Sunday, 30 April 2017

Educate Authenticity

I wish I could do that.
I could never do that.
If only I could.

What is it about us that allows one person to leave their job, pack up their family and go exploring around the world for two years while most of us would never contemplate such an adventure, no matter how much we might like to?

What is it that makes someone comfortable to throw in their exciting executive life to start up a new business in an unrelated sector?

What is it that drives the likes of Elon Musk to risk losing the Billions he made over two start up enterprises and set up the high-risk business of manufacturing and launching space vehicles, not to mention electric cars.

Those who take such so-called risks are often admired, sometimes criticised, have their wisdom questioned and their stories listened to.

What is it about such people?

Surely their upbringing has much to do with it. So many of us are constantly told as children to “not” do this, to “stop” doing that. We are programmed to study hard, get good marks, go to University and have a successful career.

We might back pack through Asia between Year 12 and starting University or after we qualify and before we start a job, but this is like a final fling before the real world engulfs us.

Our parents, and us as parents just about always say to our Children that we don’t care what they do as long as they are happy doing it. However, when this was said to us, and when we say to our children, it is almost always with the overlay of a very traditional, defined perspective of what a happy career looks like – the one that follows “study hard, get good marks, go to University”.

Our teachers, our lecturers, our leaders and ourselves could do well to encourage the normality of open self expression and pursuit of ideas, concepts and creativity. Imagine a community where flipping burgers to save the money to back pack through India was viewed as a legitimate educative thing to do.

Further, imagine the impact of having such a person as part of our education system to teach the creative licence that such an experience provides and therefore encourage others to pursue their ideas. Imagine legitimising the so called “unusual” so that it became mainstream.

We would have adventurers but we would also end up with our professions and trades filled with people who really want to be Lawyers, Plumbers, Doctors, Motor Mechanics, Computer Scientists, Builders, Accountants, Shop Assistants. In reality, we have very many professionals and tradespeople who are doing what they are doing because it was expected of them or they viewed this as their only option.

Imagine the positive impact of our schools and universities being filled with educators who really wanted to be there, who retained their idealism of education, who lacked the cynicism of so many of our over managed, over prescribed educators of today. Imagine giving our educators the freedom to express and to promote the setting of individual goals as legitimate no matter what these are, and us as parents supporting this.

Idealistic – totally. But who can honestly say they pursued a career path they dreamed about and it has delivered?

Finally, who would like to live in a society, in communities, in families where the following phrases are obsolete?

I wish I could do that.
I could never do that.
If only I could.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Reading - How and Why?

What sort of reader are you?

I have become fascinated by how different people approach their reading.

What I mean by this is, some of us will have two or more books we are reading at any one time.

A work colleague has recommended several books for me to read. They are, ‘The Code of the Extraordinary Mind’ by Vishen Lakhiani and ‘The Life Changing Magic of NOT GIVING A F*ck’ by Sarah Knight.

Both books have been interesting, educational, thought provoking and confronting. In many ways, each book has been affirming too.

While both books were thought provoking, it was another reading related conversation with my colleague that has motivated this article.

I suggested a book for her (my work colleague) to read - ‘GUT – The Inside Story of the Bodies Most Underrated Organ’ by Giulia Enders. We had a brief conversation and she said she would add it to the books she is reading at the moment. During this discussion, she revealed that at any one time, she has 5 or more books that are partly read and she selects basically at random to read a little of.

What interested me about this is how different this reading approach is to what I do.

I am what might be called an “obsessive” reader. I start a book and become obsessed with the concept of starting another book before I have finished what I am reading is completely foreign.

In fact, when I start a book, it becomes an almost “life focus” and reading it is prioritised over many other things, eating, work, socialising, writing, and so the list goes on. I am notorious for reading late in to the night, and even going sleepless as I become engrossed in a book, obsessed with a book to the exclusion of virtually everything else.

I love international plane travel. A flight to Los Angeles is a luxury as it gives me about 13 hours of largely uninterrupted reading time. Dubai is even better as this is about 15 hours all up. I once flew from Paris to Dubai and when day light disappeared I realised there was a faulty overhead reading light. The flight crew recognised my dilemma and allowed me to sit on one of the flight crew seats adjacent to the galley, giving me good light to read.

I have to confess, that my reading was interrupted by way of being able to overhear some simply amazing chat between the flight crew. Their chat was most entertaining and some of it was unbelievable.

The idea of having more than one book partly read at any given time is not something I can conceive at all. I find it extraordinary.

How do you decide which book to pick up and read? Do you always select the same book at night and is the Saturday morning book always the same?

Maybe it is a little like selecting music. Like me, I am sure you make a music choice based on your mood at the time, your current emotional state of mind or the emotional state of mind you want to achieve. Music is, whether we realise it or not, a huge emotional influence. (as I write, I am listening to “Uluru” by Tony O’Connor). Becoming aware of the emotions different music can impact is quite powerful, but that is a topic for another day.

Back to reading, how do you choose what to read when you have two or more books partly read at the one time. To me, it would be like deciding which child you love most – well, that might be a bit extreme but hopefully you get the point.

When I decide to start a book, I have to protect myself against my obsessive reading tendency. I have to be mindful that once I start the book, it will overwhelm many other things in my life until it is completed. I have been known to pick up a book at 7pm, read for 8 hours, sleep for 2 hours and read again for 5 hours. (all too often). Given my reading will be prioritised over many other things, I need to discipline myself before starting a book to ensuring I have the space to read it, hence my love of a long-distance flight. (don’t even think of starting a conversation with me on a plane).

But back to the subject. I realise my “obsessive” reading approach may be considered a little extreme. However, how does someone manage having more than one book partly read at any given time?

I am interested in feedback.

What is your reading style? Is it multiple books at once, or one at a time.

Is it obsessive like me, or more “balanced”?

Do you digest your reading in big chunks or take your reading in small bit sized pieces?

Really, I would like to know. Please comment on this post, comment or reply on Twitter or Facebook, direct message me, email or text.

I also almost exclusively read non-fiction. Do you consider yourself a fiction or non-fiction reader, or do you seamlessly switch between the two?

I look forward to your input – and will value it greatly.

Government Absurdity - May Day

1 May in 2017 is May Day public Holiday in Queensland. Some States call it Labour Day.

The occasion remembers the granting on 1 May 1884 of the 8 hour working day, dividing each day equally in to 8 hours of work, rest and play, hence being called May Day.

For me, the occasion is also a reminder of Government absurdity.

The Queensland Government under Premier Anna Bligh wanted a more even spread of public holidays throughout the year believing too many were in the first half of the year. There was some merit to this.

This was achieved by moving the Queen’s Birthday holiday to October. While some traditionalists and a few Monarchists complained, the general acceptance  was the holiday designated “Queens Birthday” has nothing to do with “Her” birthday. Interestingly, this public holiday occurs when it does due to the high probability of reasonable weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

Getting back to Government absurdity.

The Government changed in March 2012 when the Campbell Newman led LNP won in a landslide.

There had been a bitter campaign with much personal abuse and mudslinging, however the size of the victory was such that there was much optimism about the potential reform that would follow.

Getting down to work meant addressing spiralling State Debt and interest liabilities, shortening wait times in Public Hospitals and initiating infrastructure projects, at least you would think that would be the priority.

But no, Premier Newman announced the swapping of the May Day and Queens Birthday Holidays meaning May Day would be celebrated in October.

In my view, this was an act of sheer hatred and unnecessary bastardry. If the Government had an issue with the Queen’s Birthday Holiday not being in June, move it.  In my opinion, prioritising this action deliberately upsetting traditional Labour Supporters and Unionists symbolised pettiness and absurdity. It also set the tone for a Government which would be thrown out less than 3 years later with a reputation for not caring, poor communication and recklessness.

Enjoy May Day Queensland

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Lessons Learned - So Far

Thursday and day 10 of my self-imposed challenge to write something every day for 30 consecutive days.

When announcing this challenge, I did not commit to actually posting the finished product, however I have so far done so and suspect I will continue to do so.

My reason for setting myself this challenge was to the practice the habit of regular writing. It was to feel the difficulty, the pressure that comes with producing something each and every day.

I was also interested to see if it became easier, more instinctive, more intuitive as each day passed.

What I have realised so far is it has become harder, but not in the way I imagined.

I thought I would run out of ideas, run out of topics to write about.

The reality has been quite different, and this is surprisingly much harder.

As each day passes, I have more and more ideas present for an article.

In the first few days it was easier – one idea, one article.

With an ever-increasing number of daily ideas comes a need to prioritise based on what might interest me or what I feel most strongly about.

I find myself starting an article on one topic, abandoning it and moving to another, and then another. The idea for this article materialised today after having started (and abandoned) 4 articles all of quite diverse topics.

I had a lunch meeting today with a colleague (and friend) some 20 years my junior. We discussed a number of things including treating the brain as a muscle. The more it is exercised, the better it becomes and specifically, targeted exercise, targets specific areas of improvement.

Perhaps I am experiencing evidence of this.

In just 10 days, my awareness of potential writing ideas is much sharper than it was, much, much sharper.

The variety of approaches that can be taken to an article covering one topic has grown, the different angles, conclusion and even challenges has grown tenfold. The result is each article taking far longer than the last, and not necessarily with a better quality outcome.

I appreciated the feedback that has been provided, the good and the constructive.

One area where my writing “exercise” has not improved is proof reading. Spelling errors and grammatical short comings continue to flow through to my initial posts.

A huge thank you to Toula Ainalis for her daily diligence and gentle feedback as to what can be “improved”. My objective over the remainder of this challenge is to have at least one article with no corrections. Much appreciated Toula.

My goal for the next 5 days is to better assess my ideas and make a single decision as to the day’s topic and then to stick to it no matter what.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Contest the Ideas

When did Politics around the World cease to be a contest of ideas?

When did Politics in Australia cease to have conviction?

When did our Politicians cease to stand for something?

The Hawke/Keating and Howard/Costello Governments played the Politics hard, very hard but they also developed ideas and executed policy.

I am not going to argue the merits of one or the other, just that they “did stuff”.

The move away from “ideas and policy execution” started with the Governments of Rudd and Gillard and has been continued, you might say perfected, by Abbott and Turnbull.

A few years ago, a friend and member of the Labour Party attended the State Conference for the first and what became last time. She came away both disillusioned and educated.

In simple terms, she explained to me the extreme difficulty the Party has reconciling the huge difference between the ideological extremes the party has to navigate. She explained the space between the right of the party and the hard left, and the pragmatic and the idealists, made achieving and keeping Government very challenging.

On the Liberal side, we are increasingly seeing the same, but opposite. The far right of the party and the moderates or “small L” Liberals are also separated by a great divide of equal magnitude.

In both Parties, the tendency has been to concentrate on “not upsetting” the different groups rather than standing for what is believed and allowing reasoned debate to win the day. The result has been to do nothing of conviction.

How do we get back to a contest of ideas and policy where we have Politicians arguing for our support based on what they believe in.

The Australian Conservatives Party has today achieved some substance with Family First folding in to it.

I would like to see the hard right members of the Liberal party leave and join forces with One Nation and the Australian Conservatives.

I would like to see the hard left or socialist left of the Labour Party join forces with the Greens.

This would leave four Parties of Politicians free to argue their beliefs and to develop ideas and policies based on their beliefs. Let’s call it – their conviction.

I mean, does anyone really believe Malcolm Turnbull supports new coal fired power stations?

Does anyone really believe Bill Shorten doesn’t want to investigate and eliminate alleged illegal behaviour of Union officials?

For example, I would like to see;-
  • Tony Abbott free to argue his case for significant reform of work practices,
  • Malcolm Turnbull support same sex marriage,
  • Bill Shorten promote responsible industrial labour reforms and Richard Natalie arguing to significantly increase migration.
Being able to present their ideas and policy without the need to appease highly diverse party factions would be refreshing and valuable. We, the public would be better informed and have a clear choice to make come Election Day. Instead of being told what we want, we would vote for what we want.

Any chance this will happen?

Absolutely

Just take a look at who is in the big office in the White House as proof that anything can happen.
 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

You Can Change the World - Launching "The Trickle Up Phenomenon"

ANZAC Day, 2017.

102 years ago, the ANZAC forces stormed the beach at Gallipoli.
 
We in Australia commemorate this day honouring it with a Public Holiday.
 
102 years on, we honour the bravery of so many young Men, rowing, running, climbing and fighting. We remember the 800 who lost their lives, and the subsequent loss of 8000 lives on that Peninsula in a far-off land. We honour Women that nursed the wounded.
 
We reflect on the subsequent losses of life and heroic deeds of the ANZAC and Allies throughout Europe, in conditions far worse than encountered at Gallipoli and in fighting far more brutal, dangerous and costly than anything imagined in Turkey.
 
We also honour those who have served in every theatre of battle since the Great War, the one that was to end all wars.
 
In many press articles, radio interviews and TV programs leading up to ANZAC Day, much is made of the deeds of the fighting men. Much is also made of the tactical ineptitude of the Commanders and their need to satisfy their political masters. A little is made of the motivation of the Political leaders to present a story to an electorate that will allow them to be re-elected.
 
This is an over simplification but it seems to me that Wars start and escalate due to a need to feed leader egos, justified by the support of, or need to destroy, a religious idealism.
 
I don’t pretend to understand religious differences. I have a broad understanding of Christianity and its basis. I understand the Protestants and Catholics worship the same God and read pretty much the same Bible. However, I have no idea what their differences are and why people have died supporting their side of the argument. Could they have not put aside their egos and had a chat. Surely the end objective is the same.
 
Germany in the 1930's used the Jewish as a lightning rod to excite the masses, but I don’t really understand what their religious Sin was supposed to be. They were a convenient target to motivate an uprising of popular support by a general public still struggling to recover after the first war and a worldwide financial depression.
 
We are meant to be an intelligent, pragmatic, creative, informed, educated and intelligent society, so why are we incapable of learning from the past?
 
Why are we still turning to State mandated violence to satisfy individual egos largely under the banner of religious righteousness?
 
Why do we so quickly default to killing each other to resolve differences.
 
North Korea is a problem, but to North Korea, we are the problem. Let’s talk not fight. Let’s remove the egos.
 
And we can all make a difference. We can all set an example. We can start the momentum and a “trickle up” phenomenon
 
Chances are we all have friends, past friends, acquaintances, colleagues and associates in our lives, in our world, who we have had a disagreement with, or we feel at some stage to have been “wronged by”. We may even not recall just what it was.
 
What has allowed these relationship breakdowns to manifest? Chances are it is our ego.
 
It is easy to do so today and far less confrontational than it was even 10 years ago. We can text and e-mail. We can message on a variety of media, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook just to name a few. Of course, a phone call or letter still works.
 
If you want motivation, re-visit the story of Eric Lomax and his forgiving of torturer Takashi Nagase. If Eric can forgive, surely, we can. * #

We can all make a difference. We can build what I am calling the "Trickle Up Phenomenon" by taking action within our own environs. We can re-establish relationships and friendships by casting aside the negative, restrictive and ultimately self-harming elements of our egos, initiating the first move and taking action.

We can go out in to our 0wn world and talk about the trickle up concept and encourage others to participate. We can provide an example to our leaders that bi-partisanship is a better way to finding common ground, giving and taking defines strength and seeking commonality rather than conflict is the way of the future.

After all, whatever is going on at the moment is not working

We can change the world by understanding and learning from the past and taking honest action within our own paradigm. We can contribute or we can wait for others to do whatever they decide to do and accept the consequences.

Look around you, look at the world around you.  What have we got to lose?

Let’s end on a negative. What is the worst thing that can happen?

 

*Eric Lomax is clear that while he forgives, he doesn’t forget

# The story is told in the Book by Eric Lomax, subsequently made in to a film, both titled The Railway Man.

 

 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Coffee Relationship

What is your relationship with coffee?

My first sip of coffee was in October 2010, on a Sunday morning in a Café in Rue de Rivoli, Paris.

I had been a lifetime committed tea drinker 'wearing' the fact I had never ever having had as a “badge of honour”.

I was well aware France and in particular Paris, is not known for good coffee. My debut was a “Café Creame” which is French for a Latte.

I decided to have a coffee as a celebration of the end of a wonderful 4 weeks cycling in France and Switzerland.

My second ever coffee was another Café Creame, this time in 2012 after cycling to the summit of Alpe d’Huez, an iconic climb (for a cyclist) in the French Alps.

I would joke that “I only drink coffee in France”.

My son convinced me to try a coffee at one of the best purveyors of coffee in Brisbane and after having several over a few weeks, I switched from Latte’s to Long Black and have never looked back. I do also splurge on the occasional Espresso or Long Macchiato

I quickly became somewhat a coffee snob. I have two suburban preferred outlets and four city venues. I have a preference for single origin options.

I have attended a 'one on one' introduction to being a Barista and discovered what a difference the coarseness of the bean grind and pour times make.

I can look at a Barista at work and critique their technique, purge consistency and the like.

I enjoy discussing different beans and the characteristics applicable to different countries.

My relationship with coffee, defined by the discussions I have and the analysis I enter in to is reminiscent of another relationship I nurtured between the the ages of 30 and 40 – my relationship with Red Wine.

Fortunately, I can take or leave both, although, if pushed, I think I enjoy coffee in my 50’s more than I enjoyed Red Wine in my 30’s.