Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

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.



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.

Success leaves clues

October 9, 2014
Success is everywhere ...

Success is everywhere …

Where do you find your insights and motivation?

I find my best insights don’t come from books, seminars or conferences. They come, often unexpectedly, from focusing my attention on something completely different to business or my project of the moment. For me that can be surfing, writing or restoring an old car.

Find something you love to do and work hard to explore, learn and master it. Then take the lessons you learn from it and apply them to other areas of your life. Learning teaches us many things and sets the mind for new input and experiences. There’s great satisfaction in achievement, and success leaves clues that can be applied in all areas of your life.

Best of all, you’ll need very little encouragement or motivation to study something you enjoy. All you need to do is look for the lessons and move them from one part of your life to another.

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?

Let’s do more of the things that make us happy

March 27, 2014
What makes you happy?

What makes you happy?

If you want to be happy, do more of the things that make you happy. Here are five tips to help you along the way.

Happiness lies in the journey

Seeking happiness for its own sake rarely works. Action toward significant goals makes us happy. While there’s a place for taking it easy, watching a movie and eating cake, easy pleasures will never excite us the way mastering a new skill or building something from scratch will.

And it’s not crossing the finish line that’s most rewarding; it’s anticipating achieving your goal. Working hard toward a goal, and making progress to the point of expecting a goal to be achieved, doesn’t just activate positive feelings, it provides focus and concentration, which can suppress negative emotions.

If you’re feeling depressed or worried, throw yourself into something you enjoy; it lifts your mood and provides a sense of satisfaction.

Money does buy happiness – to a point

Money does buy happiness, but only up to the point where it enables you to live comfortably. Beyond that, more cash doesn’t boost your well-being. But generosity brings a strong sense of satisfaction, so striking it rich could underwrite your happiness—if you were to use it to help and benefit others.

Happiness is good friends

To live a happy life, make strong personal relationships a priority. Friends are an excellent happiness tonic; they can be part confidant, psychologist, personal motivator, cheer squad and objective sounding board. Mostly they’re just great to be around, make us laugh and leave us feeling better for the experience. Good relationships are buffers against life’s inevitable speed bumps and setbacks.

Happiness is a personal value statement

If you aren’t living according to your values, you won’t be happy, no matter how much you’re achieving.

Some people aren’t sure what their values are. If you’re one of them, consider this question: Imagine you had the approval and support of everyone you know and had no financial constraints for the rest of your life. What would you then choose to do with your life?

Once you’ve answered, you can start taking steps toward your ideal vision of yourself. Remember it’s not necessarily achieving it now that will make you happy, it’s the confidence that you’re achieving something worthwhile and enjoying the journey. After all, the state of happiness is not really a state at all; it’s an ongoing personal experiment.

Happiness is relative

Whether or not we’re keeping up with the Joneses affects how happy we are. Some are more obsessed with status than others, but most are aware of how they’re doing in life relative to those around them. Comparison may be natural, but not always constructive, leading to status anxiety.

Happiness comes when we strive to achieve our goals for our reasons. Not to do things just because our friends, neighbours or advertising tell us to. We can be happy for other people’s success, and appreciate their choices, while following our own path.

How to be excellent Pt 2

October 22, 2013


When we aim to be excellent, is it nature or nurture that helps us most, or perhaps a bit of both?

While we don’t have to rely solely on genetics to be good at something, I do believe we have natural aptitudes which make us all different. If we’re good at something and enjoy it we’re inclined to keep doing it. When we do something we love, we can get lost in the experience and often fail to notice the passing of time.

This is wonderfully empowering. It suggests we have the remarkable capacity to influence our own outcomes. But that’s also daunting. Practice may be the most important ingredient in achieving excellence but, as we know from our own experience, it can be the most difficult.

If we want to be really good at something, it’s going to involve relentlessly pushing past our comfort zone, as well as dealing with setbacks and failures. Even when it’s something we love, striving to get to the next level can be a challenge. It can lead to physical and emotional fatigue, and eventually burnout.

Perhaps that’s why we admire sportspeople, musicians, artists and business people at the top of their game. We admire the dedication, perspiration, choices, motivation and self-control; characteristics we’d like to improve in ourselves.

Success and happiness

August 26, 2013
Success and happiness

Success and happiness

Success and happiness – these are common theme in this blog because so many people are searching for these elusive states. For many the two are linked – ‘When I’m successful I’ll be happy’ – but I‘ve written before about the opposite being true: ‘When I’m happy, I’ll find success.’

Generally people don’t like to hear that because it messes with their preconceived idea of how to be happy. So what do you want? Think about this exchange …

‘Success and happiness is something to work hard for and one day I will get there and then I’ll be free.’

‘Is that what you really want; success and happiness?’


‘That sounds good, but you added a third variable: freedom.’

‘Of course, if you’re happy and successful you also need to be free. I want to be happy, successful and free, with enough money to really experience life.’

‘You just added another one: wealth. So now you want to be successful, happy, free and wealthy so you can have a great life.’

‘Hang on, I also need to be fit, stress free and relaxed to enjoy my life. And I want to be surrounded by people who love me.’

‘This is getting complicated. So you want to be successful, happy, free, wealthy, healthy and loved? And then you’ll have made it. Anything else?’

‘Well, I’d like to be inspired and have a grand purpose that motivates me, excites me and gets me out of bed in the morning.’

‘That sounds reasonable. You want to be successful, happy, free, wealthy, healthy, loved, inspired and motivated. When do you think that you’ll achieve all that?’

‘I can’t see it ever happening.’

‘And how does that make you feel?’

‘Like a failure, unhappy, trapped, stressed, distant, angry and despondent.’

‘Perhaps you need to redefine your goals so you can enjoy your life now and still work towards an ideal life. You may then find a level of happiness that doesn’t require such an audacious checklist for success. You might even find success unexpectedly along the way. And even if you don’t think you have, you’ll still enjoy the journey, which might be a form of success unlooked for but equally positive.’

Is reality real?

May 24, 2013


The action of observing an event will change its outcome.

I’ve heard this many times over the years and watched a program recently which described this effect as it relates to quantum mechanics.

It made me think that if outcomes are changed due to being observed, how does that relate to human behaviour? We all act differently at different times, at different events and with different people.

I realised how much our interpretation of reality changes our experience of that reality. This is a psychological, or perhaps behavioural, interpretation of the scientific principal known as the ‘Heisenberg Effect’.

German physicist Werner Heisenberg, founder of quantum mechanics and winner of the 1932 Nobel Prize, maintained that it’s impossible for a scientist to observe any living organism without necessarily changing it; observation alone changes the behaviour of the observed.

Can the Heisenberg Effect also be applied to the way we operate in the world? I think it can.

So ‘reality’ changes depending on whether you are with someone or alone, the importance that person has to you and whether that person is passive or active.All of these factors will change your response and therefore your actions.

This, in turn, affects how we perceive our reality and affects how others see it too. This means that reality is consciously created to meet the expectations of others and how we see our place in the world. Reality as a conscious construct: that poses more questions than answers!

It then follows, in my opinion, that our reality can be influenced by what we focus our attention on. In a day, week, year or life there will be a balance of good and bad, positive and negative. What we choose to focus on will define our outlook and attitude to life. Are you a positive or negative person? Do you engage or repel others?

William James, the American philosopher and psychologist, recognised in 1890 that social relationships inherently promote perpetual impact, stating that a person ‘has as many different social selves as there are distinct groups of persons about whose opinion he cares; he generally shows a different side of himself to each of these different groups’.

We see people act quite differently depending on circumstance: when with their boss or with their co-workers; when they’re with their spouse or with their friends. Same person, different persona.

So who are we really? What reality have we created? We often talk about being ‘authentic’ and ‘being true to ourselves’ but society requires us to be many different people. At what point does this game become our reality? When do we lose sight of the difference? If we lose our ‘self’ in life’s charade will we ever be able to find the way back?

As Stephen Covey said: ‘You don’t see the world as it is, you see it according to who you are.’

Who are you really?

Fear of failure or fear of success

January 21, 2013

Tracking towards success

Tracking towards success

A common practice for the New Year is to dream about what success looks like for us. Many people set goals, resolve to work harder, focus on the’ right’ things and maintain a positive attitude. A great start, but we can find our everyday lives have overtaken our plans and we’re back to dreaming rather than doing.

Is it because we’re busy or are we afraid of the outcome?

The familiar cliché is fear of failure, but that’s a misnomer. Most people are very familiar with failure, and as a consequence have little to fear from it. Often failure meets our ‘deep down’ expectations, reaffirms our opinion of our abilities, and removes the discomfort of having to try.

Our version of failure may be nothing of the sort.

We may have achieved much in our lives but view ourselves as a failure because we’re unable to meet the lofty goals we have set for ourselves. Others are afraid to try or to put in the effort required to change their current circumstances. And we love it when we don’t have to try; isn’t it great to be ‘let off the hook?’

This may sound crazy but because we know failure so intimately, its familiarity gives us comfort – ‘Oh well, at least I had a go and now know I can’t do it, just as I thought’. And we get rewarded by the sympathy and care of others so it feels alright.

The real issue is fear of success, and since we’re not familiar with it, we’re drawn away from it and back to what we know best: failure. It may seem odd since we covet success so much that we would subconsciously move away from it when it’s within our grasp. But that is exactly what happens time after time.

Be aware that this may happen. Set yourself a reasonable goal and allocate time to chase it. Small steps lead to big results.

Are you having a successful year?

October 22, 2012

Are you heading towards your goals or taking a detour?

Isn’t this year going quickly?

How often do we say that?

Usually we say it because there’s things we wanted to do but haven’t and there’s only a few months left. Does that mean we have the same goals for next year? What will we tell ourselves when New Year’s Eve rolls around?

On New Year’s Eve we look to the future. It’s often with a sense of relief that we turn from the retrospect of the last days of the old year and greet the New Year with enthusiasm. Turn the page; things will be different next year!

For some it can be a time of great celebration for a year well lived with progress and achievement. For others, it’s a time of regret for what we didn’t quite get around to during the year.

Was it a great year, or just a waste of time?

It’s rarely that black or white. However, the end of the year brings our progress, or lack thereof, into sharp report. It’s the one time of year when most hold themselves accountable for the slippage of time and the things that may have been. We’re one year older and, for many, a slice of the dream has crumbled away from the big picture life plan. And it comes back to time.

A year’s an appropriate length of time to mark our journey through the world.  Our age is readily linked to our progress and used as a comparison point against others. A year is long enough to achieve many things but short enough to quickly pass beneath us as we get caught up in the daily activity of living.

‘I just don’t know where this year has gone’ is a familiar cry as the year draws to a close. ‘It will be different next year’ … but it rarely is. There’s never a better time to start/continue/do something than right now. What are you waiting for?