Wednesday, 18 April 2018

30 Posts in 30 Days - What I Have Discovered a Year On

One year ago, I made a commitment, be it to myself, to write an article a day for 30 consecutive days.

As I wrote at the time, the reason for committing to this was because while I called myself a writer, it was rare that I posted or published anything.

Those early days were difficult. My first hurdle came at day 10 when I simply could not come up with something to write about, so I wrote about the first 10 days of daily writing.

I completed the 30 articles in 30 days however I continued the daily post and in fact, posted daily for some 127 consecutive days.

All up, during the past 12 months, I have managed 286 articles.

Many of these have been ordinary, some have been awful and there are a few I have actually been happy about.

I have discovered many things including:

1.     When I know I am committed to writing something that day, I am considerably more aware of what is happening around me.

2.     If I try and write something specifically to generate page traffic, it does not work. On several occasions I have become “addicted” to high readership numbers and have deliberately tried to write again about the same topic in the hope of replicating the numbers. This has always failed.

3.     Notwithstanding (2) above, I know you have very little interest in local politics and I do avoid this subject. Marriage equality was an exception.

4.     Time and time again, I start an article with the idea for the beginning middle and end clearly in mind only to have it go off in a completely different direction.

5.     The more I read, and the more diverse my reading, the easier it is to come up with an idea to write about.

6.     On the vast majority of days, I enjoy the writing. There have been several where it just feels like hard work.

7.     Sometimes an article will take 20 minutes to construct while on other occasions, it will take several hours.

8.     My Twitter followers increase by about 5 a week on the back of articles being posted.

Over the year, the volume of work I have produced has allowed me to pitch for writing projects with far more credibility. I have written and posted quite a few articles about leadership and workplace culture and have been allocated several assignments associated with these subjects. One is ongoing.

I have also applied for writing roles concerning cycling and have been able to reference this blog as evidence of being able to produce regular content over a period of time. The same applied to a website I have pitched a by weekly column too.

The reality is though, my income from writing has not broken the 5 figure barrier.

When meeting people for the first time or seeing people I have not seen for a while, I answer the obvious question by saying “I am a freelance writer”. This does make for a better follow-up conversation than when my answer was a Financial Services Executive.

Over the year, nearly 45000 visits have occurred to my site. The majority of these are from Australia however on occasions, readers in the United States have been in the majority and over the year, are easily the source of the second highest visitor numbers. Daily visits have grown progressively; a year ago, there were only 20 a day.

There are also regular readers in the United Kingdom, France, Singapore and New Zealand. There is also a single daily reader from Sweden. Thank you whoever you are. (I would love to know).  

I made a decision at the start to not publish comments on the Blog even if they were complimentary. I do appreciate all feedback and thank those who have provided it be it via the site, SMS, e-mail or verbal. I will add, while there has been criticism, the constructive nature of most of it has been amazing and very much appreciated. Of course, some has also been abusive.

What now?

My plan is to launch a new, more expansive and inclusive site by the end of July. The intention is to add book reviews and specific areas for specific topics. I also intend this to be a vehicle for other aspiring writers and photographers to have access to an audience. There are many enthusiastic and talented writers who do not have the time or perhaps even the confidence to write regularly and therefore to build up a readership. Perhaps I can assist in a small way to provide an audience.

In closing, to everyone who has read one or more articles, thank you. To everyone who has liked, shared, retweeted or copied and sent a link to another person, thank you. To everyone who have commented on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, thank you also.

Finally, I have the perfect way of celebrating the past year. By sheer coincidence, I am going to a dinner tonight arranged by someone who has performed regular proof reading and correction for me, and who has been forever encouraging. Thank you Toula.   

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Love of Career v Career Money

The things you learn in the most unusual places from the most surprising people. Or perhaps it was a reminder of what it is we already know but a reluctant to accept.

But first some background.

The teacher is Lisa-ann Gershwin.

Lisa-ann hails from a small town in the mountains outside Los Angeles called the Valley of Enchantment – seriously, that is what the town is called.

On 21 January 1973 her grade 3 primary school class had a field trip (excursion) to the Cabrillo Marine Museum (Cabrillo Marine Aquarium ) after which Lisa-ann decided she would become a Marine Scientist.

She held this commitment through primary and high school before becoming a very successful, high income earning stockbroker.

To be fair, she did many other jobs as well including establishing her own business. However, she never lost her love of marine life however also never sort further study in this field or any other for that matter.

It was the owner of the cinema where she was working who demanded she use her intelligence in a way more meaningful than “popping corn” for movie goers that had her applying for Law School.

She decided on Law because she enjoyed arguing and it paid well enough that she could spend her entire vacation visiting the great marine areas of the world including the Great Barrier Reef.

To fil in time while waiting to hear if her Law School application was successful, Lisa-ann undertook a marine related community course of study.

The final class was to involve a boat trip however inclement weather made that impossible so instead, they were taken to the Cabrillo Marine Museum.

The date was 22 December 1993, a month short of 20 years since the primary school trip to the same place and her decision to become a Marine Scientist.

Lisa-ann never went to Law School.

She now resides in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia and is a world authority on Jelly Fish.

She is credited with the discovery of 38 new species and the discovery of a new species of dolphin.

What happened in the intervening 20 years between Cabrillo Marine Museum visits.

Lisa-ann’s family and close friends told her the road to becoming a Marine Scientist was hard. They explained there will be years of study and the material is really hard and then when you qualify, the jobs are few and the pay is ordinary.

While all this is true, it left Lisa-ann believing she lacked the intelligence to study Marine Science

Now for the lesson;

What she wishes they had told her is:

If you love it so much, it’s like air or like water and you need it for your mental health.

As for prioritising a high income, Lisa–ann wishes she had known the following:

You don’t need a job that pays you well because you only need all that money to entertain you because you don’t like your job

When you love your job, you don’t need all these other things to entertain you because you are way too interested in what you are doing.

We are always told, and are telling others to do what they love and to follow their passion.

Lisa-ann’s words quoted above articulate why we should do this and what the outcome will be if we do, and if we don’t.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

An Active (unexpected) Demonstration Of A Great Workplace Culture

A bunch of sheep, cattle, hens dogs and 2 horses had me thinking about workplace safety and how team members can help, support and assist each other.

All stock on the property I am looking after can access the boundary fence of the residence  even though they may be in different paddocks. This is helped by the cattle and horses sharing the same paddock.    

At about 6.30am this morning, the was a distinct uproar as cattle, sheep and hens joined in a not particularly coordinated chorus of sound.

All the animals were essentially in the one area. The sheep were up against the hen enclosure and the cattle were a few metres away be it separated by a gate.

The next sound was that of galloping hooves and the two horses were effectively rounding up the final few cattle and driving them in to the same area.

Each time a cow sort to leave the area, one of the horses prevented them from doing so.

The was an obvious feeling of tension in the air. The usually relaxed dogs were on edge as they moved, stopped still, sniffed the breeze and repeated.

I have no idea what happened to concerned the animals. They felt threatened and uncomfortable and responded accordingly.

The two horses are experienced in working a muster and it appeared they had acted to herd the cattle to an area they considered safe and then held them there.

After about 45 minutes the horses stood down from their guard, the noise fell away and they all returned to grazing. The gradually dispersed too.

It occurred to be the animals on a farm are effectively like a work place with all having a job to do. The sheep grow wool, the hens lay eggs, it is their place of work.

An effective human workplace is one where each team member’s skills and abilities are respected and supported and where colleagues combine to ensure a safe environment.

Ideally, when someone feels threatened, unsafe or uncomfortable at work, the first line of support comes from colleagues. A great work environment is one where all team members feel empowered to provide necessary support and encouragement and can do so with the courage born from knowing their will be no victimisation or retaliation.

I have no idea if it was a pack dingoes, angry adult kangaroos or even someone hunting wild dogs (legally) that caused the animals to be concerned.

It did however appear very obvious that the horses took the initiative, used their mustering skills and took the cattle to safety.

I feel privileged to have worked in several safe, productive and cooperative environments, and hope I may have built one or two such workplaces myself.

More so however, the scene I witnessed this morning was quite moving and an interesting physical representation of a safe and supportive workplace.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

From Trump to Tasmania - Via The Commonwealth Games and Hockey Australia

So, that was Tuesday.

We woke this morning to learn the United States President had assembled his security cabinet to discuss the unfolding situation in Syria and was to front a press conference surrounded by his security advisers.

The matter in question is the accusation of a Chemical Weapons attack in Syria resulting in many civilian deaths, and painful deaths at that.

They need someone to blame? Is it Russia, Iran or is it the Syrian rebels?

When a similar attack occurred 6 months ago, a US military strike was ordered. Russia has been clear they are not involved and any military response will be frowned upon.

While this is not yet a tinderbox, the kindling is drying.

The World is on edge…….

…… the President prioritises what is essentially a domestic matter with potential personal consequences for him.

He even references a "break in" to describe the execution of a search warrant, legally obtained and properly signed by a judge. (as I understand it)

Is the President really focused on world conflict or is a payment to a Porn Star to keep quiet about an event the President is very, very clear never took place more important?

Moving on to other things that lack logic.

The Commonwealth Games are nearing their mid-point and Australia’s Men’s and Women’s hockey teams are tracking well towards the final podium.

Australia’s Men’s team is currently rated the best in the world and is the reining world champions. They have been number one for 10 of the last 15 years.

The Women’s team have also enjoyed the same lofty status however is currently re-building. None the less, they are still in the leading group of hockey nations.

With a long, long history of success on the international stage, it makes sense to re-vamp our National Competition, or not.

Hockey Australia is "going 20/20" and in doing so, has added significant cost to competition resulting in Tasmania withdrawing.

A reason given for the change of format is to increase competitor numbers. I question how excluding the successful Tasmanian teams by way of prohibitive costs is increasing competitor numbers.
For the record, Tasmania’s Men’s team were National Champions as recently as 2014.

Perhaps we can recruit President Trump to explain this logic.


Monday, 9 April 2018

Food for Thought - Or walking on egg shells

Like many of my generation who were born, raised, schooled and have worked a full working life in a large City, we have a naivety about Country Life.

We know it’s there, we know it is necessary and we consume the products of the daily farm labour 3 times a day with barely a thought, if ever a thought of where our food comes from.

We may make ourselves feel good by seeking out fresh food that is a product of our own country and feel even better when we select free range or barn laid eggs from the extraordinary choice before us.

I am half way through fulfilling a secondment to a relatively small property in Queensland’s Granite Belt region. I have horses, cattle, sheep, 2 dogs and countless hens to care for. I also have some fruit and vegetables to tender.

In reality, the sheep and cattle look after themselves. The horses are largely self sufficient as they enjoy their break from mustering duties and the dogs are incredibly well trained and behaved, except for when there is a rabbit to catch.

The hens are secured overnight however on morning release have free access to the entire property. Although they never seem to go more than about 500 metres from “home”.

I am never quite sure if all hens are home each evening but have been assured the 2 pure white chooks will always be last to enter the enclosure and if they are in, all are in.

Egg collecting is a daily ritual followed by sorting and storing ready for weekly deliveries to local customers.

Which brings me to my point.

Like most, I buy my eggs at the supermarket. A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to change to free range eggs and have even resorted to looking at the carton labels to see if there is reference to how much space each hen has. *

The eggs I buy come in identical shape and size and are almost identical in shell texture and colour.

The eggs I collect and sort each day are anything but. Colours range from a deep dark brown through to an almost “Paris Light” white. Some are almost round while others are long and thin. The majority are much larger than the extra large on sale in our shops and shell textures vary from perfectly smooth to quite abrasive. For example:
I know the eggs I am collecting are absolutely free range. I am now wondering just “how” free range the eggs I buy are.

It doesn’t make sense that commercial free-range eggs are all identical in shape, colour and texture.

Or is it “us” who demand everything is the same and it all looks perfect?

We go to the supermarket and select the shiniest apples while ignoring or being oblivious to the fact they are “waxed” to appear that way.

We leave behind the carrots that are not perfectly formed and turn our nose up if the watermelon skin has a blemish.

I wonder how much food is produced and subsequently wasted because it does not look perfect? How many eggs are rejected because they are less than the perfect shape or colour?

We hear about the challenge ahead of us to produce sufficient food from decreasing land. We hear about the rising cost of living and in particular the financial strain of the household food trolley.

We hear arguments that the solution comes in the form of genetic engineering.

We choose to ignore that much of what we consume is produced with the aid of chemicals and fertilizers and I suspect this all contributes to the “perfectness” of what we purchase in our supermarkets.

I am rushing to complete this post before by next daily task.

I have a drip watering system to run for two hours for the citrus trees and then will hand water the egg plants. I am not sure why they have to be watered by hand but they do, every day too. The citrus trees are watered every second day.

None of this produce is intended for the shelves of Woolworths, Coles, Aldi or IGA. It will be sold or traded locally.

Like the eggs, all produce is grown naturally and organically, is full of flavour and will not be waxed or shined.

However, none of it conforms to our requirement for it to look perfect on the outside.

In our era of social media and pressures to portray ourselves as living that perfect life, I wonder if what we eat and how we shop for food is a metaphor for this century (so far)?

*By my calculation, the hens in my care have about a quarter hectare each

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Fear We May "Suck" Stalls Our Pursuits

I think I have stumbled on a solution.

No, I am not revisiting the (in)famous question posed in Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy where the answer is obviously 42.

I am talking about another answer to the world, the universe and everything.

Ok, I may be exaggerating. (I nearly wrote over exaggerating but I am never sure if that phrase actually makes sense).

It is with some embarrassment that I will reveal my source.  

I clicked on an article in the entertainment section of an on-line news website. I was drawn to the article because it referenced a program I used to watch in the early years of this century.

The article involved an interview with the principal actor* of the series about her latest book.

During the interview, she referenced the challenges of being an author and how much harder the art of writing is compared to being an actor.

In particular, a comment she made took my attention because it so simply summarised the one thing that holds so many of us back from doing the thing and things we want to do, want to excel at, or stop us making the change we want to make with our career or employer.

On a number of occasions, I have written about the things that hold us back from doing what we really want to do.

These include image, status, peer pressures and fear of failure.

It also can be a concern about our “other” skills holding up to market scrutiny. For example, what would happen of my antique restoration skills as a hobbyist do not hold up to market pressures.

How different would our life be if Henry Ford had been concerned about his skills to establish a production line to manufacture motor vehicles.

The world would be very different if Steve Jobs allowed his insecurities to get in the way of Imagineering better, more expansive and mobile computing concepts.   

The actor I read about today referenced their own challenge to be an author, including the following comments:

“Almost nothing I’ve ever done did I ever have the confidence to do,”

“I didn’t have confidence, I just had drive. If you wait for your self-esteem to catch up, you’ll never get anything done.”

And finally:

“Don’t Be Afraid to Suck.

It is the fear that we may “suck” when pursuing a new endeavour that holds us back from ever trying that makes the final quote so powerful and profound.
Equally powerful is the reference to waiting for our self esteem to catch up.
The strength of both quotes lies in the simplicity of each.

*The actor referenced/quoted is Lauren Graham 




Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Where Challenges and Benefits Differ

There is a great divide in Australia between the country and the city.

Many in the City live with a romantic perception of the great outdoors and rolling plains stocked with grazing sheep, cattle or growing something valuable.
There are many stories of City dwellers buying a property to retire too, only to sell up 3 or so years later.

Conversely, those who make their living on the land or live in rural towns would not swap what they do for any other life, however it is hard work and there are no public holidays.

Rural residents are challenged by way of a basic lack of medical and associated services, poor roads, outdated communication infrastructure and struggling schools, among other things.

This is countered by the benefits of considerably cheaper housing and the ability to save money by producing a great deal of food on your own land.

Us in the big cities are faced with ever rising property prices, food costs, increasingly clogged roads and crowded often unreliable public transport.

I have been internet challenged today.

I consider a fast on demand internet to be normal. Most of us in major Cities do. I had no desire for an NBN connection however when there was no choice, this only made my internet access faster and more reliable. I can stream, upload, download, dropbox, record, edit, format or whatever else without really giving a thought to how much data has been consumed.

The property I am looking after does not have normal internet services. It could have, and connection costs and plan costs are the same as for Melbourne, Brisbane etc. The difference however, is the property owner has to fund the infrastructure for the nearly one kilometre from the road to the residence which amounts to an extraordinary number of thousands of dollars.

Being aware of the connectivity limitations ahead of me, I beefed up my mobile wireless service and all was fine until last night when it didn’t work.

Not to worry, I would talk to Telstra/BigPond in the morning and if need be, escalate to my very own Telstra Business Consultant.

I wont bore you except to say after many hours on hold to 3 separete Telstra/BigPond areas and multiple e-mails to “my business guy”, I was advised to visit my local Telstra store.
Easy, except it was a one hour drive away, followed by a 75 minute wait before I could see someone and then a one hour return trip.

I have to say, the face to face service I eventually received was excellent, beyond excellent even and my issue was resolved in about 15 minutes.

This minor event highlighted once again that the sum total of the challenges faced in City Centres and Rural communities are essentially the same, it is just the individual events that benefit and also challenge each sector are different.
Ultimately, I suspect over time, the pros and cons of each cancel each other out and it is purely a matter of individual preference.

As detailed daily rainfall records must be maintained, I am off to check the rain gauge