Monday, 22 January 2018

Applying Judgements & Who we are versus what we have

Being away from the usual routine allows time and space for your mind to reflect and wander to many areas and subjects.

A different environment and new people also assist this mind meandering.

I have just returned from 8 days cycling in Adelaide, Australia and following the Tour Down Under, Australia’s premier professional Men’s and Women’s cycling races.

This is a week where Adelaide is overtaken by Cyclists from all over Australia and many parts of the World. It is a week of positive energy where physically healthy, fit and active people are brought together by a common love of cycling.

Many cycling related organisations arrange group rides duing the week and I joined several including an afternoon shake down ride last Monday.

A scenic ride route had been designed and we meandered through the hills outside Adelaide, through Belair National Park before a fast and scenic decent back in to Adelaide. As is usual for such events, there are staged stops to regroup as different people ascend and descend at varying speeds.

Events at these stops left me pondering two things. The first being about how we are inclined to inflict our own judgements on others and secondly, the different importance we place on what we have versus who we are. 

Both circumstances revolved around my bike.

99.99% of road bikes are constructed from Carbon Fibre. My bike fits in to the remaining .01% and is made from Titanium.

As such, my bike is occasionally subjected to attention and I am required to speak on its behalf.

The first situation took place at one of the re-group stops. A lady asked me about the bike and I gave the standard questions as to why I opted for Titanium over Carbon. After saying some complimentary things, she asked me how much it weighed.

Her pleasant demeaner changed when I said I had no idea.

She then abused me saying how ridiculous it was that I didn’t know and asked why I refused to tell her. I responded saying that if I was concerned about having a super light bike I would have gone for Carbon Fibre adding that it probably weighed about a kilogram more than hers.

She told me it is just stupid that I don’t know and I should know how much it weighs.

Slightly annoyed, I responded saying that I could very easily lose a few kilograms before worrying about a saving of a couple of hundred grams in frame weight. Was I rude? Perhaps because we both knew she had far more weight available to lose than I did. She left in a huff.

In her mind, all that mattered was the weight of the bike and it was through this paradigm she judged me. She genuinely felt I was stupid for not knowing the weight.

At a second stop, a group of about 5 gathered around me asking about and dare I say, admiring my bike. As we set off, one of the “admirers” formed up in the bunch alongside me and after a little while said “My bike is the best here”. I replied with a simple “Ok, that’s good” and he went in to a description of his Colnago model something with this and that.

Again my simple “that’s great” was met with several follow up statement asserting that his is the best bike and finally ending with “My bike is better than yours”. “Ok” was my response as a need to go into single file opened up and along with it, an opportunity to accelerate away.

I was in equal parts amused and amazed by this conversation. My reasons for buying my bike are to have a long lasting, strong bike that will withstand the demands of airline travel. I intend to be riding the same bike in 20 years’ time and to continue to travel the world with it

My ride colleague that day seemed more concerned that “his stuff is better than everyone else’s stuff”.

I was left pondering that he cares more about what he has than he does about who he is or what he stands for as a person.

However, in reality, he is probably doing what we all do at some stage of our life. Many, including me, have at one time or another measured or sort to measure our success by the pursuit of possessions ahead of prosecuting our values.

One path leads us on the road to fulfillment while the other takes us down a road with no end.

On another matter, today represents the end of my holidays and a return to at least one post each week day. It is not as if I haven’t been writing these last few weeks, it is just that it has been on a commercial basis.

Thanks for reading today and for doing so these last 8 months or so.

Let 2018 begin and may we enjoy  and be enlightened by the journey.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Our Thoughts Hold us Back

Many of the lessons I have learned have come via my life long involvement in sport and physical activities.

Any Leadership or Management skills I may have acquired have been developed by being a part of sporting teams as a player and a coach.

On reflection, the desired outcomes of business and sporting teams are the same; each wants to develop team members to perform to the best of their abilities within the level of desire, commitment and determination they possess within themselves.

Our actions and reactions are dictated by two things, our thoughts and our feelings. On a strictly individual basis, one may override the other to different degrees. At the extreme ends of the scale, one person may always follow their feelings whereas another may ignore feelings defaulting always to the cerebral.

Most of us fall somewhere in between, and where we sit in the scale may vary depending on if we are at work, with family or relaxing.

I have written several times about the transformation I made when running and specifically when training each of my marathons.

When training, I now run a distance and a speed that honours how I am feeling whereas as previously I adhered strictly to a training program and as a consequence was constantly suffering injuries.

I have further followed my feelings in transforming my work life. Logically, staying in the Corporate world in a well paid moderately senior role made sense. However, doing so would have meant overriding some fundamental concerns I was feeling.  

As successful as these examples of being more “feeling centric” have been, I have struggled to expand this in to other areas of life.

However, yesterday I took a step forward.

I wrote yesterday referencing a 107 kilometre cycling event I participated in.
I first participated in this event in 2016 and did so with a fitness base that involved very little cycling. The event involves a lot of climbing with most of the first 18 kilometres being uphill. I struggled and suffered throughout the ride.

I returned much better prepared in 2017 and completed the course in a time that was more than an hour less, and really enjoyed the event.

As 2018 is to be the 10th and final edition of the event, I decided to do it once again and this time, I had no expectations. In 2017, it was a major cycling objective and I was fitter (and lighter) than yesterday.

My start line objective was to simply ride as well as I felt happy and comfortable doing so. If this meant it took 7 hours or 5 hours, I just wanted to enjoy it.

To put it another way, I was determined that each pedal rotation would be the best it could possibly be depending on how I felt. I was not saving myself for the next hill, the next push in to a head wind and when that came, I would simply do the best I felt capable of doing and if that was 10 kph or 30 kph, so be it.

During the ride, I adopted the saying “Respect the visual and honour the feeling”.

I completed the event in windy and at times cold conditions in less than 4 hours 30 minutes, quicker than in 2017. I also felt fresh and happy at the end, hardly fatigued at all.

This experience was a reminder that by way of our thoughts, we apply our own limits to what we can and do achieve and in doing so restrict our  capabilities and ultimately our happiness by the fears we allow ourselves to think.

We all have our own definition of what achievement is. To some it is measured by Corporate status, some by money and others by family, sport, education, travel or matters spiritual.

It is the fears we perceive and the limitations we apply by way of our thoughts that hold us back.

Think about it or better still, how do you feel about that?

Sunday, 14 January 2018

People Who Walk Through Our LIfe

Many people travel through our lives. Some are there forever, some for less. Whether we are consciously aware of the contribution each person makes is irrelevant because in one way or another, they all shape who we are today.

I am writing while sitting at a bench in my apartment in Adelaide, Australia. I am here to enjoy and embrace all that is the Tour Down Under Cycling Race.

This morning, along with approximately 1000 others, I participated in a 107 kilometre ride through the Adelaide Hills and surrounds. A ride that entailed nearly 1800 metres of climbing and that inclusive of stops for red lights, traffic, water and food, I completed in 4 hours and 27 minutes.

I am here in Adelaide and cycling each day due in no small part to a Gentleman who passed away yesterday aged 81.

In 6 weeks time, I will embrace 10 years since I had open heart surgery to repair 4 blockages in arteries. The date was 3 March 2008 and I was not yet 50 years old.

In 2004 I started cycling and a year later was introduced to Hamilton Wheelers Cycling Club where I started some local club criterion and road racing.

I was graded C Grade and was a perennial finisher in the main pack. I never troubled the podium.

The Handicapper was a “no nonsense” hard nosed veteran cyclist and was an expert at dealing with the many competitors trying to convince him they should be dropped a grade.

He was equally welcoming and supportive of new cyclists and always ready with a tip. He also remembered everyone’s name.

A few weeks after my surgery, I went and watched some races and he enquired as to why I wasn’t racing. When I explained why, he revealed he had had the same surgery some 8 years before.

He encouraged me to keep cycling and to race again suggesting I have a quiet word to him when I am ready.

My Cardiologist was a former racer and in giving me the go ahead to race, added the proviso that it is to be no higher than D Grade.

I was graded in D Grade however after a few months I managed to win a few races. Our handicapper approached me saying he needs to look at putting me back in C Grade however on checking with my Cardiologist, the answer was no.

He called me and said I could stay in D Grade however I would have to “soft pedal” and not win too often. We discussed how this may work and for the next year I did a lot of work at the front of D Grade races and chased down any breakaway.

Being able to keep participating in Club Races was important to me re-gaining my physical confidence.

I have often reflected on his kindness and understanding in negotiating a way for me to keep cycling.

In no small way, he has a great deal to do with me being in Adelaide today.  

If it wasn’t for him, I may never have made several European Cycling trips nor run the New York or Berlin Marathons.

I have not seen him for quite a few years however I sit here today both pleased  and relieved that I took the time to tell him how much I appreciated what he did for me.

It is a reminder to me how important it is to acknowledge those who make a positive difference to our life.

Thank you to a fine gentleman and someone who was proud to his last day to call himself a cyclist. 

If there is cycling in heaven, it is about to be better organised. If there is not, there soon will be.

Rest in Peace Terry Bourne.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Men Being The Equal of Women - It May Take Generations.

I have drafted this Post over 15 times and have not been happy with it.

I generally try to be balanced.

I try to acknowledge two sides of an argument and to consider the background or history that may have led to a point of view or way of behaving that is the opposite to the position I am taking.

In drafting this post, this is exactly what I was doing. I was acknowledging the history of society oppressing women and of us Men imposing physical, financial, physiological, political and sexual power upon Women.

I had drafted dialogue in support of this including  the history of voting in democratic elections and pay parity.

I had even gone in to detail about what should be Socially Progressive intellectuals working in tech industries designing ways of making the way we live and consume different, better, quicker and cheaper.

However, all this background is nonsense. There is no excuse.

I read an adaption from a book called Brotopia written by Emily Chang*.

It details drug-fuelled sex- laced parties for the benefit of the male elite in Silicon Valley. The invitation and admittance requirements ensure a ratio of Women to Men that favour the Men.

She is clear that all sex is consensual.

Consensual it may be however she details that the “Women are participating in this culture to improve their lives”. What sort of culture creates such a need?

The Men involved justify their actions saying they are disrupting normal societal expectations by participating in an alternative lifestyle.

Chang talks about open relationships and what are referred to as “Founder Hounders”.

The adaption from the book reads to me like nothing more than wealthy Men with low self esteem exercising power for their own sexual gratification and to feed their fragile egos.

This is not the structuring of a new form of society.

This is a return to a bygone era where Women are downtrodden, disrespected, used and demeaned. It is a return to a time when Men have the money and the power and that justifies everything. It is the suppression of Women.

What has been outlined is another form of the casting couch culture, one also justified by way of the “consensual” argument.

Maybe I live a sheltered life and maybe this type of culture is welcomed by intelligent Men and Women. Perhaps it is an expression of equality, be it one I don’t understand.

What is says to me (yet again) is that there is only so much Women can do to cease being suppressed. It is us Males that need to take our share of the responsibility and play a meaningful role.

It is us Males who need to seek equality, a higher equality.

Until we (Males) collectively develop the self esteem and self respect to behave as the equal of Women, genuine progress will continually stall.

And yes, you read correctly.

Men, need to develop the self esteem to claim our position as the equal of Women because this is not about money and power, this is about ethics, morality and humanity.

My fear is, it may take generations.

·     This is the link to the adaption of Brutopia             

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Have No Regrets - On a Daily Basis

I veer right off the road on to the bike path and get out of the saddle pushing harder to maintain momentum up the slight rise leading to the Ted Smout bridge across Bramble Bay linking Brighton Beach and the Redcliffe peninsula.

As I join the path on the bridge I am pleased my expectation of a head wind was correct as I prefer a tail wind when returning across the bridge. I change gears and settle in to an easy cadence and a speed a little short of 30 kph for the next 3 kilometres.

It is New Year’s Eve and I intend to ride about 70 kilometres and in doing so, complete a Strava/Rapha challenge to ride 500 kilometres between Christmas and New Years Eves. Due to being away, I have had just 5 days to do the distance however in reality, 500 kilometres is a target rather than a need and if I don’t achieve it so be it. There are over 82000 throughout the world signed up to do the 500 k and it is fun to be a part of this world wide pop up Strava community. *

Looking across the bay to my right, the morning is clear and bright and off in the distance I can see my turn around point at Scarborough. While there are no signs of the predicted storms, it is obvious it will get much hotter, quickly.

There are a few walkers, skaters, runners and fellow cyclists on the bridge as well as two groups with fishing equipment heading for the fishing platform. I wondered what they will catch.

The end of the bridge is near and I go through my mental checklist to look right as I exit the bridge and to also ensure any cyclist coming on to the bridge from the opposite direction are keeping left. So often they do not.

The bridge exit is simple and I allow my bike to slow naturally as we level out before applying gentle pressure to the pedals just to maintain momentum. I know there is a half loop around a tree coming up and a need to break so any acceleration now is wasting energy.

About 20 metres short of the loop, I am positioning to apex the curve and note an ambulance. For any cyclist, the site of an ambulance strikes concern as we always default to it being an injured cyclist. I also note a Police Car.

And almost instantaneously I am hard on the brakes and cursing the all but transparent police ribbon strung across and blocking the path. It is incredibly hard to see.

Now at a complete stop, I hear the heavy braking of another cyclist behind me and brace for the impact. Thankfully my “brace” was not required.

There is no obvious need for the area being surrounded by the Police ribbon and my thinking is recent storms have caused a branch to become unstable and unsafe. I look at the tree and can see nothing loose until………..

…………At the foot of the tree is a person, a person who no longer draws breath. There is a sheet/towel covering them but clearly a lifeless body is at the foot of the tree.

There is no frantic activity within the ribboned off area and I note the writing on the Police ribbon does not reference “crime scene”.

There is an alternative narrow walking path heading to a toilet block that bypasses the scene so I take that and continue.

But my mind is on the deceased. I have no idea what their circumstances or situation is. All I know is that someone’s Son, Daughter, Brother, Sister, Mother or Father was alive yesterday and today is not.

Were they out walking or running when it happened or were they sleeping out and passed while asleep? Did they pass at their own hand?

I have to remind myself to concentrate on my cycling as I am now on the road and there are cars around, although at 6.30am on New Years Eve, not many cars.

The suddenness at which life extinguishes is what strikes me. It is immediate and it is complete.

I wonder about how the deceased viewed their life and hope they felt at least some level of fulfillment and satisfaction. I have no reason to think otherwise.

I also wonder what regrets they took with them. I wonder what they wish they had done, what adventure they let go by and of any relationships they wished they had acted to reconcile.

I hoped there were none.

This event was a reminder to me, to have no regrets and to have no regrets on a daily basis.

* I did make the 500 kilometres and achieved a ranking of 14,714 out of 82,562 who signed up..

Monday, 1 January 2018

Kick Starting 2018 - One Simple but Challenging Action

I have a secret to having a great chance of 2018 being a most sensational year.

It does however require the investment of a couple of hours in one block of time over the next 3 days and the investment of honesty with yourself.

What I suggest you do is not a sure-fire guarantee to a successful 2018, however it will ensure you have a better chance than most of achieving your success.

Importantly, how we measure success is unique to each of us and each of us only. One challenge is to use our own success measure and not one we feel we should accept due to family, societal of any other pressures.

Let us start.

It is day one of the new year.

It is time to write a review of the 2018 year as at 31 December.

This is not a writing error, I do mean 31 December 2018.

Place yourself on Monday 31 December 2018 and write down a review of the year exactly how you want it to be.

For example, is there any study you want to start, complete or progress? In my case, I will be writing:

“I am pleased to have completed my Journalism Degree. I was aware I took on a big load to complete it this year but I am glad I did and can now officially call myself a Journalist”.

Chances are you have some travel plans or ideas for 2018. I do too and today I will write something like:

“Having spent time in Chicago and St Louis, it was an easy flight to San Francisco for the AMTRACK connection to the Grand Canyon. The sheer size and raw beauty of the Canyon was beyond expectations. The contrast of the Grand Canyon with Yellowstone and Yosemite made all stops more spectacular.”

Can you see what I am getting at? I am writing my achievements about the year ahead as if they have already happened. Take my travel comments. I have already made a commitment to be in Chicago and I know precisely what dates I will be there and what I will be doing. It is what I then do in America that I need to plan and execute.

It s not only the big-ticket items that are addressed.

Like many others, you may have become very competent in accumulating "stuff". I certainly have and will be writing:

“I have finished 2018 far less cluttered than I started it. The decision that I would not buy an article of clothing without first discarding two old items has made a huge difference to my physical environment and proved almost liberating”.

Then again, perhaps this is a big-ticket item after all.

No matter what their age, perhaps there is something to write about your relationship with parents or children.

A possible example might be:

Committing to being less judgemental and more trusting towards those closest has proved very positive for our relationship and sense of fun and joyfulness as a family unit.

Concerning health, I will be writing much the same as I have for the last 10 years:

“I finish the year fitter, stronger and healthier physically, mentally and spiritually than I was on this day last year”.

This process is not difficult however it can be challenging. It certainly takes honesty and even a little bravery. You may choose to share the review of your year ahead but equally, you may keep it to yourself. It matters more that you do it.

Recording the future as if it has actually happened is a powerful tool and places in you mind the seeds to be grown throughout the year. The difficulty many face when doing this the first time is slipping back in to writing in the form of an objective or a wish. There should not be words like “I plan to”, “I intend to” or “I will”.

By all means visit your document on a regular basis however avoid the temptation to edit it because chances are any change will be less aspirational than what you write today.

One final suggestion. Take a notebook and pen to write your year in review. Anecdotal evidence suggests this is more powerful and authentic than using a keyboard. You may even start a new notebook and then use it for daily journaling, which is another good habit to get in to.

I use an A5 size hardcover notebook which is also easy to take with me and I do take it, pretty much everywhere I go.

Enjoy reviewing 2018, today.

My Much Travelled 2017 Note Book 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 and Thank You

Just 5 hours remain in the year we call 2017.

I could do a reflective talking about all the remarkable and many extraordinary events that have taken place, some fake others not but my fear is this would quickly become a Trump rant.

Instead, I will follow my instincts and outline what has impressed, surprised and delighted me in international and local politics, sport, books, movies and music these last 365 days less 5 hours

Politics - International........

The election of Emmanuel Macron as President of France seemed to break the sequence of protest election results. Brexit was unexpected and arguably unwanted and Donald Trump achieved victory on the back of an incredible platform and dislike of Hilary Clinton.

Macron does not have a traditional political heritage however he also conducted a campaign that was not purely based on hatred.

The initial indication out of Germany was also positive at it appeared Angela Morkel would be returned. This is a little less clear right now however chances are a coalition of support will deliver stable government in Europe’s dominant economy.

Politics – Locally......

A few things stand out in a year that was embarrassing by way of the pettiness, childishness and self-centred negativity by just about all local Federal players.

Senator Brandis speech after Pauline Hanson donned a Burka was outstanding and received a standing ovation from all Senators not aligned with One Nation.

The carriage of the Marriage Equality legislation was also a high point and demonstrated what can be achieved when politicians argue and prosecute their beliefs irrespective of political alignment.

Nothing else about this matter was positive including the process that resulted in the act being amended. The result however was.

My other positive is a little “left field”. I applaud Cory Bernardi for following his conviction, leaving the liberal party and forming the Australian Conservative Party. Having decided he could not turn the Liberal Party in to a Conservative Party, he left and formed a Party that aligned with his values.

Like or dislike the Conservatives, his actions are credible. If only a few other Members of the Liberal and National Parties would demonstrate similar conviction and join his party.

In World Sport........

Roger Federer provided a Master Class in how a great champion should behave when he competed in and won the Australian Open Tennis Tournament. Everything about him sets and example for everyone else to follow in all walks of life.

Chris Froome won two Grand Tours in 2017, French and Spanish and again his humility and class was always on display. Unfortunately, a cloud has recently appeared over his victory in Spain.

In Local Sport..........

Richmond climbing to the AFL Premiership was an event many never believed they would live long enough to see.

However, the real achievement was the growth and acceptance of the Women’s sporting environment in Australia.

Alysse Perry played the outstanding Ashes Innings of the year with her double century in the Test against England played at North Sydney. Her batting was outstanding for its power, grace, elegance and sheer skill. No better double century innings has been played in Australia these last 20 years – male or female.

Also becoming a house hold name is the Matildas Sam Kerr. Her goal scoring feats for the Matildas and in the American League have been outstanding.

2017 was the inaugural season for the AFL Women’s’ competition. TV ratings were huge and attendances put many main stream men’s’ sports to shame. The star, premiership captain, role model and best and fairest medal winner was Erin Phillips who bypassed her lucrative and successful American Basketball career to follow her AFL passion.

The growth and acceptance by the sporting public of the authenticity of women’s sport was a land mark of 2017.

At a personal level.........

Leaving Corporate Life has been refreshing, energising and fulfilling. I am not saying I would never go back, however I would be very fussy about what it is I would be doing and for whom.

Berlin was magnificent. I loved the City and all it offers. The marathon was also fun and satisfying.

My trip to the Tour Down Under was sensational. The atmosphere of health, happiness, involvement and inclusion that is Adelaide for 10 days in January is intoxicating. I look forward to this again in 2018.

Still on cycling, growing up in Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road is iconic. Cycling a section of the Great Ocean Road as part of the Cadel Evans Peoples ride was a highlight.

I managed to read some 40 books in 2017. Of these, perhaps 39 were non-fiction. As much as I try, I cannot decide my favourite however I have reduced the list to four books:

1.       This Road I Ride by Juliana Buhring.

Despite the title, this is not cycling book. It is more a voyage of discovery by a lady who identifies with no country as a result of growing up in a cruel cult. On escaping the cult, she fell in love with an adventurer who died in the wilderness while kayaking. Her voyage of discovery was by way of a bike ride around the world, a venture she never really expected to survive. She only learned to ride a bike a few months before leaving.

2.       Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler

A fascinating and educational look in to the one-thousand-year history of Constantinople. What is most enlightening is just how many of the challenges we face today, were unable to be resolved all those years ago.

3.       The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

This book is many things including a unique look at Academic Research and those who conduct it. Two Israeli Psychologists with enviable combat records spend years researching and testing human behaviour and the impacts of decision making. The dangers of unconscious bias are investigated and solution sort. It can be heavy going at times but is captivating.

4.       Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

A look at what drives this unique individual including the contradiction that has many devoted to him while at the same time being driven to extraordinary lengths and sacrifice to keep things moving forward. One of the most fascinating sections explained why Musk has such an incredible risk tolerance.

In reality, this autobiography should be “Part One” as the Musk story is still unfinished.

I had no such problem deciding on the best movie. It was clearly Hidden Figures, the story of the Computers of African American decent who made the first American manned venture in to space possible.

My music discovery of 2017 is the daughter of a school friend and if it wasn’t for this friendship, I would not be aware of the artist.

Her name is Nussy and her music is as interesting as it is captivating. Here is an example of her work.

While on music, at a completely different level, I was delighted to discover a track by Nick Cave. It is his version of the iconic Seekers hit, The Carnival is Over. I cannot claim to be a devoted Nick Cave fan or to be a student of his work. However, there are many thousands of songs I would have tipped him to cover before this one. Listen here.

All we need now is a duet of Nick Cave and Judith Durham.

I want to acknowledge the diverse range of people who contributed to my life this past year.

The writers, photographers, teachers and educators, thank you. To the financial services professionals some since retired, your interaction, counsel and advice is appreciated. To the cyclists, runners, the hockey players and cricketers past and present, your banter and inspiration is valued. To the school friends and the work colleagues of my youth, the re-established connections have been a delight.

To those who work tirelessly for Motor Neurone Disease, your work is outstanding and I have been proud to have made a minor contribution and look forward to continuing to do so.

I was moved to be a part of the Darkness to Daylight event on 3 May raising awareness of Domestic Violence and perhaps my only regret about leaving Corporate Life is not being able to be part of this in 2018. (I am open to invitations to make a guest appearance in a Corporate Team)

I was also humbled to learn of the work of RizeUp in helping victims of domestic violence re-establish their lives and I am keen to make a meaningful contribution in 2018.  

As for 2018. The only thing for certain is it will be the best year ever, if you make it so.