This Is What Gratitude Really Gives You:

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“You never know just what you’ve lost- until it’s yours and then its’ dust”– Paul Kelly, ‘Standing On The Street Of Early Sorrows’

I have a memory of being around 4 years old, sitting in the living room of my old place one morning and watching this ‘Thomas The Tank Engine’ video we had. It was the final episode on the video and as I watched, I got this sinking feeling…

Because I knew that after this episode finished (with The Fat Controller deliberating over whether to keep Donald and Douglas after they’d destroyed a spiteful break van), it was off to preschool for the day. I had friends there and I loved playtime- but I couldn’t stand having to come in for nap time in the middle of the day. I wanted to keep playing outside! No matter how many times my friend Garth and I ran and hid in the wooden pirate ship each day when we’d all get called inside, the teachers still always found us! So it was inside, to lie on one of the cots, bored out of my mind while they played some new-agey music to try and lull us to sleep. To this day, the smell of bed linen takes me back 30 years to those nap-times. I couldn’t wait to be grown-up, not have to go inside and lie down on a cot and do what the adults told me. I couldn’t wait to be able to drive a car, go to work as an engine driver every day instead of going to preschool, and get to choose what I ate for dinner. It felt like a lifetime away…

Skip forward 9 years- and I’m sitting in Year 7 maths class. Bored. Gazing out the window. For some reason, this Paul Kelly song comes into my mind:

It was from his album ‘So Much Water So Close To Home’ and Mum used to listen to it in the car back when I was in preschool. I thought about those days nearly a decade ago, when nobody expected anything of me. When I didn’t care what my peers thought of me or (more to the point) whether girls found me attractive or not? Starting high school had been an unexpected awakening because suddenly I’d become self-aware, full of doubts and insecurities I didn’t know I had. Continuing to gaze out the window, how I yearned to go back to more innocent days- when everything was so easy. I ached for it like a past lover I still carried a flame for…

Let’s go forward again now- I’m 30 years old. Out for a walk one Sunday afternoon- my one day off for the week. On my iPod, I’m listening to a playlist I’ve just created, that is (song for song) a copy of a mixtape I had back in Year 7. It brings these flashbacks to early adolescence…the new feelings I had, the fresh discoveries I was making, how hopeful and optimistic I was about my future…and as much as I enjoy my life in its’ current state- I want to go back, to feel things as I did back then. I want to go back to that time when so much of the world still felt new and fresh and exciting (and intimidating) in equal measure. In some ways, it seems cute when I remember some of the things that were such a big deal to me back then, that just didn’t matter in the bigger scheme of things. So I play the tunes, grab a beer on my walk, sink a cold one in the spring sunshine- and drift back…

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You see what’s happening here?

I have an unusually sharp recollection for times that many people my age have forgotten by now. The benefit is that I remember enough not to fall into the trap of imagining “things were so much better then”. If I’m headed down the path of viewing the “good old days” through rose-tinted glasses, I then remember the not so great things-

I remember the frustration of being preschool age and having to go where the grown-ups told me to, eat what was put in front of me and do what I was told…

I remember the awkwardness and lack of self-belief that clipped my wings and (unfortunately) stopped me from enjoying my adolescence in the carefree manner I could have- and I can’t get those days back…

I remember even a few years ago, the things I still didn’t see clearly and the realisations I hadn’t discovered yet that would’ve given my life more substance…

I bet this all sounds familiar to you. You hear one song, catch a re-run of one show, smell just one scent, run into just one familiar face from your past- and remember a time that you just want to go back to:

No bills!

No jobs outside of house work and school work!

So many problems you didn’t have to deal with!

So many life problems you didn’t even know existed!

Can I get an amen?

In the moment, we take so many things for granted- and we don’t actually appreciate them until they’re gone. Dead. Lost. Left behind in a life we can’t return to. To quote Bill Bryson: You can’t go home a second time.

How did we not recognise these good times when we lived them? Well…

We were too busy.

We were too absorbed in chasing “the next big thing” that was meant to make us finally stop, relax and go “I’ve made it”. Or we were engrossed in nostalgia for other times past!

Contentment isn’t a destination we reach, like a town on a map. The plane doesn’t land into Gratitude International Terminal where even though the aircraft eases down out of the sky, our spirits soar to levels we’ve never felt before. The train doesn’t pull into Gratitude Central with a rainbow breaking out across the bright blue sky.

The journey is within. It’s a state of mind. It’s a conscious decision. I mean, in terms for the world’s population, the fact you’re reading this article right now via the internet from your phone, tablet, PC or laptop means you’re pretty fortunate as is.

But instead, I complain about people I don’t even know personally. Or you envy somebody who appears to have “more” than you. Or we find ourselves wistfully reflecting on a nicely edited version of “the good old days”.

I try not to take anything for granted. I don’t take today for granted. I don’t take tomorrow for granted. Without meaning to go down a morbid path, tragedy is often so because it strikes out of nowhere, without any time to prepare. Just driving on the wrong section of road at the wrong time, boarding the wrong flight, walking along the wrong pedestrian mall or even climbing aboard the wrong ride at a fun park at the wrong time can change the trajectory of our life and rob from us in a way we didn’t foresee.

So there are just two options we have: we can live in a constant state of worry. Or, we can live in a state of gratitude

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I miss my 10 week Fight Like A Pro journey back in the winter and spring of 2016. Not just the fight night itself- but everything that led up to that moment. The sparring sessions at the gym, the 5:30am starts running laps at Currumbin Alley as the sun came up, the sessions on the beach afterwards, the guys I met- everything. BUT-

During the whole time, I made sure to appreciate the moment. I made every effort to be present, and take in everything as it happened. Because I knew that soon enough, it’d be over- so I made the conscious effort to enjoy it while it lasted. To be grateful for the whole experience. And whenever I reflect on those 3 months now, while I miss them?

I’m grateful that I was grateful.

Just recently, I made a new playlist- ‘2010- 2019’. It’s all the tunes I’ve liked from this decade nearly over. Listening to it brought back a lot of great memories- vivid flashbacks to going out on the town in my mid 20’s; fond memories of the Uber days on the Gold Coast when I lived there- and that night I saw ‘The Bennies’ for free at The Shark Bar with the people I picked up; that winter when an old flatmate and I would stay up late, clocking ‘Lego Pirates Of The Caribbean’. All good times, most of which won’t come back. But that’s ok. Because I’m grateful for the journey, and I know that if I’ve still got some time in front of me (Lord willing), then there’s plenty of other memories yet to be made that I’ll recall just as fondly.

But in the meantime?

We might as well be grateful for what’s here and now. I can think of plenty of things, and I’m sure you can, too:

Who are the people we have in our lives that we appreciate?

If you’ve turned your small business into a larger company- aren’t you grateful for what you’ve managed to build so far?

Big family or small family, young or old, single or taken, start-up or established business owner- you can definitely take some time out to go “I am grateful for…”

What does your life situation look like and what are the good things about it?

Your feeling of well-being, frame of mind and appreciation for the small things you might have otherwise missed- they all change noticeably the moment you begin regularly exercising this attitude of gratitude. And when these “good old days” have passed, at least when you look back you’ll know you enjoyed the ride while it lasted.

 

 

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What Paul Kelly Teaches Us About Success:

 

So just recently, I compiled all the figures for my tax return for the most recent financial year…

Doesn’t sound like the most interesting topic for a post, does it? But stick with me-

As I entered all the figures into an Excel spreadsheet to send on to my accountant and I added it all up- something occurred to me-

The financial year just gone had been the most successful for income derived solely from my business to date.

But here was the thing- during that year, there wasn’t a point that I secured a new client or signed off on a project and thought “Well this- THIS guarantees my best earning year so far!”

It wasn’t until I stopped, laid it all out in this document and added it up that I realised the fact.

It reminded me of one day in the middle of summer just a couple of years ago, when an old friend and I climbed to the summit of Mt Warning. We set off in the morning, beneath the tall canopies of rainforest trees, partially sheltered from the sun. The ascent was reasonably gentle- besides sections where there were loose rocks underfoot, it was a pretty easy climb and I was surprised how quickly we were making ground.

But then- the rainforest canopy ended. In front of us was a sheer climb up a rock face- so steep that there was a line of chain for hikers to pull themselves up. This incline stretched on as far as I could see, lined on either side with high scrub. So following my friend, we made our way up this steep, uneven rock face. I climbed with steady caution. You didn’t want to look back because you may lose balance and go tumbling down the sheer drop-off. Then about halfway, I realised it was quicker to clamber up the rock face on all fours, like a spider monkey!

At last the steep rock face ended. Beyond that was a gentle incline, a path that wound around a few corners- and then we were there. We’d reached the very peak of the mountain, 1,100 metres up. In every direction, you could see over the tops of mountains and landscape stretching all the way to the horizon. Only now could I appreciate just how far we’d climbed, how high up we were and why we’d had to hike for the last 2 hours…

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Then skip forward to this week just gone, where in just a few days I saw two articles that addressed this (sometimes) challenging journey from different perspectives.

Neither of these articles necessarily reflect my thoughts on Gary Vee, but it’s interesting they both primarily reference him. Here’s the first one:

The Horror Pitchfest: An Honest Review Of Gary Vee, Success Squared And Success Resources Australia

It came as a reminder that many people ignore one of the great truths about life itself- and keep searching for that “quick fix”. They think it’ll just take this course or that program and the zeros in their business account will automatically follow! Unfortunately, there are people who gladly capitalise on this misguided idea, and I could never endorse it-

Because almost nothing of real value comes easily.

Even the names who immediately flash to mind when you hear “successful entrepreneur”, didn’t get there within a single week or because they signed up for some program that made them rich. People might aspire to be like them, but would that still be the case if they had to climb their mountain to enjoy the view? This brings me onto the next point-

While the notion of getting rich quick is harmful to those who buy into it, neither should we glorify the struggle to achieve success. I decided some time ago that I wouldn’t throw away everything else there is to enjoy in this limited lifespan just to climb a mountain. Which is why this second article resonated with me:

No More “Struggle Porn”

I see this so often- people who go on about “the hustle” (which has to rank up there with “building an empire” as the most over-used modern entrepreneurial cliche!). These people take some kind of war-wounded pride in the hardship they encounter (mental, physical, financial) as they expand their business. It’s almost like they believe that without this struggle, they aren’t the real deal- like they’re not worthy of whatever fortune they may reap?

If extra zeros in your bank account, if recognition, more expensive holidays and nicer houses were a goal worth sacrificing all else in life for, those who’d achieved it would be the happiest people around.

But are they?

If achieving my ultimate business outcomes meant I disposed of all else (family relationships, friendships, health, overall well-being) then it’d be a hollow achievement. And I would pity anybody who aspired to be like me.

I think of that mountain climb with my friend, and (like my recently completed tax return) it wasn’t until the very end, with everything laid before me, that I could appreciate the difference made by every step forward, every metre upward, every sale.

I think also of a Paul Kelly song that’s become part of Australian folklore. It’s a ballad in which he tells the (true) story of Vincent Lingiarri and his persistent campaign for the land rights of his people throughout the 60’s and 70’s. Vincent didn’t pay thousands for a ‘Get Your Land Rights In A Single Month‘ program. He didn’t glorify the sacrifice or the “hustle” to get what he wanted. It didn’t happen straight away. But after persistent meetings with people of influence, steadily going after what he believed in, and nearly a decade of waiting- one day PM Gough Whitlam touched down in Vincent’s community and, iconically, poured a handful of red dust into the palm of his hand.

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Some of us are happy to work through the night. Some of us need our sleep. Some of us go for a run first thing in the morning. Some of us prefer to go to the gym when our days’ work is done. We all have different ways of working, different approaches- but we need to make sure we’re in tune for the long haul.

This journey isn’t a sprint.

It’s not even a marathon.

It’s a mountain climb.

Sure, we might trek a wrong path more than once. We’ll need to take a break. We’ll need to find other people who want to reach the same peak as us and have more experience than us. Along the way, remember that we often can’t fully appreciate our progress until we reach a certain milestone- and only then do we see our real achievement laid out before us.

Persevere, and remember, (as Paul Kelly sang): From little things, big things grow…