The country life.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Every day we're inundated with glossy images from around the world. Of soaring cities, fancy clothes, super celebrities. These sights come straight to our living rooms on our large screen TVs, or to the palms of our hands via smart phone. Which makes it hard to keep a healthy perspective on the worth of the real world we live in every day.

I've just come back from 3 days in the Walgett Shire, visiting Lightning Ridge, Collerenabri, and of course Walgett.

It was the country towns like these that built the wealth and character of our nation. They produced the wool, meat, grains and minerals that earned the money that helped us become one of the richest countries on earth. And the rugged outback life and attitudes forged the values and the virtues; - like mateship, physical strength and fairness,- that we Aussies are so proud of.

However, in the past 5 or 6 decades, crisis after crisis has robbed these towns of people and money, to the point that many were dying. Mechanisation, Globalisation, new technology and new products has meant many families and businesses have moved to the bigger towns or cities. And let's not forget the weather; - droughts, fires, floods and tough times.

But, the Aussie virtues of hanging in and fighting on haven't left, and these towns are strong. They're clean and tidy, the people are friendly and hard working and embody the aussie spirit of improvisation and perseverence.

Walgett was once a byword for social and health problems, but is now on a different course. The Council is professional and progressive, with a strong Youth Council, Healthy Community initiatives that are working, thriving Youth Centres, award winning festivals and good facilities. Their workers are proactive and energetic, delivering services from cooking and healthy eating classes, to Zumba, Aqua-robics and iKiFit (had to get a plug in somewhere). You CAN get great coffee and food in all these places and some things just amaze. Who's seen the Aquatic and Diving centre in the Ridge? World class, and built with local donations and volunteer labour. These towns punch above their weight with sports people and the entrepreneurs are great..but more on that in future weeks.

But back to that perspective thing.

Even thought I grew up in a small town, I still fall into the trap of thinking things are not so great in the country. A few years ago, I was doing a presentation at Walgett High School and met a young teacher who I thought looked a bit too "woosy" to be working there. I asked him where he was from and when he said Sydney, I suggested he must be finding it tough. But not at all. "The kids are great" he shouted. "They might be a bit moody and cheeky at times but when the kids at (he mentioned a suburb in Sydney) said they were going to kill you, you really needed to take them seriously. Not here"

Perspective is an amazing thing. The city is OK to visit but I prefer country living. Our towns have come through some tough times, but are getting on with it. And if they do kill you, it's more likely to be with kindness.

Have a great week.

Life and Chocolates

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It's funny how most of us; - I'm speaking for myself here anyway,- when seeing or reading about celebrities, sports stars or otherwise unusually "successful people", we automatically elevate them above 'mere mortal' status. We tend to assume that the box of chocolates they are eating from is different than our own. Because the packaging of their lives is faster, flasher, further, we imagine that the actual chocolates inside are better in every way and that it's full of only the kind they like the best, be it the soft centres, the nutty ones or the favourites.

But as recent stories about Oscar the Blade runner and ex-Pope Benedict attest, they are as human as the rest of us - if not more so, due to the expectations they bring on themselves, or have thrust upon them by their elevated positions.

The reality is, we are all fallible, we all suffer sometimes, soar other times. We all feel insecure, doubtful and less than ideal. No matter how flash the box of chocolates life gives us--or we go out and earn, life fills that box with a variety of flavours. Some of them we may not enjoy, but they are a part of our life.

There is a strong message in our materialistic, consumer society, that encourages us to believe that we can have a supersized chocolate box filled solely with our absolute favourites and that we don't have to chew on any hard centres or healthy nuts if we don't want to. The world, on the other hand, is busy getting on with the business of evolving - and a fundamental part of this is throwing challenges, opportunities and threats in our path.

"Survival of the fittest", remember.

We all know that some of those challenges are just things to overcome before they over come us, while others can open whole new worlds of fun, opportunity and growth if we tackle them with the right attitude.

Too err and suffer is a part of being human. To keep trying is divine. I have a favourite saying, "95% of us doubt ourselves at least a bit most days. The other 5% are fools" To doubt and question is healthy and helpful --as long as we question constructively and respond positively to the answers.

So let’s accept with open hearts the variety life gives us. Chew that unfamiliar flavour thoughtfully, we may come to love it. And at the very least we know that if we eat our vegies we can have dessert afterwards. Sometimes

Have a great day. And remember chocloates are a SOMETIMES food.


How hard does it have to be?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Those over a certain age may remember ex Prime Minister Malcolm Frasers' famous words,- "Life wasn't meant to be easy" They may also recall that he later became infamous for somehow finding himself locked out of his New York Hotel room with absolutely no pants on, which puts a whole new slant on his legacy.

But seriously, the quote is profound. Wish as we might that it were otherwise, life is constantly throwing us new challenges, and lasting success requires ongoing effort. This can be further complicated by the fact that many of the things that are fundamental to happy, healthy lives can be controversial and confusing;- the continuing debate about what is healthy to eat and what is not, can be so discouraging that some throw up their hands and just eat whatever! saying, "It's all going to kill us so we might as well enjoy ourselves". Similarly, we all know people who have given up on (or never started) exercise becuase they believe it's just too hard.

But does it have to be that way? For most of my life I've been keen on exercise, although like most of us I look for excuses not to do it, as it requires getting off a comfortable chair - and can be sweaty and painful. They don't call it WORKing out for nothing. So when contemplating ANY kind of work I think of Mark Twain, who wrote "I hate writing but I love having written"

That usually gets me moving.

So, for many years I've been looking for ways to stay fit and healthy with a minimum of effort. That's why I'm seriously excited about - "The 4 Hour Body" by Timothy Ferris. Not only is it easy to use - he recommends just reading the chapters that catch your attention,- but is backed up by thorough testing and research. And it WORKS. With (relatively) little effort.

The chapters that really do it for me outline the simplicity of achieving and maintaining our ideal body weight, as well as how to stay fit and strong - in no more than 2 half-hour exercise sessions a week. Truly. The key is the concept "Minimum Effective Dose" which is about doing enough training to improve strength, flexibility and cardio vascular fitness, but not enough to over-stress our bodies, which results in those negatives, such as the excess fatigue, muscle soreness and exhaustion that we all dislike.

The great news is, it's a lot less than previously thought.

Like anything worth doing, it DOES take discipline, both will power and won't power. But you don't have to lose your pants.

Have a Nice Day



So glad to be an Aussie

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

We know the year has commenced in earnest when school is back and we lock into our "normal" routines. I always feel good at this time of the year. The Christmas rush is behind us, the long summer days have provided plenty of time to get things done and have some fun outside - as well as given us an excuse to hide out in a cool air-conditioned room if we were really lucky. And yes, I've been to the beach visiting family - one of my favourite places. So the batteries are recharged and the future is a new country ripe with possibility.

I’m excited by the outlook for this year. iKiFit is ten (yes 10) years old---and that’s just the brand, not including the years of trail and design that came before, and there are many things that are working for us. It’s going to be a good year. But the very first thing I’d like to write about is to be mindful of my great fortune in being an Aussie. Right now there are lot of people doing it tough from either the fires or the floods. It is a hard country in many ways. But we are still so much better off than most. After all, when things DO go wrong, we are surrounded by helpful, caring communities with institutions that really work. Things like the SES, the Ambos, the Fire fighters, both volunteers and Professional, the Police, the Hospitals and Community Centres, the list goes on.

Sure, all of the above are made up of people, humans, - and sometimes mistakes or accidents happen. That’s life. But relative to so much of the rest of the world we are light years ahead. So let’s commence the ‘business as usual’ start to the year with three thoughtful sighs for our good fortune. C’mon Aussie. Let’s strive to appreciate it.

I read a great piece by Sun Herald writer Sam deBrito on the long weekend. He related an experience a friend with two young daughters had on holiday “up the coast”. While out walking they encountered a big group of kids, between 5 and 20 years old, who were jumping off a bridge. The girls were initially very reluctant to try the almost 5 metre jump as well, but were gently encouraged by the locals. “C’mon sis, you can do it” Never once was there a nasty comment or any ‘smart arsiness’ They stayed for hours and it was the absolute highlight of their holiday. He finished the story by asking “if they were white kids jumping off the bridge, would they have been as welcoming of an indigenous family coming to play on ‘their turf’?”

A good question. Let’s have a good year everyone. Thoughtfully grateful, and sharing and caring for all Aussies. Have a great year and

Have a Nice Day

An old idea for a New Year.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and are ready to welcome in a New Year. I'm happy to report that having had a bit of space and leisure in the past week to review the year, I can say that although I didn't achieve all I might have hoped in 2012, while not all boxes have been ticked and not all goals kicked, solid progress has been made. Like many friends and acquaintances, I'm looking forward to 2013 with confident anticipation.

At this time of the year I traditionally like to think of themes for the coming 12 months, adages or mottos to help keep me centred, and I think I've found one.

Before I tell you what it is I'd like to relate an experience I had over Christmas; - My good wife and I have established a habit over the years of nominating a couple of simple gifts we'd a letter to Santa. When thinking of my short list, I found to my surprise that the thing I was most looking forward to unwrapping on Christmas morning was a pair of thongs. Seriously. Yes. Flip flops, jandals, the humble footwear for the beach or peasant workers. After years of the new fangled footwear like Crocks and fancy brand sandals, I'm keen for the simplicity, the practicality, the sheer EASINESS of thongs. I won't even have to bend down as I walk out the door!

I reckon a lot of people will agree. Life is complicated, there is a lot going on. Standards to be maintained. But for me 2013 is going to have a big element of KISS. Keep it Simple, Steve. Back to basics wherever I can. I reckon this can represent a lot of the usual catchphrases, like getting priorities right, finding the balance. My motto will be; -"Wear thongs whenever possible".

I'll be taking a break from writing till the end of January. Meanwhile, thanks so much all the great people who I worked with this year. And thanks for reading. Next year will be even better. Happy New Year,

Happy New Year and Have a Nice Day

We're Aussie Hopeful and Helpful

Friday, December 14, 2012

Yep, it definitely hasn't been an easy year. I was watching a "be positive" video a few days ago and the presenter said with utter confidence that 87% of the information we get every day is negative. I don't know where the figure came from but agree it would be pretty close to the mark.

Although we Aussies are definitely the luckiest people on earth, to be alive in such a healthy, spacious, fair land, there is a whole lot of worry around that we will wake up one day soon and the good times will have come to an end (December 21st anybody?)  But while remembering that I'm a bit of a bah-humbugger by nature when it comes to all of the tinsel and too many tatty presents - give me something I can eat or drink, or at a stretch wear, anytime; - one of the things I really do love about this time of year is this; -

At this point we are all pretty much worn out and hanging for a break. And in most conversations I have, we mention we are looking forward to a slow down. But the next comment is always; - Next year will be better.

And we genuinely hope and believe it will be! Because we're alive in summer in Australia and that's what we do!

Several things are certain. Firstly, things will go wrong next year, not-great stuff will happen, dreams will crack, as they have since the beginning of time. But, secondly, we will still be Aussies, luckier than most, healthier than most and by almost all measures wealthier than most. And most of us will still be those great things that Aussies are proud of being; -  optimistic, community minded, helpful and hopeful.

Come on Aussies, that's what Christmas is about. Hoping and helping for a better future.

 Have a Nice Day


Nearly there, keep going.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


As usual, the last weeks of the year are frantic. The Christmas deadline is rushing at us and I know most of us have more to do than we can comfortably complete in the rapidly decreasing time available.

What to do?

Put a bit of perspective on it, and to help me do that I'm getting my favourite columnist, Richard Glover, to say a few words to help out.

On the one hand we need to achieve, but on the other, we are constantly cautioned to take time out and 'smell the roses.' Richard says; - "This is a staple of the graduation speech. A person in their late 50s, having already achieved much in life, tells an audience of young people to slow down. Note that they never took this advice themselves; when young they threw themselves at life. That's how they became sufficiently successful to deliver this speech which, frankly, is going on a bit. Don't they have a meeting to get to? The truth is that good things happen when we burn the candle at both ends".

So, to continue lasts weeks' theme of "all things in moderation, including moderation" let's go hard for the next couple of weeks. One of the things that Christmas has become for us, is that it is a deadline. A line in the sand. A time to get things finished and then celebrate what we've achieved for the year. Not everything we wanted but lots none the less.

This weekend, let's do what we have to do to get where we want to be by Christmas. If that means we have to "burn the candle at both ends", so be it. We can Smell those Roses at Christmas and into the New Year.

Not long now folks. Hold that string and Suck it up. We can do it.

Go the hog moderately, grasshopper

Friday, November 30, 2012

Party season is kicking off in earnest, with just over four weeks to go till we can make those hopeful, heart-felt resolutions on New Years’ Eve. I recall Christmases past when I’ve felt positively unwell by January 1, because I’ve gotten a bit too enthusiastic about the ‘kicking up the heels’ part of the season and others when I’ve been all Scrooge and “bah-humbuggy” from trying too hard to be healthy and not so materialistic. Then I feel guilty, one way or the other.

And I know most of us feel a bit the same; - we know there is so much positive about Christmas, but feel that the parties and tatty presents can be a bit much. We know that Christmas parties are a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the year with friends, family and work mates; we know the whole season is a time we work ourselves into the ground to get everything done before the holiday break, and then lie around tired but happy over the Christmas break.

One thing I do really love about how Christmas in Australia has evolved over the past decade, is how most businesses now break for the full week between Christmas and New Year. My sympathy still goes out to all the ‘essential services’ and retail (which I guess in a Capitalist economy is an ‘essential service’). Fortunately, for a lot of us, it has become a real break.

But there is still a whole world of challenge to get through to New Years Day with our sanity, finances and health intact.

So in the true spirit of the season, here is my suggested prescription for the next month; -

Practise moderation in all things, including moderation.

Traditionally, by which I mean way back in the old days, feast days and holidays were about celebrating things like completed harvests, midwinter solstices or the end of “starving times”. The way it worked was that there were seasonal times of hard work and often little food, so to give goals and rewards, a healthy society would have a “Baccinalia”, when you could let your hair down and forget the usual hardships and constraints. There was more than enough to go around. Occasionally. Moderation wasn't often an optional thing. Older members of our community will tell you that there was a time, and you might be surprised to find that it wasn't as long ago as you may think, when Christmas Dinner (lunch to you and I) was one of the most anticipated events of the year. How lucky we are to be well resourced enough to indulge more often than this.

Indulgence and reward are still a good idea. I’m sure we all agree that we work quite hard and that we need down time and rewards. In other words, there's no argument that “letting our hair down”, or overindulging in whatever fashion, if not completely overdone, can do personal morale a world of good.

But at this time of year it can be all too easy to overdo it, with one party followed by a dozen more. So let’s look at it as a great opportunity to practise some “won’t power”, - to practise some old fashioned skills like eating our veggies first (before the meats and treats) or to look at balance in a fun way; - "OK. I’ll balance this dish of triple cream pavlova with this dish of rockmelon and strawberries, and this glass of wine with a bigger glass of water". The thing to remember is that to really work well the feast should be preceded and followed by at least a certain amount of constraint. In the “old days” constraint was taken for granted; - there was no choice, feast or famine. But it was good for the soul.

So over the next week, let’s ‘let our hair down’ when appropriate; - pick your vice of choice, be it timtams or champagne, and go the hog.

But hold the string people, be moderate in other ways . In other words, grasshoppers, find that balance.

We can do it.

Won't Power is an Answer

Friday, November 23, 2012

Those of you who have been reading my blogs over the past few weeks will recall that I've been rambling about the "real" Spirit of Christmas;- how most agree it's about those "touchy-feely" basics like love, tolerance, sharing and caring.  'Goodwill to all our fellow men and women' and all that, and the suggestion that the most efficient way to improve our surroundings – our world - is to change ourselves.

I know I'm like most people in that there are numerous things about myself I'd prefer to be different. Some of them are hopeless fantasy; - like being younger, smarter, richer, better looking, more talented and on and on and on. Let's face it, most of us can tick these boxes, but when we get further down the list there are things we really can and should work on. At this point the question arises;- Is the best path to positive change via making new "good" habits or by changing "bad" or unproductive habits?

I reckon that some quick value can be gotten from the second. Nothing wrong with some good new – or new good habits, but the situation that I'd most like to improve has come about as a result of “bad” or counter productive habits that would be well worth the effort of changing. But first I want to put a lighthearted spin on this, - and again I'm going to get Richard Glover, who's much funnier than me, to say a few words.

Richard says " The advice, 'Don't focus on past errors'; - is the modern version of 'don't cry over spilt milk' and yet there is still the question of how the milk was spilt in the first place. Maybe we need a different bucket, without holes. Maybe we should carry the bottle to the table without balancing it on our nose. Crying over spilt milk is how we focus the mind to solve the problem of what is causing the milk to spill. Consider, for instance the little UHT packets you find in  motels;- people's unwillingness to cry over spilt milk may be the reason they've never been redesigned"

I know from painful experience that a particular person in my life behaves in a way I find challenging, and yet an honest situation analysis tells me that better example from myself may well influence them positively. I have a real weak spot in this area and could do better. That particular milk spill may have something to do with the way I have carried, poured and stored that milk!

This week let's think about one of those things we are doing;- a "bad habit" The one I mentioned above will be hard, as it is long standing, but won't cost anything except some mindfulness and effort each time a trigger situation arises, so it is doable. The challenge for you, dear readers is to identify a bad habit and --sounds simple-- don't do it. Or, if it's something like leaving the lights on and you could turn them off, do it.

Come on, it’s easy. Think of something that's not working for you, or costing you in some way. What can you do about it? Is it worth the time and effort? After all, the process is simple; - Be aware of the habit and the outcome. Stop and think about how very “not good” - painful - that outcome is. Now think about it some more and think about how you would prefer to feel. Have a little cry over that spilt milk and then think about how great you will feel if you don't have to clean up that mess again. Now think again about what you have to do (or not do) to spill it in future.

Now “all” it takes to stop is a bit of mindfulness and, yes, a whole world of willpower. Or as my mum used to say, some won’t power.

Go on. Fess up, Have a cry, then suck it up and move on.

Have a great day

A Question of Balance

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Years ago, I read a great comment about our constant struggle for work/ life balance, leisure/work balance, junk/food/healthy food balance, you name it. It went something like this;- "Oh yes, I remember when everything was just right; - it was one day in June about 10 years ago. Felt great"

I think most of us can lay claim to getting it right a bit more regularly than that, but there can be so much conflicting, confusing advice, that even when we are doing well, we can still feel like we aren't. A great illustration of this is the contradictions in nutritional (dietary) advice over the past 20 years. Lots of people have made fortunes coming out with "breakthrough" diets, some good, others crazy, that claim to have the keys to weight management, long life, and more. But for many people they create more problems as they just get confused and give up.

To illustrate what I mean, here's a great quote from ABC radio personality Richard Glover;-

"Be Healthy. Of course it's good to be healthy, but this advice is normally so thoroughly bundled up with shame that it often does more harm than good. Yes, people enjoy happier and longer lives if they are not carrying extra weight. They also live longer and happier lives if they are not laid low by anxiety, depression and self contempt that comes from feeling they aren't living the "perfect life".

"Is our central problem that we ask too little of ourselves or demand to much? We hate ourselves for our every imperfection and then we over-consume in various ways to suppress the shame of that previous over-consumption. There are two epidemics underway in the West-obesity and depression. How interesting that both started just as people began obsessing over their body mass index."

Richard cites more examples of attitudes and behaviors that we are advised to follow, that can just cause more anxiety because we feel we can't getting them right. The reality is that life is challenging and always will be. No matter how good, - or bad, we get it, it is certain to change, and someone will always be there to say we should do it another way.

When it comes down to it we're all doing the best we can with what we have. This week; - just a simple activity people. Think about three things we would like to be better. Writing them down would be good. I'm going to be brutally honest here and tell you what I've written;- Some things in my home life, a couple of elements at work and a an issue related to health. AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now here's the thing. They could be so much worse, and I'm working on all of them and making progress. That's life.

Now let's write down the things that are going well. Whew! Again, they cover home life, work and personal health, hobbies and so on. Wow, it's not so bad at all. This week lets just suck it up and move on.

Have a great day