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Article: I am an Optimist by Hon. Prof. Mike Conway, Founder & CEO

20 March 2020

by Hon. Prof. Mike Conway, Founder & CEO

I am an Optimist. I’m not sure when this happened but I can’t remember when I wasn’t anything other than this. I’ve spent most of my working life working in the healthcare system, education, business and elite sport. As a continual student and teacher in behavioural and social sciences, leadership, personal development and teamwork I’ve seen much and read much. I’m hopeful and excited of doing a lot more of this. However, this last few weeks has been extraordinary. For some, both leaders and followers it appears that we are facing Armageddon! Many of our leaders both in Government and in Business are moving in to fight, flight, fright and freeze mode. It’s what we do when we feel threatened. The risk is everyone follows in exactly the same way hence no surprise that there are empty shelves in supermarkets.  I woke up to a channel seven news report of the Australian PM warning Australia to prepare for six-month coronavirus battle. Battle? Emergencies? Combat? I then dropped into my local village to pick up a coffee. Outside the supermarket there must have been over fifty people desperate for the doors to open. When they did, it was the Christmas sales, only this time it was toilet rolls, tins and kids Panadol!  

Meanwhile in the midst of all the doom, a group of great researchers in Queensland are close to a solution for Coronavirus 19. They have already had success and clinical trials are likely to take place later this month. In Victoria there’s a greater understanding of how the immune system fights this. In the USA, China, Germany and many other countries progress is being made to find a vaccine to protect the vulnerable whose immune systems are less likely to cope with this virus. Whilst sadly individuals have lost their lives, most who are diagnosed return to wellness. 

I’m not only an optimist. I’m a diabetic and have a weaker immune system from past pneumonia. I’ve also been on the planet longer than many so in some Countries I’m in the “firing line.” Yet, I’m committed to get through this period with a renewed energy, not less. 

For the XVenture team and I, we have experienced a significant financial impact already. Our work in elite sport has almost come to a standstill. As has a major launch of a new program last week. However, in the scheme of World history what is happening is a blip and I hope we see this moment as a huge learning experience for us.  Of course, we have to change things about the way we’re living but the future is bright. We’re rethinking and redesigning the services we typically undertake so we can continue on in some form.

Many years ago when I was a young health planner in London I worked on some wonderful projects. These included emergency planning for London flooding, bomb threat planning and the planning of mental health services in relation to the closure of the major asylums. However one particular project has really stuck in my mind. The health and social planning in response to the growth and fear of HIV and Aids.  

People have short memories. The fear at that time was incredible. We’re all going to get it! No we’re not! We have to be educated and adjust. Yes…we lose some of our loved ones and that caused much pain.  (I lost a close relative to Aids - a brutal disease.). That’s it but the World didn’t end. We learned and moved forward.  

In 2001 that horrific day where hundreds lost their lives in New York. It definitely changed our World. At the time, I proudly stood next to my friends and colleagues The Wiggles and tried to provide hope to families by flying to the USA for the Macy’s Day parade when everyone bailed out. It defined us and many. Hope. Optimism. Picturing a better future.

In 2003 I got a call from a friend of mine based in Hong Kong. At the time a Senior Exec at Disney. The economy in Asia, in particular Hong Kong had collapsed. SARS outbreak had frightened off thousands. Can I help. He and some friends worked on the idea of a big music festival to re-energise the City and draw attention that Hong Kong was open for business. I provided as much help and support as I could within my means. The festival went ahead – it was wonderful. I got to meet the Rolling Stones as a result. 

In 2005 I was in Sri Lanka with a young group of cricketers. It included one of my sons, and friends of his some who have gone on to play first class cricket: Nick Bertus and Sean Abbott. We saw the devastation that the Tsunami of December 2004 had on this beautiful Country. Many had lost everything but people picked themselves up and began rebuilding. Whilst we were there we were told another Tsunami was coming. It did but the impact in the region was much less. What I learned was the calm approach of the locals who had already experienced much. Surely this is one of the keys. What can we learn and how can we calmly implement this for the greater good?

This last weekend was my Wife and eldest son’s birthdays. Our whole family got together. Two doctors, an operating theatre nurse; a paramedic; a cop among them. All at the front line every day for the coming months. Our conversation was not about their fear or anxiety. It was about how we help each other, support each other to get through. How do we ensure our health system and those who run it are protected? How do we keep our people responsible for managing the safety of our community too? We all have to do our bit. 

Over the last eight years XVenture has been educating thousands of people on this very thing. In the event of a crisis, under significant pressure, when we are frightened, how do we deal with what’s in front of us? I have a few things to share...

Firstly, let’s use this time to learn to be more aware of our own responses and of others too. Our communication can have a major impact on those around us. Ask a paramedic what they do when they are walking into an emergency situation – they walk! They show calm because they know that they can impact those around them. 

Secondly, let’s have a thought for others not just ourselves. When we aren’t keeping ourselves as clean as we should, and we know what this means, we are affecting those around us. We also need to check in to see if those who are more vulnerable are ok. I encourage this in elite sport on the field, let alone in a situation such as the coronavirus outbreak. 

Finally, despite the fear, and of course we’re all being affected, let’s share an optimistic view. We know that cases of Coronavirus are rising. That’s a fact. We also know we’re learning more by the day so management systems are improving and as we know, smarter people than me will find a cure. In reality, there are 7.58 billion people in the World. Right now, 0.002% are infected and 0.0001% have lost their lives. As a diabetic who has a history of pneumonia, my fear factor is extremely low. Using a risk approach such as the ISO 31000 risk management standard, the likelihood of losing my life over this is very low.

I love the Dalai Lama’s perspective. It sits well with me. “When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.”  That’s what I’m trying to do. So, I’m still optimistic!

If you would like to discuss ways to help support you or your whole organisation in developing optimism during this period, please feel free to reach out. The XVenture team has been working around the clock to develop new individual and team development solutions which can take place anywhere.

Hon. Prof. Mike Conway (UOW) is the Founder and CEO of XVenture working with individuals and teams across elite sport, business and education. He is also the Emotional Agility and Mind Coach for the Australian National Soccer team.

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We are XVenture.

This web site is provided by Australian Institute of Leadership Pty. Ltd.

Your access to this website and your use of the services provided through it is subject to these legally binding terms and conditions. Please read them carefully.

Disclaimer of Warranty and Limitation of Liability


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You acknowledge that:

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    • if we, acting reasonably, deem it necessary to protect against fraudulent or illegal use or to otherwise protect us or our service providers from legal liability.

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You are aware that it may be possible for a third party to obtain your username and password by un-authorised means via your computer. It is your responsibility to take steps to prevent this from occurring, by means such as regularly changing your password and installing security software on your computer.

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You must not:

  1. Hack into this website or our computer systems.
    Hacking means malicious damage or interference and includes, without limitation, mail bombing, propagating viruses, worms or other types of malicious programs, deliberate attempts to overload a system, broadcast attacks or any other method designed to damage or interfere with the operation of a computer system or website;
  2. Use robots or any other automated system to take information or data from this website.

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You acknowledge and agree that the content (including without limitation the text, graphics, photographs, sound or other material presented on this website ("Content") is protected by copyright, trade mark, patents or other proprietary rights and laws. You are only permitted to use the Content as authorised by Australian Institute of Leadership Pty. Ltd.

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These terms and conditions are be governed by the laws in force in the State of New South Wales, Australia and each party hereto irrevocably submits to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Courts of that State.