Over recent years I’ve been addressing hundreds of gatherings across the island of Ireland. I’ve travelled extensively with my talks. From Ballymena to Bandon, from Letterkenny to Limerick, from Strabane to Killarney, from Aranmore island to Little island. I’ve spoken in over four hundred schools. I’ve been honoured to speak in universities and churches, GAA centres and Orange Halls. From Belfast City Hall to Dublin Castle. From Croke Park to the Aviva Stadium. From Trinity to Queens. It’s been a rollercoaster journey. I’ve spoken to doctors, farmers, teachers, nurses, radiologists, physios, speech and language therapists – almost all the health professions. I’ve delivered seminars to management teams, companies, charities, parents, teenagers and children. I’ve addressed the unemployed and the rich, the sick and the elderly. In Hospices and hospitals. In tents and theatres.
Often I moaned about the driving. It was lovely to be asked but it was starting to prove taxing on my energy and time. In recent months, I was considering calling a halt. This kind of work never was my plan. I slipped into it and it had taken me over. I was plotting an exit strategy. Other possibilities were being considered. Alternatives were being explored
I remember chatting to Dermot over a cooked breakfast in Lyon’s cafe a couple of months ago. ‘You’ll have to consider going online.’ he advised, when I moaned about all the driving. I listened to him but he questioned whether I had truly heard him . Similarly, about eleven years ago, Brian made a persuading case to me for the online route. But my enthusiasm didn’t match his. In my head, it was a huge project for a man who was already too busy.
Early March saw everything frantically change. The easing down of my touring was not allowed to happen. By mid-March all gatherings were banned. A complete and non-negotiated halt came to my work schedule. There would be no audiences to address. My car journeys had come to a standstill. Suddenly all of what I was doing for years stopped. Covid-19 pressed the brake. But in truth I didn’t want a complete halt. I only wanted a partial withdrawal from my travelling roadshow.
Sometimes when we are in crisis we need a little push. Donncha rang me to ask me about doing a video link-up with a group of Principals and Deputy Principals. He has no idea how unenthusiastic I was initially about such an idea or concept. Me speaking to a computer in the office! No ‘energy’ to feel from a ‘live’ audience! How would I ever learn how to do this? I recall vividly Donncha’s words in his email ‘We’re going to make this work. I promise you.’ Everyone needs to enter the water before they learn to swim. Donncha gave me a little push. A vital intervention. Sometimes we need to be pushed out of our comfort-zones. He squeezed me for a date and time. All of a sudden I had no option. I was compelled to learn how to use video-conferencing technology. I had no choice but to overcome my anxieties around the new format. It’s like riding a bike without stabilisers. I needed a little push to get myself up to speed to command the balance needed to make a new journey.
Sometimes we need to grasp the nettle. Sometimes we need to try change rather than hide from it. But the key ingredient in my successful transition to online technology was someone else’s belief in me. That’s why Donncha pushed me. That’s what made the difference. In the last couple of weeks I have never been as busy. According to the old Irish saying – Is olc an ghaoth nach séideann maith do dhuine éigin. It’s a bad wind that doesn’t blow some good. Nowadays I’m doing the work I love most but no longer driving the crazy journeys.
Sincere thanks to Donncha for the push, Emmanuel for the tutorial, Caroline for the pep talk and Dermot for making me realise that I need to listen better! And Shelagh for the green light! And lastly Brian – you were right all along!