Happiness Learning

The next phase of my life

Many times I have spoken to people I’ve asked them what they’re doing about changing their situation to overcome boredom, laziness, stifling work environments, toxic friendships, and many other ‘ills’ people often complain about. One of the pieces of advice I often share with them is that they are the common denominator in everything they do, say and think each and every day, and they have the power to change things – should they want to.

Today, I start my new job. But before I get into it a little more, here’s a quick summary of where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing the past 3 months.

I was made redundant from my former employer after a 17 year stretch, where I began as a humble  Technical Support Engineer eventually to become a Learning & Development Business Partner. The ‘writing was on the wall’ that eventually my job role would disappear, so the redundancy came as no shock to me and I embraced it fully. In the past 3 months I have caught up with many friends, family and acquaintances, I’ve relaxed, participated in my youngest son’s Year 1 class, done the school drop-off & pickup, as well as stay in shape by running or cycling. I’ve been loving each and every day and doing things I’ve wanted to do as well as doing nothing. It’s been wonderful!

But back to today: I start out in the Hospitality/Food & Beverage industry. As a waiter. 🙂

Yes, that’s right – If I’m to become a wonderful asset to my new company (which is my #1 goal) I need to learn this industry from the ground up, and that starts today. I do not know how long the journey will take or where it will lead, but I cannot wait!

I’m not sure what to expect, but believe it’ll be a day of learning, brain-sapping, nerve-frying excitement, apprehension, concentration & exhaustion wrapped into one period of 10 hours starting this afternoon.

If you need to find inspiration to change your life in any way, feel free to use me as your inspiration or to ask me any questions in the comments below.


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 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

Exercise Learning

My 2010 MS Gongride review

At the Start of the 2010 MS Gongride
At the Start

Yesterday I completed my 3rd MS Sydney to the ‘Gong bicycle ride, as a way of staying fit, being part of something wonderful and raising a few $ for research into MS.

I was riding extremely well and even commented to my riding buddy Kenny that I was riding much better than last year – in 2009 I had walked up a few of the hills as I was buggered! We’d been stopping at the major rest stops along the way for a stretch, a feed and a rest. We’d discussed various topics, commented on some of the gear and bikes we saw along the ride. Up the hills I would power my way past a number of other riders, and hang around somewhere near the top for Kenny (more a testament to having shoes that clip into the pedals than anything else :-))

Loftus pit-stop
Loftus pit-stop

However, after 70km of the 90km, my right leg cramped up and I could barely ride up any of the remaining hills – some so small you’d swear I was being a wuss! I decided to just keep on pedaling until I reached the finish as I had plenty of gears to help me along. Up the hills I was riding as slow as 8km/h (I’ve famously said that when you ride at less than 6km/h, it’s easier to get off and walk, and I was determined to not have to walk!), but on the flat I was still able to ride above 20km/h. Up the hills I had nothing much left and at the time I thought I’d hit the wall.

I did finish the ride as I don’t stop until I complete my goal!

During the ride I made sure I had a decent rest, food and drink. By the time I had finished the ride I’d drunken more than 4L of water. Perhaps it still wasn’t enough? On the train ride home, Kenny remarked that I didn’t seem my usual self; usually I’d be bouncy and chatty but I just wasn’t – I just wanted to be home lying on the couch. Something was up, but I could not put my finger on it, and I don’t think I worked it out until today.

On the ride
On the ride

I have had a headache on and off since the end of the ride, as well as feeling exhausted. This isn’t normal, and am wondering if this is a carryover from the cold/flu-like symptoms I’d had a couple of weeks ago? Tomorrow, if I’m not feeling much better, I’ll go and visit my doc.

So, what lessons did I (and can you) learn from this?

  • Don’t give up – despite feeling bad, I did feel the sense of accomplishment for continuing to stick out the ride. Time will tell if this was the right thing to do. To me, it was.
  • A continued, small amount of effort can still reap great rewards. Despite riding at 8km/h at some stages, it still helps you progress towards your goal. Sometimes you’ll RUN towards your goals, sometimes you will CRAWL. No matter which it is, you will eventually get there.
  • If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t – If you’re not feeling well, consider how that affects everything – and get yourself to your doctor.
Betterment Learning

Get More Done

Image from
Get More Done

If you are wondering how you can get more done (this could be seen as doing something better than you are currently), here’s a fabulous, succinct response to a question posed to David Allen (the fellow behind the Getting Things Done (GTD) movement).

Q: What’s the one thing that we do that gets in the way of us being productive?

A: It’s not one thing, but five, all wrapped together:

  1. People keep stuff in their head.
  2. They don’t decide what they need to do about stuff they know they need to do something about.
  3. They don’t organize action reminders and support materials in functional categories.
  4. They don’t maintain and review a complete and objective inventory of their commitments.
  5. Then they waste energy and burn out, allowing their busy-ness to be driven by what’s latest and loudest, hoping it’s the right thing to do but never feeling the relief that it is.

You may or may not agree with the concept of GTD, but in David’s answer above, I am sure you can identify one (or more) in yourself that you can work to improve on! For me, the 1st is the one that affects me the most, and as of mid-October, is something I’ve been proactively working on through the use of better application of technology. I’ll share more with you soon!

Give yourself 1 min to think through the list above – identify one thing you could do now to improve & leave your response in the comments below!

Betterment Learning relationships

Lessons from a conversation

The below has been doing the rounds for years now and I’ve seen it in many guises, but still has relevance to the way we interact with each other today. We can communicate much better than these 2 below, but how often do we? How often to we take the time to try and dig a little deeper to find the true, underlying intention? If the fellow in the balloon simply asked “I’m lost, can you help me get to X”, how (much) different would the conversation have been? More thoughts and questions after the conversation:

A man flying in a hot air balloon realises he’s lost. He lowers the balloon closer to the ground and spots a man in a field, so he shouts out, “Excuse me, can you please help me? I promised to return this balloon to its owner, but I don’t know where I am.

The man on the ground replies: “You are in a hot air balloon, hovering approximately 350 feet above sea level and 30 feet above this field. You are between 40 and 42 degrees north latitude, and between 58 and 60 degrees west longitude.

You must be an engineer“, says the balloonist.

I am“, replies the man on the ground. “How did you know?

Well“, says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost.

The man on the ground says to the balloonist “Well, then, you must be a manager.

I am“, replies the balloonist, “but how did you know?

“Well”, says the man, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going.  You have made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is you are in the exact same position you were in before we met, but now it is somehow my fault.

The answer provided by the fellow on the ground was ‘technically’ accurate, but didn’t help the balloon fellow find his way back. I know it’s only a story, but I ask you how can we communicate with each other better than what we’re doing today?

  • I am sure story will resonate with many people, (especially those in the ‘corporate world’) but what can we learn from this?
  • Is it right to simply ‘answer’ every question as it’s asked?
  • Could these 2 parties work together better to solve the dilemma?

Let me know your thoughts on what this ‘conversation’ evokes in you.

Learning Personal Development Ramblings relationships

What I learned this week!

Here’s a quick summary of things I learned this week:

  • Everyone you meet is on your side until you do something to annoy them or send them running
  • Everyone you meet is fighting their own battle, so go easy on them (If they don’t go easy on you, ask them why.)
  • Losing sense of yourself is a slippery slope
  • Those who have good, strong friendships can weather any storm
  • Riding a bicycle in the rain can be fun and takes me back to childhood when rain didn’t stop play!

And here are some questions I ponder:

  • Does light have/is it affected by friction?
  • If you are not self-aware…what are you?
  • How far in this world someone can get TRULY on their own?

How about you, what are some of the learnings/observations/questions from you this past week?

Learning Personal Development

Digesting The Blob

Mr Blobby
The Blob

What is The Blob?

When you learn something new for the first time, you will take in a lot of information, and for the most part, will not yet assimilate it to the point of understanding or comprehension. I liken this new knowledge to a ‘blob’ – it’s a mass of new ideas, terms, concepts, rules and language which have been introduced to you, but may not make much sense (yet).

Digesting the blob of new information takes time

A lot of people mistakenly believe they understand something the moment it’s explained to them; this is not the case. Many may understand superficially what they have just read, heard or experienced, but it’s not until it’s assimilated in the brain does it truly become something you can use. More often than not we will take away what we can use from a training course/event; but only after we’ve had time to digest the material and let the brain work out the best way we will store/use that material in the future. For some people, this ‘context’ won’t be found immediately, nor the next day. Sleep is an important factor in helping to ‘cement’ this new information in such a way to be useful to you.

Hump Day is when the learning happens

In my previous experience teaching technical training classes, the first 2 days of a 5-day training class were not the most productive. The students had shown up to the class, but not much seemed to be taken in or assimilated. But, a strange thing seemed to occur on the Wednesday – not only did the student show up to class, but they seemed to be there – in the present moment, ready and eager to learn. From that point, the remaining days seem to fly past. Why was this? With little to go on except my own experience, two things were at play:

  1. Inevitability: The students were not going to get out of the training course so they better get into it and enjoy the rest of it
  2. They’d forgotten their daily work chores, let the phone divert to voicemail and didn’t ‘just check’ their email – in other words, they’ve made a conscious decision to learn

    Blob digested!

This usually happened on the Wednesday – there was a shift in reason for being in the class – the students had come into the class ready to learn and able to fully engage, not only with me (as the instructor) but also with the other participants. Collaborative Learning environments have been shown to be some of the best environments to help all participants assimilate new information quickly and efficiently (where the students are also seen as teachers in themselves, sharing knowledge and experience with the other students).

Learning anything new takes time, and requires time to help make sense of it all. If you’re learning something new, give yourself time to understand it. Not only that, you should also share your thoughts and learnings with someone who knows you well as they can help you make sense of it and apply it to your situation. Learning is a fundamental building block of life – give it the time it deserves!

Betterment Learning Personal Development

Stuck in a rut?

It’s important to keep moving in life, no matter what endeavour you are undertaking. The human body was designed for movement, not for inaction! Here are some thoughts from Lenny Henry which I think think resonate with me.

Education makes me feel young” “Don’t stand still and get stuck in a rut. Keep moving, because a rut becomes a grave. When my dad retired, he died within months because he didn’t have anything to do. He grew some vegetables and then keeled over. My dream is to always be creative and keep writing comedy, and making movies and television programs”.

My plan for the future:

  • To never stop learning
  • Set some goals each year on my path to becoming better
  • Keep my brain active by learning new things, expanding my relationships, meeting new people, Sudoku and puzzles
  • Staying fit & active 🙂

Do you have such a plan for your life? Let me know what you have planned either for 2010 or for your long-term future!