If I had no bin...

I have been conducting a thought experiment recently about what would change in my life if I did not have a bin. I love my bin. I love the design of it. I love the feeling I get when I put something in there, expunging it from my life.

The catalyst for thinking about this was spending a weekend at a permaculture farm where they do not have a bin. Everything that comes onto the property stays on the property, and needs to be re-used as an input into another process in some way. All of a sudden I was conscious of everything that I was using that had a byproduct that would not help this farm.

In thinking about it though, it seems that many of my actions, many of the things I buy, many of my decisions, come about because the bin exists. Because every week a truck comes along and takes away the things I no longer want in my life.

Nature does not quite work like this. In reality the things that get taken away do not disappear. They are buried in a big pit and covered with dirt, not being of any use to anybody. In nature, everything that is an output becomes and input for another being, organism, process. The bin is putting my out of sync with nature.

I don't think I am ready to get rid of my bin yet. I am ready to start living more in line as if it did not exist. Here are some thoughts/questions this has raised for me:

- I would be very mindful of purchasing anything made of plastic, metal (ie anything made of stuff dug deep out of the ground), as once I had finished with it it would be hard to know what to do with it

- I would have to have a garden and a composting system

- This would mean I would probably grow more of my own food

- Overall I think I would spend less money on material stuff

- I would think carefully about giving things away for which I no longer had a use

- I would spend more money on experiences, books and relationships than things

- I would make more things from scratch, especially food

- I would spend more time outdoors

Perhaps I am overplaying it; the only way to know would be to get rid of the bin and see what happened. Part II in this series is how my life would be different if I did not have a smart phone.

People I fear meeting on the street

There is a small list of people that, when I think of bumping into them on the street, I feel a sense of dread.

This is usually based on some kind of unresolved conflict; some break in the relationship that was left unresolved for a number of years.

Recently this list decreased by two. Last year I reached out to a former business partner with whom I had fallen out (yes, over our business). It was something that happened over three years prior, and every time I thought of seeing him my body would tighten up. 

Last year I realised that I could get on the front foot and evaporate the tension between us, simply by giving him a call. I felt afraid, but when we spoke all was good and time had helped make our difference irrelevant.

This year an old friend reached out to me. We had not spoken to each other for about 6 years after a moment of tension was too much for either of us to handle. He messaged me via Facebook, we caught up, and once again it was good. We had both changed and experienced a lot in those 6 years, more than enough to put our previous tensions to rest.

There remain a couple of people with whom I still have this sense of dread, and I think the time may be too soon to rectify and reconcile them. I will not leave them too long, because I know how good it feels to not have any concerns about who I meet when I walk down the street.

No going back

When I am in a rut, or going through the thrash, I often find myself thinking 'I need to find a way to get back to where I used to be'. Nostalgia of an earlier time, when I meditated with more depth, was fitter and happier, and felt more connect to others, come flooding into my memory.

As I hit these inevitable periods where my life seems to be shaken up, I am starting to learn that they are a necessary part of my growth. There is no going back; there is only going through, and going forward. 

The thrash I am working through now is not because I need to return to old times and routines. They were for an earlier period in my life, and enabled me to get to this point of greater awareness and challenge. The thrash I am working through now represents something new, something that needs its own courage and patience and routines. 

A while moving forward is important, I am encouraged when I look back to see that I have hit these periods of thrash before. That I have survived. That they did not last forever. And that I came out stronger on the other side.

I haven't written for ages...

It has been over a week since I have posted something. My energy levels have been low for writing as I have had to put them into some other pressing things. 

Writing this blog is important to me for expressing what it is like to be alive now, and that includes the times when I feel I have nothing to contribute, or no energy to put to print what is going on inside.

I apologise to readers, and will be back to posting daily this week!

Unique, one opportunity only, creation

A friend of mine is starting a new business where she helps physicians avoid burnout. A once burnt-out physician herself she is well equipped to help others.

As she started to work on her business she found a mentor with whom she shared her ideas in order to get guidance and direction. She found somebody whom she could trust.

You can imagine her surprise when a few months later she heard that this mentor was starting her own practise in assisting burnt-out physicians, seemingly using many of the ideas that my friend had shared with her.

My friend started to wonder if it was worth continuing. Was there room enough for both of them? Had this been a breach of trust? She reached out to her friends on Facebook.

I remember writing something back to her about how it didn't actually matter what her ex-mentor was doing, or even how many other people were assisting burnt-out physicians, whether that be many or few. The thing that matter was whether this was something that had come from within her, something she cared deeply about, felt 'lit-up' by, and compelled to bring into the world. Because nobody could copy or replicate or create the same thing that she could. Nobody else is the same as her, has lived the same experiences she has.

It was quite easy to write those words to my friend at the time, and perhaps part of me knew that one day I would need them for myself, at a time when I would find them harder to write. That moment is now for me.

I sometimes feel insecure in about my podcast, protective of my patch and feel a need to keep it safe. When I hear of other similar podcasts, my heart sinks. 

But what I wrote to my friend is also true for me. It doesn't matter how many other similar podcasts there are out there. The thing that matters is that this has come from deep enquiry of myself, that it is an authentic expression, and that I feel compelled to bring it into the world. It will be different to any other podcast, because nobody is the same person as me.

And if I don't bring this into the world, it will never exist.

When the long awaited thing arrives

When I am waiting for something, it seems so far away and out of reach. When it arrives it seems like it was inevitable.  

What is more surprising is that I don't feel very different. I am not changed by it. I am the same person. 

I understand then that my work is not to make things arrive. Rather it is to prepare myself so that when they do arrive I can be my best to make the most of it and its consequences.  

The first moment the hardest moment

I had coffee with a friend recently and we were talking about a camp we were both at, and the difficulty in walking up to a group of people we don't know.

He offered this little pearl that he tells himself whenever walking up to a new group: The first moment will be the hardest moment, and then every moment after that will be a little bit easier.

While this is probably not always true, it is true often enough to be useful. And the use of it is this: in those seconds where I internally debate whether to walk up to a group of people, where I experience a flinch that would have me walk they other way, I can remind myself of this truth that it will be difficult for a second, and then it will start to get easier.

Here is to meeting more new people.

Stress and sickness as feedback, not defect

'The recognition of the role of stress in the development of illness leads to the important notion of illness as a "problem solver." Because of social and cultural conditioning, people often find it impossible to release their stresses in healthy ways, and therefore choose - consciously or unconsciously - to get sick as a way out....
'Examples of this (self-healing) phenomenon would be periods of ill health involving minor symptoms. These are normal and natural stages in the organism's process of restoring balance by interrupting our usual activities and forcing a change of pace.' --Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi in The Systems View of Life

These quotes combine a couple of things that I have been thinking about, based on the book above and Antifragile, which I have written about previously. 

The idea is that when we experience sickness, stress, temperatures, feelings of lethargy, this is our body's way of giving us feedback.

My approach in the past has been to pump in things into my body, to add more of something into the mix in order to rectify the 'problem'.

My evolving approach is to first stop and listen to the feedback, to observe it and consider what it might be trying to tell me, and then to act.

Usually it is telling me something like 'remove stress from your life', or 'you are sleep deprived', or 'put better things into your body'. Rarely is it telling me 'you need to take more Panadol or drink more coffee'.

A headache is not a defect, something to be numbed by a drug without thought. A headache is an indication that something about the way I am living is out of whack and it would probably be a good idea to rectify it.

Creation through expectation

'...all the data indicate athletes' expectations as important factors in physical performance, to be taken into account in training strategies.'  -- Placebo and nocebo responses, Fabrizio Benedetti

There is much talk about visualisation and manifestation and laws of attraction in some of the groups I hang out with. I see some of this in my own life - coincidences that seem too strange to be just that.

I read the article that the above quote comes from recently which talks about placebo, and how telling athletes they are going to perform well causes changes in the physiology, enabling them to tap into reserves in their energy and ability that are usually kept for crisis events. In essence if athletes have an expectation that they will do well, they will lift the cap on their physical limits, and perform better than they otherwise would.

I suspect that the same is true for other areas of our life. In relationships, work, wellbeing: if we have an expectation that we will do well, that good things will come our way, we will physically have more ability and more awareness of these things as we move through our days than we otherwise would.


'No Junk Mail' Junk Mail

I have an idea for some kind of marketing campaign. It is probably most appropriate for an organisation that is about reducing waste or living with less, but I have no idea who.

My idea is to deliver people some junk mail that has a 'no junk mail please' sticker in it. 

I think there are probably a bunch of people that do not want junk mail, and would put the sticker straight onto their letter box as soon as they received it.

This would have the impact of creating a dramatic decrease in paper consumption, as well as freeing people from the distraction of needless advertising. And of course it would help promote the cause of whatever organisation was behind it.

I am laying no claims to this idea. It has probably already been done somewhere. Who could pick this up for Melbourne?


In Australia ANZAC day (which was yesterday) is a national holiday where we commemorate those Australian soldiers who have serve the country in times of war, and particularly those who lost their lives in doing so.  

Although both my grandfathers served during World War II, I have had trouble embracing and understanding what this day is about. It could be because I have had difficulty understanding the purpose of the wars fought by my country during my life time. The Great Wars I can see were important to fight, and the outcomes seem to be positive. The Gulf Wars to me did not seem as important or necessary, and the outcomes negative. 

Then I read something recently that got me thinking about what a hero was. As I understand it, a hero is somebody who incurs personal disadvantage, or risks doing so, for the good of others. In my context this a notion not celebrated or encouraged outside of the battle field (with perhaps the exception of sport), and outside this realm heroes are often called failures and mistakes rather than acknowledge for making heroic sacrifices. 

So this ANZAC day I want to remember the heroes that I see, and don't see, around me: 

  • those who have fought in wars and served this country, sacrificing themselves for those of us who did not fight, regardless of whether the wars seemed important or necessary, or whether the consequences have been positive or negative
  • anybody who has put their life at risk for another, sometimes meaning the loss of their life
  • those who speak out fearlessly about the fraud they see, often to their personal ridicule and detriment
  • those who choose lower paid jobs across their career in order to serve society, sacrificing status and comfort and material for the improvement of others
  • to those who invest their money in low probability experiments, understanding that they may never see a financial return, but in doing this work we all learn something and have the opportunity to benefit

I know it is difficult to compare losing a life to losing quality of life. But I think that a hero can take a number of forms, and for those who take this on I admire.  

Single benefits

There are certainly positives to being a single, part-time parent. Although I consider myself a full-time dad, having my kids with me for one week, and then away the next week, means that I am not parenting all the time. And while I miss them terribly when they are not with me, it does open up opportunities for other things.

The things I am referring to are extended periods of time to do what I want to do, hang out with the people I want to hang out with, and generally use my time on understanding and expressing myself however I feel without anybody commenting or influencing me.

I see this as a contrast to when I was married and living with my wife and kids all the time. It was as if we felt we had to do everything together. I can't really remember doing many things by myself during that period, apart from going to work. I don't think I gave my wife the freedom to explore and express herself; I am not sure I could have handled it. And I did not take that on for myself either.

Now that I have been forced into it, I can see that I am able to handle being a solo parent for extended periods of time. It is difficult for sure, but it is possible.

The question that comes to my mind then, is whether this is possible for people who are still in a relationship? Can they give the other parent extended periods of time to explore projects, hang out with friends, go on holidays, while they look after the kids by themselves?

I think it is possible, and could even be better. My retrospective guess at why this is not commonly practised is that there is a fear of losing the other person; that in giving them room and space to be explore themselves, it could mean the end of the relationship. They might discover they want even more freedom, or we might find out we don't like who they truely are.

In having a week to myself every second week I have found great freedom in following my curiosities without constraint. I can imagine that this would be even more exciting and fulfilling (and risky and scary?) if conducted within a relationship.


Subtracting to create more

My first ever disclaimer: I am not a medical practitioner. The opinions expressed below are entirely my own.

Another thought that circulates in Taleb's Antifragile is that if smoking were removed from our society, ever other current medical intervention and action would be a footnote in describing improvement in the health of humans across our planet. His point is that the human body is very good at sorting itself out - it has been refining its defences and health over a very long time, and anything that we choose to add to it (like smoking, like unnecessary surgery) is probably going to be worse overall than better. Removing unnecessary interventions into our system can only be good for our health.

Intervention needs to be saved for the situation when there is a massive upside, and a small downside (for example if somebody has cancer and only surgery/chemo will prolong their life). When there is a small upside, it is highly likely that there is the potential for a massive downside (for example elective plastic surgery that provides a small improvement to the nose, but could introduce and fatal infection into the body).

This has got me thinking about my own life and also that of my kids, and the number of interventions I think are necessary, and whether they actually are. Here are a couple I am thinking about:

- when my kids have a mild temperate: I often think they need Panadol or Nurofen to help them feel better. Is this the case? Could the temperature actually be good for them, helping their body recover, and allowing them to flow with their lethargy and rest?

- prescribing antibiotics to speed up the rectification of infections: Could this mask the cause of infections, rob my body's ability to learn how to fight infections, and also kill the necessary good bacteria of my gut?

I leave these as questions because I am not qualified to know the answers. And that is Taleb's point. Actually none of us really know the answer to these questions; we can't predict all the short and long term consequences of medical intervention. He advocates not trying to work them out but to use a heuristic to help guide us (not just for medical instances but for many of life's decisions): Big upside and small downside? Intervene. Small upside and unknown downside? Leave it be.

The good moments

There seems to be so much of my writing that is focused on pain and grief and sorrow and struggle. In many ways this is easier for me to write about than the opposite - the moments of joy and happiness and release. 

I may just have more of this kind of material to write about. Or perhaps there is something else, something about the way I want to be seen. 

So in this piece I want to write about today, and this week, and the good that has happened.

Today I kicked four goals playing social soccer in the park at lunch time, my best personal effort. One of my podcasts passed being listened to by 190 people. I received an email encouraging me about the podcast. I bought my son some new clothes. I have two hopeful and exciting job interviews next week. And I have an awesome week of catchups planned for next week. 

I feel a sense of joy. I feel connected and like I am letting go and flowing. 

True Freedom

Another thought provoking pearl from Taleb in Antifragile (or at least a pearl he has written about, if not created).  

True freedom is freedom in opinion and expression of opinion. Accepting consequences in being true to yourself. It takes courage and a strong will.  

I am not sure if I have fully developed this in my own life yet. Historically when I was an employee I was explicitly told that I could not say things that I wanted to say if they could harm the business. Implicitly I knew that if I expressed my thoughts to my colleagues they could harm my career. And I have been in relationships where I felt that my opinion and self-expression could not be handled by the other person in the relationship. 

I was not free. 

Perhaps having some money helps. Perhaps not being in a relationship helps. I think this may be a comfortable sort of freedom; the kind that is not really tested.  

The true measure then is when I have something to lose from owning my freedom, from expressing my opinion. Whether it be losing money or status or a relationship. 

I hope I am courageous enough to put any future relationship to this test. I hope I am prepared to put my ethics in front of a desire for comfort and security.  


A small jab of encouragement

The past 24 hours have been one of those periods where a few things fall into place, encouraging me that I am on the right path and that the small daily actions I have been taking will amount to something cool.

A lady gave me a massive dose of encouragement about my podcast. I had a job interview that seems to have landed me a short term position helping startups and the city collaborate. And I reconnected with some interesting people from my past.

It is just enough to remind me to keep on, to work patiently and persistently, diligently and ardently.

True Wealth

Instead of adding things to our life to improve it, Nassim Nicholas Taleb encourages the readers of his book Antifragile to consider what they can remove. 

He suggests a list of things that true wealth consists of (which I quite like):

  • worry free sleeping
  • clear conscience
  • reciprocal gratitude
  • absence of envy+
  • good appetite
  • muscle strength+
  • physical energy
  • frequent laughs+
  • no meals alone+
  • no gym class
  • some physical labor+
  • good bowel movements
  • no meeting rooms
  • periodic surprises

In thinking about this list he makes that call that achieving true wealth is therefore more about what one takes away from their life, as opposed to what they add to it.

I have started to think what I could remove from my life, like the things I do, the things I have, and the food I eat, in order to improve it. The crosses on the dot points above are where I think I could improve (not that I would admit to the third last point in public!).


Last night I had the privilege of attending a men's group in Melbourne. There is something happening with men that I think is important and special. It has been going on for quite some time thanks to conversations encouraged by people like Robert Bly, Joseph Campbell, Steve Biddulph, and Brene Brown. Men are tapping into different parts of themselves, the full range of their experience, from vulnerability to wildness, and learning how to express this.

Over the past few days I have been in listening mode. I have interviewed some people for my podcast. I have caught up with friends. And each interaction has somehow led to me doing more listening than talking.

I am okay with this. I like listening and think I am reasonably skilled at it. However sometimes I know I need to talk. And last night, after listening to some of the other men, I knew I needed to talk.

So I talked. About grief and pain and what I had been feeling over the past week and the past 18 months.

And to my joy and soothing, they held space for me. They listened. Allowed me to cry and curse and splutter my torrent of emotions. They did not try to offer suggestions. They did not try to take the pain away. They did not try to fix anything.

Sometimes that is all that is needed. To give somebody the gift of talking themselves out. Talking without logic or coherence or request. I like offering that to others. I like receiving that for myself.

Let's pretend

Last night I made a decision. The decision was to live as if I felt amazing. As if I was feeling like I had all I wanted right now in this moment. To live the way I would live if all those things that have been playing on my mind did not matter.

I know the effects of this decision are currently very early on in their life, but I think there is something in it. I want to see if I can sustain it, and come back to it when I stop doing this.

And this is how I want to live:

  • I want to get up at 5am each morning, meditate, read a book, move, shower, have breakfast, write a blog post, all before 7:30.
  • I then want to work during the morning on creativity-intensive, solo activities, like editing podcasts, writing, planning
  • At lunch I want to exercise
  • After lunch I want to spend my time on more socially oriented work activities, or reading books.
  • At night I want to eat with other people, and potentially socialise with friends or family
  • I want to be in bed before 9pm so I can get 8 hours sleep and be up at 5am.

There are some things missing from my life. But really they amount to this: I am not getting a steady income. This is partly my choice because I have been on a gap year. But while I am waiting for this to happen, I don't want to idly wait. I will live the way I would want to be living if that income was actually appearing in my bank account.


The small words of encouragement I have received from others are like little drops of water on a parched tongue. On their own they cannot nourish, but in total they offer refreshment and more than enough to keep me going on the next bit of the journey. 

I am so grateful for everybody that has offered me a small piece of encouragement, particularly over the past 18 months. Reminding me that I am strong. That I can write. That I am brave. That I am courageous. That I can hold space.

I write these things here not to brag. I write them because I forget and I doubt and I need to remember.

I will in turn remember to offer encouragement to others who are in the arena.