‘So, do you go to the gym at all?’ is not a welcome question when you’re topless and pulling your belly in. If you don’t, then perhaps your interlocutor is hinting that perhaps you should. And if you do attend the gym, busting your ass to obtain a shape that isn’t round every other day, it’s even more unwelcome. ‘You mean you can’t tell? Farrrkkkkkkk youuueeewwwwww!!!!’ I screamed, in my head, as my doctor asked me to put my t-shirt back on and went about his business of punching kittens and making babies cry.
Work have enrolled a lot of us on a High-Performance Mindfulness course, increasing resilience, trying to help people take control of tough situations like doctor’s visits*. If you’re wearing a t-shirt and a frown about imagining ‘mindfulness’, try this: exchange ‘meditation’ for time you spend winding down and ‘mantras’ for what you tell yourself when you’re in a tight spot, and it might sound more appealing. I meditate every morning and it helps me focus, but sometimes in the afternoon it can just be a cup of tea on the couch in complete silence, letting the mind drift. The shoulders relax, tension drops away. Late on Tuesday night I was then asked to present to the CEO.
On Wednesday I was due to present to a bunch of company executives on what my team have been working on. It’s not every day you get plucked from the doldrums to present to the big cheese, and I tried to calm myself down that this guy heads up a $26billion company across thirty countries and has the fate of 26,000 people in his hands. I did my breathing exercises, which makes sense to anyone that has done any sports in their lives – some slow, deep breaths. The nerves abated and I felt calm. All I had to do was not make a career-limiting gaffe. ‘Hi, I’m Richard . . . t-shirt back on or . . . ?’
* or maybe they have something in mind already!
From an early age I was singled out for my crooning quality, and subsequently removed from the school choir. I was seven. Myself and another friend were slowly singled out of the pack, much like extracting poo from a litter tray. I’ve supported more singers and actors than the Priory. I’m the Anthony Hopkins of bored, mute shepherds. I missed out on so many roles in religious school plays, I thought ‘Passover’ was just the casting director’s note. With a voice that didn’t need to be voiced and acting chops that got chopped, the written word has developed as my principle creative outlet of choice. My third choice, sure . .
Talking of voices (who said that?), Australia has made international news of late, submitting its application to re-join the human race after numerous dissenting declarations from other countries. With thousands of Australians still trapped overseas and unable to return home, the government have been militant in being blasé. Naturally there are loopholes for movie stars and the very rich because they’re not human like the rest of us, but otherwise few can leave or arrive. After mounting pressure, our inept leader, M. Mouse, has reluctantly started flights from India, with delighted returnees winning a two-week, all-expenses-owed quarantine stay in a city of their choice as long as it’s Darwin. And they thought being stranded in India was going to be taxing!
I’ve just finished investor-oracle Ray Dalio’s Principles on management and leadership, which if you love that kind of thing, is wonderful. If you’re put off by 400-pages of bullet-points, maybe not so much. Paul Behrens’ incredible The Best of Times, The Worst of Times, is still staggeringly good. I’m making notes so often I may as well re-write it in my own words. We’re our own planet-leveling asteroid. However, we can still turn it around, so that slightly less billions die than would by our current course – huzzzzzaahh!! A low carbon consumption, plant-based future, divining water from thin air awaits! In slightly good news . . . plant-based burgers are really good. Having been skeptical, I’m very impressed, and have cut down my own meat consumption gallantly. The earth’s 4.5bn sheep, cattle and pigs can sleep easier now a Reed isn’t eyeing their chops, yet the greedy bastards currently consume a third of all extracted freshwater in the world, and we’re running out of freshwater. Reducing meat consumption also decreases deforestation and methane - a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2. Win, win, win!! So, it turns out all those vegans and veggies were right when decrying that meat is murder after all, but it’s ourselves we’re murdering. That’s a joyous thought, isn’t it? Enjoy your Sunday roast! Still, could be worse: I could be singing you to oblivion.
No, no, not in awe at my reflection. Admittedly I’m dashing if you like that bespectacled, greying, pot-bellied look, sure, but I am in awe of a book (and mothers everywhere, of course!). Sometimes you pick up a tome so mind-blowing that you want to buy it for all your friends and then sit to watch them read it. For 10 hours. It’s ok, I’ll wait. I’ll bring tea. As you slowly nod off, I’ll just give you a nudge. Until finally I lose patience, letting all that British emotionally-repressed rage out in one go i.e. making another cup of tea. Paul Behrens, The Best of Times, the Worst of Times on climate science is the culprit. Some snippets:
These kinds of statistics always hit a nerve. We think capitalism and corporation are the problem, yet it’s the governments: it’s the back-handers, jobs for the boys, add-me-to-the-board-of-directors-when-I-retire bullshit. <Reaches for more tea>. We need an overhaul, we need accountability, we need politicians that aren’t morally and ethically fuc*ing bankrupt. Look at that last bullet point: every dollar spent in political lobbying yields between $100 and $200 return. And yet us dumbfu**s are putting money into ‘high interest’ 1.5% savings accounts, whilst others are putting in fifty grand and yielding a handsome five-million-dollar return. Burn. The. Sodding. Places. To. The. Ground.
In other news, Happy Mother’s Day! Lots of love to all those beautiful mothers out there, you are amazing! Want to know something amazing? Women’s education and autonomy rank above 99 different climate change world-savers, including wind energy, plant-based diets and reduction in flying. Power to you, ladies, you are literally, metaphorically, physically and meta-physically the future. I’m 22 books in for the year, and The Best of Times, the Worst of Times wins 2021. Case-closed. Struggling for a Mother’s Day gift? Ahem. I know this book, right . . .
And lastly will leave you with an apt quote from the influential political theorist Anne Louise Germaine de Staël, written over two hundred years ago: "Scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man's power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened"
“I’d always wondered what type of person goes to the gym on a Friday night” said a pretty girl, gliding past me in a dress befitting Melbourne’s gorgeous late summer. “Well”, I replied with a smile whilst opening the door and stepping inside, “Friday nights are what separates the winners from the . . .” the door gently closed. Yup. I turned on the gym lights and made myself comfortable with my role outside the winner’s circle. Legs. On a Friday. Ooooof!
I enjoy having the gym to myself. It’s therapeutic. In my current mindset, it seems criminal not to treat your body well and make use of its strength. I say that now, obviously, completely acknowledging Future 2022 Reed that’ll be fostering elastic waistbands and wondering if ‘diet trifle’ is a thing. I did though manage a significant achievement. There is position known as ‘the plank’. For those not familiar, adopt a press-up position but with your elbows on the floor. Now, stay there. The aim is, boringly, to retain your body in this position for as long as possible. The best I’d managed this sporadic test was 6 minutes back in March. After considerable cajoling, with muscles wavering and fluttering, with days seemingly passing, I was elated to achieve eight minutes. My friends quickly chimed-in to support - ‘the world record is eight hours.’ Thanks. For. That.
I’ve been ingesting books again, probably the last of my US Navy Seals series (they’re a bit repetitive), this one The Dichotomy of Leadership emphasising the multiple hats – the need to lead from the front but inspire others, never backing down but knowing an unwinnable situation - all narrated by gruff men being positively ebullient about ‘getting some!’ i.e. being shot at. You have to be at both times the carrot and the stick, which is why leadership is bloody difficult. Over the pandemic we’ve seen both the best and worst types of leadership, with shattering consequences (see below). Consuming books hewn from the military, with the passing of ANZAC Day too, offers wonderful perspective: there are times in life when I’ve looked at other jobs and thought, ‘yeah, I could do that!’ Ermm . . . no. I remain in awe and indebted to those wonderful people within the forces, past, present and future. But if they need someone for an eight-minute plank, swing on by!
For those like me that have been watching the awful events unfold in India, a nation gripped with 400,000 cases a day, and wondering what you can do to help, this comes from USA Today:
Writing and writing...