This week I have been organising myself for next week. Once again, I’ll be hot-footing it across the Victoria, a state bigger than the United Kingdom, to spend a week with a dear friend trying to fix all manner of things on my car. In regards to outsourcing, mentioned in my last post here, and whilst trying to keep myself sane through relaxing enough (another blog post, here) I do enjoy solving problems. And there are many, many problems to solve. One of the names that has been floated for my beloved Troopie is Izzy – short for ‘Issue’.
I could of course get someone else to do the work for me and costing me money, yet I do enjoy the challenge. Each day I am learning about my vehicle, about its history and previous drivers, about the sheer amount of dust and spiders hidden in nooks and crannies, which seem bloody endless by the way, and most importantly for me, learning about how things work.
Making me Izzy
Electrics and mechanics, two things I don’t profess to be any good at, will be my best friends. Or arch-enemies. It has taken me weeks, for example, to learn how to wire my electric seats I’ve brought. Did I need to do that? No! Ahh, but did I want to do that? Also no! For the majority of the time anyway, but now it’s almost done I can look back with satisfaction and say ‘well that wasn’t too bad.’ But what good is knowledge if you can’t bore the pants off of someone with it? Exactly!
I’ve seen many, many posts tell me how it can’t be done (installing Volvo seats into a Landcruiser) but that just makes people like me want to do it more. Proving people wrong. When I drove from the UK to Australia with my friend Dwyer Rooney, we were told our vehicle would never make it. We encountered so many people that were inspired by the trip, that were excited by it, even some that were doing similar adventures, but every now and then again we were told by someone, a border guard, a local, a traveller, that something was impossible, which is like waking the Godzilla of Rebellion inside of me.
If I was in a canny movie or advert I’d spout clap-trap that if you take away the I in Impossible you get possible. And a lonely M. . . .ahh, but maybe that m is for contemplation, like ‘wow Richard, you’ve just blown my mind, I’m going to think about what you’ve said . . .mmmmmm . . .’
<Ed - Although really that just sounds like you’re hungry>
Yes . . . hungry for knowledge!
<Ed – Good grief!>
Impossible to Possible
Change ‘impossible’ to ‘hard’ and we’ve just created a challenge. No matter if it’s an innocuous meeting or simply just idle banter, if someone claims with complete assurance that something is impossible, challenge it. Most people throw around the word just as a warning against even trying, simply because giving something a go takes risk, guts and determination, which they probably don’t have. At some point impossible was the four-minute mile; a woman flying across the Atlantic; landing on the moon; a black President; UK winning Eurovision; winning the Tour de France 7 times; Wales winning the World Cup <Ed – Actually . . .>
From those examples we know that the impossible can be conquered, even if it takes a humungous amount of performance enhancing drugs to do so (bloody Lulu!). In discussing what makes me, and others, travel to some far-flung places, the answer quickly came from now-an-ex-friend, “a low IQ”. Which I actually don’t dispute! I think there is a certain amount of optimism tinged with ignorance of not knowing when you’re beaten, of not giving up when you face every obstacle in the world, of side-stepping, ducking, weaving, cajoling, hassling, pleading and imploring if necessary to get the result you need. I would add to that, as a huge caveat, that the result isn’t everything, or at least for me. Getting the right result without causing others harm or detriment is imperative. Not every situation can be win-win for all involved, but it doesn’t have to be about someone completely losing either. But only you can decide that one, taking each Izzy at a time, you can achieve the impossible.
Outsourcing. A fancy term for getting someone else to perform a task to save you time, money, or brainpower if you don’t have the required skills, which for me, is basically could be one of many, many things. For example, I outsourced my clothes choices to a little Filipino lady who makes all my decisions for me, as clearly there came a point in my life where I was unable to dress myself appropriately. And people weren’t polite about it either: “oh…you’re wearing that?” they’d say, pointing accusingly at the objectionable object, which was either me or my clothes. One of those was certainly causing ire and indignation. Apparently, and this is a learning point for everyone, just because you have run out of clean clothes, the correct attire for a funeral is not a tutu. This little Filipino lady also doubles as my girlfriend.
Finding Your Service
Years ago you relied upon adverts in the local paper or Yellow Pages where you had no reviews to go on, so it was basically pot luck of whether you’d get a Michaelangelo or another one of the turtles. I’ve used two services recently and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, using Air-Tasker and then scouring Gumtree for someone that seemed authentic. Which is harder than it seems.
The AirTasker role was adding some covers onto some foam mattresses, to which I was lucky enough to already have some quality fabric donated from a friend. It wasn’t a difficult job, but it would have been a difficult job for me! <And God said unto the Welshman, ‘know your strengths!’ And the Welshman replied ‘if I prick my finger just once more with that damn needle . . .’> A quick post on AirTasker and I was being inundated with lovely people offering their services and near my suburb too – winner!
Next up was sorting out the air-conditioning in my car. Now unlike the mattresses where I understand the basics, I have absolutely no idea on this front. There is air. It is cooled. It is in my car. Much more than that, and I’ve got nothing. This time gumtree came to the rescue, and I found an experienced, lovely chap in Western Melbourne that had all his own kit, loved a chat, and sorted out the issues with some additional advice given too on its best performance. Two vastly different platforms, same lovely result. A rarity! The gumtree effort though did involve a little more sifting and some phone calls – if someone is offering $50 call out fee in addition to above average cost, extra for gas, minimum charge of $100 etc these, to me at least, are warning signs that I was going to get ridden like a pit pony at a carnival.
Brave New World
In an ideal world though no money would be transacted at all – it would all be based on credit, a different form of monetisation but using purely exchanged services. That way, everyone has a value and a service they can offer. Now there are stories of towns adopting their own currency rather than the national one, and an entirely different community based scheme in India called Auroville, and again without money. However, the alternative to this, and one I think deserves merit, is performing a service simply because you can, with no expectation of monetisation or credit. Holy shitballs, did those socks stay on or what?
Occasionally, my girlfriend gives up a few hrs of her week to her parents’ friends to church since they are unable to drive themselves. She also volunteers once a week to help kids on-line with their homework. Again, there is nothing to be gained from this other than the feeling of helping someone else. Another friend volunteers her nursing services to indigenous communities, and other parts of her time to the elderly. In return, my friend receives nothing other than the satisfaction of helping someone else.
Now, I think this is where the worlds of entrepreneurship and volunteering collide. When talking of business ideas with friends, which is almost a daily occurrence, depending on the friend, when I suggest doing it for free, they are a little bewildered. We’re indoctrinated in society to learn from a young age "if you’re good at something, never do it for free" yet we hold doors open, mentor and coach friends, help family with chores all the time and expect nothing. Unless you’re a kid needing pocket money, then you don’t move a muscle unless you’re paid or about to get a bloody hiding if you fail to comply.
Doing Things FOR FREE
So here is an idea for your next business venture - do it for free. This also gives rise to another question: would you perform the task if you weren’t getting paid for it? If yes, then clearly your passion outweighs the cost. If not, then perhaps you’ll lose interest along the way – this has certainly happened to me before. But there are other benefits to doing this too:
Now you’ll have to excuse me, it’s time this old man took the rubbish out. Whilst this is most certainly not my girlfriends task or even my task but rather something that just needs doing, if I don’t do it, I get in trouble. But at least I’ll look good whilst doing it.
It’s rare to hear someone believe they’re set to change the world. Usually those doing so are yelling their proclamation at a passing pigeon, whilst not wearing any pants. I remember probably six or seven years ago, a friend left me dumbfounded by saying he thought we both shared the same belief. I’d always privately thought it, but no one had ever been so grand, so bold and brash enough to actually admit it. Out loud, as well. And I wasn’t a pigeon. And he was wearing pants.
In books and films, we’d form a bond, discuss our mutual passions and, despite shadowy figures in dark alleys and behind the scenes corporate bastards hatching a takeover, we would be victorious and become braziliones!! We would then help others too to reach their goals, each one of us taking over the world, passing a baton between us like Atlas carrying the world on our back!
I Am Iron Man!
But this declaration had the absolute contradictory effect: I realised that most people probably shared the same dream, and that most people will fail, including myself. The fact is not everyone can be Albert Einstein or Leonardo de Vinci, it just doesn’t work that way. At the time I was trying to complete my magnum opus, punishing myself to publish by the time I was 30, and miserable at my failure. Writers exult the importance of finding your voice: mine wasn’t even a dead-parrot’s chirp. Then followed years of avoiding writing, getting regularly drunk and sleeping with a tremendous amount of . . . ermm, woman. I mean, perhaps solving the world’s problems and being the beacon of light for mankind maybe a step too far for someone that regularly locks himself out of his own house. My girlfriend now leaves me reminders.
Chatting Up Birds
I think many people start off with the same ideal, but don’t know quite where to start. Not knowing what to do or how in fact to do it, you bumble along for a few decades and then poof! Life has passed by and you realise the only life-changing vision occurred after a particularly dodgy vindaloo. This adds nothing but regret, unhappiness and a blocked cistern. Yet the realisation of perhaps not taking the world and spinning it on its axis like a basketball, flicking it around my back and shooting from downtown for a 3-pointer was a bit of a sigh of relief. It’s a lot of work! Over the years, I came to realise that most successful people probably don’t set out to change the world at all: that way only leads to one place, and the pigeons have confirmed they’re sick of hearing about it.
Change itself is a funny one. We are taught in a corporate environment to embrace change. There are Change Managers, Change Analysts and even Change Agents that . . . well, they rent out change, or something. You must be seen to love change, to hug it like a puppy until its eyes bulge. I am not one of those people, unfortunately. If I come to work one day and someone moves my desk into a toilet cubicle and puts ten-inch nails on my seat, I shall not raise a vigil in thanks to the Change God. I like improvement, not change. They are NOT the same thing.
So let’s change (ha!) the phrasing: improve the world. Now we’re getting somewhere, that’s clearer. Perhaps we should be a bit more specific on the world too: who’s world exactly do you want to change? I mean, you can’t even see the world unless you’re in space, so if instead of the entire world, what if we focused purely on the world around you? You can see that, for a start. It’s far more tangible and a truckload less daunting. This ultimately leaves the original Change the World Atlas-weighted statement to simply “Improve the World Around You.” No longer are you taking on Goliath, but perhaps a few kittens that have big wellington boots on. Yeah, I’d embrace that.
The World Around You could just be you. As the sage Michael Jackson said, perhaps start off with the Man in the Mirror. Compassion for others is one thing, you need to be compassionate with yourself. Or it could be the world for you and your family. What could you do to improve the lives of the people around you? Be a millionaire and move everyone to a huge mansion! Well, yes, you could do that . . . but how about starting with the washing up? How about mowing the lawn? How about lifting people up when they’re down, and giving a kindly word when you see someone feeling the weight of Atlas.
What about helping those in your immediate vicinity such as neighbours, community, school, hospital? Does someone in your street need some groceries once a week because they find it hard to get out at their age? There are many things you could do to improve the world around you, and if you did that, perhaps others would too, and you’d each make the world a better place to live. Pigeons included.
What? Ok, I’m back. I’ve been in Australia over ten years, and during that time I’ve seen some irreverent beasties: this is their environment and they do not give a flying fu** about anything because they are poisoned up to their eyeballs. The most-deadly snakes and spiders on the entire planet inhabit these fair shoes, and so it was with some distinct alarm that, finally, I realised I had succumbed to a classic boobie-trap: being bitten on the ankle after putting on my boot.
I should bless my cotton socks I haven’t had to cut off a limb. Yet. I would love, dear reader, to adumbrate my accoster, but unfortunately they have vanished without a trace, only to leave small marble size swelling near my ankle that ached all night and only started to reduce after two days. Without any guidance as to what my attacker looked like, I set upon the shadowy figure of a small phantasmagotric shoe-panther. It’s the only explanation.
The swelling was in fact fairly minor, but for illustration purposes I had intended on showing an entirely different spider bite of what it could have looked like . . . yet when I googled the images on offer were so horrifically grotesque that it has quite put me off my tea. I patiently await my next transformation.
Obsessed by Achievement
But all this excitement aside, it did stop me striding about a bit since my entire leg was painful and stiff the next morning, which in turn made me rest and relax. Well, as relaxed as one can be wondering if I will need to amputate my own leg with a pair of chopsticks left over from last nights takeaway. To paraphrase Captain Oates, I may be some time.
As people we are obsessed with doing things, and I certainly fall into that category. What did you do on the weekend? What are your goals for this year? What have you achieved? Yet the antonym of that is not achieving relaxation, it’s almost the antithesis of doing. No one says they achieved doing nothing. Only a real pedant would point out that doing nothing is in fact doing something, but let's ignore that.
Relaxation has become almost a myth on occasion, like the g-spot: many people talk about it but very little proclaim to have found it. Performing pursuits can appear relaxing, yet they are paradoxical: there are very few times when you actually do nothing. Yet this is exactly what I crave on occasion, and it’s something that has led me to travel far and wide searching for that quiet escape on some hallowed outcrop to simply sit.
When I talk to friends and family that claim they did nothing, it often transpires that they did quite a few things: they read a book, chatted with friends or played with their phone which basically equates to a million things such as stalking, porn, reading the latest news and gossip, and watching porn again. But that’s my mum for you. It is immensely rare to actually stop and just sit, yet it has become one of the things I most adore in the entire world. At some point, at least once a week, I will spend five to ten minutes simply sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and do nothing. I will stare out at the people passing by, I will look through the window at the cityscape, I will let the mind run wild. Yet I will not touch a phone, make a mental note, write anything down on one of my many to-do lists. It is pure joy. And lets my mind relax. It’s like a slice of paradise.
This slice of paradise is proudly brought to you by the Shoe Panther. Roaawwwrrr
This month has been one of the most productive months my team have ever had. During September, rebadged Steptember, my team aimed to walk over 10,000 steps per day and raise money and awareness for Cerebral Palsy . . . but it was easy to forget that when middling in the mire of competition between teams, as too it seems to a few other hundred teams in the organisation since only a few days ago, with $0 raised, our team were languishing in 450th place. Having chucked in $50, we immediately left to 250th. More on that later!
Harassing For Money
We also had exercise bikes set-up in the foyer, with 8 of us taking 30 minutes stints and imploring our passing employees to give generously. And indeed they did, raising an incredible $800 on the day in our hefty plastic donation bucket. I for one found myself particularly adept in badgering, harassing and cajoling my colleagues into giving away any extra coins. There was something extravagantly wicked in shouting someone’s name from 30 metres away across an echoing foyer, that this person, this person right here, was a generous and wonderful human with a big heart and would of course donate to such a wonderful cause. Embarrassed and humbled, they would of course have no other recourse but to donate. It was wonderful. For my past life as a Town Cryer still rings deep in my veins.
Enhancing Your Team
Whilst the team have thoroughly enjoyed the competition amongst one another (being a team of 16, we had 4 teams), there was another interesting side effect. We had numerous team members that initially believed the entire task was too daunting, immediately writing themselves off when I told that 30 minutes of walking only equated to about 3000. However, as the days rolled by, the team upped their game, often exceeding the step-count. This in turn increased their confidence, which made them walk more and believe in themselves. As they walked more and exercised more, they lost weight, and seeing the difference, some started taking gym-classes, riding the wave of their new-found self-belief.
Raising Money for Charity
It was a wonderful month to be part of, and hopefully something that will have a lasting effect on my team. Since I first enrolled in a step-competition over two years ago, I have stuck to the regime, where, initially, I struggled to make 6000 steps a day. During this month of Steptember, I have tried to lead by example, nagging my team and increasing my own steps to 15-25,000 a day, in one particular occasion notching 30,000 in a single day which was the biggest total I have ever walked. I lost 2 kilos in the process and often caused lots of pain to my aching feet – but never mind that!
So Steptember increased the confidence of my team, made them address their own health, made them take more meetings in the park or skip a train-stop on the way home, raise awareness for a fabulous charity, and helped the company and its employees donate over $200k for a worthy cause. Probably one of the best month’s work I’ve ever done.
For more information please view https://www.steptember.org.au/ - every dollar raised will provide vital equipment, therapy and services to children and adults living with cerebral palsy.
Writing and writing...