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17 August, 2013

Goodbye Marshwah, Hello Write-Club

It's time to pull the pin on this blog.

In Evernote, written eight months ago is something that I return to every now and then, a reminder that looks like this:

What the fuck happened man?

The love is there. The content and results are not. For someone that lives and breathes this stuff I've got a pretty flimsy web-presence. I'm lucky to chalk out an entry a month.

There's a quote from an article at the end of the year that kicked my arse good. It's an article by David Wong called 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. There is a tonne of choice knowledge-bombs in the piece, but there's one paragraph that was coated in rusty tacks, soaked in vinegar, and shoved up my hole in a compromising fashion. It read:
Being in the business I'm in, I know dozens of aspiring writers. They think of themselves as writers, they introduce themselves as writers at parties, they know that deep inside, they have the heart of a writer. The only thing they're missing is that minor final step, where they actually fucking write things.

I didn't take the advice lying down, I read it and absorbed it. No really, I did. I even went as far as posting in the forum about my intention to heed the advice, you can find it here, and here's a juicy excerpt.

Great advice, some of it I'm living, and some of it I'm not.
I'm already doing pretty well. I'm a 29 y.o. working in a job I love and after this call-to-action, I'm going to overhaul my blog to impart lessons on what I've learned to a younger me.
My blog is pretty shit currently, but after reading this article I churned out 8 article ideas in under an hour and am feeling really inspired. I'm keen to read the rest of this forum thread to see how other people were inspired, but mainly I just want this to be an embedded post that I can revisit a year from now to see if I was successful.
I'm actually making a note in my calendar to revisit in a year's time to see if I was successful.
So let's see if "Lessons to _____ " takes off!
It hasn't happened. And it's a good thing I'm even writing this as that calendar reminder would have taken a good ol' bite out of nowhere too.

Why build something?

The best people do. I'm a firm believer in the fact that creating things is good for your soul. And I'm not the only one. There's at least two other people that I've read that say similar things.

One of them says it's a really good way to learn, and another says it's a good way to acquire skills for post-advertising life.

Well I like learning and I've been looking at post-advertising life of-late.

So I'm going to disappear and build something. It's not going to be called Lessons to, but it's going to be something I learn from, and it's probably going to involve a hell of a lot more writing.

Which excites me for now.

So Marshwah is retiring, and I'll come back in some other form, and until I do, here's an ancient photo of me doing gosh knows what:

I used to keep my album covers on a wall, including Groove Armada's Goodbye Country, Hello Nightclub (I always liked that title)

In the words of an old friend, my taste is so bad its good.

Ciao for now.

10 August, 2013

My 40 Day meditation challenge - what I learned, why I'll keep doing it, and why you should too

As someone who has recovered from a mental illness, I know that keeping vigilant about my mental health is important.

And for the most part, I have. I've been incredibly fortunate, and have an amazing support network around me that I owe a hell of a lot too.

One thing that always nagged at me, I never quite got hold of, and knew was probably important, was meditation. Its benefits for a 'normal' person are tremendous. It rejuvenates, increases calmness and focus, and can make you feel more alive.

For someone like me, having an extra bullet in the chamber in the fight against triggers is a boon and a godsend. So just over 40 days ago, after hearing about an easy way to get into it from Zen Habits, I started meditating every morning, and almost all nights when I got home (there were a couple of tricky times when I got home too drunk).

The technique suggests committing to just two minutes a day. In the morning, and by watching your breath.

Sounds pretty simple right?
Well it's both harder and easier than you think.

Some tips

I'd tried this on other occasions and couldn't quite get the hang of it. Here's a few resources I used that I found helpful:
I got the Pro edition because I liked the app so much and wanted to support it
  • a habit-reminder app called Habit Streak - I'm sure there are others out there, but this is what helped me keep a bit more motivated, I cross off my 'chore' in the morning to acknowledge that I did it the day before, and it builds a chain. It becomes a bit of a morning ritual
  • read the book The Power of Habit - this book was amazing, explaining with intelligence on how tricky it is to form a positive habit (the 21 days thing is a myth), and how you can combat your internal resistance (environmental factors play a huge part)
  • a trickier book, but one I found quite enlightening, was The Power of Now (there's a lot of power here!) which was what ultimately helped me decide that meditation was something I wanted to stick to - it's a very challenging read with its somewhat flowery language - but its argument is sound: you are not the voice in your head, quit being beholden to it, and focus on the present moment - BOOM!
  • I even went to a couple of meditation classes via Meetup - you can simply search for them and I had no trouble finding some free ones in Sydney. It was a bit daunting going to something that I have a predisposition to thinking 'new fandangled crap' - but I'm glad I challenged myself to as it was very rewarding
There are a tonne of other resources out there and half the fun is going out and discovering what materials are out there and online. For me, I've steered clear of the religious stuff and have really enjoyed virtually everything I've read about mindfulness

The Benefits

So does it 'work'?
Well, the short answer is it depends.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that's the wrong question to begin with. If you've done some reading on meditation and all you want is up-side and immediate gain you're in it for the wrong reasons and won't get much out of it. I think that was my problem in the past. 

I'm incredibly glad I have persevered. I hinted in my blog that I've had some challenges in my career lately, and having meditation as an extra shield has really helped keep things in perspective.

My focus has increased. I'm doing things more efficiently, and the whole concept of mindfulness empowers me to take half a step back before acting, and while I'm in my relative infancy, I quite enjoy having extra pause for consideration.

I want to know more. I'm 30 years of age now, I pretty much have my interests and what I enjoy doing locked down. This new endeavour is very rich and diverse and its exciting. I had a mind-blowing moment this morning after my run. Experimenting with a body-scan meditation, I was fascinated to be able to feel the difference between my torso, my arms, and my feet - there was a lot of energy coming from my feet.

What's next?

Well now that I've accumulated 40 days of self-knowledge I'm keen to pursue more. There's some interesting courses out there and there's a lot of literature, so I'm going to keep at it.

One thing that struck me as odd when I was first exposed to meditation, was the warnings I saw for those suffering from mental health issues. I spoke to my doctor about it and the watch-outs are the religious overtones and certain group environments that are pushing a particular dogma.

I boiled it down for Mum in much plainer language: if you thought you had the power of a higher-being at one stage in your life, it's probably not a good idea to embrace the powers of higher-beings via group meditation. And that's fine.

The mind's a powerful thing, and recognising that power has been a humbling and awesome experience.

04 August, 2013

10 things things I aimed to do before 30: a report-card

Almost seven years ago, I was trying to get into advertising.
It was a long road, and I blogged about the experience I had here a couple of years ago.

But now I've turned 30, its something I want to revisit.

The traineeship I applied for asked me to: List 10 things to do before you’re 30.

It was a great challenge, and better than those where do you see yourself in 5 years kind-of questions you get in job interviews. So today, I'm revisiting the list and seeing whether I got there.

1. Go to the four grand slams of tennis.
I love tennis. Growing up near Melbourne, I was fortunate enough to go to the Australian Open many times. At the time, I thought I'd be able to get to the other ones easily. This hasn't happened. It's definitely something I want to do and I think I'll add it to my new list (more on that later).

2. Go bungee jumping and sky-diving in New Zealand.
So here's the thing. I did get to go to New Zealand. I flew my Mum there a few weeks after the book launch and we really enjoyed some time in Wellington. Didn't quite make it to the extreme sports section. I'm pretty sure I still want to do these things, but unfortunately life has got in the way.

3. Have a beer in a Tasmanian pub with David Boon.
I'm not sure of the whereabouts of Boony these days. But I do know he's from Tasmania and that I need to go and have a beer with him at some stage, unfortunately, this did not happen before I was 30.

4. Make a public speech to 200 or more people.

You would think I haven't achieved much at this stage. I did set the bar high, but really? Fortunately public speaking is something I've enjoyed and excelled at since my career has taken flight. I quite enjoy it, and remember delivering a presentation on the Singapore digital landscape at the Mediabrands Digital summit, presenting a case-study to Microsoft's Digital Marketing conference, jumping up on stage at Unilever Vietnam and talking about creativity in digital (I won best speaker!), and one of my favourites was on a roadshow in Thailand and talking about our employer's capabilities to creative agency Far East DDB.

The room filled even more after this and there were people standing.

I still haven't got a boss-like photo of me wearing a black jacket and one of those headset microphones, but I'm working on it and have a lot to be proud of.

5. Purchase a dish-washer.
A rather immediate need at the time was having a dishwasher, but since then the houses I've lived in have had them for the majority. I probably should upgrade this to buying a house.

6. Take my family, including aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, to an expensive restaurant and foot the bill myself.
While I'm not swimming in it, there have been scenarios where I've been able to do this sort of thing for friends and family and not worry about it. I'm of the opinion that when it comes to people who are special to me, I'm going to look after them. Special shout-out goes to Sentosa Island adventures and The Ritz. Oh my, I miss you sometimes Singapore.

7. Get my three best mates, and road trip it across Australia.
Ahh, the road trip. The funny thing is, I don't think I could name my three best mates. I'm luck to have some very special people in my life and I have road-tripped with all of them. A sojourn to Mildura was interesting, a drive from Sydney to Geelong with people I was getting to know bonded us forever, and a shorter drive from Traralgon to Melbourne with my little sister was one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done. I'm going to claim this one.

8. Go backpacking across Europe.
I never did the backpacker thing, but I did have the European holiday of a lifetime last year and that was a privilege.

9. Get into a position where I can read the answers to an application form such as this.
I love this answer. So cheeky yet it says a lot about my ambition. I haven't had a chance to do this yet. But have happily advised others on how they can frame their applications. For my industry, there's no such thing as over-the-top. You need to get that door open and a cover letter and resume will rarely cut it.

10. Meet the girl of my dreams!
A work-in-progress. Its well-documented that its harder to meet new people after 30, so maybe I've already met them but haven't realised yet? The other complication is that I hadn't come out at 23, and being bisexual means it could be a guy too! Oh, me.

The scorecard: 5/10
I give myself about five out of ten. Some of them I achieved a little bit, and some I nailed spectacularly. Others are still achievable and age is just a number any way.

It's been a fun exercise and I'm glad I got some of the way to achieving my dreams. I'm going to think about it a bit, and jot down the ten things I want to do before I'm 40. It's going to be a challenging and more awe-inspiring list I assure you.