I am blogging daily for 60 days (27/11/17 - 26/01/18). My intention is to deliver a positive message with each short post.
It is in my nature to want to help, so I appreciate it when people feel they can talk to me.
I also recognise that there are conversations when people just want to be heard – they aren’t looking to me for a solution, which is fine.
However, there is also a well-known saying that ‘misery loves company.’ As much as I want to help, I don’t have the time or energy to be this kind of company. Moving forward, I have decided to roll out the following two questions as needed…
- What are you going to do about it?
- Would you like my opinion?
(Some days are harder than others to stay positive – you don’t need people dragging you down)
There are times when I feel broken, and I’m fine with that.
When exactly are we supposed to feel that we are finally ‘put together’?
Is it the moment right before we die when we finally feel whole?
If so, I am not committed to a lifetime of waiting. I have simply decided that I am good enough now.
Want to join me?
Rather than a tiny soap or ugly dispenser attached to a wall, which I have come to expect, I thought it odd that the bathroom had a big, pump pack bottle of body wash. I have many wonderful memories of a Great Ocean Road trip we did last year, including my favourite accommodation in Port Fairy and their delightfully fragrant body wash. ‘It smells like musk stick lollies,’ I gushed, ‘we have to buy this for home!’ Best of all, I knew the brand and what it stood for – Thankyou.
If you’re not familiar, Thankyou is a social enterprise that gives 100% of profits to people in need. It is remarkable how their products have found a place in markets already saturated – it’s no small feat to be on the shelves of the major supermarkets. The campaigning to ensure this happened, and Thankyou’s vision moving forward, is inspiring. If you’ve not yet checked out their website, it’s worth a look.
Keen to learn more about Thankyou, and to make a difference, I bought a copy of ‘First Chapter’ by co-founder Daniel Flynn from their website.I’m an advocate of audiobooks, so I was wrapped to be able to buy a copy in this format too!
Each time I use that body wash I am reminded of a wonderful holiday, to be thankful for all that I have and, most importantly, to give back. The packaging says ‘thanyou’ (for making a difference), also reminding me to keep going.
Do you too believe that most people, if given the chance, want to make a difference? Sometimes, it’s as simple as what brand you choose to buy at the likes of 7-Eleven, Coles and Woolworths.
Four days ago, I set the heading of this post in my list, so I have to stick to it (yes, I know it’s not eloquently worded)
At the time I thought of many things it could be, such as other artist’s work I have bought over the years and hung around my home, so I can see them each day. However, the task is to write about my favourite thing, based on today’s observations.
Whilst it surprised me, in the end the decision was easy. It made me cry at the sadness and beauty of life (vulnerability alert!)
Why was deciding on my favourite thing so easy?
These little plants always remind me of my best friend, who I lived with for years, but is no longer with us. She planted them underneath the steps of the unit where we lived and, unlike anyone else I’ve ever known, called them ‘Billy Goats.’
Today’s decision was based on a feeling, or perhaps a ‘knowing.’ It felt for a brief moment that someone cradled my heart in their hand. It’s moments like these that affirm my belief in a higher power (I am not talking about God, nor am I religious). Such moments are hard to put into words, yet here I go… Looking for something? Hello, here I am. I’m always here.’
Regarding an earlier melancholy post, it’s her name that is literally tattooed on my chest.
How did I realise it was my favourite thing? (What came before my ‘moment’)
Today is a Saturday and also a day when my partner and I garden, so ordinarily it means I take loads of photos on my phone. Today I took just one.
What is my favourite thing to look at? (today, and maybe always)
See for yourself – posted here is my one photo from today. I also posted it to my personal Instagram, with the following text:
Good old vinvcas. I loooove these little guys. Common as anything and pop up everywhere, although this colour not so common. Recently gave this guy a trim so he’s looking pretty good 🙂
I thought this post would be based on observing other drivers on the road, but there was nothing of consequence to note. What I found noteworthy happens inside the car. It’s not just about the driver, but also the passenger/s. I’m talking about conversation.
Something my colleague said today reminded me of the benefit of car trips, ‘I’ll get a lift with you guys, it will give me a chance to get to know you better.’
I certainly enjoyed getting to know new colleagues today, but more than this, I have come to realise their added benefit…
car trip = captive conversation
The word captive may have a negative connotation, but the opportunity could be a positive one – if you have something you need to say, the other person doesn’t have much of a choice but to hear it. Whether or not a conversation ensues, a car trip presents an opportunity other situations don’t afford. It’s not as if 10 minutes into a 45 minute car trip someone can say they suddenly have to leave for a meeting.
Reflecting on this, it made me realise something that hadn’t dawned on me previously – I have known couples over the years who ‘need to get away.’ With the benefit of ‘captive conversation,’ driving to a destination 4 hours away when a similar and arguably better destination is only an hour away suddenly makes sense.
I started today trying to consciously keep an eye out for the person who would fit this post’s criteria of best dressed. I took note of the commuter’s attire on the bus, but as the day marched on, I soon forgot.
At the end of the day though, the choice could not be easier! Never before have I asked to take a photo with someone and had them say ‘of course, just one moment and I’ll grab my cape!’
Best dressed easily goes to…drum roll… Captain Starlight.
Today I had the pleasure of seeing three Starlight Children’s Foundation Captains in action at the Starlight Express Room at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital. The positive energy of the Captains was nothing short of amazing, as they did craft activities with the kids, who for the most part you wouldn’t realise were sick. I was also seriously impressed by their interviewing skills when it came to the main event of the day (the reason I happened to be there)…
Also recorded and broadcast to kids who couldn’t be in the Starlight Express Room, the Captains used their high energy to interview Libby Trickett and Commonwealth Games representatives about the Queen’s Baton. As part of the Queens Baton Relay, the baton made its visit to the room and also circulated to the kids in the wards.
Through big smiles the Captains asked engaging questions of the kids about the baton and kept them actively involved – professionals in sensational outfits. I can’t help but wonder if putting on that silver cape, helps set the right attitude these amazing people must need to do such wonderful work.
I am reminded of the saying, dress the part to act the part. For their part, these guys really are super heroes. Take 2 minutes out to check out an adorable video and the work these guys do: Captain Starlight ‘Fighting For Fun.’
(pictured with one of the Captain Starlights and a work colleague)
I have been in therapy for well over a decade. I always hesitate before revealing such info, but doing so doesn’t make me ‘less than,’ as I used to fear, it just makes me honest.
The last two years of psychotherapy have seemed most significant, but I don’t want to continue going for an hour every fortnight for yet another year – it’s not just the frequency, it’s the intensity. At today’s appointment I made my case. You guessed it; I didn’t get the answer I wanted.
Instead, I had to reflect, not just on the past two years, but the many years prior and how far I have come. I had to look past all the obstacles and recognise the accumulated practices, efforts and achievements that got me to this point. In many ways it was time for a pat on the back and a nudge forward. I have to keep going, despite the discomfort and the dollars.
I do my best to present as a wonderfully ‘put together’ person, and for the most part I’d like to say it’s true. However, we all know that it’s impossible to maintain all the time, even for the best of us. Emotions will always get in the way. At times they will overwhelm us, compromising the happy face we show to the world.
Was I emotional today? Yes. I was far too grumpy and felt like a bit of a mess. When I get this way I want things intellectualised – it helps me feel more in control. To hell with ‘feelings,’ I’d rather try and build some knowledge around ‘things.’
So, long story shortened, I looked at Erik Erikson’s theory of personality – I found this article helpful. Right or wrong, the virtues (hope, will, purpose, competency, fidelity, love, care, wisdom) felt like a roadmap for my own therapy. From what I understand, if something significant goes wrong at a particular point/s, then many people do not achieve success in a particular virtue – they’re certainly not limited to the timeline/ ages stated. In any case, as someone who acknowledges I am not ‘put together,’ reading about all this helped me feel more ‘normal’ (for want of a better word).
This is a longer post than normal, so what exactly am I trying to say? I’m not a quasi-psychologist, so my ‘today’s biggest lesson’ is best said using the words immortalised by the Rolling Stones, ‘you can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you might find you’ll get what you need.’
We learn every single day. It’s not to say we have 365 profound new lessons each year, but with a little daily reflection we can at least deepen our understanding of what we already know, or strengthen our resolve towards what we’ve already undertaken.
Get what you need, even if it’s not what you want. I don’t know what your journey is, but it’s been said many times that it starts with the first step, then you you have to keep going.
Having lunch with a colleague, he mentioned how his little boy is still singing Christmas carols. It reminded me how some of those well known lines are still going through my head – ‘he’s making a list, he’s checking it twice’
Unlike Santa, I have no interest in who’s naughty or nice, but like many people, I’m big on writing to-do lists. I love the feeling of crossing something off a list once it’s done. I’ve even been known to add something already done to a list, just so I can cross it off (and I know I’m not alone lol).
Of all the possible things I could write here, an earlier list made the task of writing 60 posts feel less daunting. In the interest of “making a commitment everyday to notice something and write about that something“ I am again going to write a list. Here goes the titles for the next five days of posts, each to be based on observations that day:
- Today’s biggest lesson
- Best dressed
- My favourite thing to look at
- Thank you
Sometimes committing to a list and putting a timeframe on it is all you need to keep moving forward.
As for today’s to-do list, I really ought to take down the Christmas tree!
I’ve long let go of the idea of being cool, even though I sit at the back of the bus these days! It’s where I can best position myself with my laptop to write, without feeling like anyone is looking over my shoulder. I see it as opportunity to be productive.
Traveling home, I can see most other commuters are conditioned to this environment – phones, iPads and headphones are commonplace, although I wonder how many people simply see their commute as time to be mindlessly entertained. Who am I to judge? There is merit in having time to unwind.
As I write my thoughts for this daily blog, conscious use of time is a concept that keeps coming up. A little planning can go along way – for example, how do you plan to use your phone? Do you reach for it without thinking? If so, could you start by placing it out of reach?
As the bus approaches your stop (literally or otherwise), what simple plans can you make to get the most out of the evening, before setting foot in the front door? What’s stopping you from planning your downtime?
I squished my feet into the sand, as the ocean lapped my legs. A perfect summer day, I could think of no better place to be.
Today we went to Kingscliffe beach, about an hour and a half from home, to catch up with my partner’s extended family. It was for his grandmother’s birthday – a special occasion.
This has become an event we do each year, yet there really is no reason we couldn’t do it more often. Not to mention, there are other beaches even closer! An occasion just the two of us would be magic. We could even take a friend we’d not see for a while. Why wait for a ‘special occasion?’
Today is special, so is next Tuesday. Be spontaneous/ make simple plans.
Some people live at the beach, yet never dip their toes in the ocean. It doesn’t take much to step out of your routine, whether it’s a trip to the beach or something closer to home.
Go for a walk around the block. Seriously, go for a walk and really look.
Take the time to look at your neighbours’ front gardens. Even if you’re not applying the lens of a gardener, there is plenty of to see.
Better yet, what plants have the council planted on the footpath? Chances are they’re low maintenance and many are Australian natives that flower and even fruit. With little effort you can find out what they’re called and plant some in your own garden. Most councils even give away free plants to ratepayers.
Maybe the exotic plants, manicured lawns and topiary bushes in the garden around the corner are more your style, but ‘screw the maintenance!’ you say. You don’t have to grow it to admire it – consider walking past that darling garden as part of your daily routine. Footpaths and council gardens are essentially ours to enjoy too. Had a picnic in a park recently? New Farm Park, by way of example, is A-mazing.
As the saying goes, ‘take time to smell the roses.’ Funny thing though, with all the hybrids and variations optimised for flowering, many have no fragrance!
Pictured is a Tulipwood Tree growing in my backyard. If you look around Brisbane footpaths, including the CBD, you’ll find plenty of these beauties (most of them much bigger).
If you told me in my twenties I would be a gardener, I would not have believed you. Yet here I am a thirty-something with a penchant for home grown flowers and fruit.
When it comes to gardening, I learnt early to cut back. If a plant looks like it’s struggling, I cut off most of its branches (which sadly, may mean some flowers). Without those extremities to send energy to, it often bounces back.
Of course, cutting back is part of good maintenance for some plants, even if it sometimes feels counterintuitive. Pictured are our gardenia bushes, as at today. Despite cutting them back so aggressively, the end result will be beautiful bushy plants come next flowering season. We’ve had great success with this previously, but would not have been game to try it had we not been given the tip from a local nursery guy.
Form the garden to life in general, my thinking here isn’t much of stretch – if a project is dying, you cut back. You eliminate some of what you’re doing so as not to lose it all (even if it means you won’t flower this season).
If a project has come to its conclusion (dare I say, ‘flowered’), are you optimised to do it again? Would you benefit from someone else’s input?
Is there anything you need cut back?
I know what it feels like to be stuck waiting in the shadows for the conditions to be perfect, instead of merely stepping into the light. I have said to myself repeatedly, ‘I’ll do this, when X happens.’
At some point we have to accept that the conditions will never be perfect, and either take action, or not. It’s that simple. Take the first step, and then the next, and if you’re doing something worthwhile, along comes a step that feels more like a leap.
We all experience fear, even if it masquerades as a myriad of other excuses. If you truly want to get ahead, then you have to face your fears. That’s not to say it’s a head on collision – before stepping into the light, or taking that leap, you can simply analyse the situation (emphasis on ‘simply,’ not ‘analysis paralysis’). I have had the benefit of therapy, so I want to impart something my psychiatrist said, ‘you accept that it’s a risk, but realise that it’s safe.’
You might do something and risk looking foolish, you might put a goal out there publicly and not achieve it, but guess what? You still get to do it, and you’re safe (our fears are mostly unfounded). Clearly I’m not talking of barrelling headfirst through a ring of fire, but you can put yourself out there with a healthy dose of ‘this might happen, or this might not work. So what?!’
I have learnt that if I put myself out there, not merely for personal gain, good things can and do happen (even if fear, just like everyone else, smacks me around the side of the head).
Are your excuses stopping you? Why?
Today I went glasses shopping and had intended to go to one store only. I like my frames to be a bit out of the ordinary, so I had researched online prior.
However, my real world experience of this particular optical provider was a disappointment. Like the beautiful pictures online, the glasses were the star, and that’s where they got it wrong. I’m the star! So why was there not one decent mirror?
The walls had black mirrors only, so it was like looking at myself in the dark. I had my contacts in so I was fine, but had it escaped them that glasses are generally devices to help people see? With only a few small shaving mirrors, it was too hard to get a read on what the frames looked like on! What’s more, the staff seemed more interested in complimenting the glasses than helping me choose a pair that actually suited.
I have worn glasses since I was eleven, so I have seen plenty of changes in that time, but this is the first time I have observed an optical provider optimised for the online experience, at the expense of the in person shopper.
In the end I went elsewhere and leveraged the expertise of an optical dispenser who helped me to find the perfect pair. Interestingly, if I had seen this same pair online, I most certainly would not have picked them. Without help, it’s unlikely I would have found them in store either.
If I come to you to buy something, it’s because I want more than what you offer online. Please make it all about me and maximise the in person experience!
I also can’t help but reflect on the fact that stores have an identity, and question how well staff are attuned to this? Is it about the product or the customer? Do they leverage trends or experience?
In any case, help us look and feel like the stars we are 😉
It feels as if I should write about New Years resolutions, only I think they’re stupid. Why limit when you start something to just one day in the year? If you break your resolution, then what? Wait until the 1st of January the following year?
Work out what you want, it doesn’t matter what day of the year it is!
Grab a pen and paper and write down your goals/ dreams – just by doing this you are more likely to succeed (there is science behind doing this, see this Huffington Post article for example).
However, don’t just write down some goals. If you really want to achieve them, go deeper.
Why + We = closer to success
Someone else asking you why a goal is important, not just once, but repeatedly after your first answer, will get you closer to the heart of that goal. And if you fail to reach that goal (or have failed in the past) someone else asking you ‘why not,’ can potentially be even more profound.
I first learnt about the power of ‘Why?’ (asked five times) when I did this exercise with a stranger, at a workshop I attended by Keith Abraham in 2016. If you are looking for a wealth of goal-setting resources, I encourage you to check out his website.
Why not today?
I hope that you too reflect on all the positives to come out of 2017.
Australia, we legalised same sex marriage! Whilst I don’t believe the plebiscite was the right way to go about it, the outcome was a massive win, and I look forward to being legally married in 2018!
My highlights of the year include going on a cruise with my parents and memories made with my partner, family and friends. If you know me well, or are familiar with my first blog, you will know how important fundraising for Polished Man has been to me. This October I formed team ‘Go Build A Bridge,’ and together we raised $3233 and the campaign overall raised $1.65million to help end violence against children.
A significant learning for me this year is how much power there is in this simple word… we
On hearing ‘we,’ it can make us feel apart of something bigger than ourselves. On saying that word, it can make others feel included. There were times when I didn’t feel as confident as I needed to be, particularly with my fundraising efforts, and I can’t begin to tell you how much strength I got from being able to say ‘we’ and not ‘I.’ Perhaps that sounds like a small thing, but I can assure it’s not.
Thank you to all the wonderful people who have been a part of my life in 2017, much love for 2018.
It seems fitting to summarise what I did today with a Haiku.
Enormous web search
Accommodation at large
Studio in place
Cherry blossom dream
Three travellers set for March
Gold Coast to Japan
Want to apply a little creativity to daily life? Write a Haiku, and don’t stop at one! They’re easy…
SYLLABLES, use five
This line, you must use two more
This line, same as first.
The internet is teeming with Haiku poems. I found a great selection by one author that is both amusing and dark – cheek out Haiku for Disgruntled Worker Drones.
I have decided that ‘More or Less’ will be the title of my 2018 solo exhibition, to be held in October. It’s not a question, it’s a statement that says, in other words, ‘that’s about right.’
I recently reviewed the about page on my first serious blog, to see if it’s still ‘about right.’If I were to make a change, it is perhaps to ‘I want to make a difference.’ There’s nothing wrong with this statement, but here’s a better one…
‘I am making a difference’
This past year I have spent less time ‘wanting’ and more time doing. Don’t wait for perfect, do! About right is fine.
Perfect is the enemy of good – Voltaire
I would like to share with you my favourite quote…
It is never too late to be what you might have been. – George Elliot
I love that quote for a number of reasons:
- Since I was ten years old, I have wanted to be a published author. These words clearly tell me that it’s not too late.
- It’s a quote by a published author!
- There is an irony in ‘being what you might have been’ – George Eliot was not who he pretended to be. George Eliot is the pen name of Mary Anne Evans, a leading writer of the Victorian era, who used a male name to ensure her work was taken seriously.
No star is ever lost we once have seen,
We always may be what we might have been.
In either case, I have taken those words to heart. What’s your favourite quote?
I recall a rather one-sided conversation with a woman at a party. She took pleasure in telling me that she was a painter and used the finest quality paints. She was scathing of artists who use cheap ‘student quality’ paints. Somehow she had equated the quality of her work with the quality of the materials.
I recall nothing of what sort of paintings she made, or why she made art, just her focus on using the best ‘artist quality’ paint and putting down other painters. In my mind, she is misguided.
It is possible to make great art with limited resources – consider Ian Fairweather’s contribution to Australian Art using paint purchased from the hardware store and cardboard.
Moreover, who wants to engage in conversation about art (or anything for that matter) if it’s more about putting someone else’s work down, rather than discussing the work itself (not the materials, the work.)
I should have questioned her more about her art. Instead, I took pleasure in her look of horror when I told her I paint chenille bedspreads and prime them with house paint.
Both my parents are now elderly and with that comes the thought, what if this is or last Christmas?
I am grateful the whole family comes together, as it’s one of the rare occasions that we do.
We all have enough stuff, so presents mean little. Instead, we hang and ‘do stuff.’ Pool (billiards) and shuffleboard were the games of choice this year. As a present (yes I do give gifts despite my rants) we gave them Banagram. Something we look forward to playing on our next visit.
When it comes to family, spending time together is what’s most valuable. Whist there will always be some awkwardness (at least if my own and every family I have ever known is anything to go by) playing games is a great way to do something fun that crosses generations.
Sink balls, make words, play cards or whatever it is you choose to do there are so many options to add some fun to spending time with loved ones. Games bring laughter, so even the reluctant family friends tend to gather around.
Who needs a Christmas tree?
Image: ‘Disco Pineapple’ 2017
If you’re curious, it took more than five years for that pineapple to grow in a pot. I have never looked forward to eating a pineapple as much!
It’s not just the top you cut off your pineapple, so many plants will grow from cuttings.
Plant something, see if it grows. Who knows what you could be hanging baubles off next year!
It’s the time of year when we’re encouraged to go mad for stuff. We’re even marketed stocking ‘stuffers.’
I’m not a fan of meaningless crap – stuff for the sake of stuff. As an adult in control of my finances, I am grateful that family and friends keep the exchange of gifts pretty reigned in.
Working in a job that focuses on financial wellbeing, I can’t help but question why so many people put themselves even more in the debt for unnecessary stuff, not just for themselves, but so many others. Does buying Christmas gifts for only a few people mean you don’t care enough? If you put a sensible dollar limit on gifts, do you not love the person as much?
If it’s the thought that counts, what does it say when large families and friends insist on gifts for everyone? Not thinking?
Perhaps crazy spending is why so many people call it ‘the silly season.’
Today I spent the most of the day in the kitchen cooking. Ordinarily I would object, but Christmas is when I get to make my greatest hits and then sit around feasting with loved ones, who bring their finest fairs.
Take time to do the things that bring joy to others, and be grateful when others do the same for your enjoyment.
Memories are often made over a good meal (someone’s got to prepare the food!) Merry Christmas
There will be times in life when it feels like the red carpet has been rolled out for you. Walk it; enjoy it; bask in the spotlight, because life ensures that there will be moments when the rug (or the same red carpet) will be ripped out from under your feet.
We will all fall flat on your face at some point, some of us with the spotlight still on us. You have to get back up, sometimes while the audience gathers around you. If you’re lucky there’s a hand or hands reaching to help you back on your feet.
Can you think of the hands that helped you up in the past? If you fall, who is there? Maybe it’s nota someone who is right there with you. We live in a world where there is more connection than ever – What would you reach for? How would you reach out?
As for me, it’s time to pay it forward and be the metaphorical hand that is reached for.
It is with good reason Brene Brown’s TED talk “The power of vulnerability” has become one of the most watched of all time. Even if you’ve see it before I encourage you to watch it again.
Within the talk she talks about the fundamental human need we all have, which is connection.
Why else am I writing these posts or making artwork, if not for connection? I made a commitment to do this every day and the clock is ticking, so some quick thoughts.
I want to connect in a big way. I want to become a motivational speaker and at some point deliver a TEDx talk. Why?
Because I would like to connect with that broken, forgotten kid (even if they have turned into an adult) that was discounted. I want to tackle head on the belief that once you achieve your dreams someone will be there to tear them away.
This is a less than prefect post, but the words here are honest. I showed up and I wrote.
This morning I watched a few TED talks, and recalled how I was first introduced to them…
The facilitator kept saying the word and I had no idea what she was referring to. I wasn’t about to pull out my phone and Google it, so I asked politely, ‘what is TED?’
She gave a brief explanation and moved on. It was a professional development session for a group of us who worked as public speakers, so it was perhaps fair to assume we would know.
Was I afraid of looking stupid by asking the question? No.
I could have used the excuse that I was still fairly new to the industry, but who cares? You’ve heard of something, after the first time you’ve heard about it!
Apparently everyone else in that room was already familiar with TED talks, and some of their looks told me so. When I heard someone say ‘I can’t believe he didn’t know,’ did I care? No.
If they needed to feel smart by knowing, then good for them. You know something, when you know it!
This morning I did a search on TED talks about how to give a TED talk. Here’s a great blog post by Catriona Pollard with links to five. Since checking out these talks, here’s something new I now know about TED…
Talks on ted.com are edited down from the original talks. The reason is to avoid all the distractions that come with being online, so practices include cutting introductions to open on more engaging content and editing out ‘ums’ and ‘ahs.’ That may be obvious to some, but it wasn’t to me!
Keep asking simple questions, and if you want to procrastinate, yet still feel you’re doing something useful, go to ted.com! You’ll find a wealth of knowledge and ideas.
Last week I trialled a workshop – I delivered a practice session with the purpose of getting feedback. I was surprised when one attendee took a dump and run approach – their feedback was provided in short sharp fire followed by ‘see you later.’ No questioning, no listening – it felt useless.
I was grateful when someone else set aside some time and asked some familiar questions, including ‘What do you feel worked well?’ and ‘What would you do differently next time.’ Awesome, I thought, some coaching – she recognised that I already had some awareness of what did and didn’t work and we could build on that. It was an exchange of questioning and listening.
More than this, a coach can potentially observe in us what we don’t see ourselves – the most valuable takeaway from my coaching session was an awareness of how I move. ‘There is always room for improvement’ – I’m now focusing how I can move intentionally to enhance my presentations.
I’m a big fan of TED talks, and sometimes watch them multiple times, listening for repetition (and now observing movement also!) Watching ‘Want to get great at something? Get a coach,’ I noted this phrase repeated – ‘it’s how good you’re going to be that really matters.’ Atul Gawande’s talk is rich with examples, and addresses the fundamental question ‘How do professionals get better at what they do?’
It’s a fair point to make that many people become professionals through formal education, but from there may cease to make significant improvements (or adequately develop others) without some coaching.
I’m no expert, but I can certainly attest to the benefits of receiving coaching. Look out 2018!
There is a lot to be said for showing up and putting in the work. If you make a commitment to doing something and that something has a timeline, deliver!
You may produce something that’s not your finest work, but it may well teach you something. It could mean you end up seeing something that may otherwise never have come to be.
I found myself in the studio making a single artwork for months on end. If I broke the time I spent down it would probably look a little like this:
Time spent on a single painting:
20% = Good Painting
80% = Better Painting
So, just like I am forcing myself to bang out this post, I now go into the studio and produce works in a single sitting. Time spent: whatever time I have to spare for that day only. The results aren’t perfect, but over time I will have a body of work. I see them differently and i can later decide to come back and make some tweaks (or not!)
Recently I binge listened to podcast interviews of Seth Godin, arguably the world’s best daily blogger. I accepted a suggestion he made at the end of one such interview (Louder Than Words Podcast)…
‘I would suggest that people blog every single day…make a commitment everyday to notice something and write about that something in a way that doesn’t benefit you, but benefits someone else…do that everyday for 60 days without measuring it, just to do it, just to see how it feels, just to be naked. My bet is that if you can start down that path, you might not end up being a blogger, but you will end up being someone who can speak their truth with more confidence.’ – Seth Godin
My Reason #2: To become more confident speaking my truth. I feel I have made progress here by sharing simple stories and observations – times when I’ve been vulnerable (‘be naked’ as he says). I have decided to make post #60 ‘My Truth.’
The Takeaway: It’s not all about me! There is a wealth of free education and resources out there, which you too can access. In a way, you can be mentored by someone you admire. Consider searching for a particular person (as I did Seth Godin) in ‘All Podcasts’ and hear a variety people interview them. Despite the questions, it’s also interesting to listen to what they say consistently. It’s also a great way to discover some great Podcasts (it’s how I found What You Will Learn).
Oh, and check out Seth’s daily blog!
Geoff Goins is the first person whose work spoke to the core of what I wanted – to write and publish a book. In his most recent book ‘Real Artist’s Don’t Starve,’ he wrote:
As a new father and lawyer, John Grisham woke up early every morning, went to his office, and wrote a page of his novel. That was his goal. One page per day for 365 days in a row, without fail. It took three years, but by the end of that time, he had completed the manuscript for his first book, A Time to Kill.
No only does this speak to the fact you don’t need to take a big risk by quitting your day job, but it speaks to something I know first hand to be true – consistent action over time yields results. Thanks to my recent efforts toward ‘Home James,’ what was to be my first book, I learnt what is possible. So, why now, blog daily?
Reason # 1: It gets me back into the habit of writing every day. I have decided to self publish a book by June, so this is an important practice!
The Takeaway: There will never be ‘enough time,’ so decide on what you want, and do a bit towards it everyday. Carve out a little time, as Grisham did, or find some time you already have.
A repressed kid from regional Queensland, I first heard Pet Shop boy’s version of ‘Go West’ when I caught a glimpse of some Mardi Gras footage on TV. Amongst all the hate-speak I had to endure growing up, and the self-hatred I felt, that song was a beacon of hope.
Around the age of 15, I did what felt like my first ‘out’ thing – I went to Sanity to buy that song. When I couldn’t find the CD single, I bought the album! ‘Very’ became the most significant album of my youth – every song, and every word, was a window to a world I longed for.
I am a firm believer in a positive attitude, but it’s hard to maintain all the time. What do you do when your mood drops and you need to quickly recharge the batteries?
I grab my earphones, choose the right song and listen to it up real load – a brief jolt out of my current situation, and the happy face returns. We can create such strong associations with songs – they can become our anchors in the storm.
These days we don’t need to dig through the dusty CDs – a quick look on Spotify/ iTunes and you can be reconnected with an important track from your past. I still put on ‘Very’ and draw on the strength I mustered as a teenager.
If for no other reason than a song makes you happy, use it as your go to! For weeks now my routine has included listening to Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ at the start of each morning.
What songs are on your Happy playlist?
In my day job I present seminars. Here is some of what I’ve learnt…
It’s natural to want the entire audience to understand all of the content, but it’s not realistic. You could go over something in great detail and then doubt they have understood. Call it out!
For example, ‘I know we went through that case study quickly. Looking around the room I could tell some of you got lost. That’s normal, particularly if this is new information. What I want you all to understand are the benefits of X and the reasons why someone might do this.’
You can check in with an audience by asking if they have any questions. You could ask, ‘did that make sense?’ However, yes/no questions have limited affect. Stop using them where possible.
I have found it best to ask the audience questions that confirm understanding (and call on more than one person.) For example, ‘I’m looking to you for the answers. What are three benefits of what we’ve just discussed?’ or ‘Can you tell me three reasons someone might do this?’
The benefit of implementing such techniques made sense to me based on something I had heard much earlier…
Smart people ask simple questions (they’re not afraid of looking stupid)
Simple people either don’t ask questions ,or they try and ask complex questions in order to look smart (they are afraid of looking stupid)
As a presenter, questions from the floor can be challenge, but there is nothing stopping you from asking questions from the stage. The answer to someone’s question can even start with a question!
I want to close on something one of my high school English teachers said repeatedly – K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid)
On 16th September 2015, I took a big step. The journey since, although not always easy, has been worth it.
On that day, I shared with one other person my goal to write a book, handing over a piece of paper with the following printed, word for word:
The Man in the Mirror
Overcoming childhood trauma as an adult
This is a story about getting a book published, a book promised and groomed for as a child but not delivered.
This story is punctuated by a body of artworks and writings done over many years, many of which have been lying in wait to be revealed.
I have attempted to summarise in a single sentence my art practice and in turn this book – The intensely personal turned inside out.
Of myself I am the harshest critic and I have asked myself if this project is selfish and self-indulgent? However, I have chosen to put myself out there, to share my story and what I have learned, in the hope that what I write and what I do moving forward will help others.
Almost every work day for two years, I went to the same coffee shop. Not because they had the best coffee, but mostly because they used my name.
When one person left, they imparted the name knowledge on to the next, and there was no awkwardness. That is, until the next new staff member started. She was polite, but asked me my name enough times for the magic to be gone. Had no one clued her in that she could have written my name on my loyalty card?
The lure of slightly better coffee around the corner, even though they don’t remember my name, was enough to get me to switch. Although, theses days I only go when I really need a proper brew. I have missed the morning cheer that comes with the sound of my own name.
That is, until last week. There is a new receptionist at work, who brightens my day each morning. She uses my name! And this morning, I even learnt that each day of the week has a name…
…Marvellous Monday, Terrific Tuesday, Wonderful Wednesday, Tremendous Thursday and Fabulous Friday.
Morning cheer returned, and without the cost of a coffee!
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 the post ‘Start something and keep going,’ and spoke of persistence. I’m not about to contradict myself – pursuing that ‘something’ involves quitting things when they have served their purpose.
People quit their jobs to pursue their careers all the time. You don’t have to keep doing all of what you’re doing now. Life is not about doing just one thing either. Your passion could lead to something else, even as you continue your country music career (or whatever your jam is).
Did you know many kids don’t even know Dolly as the country singer? They know her 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 book ‘Dream More’ on audio, it’s perfect for a short road trip).
There are times when quitting is the best option – it allows you to persist at what really matters. Plan how you quit where possible. You don’t have to write a song, but you should be able to articulate why you’re quitting and what you’re moving on to. That’s winning.
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.
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.
‘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’
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 answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind’
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’
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!
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?
- Accept that you have failed.
- Assess by how much you have failed.
- 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
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.
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!
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.
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