No, I’m Not…still

I originally posted this in August 2014 on another blog, about my experience of R U OK Day in September of 2013. For a while I avoided looking back at this time, but it taught me a great deal. 2020 has brought up some similar emotions and I’m grateful that I have had some experience in working through them…

“For some reason it always happens on a Thursday, which is a little odd. You would expect that Monday would be the hardest day to deal with, but for me my worst days occur on Thursday. It hasn’t been that often, especially in 2014, but there have been a couple of pretty scary Thursdays’ over the past year and a half.

The most memorable one was almost a year ago. I look back at that time and I’m not sure what was happening in my life that caused it. It was the week following the Federal Election (many people may have experienced a similar time depending on who they voted for) but that meant very little to me, perhaps it was the fact my two children had been staying with me for a few days in a row and their mum had recently picked them up. Maybe it was loneliness as I woke up without them for the first time in a week. Maybe I was missing family living interstate. Maybe I was tired from a long work year. Maybe it was all of the above. Whatever it was, I awoke on this Thursday at the normal time to get ready for a 10am speaking engagement but I was flat. I felt sad and lonely and in need of a boost. ‘Nothing a coffee and a muffin couldn’t fix’ I told myself. I guess I put too much faith in the ability of caffeine and chocolate to fix my life that day because I still felt the same after I had consumed them. So I decided to reach out – I called Dad. No answer. I called my brother. No answer. I called my mentor, twice. No answer. I called my boss. No answer. As each call went through to message bank I grew more and more exasperated. I was driving on my way to work (using handsfree) and each recorded message made me feel more disconnected and alone. The emotions overtook as I navigated the roads whilst attempting to make sure none of the other drivers could see the tears streaming down my cheeks. I didn’t know where else to turn. So many people had said to me ‘if you ever need anyone to talk to, just give me a call anytime’, but in this moment I couldn’t think of any of them. My brain wouldn’t work and there seemed no way to break out of my isolation to reach another person. The only thing I could think was ‘How can I face today like this?’ which led to ‘What if it is the same tomorrow? And the next day?’. I have since learned that these emotions pass and tomorrow is normally always better, but in the heat of the moment that perspective is elusive and hidden. I reached the end of myself. I was scared.

The importance of this story is more than just ‘a bad day I once had’, you see this day coincided with ‘R U OK?’ day. You can see the irony. I had spent the entire morning reading about it online and witnessed dozen’s of my friends posts about it on social media, some asking the question, others highlighting the importance of asking the question to your friends and loved ones. It was great that so much fuss was being made about this day and the issues around depression and isolation, but there was a small problem. Amongst the generic ‘R U OK?’ posts and the encouragement to ask those around us, no one actually stopped and asked me. Because I wasn’t ok. I wanted to tell people that, but there was no way I was going to put that as a comment underneath someone’s status or initiate a conversation around that. The shame and embarrassment I felt was overwhelming. So I sat in my car doing my best to hide the tears.

My point is this. I love ‘R U OK?’ day and the whole concept. Most of my healing and restoration has happened because I have learned how to connect with people and build quality relationships. But the question, ‘R U OK?’ is so much more than a throw away status or tweet. You can’t just generically suggest to the your faceless friends on the internet that if they are struggling they should talk to someone and think that you have fixed the world. The question needs to be asked to individuals, face to face, and then the question needs to be followed with silence and patience. The hardest words that I have ever had to say have been ‘no, I am not’. They took years to figure out, months to form and weeks to eventually verbalise. But it’s not a conversation to be afraid of – you don’t even need to do anything, just sit there and listen. The ‘R U OK’ website has some great suggestions around this too.

My Dad ended up calling me back before I got to work. He rescued me that day. I cried with him on the phone, he felt helpless being so far away, we talked, we laughed and I felt so much better just because I connected with someone, who cared enough to ask and then to listen. It was through that conversation that I knew that tomorrow would be better.

I now also have a list of people saved in my phone who I know that I can call if I ever found myself in a similar situation – I asked some people and they were honoured to be put on it. Most I have never used and probably never will, but at least I won’t feel so isolated when I know that I need to speak to someone in that very moment.

I have never suffered from depression. The best way to describe my experience with it is that I have skirted around the edges of grief-related depression. I traveled through it with people, and my doctor but my story is an uneventful one. Some of my closest friends have and do suffer from depression and they are some of the bravest people I have met.”

R U OK day is the 10th of September by the way, but you don’t have to wait until then… www.ruok.org.au

Being a Dad

I miss my kids.

I miss my youngest when I leave home in the morning. She is only 8 months old and is adorable. She has one tooth starting to come through. I love her smile. I love coming home to her at the end of the day.

I miss my 4 year old when I drop him off at daycare. He loves it there, he is such a social being. He has a large group of ‘best friends’, and the educators love him there too, but I miss him nonetheless. He is so sweet and energetic and curious and persistent. I hope that I can help him keep those traits as he grows, even though they can be frustrating. I love picking him up at the end of the day.

I miss my eldest son. He is on the brink of being a teenager, always growing and developing. He loves to play computer games and sport (the outdoor type), he is caring and thoughtful, and outrageously funny. He is on the brink of becoming a man. I haven’t seen him since January 19 of this year.

I miss my first born. A delightfully funny and gifted 14 year old. She inspires me with her ability to try something new even if it is scary, to take on challenging life situations whilst maintaining a positive attitude. She messages me at night when she has trouble sleeping and regularly makes me laugh with her quirky sense of humour. I haven’t seen her since January 19 of this year.

I’m really thankful that I get to see two of my children every day. I’m really thankful that I get to communicate with my older children regularly and that they seem to be growing up into amazing humans. I have much to be thankful for, but I miss my kids.

Covid sucks.

But Happy Father’s Day!

Choosing a Charity

Most people who give to a charity will regularly give to a few of their favourites. There are common names that people will list off as they explain to me their giving regime.

But how do they choose which the organisations that make the list? How do you choose a charity?

On occasion someone has mentioned to me that a random charity once “cold called” them, they immediately donated over the phone and have been supporting them ever since. People who do this are few and far between, but generally have a difficult time saying no and will get sick of it after a while. This is more of an ad-hoc selection criteria.

Those that have a strategy behind their giving are more intentional about what they give to and are more thoughtful about who they support. They will take a bit longer to make a decision about donating but will also stay connected to those charities for a longer period of time.

These people look at their giving through a portfolio perspective. Within their charity portfolio, they will normally have a couple of domestic charities they support, an international charity, and maybe one other area. After defining the issues they want to focus on, they research the different charities that work in that space, see how they spend their money, meet with the staff and start giving at a relatively small level. As they grow more confident in how the charity works and the depth of their impact, they will increase their giving over time.

Like any good relationship, it is built at the speed of trust. The deeper the trust built, the longer the relationship will last.

Your Growth is a Gift

Have you ever thought about what people are missing out on because you are not growing? What impact is it having on those around you when you are stuck doing the same things you have always done, knowing the same things you always knew, being the same person you always were? It may not sound like a big deal and maybe personal growth is not your ‘thing’, but it’s not about you. It’s about the people that you love that are in your life, and then then people that they love that are in their lives. We owe it them to be the best version of ourselves so that we, in turn, can help them be the best versions of themselves…and so on.

Here’s a harsh truth: If you think you are currently the best you can possibly be, you’re not. (Ouch). There is always more. There are things that you don’t know yet that will change the way you turn up when you learn them. There are things that you don’t know how to do yet which will be groundbreaking in your life and in those around you; groundbreaking in the sense that it will break new ground so you can build something new on it.

There is always more to learn. Always more to discover. Always more to understand. Not so that you can get to the finish line of learning, but so you can improve and make everything you touch just that little bit better.

How many people can reap the benefits of your growth?

The Power Of One

Can One Person Change the World?

Think of the person you admire the most. (Could be anyone like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jnr., Marie Curie, Martin Luther, Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Donald Bradman etc.)

Below is a list of people who probably helped them along the way (not a complete list):

Parents

Siblings

Grandparents

Other family members

Best friends

Teachers

Coaches

Mentors

Trainers

Physios

Colleagues

Secretary

Administration Assistant

Nutritionist

Spouse/Partner

Children

Agents

Their Hero

That random encounter with a person who said one thing to them and changed their perspective

Favourite Musician

Employer

Can one person change the world?

Nope. Not on their own.

How To Feel Good – My Top 10 Things

  1. Music

I forget sometimes just how much listening to a song you love can improve your state on mind and general sense of wellbeing.

2. Sunshine (Get some)

Depending on the time of year and your current situation, this can be a bit more challenging than it sounds. It also depends on your preference – I love sunshine, but some people love rain and cold weather. It’s more about taking the time to enjoy the elements around you.

3. Good food

This can go either way – if you are generally eating well, take some time to eat something for the enjoyment of it. If your diet is a little all over the place, then have one meal of quality, healthy food to do your body a favour.

4. Tick something off your to-do list

Never underestimate the feeling of accomplishment. Being able to tick something of a list of things that you want to do builds some momentum and then makes the other things on that list just a little bit easier. But don’t look at the whole list – just one thing. Perhaps a first step could be creating a to-do list if you don’t have one.

5. Read

Something that you are interested in – be it either fiction or non-fiction. My go-to is the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child and I strongly recommend reading a real book and not one on an I-pad or something similar.

6. Breathe

I had a counsellor once tell me to breathe because she noticed that I was holding my breath, subconsciously. I didn’t know this is something you could forget to do, but, well, here we are. Remember to breathe. Spend a minute just doing that.

7. Clothing

This hurts me a little to admit because I like to think of myself as a non-fashion type of person, but when you look good, you feel good. Find your best piece of clothing/outfit and wear the heck out of it. If you don’t have one – go find one. Op shops can be great for this.

8. Treat Yourself

Allow yourself time to have something that, for you, is a treat – meaning something that you don’t have very often. Be it chocolate, wine, chocolate wine, or other things that people seem to enjoy.

9. Laugh

Like music, laughing can shift your mood very quickly. Watch a short video of your favourite comedian. May I suggest Michael McIntyre if can’t think of one. Just a few minutes of good humour can change the way you turn up to the world.

10. Gratitude

This is the foundation for the previous 9 – everything hinges on gratitude. Sure, life may not be going exactly as you had planned but there is always something that you can be grateful for and there are always good things that happen in the midst of, or even because of, the challenging circumstances we may find ourselves in. Even if it is only that you are grateful for being able to do some of the things on this list. If you can practice gratitude, and the other 9 a little bit each day then I guarantee you will be feeling good before you know it.

What if Bob Marley was Wrong?

What if every very little thing is not going to be alright?

What if Bob was just trying to make us feel better but instead steered us away from the truth? The truth about life, especially as we experience it in 2020, is that life is difficult. There are challenges and there is suffering. In a culture that likes to be the masters of our own destiny it can be hard to comprehend that every little thing may not be alright. It’s hard to look that in the face.

We can see clearly that everything little thing is not going to be alright for the hundreds of thousands of people who have died from coronavirus. It is not going to be alright for those who weren’t able to say goodbye to loved ones due to travel restrictions as they passed away in hospital. It’s not going to be alright for those who are separated from family members due to hard borders being in place – parents missing out on seeing their kids grow and develop during one of the most challenging times in recent history. You can never get those times back. Saying ‘don’t worry about it’ to those people doesn’t seem to help and nor should it.

So what do we do? Do we just get sucked into the void of depression because ‘life sucks’, things are not always good and not everybody is nice? How do we continue to function? How can we keep putting one foot in front of another and finding the joy in life?

There is great power in naming something. When we can honestly name a situation or experience as tough, overpowering, challenging and just plain sh*t, there is an internal shift. It allows us room to experience the painful emotions, to sit with them and notice them for what they are – emotions that will pass. It’s not blame, it’s not loaded with outrage, it is just a time to express sadness and recognise that not everything is okay. When we can do that, it provides an emotional depth that creates a foundation of greater emotional joy.

Sometimes, everything isn’t going to be alright. But during those times, we don’t need to run from it or pretend it’s not happening, we can sit in it and even find joy in its midst.

I Don’t Have It Nailed Yet

Life’s a journey. One of growth, discovery and failure/learning. I’ve been writing and speaking about generosity for a number of years now. About all the benefits that it can bring, and how it improves your life. Mostly, I have been writing and speaking to myself, to help me in my personal journey of generosity. My hope is that I have become a more generous person during that time, and my future hope is that I will continue to become more generous. I don’t think I’ll reach the point where I am generous enough and can stop. Not for a long time anyway, because I see areas in my life where I can be more generous. All this to say, I am the Generosity Guy only because I point people to the benefits of living a generous lifestyle, not because I have the generous lifestyle nailed.

What are the benefits of a generous lifestyle? They are numerous, but essentially it is good for the people that you are generous to, it is good for the people around those that you are generous to and it’s good for you – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

There are very few things that a generous act can’t fix.

Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t come easy for you, or if you really wish you could be more generous that you are but can’t seem to find a way forward. That’s okay. It’s a journey that we can be on together, and it happens one generous act at a time.

The generous lifestyle is like building a muscle, but unlike super gross bodybuilding guy, you can’t build your generosity muscle up too much. So keep at it.

Changing The World

I think we all want to matter. We all want our efforts to make a difference in the world, however small. Having a sense of purpose and accomplishment is connected to wellbeing.

But when we are faced with the enormity of events that are happening on a global or national scale, it can be disheartening. It doesn’t seem to matter what we do we won’t be able to change the world, right?

Whether you are facing a global pandemic, or the leader of your country is a raving lunatic (as a random example), there is always something that you can do. The challenge is not getting too far ahead of yourself and thinking that what you are doing today won’t really change anything.

There is an ancient military methodology of spreading leadership responsibility around in an efficient manner and training future leaders at the same time. There were commanders of one thousand, commanders of one hundred and commanders of ten. It may sound simple to us today, but it made great numbers of soldiers manageable and created a clear reporting structure.  The commanders of ten reported to the commander of one hundred who reported to the commander of one thousand. Any form of structural hierarchy we have today can be traced back to this line of thinking.

What has that got to do with making a difference? Well, to become a commander of one thousand, you first needed to prove yourself as a commander of one hundred, after proving yourself as a commander of ten, after proving yourself as a soldier.  You couldn’t just jump to being a leader of thousands of people without first being one of the people.

In the same way, to change the world, you need to change your country, after changing your city, after changing your community, after changing your household, after changing yourself.

If you want to make a difference in the world, choose to act in a way that will change the lives of those in your household.

They don’t have to be large, outrageous actions, but little things – maybe one per day, and build on it. Over time it creates momentum. Have you ever heard of a pilot with thousands of flight hours and wondered how they could possibly have flown that much? Well, one hour at a time. Or an author who has written numerous books? They did that by writing one word at a time. In fact, anyone who has ever done anything great, performed small actions, consistently and well, over time.

Making a difference in the world, changing it for the better, requires small things done today, and then every day, and in the future you will be amazed at the world you are living in.

Reproduction

“You teach what you know, but you reproduce who you are”. John Maxwell

It’s Gandhi’s most famous quote, but perhaps the true impact of “be (ing) the change you wish to see in the world” goes beyond just doing good things, it is more about be-ing.

We can talk and use amazing language to describe what kind of family we want to have, what kind of organisation we want to work for or city we want to live in. We can lead from the front in outlining what the behaviours are we want to see from people. Heck, sometimes we can even do those things, but if it isn’t a natural out-flowing of who we are then we are just wasting our time.

If you find yourself in the place where you aren’t the type of person who does the things that you would like to see (firstly, welcome to being human), then become that person. If you find yourself in the place where you don’t like what you are reproducing in others around you, then become what you want to see in others. The beauty of it all is that you can change who you are. (Which is simple because we have unlimited access to resources to do it, but it is certainly not easy.)

If you want to see generosity in those around you, become someone who is generous. If you want to see thoughtfulness, become someone who is thoughtful. If you want to see creativity, become someone who is creative. Talking about and teaching these things won’t reproduce in others until you live it. We don’t need more people with knowledge of generosity, we need more people with generous behaviour.

You can’t just talk about things, you need to become what you want to see.