Sunday, October 18, 2009

The gift of cancer

Not exactly the title I'd hoped for, blazoned over the two page spread in Thursday's Press. Totally offensive to those dying of cancer and pretty hard for my loved ones who I'm sure witness my journey with less enthusiasm than me.

There's not a lot that I know alot about. I'm one of those shallow all rounders who know just enough about a whole range of things to get by - all surface, little depth. I appear to be much smarter than I am. But I do know about how adults learn and what gets in the way of personal development. I didn't ask for cancer but now that it's popped in for a visit I'm going to take every opportunity to learn as much as I can from the experience of beating it into smithereens before I show it the door.

Adults, in general, make terrible learners. In fact, if there's one thing we learn as we move from childhood through adolescence to being grown ups, it's how to stop learning. We buy into a bunch of lies about who we are that constrains us from taking the necessary steps outside of our comfort zone to really learn new things. 'I'm not good at that' we tell ourselves and so don't try anything new, or we try something once, and give up when it doesn't work out. Pathetic.

Have you ever met a parent that gave up on the possibility that their toddler would learn to walk? The kid falls over time and time again but no mother says "oh sweetheart I don't think walking is your thing, best we investigate other options".

I used to teach sales people how to improve their performance. One guy, who was making 5 out of 10 sales reported back after his first day trying the new way. "Yeah, well I did it with the lady I saw this morning and it didn't work so I went back to my old way." That would be the old 5/10 way. I calmly asked him to come closer so I could use my compass and ballpoint pen in the old fashioned way and tattoo 'loser' on his forehead.

Not all learning requires us to be uncomfortable. But it does require the flexibility to consider things from a fresh perspective.
Have you called Telecom 018 recently? I have wondered more than once if this is what has caused my cancer. Folks in the Philippines who have no idea about the geography of New Zealand and speak English as perhaps their third language have attempted, unsuccessfully, to find the most obvious of phone numbers. And then, the other night, I watched a documentary about a woman from Bangladesh who had been hideously burnt by her husband in an acid attack. She was brave, and strong and rebuilt her life as an independent, single woman. She had her own apartment and in a situation very unique in her culture, lived alone and supported herself with money from her job. In a call centre.

Sense the shift? My perspective totally altered and now I laugh my way through the interminable blunders and fumbles of the off-shore helpers. Perhaps they are working their way through University; maybe they are supporting hundreds of children. The Philippines is predominantly Catholic after all. They are still, almost without exception, hopeless but I choose to believe that they are doing the best they can with what they've got. And that's good enough for me. My beef ought not be with the workers but with the tosspots at Telecom New Zealand who transferred the business in the first place.

Every time something 'bad' happens to me, I choose to thank the circumstance, the universe, whatever, for caring enough about me to teach me new stuff.

The fastest way to learn as an adult? Make a mistake. The dumbest thing to do as an adult? Make the same mistake over and over again.

Where are your opportunities to learn and grow from the 'gift' of life not going exactly to plan?


Kyla said...

Well said.

Kyla said...

BTW - The few stories I have read about cancer survivors, battlers, had a similar 'gift' theme. You, however, articulated it beautifully. I know your heart. I love it and am changed because of it. x

Kimberley said...

Love your perspective. I needed this today, I am also a breast cancer babe awaiting some test results and almost lost sight today of the big picture. Thank you x Kim

Anonymous said...

wow you are an amazing women. I only wish my sister in law had your fight. I have never met you but i want you to know that you helped me today by putting a smile on my face. thank you and keep doing what you are doing.

BeJolly said...

omg: your current posting reminded me of my life b.c. when one of the many jobs I had was working for a cultural change management consultancy. Their website hasn't been updated in a long time but if you're interested check out for some linear thinking. Always a relief to me to know that others in this parochial town don't fit the stereotypical box.... cheers!

And hey you're looking good on p35 of this weeks Bay Harbour News!