Prison justice – Fair and reasonable?

The other day, I was listening to a podcast on Case True Crime, the Anita Cobby murder. This episode focussed on the rape and murder of Anita Cobby by 5 men in 1986.

I’m old enough to remember this crime. It gained a large amount of media coverage due to the severity of the crime and probably due to the fact that Anita was a beautiful young woman.

Further to that, Anita was a former beauty pageant winner and a nurse, which a vibrant and caring nature. The murder was horrific, Anita was abducted while walking home at night and beaten, dragged through barbed wire, raped (by 4 of the 5 men) and then had her throat slit, almost to the point of decapitation. In some ways, perhaps death was a blessing rather than living after that ordeal.

The response from the public was unheard of in Australia. Huge crowds were seen at the courtroom hearings and abuse and death threats were yelled at the murderers. I recommend you listen to the podcast for more information.

My post relates to a story of prison justice that occurred to one of the convicted prisoners. One of the murderers had a plastic tube inserted in his anus, to which a length of barbed wire was inserted. The plastic tube was then removed, leaving the barbed wire inside. At following court hearings, he was unable to sit.

My view is that the punishment is fair and reasonable. It provides some justice for the crime. I’m sure that some will contend that wishing pain and suffering on another person makes me no better than the murderers themselves. I respond that the difference is that Anita was an innocent person. Her only ‘crime’ was walking home alone from the train station at night.

However, the murderers were serial offenders with long criminal histories. Amongst them, they had raped and burgled, one was an escapee from prison at the time of crime and were abusers of alcohol and drugs. In short, they served no purpose to society and never would.

The family and friends of Anita will suffer with the memory of her death for life. The husband of Anita in fact, turned to drugs and alcohol following her death and had a very long road to recovery.

I say, let the animals suffer. Prison justice is sometimes the only fair justice.

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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.

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.

Home project – Wall removal

Though I love my little house, I seem to be constantly looking for areas to change that firstly add to my enjoyment of the home and secondly, to add value. Creating equity is important to me for next steps in my financial journey.

I currently own a 60 year old weatherboard home. My best guess is that much of the internal layout is original. The Living area is separate to the living and dining.

One area that I thought would make an immediate improvement was the removal of a wall between the living and kitchen. An open-plan kitchen living area is more aligned to the preference of today and also creates the illusion of more space.

My first point of call was to call in a builder to discuss the wall removal. I was all excited about grabbing a sledgehammer and smashing down the wall but was fairly certain it would be load bearing. Sure enough, it was. That took the project out of my hands as I don’t have the construction knowledge to install of load bearing beam. I also didn’t want any issues with insurance or selling the property at a later date. I needed a professional.

Professionals cost money though. What I could negotiate on was the level of finish. If I was prepared to fill the gaps and paint, I would almost halve the cost of the job. I am not a total DIY incompetent, so I asked that the wall be removed and supporting framework installed. I would finish the job up to make it look pretty. The end quote was $4500.

Though I’m no expert, I assume it was a relatively minor job as it was complete in 2 days. based on how it looked after the first day, I can’t imagine it took more than a few hours the second day it knock it over.

As the photos demonstrate, removing the wall drastically increased the illusion of space. Actually, it’s not entirely an illusion as the kitchen cupboards and faux brick wall were several feet thick, so I have literally gained extra space.

  • There are now gaps in the floating floor. I’m not a huge fan of the colour of the flooring though, so I may end up replacing the lot. I can live with it for now though.
  • I have lost kitchen storage. I normally live with about 2 plates and a couple of cups, so I don’t need much room but as far as resale goes, I need to add more.
  • The now see the dated kitchen all the time. It was ‘out of sight, out of mind’ before. Now I can’t not see it. It’s functional but ugly. A kitchen renovation is now on the list of things to do.

The positives:

  • The sense of space. I have a small house and space is premium. Instead of walking in the front door into a small room, now I walk into a nice open space.
  • More layout options. I have more room to space out my furniture. For one, I can now place my TV against a wall so it’s not the first thing you see as you walk in the house.
  • Much more light in the kitchen/dining area. My kitchen is South facing. In Australia, that is the aspect that receives the least light. Now I gain the light from the North facing window into the kitchen area.
  • I have added value. If I haven’t at least added the value of the renovation, I would be amazed. I consider the change has vastly improved the saleability of the home.
  • I like it! That was the primary purpose of the reno. I wanted to enjoy it more than before. it makes me smile.

Maybe I half expected that the wall removal would do the job and I would be satisfied to leave it at that. I would be fooling myself also, I can’t sit stagnate without change. As indicated above though, now I want to change the kitchen and review the flooring.

More saving and more projects to come.

If you don’t have the right skills, have the right attitude

‘Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference’

Winston Churchill

I’ve never started a job with the skill level to hit the ground running. My education level is moderate at best and I haven’t any specialised qualifications. Therefore, I generally start a new role with minimal real ability to perform the duties.

What I do have however, is the right attitude. I start every new role with enthusiasm and with a learning mindset. In some ways, my lack of knowledge is an advantage as I don’t go in with a ‘know it all’ attitude. I don’t know what I’m doing and any opportunity is a chance to learn.

My current role serves as an example. If someone asked me to deal with an aggravated customer, I get onto it immediately without complaint. If I’m asked to clean up vomit or a particularly nasty toilet incident, I go and do it immediately. If I’m stuck with a full shift or just standing at the top of a broken escalator to perform customer service, I’m there.

These examples are not especially complex but they are not everyone’s idea of a good time. The point is, I do them and take the opportunity to learn. I might learn some strategies to manage the aggravated customer to use the next time. I get to use my communication skills with the broken escalator. I might not learn a lot while cleaning up a messy toilet but it is a mindless task that allows me to reflect on ways to make money or for other productive thought.

I have applied the positive attitude to every role I have held for the last decade. This attitude has given me the reputation as someone that is reliable and can be counted on to assist when needed. This has resulted in many opportunities being offered to me that were definitely beyond my education level and skill. Many times, these offers have been made ahead of people with considerably more experience in the role then I had.

It surprises me that I see many long-term and new starters that are reluctant to undertake tasks and make excuses. I get it, no one wants to clean up a blocked toilet. It is smelly and unpleasant. I won’t lie, there have been times I have been dry retching while cleaning up.

You know what though, when it’s time to offer an extra shift, overtime or a spell at a higher role, they will be asking the guy with the right attitude, not the guy that complains every time they are asked to do something.