and start sliding backwards. We often hear the words that Papua New Guineans aren’t capable – but they are. They just need good positive guidance and leadership – just like everyone else on this planet. They need to be empowered and trusted, and given the tools to make things happen, and then helped along a journey.

Which reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from Steve Jobs “The Journey is the Reward”

We need to show people that there isn’t an endgame, you need to be striving, learning, teaching, and creating a journey for yourself – not stopping at the summit, but looking up to the next.

It bloody well helps with a good internet connection 🙂

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Driving in Port Moresby

Thanks to the raskols and attempted carjacking in August, I didn’t really have the mojo to write for a while.  Got it off my chest – then stewed for a long time.  My head wasn’t in the right space over the last part of the year, and I needed to completely relax over the Christmas period in order to get focus for another year.  (Not sure that I relaxed but…)

I was sitting there the other night thinking about what PNG does, that makes you better at something…  And the first thing I thought about was …. driving.

So how does being in PNG make you a better driver?

1. Your reactions are so much better!  Ever had a car on the outside of a roundabout go right around it and in front of you?  yup, that’s “surfing” the roundabout…  How about being in the line of traffic, so you are driving and go to overtake when you realise there is a [insert vehicle here – truck, bus, van, car, 2 cars, truck and trailer, etc] parked in your lane, with rocks placed behind the tyres (presumably because the handbrake doesn’t work – nah – just cause you can) completely immobilised, and you have to instantly check to make sure you aren’t going to hit a car traveling at 120km/hr from behind you (yes the speed limit is 60km/hr) and “dodge” around the car on the road.

2. You can dodge potholes at any speed, including at night, after a couple beers, with someone driving towards you with highbeams on.

3. You know how to work your Hazard lights, that you sometimes have to use when there is a crowd of people walking on the road, or a car broken down (see #1)

4. You can now drive through torrential monsoon rain where you can barely still see your car, let alone the car in front of you.

5. You can ford fast flowing rivers and creeks – as that is what happens to the roads when it rains…

6. You don’t go anywhere without your license!

7. You have reminder checks on your vehicles safety sticker and registration, and make sure you get new ones well in advance of them expiring

8. Every time you jump in your car, you check that all your lights are working (instant traffic fine – no matter what)

9. You learn how to stop without a stop sign, all you need is a policeman with a machine gun standing there

10. You make sure you have every excuse, address, wantoks name under the sun dialed into memory just in case you get stopped at a roadblock

11. You never leave home without your phone – just in case #10

12. You can ring and drive (yes we know it’s dangerous!), whilst dodging potholes and random abandoned cars.  Sometimes text and drive, and on the old occasion email and drive (shock horror!).

13. You identify approaching hazards well before you get to them…  The dog on the road (he will just cross it), the pig in the village (heaven forbid you hit one of those), the pikinini playing by the side of the road (omg – lukautim pikinini lo yu!), the people waiting to cross – running directly in front of you…

14. You know how to use a horn, whilst dodging potholes, texting, dodging abandoned cars, and avoiding stray dogs that someone, somewhere will claim ownership of.

15. You know how to yell at the taxi or PMV driver so that he knows that you aren’t some dim dim with no idea.  KKK isn’t a white supremist here – is abbreviation for the swear words that you yell in tok pisin at the taxi/pmv driver

16. You can line up the coke cans on the road to crush them using your tyres for the locals (lotsa Kina in crushed cans)

17. You always have a few Kina on you to pay someone to change your tyre

18. You know exactly how to change your tyre (see #17) so someone else can do it for you 🙂 (it’s no fun doing this in 30+ degree heat!)

19. You routinely run carjacking exercises, where everyone in the car ducks and you can still drive 500 metres up the road without looking at the road, driving by feel – hehehe

20. You learn to love the AC, leaving your windows up and your limbs inside the car

21. You know exactly how to jump into your car and lock the doors in under .23 of a second

22. You learn how to change oil, water, check tyre pressures etc – all because you actually have too

23. You can reverse (super fast) back down a road, in the middle of the night without crashing

24. Who needs 3 point turns, you’ve now mastered the handbrakey turn

25. You can park exactly in the middle of a carpark (actually, excludes those with DC plates – they can’t park)

26. You have no issue sliding from lane to lane, at speed, whilst talking to someone on the phone and yelling at the kids to shaddup..

27. You don’t need a GPS – you know exactly where you are going, and if you get lost you just keep driving whilst ringing the person to where you are going to and see #26

28. You can identify a police car, not because is says police on it – you just know

29. You learn how to travel in Convoy following a madman who does #26 #14 and #19 routinely

30. You recognise all your friends car’s, and know all of their number plates (so you can tell the guards to let them into your compound), you remember all their phone numbers too.

31. You see dead dogs on the road and you don’t flinch, waver or cause an accident.  You slide the car past as if it wasn’t even in the way – without taking a breath.

32. Bonus: Your kids learn how to count (How many dogs were dead on the freeway today?  2 Dad!) and learn the alphabet by playing I Spy (I Spy with my little eye, something beginning with D D…   Dead Dog!)

33. Riding shotgun takes on a whole new meaning in Moresby…  You strategically place your passengers in the car, intimidation sometimes is best 🙂

34. You figure out who to wave to, and you can spot a roadside fruit seller 300 metres away

35. You learn the international signs for:  I don’t want any; piss off; come here; I’m watching you buddy; I’ll see you later; yes, its me, I live here; look at my sticker!

36. You figure out what #35 means

37. You know where to get air for tyres, and what fuel station doesn’t have water in the fuel problems.

38. You can shift house with someone standing on the back of your ute holding on to everything

38. And just for my mate Andrew – you can reverse a boat up 400 metres of winding narrow road, through a security gate, up a hill and into a garage – without a permit or anyone getting pissed off

love it 🙂

The wages paradox here in Port Moresby

I’ve been thinking a lot about the wages situation here in PNG, lots of us talk about the same issues….

The big issue for our National staff is family commitments, with no social welfare, and very little in the way of significant employment, our teams by default start being the caregiver for their whole families. Where we in NZ get plenty of government assistance, Papua New Guineans are reliant on family or the village in order to live.

And here lies the paradox – the wage trap, the skill trap, the sole earner trap.

As soon as someone starts earning more, there is a lot more pressure to ensure that they are looking after everyone else. As income rises, so does the expectation. And don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing that this happens, and maybe it’s a blueprint for crowd sourced social welfare. But the impact is significant, and as the expectation grows, the employee may start slipping in those standards that got them there in the first place. All of a sudden, they are the taxi driver, or the funeral director, or the university funder. So often I watch young Papua New Guineans drift from being the person at work first in the morning, to now not getting in on time due to having to drop off cousins, brothers, sisters etc, or ensuring that the family is OK. I worry that this will then turn into performance issues, then disciplinary action, then all of a sudden – the rising star with the big ideas and great opportunities ends up with no job, no money, and having to create a new start.

It is also amazing watching those that earn the least, being the ones getting themselves into work early, working hard, and doing their absolute best. They really need to keep their jobs, and having less money means a lessened impact on family commitments….

So today, I coined the phrase with Jono (one of my team) “the minimum for the maximum”

In other words, we need to get people to live the minimum way of life, to maximize their income, to maximize their opportunities, and to maximize their future. To work like they are just starting out, to live comfortably, and maximize the growth that they have by ensuring a future that exists for all.

Can it be done? I don’t know, but unless we do something for our young men and women, they may not be the future of this country, they may be those that just get chewed up…

Don’t be shy!

I had to go and get some groceries today, and whilst sitting in Lei’s Cafe at The Waterfront enjoying a coffee with no wife nor kids, I noticed a couple of people kept glancing furtive glances my way.

Either I’m one scary looking guy, or they were working out if they had read my blog, and trying to figure out if it was me or not, and wondering if they should ask..

Ask! Shout me a coffee or a beer, I don’t mind! 🙂

I answer so many questions, send lots of emails, and yet so many people rock up to Port Moresby and then never say Hi once they get here.

So if you see a tattooed kiwi (I have a large maori tattoo on my left forearm), sometimes wearing an All Blacks cap, commonly wearing rasta jandals, more often than not with a wife and 3 kids – girl10,boy8,girl3 – and always drinking coffee. Then don’t be scared, come share your story and let me know if this blog helped you out, and if there is something that you can add – how about a guest post 🙂

We are often sitting down at the Sails Cafe area (Yacht Club) on a Friday evening supervising our children playing whilst enjoying a cool SP or two – none of our friends bite either 🙂

Aaron