Three questions from Kerry Packer

26 05 2013

I attended an interesting conference the other day. While most of the conference alternated between content and hard-sell (which was quite tedious – and may be the subject of another posting later), there were a couple of speakers who were not there to sell anything. Of these, the best speaker by far was Mark Bouris.

Mark Bouris is the Donald Trump of Australian television’s “Celebrity Apprentice”. I don’t watch this program, but a surprisingly large number of my female friends do – apparently just to watch Mark. Fair to say he was easy on the eye – also personable, interesting and relevant. I had little knowledge of him and therefore no preconceptions or expectations, but of all the speakers, he was by far the best and most interesting.

And easy on the eye. But I digress!

Mark told one story which really stuck with me. I can’t of course recant it word for word, but have aimed for the emotional truth instead.

Mark’s first great business success was Wizard Home Loans. If you are in Australia, you will probably have heard of this company. One day his friend James Packer, son of Kerry Packer (Australia’s richest man at the time) approached him to buy 50%. Mark gave an entertaining exposition on what it was like making a deal with the Packer Empire, but eventually a deal was struck and he was summoned to the office of the great man, Kerry.

The office he described as massive, in dark manly colours and lined with expensive paintings of deer being disembowelled by hunting dogs and other aggressive hunting types of scenes. Mark approached the desk and was given a seat to sit in – which felt some inches lower than the chair that Packer – a very tall man to start with – sat in. Very 1980s power games!

Kerry, according to Mark, asked him three questions.

1. What business are you in? Mark said “mortgage industry”.

“NO” came back the answer! “You are in the hopes and dreams business. You are selling hopes and dreams in the form of homes.”

The aim of this question, according to Mark, was to get to the emotion truth of the business – and only then can you effectively connect with and sell to your audience. He went on to say that for instance a coffee-shop owner was in the business of nurturing – what could be more nurturing than giving someone warm drinks? Therefore if you are in the nurturing business, that is the atmosphere you need to create in the shop.

The second question:

2. Who are your customers? Mark said he got this one right – he knew the demographics etc.

The third question:

3. Have you ever failed in business?

According to Mark, Kerry later explained this question to him. A leader who can lead in good times is all very good – but it is easy to get people to follow you in good times. If you can get people to follow you, if you can be an effective leader in the bad times, when the business is going down the tube – then you really have good leadership skills.

Like him or loath him, Kerry Packer was a very successful businessman. I found this anecdote provided a fascinating insight into the way he thought about business and leadership.

So if you happen to have a chance to hear Mark Bouris speak – it is worthwhile. He was better than the headline speaker at the conference, Richard Branson, whose presentation was unfortunately over-controlled and free of new content.





Is Ritalin the new “Mother’s little helper”?

5 05 2013

pills

IN the 1960s and 1970s, Valium (and associated benzodiazepines – benzos) were known as “Mother’s Little Helper”- a drug prescribed to stay at home mothers to help them deal with their lives – fundamentally, a way of sedating them so they would accept a life they were unhappy or bored with.

What a drag it is getting old
Kids are different today,
I hear ev’ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill
Theres a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

(Mother’s Little Helper, Rolling Stones)

By all accounts, it was an epidemic of medico-sanctioned drug abuse. A generation of women rendered passive, incapable of dealing with their dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Stepford wives.

Fast forward to the 1990s and 2000s. the drug de jour is Ritalin and other uppers to deal with ADD. ADHD, adult ADHD, etc.

Now I am not saying these syndromes do not exist. Nor that the drugs don’t work for some people. But then the Valium worked pretty well for women in the 1960s and 1970s.

But the explosion of diagnoses, and of prescriptions makes me suspicious. Are we waiting for someone to write a song about how we medicated our difficult children? What cost will they pay in their adult lives, when they haven’t learned to deal with their concentration, focus and behaviour without medication? What physiological effect will the drugs have one them?

And whose “illness” are we medicating?

For the full Rolling Stones Song, click here: Rolling Stones: Mother’s Little Helper





How to dress for your body type

21 04 2013

dress

how to dress





Medicinal qualities of wine…..

21 04 2013

red wine glasses

Do you have feelings of inadequacy? Do you suffer from shyness? Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the safe, natural way to feel better and more confident about yourself and your actions. It can help ease you out of your shyness and let you tell the world that you’re ready and willing to do just about anything.

You will notice the benefits of Cabernet Sauvignon almost immediately and, with a regimen of regular doses, you can overcome any obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want to live.

Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past and you will discover many talents you never knew you had.

Stop hiding and start living.

Cabernet Sauvignon may not be right for everyone. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use it. However, women who wouldn’t mind nursing or becoming pregnant are encouraged to try it.

Side effects may include: dizziness, nausea, vomiting, incarceration, loss of motor control, loss of clothing, loss of money, loss of virginity, delusions of grandeur, table dancing, headache, dehydration, dry mouth, and a desire to sing Karaoke and play all-night rounds of Strip Poker, Truth Or Dare, and Naked Twister.

WARNINGS:
* The consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon may make you think you are whispering when you are not.
* The consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon may cause you to tell your friends over and over again that you love them.
* The consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon may cause you to think you can sing.
* The consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon may create the illusion that you are tougher, smarter, faster and better looking than most people.

Please feel free to share this important information with as many as you feel may benefit!

Now, just imagine what you could achieve with a good Shiraz…





Memories……

1 04 2013

Memory is a funny thing. What one person remembers can be quite different from another person. Some of it is perspective, some of it might be personal views on the important aspects of an event. Apparently what language you speak and hence what words you have at your disposal also affects what you understand and remember about events. Presumably NLP works differently in different languages.

Most people seem to have their first memories around 4 or 5, although if you try to remember your earliest memory it is difficult to separate what you remember from what you have been told and photographs you have seen. My mother in particular seems to have taken advantage of this and denies events that I specifically remember in an attempt I allege is a rewriting of history. Her brother, meanwhile, used to allege that he could remember being born. Clearly we are a family for whom the truth has been a malleable concept.

But while our memories are already somewhat fallible tools, imagine if, like Star Trek, you had a holo-deck, and could create completely fictional events. You could people your events with real colleagues, friends and acquaintances. And while to you, they would seem to be real experiential memories, the other people would have absolutely no knowledge of the events you created.

PS Stumbleupon just showed me a Wikipedia page on parataxic distortion which expands on this concept.





Explanation of Political systems (funny)

18 03 2013

Warning – full of not so flattering stereotypes and equal opportunity to be offended…..

SOCIALISM
You have 2 cows.
You give one to your neighbour

COMMUNISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and gives you some milk

FASCISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and sells you some milk

NAZISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and shoots you

BUREAUCRATISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM
You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND (VENTURE) CAPITALISM
You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States , leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release.
The public then buys your bull.

SURREALISM
You have two giraffes.
The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

A GREEK CORPORATION
You have two cows. You borrow lots of euros to build barns, milking sheds, hay stores, feed sheds, dairies, cold stores, abattoir, cheese unit and packing sheds.
You still only have two cows.

A FRENCH CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called a Cowkimona and market it worldwide.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are.
You decide to have lunch.

A SWISS CORPORATION
You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.

A CHINESE CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You worship them.

A BRITISH CORPORATION
You have two cows.
Both are mad.

AN IRAQI CORPORATION
Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
No-one believes you, so they bomb the ** out of you and invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least you are now a Democracy.

AN AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

A NEW ZEALAND CORPORATION
You have two cows.
The one on the left looks very attractive…





Five lands

10 03 2013

????????????????????????
The Port at Portovenere

Cinqueterre – five lands – is part of the Italian Riviera. I had planned to walk the coastline – a somewhat ambitious project at the best of times given my current fitness level, however upon arriving and realising that the walking trail was more suitable for mountain goats, I was very glad for the hop-on-hop-off water taxi that visited four of the five towns. (A month before I visited a couple of Australian tourists had been badly injured in a landslide and the walking trails were closed anyway. That is my excuse and I am sticking to it!)

The towns are arranged around harbours at the base of steep hillsides and cliffs. Apparently it is a great area for seafood, which can surely be the only reason why their intrepid ancestors decided to settle in such an inhospitable environment. While the sun shines, it is gorgeous. The footpaths in the towns are very steep, full of staircases and with little motorised transport. Some of the houses set on the cliffs certainly look too steep to possibly have motorised transport to their door. And you wouldn’t want to sleepwalk – you might fall off a cliff! The steep terrain also causes periodic flooding (see here andhere) which send walls of mud down the hillside and through the towns. There is however a train line cut into the side of the hill, and roads can be seen at the top of the hills. And the walking path, when it is open.

Here are some of the best of the Cinqueterre photos.

??????????????????????????????????????????????
Portovenere

???????????

???????????

???????????

???????????

???????????

???????????

???????????

???????????

???????????

????????????????????????

????????????????????????

????????????????????????

????????????????????????

????????????????????????

????????????????????????

????????????????????????

??????????????????????????????????????
Still a working port for local fisheries

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????

??????????????????????????????????????????????

??????????????????????????????????????????????
View from our balcony, Monterosso

??????????????????????????????????????????????

??????????????????????????????????????????????

??????????????????????????????????????????????

church at portovener
The stripy church that overlooks the entrance to the harbour at Portovenere reflects the stripy cliff-faces in the area.





Stephen

2 03 2013

They say that in a group of 23 people, there will be two people who share a birthday. I have only ever found one person who shared my birthday and birth year. That was Stephen. This is a very small excerpt of his story, the little bit that he was in my life.

Stephen.

Stephen was creative, a lateral thinker in a creative way that was not in any way applicable to work. He would leave funny little messages in the communication book at work (and apparently had graffitied a number of them in the library at Adelaide University, where he studied medicine). He was bright, very witty, but somehow a little out of step with the stereotypic doctor. And he loved to laugh.

Stephen drove the “fast brown car” which was an appalling poo-brown falcon in terrible condition. He had to put the front seat back in so I could sit in it – and it probably wasn’t very safe. It was fast brown car mark two – the first one had been trashed at a party when people jumped all over it (quite probably encouraged by Stephen).

As we were the same age, and attended uni at the same time in a relatively small city, it was inevitable that we knew people in common – and in fact had attended the same parties (most notably one in some share houses in North Adelaide featuring a band called “Buster Hymen and the Penetrators”. Classy. We were young, we thought it was funny. And it was certainly a memorable name. I can remember it almost three decades later.)

I met Stephen when we worked together at a medical service. We briefly dated but nothing came of it and we became friends instead, companions in the still dark nights inhabited by the chronically ill and the drug seeking. The living dead. We shared gallows humour and kept each other going. At least he kept me going. He was funny, zany, and bizarre, creative. He loved to entertain and confuse with his very off-beat humour. We would go out to breakfast at the Hilton and the Hyatt after night shift ended, with a group from a few other medical services and the local hospital A&Es. It was great to be relaxing and taking our time, then heading home while the rest of the world rushed off to work.

Stephen killed himself when we were 26.

He went home after night shift, put a tourniquet around his arm and shot up 15 ampoules of morphine. He was a doctor, so he had access and he knew what he was doing – almost. He was a big man – tall and solid (he called himself fat boy), and he passed out before he could release the tourniquet. The morphine didn’t kill him, but he wasn’t found for 12 hours, when he didn’t turn up to his next shift. He had been breathing about once a minute all day and had wiped out most of his brain from lack of oxygen. I had last spoken to him three hours prior to when he would have done it, when my shift finished before his. I could not tell anything was wrong. Even in retrospect, there were no signs. Nothing.

He spent the next two weeks in a coma in intensive care, in the hospital where he had trained. I have never prayed for someone to die, but for Stephen, I did. With the brain damage – only the brain stem was still functioning – he could never be more than a vegetable. This was an appalling outcome for a man who had been so lively, so witty, so clever. He had lived from his brain, his intelligence, and his charm. Just as arrangements were being made to transfer him to a permanent ward – a ward of the living dead where bodies that refuse to die are fed and washed – mercifully, he died. I doubt his family felt that way at the time, and maybe they still don’t, but for those with any medical knowledge, it was a blessing.

It was still terrible. I lost one stone of weight in a week. I retreated into compulsive behaviours – horse-riding and playing the same song over and over – Baby Animals ‘Lights out at Eleven’, (below). Even now I occasionally think about him, what he is missing, what his family is missing because he chose the way out that he did, what could have been. No condemnation, just deep sadness.

I heard his grandparents couldn’t believe he had suicided, and believed he had been murdered. His sisters were of course devastated. His parents kindly sent me a photograph and a letter. I can no longer picture his face except for the photograph, which is etched in my mind. I can’t imagine his voice any more. The letter spoke of their ongoing disbelief at what had happened. Pride at the man he was and how loved he was by so many friends, disbelief at what happened and a fathomless grief at the utterly unexpected and inexplicable turn of events that had taken him from them irrevocably. Their lives altered forever.

So why did he do it? I will never really know, but I heard much later that his girlfriend had got pregnant and she had had an abortion. He was brought up Catholic and couldn’t deal with it – in his mind, she had killed their baby. This post is not meant to be either anti-abortion, or anti-religion. There is no moral of the story, the meaning you overlay on the story says more about you than it does about Stephen or his girlfriend. The story is what it is, no more. And it may not be correct – it may be only the Chinese whispers that follow this sort of tragedy as people try to make sense of the insensible – and some try to lay blame.

There is no blame to be laid.

Thanks to the modern wonder of the internet, I can keep Stephen alive a little. I haven’t mentioned his surname, and I won’t post his photograph because he belongs to others – to his family. I can only share my memories, keep his humour, his bizarreness, his creativity alive in my mind. It was meaningful at the time. And we were young. This should never have happened, but it was his choice.

I am tempted to say, as they do, he will always be young, but he won’t. He is gone. He will never be anything now. He was my friend, but all I have is a photograph and a few scraps of paper.

****

If you are feeling distressed, please seek help. Don’t choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem, no matter how overwhelming it feels right now.





If I won the lottery….Albergo Milano, Brunate

2 03 2013

If I won the lottery, this is what I would buy…

albergo milano in flames

High above Lake Como, perched on the top of a mountain by the funicular railway, sits an abandoned hotel. This imposing building has a majestic vantage point, overlooking the town of Como, the lake, and across the mountains and valleys into the distance.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????
The line up the hill is the funicular railway, below

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????????

The hotel is Albergo Milano, and it sits in the town of Brunate. I travelled by train from Milan to the town of Como, then walked around the edge of the lake to the funicular railway which took me to the top of the mountain. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I had left the town of Como and entered the town of Brunate.

Brunate is a town of over one thousand people, situated atop the mountains overlooking the lake and with views over range after range of mountains disappearing into the misty distance. The roads run between houses perched on steeply sloping land, each angled to capture the amazing views.

???????????????????????????????????

view from the top (above and below)

???????????????????????????????????

The hotel is currently fenced off, a dusty shuttered building sitting waiting for its next life. In front are two rows of manicured trees, a shaded garden that on e no doubt saw elegant ladies taking the air, children running between the trunks and swinging from the branches, and perhaps afternoon teas sheltered from the hot mountain sun.

The former elegance of the hotel shines through its current condition. The shuttered windows have a patient waiting feel to the building; it is sleeping, awaiting someone to come and gently wake it for its next life, restore it to its former glory.


(Albert, the guardian of Albergo Milano shows us around the hotel)

This hotel captured my imagination, and stayed with me even as I travelled back to my real life in Australia. Thanks to the miracle of google I managed to identify it and find a partial history.

Now I just need the lottery or a fairy godmother / godfather, so I can restore it to its former glory and live happily ever after in Italy.

???????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????????

Postscript: The hotel has apparently had fire damage – which was not really visible when I saw it.





Tough week?

2 03 2013

Perhaps it was the full moon. Maybe it was Mercury in retrograde (I don’t actually know what that means but several people told me it was this week). Or perhaps it is all just selective attention and confirmation bias.

Whatever you believe, it seems to have been a tough week for a number of my friends and colleagues.

So when the going gets tough….how do you survive, revive and keep yourself, your team and your colleagues motivated?

1. Review what happened. Is there anything to learn from it? Learn it, discuss it and move on. Blame and guilt are pointless emotions. Learn what you can then let it go.

2. Take a long term view. This is only one incident, one week. One bad week, bad decision or one unfortunate circumstance does not define who you are or what you are worth.

3. Be kind to yourself and others. Allow them to be kind to themselves. Beating yourself up doesn’t help. Sometimes you need a little quiet time to yourself, a chat with a friend, a pleasant distraction, a little treat. The important thing is to get yourself into a psychologically better place so you can move on and not let the negativity determine what happens next. Let it go.,

4. Work out what next. Also known as “getting back in the saddle”. Focus on the future, on your next step. This is not defeat, it is a temporary (transient) set-back. Resilience and persistence are your key words.

5. Conversely, know when to walk away. If the arena in which the bad thing occurred is not important….then why let it bother you? Focus on the meaningful actions, you don’t need to be 100% in all arenas.

Final thought: if the negative incidents are becoming a pattern….maybe there is a decision you need to make. You only get one life.