Betterment Ramblings

Today, I said goodbye

Below is the goodbye message I sent to my work colleagues earlier this week. I reproduce it here for your benefit:

A beginning is only the start of a journey to another beginning – unknown
Let me start by saying that you’ve received this message as someone who has shaped me to be the person I am today through the last 16.5 years of my journey through __________. Everything we do in life is a journey – at the start of my journey as a Remote technical support technician in 1994 I did not know where my journey would take me. I’ve been blessed to have met many of you over the years as part of the training or L&D organisations. No journey can be completed without help from others.

For your help, guidance, persistence, recommendations, discussions and feedback throughout the years, I say Thank You.

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young – Henry Ford
I’ve been privileged to work in & around the world of “Learning” for most of my life and believe it is the heart and soul of everything we do. Henry Ford’s quote is one of the best out there to help understand how important it is to learn something every moment you can. I have not stopped learning since starting my journey, and strongly urge all of you to keep on learning, too. My learning journey will not end here – I have many options open to me in the ‘next’ journey I take but I can promise you I am already learning a ‘lot about a lot’ in preparation, and even then it won’t be enough. Don’t be daunted by the challenge, relish the opportunity to learn new things 🙂

Adventure must start with running away from home – William Bolitho
I’ve been working for 25 years of my life and have decided to take some time off and contemplate what the next phase of my life will look like. I’m looking at this as a new adventure, and in a way I am leaving a place one could call ‘home’! My future will be one that involves inspiring other people to take on new challenges, fitness, health, learning and socializing with good people. I’ll be looking at a way to blend them all together, and happy to hear any ideas you may have 🙂 I’ll also be working on my blog (My Proactive Life), going for more rides to raise awareness of various Men’s health issues, as well as spending time with the family and socializing more.

Many people replied stating that this message was inspirational and positive, and wished me all the best for the future.
What’re your thoughts about it?
Do you have any suggestions on how I can combine my wish to inspire others?

Brain Learning Personal Development relationships

David Brooks: The Social Animal

In February 2011, Writer, thinker and NY Times columnist  David Brooks presented “The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement”. In this 18 minute presentation he touches on something that everyone should strive to understand. Watch the video and see if you can spot what this is:

Did you spot it? For me, it’s this point:

Reading and educating your emotions is one of the key central activities of wisdom

For many of us, we believe that our rational minds can help us live better lives, and that emotions or feelings are not important. This is not so. Neurologist Antonio Damasio noted that in a number of patients who had lost the ability to experience emotion were no longer able to make a decision. What should have taken a few seconds was now taking minutes. What should take minutes was now taking hours. David Hume (an eighteenth century Scottish philosopher) declared that “reason was the slave of the passions” (lifted from How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer). David Brooks supports this view as well, and urges us all to become better at understanding our emotions to not only become better individuals, but a better society overall.

Some other points from the video you may find interesting:

  • When we think about human capital, we think about things we can measure easily – things like grades, SAT’s, degrees, the number of years in schooling. What it really takes to do well, to lead a meaningful life are things that are deeper, things we don’t really even have words for.
    • The first gift or talent is mindsight – the ability to enter into other people’s minds and learn what they have to offer.
    • The second skill is equal poise – The ability to have the serenity to read the biases and failures in your own mind.
    • The third trait is medes, what we might call street smarts – it’s a Greek word. It’s a sensitivity to the physical environment – derive a gist.
  • Limerance. This is not an ability, it’s a drive and motivation. The conscious mind hungers for success and prestige. The unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence, when the skull line disappears and we are lost in a challenge or task.

Are you ignoring your emotions, or are you precisely tuned into them? I’ve shared some of my thoughts above and would love to hear yours in the comments below!

Betterment Personal Development

A textbook way to live your life

It’s not often you find someone who’s laid out a list of rules/guidelines on how to live (what I believe) is a great life. There are a number of interesting points in the license agreement for Eugene Blanchard’s 2007 textbook Introduction to Data Communications. I am not sure there are many books out there with such a great outlook on how to live your life!
Image courtesy of ThinkTank Media

  • That you will try to be a better person today than yesterday.
  • That you will exercise your body as well as your mind.
  • That you will tell the persons dear to you that you love them.
  • That you will defend the rights of those who are unable to defend themselves.
  • That you will not hurt your family members emotionally or physically.
  • That you will respect your elders and care for them in time of need.
  • That you will respect the rights of others in their religious beliefs.
  • That you will respect the rights of others in their sexual orientation.
  • That every man, woman and child has the right to be here and is equal regardless of race, creed or color.
  • That you will act honorably in all aspects of your personal and business life.
  • That your family is first and foremost the most important thing in your life.
  • That when you make a mistake, that you admit it and make amends.

This book is available online in the hope it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

I resonate with almost all of them – Which ones do you believe in? Which 1 (one) would you choose to work on for the rest of 2011?

Note: this article originally appeared on boingboing & quoted from here.


Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

To my dear friends, colleagues and wonderful folk of Japan: My heart goes out to all of you during this difficult time.

At times, Mother Nature shouts, whilst man feels powerless & speechless.

Words cannot describe what you must be going through or what your future holds but I want to let you all know that you are in our thoughts and I want to wish you all the strength, luck and good fortune during the coming days as you begin to clean up & rebuild your fabulous country.


Helping others

A quick post here to share a 3 min video with you of the great work for his fellow man, being undertaken by Narayanan Krishnan, one of CNN’s top 10 heroes of 2010. I’d love for you to answer the question I pose after the below the video

What thoughts came to mind when you watched the video?

Betterment Exercise Health

Warrior Dash 2011

Today I participated in the Warrior Dash in Glenworth Valley, NSW. This is the only Warrior Dash in 2011 outside of the USA, and touted as “The best frickin’ day of your life’, how could you not want to give it a go?

Me and my Turkey leg :-)
Me and my Turkey leg 🙂

My verdict?

Absolutely glorious fun! Obstacles and mud were the order of the day and there were very happy people all round, in all states of dress (or undress) and covered from head-to-toe in mud. Mud, glorious mud! I ran the race with my buddy Ben and once I got stuck in the mud and lost my shoe, I knew Ben would have gone on ahead. The odd thing is, once I caught up to him he told me he was attempting to catch me as he thought I was ahead of him! Still, the mud pits, water crossings and obstacles were all a great challenge and helped me scoot past some of the field, even with only 1 shoe! I had made the decision to stick with Ben and race together rather than blaze ahead and achieve a great time.

Ben’s friends Alison and Shaun came with us and ran in the next wave, with Alison achieving a sub 42-min run! For some reason the men’s resiults were broken so neither Shain, Ben or I found out our time. It wasn’t a worry as we’d had pies (the meal of champions), Turkey legs and beer and were all very happy bunnies!

What I learnt:

  • Dried-on mud does keep you warm…for a short while
  • Dried-on mud causes chafing
  • You won’t be the first nor will you be the last – there were sprinters, walkers and everything in between. This is something anyone can do of almost any fitness level. I promise you will have fun should you wish to do it 🙂
  • The black mud was the worst – it stains and stinks and removes shoes very easily!
  • I lost a shoe in the black mud and donated my remaining shoe to Shoes for Planet Earth. I hope there is a one-legged person out there who can make use of the right shoe!
  • Turkey legs are pretty meaty and filling, and were a great way to end the day 🙂

If you get the chance to run in one of these, I strongly recommend it! What’d you do this weekend?

Betterment Health Learning Personal Development

The bike crash – Part 2

This is a continuation of the story of my motorcycle crash on 9th November 2006, 20km out of Orbost on the Bonang Highway in rural Victoria. In this part of the story I will share more of my thoughts, insights, learnings and realisations in the time since the bike crash.

“Any crash you can walk away from, is a good one” – Launchpad McQuack

Crashed VFR800
Crashed VFR800

At the time of the crash all I was thinking about was how to tell my wife that a) I was OK and b) the bike was not. At 7:30pm that night (the first opportunity to relax a little and make the call) I called my wife and said “Hi darling, I’m fine, but I’ve written off the bike”. Succinct enough and should get the important stuff out of the way. Well, it does convey the message succinctly, but no matter how it sounded (both in my head and in actuality), it did not get interpreted the same way. It also didn’t help that the crash happened so far from home and she felt completely helpless – questions start piling up but it’s not the time or place to ask them. To me, I was fine and that’s the most important aspect to it.

One other thing to note: this was a crash. It was an ‘accident’ insofar as it was not intentional (i.e. I did not intend to crash the bike), however I feel calling it a crash is the most realistic way of conveying the event. Plus, the word ‘crash’ also conjures up images of something hitting something else quite hard – which is exactly what happened.

In the weeks and months after the accident, I had been asking/answering questions and pondering quite a bit in the time after the

Having a nap
Having a nap

crash. Questions like:

  • Did my life flash before my eyes (no)
  • Did I feel lucky (yes – extremely so – more on this later)
  • Was I angry about the crash (no – these things do happen)
  • Was I sad about it (yes)
  • Did I cause it (yes, I should have read the warning signs re: fatigue and lack of concentration)
  • Do I know why it happened (yes, with hindsight and calm recollection)

The first question is the most interesting as many people seem to ask it of you when you have a serious crash. It’s true that a crash on a motorcycle is usually far more serious than a crash in a car as you have no crumple zones, airbags or seat belts to help keep you as safe as possible. At no stage did I fear for my life nor see my life flash before my eyes.

Bruised Leg
Bruised Leg

So what’s changed since the crash?

  • I now know & ride within my limits. I was fatigued and lacked concentration at the crucial end of the day. I had been riding well up until that point and did not know I had crossed an imaginary boundary that would rob me of such critical skills when I would need them most.
  • Any group rides have very clear rules set out and understood by all. This is something that will resonate with any of my fellow riders from the East coast on the Black Dog Ride (as part of the Riding4aCause project). I played ‘Dad’ a few times making sure everyone knew where we were headed next and even headed back to chase up the stragglers on a few occasions. To my OzVFR buddies this may be a change from my earlier riding!
  • No matter what you say, your message may be interpreted differently. What would you say in your first phone call to a loved one to let them know that a) you’re OK and b) the bike (or vehicle) is badly damaged?
  • I began working from home full-time. At the time, I had all the things in place to do so, but still felt a need to go into the office 4 days a week. Not being able to do more than just hobble around on my sore leg soon showed me I could do my job from home and be just as productive. I had wonderful support from one of the best managers I’ve worked with and she continues to be a wonderful friend and confidant to this day.
  • I realised I was put on this earth for a reason, and that I had not yet fulfilled it. I wasn’t sure what this was (at the time) but knew I was here to do something wonderful. I spent the next few months trying to work out what that was, but didn’t realise it. You know how the more you look for something the less likely you are to find it? This was one of those moments.
  • No matter how good you are; you can always be better. Up until the crash I thought my riding was brilliant. We’d
    The OzVFR Guys
    The OzVFR Guys

    travelled 650+ km’s from Jindabyne to Orbost and I was feeling good, being able to keep up with the others in most areas (I was not afraid to slow down to a pace I was comfortable with on some of the roads). History shows I didn’t truly learn from this…

This is by no means the end of the story, there are more thoughts to be shared with you in the 3rd and final part of the story where I will expand on the last 2 points and share with you exactly how this crash has changed my life and outlook. How have ‘big events’ in your life changed your views/outlook on life?

Learning Ramblings

The bike crash – Part 1

This is an abridged version of my motorcycle crash on 9th November 2006, 20km out of Orbost on the Bonang Highway. This is Part 1, with Part 2 to follow soon after. 95% of this was written in December 2006 with a few minor updates made at the time of posting.

I’d gone down to the Snowyride with a few mates from the OzVFR group, and we’d been on a HUGE ride from Jindabyne to Orbost. We’d left the “90km winding road” sign heading up the Bonang Hwy out of Orbost (VIC), and after a few km, the other guys had gone on ahead, with me bringing up the rear.

I’d gone about 20km along the Bonang Hwy when the crash occurred.

Crashed VFR800
Crashed VFR800

I had failed to make a slightly downhill right handed bend, and ended up hitting an embankment then a tree. The bike was dead, and I wasn’t, which is the best part of the story! It happened at 4:40pm. The bike hit the embankment at approx 60km/h, then my thigh and forearm hit the tree (and I still remember both impacts on the tree) My leg was then sandwiched between the bike and the tree.

After it all stopped, I crawled out from under the bike, turned off the ignition and removed the key (One of my mates said “Why – were you afraid someone might come to steal it?“) I did the systems check – fingers…check. Toes…check. Legs…check (although I was able to put weight on my right leg, it was quite sore to begin with, and I hobbled around a bit. Eyes…yes, they could see but weren’t really registering the damage done to the bike (or myself).

I was amazed and astonished that I could stand and hobble around, which I am VERY LUCKY to have been able to do.

Tree damage
Tree damage

I removed my luggage and rummaged for my mobile phone, only to find there was no network coverage. I had a drink of water and wandered around for a few mins with many things racing through my head, including:

  • If I call the boys, they can come back and get me
  • I can call Stewie(*), who can rescue the bike – it shouldn’t take too long, we should be home by dinnertime
  • I’ll just pick the bike up and keep riding, just like in MotoGP

Great thinking when there’s no mobile phone coverage! Anyways, it took a while before someone else came along the road:

  • about 40 mins after the crash, a fellow on a trail bike [who had somewhere else to go] would alert my mates if he saw them and promised to help on his return journey
  • A young lady in a car packed to the gills with belongings (and looking deathly frazzled) stopped and offered help in some way, but she looked to be in more trouble than me – kinda like she was running from something or someone!
  • About an hour after the accident Pete arrived. Pete stayed with me until my mates arrived (they had been a further 50km up the Bonang Hwy before realising I wasn’t coming, and we were reunited about 2 hours after I crashed).
Bruised Thigh
Bruised Thigh

Pete is an absolute champion in the true sense of the word. Typical of most Aussies, he stopped what he was doing to help out  – he drove me to hospital in town, picked up his trailer and (with the help of the boys) loaded the bike up and took it back to Pete’s place. I went to hospital for a checkup, no broken anythings just bruising, miraculously! By now we’d realised we had to stay the night in Orbost. We stayed in a motel (arranged by one of the nurses); went to the pub for a beer (the motel called the pub to make sure they were still open for us; and then proceeded to drop us at the pub!

Orbost is full of lovely people and we certainly appreciated their hospitality 🙂

Next day, I called & claimed on insurance, and after saying bye bye to the bike, I was a pillion for the 600-odd km trip back to Jindabyne (the long way).

What contributed to the crash & lessons learned (with the wonderful benefits of hindsight & discussing what happened…)

  1. It was late in the day and we had done 600+km already, fatigue and lack of concentration are likely contributors
  2. I had the wrong line into the corner, with not enough ‘space’ should something go wrong. There was a bump in the road (as I started to tip in) that upset the bike. I must have tried to correct it somehow or probably stood the bike up ready to tip-in again. Either way I was into the grass/leaves/gravel off to the side of the road quite quickly, and it went from there.
  3. My skills in slower/tighter corners was always my weakest point, and something I didn’t readily look forward to a similar incident had occurred earlier in the day when I was distracted by something – again a ‘lack’ of concentration.
AB looking on
AB looking on

As with anything in life, it’s what happens when things go wrong that proves how well you come out of it. I was with a great bunch of the OzVFR guys (AB, Greg, Trev & Dan) who were very accommodating and in a way I felt sorry for them having to endure the event because of my crash. Thanks all.

There will be a follow-up post to this to really bring to light why this crash was one of the most important parts of my life to date. Stay tuned for part 2!

* the owner of the place we stay during the Snowyride…270km away in Jindabyne

Betterment Exercise

My own tri :-)

On Sunday, I wanted to go for a swim and rallying the family to get ready to get out of the house was proving too difficult. In order to make great use of the beautiful Sydney sunshine, I decided on a slow ride to the beach (I usually like getting the heart rate up and tearing along as quickly as I can). I left everything at home except a beach towel in my backpack. I went down the path of simplicity – no phone, keys, wallet or other belongings!

I can confidently say I still suck at it and still don’t like swimming, BUT decided to spice things up yesterday by adding in other elements of a triathlon (Cycle and Run)! After my slow and stuttery 350m in the water, I went for a soft-sand run, doping 3.5 laps of the beach I was on (later calculated to be 1.2km total).

As I had done the swim and the run, I was left with the cycle – so I rode home (again, at a leisurely pace).

This was mostly a spur-of-the-moment morning, as I’d only decided to go for a swim the night before; the actual decisions made on the day were mostly free-form and made from a just ‘do it’ perspective. Lesson: You don’t have to overanalyse every decision you make – just make it and move on. 🙂

Betterment Exercise


As you may know, I’m comfortable going for a ride (2010 Gongride) or going for a run (my 2010 City 2 Surf story), but leave the swimming to others. I’ve read numerous articles on how great swimming is for you as it’s low impact but a great all-over workout.

I don’t like swimming.

Let me go back a little to fill you in. At school, when they had swimming carnivals (and ‘everyone’ had to participate) I was one of if not THE slowest swimmer. Always last in the last race and likely the last out of the pool. Although some may say it probably scarred me in some way back then, I don’t think I’ve done too badly today for it. I’ve hardly swum in the intervening years, happy to splash around and ‘knowing’ how to swim should the need ever eventuate!

Have I mentioned how I do not like swimming?

As part of my journey to becoming better, one of my main focuses was on exercise – dusting off my bicycle and getting into the cycling, also including some running (check out my 2009 & 2010 goals). 3 weeks ago, I needed to get out of the house (working from home has one major drawback, sometimes you can go a long time without leaving the house, and it does start to mess with your mind and sanity) – it was a beautiful morning, so I packed up the boys and we went to the beach. I had a desire to just go for a swim. After hating it for so long!

I do appear to have absolutely no co-ordination for swimming gracefully. Mentally I know the moves to make, but together, it just doesn’t work. So I plodded along, making the moves, stopping every 15-20m but continued to work at it for a total of approx 300m. I then repeated this feat the following week, and again yesterday.

After 3 early morning swims, I don’t like swimming. I tolerate it. In the words of the Zombiefit team, this is my “ISuckAtThis” exercise!

What about you? What sports/activities do you tolerate in your journey to betterment? Let me know in the comments below!

Note: It’s OK to not be great at everything, in fact I don’t believe I am great at any sport in particular, I just happen to dislike swimming and enjoy running. Please do not see this post as an attack on ‘swimming’ – it’s my view of one of the activities I’ve been performing of late.

Edit: I have just written a quickie post about my own mini Triathlon – read it here: “My Own Tri