Daily Blog

Posted by on December 11, 2017

Quitting is winning

Like most people my age, I first knew the song ‘I Will Always Love You’ as Whitney’s. Indeed it is Whitney Houston’s signature song, may she rest in peace.

Turns out, the song was written by Dolly Parton at a significant moment in her career – when she left the Porter Wagoner show. She sang her goodbyes to her mentor, producer and duet partner. One of the most successful love songs of all time, and it was about ending a professional relationship, not a romantic one. Can you think of a better story about quitting your job?

I began this daily blog with ‘start something and keep going,’ and spoke of persistence. I am not about to contradict myself here – in the pursuit of something you may have to quit other things once they have served their purpose.

People quit their jobs to pursue their career all the time. You can a quit a project, and still take away all that you learned to apply elsewhere. You don’t have to stay doing what you’re doing now. Life is not about just doing one thing either – your passion and your success, could lead to more in another area.

Did you know many kids don’t even know Dolly as the country singer, but as the ‘book lady?’ This is not simply because she has published books, but because her actions have put books into the hands of millions of kids across the world. Hear her speak in a short video about the Imagination Library here.(I also recommend her audiobook ‘Dream More,’ it’s perfect for a short road trip)

Sometimes quitting is the best option – it might be  what allows you to keep going with that ‘something’ you started.

Posted by on December 10, 2017

What I don’t want you to know

Posted by on December 9, 2017

Choose your words

I am very fortunate to have a day job where I attend events with some amazing keynote speakers. Most recently I was impressed by the energy and presence of Julie Cross. I am accustomed to the air-conditioned comfort of a convention centre, so I was especially impressed that she shone (or rather ‘sparkled’) in what was essentially an outdoor school assembly hall in the remote town of Emerald.

I have since been further impressed by her online presence, but am especially grateful that something she had said popped into my head the other day…

Talking of another family member, my father said, ‘If that’s a problem now, you know it’s always going to be a problem.’

‘No,’ I said, ‘That’s not true. It might be a problem now, but later on it will just be something they live with.’

I have come to understand that choosing your words is very important. Within her inspiring closing keynote she spoke of her teenage son and made a distinction that he does not ‘suffer from autism,’ but rather ‘he lives with it.’

The words we choose are so important – they affect what we feel about ourselves and how other people treat us/ see us. I’m so grateful you made a connection with me that day Julie (and 400 plus other people!) I look forward to following you in 2018.

Posted by on December 8, 2017

Winning best in show

Earlier this year, I submitted the first three chapters of my novel to a competition attached to a respected writer’s conference. I am happy to report that I walked away with a prize and met in person with a publisher to discuss the book.
All of the above is true, I could even provide some names and links for credibility. Mind you, I should perhaps point out that the prize was of the ‘lucky door’ variety. I get the impression that it’s marketing gold use the term ‘award winning,’ even if it is meaningless.
So in a world where everyone gets a participation ribbon, why not declare myself ‘best in show’?
best in show (noun)
1. an award to the dog, cat, or other animal judged best of all breeds in a competition.
2. the animal that wins such an award.
 — dictionary.com
I am a winner though – I used an official channel to get professional feedback on a significant work and paid a fee to meet with a respected publisher. Now I get to click ‘publish’ everyday thanks to WordPress (and yes, some blog posts are better than others!)
BTW, Best In Show is also a fantastic Christopher Guest mockumentary that, if you haven’t already, I suggest you watch!


Posted by on December 7, 2017

Seeing purple mountains

As an eleven year old, painting landscapes was far from cool, but I will forever be grateful for oil painting classes – they taught me many lessons.

When you look at picture, you see with your eyes – sounds like an obvious statement, right? But when you paint a picture, particularly as a kid, you are inclined to paint with your head, not your eyes. The grass is green. The grass on the mountain is green.

An early lesson was the purple mountain. If you want it to appear off in the distance, you don’t paint it green. Next time you’re standing outside in nature (or even google some photos) look into the distance and ask yourself, what colours am I actually seeing?

A more abstract question… How often do we communicate what we think, when what’s required is to communicate what is (the purple mountain)?

Another simple lesson… You paint up close, yet the painting is viewed from a distance. So, take several steps back and then look at what other people will see.

So many other learnings come to mind, right down to what is often an absolute formula on how to make a painting. When you know how something is made, you can’t help but see it differently too.

Image: My first ‘serious’ painting, 1990.

Posted by on December 6, 2017

Framework for a bridge

Go Build A Bridge’ is the name of a blog I started a couple of years ago. A few months before then, I shared with some friends my idea to write a book about overcoming obstacles. In typical blokey fashion, one friend joked, ‘you could call it Build a Bridge’ (the rest of the well known saying was implied… ‘get over it’) The idea stuck, and I started building my metaphorical bridge with that blog. Mind you, I’m glad he hadn’t suggested ‘Cup of concrete!’

When I conceived that blog I determined that it was about three main things – Creativity, Strength & Action. Titles continue to be important, so in the interest of forward planning here is a list of upcoming post headings, you’ll soon find on this daily blog:

CREATIVITY – ‘Seeing purple mountains’ & ‘Winning best in show’

STRENGTH – ‘Choose your words’ & ‘What I don’t want you to know’

ACTION – ‘Quitting is winning’ & ‘The man in the mirror’

Posted by on December 5, 2017

Riding the tailwind

When it comes to conversation, cab drivers are a mixed back. Some complain about how slow the day is and others are a pleasure to chat with. Weather is safe conversation…

‘Gunna be a big storm’ says cabbie

‘Yes, I’ve heard the reports’ says I…

‘No’ he says. ‘Look outside, you can see it.’

I’m a big advocate for observing others and your environment – I think its a great way to learn. However, when I looked out and saw white fluffy clouds, I was doubtful this guy had anything to teach me.

‘No, not the cumulous. Look above them’

As I looked through the windscreen I came to see the sky was not as blue as my mind had told me. Above the white fluffy clouds I understood, were long, slim, stripy clouds that seemed to come out of a blanket of white.

‘That there is some strong wind’

Turns out my cabbie had been in the Royal Australian Air Force for forty years, and said he can’t turn off the instinct to always look up. Given his experience, I actually learnt quiet a lot in a short cab trip.

It seems to be a week for me of remembering things in song. As I quickly type this post I’m reminded of the lyrics from my favourite Bob Dylan song… ‘The answermy friend, is blowin’ in the wind’

Posted by on December 4, 2017

The holes in our hearts

Today my mind wondered back to early primary school. The lyrics sounded so grown-up as we sat cross-legged and the choir started…

‘There’s a song in my heart for the one I love best
And her picture is tattooed all over my chest’

I was excited when I too sang those words in later primary, but then, as we began to learn about metaphors, disappointed to learn the song wasn’t about a tattoo. Perhaps the other lyrics should have given it away?

I am delighted to have found this YouTube video – the song as I recall it, with the exception of one word.

It took me a while to find it though – I first searched using the opening line as I incorrectly remembered it – ‘There’s a hole in my heart.’

As adults we come to accept that we lose the ones we love best. They became the metaphorical holes in our hearts, and for some of us, our literal tattoos.

Yo ho little fishy don’t cry don’t cry’

Posted by on December 3, 2017

You don’t have to read

I love Karen’s one-liners from the TV show Will & Grace. One of my favourites is ‘Honey, I don’t read. I’m read to.’

As someone who loves physical books I was a bit slow to embrace audiobooks, but now I ‘read’ so much more. It’s never been easier to reap the benefits of books without reading.

Of all the excuses for not reading, not having time is the easiest to overcome. ‘Reading’ while driving instead of listening to the radio is just one example of using time you already have – this is how I first got into podcasts. You can imagine how excited I was to find ‘two young Aussie blokes that read a book each week and then share the best bits’ on their podcast – check out What You Will Learn.

Using my Audible subscription, I recently revisited the first self help book I was ever given (The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz) in just two and a half hours. Road trips are excellent opportunities to catch up on reading and my bookshelves aren’t gaining weight.

Thanks Karen, I’m sold!

Posted by on December 2, 2017

Stop grabbing all the free stuff

It’s easy to spot someone who goes to a lot of conferences. How so? It’s their indifference to all the promotional items laid out for the taking at the trade stands. They see most of it for what it is – a bunch of cheap crap.

A conference provides opportunity for personal and professional development. It’s not about stuffing your haul of pens and water bottles into an ‘eco bag’ with its cleverly placed logo.

If you attend a conference, think about how all this plastic stuff aligns with the experience of the day. Bear in mind the sponsorship dollars from the companies that set up the trade stands likely paid for the keynote speaker and fancy lunch. So, give back.

Don’t just grab the free crap, chat with the representatives. They could have something of real value to offer. Of course what they say could sound like a bunch of nonsense, so challenge them. Ask questions. They deserve a chance to practise.

Before asking politely if you can take a stress ball, why not share some of your insights from the conference?

Posted by on December 1, 2017

How to fail well

  1. Accept that you have failed.
  2. Assess by how much you have failed.
  3. Realise you probably haven’t failed and move on to the next thing.

After discussing some ideas with a friend, I was grateful when he reminded me of the following quote.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas Edison

Posted by on November 30, 2017

Just YouTube it!

I once asked my housemate what she knew on a specific topic. It turned out very little, but she imparted some wisdom – ‘J.F.G.I.’ – Just F’n Google It. Sometimes we forget just how much information is available at the touch of our fingers.

But Google is far from fool-proof. For one, the amount of information it opens up can lead to overwhelm. Recently I was setting up for a seminar with a brand new laptop. No matter what I tried I could not get the sound to work through the room’s speakers and the venue staff were equally puzzled. So I took to Google…

The tonne of information seemed promising, but ultimately confused the task in front of me.  As time ticked by I became panicked. Luckily, I recalled the wisdom in something my teenage nephew had said – ‘There’s a YouTube video for everything.’

I put the same search parameters in YouTube and voilà, videos that showed me step by step what I needed to do. Best of all, I could clearly see how long each video was. A three-minute investment of my time and the venue had sound.

Posted by on November 29, 2017

The third time is a charm

Do you ever catch yourself thinking ‘third time lucky’ or ‘things happen in threes?’

Before working in my current role where public speaking is my bread and butter, I remember being amazed when a former colleague got up and delivered a speech with a minute’s notice. When I asked him how he said, “It’s easy. Talk to three points and end with a call to action.”

I was fortunate to hear someone with a background in behavioural science speak recently. One thing I learned is that three is an optimal amount, any more pieces of information at once and we can become overwhelmed, particularly if we’re asked to make a decision. Ever notice how often we are presented with only three options?

Stop, look, listen.

You will find ‘the rule of three’ is everywhere!

Posted by on November 28, 2017

We’re not here to tick boxes

Way back in 2002 I taught English as a foreign language in Japan. We taught from text books and the lessons were repetitive. We awarded a pass or fail for each lesson. Students started at a level based on their ability and progressed on to the next. Naturally, there were students you hoped to avoid. I recall comments like “not her, she’s never going to go up a level.”

One day I was assigned a student  in one of the lowest levels who was said to have failed more lessons than any other. Rather than the usual three to one student to teacher ratio, it it turned out to be one on one. To my surprise, the first thing she said was “No lesson. Conversation.”

This was the first of several one on one ‘lessons.’ I would love to say I have wonderful memories of each, but I rolled my eyes many times at not being able to tick the pass box. Did she care about pass or fail? I doubt it. On paper, she was not capable of conversation, yet I got to know her better than any other student (including those whose English vocabulary rivalled my own).

Toward the end of my time in that job she revealed her greatest fear.  She was in her sixties, her husband had passed away and she was the principal carer for their intellectually disabled daughter. She worried who would look after her when she died. Tears welled for us both that lesson, but I don’t recall them falling.

We are not here to tick boxes. We are here for moments of connection.

Posted by on November 27, 2017

Start something and keep going

I delivered a presentation and afterward a colleague said to me “I could never do what you do. You’re a natural.” What a load of BS.

I was happy to take the compliment, but I reject the she couldn’t do it too – my abilities did not come naturally! Just like most people, I used to fear public speaking. I did what everyone has to do when you either have to do something or you want to do it. I started.

I remember the first time I spoke in front of a large group of people. I was nervous to the point of almost being sick, my knees were knocking together because my legs shook so much and my voice was crackly. I was awful! Success that day was simply having done it.

If you want to do something, do it. Accept that when you start you are learning. Observe, practise, try things and see how they go.  Know that it’s normal to begin badly. What doesn’t work is part of the momentum that moves you forward as you continually make improvements.

There will be times when you ‘pause,’ but you don’t have to stay stopped. There is much to be said about ‘keeping going.’

A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence. James N. Watkins