Try keeping this to yourself

Is everyone truly entitled to their own opinion? I am using the word “entitled” in what I think is its common usage meaning as “special privileged position”. I am also assuming the privilege comes from living in the western world where we enjoy free speech (to one degree or another).

So, when I started to think about this, it followed days and days of hearing people say to me “everyone is entitled to their own opinion”, and I’m not sure everyone is. Our Attorney General here in Australia once said “people do have the right to be bigots, you know”, which is a related topic. My thinking started with: is an opinion a position on something that has been shared by someone? So if I have a stance on something, it becomes an opinion when it is shared. I’m guessing here by the way. Otherwise I reckon, it is just a thought.

I think everyone at some time or another, has been halfway through expressing something out loud and pulled up without finishing because it has become quite clear that it’s a stupid thing to say. It might have been a belief lightly held or simply something heard from a trusted source and repeated. I have certainly done this. Most often repeating something my parents said many years ago. (Not that my parents said lots of stupid or ill-considered things) So in that case it would not be an opinion, or would it? Perhaps one can have partial opinions?

We know that opinions do not need to be evidence based, because people have all sorts of opinions on things of an ethereal nature. Things like god and ghosts. We know that good people have opinions and bad people do too. Well balanced people have opinions as do people with psychopathy. Psychopaths have opinions on other people regarding their value or lack of it for example. Mass murderers have opinions on the value of others lives.

So are they all entitled to them? Some of those opinions could get you locked up in jail. Some form the basis for doing evil. Is everyone and anyone entitled to even those opinions that lead to mass killings? I would say possibly not. With freedom comes responsibility. Living in a community, particularly a western community comes with it, a need to act in the best interest of your fellow-man. It is a privilege to be part of a western democracy so I believe some thought should be given to ideas before they are voiced as opinions.

I am really keen on the idea that we should all have a small intimate group of friends with whom we can try out our ideas before we share them as fully fledged opinions. Back in the day when I was a YMCA leader, I used to tell my young campers “words are like toothpaste, once out they can’t go back in.” If we are all truly entitled to an opinion regardless of how much or how well we have cogitated on that idea that is truly terrifying.

Water & marbles

 

I get asked to do a lot of talking, in addition to the speaking gigs. Here is the difference. I have delivered presentations on winning, culture, leadership and the growth mindset to hundreds of athletes over the last ten years, that is a speaking gig. I am standing in front of a group of people delivering a honed message. They know what’s coming, there is an expectation of a learning outcome. I am usually working to a time constraint and though the presentation will be tailored to the group, the message is predetermined.

A talking gig is similar but different. Yesterdays talking gig went for a little more than 4 hours. I was asked to provide my voice to help MC a fundraising event that went all day, I was to do the afternoon session 2pm till 6.30. Friends of mine will tell you I could talk underwater with a mouthful of marbles. But believe or not, I don’t want to talk about nothing, or rubbish. It’s true that talking for 270 minutes is not too daunting a task but I don’t want to sound like a goose or just tell baloney made up stories.

Yesterday as brave people abseiled down the side of a building in Sydney, 33 floors and 135 metres I was asked to provide a little commentary, a little colour, a little information. How would you go? Where would you start? I know a fair bit about the work of the charity so I was able to speak about that for a while. I had a crack at interviewing a few of the abseilers but most people don’t really get the whole microphone thing. So it ends up being a bit incoherent and jumbled, not exactly what I was trying to achieve.

So I went back to providing a monologue about fear, confronting your fear, facilitating life changing opportunities and all the other things the Sir David Martin Foundation do. The commentary needs to remain upbeat, slightly entertaining without trying to be the focus of the event. It’s a challenging role. So that’s the difference between a speaking gig and a talking gig. How would you go at either of those. Being a water and marbles kind of guy is no great claim to fame and it’s almost an embarrassment frankly, but I guess we all need to play to our strengths.

Indelible smile

What a great opportunity I had today. Through a series of serendipitous events I was able to say thank you to a pair of people who were incredibly influential on me as a youngster. I was under the impression that they had moved away from the home I remember them living in, but there they were, wow.

A friend of mine posted a cartoon on Facebook. The artist is a guy I had lost touch with ten years ago, a simply delightful guy I went to school with, was my best man, as I was his. I was able to contact him through Facebook and we had a good chat part of which was the discovery that his folks were indeed in the same old house.

So this morning I hopped on my scooter and rode across town and knocked on their door. It was the most delightful twenty minutes. I haven’t had a conversation with either of them for about forty years, though they came to the funerals of both of my parents. So it was such a delight to be able to have the opportunity to tell them how important they were to me growing up, and to say thank you.

I simply can’t wipe the smile off my face.

Get to my grave

cropped-img_0454.jpgEveryone I speak with through the Life Log Project has an interesting story to tell. People from all walks of life, some of them awarded or rewarded, some not so. They almost all have one thing in common too. To some extent, they all have imposter’s syndrome. I have found that no matter who they are, when it comes time to record their life stories and family stories pretty much everyone suffers imposter’s syndrome where they don’t feel they have done enough or their lives have not been interesting enough to bother recording.

The ones that don’t suffer this funnily enough, often run out of things to say pretty quickly. Often they have had a life defined by one single event and have spent most of their life retelling their own story as defined by that event.

When the time comes for me to go to my grave, I really hope I can get to the place or space where I am not suffering from this blight. I really want to be in the position to be at peace knowing I was honest and brave and loved. So how does someone do that? I reckon you get there by being deliberate and purposeful in your approach to life. Getting help when you need it, striding out on your own when you are ready and embracing people, ideas and adventures as they arrive.

Sharing the adventures, the fear and aspirations with good-hearted people is important too. Knowing that even when I didn’t get it right, I was at least having a red-hot crack at it, means that a life well lived will be a story worth telling. I hope your’s is too.

Political correctness

 

I even have difficulty in spelling it, let alone achieving it or even to truly understand it. I keep seeing it on Facebook and hearing people say that they are “over or tired of political correctness.” But the entire subject or heading just confuses me. I suspect people are being either deliberately or lazily mischievous in their use of the term. Some things I hear or see that are put under the heading of political correctness are just silly. I will take for instance that I have heard many schools have given away singing the National Anthem because it may offend someone. That is just silly. There are so many benefits to kids singing the National Anthem that far outweigh an individual’s set of morals. For instance by singing as a group you get a real sense of community and group well-being. You may even learn to hold a note. You learn to remember words of a song. You learn how melody works, that to start together is a good thing, that some things are not jokes.

These are things that are real and tangible. Now if schools are giving away singing the National Anthem because it is too difficult to find a suitable backing track or the right transmission equipment or teachers can’t be bothered. While I understand all of those things, that should not come under the heading of political correctness, that comes under the heading of “Lazy” or “I don’t give a shit”. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I do understand it. If it is because it is going to offend someone, that is probably political correctness and I don’t like it too much.

When people say that the SSM yes vote is political correctness, I don’t understand that. In many cases I feel It is easier for them to pop that into their personal mental filing cabinet under “uncomfortable internal dialogue”. That way they don’t have to deal with it on an emotional level. I understand also that many people don’t want to deal with emotionally sensitive issues unless it directly affects them personally. Unless it is their daughter or their son, or their aunt they would prefer to call it political correctness. But is that truly what this is?

I read yesterday a comment from a woman who said she was being bullied by advocates of the YES vote because they were strident in their belief for a universally held YES stance, and didn’t agree with her position. Now that seems to me to be another piece of intellectual laziness. There is nothing surer than her right to vote NO. However if she is going to go public with that stance, she cannot then say she is being bullied by the YES supporters because they don’t agree with her. It is petulant and immature to describe people on the other side of any debate as bullies. It is the sort of thing certain radio jocks say. It has a ring of authenticity to it because no-one likes to be bullied, but it isn’t necessarily correct.

It is not OK to go public with your support for one side of the debate or the other with an ill-considered, poorly articulated point of view. Just shut up and vote if you can’t articulate your reasons. If you haven’t really applied all of your intellect to the issue, just shut up and vote. Ideally though it would be better to have a robust conversation about truly why you think what it is you think. I have done things and behaved in certain ways because I am afraid of the dark. I jump higher than I need to when I hear a loud noise late at night. Sometimes the things we don’t know and cant see scare us more than the things we can see and understand.

Is the movement to more political correctness directly tied with our move away from societal thinking and toward individualism. Sadly it probably is. America and Australia are the two standout countries in the world when it comes to this shift in our thinking and motivation if the current band of social researchers have it correct. Where once the modus operandi would be “what is best for our community or society?” it is now “what is best for me?” Food for thought.

The Yes vote causes trouble

rainbowdog

I attended the Yes Vote rally in Sydney on the weekend. Not because I had a clever sign to hold, nor was I part of a group that very cleverly dressed in Flintstones theme holding signs like “Yabba Dabba I do” or “Cmon NSW get out of the stone age”. Nor did I take my little fluffy dog painted the colour of the rainbow as in the picture above.

I attended because I wanted to add another person to the crowd in support of the Yes vote. I realise that just one person isn’t going to make much difference, particularly not in a crowd that large, but I felt it was important to add the voice of an ageing straight guy to the billowing cloud of gayness.

I was standing on the edge of the crowd and an older couple (yes there are people even older than me) festooned with shopping bags, walked past on their way somewhere and nodding to the crowd he said to her “I cant work out why they would want to get married!” she walked a few more steps and turned to him and angrily said “what do you mean by that? do you mean you only married me because you had to?”

Exit stage left. I could see that was not going to end well. While I wouldn’t want to be in that guy’s shoes trying to talk his way out of that, it is interesting that the SSM debate brings up issues for lots of people outside the core SSM interest group. Now we have people having to explain to each other why in fact they did get married. Was it for love? or perhaps as part of the procedure to slate their desire for each other’s body. That’s a tough debate to settle forty years down the track.

Some might say it is a debate long overdue.

Working for a psychopath

DCZ 8
I have had the opportunity to work for two psychopaths in my life. Both externally charming though a little odd, both lied with chilling ease and both would behave in the strangest ways. One of them lied about his health to induce me to work for him, telling me he was dying and needed someone to come in and help run the business for his children. He was still around a decade later, fit as a mallee bull. The other was a CEO working for an all male board and had them convinced his touching up of a young female staff member was not really that bad after all.

In my experience working for psychopaths, the only strategy you should be considering is how to get away, how to get out. While they have emotions, they have no feelings. They genuinely don’t see their actions as something worth getting upset about, in fact others getting upset is just an opportunity for them to store information for later opportunities to push buttons.

“The toucher”, it turned out, had a history of this sort of behaviour. Previous staff and board members had either glossed over it or decided it was way too difficult to stand up to him. He felt very comfortable telling slight lies to discredit those that were silly enough to get in his way. By slight lies I mean the sort of lies that couldn’t really be tested but were none the less harmful to someone’s reputation. “I should have been more careful checking his resume, if I knew then, what I know now” that sort of lie.

Though pretty much all of the credible research into psychopathy would indicate it is a male domain, that is only because the research has been done in male prisons. There is no reason to believe that psychopathy is not gender equal. While it may seem the honourable thing to do, by standing up for what is right, when you discover your boss is a psychopath, history shows it is seriously career limiting. They hold all the cards. Just start to carefully plan your exit strategy.

Launching a Newsletter

I am about to launch an online Newsletter for fortnightly distribution. I have been wrangling with this idea for nearly two years. I love recording people’s stories as you know, and in the course of those recordings I hear amazing things, that due to privacy issues, I cannot share. Pretty obvious so far.

However I can share the ideas around those items. So no names and no pack drills I can tell the story in such a way that no-one can be identified and yet other people outside the direct family get the benefit of the tale.

Charles “tremendous” Jones the great American sales guru said “wisdom comes from the people you meet and the books you read” so this is a little of both. I am translating the stories for you by removing the identifiers, but you still get the benefit of the learning.

The Newsletter will also have bits and pieces from every part of my daily life. A little on the farm, a little about eating and manners and being nice. All the things, you will by now expect to see. I am also really hoping that you will share it with your friends. Im keeping the blog too because I enjoy writing it.

If you would like to get a copy of the newsletter just click the link here

Subscribe to our mailing list

Wheelbarrow

There is a lovely song by the Australian duet ‘Millers Tale’ called Wheelbarrow. The opening line of the song says, “I bought my friend a wheelbarrow to carry his troubles in”. It is such an evocative line I could not help but ponder on it. I’m sure we all know people who need a wheelbarrow, poor things. Not only do they feel the need to hold their troubles close, but a wheelbarrow means there are lots of them and ensures they are always close enough to share. Now I don’t want to sound insensitive, but, I’m going to be. They need to put the barrow down and step aside.

It’s not helping anyone, least of all themselves. In all likelihood they are scaring people away with their sadness. Sure there are people on the planet that deserve to be sad, No problem there, but those that carry that wheelbarrow around need to get over it. The best way to do that is to start doing something for others. Get involved in a charity or some good cause, there are plenty of people who need assistance of one kind or another. Hospitals, food pantries, the homeless or just nice local old people that could use some help with a lawn or some shopping or something.

By focussing on someone else for a while, perspective gently and quietly sneaks into your life providing all sorts of meaningful assistance. Give it a try and check out the song as well.

Over the back fence

The Life Log project is all about helping people collect their family stories. The hand-me-down bits of lives and loves and circumstance that are formative and significant. I am firmly of the belief that it is not just the dying that should be recording their story, nor should it be the exclusive domain of those that have a little glimpse of their own mortality, but we should all be doing this.

My parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparent all led lives that contained mysteries that in all likelihood will never be answered and certainly not answered to my satisfaction. My great-grandfather went to fight in a couple of World Wars and though he hated it all, it was the big event in his life. Fighting overseas defending his country defined him. I guess not surprisingly, having watched so many of his friends killed in action or returned as damaged humans.

He was such a delightful old stick. I clearly remember him playing war tunes on his harmonica as he came in from tending his extensive vegetable gardens. I also clearly remember his wife, my great-grandmother, as the head of the household, setting the rules, setting the table and setting the punishment scales too. She was legendary for chasing one of her children down the yard with a bucket of water to tip over him, for swearing in the house. She must have been in her nineties and her son must have been in his seventies and pretty sure he could get away with dropping the B bomb. He was proved wrong on that score and escaped by hopping the back fence which is a pretty fair effort for a bloke in his seventies.

These stories are the stories that make us understand families and the way in which people lived. Without them, much of what we think we know about our ancestors unravels pretty quickly. I would encourage you to put a microphone in front of all of your ageing relatives ASAP. You can do it once a year for the rest of their lives. In the meantime, if you know of anyone that needs the service, check out the website http://www.thelifelogproject.com.au