Half Marathon

I am excited to be running my 1st half marathon (as part of the Sydney Running Festival) in less than 2 weeks. For someone who had not done more than a few hundred metres at a time back in May, I think it’s been pretty good going. Some people (notably friends through Facebook and Twitter) have asked why I’m doing this and what preparation I’ve had.

My lead-up to this was the 11km Sutherland2Surf, as well as the 14km City2Surf. Each week I’ve been going to 2 x 1hr Aerobic Kickboxing sessions and a 10-13km run on Fridays. I am not taking this so seriously to be locked into a training regime as my initial goal is simply to get fit! πŸ™‚

This is one of my 2009 Goals which I had decided on back in January. I believe that pursuits such as walking/running rely less on technology and more on your own ability. Most other sports rely on other objects (balls, other players, equipment, etc.). Running really does force you to rely on yourself to get through. I am aiming to complete the Half Marathon in under 2 hours.

I decided that as I am fit and well, I’m going to see how far I can push myself whilst I have the capability to do so. It will help me understand who I am (in a physical sense) and provide me a mechanism to get fitter and relieve stress at the same time (I find running and cycling quite therapeutic πŸ™‚ I’m also working in other ways to expand myself in the realms of thinking, creativity and relationships – I’ll share those thoughts with you soon.

I have not yet chosen my next ‘big’ goal, but will be looking to complete the goals I have set for myself for 2009. Let me know of some of your goals, or if you will also be running in the Sydney Running Festival!


I’m writing this as a {belated} post to honour Manweek, an initiative to help Australian men talk about how they feel. There are quite a few fantastic posts out there that I know of, I am sure there are more (see end of this blog). I’m not sure whether there’s merit in these 2 stories but feel it’s best to get something out of my brain, it’s been rattling around in there for too long!

My Father & me

I’ve not been particularly close to my father, and know in some ways I was always the odd child. I’m different from him and my brothers but yet I know there are parts of me that came from him. (Before your mind races down a path, there is no ‘twist’ to this story – he is my father, I see him every week, there’s no doubting that!) One thing we’re very different on is that he’s a workaholic. I know many people who throw that term around a little too easily, however in the true sense of the word, my father really only knows work. He gets up at 4am, comes home at 7pm, eats and goes to sleep. That’s almost all there has been in his life. Sure we went on holidays every now and then, but for most of his life all he’s known is work. He doesn’t follow sports, doesn’t go to the pub, doesn’t get drunk, doesn’t threaten anyone nor raise his voice, but for the most part his life, work has defined him.

I don’t want to be like him; I don’t want other fathers (or fathers-to-be, or anyone for that matter) end up like this. I vowed to not become a workaholic and to actively pursue other interests. Perhaps this is why I am diving more and more into many varied topics (people, learning, thinking, the brain, social interactions, relationships, Sudoku/brain exercises, cycling, running, marathons, eating well, families, children….), and quickly coming to the realisation that I am (sometimes) not present in the moment. In it’s own way, not being present or ‘in the moment’ could have the same effect of not enjoying what’s here and now.

I’m vowing to enjoy everything I can about life, and looking for ways to share my thoughts and feelings with a wider audience. I’m also looking for ways to become a better father as well as understand both my father and father-in-law more. Just like I mentioned in my ‘Inner Story‘ post, everyone has an inner story that outsiders generally do not see. I’d like to uncover their stories. Maybe not today, but hopefully before tomorrow.

So in my quest to becoming a better father, what have I done?

  • I’m consciously taking time to be with my boys. Working from home allows me some freedom here – I’m not sure I could go back to an ‘office’ job
  • I’m staying active (both physically and mentally)
  • I’m learning from great people like Scott Drummond, Gavin Heaton, Mark Pollard, Trent Collins & Matt Moore, all of whom shared some of their inner story for Manweek.
  • I don’t want to be a workaholic
  • In an effort to get closer to my father, I have been researching the Blanda name and pulling together the family tree.


I was recently asked if I wanted to take my father-in-law’s (FIL) boat. At first, I didn’t understand the context of this and offering someone the use of their boat in the middle of winter seems a strange request. A little digging (not enough discussion on the matter, just a couple of questions as we were bundling the sleepy kids into the car for the drive home) and my FIL said he didn’t use it much, and if I got my boat licence he’d let me bring it home and take the boys out on it if I wanted. (He’d offered previously and we have been out on it before). If it didn’t interest me, he would sell it. It was a strange conversation in that it didn’t really go anywhere…

When I got home sand discussed it with my wife, she could not understand where this had (suddenly) come from – the request to take the boat or he would sell it was quite odd/out of character. Until we surmised that he believes he could not get his boat licence if he were to take the test (he’s currently not licenced). His mate from the pub told him that they’re clamping down now on boat licences (most likely in the wake of boating tragedies on Sydney Harbour in the past few years). Perhaps he feels it’s not in him to get a licence, therefore the easiest solution is to get rid of the boat?

I intend to find out more behind this request – the boat is something the boys have been looking forward to going out on, and is a great way to enjoy the outdoors when the warmer weather arrives, so there’s hopefully no more talk about selling the boat! I’d like to know a little more about the thoughts behind getting rid of it….stay tuned!

More on this (I’m sure as I have barely scratched the surface about being a father) in future!

Same stock; different flowers

In my blog post Letting your Flowers Grow I made note of some small milestones in the lives of my children as they transition to the next stage of their lives, gaining independence and skills to work their way through the world.

Something I’ve been guilty of recently and I’d like to share is about looking at your children for who they are as individuals as opposed to a part of a group (aka ‘family’). I’ve come to realise my boys are substantially different people – akin to having been grown from different seeds. This is an important point to remember about children; they all start from the same stock, however as they develop and grow, they become themselves. It’s important for us to realise we must let them become themselves.

As parents (especially of younger children) we must do our best to resist comparisons between siblings. Things like ‘why don’t you act like your brother (or sister)’, or ‘have a look at X, he’s being a good boy and tidying up after himself, why can’t you’. Fundamentally, each person has different drives – what works for one may not work for another. Each person has a unique listening & learning style, and one of the best ways to keep these young minds fed and nourished is to try to understand how each of your children respond. Some seem to work only when pushed; some seem to innately know (or sense) what to do next; Some daydream the day away.

I am on a personal mission to understand how we think and how the brain works, not only for myself as part of my passion for learning but also to help communicate with my children better. One of my 2009 goals is:

Improving the quality of my relationships….includes spending more time with my boys.

Also, one of the other things I am working on:

Helping reduce the amount of stress I cause in my family (by snapping less and thinking more) – this will also help me get rid of thoughts as quickly as they come

are both linked to trying to understand how the brain works and how we learn. Applying what I learn to myself + relationships to the ones around me are important part of growing as a person. Part of my recent book buying spree is aimed at helping me achieve this. It’s a difficult (but not impossible) path to help change ourselves, but ultimately there is only one person who can change anyone else – the rest are there as inspiration or motivation. I hope to {one day} be the inspiration or motivation for people I come into contact with.

Books I'll be reading soon!

I have always ‘had an interest’ in how we learn – how we take information in and use it to take action of some sort. I decided to look into this, and other areas of interest a little more by going on a book buying journey, which will lead me to a book reading journey soon! I have also included here books that I already own but have not yet read.

Starting with my short-list of topics I am interested with: People, Learning, Ideas, Innovation, Simplicity.

Books on my list to help me work out where to next:

  • “Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love” – Jonathan Fields
  • “Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur” – Pamela Slim


  • “The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force” – Jeffrey M. Schwartz
  • “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science” – Norman Doidge
  • “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School” – John Medina
  • “How We Decide” – Jonah Lehrer
  • “The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century” – James Howard Kunstler
  • “The Ruthless Leader” – Alistair McAlpine
  • “The Brain” – Richard Restak
  • “Learning and Behavior” – James Mazur


  • “Outliers: The Story of Success” – Malcolm Gladwell
  • “Lateral Thinking” – Edward De Bono.
  • “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” – Malcolm Gladwell

There’s quite a bit of reading there for the next couple of months – might be time to devote more time to reading instead of digital fiddling! I will be posting reviews as I read the books, along with recommendations & insights!

My 2009 Goals

Originally written on Monday, January 12, 2009 at 3:14pm as a Facebook note. To link up to me through Facebook, add me as a friend!

As a follow-up to my Musings of 2008, here are some of the goals I will be aiming for in 2009 (I won’t call them resolutions – I β€˜resolved’ to do some of these years ago! πŸ™‚

For me:

  1. Increase my volunteering efforts (First volunteering event was on 4th Jan)
  2. Researching the Blanda name/family tree/how β€˜Blanda’s’ are related (already begun)
  3. Improving the quality of my relationships, both personal & business, including visiting more people and having more people over for lunch/dinner/a drink or a chat (includes spending more time with my boys).
  4. Understand how I tick
  5. Work out what I want to do with the next few years of my life
  6. Become fitter: All of the below are either a part of or will be a result of becoming fitter:
    1. Participate in more cycling events (including completing the 90km version of the Gongride)
    2. Take up a martial art with the boys
    3. Participate in more walking/jogging/running events (including completing a Half-Marathon)
    4. Build a small gym in my garage

For the Family:

  1. Reduce the amount of electricity we use in the house (underway)
  2. Pay off the mortgage quicker in 2009 than we did in 2008 (underway)
  3. Continue looking for ways to simplify our life and reduce the need for material possessions (ongoing)

What are some of yours resolutions, goals or ‘want-to-achieves’ in 2009?

Changing Habits – 3rd update

As you may recall, I have been on a mission to try and change some habits, starting with a greater use of my left hand. I’ve had a few more days of catching myself doing something automatically and changing something of my behaviour to help reprogram my brain. The teeth brusing, breakfast eating and mouse usage are all coming along nicely, with my left-hand use increasing and becoming easier (teeth brushing now only feels ‘partly’ weird, as opposed to freakingly weird!)

The biggest changes I’ve had over the past few days is my reaction to things that don’t go my way. There are oftentimes (when I am deep in my thoughts) that I ‘snap’ at someone or something around the house, almost always for something trivial and small. Well, I vowed to reduce the number of ‘snapping’ incidents this week, and so far I think I’m doing OK. There are still times where my subconscious (or as Steve Levinson mentioned in the comments section of the “When Is A Habit Not A Habit?” blog post, “what we do automatically“) simply takes over and before I can catch it, the snap has occured. I know this is part of the Fight vs. Flight response governed by the amygdala, but taming this and consciously making decisions more and more can only benefit my life in lots of ways, such as:

  • Keeping me motivated to stay on my current ‘fitness’ path instead of simply doing something easy like sitting in front of a ‘screen’
  • Helping reduce the amount of stress I cause in my family (by snapping less and thinking more) – this will also help me get rid of thoughts as quickly as they come
  • Helping me make better decisions in times of crisis, bad news, unexpected news, etc.

I am sure there will be other habits I can change, and the key to this seems to be ‘attention’, more-so than time. Steve mentioned:

When it comes to changing habits, I’m convinced that attention is a far more important factor than time is.

In a way, I came to this conclusion myself a couple of days ago BUT Steve put it into words. I’ll be trying to pay more attention to these things over the coming days and letting you know how successful I am. In what ways are you attempting (& succeeding?) in changing your habits? Leave your comments and let me know πŸ™‚

Letting your flowers grow

A recent blog post titled “When The Petals Drop” by Sean (aka @writerdad on Twitter) prompted me to share some of my ‘petal’ moments with my boys. We generally don’t notice some transition points our children make but when we do, they’re quite powerful, even after time has slowly (or quickly) passed by.

  • Since age 6, my eldest (now 7) needed no help buckling his seat belt. Master 4 can put on one of his 2 belts in his child seat. I cannot remember the turning point where 7 no longer needed our help – now I think back on it, it’s all a blur. Where did that time go? I know that one day too soon 7 will be out of the sbooster eat and 4 will take it over.
  • Tonight, Master 4 says “I’m longer than the bath now” and he sure is – I can remember washing him in the bath when he was a bub; I looked at him and wondered when he got so tall ? He’s in pre-school now (and loving it) but will be ending that part of his life at the end of the year, off to big school like his brother.
  • Master 4 can now make breakfast for the family (except we have a rule that they are not to use the Microwave for porridge without an adult – some mornings I wonder where they would find such a person *grin*). Whilst on the surface this may not be a ‘big thing’, it shows a streak of independence I’m not sure we’re ready for?
  • Both boys dance and sing around the house and love listening to music – before the end of a song at least one of them are able to hum along with the melody and sometimes even pick up some of the words. Current favourites are Do You Know Your Enemy (Green Day) and Foreign Land (Eskimo Joe). When they started to sing and dance (especially Master 4) I cannot recall.

Like Sean, I, too have had a chance to just ‘watch’ Master 4 at Pre-school, but only for a few mins before he saw me and rushed over. During reading time, he was engaging well with the teacher whilst reading a story, interacting and following intently.

As parents, it’s our aim to best prepare our children for their later years. Children are ‘on loan’ to us for such a brief period of their lives – it’s up to you to lay the groundwork that will see them succeed once they mature and find their own way in the world. Having such a chance that Sean describes to see your children in their environment is truly priceless:

It was wonderful to see Max as a student without him knowing I was there. He sang, he danced, he took turns. He said thank you, he smiled, he laughed.

Enjoy the times you do have with your children, as best you can. Whilst both Sean & my accounts are personal, I’ll take this moment to recognise those who are not able to spend time with their children for a myriad of reasons; for most parents, we all hope our children will grow up to be happy, healthy members of society, and this hope weighs heavily on everyone’s heart & mind.

I’m off to play with my boys in the wonderful winter sun!

Changing Habits – Days 2-4

This is an ongoing experiement to change some of my habits, initially through relying more on my left hand to perform many tasks I’d usually do with my right hand. You can catch the first part (+ some great comments) in my Changing Habits – Day 1 post.

I have not had much trouble switching to my left hand, but am having to fight the compulsion for the right hand to take control – I’m finding when I don’t focus on the task (i.e. let my mind wander onto one of the many other things I think about), the right hand creeps in like a burglar just lying in wait to steal your goodies!

My exercise in eating is not a problem, breakfast is slower now (which is a good thing as I was gobbling down my cereal too quickly), teeth brushing is still awkward, I have yet to try writing/painting with my left hand (or either foot, for that matter – refer to the comments here for more info)

One thing I can do very very well is use my knife in my left hand – because I always have! When we were growing up, my brothers and I realised that the fork was the most powerful weapon to fend off other people stealing food from your plate – you’d want to arm your strongest hand with the fork to perform the task of defence, should a stray hand wander across your plate. I will endeavour to switch this behaviour around and use my knife/fork the ‘correct’ way to help break some habits and form new neural pathways!

This long weekend will provide some non-work activities for me to continue the experiment and broaden my habit-changing experiences!

Oh and the zucchini seeds I popped into the ground are starting to sprout! πŸ™‚

Changing Habits – Day 1

Spurred on by a comment from Tim Brownson on his blog topic When is a habit not a habit, I decided to document & share my thoughts on reprogramming my brain through the focused, deliberate changing of some of my everyday ‘habits’. Notably, my efforts will initially be to use my left hand more than my right (yes, I am right-handed).

There are some things which cannot be changed due to the nature of some of our technology/society (by way of example, the throttle on a motorcycle is controlled by the right hand; for efficiency, it’s easier to use my right hand to open the car door (for those that drive on the left-hand side of the road).

I initially started a few weeks back sporadically brushing my teeth using my left hand, as awkward as it was. Then I started to think about other areas of my daily life where I could do the same task, only in a different way. Here are my findings so far:

  • Teeth Brushing – with my left hand, it seems far more awkward to go side-to-side than up & down. I can brush my teeth to my satisfaction. I am more engaged with the task and often have to consciously think which way to brush next. Everything seems automatic when I use my right hand
  • Computer Mouse usage – I had toyed with using my left hand for the mouse a month or so ago but gave up after a few mins as it was just way too awkward, and I wasn’t getting much work done – my fine motor skills had deserted my left hand and taken a holiday to the Bahamas. Today, I stuck it out and began to work more efficiently than before. For those who are interested, I have only moved my mouse to the left and kept the button assignments as-is for a normal right-hand-side mouse.
  • Getting dressed – You may not realise it but most people get dressed in the same order ever day. I now consciously stop myself and ‘switch’ around the order, most easily seen when getting into/out of a pair of pants/shorts, as well as putting on socks & shoes (sub your clothing items where appropriate). (I caught myself in a habit that I had picked up more than 15 years ago – when I had a foot injury, it was easier to get my foot into/out of pants by supporting my left leg with my right hand).
  • General observations – My right hand feels like a hanger-on. It’s awkward, not really knowing what to do. Some other things I have on my list: Any kitchen-related task (pouring milk, stirring tea, chopping, etc), Opening doors (using keys). I’m also vowing to be more positive/less negative and letting little things slide, but this is a whole other topic in itself! πŸ™‚

I’ll be trying everything in a different way for the next few days. What other things do you think I can try doing differently over the next few days?

Our Inner Story

Something that has been bouncing around in my mind for a while now is the notion that a lot of us have an ‘inner story’ that not many people know. Either we do not show this side of us, or it’s something generally not asked about.

I recently uncovered one such inner story of someone I know, and it goes to show that you may not know everything about everyone you come into contact with. Plato said:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”

The story moved me to start finding out more about the people I know, as well as some of the new friends I’ve met through Twitter. I’ve got some ideas on how I’d like to approach this but would love to hear from you if you have a suggestion or 3 – leave them in the comments section or you can find me on facebook.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle