Thoughts: Learn to Celebrate the Wins

I have to confess that the last few years have been quite challenging, across pretty much all aspects of my life, but as I write this, I am reflecting on the fact that I am happy. I am content.

How did I get to this place?

It occurred to me that when things in life challenge me – be they personal challenges or work-related challenges, I actually have choice around how I react to them (do I panic and lurch from crisis to crisis?) or do I respond to them (take a breath, take a step back from the situation and consider all options). I have learned to recognise when I have absolutely no control over situations. As such I have learned to accept these situations and as a result of this acceptance I lose no energy or sleep because of them.

Don’t get me wrong. Tough situations are tough. They do have an impact. They do force change upon us. But for me, the key was developing resilience – that ability to bounce back quickly to the pre-crisis state.

One thing that has helped me develop this resilience was developing a plan. Understanding that there are controls/frameworks I have to live within (long boring story) and planning for my future, taking these frameworks into account and instead of feeling constrained by them, making them work for me. Harnessing them. Allowing them to chip off the rough edges and to help me develop focus. I am a much better version of myself today than I was two years ago.

I could have been wallowing in a ‘poor me’ mental state but I chose not to.

I think that we pay too much attention to the negative. The bad things that happen. The office politics that get us down. The increased workload. The day-to-day stresses. If we pay attention to the negative, we allow the negative to increase. We start looking for the negative. We feed the negative. And the negative compounds. I suspect this is part of the human condition.

To counter this I have learned to celebrate the wins.

I now look for the little positive things that happen and I revel in them. It may be a win at work. It may be seeing growth in a colleague. It may be finally getting the roommates cat to sit next to me on the couch (this one was hard to achieve!). It is important to reprogramme your mindset and change your focus.

Recognising and revelling in the little wins is one thing, but it is important to go a step further. I’ve created a list. It is a list of goals or milestones that I want to achieve or acknowledge over the next three years or so. It’s a ‘living document’ which I add to regularly. The list items are currently mostly financial goals around saving etc. but they’re also practical goals. They’re also milestones to look forward to: A new place to live. Home ownership. Significant birthdays of my kids. That sort of thing.

And the amazing thing is, since I wrote this list at the beginning of July, I’ve ticked off three things already. There is an acceleration occurring because they’re written down. My sub-conscious and my conscious mind are working in concert to achieve these things.

So, write things down people. And when you achieve them, celebrate them with something that is occassional. For me, it’s wine, a cigar and a firepit. What is it for you? What will you do?

Good luck!

^SD

Thoughts: The Joy of Coffee

I have always enjoyed coffee.

I’ve thought of myself as a bit of a coffee snob, given a professional lifetime of consuming way more coffee than is probably healthy.

I have cut down in practice, but things may be changing.

I’ve been very happy with my Bialetti stovetop coffee maker, and the acquisition of espresso-ground coffee to use with it. (When I’m feeling flush my go-to coffee hookup is eight thirty here in Auckland).

And then a close friend gave me beans. Kona coffee beans. From Hawaii. I love my close friend.

And down the rabbithole I went. Damn it, this always happens.

Step one. Acquire a grinder. Done. Pleased with the incentive actually as I’ve needed one for my cooking explorations. Check.

Step two. Develop the routine of beans to grind to coffee. Check.

Step three. Ask myself, how hard can it be to roast my own?

And there it is. There are benchtop roasters available. Experts suggest that the old school popcorn air fryers are awesome. Couldn’t find one. Other experts use a skillet.

Not me. I found this. A ceramic hand roaster. And it’s awesome.

Quick research as to use thanks to YouTube.

A source of green beans located here in Auckland. Started with the least expensive option as proof of concept, and it’s looking good.

My house has coffee aroma. My day starts with a significant caffeine hit. I start talking really fast.

It’s a fun journey.

^sd

Thoughts: Situational Awareness

Situational Awareness is defined as:

“The perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status”

And Kiwis are shit at it.

In the interests of a social experiment (and because I was a soooo bored) I took myself to Sylvia Park (a mall in Auckland for those reading who don’t know).

I have made some observations:

People don’t seem to understand the concept of walking in straight lines.

People don’t seem capable of scanning the ‘room’ and working around it.

People don’t seem to understand the keep left rule. (You all DO know the keep left rule, right?)

Several times people walking towards me gave me eye contact (a good start you’d think) then walk in to me. Apparently I’m supposed to give way to them? I was maintaining line and pace… correctly. So, what???

Several times people exited stores, looked around, saw me, and then walked out in front of me, and stopped dead in their tracks, thereby creating a situation whereby I needed to swerve or stop in order to avoid unsolicited physical contact.

Several times family groups exited stores, spread themselves across the available walking space, and stopped dead in front of me leaving me no where to go.

What is this madness?

Are we so self-absorbed we don’t think about the serenity of correct pedestrian habits and protocols? Do we not care about the perambulation of others?

As a country we can do better. We need to do better.

Anything else is chaos.

Thoughts: 50 not out

So, today is my 50th birthday. I’ve been approaching this date with a degree of trepidation. For me it’s a big number. And no, before you think it, 50 is not the new 40. It’s 50.

I have returned from a few days flying solo in Raglan. Raglan is quite possibly the best town in New Zealand to head to for a time of reflection and resetting. And reflection and resetting has been very important for me to do this week.

At the top of the list: My life has not turned out the way I expected.

An upbringing in an environment of Mum, Dad and the kids probably set the expectation that that was what life was supposed to be. Study hard, get a good job, find a girl, settle down etc. etc.

This is the Kiwi multi-generational procedure on repeat.

I did these things.

And they never quite fitted.

I find myself at 50 on the cusp of something new.

I don’t have the ‘happy family’ I once expected and was conditioned to expect. But I do have a happy family and I am happy and content. My kids are my pride and joy. They inspire me.

I don’t have the house, boat, bach and BMW which was the aspirational cry of my youth. Life has thrown me curveballs, which I seriously miss-hit. I’ve de-materialised significantly. Yes, circumstances dictated that I needed to, but it’s also been of choice. Some things have simply become less. It’s healthy.

I have learned what is important to me and what isn’t. I have learned what adds to my journey and what doesn’t. I have learned what values I hold true to and what values can be improved upon.

Most crucially, I have learned to choose wisely.

I have learned a lot about the nature of people and being human.

I’ve learned that people come into your life for a reason. I have learned that It’s not immediately apparent what that reason is and I’ve seen that sometimes years pass before the reason manifests. But it always does, and you have to be open for it.

I’ve learned that human connections are not things I can control. So I relax and see them for what they are and enjoy them. I do like to meet people and connect, recognising that that connection could be for a lifetime, for some years, or only for some minutes.

People come into my life and leave, sometimes without a trace. And you know what? I’m cool with that. They are on their own journey. As I am on mine.

All I can do is strive to make the connection, however fleeting, as meaningful and healthy for both of us as possible.

I’ve learned that the people you surround yourself with influence who you are. Your character. Your attitudes and beliefs. I am who I am in part due to the friend choices I have made. I have learned that it’s ok to end friendships if they are causing harm and making me a worse person.

Choose your people wisely.

I’ve learned about work/life balance. I’ll let you in on a secret: there’s no such thing. It’s just life, and you only have one life assigned to you. Everything you do with the hours in your day is subject to choice.

Choose your time investment wisely.

I’ve learned to look for the good, the humour, the fun, in everything. It’s about getting of the beaten track. Walking down that alley. Going around that corner. Just because it’s there. I adore exploring and talking and discovering.

I’ve thought long and hard about success and failure. I’ve had my share of both. By conventional standards and expectations it could be said that I’m a failure but I thankfully no longer hold conventional standards as my yardstick.

I’m still standing. I’m still smiling. And I have new goals and aspirations.

I feel that I have lived several lifetimes in my 50 years and I am looking forward to seeing what the next few lifetimes bring.

For me:

I will continue to care.

I will continue to communicate.

I will continue to listen and to learn.

I will continue to be open.

I will continue to risk being hurt.

I will continue to tell people I value them.

I will continue to tell people I love them.

I will continue to trust.

I will continue to wander and to wonder.

I will continue to be the best Simon I can be.

^SD

Thoughts: Romantic Gift-giving

I need to confess something.

As I approach a significant birthday, I’m starting to reflect on things I’ve learned over my life, or, probably more accurately, not learned.

I struggle with romantic gift-giving. It’s true.

Let me provide some context: I had a poor upbringing when it came to gifting. Growing up in Palmerston North, yes we acknowledged birthdays, Christmas, and Mothers/Fathers Day, but my Dad wasn’t really a deep thinker around teaching his kids how to gift, and Mum usually bought her own which she then gave us to wrap. Or she’d say something along the lines of “I’d really love a new measuring jug”

I still remember excitedly riding my bike to the store to buy the measuring jug. It was a no-miss opportunity. And yes, she loved it.

Fast-forward. Owing to a complete lack of romantic interests through my formative years, I was completely unprepared for the sophistication of Auckland women. Or, rather, the sophistication of any women.

I remember being a little panicked about having to buy a birthday gift for the woman I was to become engaged to. I was looking for clues. Clues please. Clues, please give me clues…! Anyhoo, walking through the local Farmers one day we passed by the Ponds stand and she said in passing, “hmm… I need to restock”.

Ding ding ding! We have a winner people!

Not long after, as she unwrapped a selection of Ponds’ finest, she looked at me with an expression that screamed “face cleaner? Where’s my real present?”

Lesson learned.

I’m now pretty good with significant day gifting.

However, I am not good with spontaneous romantic gifting.

Flowers. I just don’t get flowers. You can spend a lot of hard-earned cash on flowers. That you give. That die. In days. That have a potential underlying reaction of “what did you do”?

I can handle gift cards. Books. Something tangible and useful. But not flowers.

So, in the interests of self-improvement, I questioned the counsellors and clinical psychologists I work with.

They listened. They understood my perspective. They gave me sage advice:

Buy the damn flowers.

So that’s it. Don’t be overthinking everything.

Just buy the damn flowers.

S.

P.S. I hereby formally apologise to all those who were deserving recipients of no flowers from me over the last 30 years.

Thoughts: A First and Much Gratitude

One of the pleasures I’ve had to cut back on in recent years has been going to arena concerts. The reasons are many and varied of course, but I’ve trained myself to not be too bothered by FOMO. It’s been a bit tricky with all the bands I grew up with doing potentially their last tours.

I’d decided against seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers, mainly due to not being able to afford tickets when they were released all those months ago. I would, once again, live vicariously through the experiences of my friends, both real and virtual.

Last a Thursday I got a text from my bass-playing 13yr old daughter: “The Chilis are in town, how appropriate do you think they’d be for me?”

A conversation ensued, and at the end of it, I was taking my kids to see this band, and it would be their first-ever concert. She’s been learning bass for nearly a year and loves Flea’s playing. What an opportunity for her. My son is a drummer. To expose him to Chad Smith live – just wow.

My ex – their mother – paid for all three of us. ‘ I’ll take it out of child support’.

I am humbled. Gobsmacked. And so full of gratitude for this gift. This memory.

Thoughts: Foodie Heaven

Over the last ten years or so I have recreated myself in the kitchen and I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way. I came from a cooking position of making mashing potato, boiling Westie veges and doing unspeakable things to meat (yes, this is still standard fare in Palmerston North – I know… ;-0 ) to discovering Jamie Oliver.

Jamie opened up a whole new world for me. I guess in a sense he is my Julia.

Anyway, I started to obsess. I adore cookbooks and discovering new cuisines. I love having a functional kitchen but most importantly I love having a full collection of herbs and spices.

In New Zealand we are served well by the large supermarket chains who have shelves full of beautifully packaged products by Greggs, Mrs Rogers and other assorted importers/packers/distributors. This is all well and good, but the reality is that this is a really expensive way to obtain your ingredients. Especially when you need to stock up.

Some years back I was introduced to Mahadeo’s – a foodie heaven hidden away in Eden Terrace – and it’s become a regular stop for me. They specialise in Indian cuisine and all that goes with it. Herbs and spices are presented in bulk bins and are very inexpensive. Do you want Paratha or Naan? It’s there. Methi leaves? They’ve got them. What I really like about this store is its vibe. It’s authenticity. The owners are fantastic people too.

To give you some idea of why you should shop there, I just purchased 21 different types of herbs and spices, ~50g of each, and the total bill was just over $10.00. That’s all. (NZD!!!).

So, if you’re into your food and cooking, and you live for exploring cuisines, I do recommend you explore markets such as Mahadeo’s. These stores are scattered all over the place in the cultural enclaves that have formed over the years. There are many in Auckland, and if you’re reading from other parts of the world, do venture out, explore and discover a world different from the one you’re used to.