June 2022 Newsletter

Retirement has taken on its own pace, and I think this is a lesson for all who read this. Whereas the retirement experts warn that this new phase will bring about challenges to our relationships; and will need re-orientation of our thinking, I have found that strategic focus has allowed me to find meaning in this new phase of life.

Relevance? As some of you go through changes in location, career, relationships, or otherwise it would be easy to get despondent as you contemplate this change. Some of the ways to find meaning in this new reality for you include:

  • Remind yourself of the areas of purpose in your life. Purpose should transcend change! For example, moving into retirement didn’t change my three areas of purpose: developing people; nurturing family and responding to God. It will take some focus for you to re-engage with your areas of purpose in your new situation, but once your focus has been resolved you will be able to move ahead wherever you are.
  • Connect with people. During this change it will be old and new relationships that will bolster your confidence. Allow others whom you respect to talk into your life, and care for you.
  • Maintain a healthy exercise program. Wherever you are, it is pivotal to your health that you are getting out of a busy work schedule to conduct regular exercise. This frees up endorphins into your bloodstream and opens cerebral blood flow. Those who exercise regularly also are the ones who enjoy life and who can think laterally.
  • Ensure you are eating a healthy diet. Cut down on the caffeine; increase the vegetables and modulate the amount of fats you eat. Additionally, make sure you are eating fresh food that provides proteins and vitamins. Fast food isn’t a healthy alternative and you should only eat this when you are in a rush.

COVID has left us all with a vacuum – there are almost 48 months of continuous threat to our well being; and risk to those around us. There has been stridor in our families and within our local communities; and this has left many of us bruised. Moving out into a new phase therefore comes with both challenge and reassurance. The challenge is related to the environment around us, and we wont know how healthy this is until we get there! The reassurance is related to the phenomenon of leaving our wretched lives during the pandemic behind us, and taking on new opportunities.

Whether or not you are facing a major or minor change this summer, make sure you are rooted in some of the basics described above. I wont be writing a newsletter in July as I am taking off that month for vacation. Keep well, and keep on trucking!

Peter Craighead

May 2022 newsletter

New Beginnings…

“The chief beauty about time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose.”
― Arnold Bennett

With the dawning of post COVID living, many of us are venturing out again, enjoying the environment around us and the people who have been distant from us for more than two years. It is also very clear that spring has eventually arrived in Calgary, although those of you living on the west coast probably have had this for 6 weeks! So new beginnings are all around us.

I want to reflect on Arnold Bennett’s words. Many of my clients are experiencing a new beginning of another kind, and some of them are sad or confused. Without breaking confidence I am aware of some in my circle of friends who have decided to move away, some of you have been separated from friends or family because of COVID; and others are just trying to think of what the next few years will bring. My wife and I have been in “new beginning” mode ever since we retired in January 2021 and I can very much align with some of the confusion you may be feeling. So I want to reassure you by emphasizing the importance of Bennetts reminder to us.

“The next hour (is) lying ready for you, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life”. My emotional tank needs those words today! Who cares about whatever it is we messed up last year/ month/ etc! Unless I have misunderstood Bennett, he is saying that all of us have the hope of the future. None of us should believe (or feel) that the die is cast. New beginnings open opportunities for you (and I) to grasp change and thrive with it.

There are a few caveats to the future being different. They include:

  1. If you don’t change the way you think/ react, then most of us will continue with the same behaviour patterns that we have used for eons. If we want to see better outcomes in the future, we have to be prepared to change how we think or react.
  2. To be able to change our thought processes or reactions takes looking deeply at ourselves, and working on the things that motivate us.

I’ll leave you with the thought that May has ushered in spring and is ready to let you dream about the future. Don’t repress these dreams. Enjoy the summer that is about to open up, and let yourself grow again.

Peter Craighead

Easter/ April Newsletter

The value of people…

This academy has spent a lot of energy dissecting the actions and values consistent with healthy leadership during the pandemic. A lot of the rhetoric went something like this…”we need to use the right information to make decisions; we need to rely on evidence to live honorably; we need leaders who are resilient; and we need to accept each other if we are to survive this horrendous time”. As I have thought about what needs to happen for leaders to be followed, I have realized that the above perspectives have sometimes missed the mark. I still believe that evidence and misinformation should be managed properly if we are to make optimal decisions.

But, at the heart of great organizations are great people; and it is this that should possess us! Jim Collins wrote an excellent review of what he believes is needed for all organizations/ society to succeed at their mission. He called the book “Good to Great”. I use his thoughts here not to promote the thought that all organizations can be “great”. I use them simply because he puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that nothing great can come about without good people. My thought for the month is that this concept must be fostered.

He describes the importance of choosing the right people before putting a lot of energy into deciding on what needs to get done or how to implement change. What does that mean in a practical sense? Rather than make it about hiring the right people to our organizations, let me ask – are we the right people for the jobs we have chosen, or the leadership roles we have been given? Do we choose to be “good people” who are loyal to the culture, and who are the kind of people whom others want to work with? Good people are those who possess great values. They are not out for themselves; they constantly want to ensure that people around them are well looked after, and emotionally healthy. They constantly think of “we” rather than “me”; and develop strong teams and relationships around them. They choose to work with whole people whose lives are more than just a career. They do what’s right rather than what’s expedient. This is because they are thinking long term, and they know that relationships are longer than what you need from someone today!

This isn’t to say that we don’t need authentic leaders who possess skills and experiences that make them consistent, compassionate, inspirational, and hopeful. However, without “good” people who become the culture of a family or organization, we will not be able to sustain a society with goodness and fairness infused into it. This will take many of us standing up for what is right and driving integrity in decision making. It will assume that we call out politicians or colleagues when they don’t do right by people. The good news is that Canada has many good people who are prepared to do the right thing already. Lets encourage more of that….

March 2022

One of the most embarrassing comments any writer can receive from a reader is that what you have written is drivel. Drivel can be defined as nonsense, or balderdash!

My last newsletter tried to describe the importance of values based leadership. This got a few of you going, and one reader reacted angrily and called it “drivel”. So I though that this month’s newsletter should look at some of the real issues facing us in Canada in 2022, none of which can result in someone accusing me of writing drivel. An Angus Reid survey in December 2021 revealed that the following are the issues of the day:

  1. Concern for Healthcare availability/ its quality was the top priority in 43% of respondents
  2. Climate change issues was top priority in 36%
  3. The COVID pandemic was still top priority in 30%
  4. Affordability of housing was uppermost in 27%
  5. The economy/ cost of living increases and lack of employment was uppermost in 25%

When you think of it this list of issues I think you will agree that all have been at the tip of our tongues throughout the past year. We have struggled with wait times for healthcare, and with the impact of system challenges on us. We have observed with anguish the effects of climate change, including forest fires/ atmospheric rivers/ general elevations of water levels. COVID is still with us, but has fallen in ranking. Housing and the economy are issues affecting many young people and retirees.

Why consider these issues in our newsletter? I would encourage you to read widely, attempt to understand these issues more broadly and talk with others about how they feel. As we are faced with political/ election opportunities in the next year we should ensure that we are backing leaders who are innovative thinkers, able to lead us through some of the things we are worried about. Our housing situation has de-escalated rapidly, and many are facing homelessness if rents and real estate cannot be controlled. A significant number of citizens have given up the idea of stability, and essentially live one month at a time. Climate change needs fresh thinking to address some of the environmental challenges facing us.

Citizens have to be engaged, and accountable. We are the reason the world is in the mess its in at the moment, because we have allowed our governments to rule us without inspiring us to change and be different. We cannot continue to blame our governments for the mess we find ourselves in. This doesn’t mean we become violent radicals who explode bombs or invade our major cities with trucks! It means we take the time to become educated on the issues, and then vote in governments who are prepared to do something to create a circle of safety around its citizens.

None of this is drivel.

Don’t be the ostrich who buries his head in the sand; but be the leader who engages and tries to make a difference! Have a great month.

Peter Craighead

February 2022

It’s February and the events of the past month have made it clear about the message for this month. Knowing what to write is half the battle! As I have watched/ heard various leaders manage their challenges this week the message came to me clearly. Media and society are seemingly having a field day with a vacuum in good leadership! Just a few examples spring to mind: Boris Johnson, Jason Kenny, Candice Bergen, Justin Trudeau, Dwayne Johnson, and so many more! Although the leadership crises involving these people seem to have all happened at once, in fact they all started with a fundamental problem many years ago– a misunderstanding of the importance of strong personal values.

I think the message to leaders is crystal clear- if you want to lead effectively, start with upholding good values; accept that leadership will be difficult; and stand firm when the storm is all around you. Weak personal values lead to illogical thinking, which lead to bad decisions and ineffectiveness.  Poor values also lead to inability to withstand the pressure from those around you. There isn’t enough time to dissect each of these leaders’ decisions, but it is important to see that many of their actions have sown mistrust and disloyalty. There will appear to be huge bias in my perspective, so I ask you to look at the substance of the message flowing from this rather than the introduction.

Values: Good leaders know what to do because they have been blessed with strong values that allow them to rise to the top during tough times. Such values enable them to know what should be done; allows them to put themselves in the shoes of people they are dealing with; and forces them to feel the hurts and injustice of others around them. But more importantly, these values allow them to know what their actions (or inaction) harm people around them. Without strong values it isn’t surprising that bad decisions are made, and that leaders are easily tossed aside. I am a believer that most good leaders know intuitively what they should do – to create a circle of safety for those they serve, and to use their constituency in such a way that the majority are engaged/ loyal.

Accept that leadership isn’t easy: Modern day leaders face huge challenges and this shouldn’t be a surprise to them. Their constituents come at issues from polar opposite perspectives; the variety within society is enormous (LGBTQ2, racism, feminism, white supremacism, conspiracy theorists, etc). The first imperative of leadership is to accept that leading will not be easy, and to use their own values/ life perspectives to influence the issues. Effective modern day leaders do not distort their message. Its clear what they stand for.

Stand firm: As they say, if you cant take the heat get out of the kitchen! Our current focus seems to be on those who struggle and fail to lead. My message is to those who want to lead. If you want loyalty from people around you, and support for your leadership, its more likely to happen if you can demonstrate what you stand for, and can accept the challenge that leadership represents. But its likely you will not generate loyalty unless you can show that you can stick at the unpleasant job of being a resilient leader. If the sense is that you are unwilling to stick with good decisions and take the heat, its likely people won’t stand behind you for long. I am more likely to stand behind people who are prepared to do the right thing, even when/ if it takes them admitting that they were wrong.

In conclusion, let me say that the academy is striving to help young leaders be people of value. We emphasize the importance of self-awareness. We encourage people to step out and serve those around them. Our belief is that good leaders are those who create a circle of safety around their followers; and who are not in the game to get things for themselves. Take heart people like you!

Have a great month…                     Peter Craighead

January 2022

What’s your goal for the New Year? Yes, you heard me – what’s your goal!?

You see, many of us want to forget about 2021 and we breathed a sigh of relief when the clock turned to 2022. To be frank, 2021 is a blur in my memory. In fact if I am truthful my dreams in technicolor finished in March 2020, because the early part of the month was filled with joy as we frolicked on the beaches in Ixtapa, Mexico. The rest of that year is made up of sketches of activity as I worked my last year as a physician and retired in December 2020. Because of COVID I was cheated from saying goodbye to those with whom I had worked for 28 years. 2021 felt like a nightmare; from the heady heights of what vaccination promised to cancelled trips. From the promise of a new phase of life in retirement to the frustration and anger of life being shut down by COVID. I don’t know about you, but my psyche shuts down the details of nightmares, and so most of 2020 and 2021 are years that I have chosen to forget. I see them in “black and white” rather than technicolor. Which brings me to what this newsletter is about – our goal for 2022.

2022 will be the first year of living with the reality that COVID has changed our lives drastically, and that we will need to accommodate its presence in how we live in the future. My goal for 2022 is to find a place where my wife and I can enjoy retirement, living in such a way that we contribute to people around us. In 2022 I will choose to separate myself from the alienation that COVID has forced on me, and the anger associated with this. I will find the space and time to think about things other than COVID, where I can paint and read; where the demands are little and the rewards greater.

So, let me ask you…what’s your goal for 2022? Will you want to find meaning in what you do; or experience freedom in who you are? Will you open yourself to see joy again and to experience purpose in what you do? I really hope so. 2022 provides us all an opportunity to breathe again, to dream dreams, and to open ourselves to friendships and new experiences. I have to believe that Omicron will pass, and that COVID will be put into an endemic phase. I don’t see life as meaningful if this isn’t the case, so I cling to the probability that this can be achieved.

Let’s all find a goal to cling to; one that motivates us in a meaningful way. Who cares that it isnt safe to dream about the future at the moment! Lets just choose to believe that dreaming dreams is as important as living them out…

Best wishes for a successful New Year

Peter Craighead

Academy Annual Report 2021

The academy has been in formal operations for 1 year. With my retirement from the AHS in December 2020, I started by developing a website (https:\\journeysacademy.ca), and then connecting with a network of people. I had started accepting referrals in November 2020 and developed documents that could be used post retirement from AHS. In January 2021, post full retirement, I communicated with referrals and arranged to start coaching towards the end of that month. Through the 12 months I have generally had 2 to 3 clients for most months, and been involved in one strategic retreat. I am satisfied with the amount of activity and am working on some academic output focussed on mid career leaders. A manuscript or book is anticipated in 2022, and several clients have expressed interest in maintaining coaching.

  1. Activities:
  2. Pre-retirement:- Between March and December 2020 I held Leadership Development zoom seminars for Community Oncology groups in June and December, involving a total of 16 individuals. I followed through with individual coaching sessions involving two individuals. I delivered a zoom development session for Medical Physics graduate students and provided coaching to two of them. I coached three other individuals.
  3. Post-retirement:- There have been 8 individuals who have sought consultation and coaching, with a total of 26 sessions between January and end of October 2021. During the summer this trickled to almost nothing but activity picked up again in September. This amounted to 108 hours of work, with 27 hours of preparation, 51 hours of reading books/ documents and 30 hours in actual coaching or consultation.
  4. Strategic retreat in July 2021: – Another 22 hours were spent preparing for a strategic retreat for the academic department of Family Medicine, with a full day session with 12 participants. A report was finalized in September 2021.

Other activities included development of a website, which took approximately 40 hours to develop and get running. The monthly newsletters posted on the website have taken me another 11 hours to write.

  • Financial: The academy has had an income of $3100 for the 12 months. This can be broken down between $1400 for the strategic planning retreat, and $1700 for the sessions delivered. Finances for the academy include $125 for the website administration, and $50 for book orders for the Kobo reader.

Overall impression and future plans

There is enough activity to feel that the academy is filling a niche. The academy was meant to provide a platform to provide coaching services and also occasionally be involved in strategic planning for groups. The intent was to open opportunities to help younger emerging leaders, and these are the people whom we have engaged with. It is intended to also provide stimulus for producing original thinking through manuscripts or books. The coaching opportunities have been great and have allowed me to help influence a few emerging leaders. A significant part of the coaching activity is focussed on helping develop self awareness and confidence; and enabling clients to develop resilience through hard times.

Strategic planning and leadership development elements have been sparse, and I believe this may need to be removed as a service within the academy. (To successfully run this kind of activity requires that you have regular experience with groups, which I am not getting). The future looks healthy, and I continue to receive referrals from the website/ AHS/ word of mouth/ Cumming school of Medicine.

Peter Craighead,

Honorary Clinical Professor and Consultant, Journeys Academy

December 2021

Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ old
Sometimes I’d like to quit
Nothin’ ever seems to fit
Hangin’ around
Nothin’ to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down                    

“Rainy Days and Mondays”: The Carpenters

This is the twelfth month that the academy has been in practice, and it has been quite a year! My first observation to readers would be to thank all who have read the newsletters; or have used the coaching service. My second would be to encourage you to “hunker down”. COVID has made this a formidable time to live through, and its important that we prioritize the things that matter.

I am thankful. Although I would love to have a few more referrals, I am amazed that seven individuals sought my help during this time through regular coaching. On the home front we have been in a transition mode over the past 6 months– selling our house; helping our son and family move away from Calgary; preparing for our own move, etc. We know that it is the right thing to sell the house, though we are still undecided about where we are moving to!!

This brings me to “Rainy days and Mondays”. As I write I am sitting at the window in a rented home in Vancouver, where my wife and I are staying for December. It has been raining off and on for the past 4 days but has stayed away most of today. We travelled here through the US, as the highways in British Columbia are a mess at the moment. Three atmospheric rivers in two weeks have devastated the lives/ livelihoods of many people, flooded the plains/ smaller towns and brought most highways to a close. Which brings me to the lyrics above…

Rainy days aren’t my favourite time, and getting old sucks! As the lines say, “sometimes I’d like to quit”. But enough of that. There are important lessons described in the song that have helped me navigate 2021. Getting through the darkest chapter in our collective lives (hanging around) means we are survivors. Frowning has been necessary and talking to yourself critical. However, we only get through times like COVID because we have special people in our lives, such as described here….

Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you
Nice to know somebody loves me
Funny, but it seems that it’s the only thing to do
Run and find the one who loves me (the one who loves me)

What I feel has come and gone before
No need to talk it out (talk it out)
We know what it’s all about
Hangin’ around (hangin’ around)
Nothin’ to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

For those who haven’t heard the song, download and listen!! So, as I close this newsletter may I encourage you to reach out to the ones who love you. This may be the one thing that is keeping them from experiencing their own “rainy day”. I hope that this holiday season will find you safe and well, and that your family will be blessed with health and happiness. If you want to talk about your rainy day with somebody, don’t hesitate to email me. I’d be glad to help…

Peter Craighead – pscraighead@gmail.com

November 2021

I have just finished reading Michelle Obama’s autobiography, entitled “Becoming”. With her words still ringing in my ears, this month’s newsletter will touch on important aspects of life that are referred to in her book. I write not to offend or challenge anyone reading this, but simply to reflect!

My first observation would be that it is important to be aware of what informs your life, and how your past shapes/ shaped it. Michelle articulates this well. As I look at my upbringing in sunny South Africa, I am thankful for those who put imprints on me. My parents and siblings (3 out of 4 having passed on since I left the country); my teachers and many fellow students at Graeme College; and the individuals at medical school who showed me a better way of caring for human beings! What are the memories you hold onto? My message to you is clear – through the hard times of growing up you must have come into contact with people who influenced you in a significant way. Take a minute to remember how special these people were in your lives and give thanks for that. You are who you are often because some of these people pushed you in a certain direction…

My second observation would be to remind you of the places you have been, and how these have influenced you. Michelle uses words to enable us to see the holiday camps, the little room in her house, and the recreational parks near her house in Chicago. All of them were special in her preparation to be the wife of the US President. My words to you are that there are many places in your life that have informed and influenced your decisions and actions. Remember the holiday home, the fishing cabin, the boat that your family owned, or the different houses you lived in. Remember the special feelings that some of them instilled in you. Let those memories drive good, wholesome, happy thoughts.

My final observation relates to your acceptance of who you are. As a school student I constantly tried to live a life that wasn’t me. I tried to show how cool I was; how good an athlete I could be; and how diligent a student I could be! It was only as a university student where I recognized that I wasn’t many of those things (quite humbling), and that was okay. In acknowleding this I wasn’t rejecting my desire to reach my improvement goals, but I accepted that I wasn’t too bad a person after all.

I wonder how many of us live with the lie that says we aren’t good enough, and that we should try to be something/ someone we are not?! In my coaching role I frequently come across people who start by apologizing for who they are/ who they’re not. Its important you hear Michelle Obama (and me) tell you this – don’t settle for the dumbed down version of who you are. See your skills and passions, and celebrate them! Michelle doesn’t ignore her past as a kid in a low income neighbourhood in Chicago: she sees the beauty in how this formed her and is proud of it. I am thankful for the many positive attributes that God put in me, and am humbled by how He is able to use these when I am willing to be used. Whether or not you are religious, I want you to acknowledge to yourself the good things you represent; and how you can use them to make a difference to people around you. Have a good month,

Peter Craighead

October 2021

Public good or public bad

Welcome back to the Academy newsletter! By now those in North America are well into the academic year, with schools being back and universities having assumed lectures. Those in the southern hemisphere have moved into spring and left their colder period behind. But I digress. This month’s little piece will be spent discussing just what is expected of us when we choose to live within a society. The ramifications of this are the essence of being a good citizen, which should help when we make choices that influence people around us. Oxford defines choice as “the act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities”.

Freedom of choice seems to be at the heart of many at this time. They argue that they should be allowed to do whatever they want without paying any negative consequences. Some may call this their “right”. We see this written into many national constitutions; with the enshrinement of a “bill of rights”. Many seem to have forgotten that having a bill of rights isn’t a passport to anyone doing anything but comes with an expectation that all of us also contribute to the society we live within. In other words, rights are earned. Rights without expectation of public good is a recipe for disaster. Whether we come from a group that has been systematically discriminated against; or we operate from a position of power, rights have to come with some obligations. In practical terms this forces all of us to do things that are good for others.

Why mention such esoteric stuff?! Trust in public institutions is at an all time low, with only 18% of citizens across all modern democracies feeling that they can trust their leaders, governments, education/ health systems, or the justice system. It becomes okay to actively campaign against these public institutions; whether by not having a vaccine, not paying taxes, not supporting their projects. Unfortunately, in an ethical sense it isn’t so easy to walk away from public institutions. For example, by not paying taxes you may feel you are able to make a public statement of disgust about how a government leads. In fact all you are doing is compromising public programs that need your funds, and shifting the onus onto other citizens! The same argument can be made for resisting vaccination – all you are doing is shifting the responsibility of developing herd immunity to those around you.

I don’t want to spend another second on COVID, but I do want to have us do some navel gazing about how we stack up when it comes to being good citizens. Do we think its okay to actively denigrate our leaders, or resist anything they do? I ask us to look deeply into our psyche and see whether we have become so mistrustful of our leaders and other public institutions that it has become easy to reject what they ask us to do. It behooves us to examine ourselves and how we make such decisions. If we aren’t able to help our governments/ leaders when their motives and actions are right, it will not be easy for us to maintain balance in our lives.

Have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy the fall, Peter Craighead