Posts Tagged ‘enjoyment of life’

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!

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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.

The naivety of youth and where to find some

March 23, 2015
Recapture your youth ...

Recapture your youth …

There’s something refreshing about the naivety of youth; a time of not knowing it all and having the opportunity and the excitement of finding out. There are so many new experiences, taking nothing for granted and enjoying the moment; enjoying the journey as well as the destination.

It’s ironic because this is exactly what many of us ‘older’ people are searching for. I saw a great example this morning. As I waited in the airline lounge for another flight, I made my way up to the coffee station and there was a young man of 16 or 17, my son’s age, standing there looking at the machine.

He clearly didn’t know what to do and looked like a fish out of water. There were huffs and puffs from the handful of business types behind him, frustrated by the multi-second delay this was causing to their day.

Excruciatingly absorbed in their self-importance, these men and women in their power suits, sporting permanent scowls that scream ‘I’m so important’, were clearly desperate to secure that next coffee with minimal downtime.

I said to the young man, ‘These machines are so complicated, far too many buttons for my liking’ as I helped him to make his selection. He said he was new at this. ‘Great, where are you going?’ He was off to Sydney to race go-carts in the national championships.

‘Wow, that sounds great’, I said as I handed him his cup. I saw him eyeing the biscuits so suggested he’d better grab a few of those to keep him going. We headed back to our seats in the same direction and he told me how happy he was, how this was a great opportunity for him, how excited he was about flying and being allowed to use the lounge.

I wished him luck, told him he was unquestionably the most interesting person in here and that I hoped to see him in F1 one day. I was much better off for talking to him and glad I’d had the chance to meet him.

Here was a young adult that was excited by life, chasing his passion and enjoying every aspect of journey, even the flight. I thought back to my first few flights and how excited I was too.

Many people in this lounge have big jobs, high salaries and flash cars but have lost the passion and excitement. I looked over at the young man talking enthusiastically with his parents, almost bouncing off the walls, while the ‘blue suits’ had their noses buried in the latest Richard Branson article on their iPads.

When you recapture the wonder, you capture the world.

No regrets. Well, perhaps just a few …

November 26, 2014
Living your life

Living your life

My last post discussed regrets and how we process them. It got me thinking about how we handle them and what we can do differently.

I read an article about a hospice nurse who recorded the common regrets of the dying patients with whom she worked. The two top regrets are interesting and relatable. First, people generally wished they’d had the courage to live a more authentic life. They looked back on life and realised the many occasions in which they had capitulated to external pressure. They wished they’d taken more opportunities to follow their hearts.

The second regret was wishing that they hadn’t worked so hard. In a world where success is often measured by what we do and how well we do it, the correlation between job and identity appears not to be fulfilling in the long run. If deathbed wisdom is any guide then people would prefer to have taken off more days and spent more time with friends and family or to pursue their passion and purpose.

In this regard, life really can get in the way of living. Most of us can’t simply ‘chuck it in’ and live a life to our own rules and pursuing our passions, regardless of how inspiring that sounds. But imagine we made space for some of that now, rather than doing nothing or putting it off until retirement or when we have time? Plan some time to make a start. Even a few hours a week will make you feel better, provide more balance and allow you to deal better with the not-so-inspiring requirements of life.

When you think about your regrets, consider what you might do to avoid them in the first place. Are you willing to take a day off occasionally to spend time with those you care about? Are you willing to take it a little easier at work and leave a little earlier? What would happen if you left work at lunchtime and turned up at your child’s sports day?

Regrets about regret

November 3, 2014
Life's too short for regrets

Life’s too short for regrets

My wife and I were driving home from a weekend away and were talking about some of the things we regret. Fortunately, for both of us, marriage was not on the list! The conversation stemmed from the passage of time, and now, with our children becoming adults, where the childhood years went.

My wife regretted not letting our children be ‘freer’; allowing the girls to wear their fairy dresses as much as they wanted and not caring if they became dirty or ruined from overuse. And taking them to ballet, despite the fact they hadn’t show any interest in dancing.

For me, it was putting my career first in the misguided notion that my success in the business world would pave a better life for my family. It took me twenty years to realise the folly in that.

We both agreed that we were better parents to our son, child number three, as we were older, more experienced and, then in our thirties, applying a more balanced perspective on life. Now, as grandparents for the first time, in our fifties, we’re in the ‘sweet spot’ of life and have the time, energy and patience to be awesome in this new priority-leading role.

Regret is a strange beast. Our children grew up with every opportunity; wonderful holidays, excellent education, love and support and we enjoy a close relationship with each of them to this day. So what is there to regret? As we drove and talked, we realised we were looking back based on the values and experience we have now.

Back then, money was tight; we couldn’t afford the ballet lessons or to replace the fairy dresses so we prioritised swimming lessons and a family holiday. My wife gave up her career to be a full-time mum, a goal we had set very early on. Our mortgage seemed insurmountable and I thought striving for the next career rung would make that easier.

And of course it did. And then we did the best with what we had. We were the best parents we could be with our relative inexperience.

So perhaps now through older and more experienced eyes we need to give ourselves a break on the regrets and focus on making today great. So when my nearly three-year-old grandson tells me that I’m the best grandpa in the world, well, I believe him.

Where does God sit on the question of life’s meaning?

September 30, 2014

Life's meaning

The question ‘What is the meaning of life?’ may have seemed as strange to generations past as the question ‘Do you believe in God?’, because it was considered the same question.

Somewhere along the line, we began to question God and separate the concepts of religious and spiritual belief, which, perhaps, makes the question of the meaning of life a more modern one. This isn’t to say that people didn’t ask themselves why they were here; rather, it seems for the most part that they had a readymade answer in religion.

If we are created in God’s image, then the blind following of doctrines may not express our individuality or allow for spiritual growth. Does that mean that God wants us to question the meaning of life? Either way, I believe we are free to question all we want.

Previous generations may have been less plagued by the meaning-of-life question, not because their religious beliefs were any less up for question, but because their social practices offered less scope for contemplation. The meaning of life in such times consisted of doing more or less what your ancestors did, as well as the age-old conventions society expected of you. Religion and precedent were there to instruct on such matters.

The idea that there could be a meaning to life that was unique to the individual is unlikely to have gained much support, when the meaning of life consisted of its function within the community as a whole.

In these times outliers were not consider helpful at all. I was reminded recently that the word ‘individual’ originally meant ‘indivisible’ or ‘inseparable from’ and even today being part of the community or a ‘team player’ is considered a positive attribute. Together we can achieve anything; anything, so it may seem, other than a robust sense of self.

So where does God sit on the question of life’s meaning?

If we are to move past allegory we must accept that meaning is no longer exclusively a spiritual essence buried beneath the surface. In my opinion, we’re free to question life’s meaning while remaining faithful to our beliefs.

The wave of success

June 6, 2014
Surfing is life

Surfing is life

Last week I enjoyed a week’s holiday on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, where I spent time in the warm Noosa waters surfing with my son. With a busy work schedule it was a great way to have a break and surfing is my meditation; a time to feel totally free.

Surfing is a challenge and every wave is different. For the best ride, I adapt to the changing conditions, anticipate the best place to take off and commit by paddling hard. Get it right and I’m rewarded with a ride across the wave, effortlessly gliding ahead of the break using the power of the ocean to drive the board forward.

Some days are brilliant and others frustrating. There are so many variables and the challenge makes it interesting every time. I was thinking how much this is like life. To succeed, we must position ourselves as best we can, read the environment, trust our skills, commit and put in the effort up front. Only then might we be rewarded with a great ride.

Not everyone is prepared to paddle; some prefer to sit on their board and allow the wave to pass beneath them. They sit in the line-up all day without ever catching a wave, not prepared to make the commitment or expend the energy to succeed.

If you wait for the ‘perfect’ wave before making the commitment to paddle you’ll surely miss it. Don’t wait. Catch several small waves before tackling a larger one. Often you’ll miss it, sometimes you’ll fall, and that’s all part of the learning. Just paddle back out and commit to the next one.

If nature throws rough water at you it can be best to ride it out. If you fight against it you expend your energy and still go backwards. Sometimes you have to just have to know when to stop pushing and wait for the storm to pass.

When we’re prepared we catch the wave and are rewarded with a long, effortless and flowing ride, at one with the elements and ahead of the break.

We all end up on the beach anyway, but how we get there defines the quality of our lives.

The other side of enough

May 16, 2014
Do you want it all?

Do you want it all?

The more we have, the more we want, right?

Let’s face it, seeing our life as ‘good enough’ doesn’t cut it anymore. Perhaps it should, but it doesn’t.

But, paradoxically, we live in a culture where we’re expected to stifle our desire for more: money, things, achievement, success. Why is wanting more bad?

My mother was fond of saying ‘Enough is enough.’

What is enough? Who defines it? How do we know when we have it? If we have it, can we still want more? Do we really need it, or simply want it? If it’s a want, should we reject it as unnecessary? Or get it anyway?

A key to living with contentment is to realise the difference between needs and wants. If we allow our wants to take over our motivation, we begin to believe that they are indispensible needs. Then we may feel that we ‘need’ to acquire them at any cost: health, family, working crazy hours, dishonesty.

Such ‘needs’ are empty. Unfulfilling. A poison chalice.

If we come to see that wants can be wants and not needs, we can alter our perspective to one that offers more satisfaction with life. We can have what we need, and aspire to what we want, but in a balanced way that makes us happy.

To have something we want without the need to compromise on other important areas of our lives, free to enjoy it for what it is, without the need for self justification.

Perhaps that’s what the other side of ‘enough’ looks like?

Winner winner chicken dinner

April 23, 2014
Winners are grinners!

Winners are grinners!

Have you noticed how much more money is on offer these days from the various lotteries? When I was young it was several thousand, then hundred thousand and now millions. In the US the numbers are staggering, topping the hundreds of millions.

Most of us daydream about what we would do if we won ‘the big one’. What we would buy, where we would go, if we would give up work and what the good life would feel like. It’s a great fantasy, but whether you buy a ticket or not, it’s worth asking yourself what you actually would do if you had those resources.

Forget about all that money ruining your life, (yeah, sure) or the fact that you’re more likely to be crushed to death by a vending machine, struck by lightning or have a hit record than you are of winning the lottery. What if you did win? What if someone handed you that cheque? What would you do?

Even if you succumb to the temptation to travel first class around the world and buy a bunch of extremely expensive things, you’ll still be faced with the question, eventually, of what to do with the rest. You’ll have to decide whether you merely want to do well for yourself, or whether you actually want to make a difference in the world.

If you want to make a difference in the world, doing so isn’t lottery dependent. In fact, whatever your life’s purpose, it’s not lottery dependent. Whatever difference you can decisively make with $100 million, you can incrementally make with just a hundred dollars, or a thousand.

Unless you’re seriously worried about being crushed by a vending machine, then you shouldn’t fantasise too much over winning the lottery.

Instead, think about the resources you do have, and the real difference you can make today.

Does getting what you want bring lasting happiness?

March 11, 2014
Are you getting everything you want?

Are you getting everything you want?

Do you think you’d be happy for the rest of your life if you received a million dollars, secured the perfect job or met your ideal partner? Would happiness be lost forever if you lost your job, you lost your money or your partner left you?

The reality is that after a period of adjustment, in most circumstances, we’ll bounce back to our previous level of happiness, despite what happens to us.

Our adaptability works in two directions. Because we’re so adaptable we quickly get used to many of the accomplishments we strive for in life, such as landing the big job or owning the dream car, holiday house or diamond ring.

Soon after we reach a milestone we start to feel that something is missing. Our new level of success or achievement becomes our base line, our excitement and euphoria subside and we ask ‘What’s next?’ We recalibrate our lives so the exceptional quickly becomes the normal.

Such an approach keeps us tethered to the hedonic treadmill, chasing more, where happiness is always just out of reach, one toy or promotion away. It’s a never-ending cycle of ‘I’ll be happy when’.

It’s possible to get off the treadmill when we learn to be grateful for what we have and to enjoy it fully without feeling the need to push it aside to see what’s next. Sometimes striving is not as satisfying as being.

If you seek lasting happiness, focus on activities that are exciting, interesting and attention-absorbing; activities that inspire you. When you find a hobby, passion or vocation that makes you happy you may find you require less ‘stuff’ to fill the void.