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  • Writer's pictureConduct Change

Context - What do you see?

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

Guest Blogger: David Howell

You may hear people telling you that you need to see something in the right context, but what does that actually mean, and how do you put something into context? I have personally been attempting to do that recently with regards to my experiences of having been a target of bullying.

I would like you to try something with you when you have fifteen undisturbed minutes to spare.

Play the attached YouTube videos but first either close your eyes or leave the video off; simply listen to the music. The piece of music is Ennio Morricone’s beautiful Gabriel’s Oboe, a classic and on this occasion played on the piccolo trumpet. The piece is performed twice and it is important to listen to both renditions. Once you have done that take some time to consider which version you like best before you read on.


My guess is that, like me, you preferred the first version. It is clearer, the sound and tone are better and there are less mistakes. That’s before I looked a little deeper into the circumstances of both performances. The piece of music was performed by the same person on both occasions, Ryan Anthony. So, what had changed and why were they different? To understand that you need to dig a little deeper and to take the time to learn more before passing judgement.

The first performance was recorded in Dallas, Texas on 4th March 2015, with the second being performed at the Arizona Musicfest on February 21st 2019, nearly four years later.

Following a concert with Canadian Brass in November 2012, Ryan was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a terminal cancer of the bone marrow which is normally associated with patients 65 years and older. Ryan was just 43 years of age. He was given just months to live. Rather than giving up and succumbing to the terminal illness he met the disease head-on, determined to see his two young children graduate from high school. He and his wife committed themselves to raising money to help with the research into cancer and as a result they founded the Ryan Anthony CancerBlows Foundation, raising vast sums of money in the process. CancerBlows came about after so many of Ryan’s friends and colleagues sent him messages of good will and support from all around the world. He jokingly said that once he was better that they should all play in a concert and call it cancer blows and that’s exactly what they did. CancerBlows was formed.

Ryan lost his battle with cancer on 23rd June 2020 at the age of 51 years old.

Let’s consider the two performances again. If you wish to do so, listen to the video again, this time with the video on.

The first performance was recorded at one of the very first CancerBlows concerts in 2015, some 2 ½ years after Ryan’s initial diagnosis. The second performance in 2019 was just over a year before his untimely death. During this performance, which was to be one of his last, you can see a man desperate to perform and give happiness and pleasure to so many people who had attended the concert. He didn’t want to let them down. Yes, he misses a few notes and perhaps the tone is not as he would have liked but he courageously battled on, against the odds as he did throughout those final 8 years of his life. This performance says more about the man himself and his determination to carry on against all those odds.

Yes, I initially thought that the first performance that I heard was far better but having taken the time to explore, ask questions and learn about the second performance, split notes and all, it is far more poignant and special.

Putting something into context takes time and effort but if we are not to jump to conclusions and become judgemental then we need to spend the time to delve a little deeper and to understand the whole picture. Only then may we really put something into its true context.

(originally published by David Howell as LinkedIn article)


David Howell - Conduct Change Advisory Board member.

David retired from the police having served for 30 years and is now an Advisory Board Member for Conduct Change. He is an advocate and trainer of Crew Resource Management having spent 18 years working on Police Air Support throughout the UK. David has recently moved into the area of change management and innate talent psychometrics.

Conduct Change was founded in 2019 with the purpose of changing behaviour in workplaces to create more courageous and compassionate approaches to prevent workplace bullying. The founder, Nicki Eyre, has been through her own workplace bullying experience during her career and recognises the scale of the problem at both an organisational and individual level.

We recognise that workplace bullying is a sensitive topic for many businesses.  If you are concerned that you may have a bullying issue in your workplace, or just want help in opening up the conversations, we are here to advise. We offer a free and confidential discussion to understand the issues and explain what options are available for you.

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