Posts Tagged ‘work life balance’

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.


A man walks into a bar …

August 18, 2014
The Zen of doing what you want ...

The Zen of doing what you want …

A man walks into a bar …

and strikes up a conversation with a Zen monk drinking tea.

The monk asks him what he wants more than anything else in the world.

The man says, ‘I’d like to have a million dollars’.

‘What would you do tomorrow if you had a million dollars’, the monk asks.

The man thinks about it for a moment, and says, ‘I’d go surfing.’

The monk replies: ‘You don’t need a million dollars to go surfing. Just go.’

What do you really want to do? Are you satisfied with the number of hours you work? Are you doing what you really want? How much money do you need? Why aren’t you doing it now?

If you could change your job to 4 days a week and drop 20% of your wage would you do it?

Strangely, it’s often lower income earners who jump at a chance like this, and higher income earners are more uncertain. Perhaps that says a lot about how we create our lives, what’s important to us and our perception of what, or how much, we need to live.

What would you do tomorrow if you had several million dollars today? Do you really need millions of dollars to do it?

Or would you give up a portion of your income for more time to do what you want?

Even if you wouldn’t or couldn’t, can you make some changes to your life to make more room for what you really want to do?

The paradox of life

December 9, 2013
What's coming over your horizon?

What’s coming over your horizon?

We’ve created a society that offers so much comfort and security. And an endless variety of things to make us feel good, look good and save time. We should be happy.

But we’re not. Working hours and depression rates are increasing.

As we strive to know more, have more and do more, we become less. In defining our worth through possessions and achievements we neglect to consider who we really are.

Our mind space for soul searching is limited. We fill every moment with stimulus so we can’t hear what’s inside. We keep our minds busy flitting from one task to another, 24/7 electronic access, no down time, no time to think, stand still or take a breath.

There’s always the next thing to strive for.

Few people see the big picture; most only see the next week. The grand plan keeps us busy, heads down; we’re shaped by what’s around us and not by possibility. Fear makes us play safe and stick to the rules of the game; forget your dreams, settle for safety and security.

We’re told to live large, live our best life. To change, to get better, to find out who we really are. Yes, but how? What’s the currency of conversion? Is belief enough?

What are you after? Do you believe life has a greater purpose? What’s your purpose?

And do you want to change?

What if …

August 12, 2013


Last week I left the cold of the Australian winter to spend a week in the California sunshine; a business trip with an unaccustomed amount of free time.

With a meeting on Thursday and a conference on Monday we had the rare opportunity of three days off to explore and enjoy ourselves. It’s easy to be captivated by LA, an amazing city, and the diversity, contrast and excitement.

We marvelled in the hurricane colour of Venice beach, Hollywood’s glamour and the excitement of Huntington Pier and the final heats of a world pro surfing tour event. As a child I’d seen footage of surfers navigating the pylons of this pier, surfing through and around in a seemingly death defying display of skill and control.

And now I was right here.

It’s times like these that I wonder why I waste so much of my life locked in an office in an endless busyness that often feels of little value. I want to retire and live the bohemian lifestyle of one who is truly free. A life of fulfilment, financially free, living for the moment and experiencing the joy of life without the constraints of time.

In LA, I walked along the ocean-front apartments daydreaming … picturing myself tanned and lean, relaxed and happy as I returned from a morning surf to breakfast on fresh tropical fruit and roasted coffee before spending a few hours writing … in the early afternoons I’d a stroll down to a cafe for lunch and some banter with the local vendors while enjoying the warm day and the tropical breeze. Time is only defined by light and dark, a beautiful sunset heralding the end of the day …

But then it’s back to reality and the worry that it’s a nice dream but that’s all it ever will be. Then I ask myself: what if … ?

Listening to intuition

July 2, 2013
Why this picture? Just felt right!

Why this picture? Just felt right!

What’s happened to intuition?

I trust the value of ‘gut instinct’ and when I go against my intuition I often regret it. For me it’s a combination of a connection to the flow of life and a moral, social and psychological awareness built on life experience.

When my kids ask ‘How do you know that dad?’ my answer is either ‘I don’t know, just do’ or ‘I’ve been around a while’. Both acknowledge intuition. But if intuition it so natural, why do we need to worry about it?

My belief is that we have lost our ability to connect because we’ve developed a bias towards rationality; if we can’t explain or prove an event or experience we dismiss it. Many children are very intuitive; they’re open to everything and are unaware of where they end and the rest of the world begins. They don’t question, they just accept.

As they get older and move into school they see the value that society places on the rational, proven and tangible and learn to dismiss intuition as just a coincidence.

We can learn a lot from the natural cues we receive. Weigh up the rational, consider the facts, learn from your experience but also listen to how you feel.

Does it feel right to you?

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?

A balancing act

May 8, 2013
Finding your balance

Finding your balance

My last post discussed the imbalance I’ve experienced in life. I now have a new approach to life and work and a better job that provides more choices and less stress.

I have no problem with those people who dedicate their lives to their career to being the best business person possible. Or people who consciously minimise personal, family and community responsibilities to focus on their work. In society these people tend to be the minority.

What happens is many operate like this, while expecting to have a healthy balanced life with family, friends and a grounded sense of self and community. They want it both ways.

This is delusional, how can they expect to excel at areas of life that receive no effort or focus? They certainly know that this wouldn’t work at the office so why would it at home? They choose to get married, have a family and friends but largely ignore these parts of their lives.

When the inevitable crash comes in their personal lives they act surprised. It’s as if circumstances have overtaken them and they’re victims of unfortunate circumstances beyond their control. This is a trade-off they made, a course they chose, it just didn’t seem like it at the time.

Your work colleagues won’t be there when you’re old and sick, but we hope our spouse will be. Your job doesn’t make Christmas special, your kids do. When you’re feeling depressed and need someone to talk to you turn to your friends.

When we retire and no longer ‘anybody’ in our former industry we’re a ‘somebody’ for our family and a superhero for our grandchildren if we’re lucky enough to have any. We’re quickly forgotten when we leave work, let it not be the same when we leave life. On our death beds we remember our family not our business success.

The point is that you can have it all in life. You can have a fulfilling, interesting and successful professional life. You can have a loving family that you’re an active and supporting part. You can maintain and develop your friendships and enjoy your hobbies and interests.

That’s balance. But you have to be aware of what you want, what you will set as your priorities and make the choices that will lead you there.

Finding balance

April 30, 2013
Where's the balance?

Where’s the balance?

Many people have sacrificed their family lives for the sake of their career, often without even realising it. We know the type; those that start early and finish late, work at home and spend time in the office on the weekend.

They spend so much time on work that their families grow away from them; when it’s too late and they realise what’s happened there’s a feeling of regret. I know this to be true because I was one of them; staying at work that extra hour, working on Saturday morning instead of spending time with the family, and on holidays spending too much time on the phone or email rather than enjoying the time away.

Regrets, I have a few, well, maybe more than a few. My daughter was born when I was 28 and just starting to hit my straps as a young corporate executive. I rationalised my decisions as being ‘best’ for the family. It was just this ‘one time’ again and again. My wife had stopped work so I had the responsible to be successful and climb the corporate ladder to provide our family with the resources we needed to prosper.

I continued to work hard, travelling overseas for weeks at a time and putting in extra time believing that this was the best for us all. I was wrong. My second daughter and then my son were born as I continued my relentless pursuit of more.

And did the corporates appreciate this? No, the more I did the more they expected. I climbed the ladder all the way to the top. I was finally a CEO and now I’d ‘made it’. My 20 year journey was over and instead of finding Nirvana I found only a desolate wasteland.

Now the pressure was really on. The Board didn’t care about a global financial crisis, they wanted results. So I worked even harder, was preoccupied at home and highly stressed.

But still they wanted more. ‘We know you’re on holidays but …’ that was it, I’d hit the wall and couldn’t keep up the pace so had to back off. Then I was replaced. Was it worth it? Of course not, I regret the times I missed during the first ten years of my children’s lives and the feeling of letting my family down. And I’m lucky because I still have them and I still have time. What about you?

Life balance and personal happiness

November 7, 2012

Does balance bring you happiness?

The idea of life balance, happiness and the promise of the freedom they provide is a universal desire but most people just don’t know where to find it.

Life balance and happiness is not necessarily dependant on earning more money, having an expensive car, or being successful in business. Other less obvious factors can have a much greater impact on our well-being.

Our age and stage-of-life can affect what makes us happy, along with our personality, personal history and life experiences. Life balance is changing and different for each of us; there’s no single model or ‘out-of-the-box solution’ that’s right for our entire life.

The search for balance is further complicated because personal well-being is given a very low priority at work, in schools and even in the social environment. Particularly for men it can be a taboo topic, so balance and happiness can be largely ignored or relegated to ‘I really need a holiday’ comments.

Consequently we don’t find it easy to identify or understand the issues which underpin our life balance and happiness. With effort and personal reflection it can be understood, planned and achieved like any other important goal in life.

The answer is not in a book or in a blog. It’s different for each one of us. As I’ve said, there’s no ‘cookie-cutter’ solution that can be applied to find the answer, so you must be prepared to look within.

However, there are clues that can assist on your journey of making changes towards a happier, more balanced life. We will explore this over the next series of posts, so stay tuned!

A new life – what a rush!

April 26, 2012

A wonderful new life

It has been a few weeks since my last post; it has been a very busy and exciting time. We have a new addition to the family and I’ve just returned from a business trip in Europe. This is a rather lengthy and self indulgent post so I hope you enjoy it!

The first time I heard I was to be a grandfather was after returning from a holiday with my wife in Hawaii. On our return, Joanne and I were told by our daughter Holly that we ‘need to talk’. No, not now, later this afternoon at the café at our local shopping centre. ‘Is everything all right?’ Asking that question filled me with dread.

‘What could it be?’, I asked my wife.

Tom is coming as well so has something bad happened; are they moving out, is she pregnant or does she have a brain tumour? How can I possibly wait six hours to hear the news from this child that means the world to me?

‘Mum and Dad, I’m pregnant.’

So that’s it, she’s 20 years old and pregnant. Whoa, that means I will be a grandfather and I’m only 48: hang on, this time it’s not about me.

‘Are you happy about it, Holly?’


‘Great then, we’re going to have a baby!’

Only days before in Hawaii we’d discussed how this was the first holiday in 20 years that we didn’t have to worry about the kids. I’d made a passing comment that we should enjoy this intermission; in five or six years we could be grandparents! It was funny then.

I was happy for my daughter; especially because she has a medical problem that may have prevented her having children. My little girl is pregnant. My baby is having a baby. The realisation of how our lives were about to change washed over me. I hadn’t seen this one coming.

A burning bud of white light ignited in me and began to grow. My initial shock abated and I felt a glow of anticipation. A new life, another generation and I’m young enough to enjoy it! Instantly I saw the world through different eyes; I need to make it a better place, I have a responsibility to this child and nothing will get in my way. I was moving up a notch in the life cycle; I was as nervous as I was excited.

Over the coming weeks, as my daughter’s belly grew, I watched her, sitting back, observing and taking it in. We were so excited.  We found out it was going to be a boy and the first time I felt him move I was in awe. I became impatient – when is he going to get here?

My wife and daughter became closer, her pregnancy strengthening their mother–daughter bond. In many ways Holly appeared to me more childlike: her look of wonder, the uncertainty in her childlike voice on the phone. Can she really be having a baby?

I felt privileged to take this journey with her, to be present for the first ultrasound and take her to obstetrician appointments when Tom was working. We laughed at the disapproving stares of people who thought I was her partner and she would say ‘Come on, dad’ to set the record straight. We sat in the hospital café after each appointment and talked excitedly about the meaning of life and our front row seats at this master performance.

As young parents, they will live with us for a year or so until they can get into their own home. I already know I won’t want them to go; being packed to the rafters is fine by us. With our other two children and my mother in law all living under the one roof I may be forced to take to the caravan for a brief respite – just me and the spiders.

Joanne and I had often talked about another baby; we thought there was another little boy destined to come to us. Now he has; he has just found a different path to get here.

I received the call from Holly at work last Friday afternoon.

‘My water has broken. What should I do?’

Hastily cancelling my appointments, I was on the way home in minutes.

‘Don’t freak out’, I told myself, it’ll be OK.

We arrived at the hospital but the baby wasn’t quite ready to come just yet. We went home with instructions to come back in the morning.

Dad-to-be Tom and I had a couple of drinks in contemplation of what was to come.

‘Not too many mate’, I said. ‘We could be on the way anytime.’

Two hours later, after an hour of sleep, we were. Bubs was coming, and keen to see the world.

The delivery suite was nice. Large enough for the four of us and we made Holly as comfortable as we could. The nurses were great at keeping us informed and her doctor updated – unfortunately for him it was 2.00am Saturday!

Three hours and several coffees (for me) later it was show time and I was asked to leave. Holly wanted her mum in the room along with Tom.

I was told to sit in the waiting room but lasted only minutes before returning to hover outside the delivery suite. Throwing enquiring looks to the parade of nursing staff coming in and out, I was reassured that everything was going along nicely. I wasn’t this anxious when my own children were born!

I could hear my daughter’s pain. Not a cry or a shout, more of a whimper tempered in fear and uncertainty; it ripped through me and it took all of my restraint not to run into the room to hold her. I paced up and down like an expectant father from a 60’s sitcom.

I watched the clock and the minutes painfully ticked by, the world reduced to a singularity residing behind that whitewashed door. On his last pass the doctor said ’30 minutes to go’ and as that time approached I strained my ears. Time slowed, the world turned to molasses, I could hear my heart beating and finally I heard him cry; a beautiful sound: welcome to the world little guy.

In a few minutes I was allowed in to see this amazing little person and my exhausted daughter. She had done so very, very well.

Now my little grandson is here and I marvel at his perfection.

I loved my grandson from the moment I heard his first cry and I’m very proud of the mother and woman my daughter has become. What a wonderful world.