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Posts Tagged ‘health

This entry is part of my series of reflections on being an independent consultant. The previous parts were:

Today I share thoughts on a very obvious question and a less obvious issue.
 

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The elephant in the room of any negotiation is getting paid what you are worth. How much do you charge? How do you convince others that you are worth that amount?

If you have been gainfully employed elsewhere before, you might start with your previous monthly salary as a baseline. It is a matter of mathematics to work out a daily or hourly rate. However, it is also important to take into account everything that you need to do and how infrequently you might work.

As I mentioned earlier, you might have to be your own “publicist, letter writer, content negotiator, Gebiz administrator, instructional designer, content creator, self-trainer, speech writer, event facilitator, social networker, programme evaluator, financial officer, and debt collector”. These are paid jobs too. Citing a rate for only the core work is not enough.

Being a consultant can also mean having lean spells in between work. These do not mean you are unproductive, but it does mean that you need to ride these out.

If the people you are negotiating with are not aware of these issues, you should have an open and logical conversation so they do not baulk at your fees. You should also listen to their concerns as they may have caps on what they can pay you.

If there is an elephant in the room, there is also a less obvious mouse.

Something I learnt early in my move to be an independent consultant was to look after my health. In full-time work, you can take medical leave and still draw a salary. If you fall ill as a consultant and are not available, you not only foot your own medical bills, you also do not get paid.

I took ill and was hospitalised right after I left gainful employment. I had an overseas engagement that I could not fulfil and this was not only damaging to my pocket but also to my reputation. The incident was a very valuable lesson that if I did not have my health, I could not have anything else.

This entry is the last in my second series of reflections on what I have learnt as a consultant. If I discover more that are worth sharing, I will add to the series in future.

Last week I read this MindShift article, How Schools Can Help Nurture Students’ Mental Health.
 

Depressed Boy by Tjook, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Tjook 

 
There was a list of good ideas.

  1. Having school-based mental care
  2. Offering mental health screening
  3. Bringing back physical exercise during the school day
  4. Starting the school day later so kids get enough sleep
  5. Providing mindfulness training
  6. Encouraging fun and limiting technology
  7. Taking happiness seriously

They are mostly good ideas.

It can be hard to do #6 because limiting technology is not encouraging fun. It is also limiting learning options. Most schools already limit meaningful technology use, so I would advocate more instead of less.

Focusing on happiness is also unrealistic since all of us have to do things that make us unhappy every now and then.

Happiness might be said to comprise of fleeting moments. This might be why international polls on the happiest students, happiest people, or happiest nations do not provide consistent or reliable results.

Well-being, on the other hand, is a longer term pursuit. The book I tweeted about, The Purpose Economy, mentioned how parenting was a tough job that was fraught with pain and unhappiness at times. But any good parent with well-adjusted kids does not regret it. The well-being of their children and of themselves is what matters ultimately.

In a more stressful world I am all for looking out for kids’ health. But that does not mean that we should take measures blindly.

I rarely share personal aspects of my life in this blog because I use this platform only to reveal thoughts I have about schooling, education, technology, and change.

 
However, my health has been poor over the last twelve days and I am opting to share some limited information about my condition.

I was first diagnosed with a kidney stone last Tuesday. I had thought the pain travelling and then going away was a sign that I had passed the kidney stone naturally.

The pain had gone away, but an ultrasound scan this Friday with a urologist revealed that I might not be out of the woods yet. A CT scan tomorrow should shed more light on the situation.

Then I started feeling a terrible pain in the middle toe of my left foot on Friday. I have not been able to walk unassisted and even then I hobble along.

While the foot is far away from the kidneys, I suspect that I have gout which is a buildup of uric acid crystals in joints. That is the link.

Like many things in life, the links between seemingly unrelated things are not usually obvious. But if you look for them, you will find them.

I recall playing a childhood game where we would cock a pretend gun to someone’s head and ask, “Your money or your life?”

That was just a game. I had to ask myself that question yesterday because I had to decide between taking a well-paying consultancy gig or taking care of my health.

As chipper as I have tried to be about the last week since being diagnosed with a kidney stone, I have been in considerable pain. While I am better now, I still cannot stand up straight or walk properly without punishing myself.

I was ready to bite the bullet and do a consulting gig today which required a quick trip overseas. Just the thought of all the months of planning, preparation, and effort was enough to push me to go. But deep down I knew that I was being stupid.


When I had an office, one of my walls was covered with a spiral of my son’s photos to remind me why I did what I did. The photo above is one that I took in 2010.

The photos reminded me to do what I can (and even push myself to do what I think I cannot) to ensure my son has the education that he deserves, not just the schooling he is provided. To do that, I must change the mindsets and behaviours of teachers and educators of all kinds and at all levels.

That mission has not changed. But now that I am at home more, I have a more immediate mission of being there for my family. So the question of money or life was easy to answer. I am glad I chose life.


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