One of the many things my parents taught me was compassion. This mostly dealt with compassion for others with the assumption that I would have compassion for myself – an incorrect supposition it turned out! But I’ve gradually gotten there and am trying to be easier on myself. But the compassion for others still remains, yet sometimes that compassion is undeserved.
As I meet more people around the world, extending my networks of friends, I meet a lot of people with conviction. Sometimes it’s conviction that is short term like travelling to Macchu Picchu for example, sometimes longer term such as walking the length of the earth or cycling the Pan-American, other times its writing a book or starting a business, but the essence is that you do what you’ll say you’ll do. You decide you want to achieve something and you do it. Compassion comes into play when unforeseen circumstances prevent the immediate completion of the task at hand, but one way or another, if someone says they’re going to do something, I expect it to be done. Increasingly though, this doesn’t happen. For your mental health, this can only be detrimental.
The task at hand doesn’t have to be as inspirational as climbing Everest, completing a four-minute mile or being a millionaire by the time you’re thirty years old <Ed – are you pretending you’re less than thirty now?>, yet even something as simple as dieting or exercise people still find excuses for. I don’t have the time, I don’t have the money, I don’t have the . . . conviction. If you want to be healthier and lose weight, change your diet and go for a walk on occasion. That’s all you need to do – this is even more prevalent given that once again Steptember is upon us. If you want to learn another language then you have to study, if you want to write you have to start writing. Just don’t make excuses. There are back problems and foot problems and hatred of a salad problems that cause people to step back and choose an easier path. And I think that’s the true nature of it. It is easier to make excuses than have the will power and conviction to see your goals become reality.
Don’t make excuses for yourself, start making things happen for yourself.
My current organisation, along with almost every large company in Australia, has embarked on a huge digitisation and automation program, and in turn reducing labour across the business by as much as a quarter. So what the hell then is digitisation and automation?
Essentially process improvement by a fancier name. Earnst & Young have a great paper on it, which makes me think that E&Y, KPMG and the like just dreamt it up, branded is with something new and whacked the concept out to the market. It’s like spruiking the best private fire brigade in the business whilst your subsidiary offers discount Molotov cocktails.
Digitisation is the natural progression of everything technology: the only people that fill out forms any more are the people that want the product i.e. you and me. Great examples of digitisation are things such as barcodes that enable you to scan almost anything and it will tell you all the vital details. No more looking things up on a database, it’s all done for you. Another would be paying by credit card instead of using actual money – why carry around all those notes and spare coins when one card does it all? When you think about it, it’s everywhere.
The human only needs to deal with the crap that can’t be met with the business rules, which they’re trying to automate to reduce the amount of work that person has to do. A prime example would be driving, which up until about ten years ago was pure fancy. And yet! Accidents on the roads caused by humans means huge slow-downs in productivity (kinematic wave equations for traffic illustrate those magic traffic jams for no reason whatsoever), yet if all cars are talking to one another, they could all go at the maximum speed limits. In the corporate world it’s generally the automation of moving data from one system to another, especially if the company is large and old.
So there you go, down with the human, long live the technology! No humans mean no labour costs, no sick pay, no pension plan, no weekend rates and no one getting pregnant. An employer’s dream! And that’s where the universal minimum wage comes in. Maybe. But it will all be down to the individual and whether as humans we cock the entire thing up or we march towards progress making our lives less burdensome, enabling us to take up more activities to waste time. Whilst I would welcome the automated car (I could get some reading done, how wonderful), I have a friend that has spent hundreds of dollars automating the lights in the house. I’ll keep the switch for now, putting my book made of paper down and get off my ever increasing wobbly-bottom to turn it on. But progress is coming, look out behind you!
It’s been a common maxim amongst Australians in the last few years since an Australian Of The Year stated ‘the standard you walk by is the standard you accept’. If you walk by a situation or someone in need and don’t do something, don’t feel something, then you’re accepting that as part of society, that its ‘just the way it is.’ Whether it’s domestic violence or poverty or racism, as human beings we need to stand-up for what we believe is right. We don’t know the circumstances sometimes, so we only have a few seconds to make a call. With my pride bubbling, I would like to say how impressed I was of my girlfriend’s reaction to seeing a woman wearing a burka being verbally abused on the tram (am not entirely sure if verbs were in fact used as I wasn’t there, but let’s say there was). The antagonist was a man clearly on some drugs, yet the outcome was the same. A large man stepped in first and told him to be quiet, but once the defendant got off at a stop, the abuser continued. So my girlfriend stepped in too to protect the woman, despite not having the impacting presence of a large figure and most likely (being Asian) to suffer racist abuse herself. Now the woman in the burka didn’t say anything, she didn’t need to, but I hope that she realised not all people are arseholes, and that Australia is a welcoming multi-cultural society of tolerance, not of spite. And that underneath it all, people give a shit.
And so it’s with some embarrassment that I relay my own story. In spotting a man sat down under a blanket on the street opposite our Parliament building, I reached inside my pocket for some change – usually I have none and barely even carry cash any more. Yet today I knew I had a fifty-cent coin that could do with a home so I dropped in my money to this man’s battered paper coffee cup. As I did that, the homeless man raised hands from underneath his blanket to type on his mobile phone. He didn’t notice me pass. The fifty cents clinked loudly amongst the other gold and silver coins in the cup, and I noticed a rogue $1 coin left strewn on the pavement behind the view of the phone. I almost walked back for my fifty cents I was so annoyed, but it’s funny analysing it as I continued my stroll home, with multiple personalities jostling one another:
Why wasn’t that man grateful for my fifty-cent donation? I should at least have received a thank you!
What do you want, a cake? A hug? You gave away fifty cents, you tight sod! Why should he be grateful, he didn’t ask for money from you did he? You gave it!
He’s got an iPhone! Pisses all over your three years old Samsung Galaxy with a cracked screen eh?
That could be his only possession in the world, relax! . . . remember that homeless man that used to sit there with his MacBook?
He’s got so much money he can’t even keep the place tidy by putting the spilled $1 in the cup
You want a man begging on the street to be tidy? You have issues, Reed
I was recently made aware of the excellent page which is written by women for women to protect themselves online. Worth a read if you have time, thanks Jane Hernandez for bringing it my attention.
For more information on homelessness in Australia, check out homelessnessaustralia.org and the ever excellent redcross
I attended a delightful BCW (Brilliantly Connected Women) power-lunch the other week, an event which attracts about three men in support of their female colleagues, who in turn number about fifty. The aim is quite simple: empower women to connect with one another, learn from one another and progress in their careers. The speaker this week was a lady in sync with my own thought processes of getting away from yourself to find yourself. In her case, she embarked on an ambitious 800km pilgrim trek in Spain in which she reassessed her life and found a little bit of zen to boot. It’s a wonderful feeling.
She took two months off to pursue this adventure, a leap of faith for her as it was an insurmountable time off (for me, no!). In talking of her career and focusing on behaviour and attitude that got her to where she is today, this sparked a woman in attendance to question why she was always pigeon holed in her career. A programmer of some twenty years standing, she was bright enough to know exactly what she needed to do, but had got to a point of not seeing the forest for the trees. To close to the action to see the action, as it were. This made me think of the differentiators between us all: not just gender or appearance, but behaviour. What do others do differently in their approach to situations and life? Here are mine:
1.Television – For me, I barely watch it. If my housemate hadn’t brought a television, I probably wouldn’t have one at all. I don’t watch Game of Thrones, Vikings, never seen a single episode of Breaking Bad, or any series really right back to the Sopranos. I do though love films and adore going to the cinema perhaps once a month. I see day to day television of very little value. Same could be applied with computer games. . .
2.News – See ‘television’. The amount of news thrust upon us every day is staggering: 24-hour news to remain instantly connected with every human being on the planet about every single thing. Do you need access to such an amazing conglomeration of news? Probably not. Once a day is enough. I once went 7 months without reading a single piece of news: no newspapers, no internet webpages, no news channels. What happened in that 7 months? There was some flooding in Houston 12,000 miles away from where I lived. I think that’s about it. When news was brought up at lunch time, people were more than happy to explain what was going on in the world, most of it of little consequence.
3.Time – It’s the most important thing you will ever possess. Use it wisely, which is why the first two points exist at all. Don’t do things because you feel encumbered, do them because you want to do them. You don’t have to offer people excuses. Sometimes ‘sorry I can’t make it’ is enough, although if you have a family or partner, then sometimes you have to suck some eggs to keep the peace!
4.Excuses – Don’t be the person that says “I’d love to be able to do that”. Usually there is nothing that stops you doing anything you set your mind to, but you’re too distracted by television, the news or, let’s face it, being lazy. I don’t buy into the mindset that ‘oh I’m not a numbers person’ or ‘I’m not very creative’. Put in the hard yards. Personally, I’d love to be a travel writer reporting and exploring he world. But I know also that many, many people want to do that, and even if you make it, the money to be made isn’t that good. Very few writers actually make a proper living. However, I can achieve my aims of travel through working at a good, well-paid job (enough for me, anyway) I don’t love but do thoroughly enjoy – the aspects of training and mentoring others, of problem solving to find a solution – and I write in my spare time which I love. Having travelled extensively for long periods, I know that I would get tired. Would travel-writing as a job become a chore as opposed a joy if there was a deadline? Perhaps.
5.Don’t take your job too seriously – Most of us are in a position where if we perform badly at our job, people don’t die. I certainly am. And yet the stress we bring home because of an email or report or office politics is staggering. Find a way to leave it there. I have a thirty-minute walk to work and back. During that period I’ve stopped taking phone calls, checking my phone or reading emails, anything other than just walking. This relaxes me and gives me a good wind-down before I start or finish work.
6.Privileges - Financially people voluntarily put themselves into debt to have the things they want and believe they need. I have no car (or rather, before I brought my Land Cruiser for my antipodeanadventure.com, I had no car!), I don’t own a house, I have no debts, I save money where I can. I don’t gamble, drink or smoke – god I sound boring! - and actually, oddly, don’t really like possessing ‘things’. My laptop and camera remain my prized possessions, with various hard-drives for photos etc. But if push came to shove I could leave everything I have with a small bag. I like that. I enjoy the fact I don’t need much to be happy. I don’t think I’ll ever need the escape factor though! The more people depend on their income, the more rigid and less risks they can take i.e. I can’t risk losing my job because of the mortgage, because of the school fees, because of the car payments or credit cards. You then start to think ‘I’m luck to have this job’ rather than, as it should be, ‘they are lucky to have me.’
None of the above makes me better or worse than anyone else, it's just my path and what helps me along my journey. What are yours?
Thought I'd share a few things from my travels which prevail through life. Or at least they do for me:
Try - Regretting something you didn’t do will eat away at you more than the stuff you tried and got wrong. I hiked for 5hrs in snow uphill to find the path was closed at the top and I could do nothing but come back down again. I started a business, spent a lot of money, 8 months of my life doing it. And I abandoned it because I realised there was something else I was more passionate about. Who cares! We overestimate the impact of trying vs not trying. We’re a risk averse species, that’s why we’ve lived so long, but some great innovations and advancements have come about by taking a risk. Just calculate the risk, learn from the mistakes, learn from trying, take as much out of it as you can. It’s not enough to say “well I was trying to juggle chainsaws, and then I lost my arm, and I learnt it was dangerous”. We sensationalise failure because we’re afraid people will find out we failed, when the reality is that so many of us are doing so many different things, that really no one gives a shit if you’ve failed or not as they’ve got their own lives going on. You’ve failed? Awesome. I’ve got bills to pay, kids running around screaming, a job where my boss is going to kill me for not completing a report, a girls’ night out on Saturday, oh and you failed? So what! Fail. Embrace it, move on. One of my current favourite quotes is this, from W.C. Fields, the great American comedian – “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no need to be a damn fool about it” Then again sometimes it’s worth the push. I don’t know if this is hypocraphyl or not, but guess how many times did Colonel Sanders go to a restaurant to sell his chicken recipe before finding one that would take it on? Guess? 10? 50? 200 times? Try over a 1000.
Adventuring and travel is a privilege. I read on forums all the time ‘what are the key takeaways of overlanding?’ and people are looking for these nuggets of truth, like carrying spare water, learning the native tongue, hiding a spare key in your shoe in case you get locked out in the middle of a salt flat in Bolivia (me), etc people want the inside fast track when in fact the key is staring them in the face the whole time. It’s as simple as this: “appreciate that 99% of the world will never get the chance that you have to travel and experience what you’re about to. So no matter how shitty the day, how bleak the outlook, enjoy the fuck out of it”. The same could be said of life. Unless you see and experience different perspectives you have no idea how lucky you are. No fucking idea.
Don’t listen when people tell you something cannot be done. The more vehement and angry and steadfast, the more fanatical someone is about something . . . take it with a pinch of salt. Usually they’re the ones that know nothing and have formed their opinion on half-facts, spouting them as gospel truths. Prove them wrong, and when you do, be magnanimous in victory. Women didn’t win the right to vote and black people didn’t get to ride at the front of the bus and Jews didn’t get to share the same white neighbourhoods as Christians because they did what they were told. Learn your place? How about unlearn your place. Go and find your place. This time around on my travels I met far more women travelling solo than ever before and it was great to see. In Australia there are currently more females than males (marginal %) so why do men have the top jobs? Jobs for the boys? No, don’t take it. Women will outlive us men anyway, when we die take control and beat the rest of us into submission. When you get to parity though please back down a bit or you’ll wipe us out!
Time. Spend your time wisely. How many people listen to music on the way to work? What about switching on the television when you get home? Game of Thrones, Peeky Blinders, Taboo, all these things entertain us. It’s a way of spending time, like you have an abundance and can easily acquire more. We often don’t think how important time is. Time isn’t money, time is the most important thing that anyone will ever possess. And you spend it! Spend it on distracting yourself, making time pass faster . . . diverting yourself away from reality. What the hell is wrong with reality that you need to be diverted all the time? Spend some time looking at your surroundings. Again, travelling enables you to do that. To disappear into a corner of the world and just sit. Think. To be less distracted and more focused. I make time every day to let the world turn without me at the corner of my couch with a cup of tea. I let my mind wander and it's wonderful. I find myself going for walks without music, with my phone on airplane mode . . . I don’t turn it off as I need my step count ha ha but spend time with yourself.
As an extra push, and this won’t be popular but I’ll say it anyway, drink and drugs don’t help. We like to separate drink but it’s a drug, so let’s just say drugs. Drugs distort reality. We go home on the weekend have a drink to relax, have a drink to celebrate, have a drink to relieve the stress. Well if you need booze to relieve the stress maybe the work isn’t worth it? Maybe you’re in the wrong job? Because whether I get the report to my boss or not, I’m not saving lives. No one dies because I don’t submit my timesheet on a Wednesday afternoon. If you need a drug to relax, maybe you need to look at yourself, look internally for a solution rather than relying upon a bottle or some pills.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. I’ve heard this a million times and then one day it hit me like a car crash when I saw a simple picture. I realised how ruthless I was with myself, and have been my whole life. I wouldn’t sleep for days upon some small decision which usually doesn’t matter. The picture is from a young artist called josie.doodles. I saw that on my trip and it almost made me cry at the realisation of it. Knowing you did the best you could with the information you made at the time is ok. You cannot ask for more. Being wrong, failing, spending your time unwisely, zigging when you should have zagged . . . if you live through it, if you haven’t caused people harm, then you’re doing good.
Follow @josie.doodles on instagram
Nothing hastens the planning of your next holiday quite like returning to work. The brain goes from feeling fresh and taut to at once being drowned until it’s a watery mush barely resembling its previous verve. Like a rotting salad, in a way. In my case, five months out in the wild vanished in a twinkling of an email. In fairness, it has very little to do with the work itself: a week in the same office was never going to be quite as fun as the months that preceded it. Halcyon times indeed. I am proud of myself that I submitted a request to buy additional leave within 48 hours of coming back to work. That made me smile. The first day of the actual week was cumbersome yet I muddled on through, the following days were full of tricks clearly manufactured by some fantastical time-wizard. Three hours on the second day wrapped themselves imperceptibly between 2.30 and 2.43pm. To parody the great WC Fields: I spent a lifetime working in an office. I think it was a Tuesday.
I’m often staggered by how many people I actually work with. Large corporations house towns of people, all rushing to and from the office, many counting down the hours until they can leave, retire entirely or simply drop dead. That may be a slight exaggeration with the current company (they are a good bunch on the whole) yet I know many of my colleagues that genuinely feel that way, which is a shame. Eight hours a day is a long time to wish away. It’s hard to imagine the atmosphere if you’ve never worked in a corporate environment. I once ran into a schoolfriend’s brother in Wales and immediately started enquiring about my friend – was she married, kids, work etc. Having relayed quite proudly that she worked in an office, he was utterly bereft of any further details. ‘In an office’ was explanation enough and he simply wasn’t equipped to deal with further lines of enquiry. That’s life in the countryside for you. Cities are alien places.
After six years of managing teams of business analysts, business support, testers and project managers, letting all that go has been a welcome break. I now simply manage myself. And far from being such a terror in the first days, it was all quite novel. A different type of adventure. I was at a loss how to even access my computer as the password had long expired. But once that was sorted out I smiled at the technology becoming familiar once again: the corporate email system and their accompanying traffic lights telling me whether they are available or in a meeting. I hadn’t thought about that for, well, seemingly forever. Curious as to what happened in the company in the last five months, I opened the intranet and found tens of articles and announcements, and remembered that I had no interest whatsoever in it, so quickly closed it down. I figured that if it was truly important, news could come to me.
God knows what the second week is going to be like. Where did I put that brochure on gorillas again?
Image reference: http://crossroadcenter.org/almost-back-to-school/
Free speech is a tough one when it causes offence, mainly because people are offended by everything if you look hard enough – 90% of things on television offends me, and yet no one has banned television yet. I will write another letter!
I watched a small video-clip of Owen Jones and Jonathan Pie a few days ago, and admittedly got barely halfway through before a distraction came my way in the form of a cute cat video. If you don’t know them, Owen is an excellent and embarrassingly young journalist that makes me scream ‘what have I done with my life!?’, whilst Jonathan Pie is a fictional character (real name XXX) that plays the roving reporter losing his mind at the world. It’s quite wonderful.
Whilst championing free speech during the interview, Jonathan was asked whether that free speech should include a hateful remark directed at him by a stranger during a walk in the park when holding his boyfriend’s hand. This was painted as a hypothetical but since I think Owen is actually gay, the chances of that happening are quite high.
Shackling peoples freedom of speech based on what someone feels is offensive is about as tricky as juggling hot knives on quicksand with your balls in the mouth of a rottweiler. Offensive things are said to people every day, it’s just your tolerance for what you think is offensive. Religions are insulted constantly (go and draw a picture of Mohamed near a mosque to see what I mean), celebrities are fat-shamed, politicians are called useless, people of all ethnicities are finger-pointed for their big bums, small eyes, large boobs, hairy chests, big noses etc Visually it’s what separates in society and what makes us individual without having to bother getting to know someone.
However, education is the key in ensuring that people understand the impact of their language, not rigging up laws to punish the output. It’s illegal in Germany to deny the holocaust, for example. A hundred years ago it may have been common to use the term ‘nigger’. Over time this has been explained to people to be derogatory and one that is very offensive, so it isn’t used often. Why one group of society still uses it is a little beyond me, however, it is simply a word. Words don’t instantly make you lose a limb. Yet, anyway. One of the most offensive words in the English language seems to be ‘cunt’, yet it’s still just a word, and one that is used every day in Australia without even batting an eyelid. It’s common for someone to say they are ‘having a cunt of a day’, for example, and makes me smile just thinking about how relaxed Australians are around one of the most offensive words in the dictionary – not only to not admonish it but use it everyday vernacular. Or maybe my friends are potty mouths, who knows.
It’s often the outrage to the remark, the response, that people who hurled the offence are looking for in the first place. How many ‘news’ articles start with ‘you won’t believe what <insert celebrity name here> did next’ and ‘<person> causes outrage by calling <ethnic group> evil’ or some such nonsense. An interesting one currently in Australia is that the Prime Minister got in trouble for identifying Sudanese gangs as an issue in Melbourne. African Groups were up in arms about racial profiling and yet I do have friends living in the suburbs that are scared of the Sudanese gangs in their street, have reported issues with gang violence etc It would be slightly different if he said ‘all Sudanese are violent thugs’ but probably better to admonish all gangs – how many gangs are gangs for good? Not many, I’d wager. But saying controversial things that may cause offence or alarm does garner people attention, and attention is power.
Garnering attention is imperative to all these types of media as you’re getting slices of the most important thing in the world: time. People are spending seconds, minutes and hours on your website, cat video (hot damn!), social media page, Instagram, news channel, television soap etc. The more people attracted to it the more influence you may have if you sell an idea, product*, cause offence or be a champion for good. The chosen path though is entirely your freedom.
*by the way, to the five of you that read my blog – thanks mum! - that’s one of the reasons I have no adverts.
News doesn't often unearth something wonderful, and yet this is a small story of a nice kid in Alabama getting some good fortune. There are still good people in the world, everyone can breathe again!
I love catching up with old friends, quickly falling back into the same routines and humour that brought us together in the first-place years earlier whether at school, university or previous jobs. Chatting to one friend as we were walking to dinner, she said something I perceived as a huge compliment - “you seem very . . . zen”. This was new for me, and quite wonderful. As I confessed to a colleague before leaving on my Pan-American for four months, this trip wasn’t just about travel, it was about finding myself again. Part of the process was to try and focus on being present.
Regardless of what was going on throughout the world, in my personal life, with work, with friends and their lives, I focused on me and my journey. If it wasn’t important for my next few days or weeks as part of the trip, it wasn’t worth thinking about. It wasn’t easy, but I made sure that each day I enjoyed that day for what it was instead of focusing on what I might be doing in three years or where I might be in twenty years. I even restricted to thinking about only those people that were travelling with me. Of course, family and my girlfriend are the exception, but if there were problems with either I was determined that it wasn’t going to bother me, and I wasn’t going to stop enjoying where I was and who I was with. I had worked too hard and too long to have anything but a good time. Besides, it was a privilege.
To travel the way I do is nothing but a pleasure. Although demanding and often difficult, it is a joy to be in a position financially and mentally to take on such a trip. Often during my work days back in the office, I would ask people if they are winning. The responses were, as they say in corporate life, “mixed”, which basically means it ranged from “yes things are awesome!” to words that I can’t write without causing offence to gods, goats and everything in between. But it’s only just dawned on me how I look at life: am I concerned with winning? Not really. Winning for me is simply not losing heavily. It’s the first time I’d ever thought about it this way – there will be downs and challenges and times I am upset and angry, but it the reaction to it that is important. And equally when you feel like you’re having a winning day, not to wonder too much what is coming around the corner (as it will inevitably sit you right back down on your arse!) but to enjoy it for what it is. Celebrate the good times, struggle through the bad times, but enjoy every moment for what it is as it will soon change. The tide will turn, whether you want it to or not.
In the last week or so I've stumbled upon the excellent @josie.doodles on Instagram (via my beautiful girlfriend, admittedly) and read a few of her doodles and thought "yeah, yeah that's me!". If it helps me, it may help you too. There are three or four or ten of her doodles that truly resonate with me and Josie seems a pretty awesome person to boot. Here is my current favourite. Remember to be kind to yourself as well as to those around you.
Writing and writing...