Whatever you do, do it great!

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

Martin Luther King Jr

A great quote! Whatever the job is, do it to your best. Never consider a job too small or below you.

If an opportunity arises, don’t let your work ethic or attitude be the reasons you miss out.

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Positive influences – It starts at home

This post is somewhat of an extension to Surround yourself with people that challenge you to grow.  Surrounding yourself with the right people is not especially challenging if you are motivated enough and have the courage to distance yourself from the people who bring you down.

However, over the last week, I have encountered several cases where the above is not really an option. That is, by having parents that are poor influences. Again, I am relying on my experiences at work where I have high-volume customer contact.

Example 1 relates to two separate cases where I was approached by an adult and a child. My role on the night was to advise that the trains weren’t running due to track maintenance and to provide them with options for Rail Bus travel. An inconvenience but not the end of the world. In both situations, I was in the middle of discussing the correct bus when the ‘adult’ turned away from me angrily and stated variations of ‘F**k off, you guys are hopeless’.

I’m big enough, old enough and ugly enough to let abuse roll off me. I all but forget the interaction immediately and move onto the next customer with a smile. However, how does this influence the child? They absorb that aggression and verbal abuse are the manner to interact with people when things don’t go their way.

Example 2 relates to a middle-aged woman who was visibly shivering on a platform. It was only slightly chilly, so I approached her to see if she was ok and if she needed an ambulance. Her son (so I found out later) pipped up to say she was ok and that she just had a ‘dirty shot’.

The son was in his early 20’s, barefoot and his clothes were clearly dirty. I will note also he was smoking on the platform in the middle of customers and I had to tell him to put the cigarette out as it was illegal.

I contacted my manager for advice. I found out that both the mother and son were well-known to police, with extension drug histories, aggressive behaviour towards customers and staff and never paid for tickets.

Again, what hope did this kid have to grow up to be a positive contributor to society? His main influence was an antisocial drug addict mother.

I’m sure there are countless examples of people with poor influences who have grown to be beautiful people and achieved amazing things. However, I will bet that the majority of children that grow up with poor parenting influences follow a very similar path.

For a number of reasons, I never became a parent. But surely when you have a child, the world becomes more than just you. Children are sponges and on the whole, look up to their parents.

Maybe if you can’t create a positive environment for your children, parenting might not be for you. How do you want your child to grow up? Think about what you say and do.

Self-limiting beliefs – Not for Cathy Hughes!

One of the biggest obstacles to success is having self-limiting beliefs. I’m definitely a victim to self-limiting thinking. Often I’m caught myself in doubt due to my age, lack of education, my mental health issues, financial situation or whatever else I can find in the dark recesses of my mind.

I came across a wonderful podcast today on How I Built This. This episode featured Cathy Hughes . Cathy is the founder of Radio One. She is now 70 years old and has a net worth of over $500 million.

I won’t go into every detail of Cathy’s story and recommend you listen to the podcast and read Wikipedia. The major points that I took from Cathy’s story is that she had no self-limiting beliefs. She had a goal and had no doubt that she would achieve it.

However, Cathy had several potential obstacles that many would consider insurmountable to achieve even minor success:

  • Lived in housing projects as a child
  • Was a single mother at 17
  • Is an African American woman
  • Lived in middle America
  • She started her career in the 60’s and 70’s, which I understand was a less enlightened time in the US for African Americans (I’m from Australia, so I wasn’t there to experience it)

Cathy apparently faced discrimination in her early days but again, she maintained focus on her goal and never doubted she would succeed.

Again, I won’t go into her whole story but one story she recounted was approaching financial institutions for a $1 million loan with only $10,000 in the bank. She went to 32 banks before getting the loan. 90% of people would give up after 2 or 3 banks but not Cathy. She said that she believed in the law of averages that every ‘No’ is one step closer to a YES. It is not hard to believe that she would have gone to 100 banks if she had to.

What if we all had the same confidence as Cathy that we would succeed despite self-imposed limits? Very few will achieve the success that Cathy has. Without question though, the person that follows a passionate goal without thought of failure will be far more successful then the one that finds reasons they can’t.

I pity miserable people

‘Miserable people love to make other people miserable. I don’t hate them, I feel sorry for them.’

Brandi Glanville

A few weeks back I was at work during a train track closure. A track closure normally is due to essential track repairs. Alternative transport is organised to accommodate customers. My job on the night was to provide customer service through to guidance, advice and directions to appropriate transport.

Track closures are an inconvenience. They add time to a customers trip and mean there are sometimes multiple transport changes. All the same, they are performed for a purpose to provide a safe service for customers and are traditionally scheduled well outside of peak transport times to minimise disruption.

Well, I was half way through my shift and waiting for the next connection to arrive at the station. Customers were waiting and I was standing back with a couple of my colleagues on the night. One of my colleagues shared a joke and we had a laugh together. I excused myself from the group and made a round of the customers to see if anyone looked confused or had questions.

I was stopped by a sour-faced middle aged woman. The conversation went something like this:

Woman: I don’t appreciate you laughing while we are being inconvenienced.

Me: My apologies but we were certainly not laughing at your situation.

Woman: That doesn’t matter, you shouldn’t be laughing at all.

Me: Ummm…ok

Woman: I’ll be talking to my priest about it tomorrow.

From memory, I might have just nodded and continued me walk around the customers.

Surprisingly, my immediate thought wasn’t ‘What a miserable old bitch’. My first thoughts were 1) Is that why people go to church?; and 2) I feel sorry for her.

Working in high-volume customer service, I encounter miserable people that complain almost daily. On the whole, and putting things into perspective, their complaints are petty. There would have been a time when I would have reacted with irritation and anger. But perhaps due to some of my roles I performed over the last decade that dealt with death and real suffering, I see minor annoyances and complaining people as very small issues.

My honest response to miserable people now is pity. Are they so miserable that the smallest thing is an opportunity to be upset? Do they see no joy in life? Or maybe trying to demean others gives them pleasure? Either way, it is not a pleasant way to live and I feel sorry for them. Barely moments after our encounter, I have all but forgotten them but I assume they will continue to stew on the issue for some time after.

Life is hard, why make it harder when something minor disrupts your day. Just go with the flow, there will be plenty of really bad experiences in your life to test you without worrying about being 2 minutes late or your coffee is slightly too hot.

And if you come across one of these people, just let there bad energy slide over you. Don’t absorb it and take on their negative point of view on life.

Sometimes money finds you

You just have to be at the right place at the right time sometimes.

I had just turned up to start a shift yesterday when a vacancy for a Sunday shift became available. I put my hand up for it immediately, even though it would reduce the length of my weekend. It’s all about priorities at the moment though. The chance to work 8 hours double time on a relatively quiet evening Sunday shift is a good financial bonus I can’t pass up.

Later in the shift, the manager on duty asked if it would be ok to alter a shift for the following week to finish at a later time. Again, I agreed immediately. The changed shift would result in 12.5% penalties being applied, while the previous shift didn’t. This more or less gives me an additional hours pay for the same amount of work.

Finally, approaching the end of my shift, some problems occurred on the network and trains were suspended. This means there were a lot of upset customers to manage. At the same time, it became apparent shifts had been messed up and there was no replacement for me. I was offered overtime until the replacement arrived. Again, I found it difficult to say no to a few more dollars in my pocket, so I agreed again.

Interestingly, I was only pondering that morning how I could accumulate some extra money by the end of the year. Maybe putting the thoughts out to the universe attracted some money my way.

Tall poppy syndrome – The curse of the insecure

I was prompted to blog by a comment made during a podcast episode I listened to recently. On the Tim Ferris show, Phil Keoghan – The Magic of Bucket Lists and Amazing Races was interviewed. Phil is the host of the Amazing Race and originates from New Zealand.

Amongst topics discussed, Phil mentions the phrase Tall Poppy Syndrome in relation to the mindset of a lot of people from New Zealand. The term relates to maintaining conformity and not standing out from the crowd, such as in a field of poppies with one taller than the others. To keep things equal, the taller poppy will be cut down to size.

Phil uses the example of the NZ All Blacks, the champion national Rugby Union team. The All Blacks are arguably the highest achieving team ever in world Rugby Union, however, in line with the NZ mentality, they will understate their greatness.

This reminded me of Greg Norman’s win at the 1993 British Open with a final round of 64. Following the round, Norman quipped that “I’m in awe of myself” as he didn’t miss hit a shot. I recall that this comment was discussed in Australia almost more than his win. It was considered discourteous to the other players and arrogant. I could argue though that he was actually understating his normal ability and he just had a great day.

In Australia, anyone who has achieved celebrity through their success is in constant danger of being cut down at the slightest perceived indiscretion. Any comment is taken out of context, their personal life is massively scrutinised, they are lambasted for not contributing their great wealth to charity….the list goes on.

Paul Hogan was considered a national treasure until he achieved worldwide fame with Crocodile Dundee. Initially, he was the still the regular Aussie bloke that made good. But then, his relationship to his co-star was made public. He was then a cheater that let a bit of fame make him forget family values. He wasn’t quite disowned but his public image was massively diminished.

Why can’t we celebrate the success of others instead of trying to bring them down to our level? Instead of looking for fault, why aren’t we looking to learn from them instead? Is their public life really any of our business? Being a tall poppy in Australia is a terrible burden. Be a nobody and fail miserably and constantly and no one cares.

However, it seems that in the US, being a tall poppy is something to be proud of. Sure, the failures of the high-flyers make the press, such as Tiger Wood’s infidelity and Donald Trump’s misguided comments. But it seems that this is more of identifying that everyone can make mistakes rather than wanting them to fail (though maybe with Trump I could be wrong). I doubt I would be wrong in saying that the US would love it if Tiger was the best again.

Maybe Australia could learn some lessons from the pride that American’s have in themselves and country. Pride is considered a character fault in Australia. Why should it be though? Australia is a great place to live, with an envious quality of living but we are happy to hide in the shadows.

To steal a quote from the movie Troy when a messenger boy comments to Achilles, ‘The Thesselonian you’re fighting…he’s the biggest man I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t want to fight him’. Achilles responds ‘That’s why no-one will remember your name’. Come on Australia, strive for greatness and be a tall poppy! If you are too insecure to admire the success of others, keep your undermining comments to yourself and live in obscurity. No one will remember you anyway.

Unpleasant financial surprises

For over a year, I have been waiting on a procedure to remove significant trunk varicose veins from my right leg. I’m generally not that vain (excuse the pun) but I found the veins so disgusting to look at that I wouldn’t wear shorts.

Given that I now live in a location where it is warm almost year around, having to wear long pants continuously outside the house is not particularly practical and is often unpleasant. Anyway, a year ago I committed to a procedure to have the veins rectified.

I had to wait a year as I had joined a health fund and as the veins were a pre-existing issue, I had to wait 12 months before I could claim costs. I was aware that even though I had the health care fund, I was still be obligated to $500.00 for my hospital stay. I thought that, in addition to the health fund costs for the year was more than reasonable to have my veins repaired.

Imagine my surprise when I week prior to the operation, I receive a letter from my vascular surgeon informing me that I would have to pay an additional $1500.00 excess prior to the operation.

Mentally, I was fully committed to the operation and had already organised leave from work to recover from the operation. I thought lumping me with a $1500 bill only days before the operation was quite unreasonable but I went ahead and paid it rather than put off my operation further.

Surprise again though the very next day when I receive an email from an anesthesiologist advising I would have to pay an excess of $900 prior to the operation. Again, as I was all but packing my overnight bag, I paid the bill without complaint though the cost of the procedure was really starting to add up and started to wonder who else might put a hand out for money.

Later that day, I was riding my motorbike to work while contemplating how the unexpected operation costs would affect my savings strategy. Well, the 3rd surprise of the week occurred when the bike all of a sudden just stopped. By good fortune (the only good fortune of the week), I broke down within rolling distance of a motorcycle mechanic.

$300 later, the problem was found to be a relatively easy electrical fix but still took a long time to investigate and therefore was quite costly. Add that to über costs to get me to and from work and I was out another $100.00.

Ok, so I took a few steps back towards my early retirement plan last week. I could sit down and sulk or just keep moving forward, which I will.

On a positive note, the operation was a success. The hospital stay was pleasant and the nurses were lovely. Even the breakfast was yummy and I was discharged very quickly.

When fully healed, I will post some photos of varicose vein operation outcome.