The Unseen Buds of Winter

August 28, 2020 5:10 am

Midway through winter I often hear people’s verbal longings for summer. They are over the cold and desire the warm. And if we could listen in on the plant world, I am sure we might just hear the faint whispers of their summer longings as well. It seems they have an inner knowing that one day, things will turn and despite the cold, they endure with quiet persistence, hanging in there, even in the absence of demonstrable growth. 

I know for many this year, in both their personal and business worlds, the pandemic delivered an early winter along with the rollercoaster it brought with it. For others, it was the natural course of life that delivered undesired events. 

It’s hard at times to keep going. We want to pull the covers over our heads and sleep till the hardship is over. And while hibernation is part of the winter season it’s in the giving up too early where we can miss the magnificent display of the blooms we had been hoping for and working toward. Like this tree in my garden. Four weeks ago it looked like it should have been chopped down but unbeknownst to me, the unseen buds of winter had been quietly forming and almost overnight, bloomed. 

There are times for rest and course changes, and there are times for enduring the barren and bitter winters. And while it is often hard to exercise wisdom in the midst of these periods, what I do know is that undetected growth buds are nevertheless forming. The resulting blooms may not be what we expected but spring will be ushered in when it is ready. 

Photo by Elijah O’Donnell 

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The Girl On The Phone

April 23, 2020 9:53 am

Man crying

A girl in her late teens walked past our home in tears at the weekend. Crying into her phone I heard her say, “I can’t go out to see my friends and have a drink with them. All I do is stay at home and study.” I felt the personal suffering behind her words.

For some, adapting to the current social-distancing measures has been relatively easy. The opportunity to focus on valued areas of life such as wellness, enhanced productivity and time with family has been a happy outcome. However, for others like the girl on the phone, it’s a tough gig. A tough gig too, for leaders at every level, as they prioritise human health and safety by enforcing social-distancing; juxtaposed against the unknown quantity of individual distress, isolation and poor mental-health.

And when isolation and distancing rules leaves us bereft of choice, living and working in a contented, productive manner becomes a matter of personal choice — both to survive and to thrive.

I for one, have not found these past weeks easy. I have missed a lot of my freedoms and social connection points with people and am learning more about myself in the space of five short weeks than I have for years. I have had wonderfully productive days, emotionally “wobbly” days and times of wanting to go to sleep and wake-up when the world has recovered. My greatest happiness professionally has been working remotely with business-owners nationwide. Day by day, with each conversation, I am discovering the value of connection, albeit at a distance—and just how much can be accomplished by phone and teleconference.

Personally, a walk at day’s end along the beach with my fiancée Michelle has become a therapeutic routine along with a post-dinner driveway dance party where Michelle is teaching me to dance the tango.

In the early days, I found myself resistant to the distancing constraints and Michelle said: “give into it and allow space for the difficult emotions to fully dwell within you; then see what happens — sometimes the difficulty evaporates when you grant it space, but you have to allow it to be first.” That was the starting place, and I have indeed found that “giving in to it” has helped me. I’m also learning that the decisions I make and the actions I take, in the midst of this enforced enclosure, set a powerful context for either personal anxiety and despondency or happiness and productivity. About his experience of living three years in a concentration camp, Viktor Frankl said, “…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I mention my own journey because I know that for some, a journey shared can be a journey helped. I also mention it to help heighten awareness of reaching out to others who perhaps are doing it tougher than others. For those of you who have staff, some will be doing well in the present climate while others may be struggling.

Whether man or woman, having a good offload or cry into the phone, like the girl who walked past our home, can make all the difference. Afterwards, it’s the mainstay of the decisions we make and the actions we take that can either liberate us to move forward or keep us locked in personal confinement.

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The Reward Is In The Writing

December 18, 2019 6:50 am

IMG_0161

As my newsletter Mindful Motivation enters its fifth year, I have been reflecting on its origin and its meaning for both myself and those of you who read it, of which I thought I would share here with you.

Mindful Motivation was born out of the dark womb of depression. While I thought that all potential seeds of life had died during that time, there was at least one seed that hadn’t been snuffed out.

I revisit the many lonely, sleepless, 2 AM mornings where I would sit despairingly in my office looking at the picture (above). On one of these occasions, as I was sitting quietly, the following words came to me: “write your way forward.” And thus, Mindful Motivation exited the womb and came to life.

That was four years ago and for me, writing this piece regularly has been one of the most rewarding and therapeutic tasks I have engaged in and has, in fact, moved me forward in ways I could never have imagined.

As I’ve been reflecting on it this week I would suggest that it is critical for there to be elements of our work that are personally rewarding, where we find inspiration and fulfilment. These rewards also help fuel us for the more difficult parts of life and business, keeping us going in the tougher times.

The other reflection is that in periods of lostness and darkness, light can issue forth and “foundness” and newness can both germinate and spring to life in the subsequent season.

I want to express my deep gratitude to all of you for being part of my broader community: for the work we’ve done together; for your attendance at my speaking gigs; your responses, sharing of and publishing of my writing; for your promotion of my work; for the drinks we’ve imbibed and the bread we have broken.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Years and I trust you will take some time to fill in the following to help guide your efforts and fulfilment in 2020:

“I find my reward in the …………….”

All the best,
Ray

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Soul Weather

December 5, 2019 9:37 am

car-drops-of-water-glass-rain-1553

Years ago when going through a dark spot, a psychologist gave me a useful strategy. Every day I would give myself a “mood rating” between 1 and 10—1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. I followed this process long after I came out of the black hole, until I was regularly hitting 5 and above.

It was useful for:

  • Tuning in to how I was feeling;
  • When my rating was less than 5, I had different strategies to help me ride out the troughs;
  • Understanding the links between certain events that had happened on the previous day(s) to how I was feeling on the current day;
  • Ascertaining the impact of integrating new activities into my days and the effect these had on my mood.

And while I took anti-depressants, this was in many ways, the pragmatic side to doing a rough journey.

Speaking with a business owner yesterday, the subject of depression came up and how tough the business road can be at times. These tough periods, when encountered and endured for long seasons can be impactful beyond what we thought possible. He mentioned the constant knock-back of tenders as an example. Another business owner I know was saying how tough things were at the moment and jokingly said that they were having a strategy and planning day and was hoping that the future plan was to shut up shop.

Sometimes, it’s long seasons of drought or hardship; other times we just run out of steam from having been in the game for so long.

Running a business is certainly not for the faint-hearted and the “take a dose of concrete and harden the f**k up”, while it may work for short term obstacles, doesn’t cut it for longer-term marathons.

Maybe you’ve never been at the point of taking medication or a daily mood rating but my guess is that some of you have, and that others of you have employees, friends, and family that have or are enduring similar.

As we come into the holiday season, take time for self-reflection. If you feel you haven’t been hitting your straps for a while, push into it rather than dismissing it. Talk to trusted others about what you are experiencing and maybe, like I did, seek professional help.

Also, be aware of those you are connecting with over the break. Sometimes, the best gift you can give someone is an empathetic, attentive, listening ear.

And soul weather, just like natural weather, has its seasons. And while we can’t control the weather outside, we can take steps to understand, nurture and shift the weather inside.

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Focus. A Fresh Set of Eyes

October 13, 2019 5:32 pm

A fresh set of eyes

I recently had an eye test completed and subsequently followed through on the specialist’s recommendation to purchase glasses. Little had I realised that over time, I had slowly become accustomed to blurred vision. Now, with a fresh set of “eyes,” things that were unclear and hazy have become sharp and distinct.

At different times in our personal worlds, our careers and business endeavours, the focus that was once crystal clear becomes a little muddied. We find ourselves so deep in the trenches that all we see are the trench walls, losing sight of what is beyond. We find ourselves going through passionless motions that once brought us life.

If you find yourself doing that daily trench trudge make a move to jump up on top. Some things that might be helpful are:

  • A change of routine;
  • Meet with some inspirational friends or colleagues;
  • Incorporating something fun into your life;
  • Pursuing something that you are curious about;
  • Taking a risk in something you’ve been delaying;
  • Hiring a coach or mentor. (I have just hired someone to coach me again from the US and 3 weeks in I can tell you it’s well worth the investment);
  • Schedule think time into your weekly schedule;
  • Get some fresh input which might include further training or reading.

A fresh set of “eyes” helps raise us from the footslog of the trench to the freedom of the mountain. And often, it is just the simple things that help gain that shift.

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The Minutes of Tomorrow

August 20, 2019 1:18 pm

blur-clock-face-close-up-280361

Sitting at my desk and watching the twilight hue gradually being absorbed by the night, it prompts me to reflect on the day.

I wonder if my time was just spent completing reactive administrative tasks or did I add significant value in my meetings and client work?

Was I focused and productive, accomplishing what I set out to do?

Was I happy and light-hearted, working with a sense of inner ease and peace?

I reflect on my relationships. Could I have engaged deeper, being more present in my interactions with those I love?

Did I listen well today? Did I ask more meaningful questions, demonstrating an interest in others rather than just enjoying the sound of my own voice?

Was I kind, patient and respectful to all I met?

Did I put myself first where appropriate to do so, in my work and my personal standing?

What have I learnt today that I didn’t know yesterday? And what of these new insights did I practice and speak of in order to more fully learn them?

I am reminded of my mentor, Dr Alan Weiss, and his sage advice, “You can always make another dollar, but you can’t make another minute.”

As I complete this piece, the day has grown dark and I am grateful that while we may not be able to make another minute, we do have the opportunity to use the minutes of tomorrow in ways that we might have done better with today.

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Two Magical Words

December 20, 2018 5:53 pm

Two Magical Words As tears filled her eyes, a long-term employee said: “even a small thank-you from management wouldn’t go astray.”

Two Magical Words

The two words thank you contain magic within them. They have the power to bring the best out in people; to open closed doors; to make a cold person warm; to generate more business; to generate loyalty in our team members; promote happiness in our homes and our workplaces.

If we come from a place of entitlement—in that life and people owe us—then just saying the words thank you do not have the same power as when propelled out of a heart of gratitude. The more deeply grateful we are, the more meaningful thank you becomes.

As you wrap this year up with those people you work, live and play with, take some time to reflect on what they contribute to your life and express a heartfelt thank you by way of written or spoken words.

And lastly, I would like to say thank-you to all of you here who read and comment on my writing; the wonderful business owners and managers I have had the privilege of working with this year by way of consulting and speaking; the editors who have published my writing; and the association directors who have promoted my work.

I trust you have a wonderful Christmas and a New Year that is blessed beyond measure. May you see unimagined new doors open for you in 2019.

Thank you…
Ray

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A Life’s Work

October 2, 2018 1:37 pm

A Life’s Work

Robert McFarlane

This past weekend, I had the privilege of visiting Robert McFarlane’s Still Point photographic exhibition in McLaren Vale, South Australia—a remarkable showcase of his life’s work for over 50 years. Robert, who I have now met twice imbues humility, alertness and genuine warmth.

The exhibition notes read: “This exhibition will show just how he captures the extraordinary in his images, from the famous and well known to the everyday moments. The images encourage you to look deeper, finding your way through the layers and exploring the many points of stillness within.”

I wander reflectively through the exhibit, finding myself at times apprehended by gratitude. Here is a man whose work was that of capturing life through the lens of which I now, am the recipient of—making my life all the richer from his passion and activity.

It caused me to reflect on two things.

The first was the importance of work. The combination of following our interests and curiosities; having a sense of purpose in what we do; building on our natural talents and developing skill sets, and then the corresponding follow through activity—all compound over time into a life’s work. The second reflection was simply, ‘what am I building?’ Does my work and my life contribute to the betterment of others or is it purely a self-centred existence?

This intimate and timeless showcase of Robert’s work indeed brought me to a point of stillness. Similarly, for us, a life’s work with intent will have its own effect on others as it compounds over time.

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Words

August 27, 2018 5:03 pm

Words

Words have the power to: teach, direct, heal, instruct, enlighten and inspire. They also have the ability to: dispirit, damage, mislead, bore and fatigue.

Many words spilling from a loose mouth achieve little; a few words emerging from attentiveness can positively change perspectives, situations and worlds in a moment.

It seems for most, listening is more the challenge than speaking—I know for me—this is true. To sit quietly with a friend; listen to a child; engage with a prospective customer or to help an employee—to attend to their thoughts and feelings and to access their world through meaningful questions and active listening; to interact without judgement nor prejudice and provide timely words only when and if necessary—leaves a person feeling heard, validated and empowered.

Just as a writer winnows their written words prior to publication, so too, a person can cull the spoken words prior to them exiting the mouth.

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Fijian Life Reminders

August 7, 2018 9:18 am

Fijian

I returned last week from a conference in Fiji and while the sessions were inspirational and thought-provoking, most impacting were the Fijian people.

Out of the fourteen countries, I have visited, I have never experienced such a collective warm embrace. From the trio singing to us as we embarked the plane; the constant happy greeting of “Bula”; the staff at customs making me feel like I was coming home—not an intruder; a people who always wanted to serve along with my favourite bartender who came and gave me a big hug upon my departure— all of these and more made me feel very much at home in a foreign place.

Timely Reminders
  1. Happiness is an internal attitude and is based not on external things. Someone mentioned that in discussion with one of the locals, they said that the Fijian people exude this happiness because they treat each day as if it is their last thus seeking to live the current day fully.
  2. People matter. For the Fijian, relationships and connection seem to be more important than anything else.
  3. Walking with an ease in our step helps us live more in the moment.

While the martinis took longer to arrive than I am used to, the big bartender’s bear hug showed me that the man’s work was much more about human connection than drink perfection. 

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Lifting Your Head

June 18, 2018 7:26 am

Rainy Night

Walking home on a dismal, cold, rainy night I was focused on getting to my destination as quick as possible. At one point I realised that I was missing out on what the night had to offer. I slowed my walk, becoming present in the moment.

While the awful conditions didn’t change, I did.

I took my eyes off the circumstances and discovered things in the night that helped carry me home.

All of us, at one time or another, go through tough times. The winds and rains seem to come up from nowhere ushering us into the long night of testing and trial.

If you happen to be enduring this long walk of the night, take some time to lift your eyes and you, like me, might discover a richness in the moment that will help you walk the current journey a little easier.

The circumstances won’t necessarily change overnight but you just might.

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Anniversaries. Celebrating Life In Death

April 27, 2018 10:14 am

Celebrating Life In Death

Today (April 27) is the anniversary of my brother’s death (pictured left). He was killed in a car accident ten years ago.

Anniversaries like these have a way of making us pause – to reflect, to remember, to take stock of the good in life that we experience. It makes us realise that life, like a candle’s flame, can be snuffed out with one fatal blow.

My brother and I were close and regularly worked on each other’s projects. After the initial shock wore off from the news of his death, grief set in. I learned that grief has her own agenda. There are no time frames, no right or wrong ways to grieve. I also learned to allow grief to flow and not to suppress it. Grief over a period of time cleansed and healed me.

One of the significant realisations through this grief period was that I was better off celebrating his life rather than remaining in the mourning of his death for, after all, we had shared 38 years together. That was a change point. Grief took me through the loss and then pointed me to his life – the rich life we had shared together, particularly in the years prior to his departure.

I never forgot this lesson and since that time, with various other losses I have experienced, I have remembered to celebrate life in death.

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Focused Momentum

April 16, 2018 6:09 pm

Focused Momentum

Focused Momentum

Hosing all the dirt and leaves off my back courtyard and down the side path this past weekend, I observed a few things.

Firstly, that in different sections of the courtyard I was pushing the dirty water uphill as the paving foundation had not been correctly prepared. 

Secondly, that when I was intentional with the focus of the water jet, everything moved forward. When I tried to take shortcuts or lost my focus the dirty water receded.

Thirdly, there was a point that became easier. It was the apex of the path. Once the mass reached that part it all started to flow downhill.

My lessons were these.
  1. Starting a process is just the beginning. Whether it is personal or organisational change, we have to continue to push things through in a forward and focused manner in order to reach the tipping point – the apex of the path. This is where, because of the prior focused work, things become easier and gain their own momentum.
  2. When pursuing change, it’s important to maintain forward focused pressure. As soon as we lose this, the old habits and the previous ways of doing things simply have a gravity about them that prevents forward flow.
  3. Focus and consistency is everything.
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Lifestyle. Getting Your Life Back

April 9, 2018 4:47 pm

Get Your Life Back
Lifestyle. Getting Your Life Back

Many of the business owners I work with struggle to have a life outside of work. They mostly enjoy what they do, but often long for a bit more freedom from the office.

If you find yourself longing for the outside here are ten points that I often use with business owners when helping them get their life back.

  1. Ask: What are the ingredients that (for you) contribute to living full of vitality? e.g. diet, fitness, rest, play, type of work etc.
  2. Understand what your limits are. What agendas and schedules have you living out on the edge?
  3. Clarify the outcomes you want along with some goals you know would breathe life into you. e.g. visit our beach house monthly; a fully systemised business; go to the gym 3 days per week; be home at 5 pm daily to see my children; complete a wine appreciation course.
  4. What are the key changes I need to make that will contribute to obtaining these outcomes/goals?
  5. Take time to design work pathways away from yourself. You don’t have to do it all. This often means a position description review of other employees and/or the recruitment of other key personnel in order to redistribute your tasks to them.
  6. Over time, incorporate into your schedule ONLY that which contributes to your desired outcomes.
  7. Always ask, “who else can do this?” Delegate and then follow up.
  8. Learn to say no to others agendas and yes to your own.
  9. Plan next week this week; tomorrow, today.
  10. When you leave the office, intentionally close your door as a way of mentally shifting gears to the life you are stepping into outside of the office walls.

Lifestyle is all about the style of life we are living. Managing our lives according to the outcomes we desire is a powerful way to live a fulfilled life.

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The Monkey Bars Of Life. Let Go To Move Forward

February 21, 2018 5:34 pm

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees begin the monkey bars obstacle June 30, 2010, at the confidence course at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. In BMT, trainees learn the critical importance of discipline, teamwork and foundational knowledge needed to succeed as an Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell)

In order for us to move forward, we have to let go.

Whether it’s a relationship, a career, a business, material possessions, a previous way of operating or the multitude of other possible areas, letting go can be hard. And the longer we clasp our fingers tight around that which we are so desperately trying to keep, it hinders progress forward.

I think some of the reasons we struggle to let go are:

  • Fear of the unknown.
    “At least what I have now provides some certainty, even if I don’t like what is happening.” Letting go of the old means the ushering in of a new state and that can be downright scary.
  • Fear of losing.
    “I have two million dollars in the bank but if I follow my dream that puts all my previous hard work at risk.”
    “There is so much opportunity for us to expand our business and double our sales but in order to do that we have to invest in new systems and people and we could lose big time.”
  • Loss of our identity and status.
    We find validation and thus our identity in what we currently have or what we’ve done. We have over time, become emotionally and intrinsically linked to that state. e.g. “I’m a CEO” or “I work 80 hours a week” or, “I’ve done this for twenty years.” Driving a luxury car or earning a high income, for example, can also provide false senses of identity and status.
  • We are currently gaining something from not letting go,
  • Sentimentality.
    This particularly relates to material possessions and the difficulty we have in letting these go
  • “It’s the ‘right’ thing to stay in the current state.
    A friend asked me 5 years ago, “Why are you still in your marriage?” I responded, “Because it’s the right thing to do.” His response initiated the change: “Ray, it’s not what’s right that counts, it’s what’s best.”

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality, nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.” Jon Krakauer. Into The Wild

Sheryl Sandberg wrote: “So please ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then go do it.”

Exercise the courage to let go your grip on the current bar you’re holding and swing out to the next one in order to propel you forward. Yes, you may fall off and have to attempt it again but, if you stay stationary you will miss the sense of exhilaration and satisfaction that only letting go will give you and, you will miss the new horizons and the lands that await beyond them.

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Grateful. Australia Day Reflection

January 30, 2018 5:51 am

Flags

This past Friday, I tuned in to hear and see what was happening across the country for the  Australia Day events and increasingly found myself incredibly grateful for this country I am part of.

I heard stories of appreciative migrants; I saw the invasion marches and the proclamations of “we have survived”; the thousands of people who became Australian citizens;  awards presented to those who are making a difference in this country and across the globe. Watching the Sydney Australia Day concert that night, I found myself quite moved through parts of it. Aside from the actual artists and various high-quality theatrical components of the event, what further fuelled my gratitude was our ethnic diversity (both of the crowd and those who shared the stage) and the heartening sight of both Indigenous and Australian flags being proudly lifted to the heavens, side by side.

It is not a perfect country by any means and while there is much work to be done (and changing the date of Australia Day I think, is one of those changes that would further assist the healing process and unity of our nation) it is a fortunate country. And for that, I am grateful.

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In The Shower With Ray

January 15, 2018 1:03 pm

<‘In The Shower With Ray’ photo excluded due to high possibility of massive unsubscription >

Discussing the year that was, over a beer with a couple of business owners before Christmas, they were commenting how the best ideas for their company had come, not from brainstorming in the boardroom but while making toasted sandwiches in the kitchen.

A few days before this meeting I had been reflecting on where my best ideas were generated from and realised that they come mostly when my brain is not busy processing a million bits of information or trying to come up with good ideas.

And one of those places is in the shower.

For me, the shower is representative of environments where creative thinking comes quite naturally and where I have space for my thoughts to roam.

I remember reading about the founders of Snapchat and how the idea was generated in their college days through discussions around sexting and in the midst of their alcohol fuelled parties. The idea that posted photos not coming back to haunt them seemed a great idea. They took the idea, developed it, took the company public and are now worth just a little more than the average person.

Rod Judkins, in The Art of Creative Thinking, says, “Creativity isn’t a switch that’s flicked on or off; it’s a way of seeing, engaging and responding to the world around you.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, best known for her book Eat, Pray, Love says, “Ideas of every kind are constantly galloping toward us, constantly pass through us, constantly trying to get our attention.”

If you want a boost in creative ideas this year whether for your organisation or your own life here are a few thoughts:

  • Give your mind some additional regular roam time
  • Keep a journal handy to jot down the ideas that come to you
  • Follow the best ideas through. This is the common failure point.
  • If you have employees, create an anonymous suggestion box (to reduce any fear of a bad idea). This way, whenever they think of how the organisation could do things better or there are different opportunities to be pursued, they simply jot down the thought and drop it in the box. You could even go to giving a prize for the best idea of the month. (I am sure that the idea owner will put their hand up if there was a prize at stake).
  • If you want to get your teams together for idea generation days, make sure it’s in an environment that is conducive to creativity and freedom of thought

The Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi stated, “Be open to what the world is telling you. Life is nothing more than a stream of experiences – the more widely and deeply you swim in it, the richer your life will be.”

Some ideas will stick and if developed and followed through have the potential to be game changers. Others, (such as my thought about changing my blog site to www.intheshowerwithray.com.au) for the moment, need to wash down the plughole.

May the year ahead be one of the long shower and game-changing thoughts.

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The Desert. A Significant Year

January 3, 2018 3:38 pm

The Desert

Happy New Year!

The rollover into any new year brings with it, for many, the opportunity to start afresh; to make new years resolutions; to draft new plans for a successful year; to eliminate the unnecessary; to incorporate positive changes and so forth. And no doubt by now you would have viewed the many good wishes and the standard new year rah rah from your connections extolling much of the above.

I am aware, however, that for some of you reading this and for some you know, entering the new year is not one of happiness but more akin to experiencing the heat and isolation of the desert rather than the refreshment and promise of the oasis.

  • For the woman who has just left an abusive relationship and is currently in a women’s shelter
  • The CEO who was made redundant two days before Christmas
  • The couple who on New Years day decided to part ways
  • The person who thinks the world is better off without them
  • The business owner who is heading back to work uncertain if they can make it through the next six months
  • The homeless person facing another year of begging for money and cold winter nights
  • <YOU CAN INSERT YOUR OWN OR YOUR FRIENDS STORY HERE IF RELEVANT…>

While not wanting to take the shine off the new year, the above is simply the reality for some reading this and for others you know. Some will enter the desert for the first time; for others, it is a case of same shit different year – same sand, same heat, same isolation… yet all the while searching for that elusive oasis and the end to desert sands.

My Desert Education

I recall a number of years ago, I was so glad that a new year was starting given the hardship of the previous year which included a marriage break up. Little did I know that the new year was to be much harsher than I had ever experienced, ushering me from the edge of the desert into a trudge that was to last for a significant period of time. Some of the things I have learned personally from desert wanderings are:

  • To go with the desert and learn to relax in it (which is extremely counterintuitive)
  • To be kind to me
  • Desert education is needed at different life points and in many ways is superior to all other forms of learning. We learn the way of ‘our soul’ not the well-meaning way of others
  • To let go of all unnecessary baggage
  • To never let go of hope in that one day, I will eventually make it out the other side
  • I hear life-changing whispers in the quietness of isolation that I never heard in the din of busyness
  • I find out who my real friends are
  • I find out who I am rather than just understanding what I do
  • We can become incredibly resilient because we’ve been to the driest place we know. We’ve encountered it, done the journey and made it through. We know that whatever life throws at us, we are more equipped to deal with it.
  • We become more empathetic to others doing it tough

Joseph Campbell wrote, “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”

The desert is one of those places where we find our own path, one step at a time.

If you or someone you know, is on the edge of desert entry or, is experiencing the likelihood of another solitary trudge through the wilderness – my hope is that you exercise kindness, both to yourself and others; to help others on their dark sojourn; that you glimpse incredible beauty you’ve not seen before – both in your life’s landscape and your own inner being; that you find the occasional oasis along the way; that you trust the process and that you never give up. While deserts can stretch for miles they do have an end.

I know that it won’t be feeling like a happy new year (and nor should it) but I do hope that for you, it will be a significant year.

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Thank You

December 22, 2017 1:22 pm

As Christmas is just a few days away, I want to say a big thank you to all my readers here.

  • To those, I have worked with this year in either consulting, coaching, mentoring or speaking roles – thank you.
  • To those who have used me as a sounding board in your life and work progression- thank you.
  • To those, I have used as a sounding board – thank you.
  • For the comments and feedback on my writing and video work – thank you.
  • To those who I have danced with, dined with and shared good wine with – thank you.

Running our own businesses, holding key personnel positions and navigating our way through life provides many a scenic lookout, plateaus and valleys. Gratitude, particularly expressed in the two words thank you, though taking a second to say, can echo for up to a lifetime through a persons psyche – making the journey all the more richer.

So, thank you. I trust you have a wonderful Christmas, a happy New Years and a meaningful and abundant 2018.

 

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Confidence. Standing Tall

December 11, 2017 12:50 pm

Standing Tall

Michael (pictured) is a bartender that serves me on a regular basis. He is 29 and somewhat smaller than me in physical stature but is incredibly tall when it comes to his confidence. He is cheeky, always happy, assertive, moves at a fast pace and is a delight to engage with. The smile on his face makes his customers smile. To reach the taps he jumps up on a stool to pour the beers and when he serves people at the tables he is the perfect height – eye level.

What I have learnt from Michael is that confidence comes from within. It is not about what we have and what we don’t have. It’s not about our strengths or our limitations. He has taught me that no matter what we are born with (or without), one can adapt and make the most of this life we’ve been given.

I stand at 185cm. Michael in some respects stands taller than I – a good example for us all.

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The Discomfort of Transition

November 20, 2017 12:08 pm

transition

The discomfort of transition can be a disconcerting time.

  • The things that drove us no longer provide a motivational impetus
  • The answers of the known give way to the questions of the unknown
  • The value and self-confidence we derived from that which was our standard operating mode and environment start to erode
  • Uncertainty replaces certainty
  • Fear blocks a voluntary transition

While transitions can be difficult they provide:

  • Growth
  • Freshness and spark
  • Education and the learning of new skills
  • Mountains to climb rather than plateaus to exist on
  • Personal expansion

Some transitions are involuntary – redundancy, our partner advising us they are leaving or a health report that requires surgery and a new way of caring for ourselves. And many are voluntary in that we choose to take a journey into the wilderness of the unknown. A transition often has no time frame. For some, it might be weeks, others years. Given the uncertainty of change, many choose to stay within the known and never poke their head outside of their current comfort cave. It is safe to stay inside. It’s warm. It’s comfortable and while it might be monotonous at least it’s certain.

  • My relationship isn’t fulfilling but at least I have someone
  • My business is doing OK so we will keep doing what we’ve always done
  • I feel personally stale but at least I know what is happening tomorrow
  • My work is boring but at least I have a paycheck at weeks end
  • Two of my managers really need to be replaced but better the devils I know than those I don’t
A brave and honest transition assessment

Bianca, the owner of a business that I am working with, bravely gave me some of her journal notes this week (and permitted me to publish them) about the discomfort she is experiencing as a result of her business and subsequent life transition – as we move her business from being largely reliant on her to systems and (other) people reliant. She says:

“Today I found myself in a really odd situation and mood. No contact with work at all. Really? Nothing?

“Bad as it is, I am hoping when I go to work tomorrow there are issues for me to deal with. This whole situation is making me feel out of control. I am now starting to look for things I can control or things that I will take back to control. Just say I don’t find something and I let it run its course. What will I do? I need something. My brain is too busy to relax!”

“…lots of questions, all broken down to one thing – AM I NEEDED.”

Bianca is one of the brave souls who understand that there is more to life than work and busyness and is courageously facing transitional uncomfortability head on.  Whatever transition you are in or have been putting off, take heart – there is someone else out there that has jumped off the edge of safety and is now learning to fly.

You can read Bianca’s full journey entry here

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A Brave Transition

November 20, 2017 11:47 am

transition

The following is a journal entry* from one of my clients, Bianca, who is in a transition from working 80 hours a week to a 24 hour week – as we move her business from being largely reliant on her to being systems and (other) people reliant. It provides a brave and honest insight into the transitional discomfort that many of us feel when we are in these situations.

“Today I found myself in a really odd situation and mood. I took the day to take Rocky (child) to a doctors appointment on the Gold Coast – no contact with work at all? Really – nothing? One phone call at 10.40am which was Zach (employee) asking me if I wanted lunch. He didn’t even know I was away for the day. Not sure how to process this. My mind is going a million miles – lots of questions all broken down to one thing – AM I NEEDED?. 

I had great self-control not to call today. Call anyone at work to see where it was up to. I was busy with kids but in the moments I had to think, it was all regarding work. This thought was making me angry and I had no one to express it too. Who would understand? Bad as it is, I am hoping when I go to work tomorrow there are issues for me to deal with.

This whole situation is making me feel out of control. I am now starting to look for things I can control or things that I will take back to control. Just say I don’t find something and I let it run its course. What will I do? I need something. My brain is too busy to relax.” 

For more on this topic read my related blog post The Discomfort Of Transition

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Today I Let Go

November 20, 2017 11:26 am

Bree Hodge

A worthwhile read – reposted with permission from my daughter’s blog – My Upsidedown Journey To Wholeness

Today I Let Go

Today I let go of avoiding pain and discomfort with meaningless distractions and temporary satisfactions, and I welcome in leaning into the discomfort and I welcome in nurturing myself through the fear I feel. Today I let go of the need to fix peoples problems and the need to rescue others’ from their pain, and I welcome in vulnerability and curiosity, exploring deeper into my own fear that surfaces.

Today I let go of this anxiety that sometimes sweeps in when I am enjoying stillness and rest. This fear that sometimes still tells me that I need to be continually working on myself like an unfinished project, editing all my flaws whilst preparing for my future, so that one day I am worthy of love and feel seen, heard and valued. I let this hustle for my worthiness go and I welcome in acceptance and forgiveness and choose grace over shame.

Today I let go of the hype of productivity and the need to fill up my life with to do lists and I welcome in being okay with just being. I welcome in silence and stillness and I welcome in living at a much slower pace, to allow all my senses to drink in the beauty that surrounds me in each moment of being alive. I welcome in the knowledge that all is as it should be in this moment and that I will arrive at each destination of my life at the right time without any force.

Today I let go of conforming to the culture so thick in bullshit that surrounds me, and I welcome in marching to the beat of my own drum. Today I let go of the need of having others approve of me and my life, and I welcome in trusting my own voice and giving myself the approval I seek from others. Today I let go of fear making my choices, and I welcome in courage and all my other values to fill this full-time position.

I’m letting go of the old to allow space for the new. I’m clearing out rooms in the home of my life and with this newly found space. I welcome all those things that match the woman I am today and nourish my mind, body and soul. Today I welcome in living a different way to what I have known, a way that resonates with the truth of my soul and a way that feels damn good!

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A Lesson From The Birds

November 2, 2017 1:49 pm

I spotted a bird from my back deck this morning with a twig in its mouth. It’s that time of year when they are busy nest building. It is an intrinsic part of their annual cycle.

As humans, our lives are made up of different seasons and just as the birds know when the seasons are changing, we have the innate ability to do likewise. Sometimes, the seasons are those of growth, learning, innovation and fruitfulness; other times it can be those of nesting, deep disappointment,  contemplation, solitude or rest.

Organisations and businesses also go through various seasons. If we are always in the growing season we have the potential to grow too quick, burn our people out and drop off quality and customer satisfaction.  The converse is applicable. If we are always in maintenance mode, not looking outward with a perfect internal order, an entropic state can ensue.

Take a lesson from the birds. They don’t strive, they don’t avoid these shifts through overt busyness and avoidance strategies nor do they use Outlook to know when to nest build – but in this season they KNOW what to do and follow through accordingly. Listening to ourselves and the heartbeat of our organisations;  understanding that seasons change and exercising the courage to embrace these changes are critical to journeying through these times wisely and holistically.

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Street Lessons

September 20, 2017 4:59 pm

Travis

I’d like to introduce you to my street friend Travis.

I met this man (through my daughter’s introduction) twelve months ago on the streets of Melbourne and sit with him most Saturday nights. He was homeless, raising money through begging and sleeping in a local car park. He has since been provided with a home and still comes out weekly to ask for money to cover his costs.

Recently at 2 am on a bone-chilling Melbourne morning,  I sat with him on the footpath talking more about his life.  The thing that struck me was his gratitude.  He is no longer a heroin addict, he has a roof over his head and loves his daughter dearly. He is incredibly grateful for his life and for the smallest amount of money or food that people provide him. He is also a very gentle man; always interested in my world, his face lighting up every time he sees me.

When I asked him about why he chooses to come to the street to beg for money instead of working for it (part of my personal quest to deal with my own judgements around this issue) his response blew me away. The workplace is where he got his earlier heroin addiction from and now that he is clean he is extremely hesitant to go back to that situation again. Travis sees a counsellor on a regular basis, is bettering himself through educational courses and is looking at doing voluntary work to help others live better lives.

Travis has reminded me of two critical things in the time I have known him.

  1. Gratitude.
    No matter whether we live in a mansion or a car park, we have much to be grateful for and it’s the practice of gratitude that is the key as opposed to what we have or don’t have.
  2. Acceptance.
    He’s reminded me (and as I wrote last week) that everybody is doing the best they can and how easy I judge a book by its cover, or in this case, a homeless person by their situation. The act of acceptance, with or without words, communicates love powerfully.

The name Travis comes from the Old French traverse – meaning to pass through or cross over a bridge/boundary.

My street friend is traversing his own streets, rivers and bridges as best he can and doing so with grace, gratitude and a big heart. A good reminder from the street for our own life traversal.

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Let It Go

September 5, 2017 6:56 pm

 

Edited  Video Transcript
“80% out the door is better than 100% in the drawer.”
Some wise advice I was given many years ago.
One of the things I have realised through life is our penchant for perfectionism and it’s a curse. There is no destination if we live on Perfection Drive – it is one large roundabout.
We strive to have everything perfect, and if it’s not perfect it doesn’t see the light of day. Our in trays are full – good intentions but they’re full because nothing’s quite perfect. We’ve got proposals and quotes, invoices and draft emails that have to be double checked and triple checked before letting them go, creating bottlenecks in our organisations. We have new ideas for business development but because they are not fully formed to perfection we continue with what we’ve always done. We fail to trust others because “no one can do it as good as me.”
Some have got songs that are sitting in the drawer that are at 95% that never see the light of day. Artists – their paintings never see the light of day because they’re not perfect.
Some things need to be given the 100% treatment. Workplace Health and Safety is one that has serious ramifications if we fall short of the mark but much of our output can be let go at less than perfect. The time it takes to perfect something compared to the value received by others doesn’t necessarily correlate.
One of the things I’ve learnt over time is to continually produce, and if it’s 80% or over in my estimation I let it go and I perfect along the way. Does that mean that we shouldn’t strive for excellence? Not at all. Excellence is a great goal, perfectionism, as I said, is a curse.
So in your life, in your work, in your artistic endeavours, in the gifts that you’ve got to share with the world, 80% out the door is a whole lot better than 100% in the drawer.
And it’s up to us to understand what needs to be at 100% and what can be released above 80%. It’s different for everyone and different for every organisation.
Simply said…Let it go.


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The Fresh Breath Of Inspiration

August 25, 2017 10:59 am

Video transcript below…

I’ve just come out to the country and this place is amazing. I always find the country one of those activities and places that deeply refreshes my soul. I’ve been reflecting on this whole concept of refreshment and inspiration. I had a look back at the original Latin of where the word inspire originated from and it comes in two parts. The first part means into. The second part means breathe. Effectively, inspire means to breathe into. I’ve been researching this and thinking through how I can live more consistently in an inspired state and how my clients, those I coach, consult, mentor, how they can do the same because life has a way of sucking the life out of us, leaving us anything but inspired.

I’ve found that there are various connections with people that breathe life into me. Some people are so valuable in my world. There are different forms of spirituality for different people that breathe life into them. There are different activities that also have that work and the converse is true. There are things and relationships that suck the life out of us and it’s really for us, it pays to look at what are the things that breathe life into us, the connections, the activities and what are the things that rob our joy, rob our life, and to start filling our world with breath, with life-giving activities.

I just finished reading the book Tuesdays with Morrie. Great read. Mitch said when he came away from being with Morrie, he felt like he had been rinsed with kindness. My friends, that is inspiration and the more we are topped up and filled with breath, with life, the more we can be an inspiration to others.

My name is Ray Hodge. You can connect with me at rayhodge.com.au and thanks for watching.

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Attending My Funeral

August 1, 2017 4:54 pm

I attended a funeral last week of a man who left an indelible mark in the area of which I reside. The words that were spoken by his family and friends were heart warming; the effect that this man’s life had on the broader community and his belief in others were impacting.

As I sat through the service I envisioned that I was given the opportunity to attend my own funeral.

  • What would my children/family be saying about me? Would they have to rummage around in the corners of their memories for a few good things to say or would history be replete with examples of love, tenderness, kindness and fun of which they could easily recall?
  • Would my friends have significant things to say about how I impacted their lives for good?
  • Would people say I loved them more than my work, my successes, my things?
  • Would any of my work colleagues/employees attend the funeral and what would they have to say about me?
  • Did anyone from the broader community attend?

It was pause for reflection to contemplate what I want to be known for and what I would like people to be saying on my day, along with the realisation that my time here is but brief yet I can still make it count.

What do you want people to say about you? What lasting impact would you like to have?  We can let things take their course or we can purposefully go about ensuring the course is how we would like it to be.

And lastly, when we pass from this earth, it won’t be the luxury cars we drove, the houses we owned, the businesses we built, the material things we acquired that will be in attendance at our funeral. It will be the people we loved and who loved us in return.

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Finding Your Way Back Home

July 17, 2017 6:00 am

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Most of us get personally lost at least once in our lifetime. Some are disorientated for a matter of weeks,  others months, and for others, years or even decades. Being lost is an awful place to be. We feel disorientated, disillusioned, aimless, uncertain with accompanying effects of fatigue, boredom and depression for some.

One of the gifts of our lostness is that we discover things about ourselves, others and life that we didn’t know existed in our prior state. When things change in our lives, we change – it’s the nature of life’s course and often, we have to get lost in order to truly find ourselves.

I experienced a period of lostness for around three years. After my separation/ divorce, the landscape was incredibly different. Trying to navigate new roads in unfamiliar territory was incredibly challenging, to say the least.

On one dense foggy night as I was driving home from a friend’s home in the country, I had to keep my eye on the white line given I could see only a few metres ahead. I knew that if I simply followed the line it would lead me home. I realised that in my current personal fog, all I had to do was find that life line that would lead me out into the light of day.  I couldn’t see very far ahead but if I simply did one thing at a time, moving forward with at least some semblance of future direction, I would eventually find my way home.

From that point, I took the time to re-create a picture of what I wanted my life to look like in five years time. I then created some individual goals in order to help me arrive at my ideal destination. I then took those goals and created start dates and then placed those particular activities into my diary to be completed on a regular basis. Doing this accomplished the following:

  • Gave me a sense of my future destination/home (which I can change anytime I want to)
  • Clarified the white lines – the next thing to do in order to get me one step closer to home
  • Provided some metrics in order to assess progress
  • Gave me a return point due to the high likelihood I would go off course. i.e I can go back to the white line – my action plan

If you’re out on foggy roads or in unfamiliar terrain, stop, locate your ideal destination, design how to get there and then follow one step at a time. And, try to enjoy the mystical experience of the fog on the way. Sometimes that in itself can inspire even the most lost soul.

Ray

PS. Here is a link to a document (My Little BIG Dream Planner) that I created to help me find my way. Also, click here to go to the related video

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