Archive for the ‘Life’s purpose’ Category

Ready, Set, Start

August 26, 2015
Push past inertia ...

Push past your inertia …

What are you waiting for?

I can tell you.

Permission from others to be who you want to be.

Why should you need that?

You don’t.

Then why haven’t you acted to make the changes you know you need to make?

Whether you admit it or not, you’re probably waiting for approval, encouragement or a helping hand to get you started. It doesn’t come because most people are so concerned with living their own lives.

I was talking to a colleague about his plans for further study and how, once again, he had put it off. He clearly felt bad about it and was, I believe, looking to others to make the decision for him.

The sluggish resistance of inertia is powerful. But you must resist. You can’t wait until you feel like doing it. You can’t wait until others do it. You can’t wait until others do it for you.

There’s something in the human psyche that believes that if something is hard to do, or doesn’t feel comfortable, it’s better not to start it yet. Perhaps it won’t feel so daunting tomorrow, or in the summer, or perhaps next year, or when I have more time.

The point is, many things that will create positive results and change in your life will be hard to do at first. When you do them, they will almost always be worth it – that’s the payoff. As a society we value the ‘self-starters’ and ‘go-getters’ but rarely do we self-start ourselves.

It’s a strange phenomenon that life seems to take a natural drift toward what we don’t want, toward what will actually steal life from us. Easy is easy, but easy is rarely best.

It’s easier to sit on the couch and watch TV than to spend time talking with your family, or to read a book that will stimulate your mind, or to start that project that you beat yourself up for continually putting off.

If you push yourself to do, it’ll feel really good. Accomplishment is a reward in itself. But at first, change won’t be easy. In fact, getting yourself out of your rut may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, even if in theory it should be simple.

Push hard against the inertia holding you back and create the life that you want.

Death of a son

July 23, 2015
Some things in life are very important

Some things in life are very important

Nick Cave’s son Arthur took smiling photo metres from cliff where he died’.

I read that headline and heard on the news that a 15-year-old boy had fallen to his death from a cliff. No foul play, no suicide, just a childish misadventure that cost a young man his life. It didn’t matter that his parents were famous. It didn’t matter why it happened. It just happened.

As a father of a boy not much older than Arthur, hearing the news made my blood run cold. I imagined if it had been my son. I want to protect him and nurture him and if he died like this I’d want to go with him. Otherwise, every day would be white pain; complete, unrelenting, devastating pain.

But as children grow we must let them go, release the parental embrace and allow them to take their own steps in the world. We watch as they leave us and disappear into the night. And we wonder. And we worry.

Accidents, king hits by unprovoked strangers, spiked drinks, idiots in cars, drunks looking for a fight – all out there on a possible collision course with a person that I value in this world more than myself.

From the day your child is born these possibilities are a permanent spectre, lying in wait for happenstance. We have a rule in our family that no one can die before me. Selfish I know, but I value their lives ahead of mine and couldn’t bear an existence without them.

I can’t imagine how Rosie Batty gets through a single day. There can be no peace. She has found a greater good to make sense of losing her son. She is a most worthy Australian of the Year.

I want to keep my kids safe. I advise them as best I can about being sensible, when at their age I wasn’t. I want them to be happy. Most of all they know they’re loved and I enjoy every moment I have with each of them. No one knows what tomorrow brings but we can influence our actions today.

The Power of Personal Perceptions…

July 14, 2015
Do you care what others think about you?

Do you care what others think about you?

Last weekend we caught up with friends and were discussing their daughter’s wedding, held the month before. It was a very pleasant event with an enjoyable reception and nice meal. They told us how I had inadvertently caused a last-minute panic on the seating arrangements, which they confessed was very strange.

A friend of theirs, whom I’d met infrequently over the years, expressed a vehement dislike for me and didn’t want to be seated anywhere near me. He also expressed the same sentiment to someone else at the wedding (who later shared that with me in amazement).

I was bemused by this. I’d rarely spoken to this man and never perceived I’d been in a position to create this level of distain. There’s the rub. For years he’d professed to be the best at everything; he had the fastest car, was the best sportsman, and owned an established business. He surrounded himself with sycophants who worshipped his every move.

I don’t buy into that game, and I guess that must have annoyed him. He wanted to make life a competition and I didn’t feel the need to respond. I prefer to take people on face value: who they are, rather than what they have.

Recently he’d been caught cheating on his wife, his business faltered and he had to sell the fast car. That doesn’t change who he is, but it certainly changed his outlook. He now saw me as ‘winning’ in his game, by his rules. So he found reasons to belittle me to others. He failed to notice (again) that I wasn’t playing. I feel sorry for him; he has some challenges to face.  He’s created benchmarks that define who he is and now, at fifty, they can’t be maintained. Clearly he is unhappy.

As for me, as much as I say I don’t care what others think about me, I don’t think anyone likes to be disliked. But I can’t change this guy’s opinion. And I don’t need to try. I just won’t focus on it.

In a timely post, Seth Godin this week said ‘We can choose to define ourselves (our smarts, our brand, our character) on who rejects us. Or we can choose to focus on those that care enough to think we matter. Carrying around a list of everyone who thinks you’re not good enough is exhausting’.

Do we matter?

June 22, 2015
We have a lot to be thankful for

We have a lot to be thankful for

I was walking through the city yesterday and it, despite Melbourne’s cold weather, was alive with people rushing to their next destination. Does anything they do actually matter? Or are we filling time lost in jobs going on day in day out whether we’re there or not?

Of course there are the lucky ones that make a difference, enjoy their work and, as Tony Robbins says, ‘Live with passion’. It’s a great goal but by the look of most people on the street, quite a way from reality.

Now that I’m on the high side of 50, I spend more time assessing the world and my place in it. I’m somewhat over the corporate system, having ‘played the game’ for nearly thirty years. I’m too young to retire and know that I would be quickly bored and want a challenge.

I pursue hobbies and have the resources to enjoy them more now. I want to live my passion and make a difference but I also have bills to pay. Sometimes that makes me feel trapped. And then guilty because I have done very well out of life. And then resentful because the years just fly by. Why am I here and does it matter?

I found a picture of my grandfather and his work colleagues from the City of Melbourne dated 1917. In essential jobs, most were disappointed that they couldn’t go to war; they missed the ‘Great Adventure’. In hindsight they were the lucky ones. Had things been different, perhaps I wouldn’t have been born. They’re all gone now. What was their legacy? What did their lives mean?

Then I realise how hard my grandparents worked to raise a family, to achieve a level of success, and how proud they were of their achievements. The stories my grandfather told me, the values my family embraced, I now teach to my grandson half a century later. I realise that we all make a difference when we work to leave the world just a little better than we found it.

 

Lucky for some

June 2, 2015
How's your luck?

How’s your luck?

Do you know any lucky people: the ones where fortune favours their every move? Are you lucky in love, business, life or at the casino? Are ‘winners’ lucky or is there something more to it?

We see people who win and say ‘What a lucky guy!’ There is, in my opinion, a big difference between luck at the casino or winning the lottery and luck in life. One is a random chance and the other is a measured journey where opportunity meets preparation.

I have friends who gamble and I hear about their luck at winning five thousand dollars at roulette. I don’t hear about the many multiples of that invested to find their ‘lucky streak’. In the big picture, where randomness reigns, anything can happen. Calling winners lucky is simply sticking a label on after the fact.

To examine luck as a concept raises an interesting question: how can we explain what happens to us and whether we’ll be winners, losers or somewhere in the middle at love, work, sports, gambling and life?

Is luck, good or bad, more than a phenomenon that appears exclusively in hindsight, or is it an expression of our desire to see patterns where none exist, like a belief that your red shirt is lucky?

I believe luck, in a predictable form, can be created by our attitudes and actions.

Lucky streaks are real, but they are the product of more than just blind fate. We can make our own luck, though we don’t like to think of ourselves as lucky: a descriptor that undermines other qualities, like talent and skill.

We can see someone with a lovely home and a successful business and say they are lucky. We often don’t see the 20 years of hard work and sacrifice invested by them to be in this ‘lucky’ position.

We may pray for it or wish others ‘Good luck’ but we’d prefer to think of ourselves as deserving; the fact that we live in a society that is neither random nor wholly meritocratic makes for an even less precise definition.

I believe that ‘lucky’ people adept to creating and noticing chance opportunities, listen to their intuition, are confident to act in risky situations, have positive expectations that create self-fulfilling prophesies, and have a resilient attitude about life’s trials.

So, make your own luck and remember – things could always be worse!

The cynical self

May 13, 2015
I want to break free ...

I want to break free …

Yesterday we had a full day business meeting with international visitors. The meeting started at 9.00am, and we had a working lunch and concluded at 5.00pm, at which time we left for an upmarket city restaurant for dinner.

Our distributers were trying to impress us. They’d brought their CEO and Chairman. Our management team was trying to appear superior to the distributors, while also trying to impress our boss and scoring points on each other in the process. And our boss was trying to impress the guys from head office, who were constantly looking at their watches. As best I could make out, no one wanted to be here.

About 3.00pm I wanted the music to stop. I wanted to scream ‘Why are we doing this?’, but resorted to injecting a few thought-terminating clichés to wind it up. Didn’t work. The show rolled on.

After a day of platitudes and thinly veiled assurances of improved support and performance, which remain the emotional capital of the business world, with little to no action until the next quarterly meeting where we do this dance again, it was difficult to look forward to the impending meal.

At dinner, everyone was toasting everyone else; too many times to be comfortable. Big smiles, forced conversation, more platitudes. The Chairman made another speech reaffirming his commitment to us and the greater cause. As if it matters. So that led me to wonder: do we? Do we matter?

In our daily lives, questions of personal worth are recurrent, if rarely articulated. We’re so defined by work that our identities without it are in question. Unless we have something else to anchor us, we’re in danger of becoming what we do, not who we are.

We find that ultimately unsatisfying. Because as we get older, time spent at work consumes a proportion of our lives we can rarely afford. We go home tired, eat, sleep and do it all again. Holidays come rarely and when they do we wonder why life can’t always be like this.

I want to rebel. Just a minor revolt. I want to grow my hair long, become a hippy and follow the sun surfing. My wife says I can, for one week in the second half of each year. I can’t do more because of ‘commitments’. Commitments that will get me committed.

Deprived of a clear sense of purpose, apprehensive about the significance of our lives, we’re desperate for reassurance that there is a reason behind what we feel we must do. Are we working for the weekend or living in the now?

I don’t know. I’d rather have it all, and now. So I keep working while I search for the answer. I’ll let you know if I find it.

Flight to clarity

April 29, 2015
Still cruisin'

Still cruisin’

Sometimes life sends you a message to make sure you’re awake.

Last week I was heading away on a customer incentive trip to the Kimberley in far north Western Australia. It’s one of Australia’s most remote locations; far from mobile and internet connections, electricity and the comforts usually associated with corporate travel.

I was looking forward to it; a new place, a new experience: fishing with Barramundi, Queenies, Cod and a variety of other species sharing the waters with crocodiles, sharks and stinging box jellyfish.

Swimming was off the agenda but fishing and trekking to caves with 40,000-year-old Aboriginal cave paintings was the order of the days ahead. Leaving from Melbourne, we had four flights and over twelve hours of travel – further and longer than many overseas destinations.

We made the first flight to Perth and transited to Broome, two and a half hours up the WA coast. From there, we transferred to a Cessna and then we would take a helicopter for the final leg.

The Cessna took off on schedule and save minor buffeting we settled in for the two-hour flight to Mitchell’s Plateau. There was a buzz on board with the boys and making predictable jokes about small planes crashing into crocodile-infested waters.

It was a hot day and forty-five minutes into the flight we were relaxing with the gentle drumming of the engine and the staccato of the blades making us sleepy. This was abruptly disturbed by the shrill of warning alarms and an acrid smell in the cabin, followed shortly by the cabin filling with smoke.

The plane had an electrical fire. The pilot banked sharply and dropped from 6,500 feet to just over 1,000. From the tight bank, I could see the landscape rising quickly. I assumed the pilot was in control but he was looking worried and calling ‘Pan-Pan’ into his headset, the precursor to a mayday.

I looked at my colleague in the next seat and said, ‘We could be in a bit of trouble here’.

The silence on the plane was eerie, no panic, no calling out; just a stunned silence, hoping we were going to make it.

The fire extinguisher was at the back of the cabin so the pilot shut down the electrics to contain the situation. As the plane levelled out, I felt great relief. In the distance I could see a small landing field, one of very few on the journey. The plane roared across the tree-tops, flaps inoperable so we were coming in hot, at more than double the normal landing speed. The pilot kept the revs up and put the plane down hard.

We evacuated rapidly while the pilot hit the console with the extinguisher. We went into a small shed and were told to stay there due to the number of crocodiles in the area. By now the tension had eased and the boys were joking again.

A few minutes later we had police, ambulance, fire brigade and SES roll in under full noise and lights. The paramedics rushed in to find eight blokes drinking coke and looking bewildered, none of us appreciating the seriousness of a fire on a plane.

‘Bugger me; that was close’, said a police officer.

The pilot came in to talk to the police and received a rowdy round of applause from our group of very appreciative passengers.

He had done a great job and we asked him if he was going to take us the rest of the way.

‘No more flying for me today’ was his response, and we settled in for the two-hour wait for a replacement plane from Broome. Thoughts of work were far from our minds and we were relieved to find we still had phone reception and everyone rang home.

Now that’s a business trip that really put our priorities into perspective.

New Year: a time of change

January 30, 2015
How do  we achieve meaningful change?

How do we achieve meaningful change?

Often the most important things in our lives remain hidden in plain sight, obscured by the rush of routine or the pull of commitment. Sometimes, the most we can do is simply focus on the next task, whatever is most urgent. In so doing, we slowly become oblivious to what’s most important.

At other times, we succumb to the temptation of believing that progress means change. If you haven’t yet started then you will need to change; however, it’s easy to forget that, in choosing what you have already chosen, you may have chosen well.

Sometimes you choose badly and embrace the wrong set of values or pursue the wrong purposes. When that happens, you need to have the confidence to make other choices.

But we also need to learn the value of staying true, of choosing again what we chose before.

Commitment and success

January 20, 2015
Commitment means taking action

Commitment means taking action

This is my 200th blog post so a very opportune time to talk about commitment.

We all know that some people find it easier to commit than others – taking action to move into a committed, full and happy life – while others find commitment to anyone or anything a struggle.

The usual explanation of the uncommitted is that something ‘better’ might be just around the corner. This can only be part of the equation because it’s not only what you commit to, it’s how you commit that defines your success.

Only the smallest part of committing is the passive process of ‘deciding’ what you have committed to; the main factor that will make the choice successful or not is the work you put into it. ‘I will start a blog, I will start exercising, I will improve my education’ – all count for very little unless you take action.

The key determiner of how you commit (or not) is the script that dictates how you live your life. Often the positive self-talk or initial excitement of the challenge isn’t enough. There’s a difference between what you want to believe (‘I can change’) and what you actually believe (‘It’s no use, I will never change’). Compare this to an internal belief system that supports ‘I always finish what I start’ to ‘It’s no use, I always give up or fail.’

Perhaps the best response is to prove it to yourself. Make small changes and keep at it. Don’t try to change everything all in one go. Set small tasks that you know you can achieve and build on them. Set achievable stepping stones that support your progress and build your belief system.

 

 

Good enough now

December 9, 2014
Stay focused on what matters now

Stay focused on what matters now

One of the reasons we try to manage the future is we think we’ll somehow be better, understand more and avoid the challenges that get in the way of our success. Of course, the problem with avoiding our challenges is that we also avoid the opportunity to grow. We avoid the lesson.

It’s through our contact with the fullness of the present moment and who we are that we recognise our gifts and our purpose. This is where freedom lies. Not down the road, but in the reality of the now.

When we stop running from ourselves, and what we fear is failure, we have an opportunity to experience worth and success. We’ll always be wrestling with something. But we don’t need to arrive somewhere to find it. No matter what it looks like, we’ve already come a long way, and this is what we’ve been waiting for. Embrace it. And then … do it again.