Doing small things well

27 03 2009

For want of a nail...

An old saying goes:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

Take care of the small things, the details, the seemingly unimportant. These are the things that make up the fabric and foundation of our existence. What nails could you be paying more attention to at the moment? Time management / procrastination? Making that difficult decision or phone call? Looking after your health and fitness? Larger dreams rarely get accomplished without details being attended to.


The 5:45 Zone

24 03 2009

The 5:45 Zone


Yesterday, at the gym, the image above caught my eye (in the end, I took a photo of it to put on here).

I’ve noticed it before. The last couple of times I’ve noticed it, the moment has gone something like this: while working out in the weights area and looking out through the glass door, I suddenly spot the clock on the wall. For two seconds, a “micro-wave” of need-to-know urgency rushes through my mind as I realise I don’t know what time it is, and read the clock to update myself. This, however, is promptly followed by an equally strong wave of annoyance as I realise, yet again, that the clock’s time of 5:45pm has been the same for the last three weeks. The clock has stopped. And now I don’t know the time! What if I’ve been here for too long?? Mild state of panic or stress sets in…


Being the forgetful, slightly absent-minded type, this four second high-low process has happened to me more than once. When it occurred again yesterday, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. Why do I so badly need to know the time? Why do I feel almost guilty for having let a few minutes slip away on me without my being consciously aware of them? I am at the gym after all – the whole idea is to come for at least an hour, work out, have a swim and then a spa. And relax. I couldn’t help but laugh, because I realised that perhaps it might just be a good thing not to know the time for once. And perhaps it was a good thing that quite some time had passed (at least 20-30 minutes) before I noticed and suffered the compulsion to check the clock. The more I thought about this (while pushing weights), the more I realised how important this “time vacuum” block is to me, in ensuring that I finish the day with the feeling of having “done something” worthwhile and invested in myself. I now think of it as my “5:45 zone”.


What is your 5:45 zone? The place or activity may be different for each of us, but we all have one. The 5:45 zone. It’s the place you can go, the space you can be in, for a while, where all the pressures, plans, deadlines, expectations and concerns of the day fade away, and you are left alone. It’s a place of solitude, away from pressures and other people – mentally, if not physically (you may have other people around you at a gym or cafe, but the important thing is that you go there alone). It’s a place of escape. You are free to relax and let your mind wander as it pleases. You are free to “zone out” without needing to worry that you’ve missed an important point in a meeting, forgotten to return a phone call or reply to an email, or fallen short in productivity (or in some other way). Note: it does NOT include TV, movies, or surfing the internet!


For me, I’ve realised that this space is at the gym. The competition with myself to push harder, to push heavier, to do just one more set. The fiery burning sensation of that last repetition, then the elation that comes when I know I did ONE more than I thought I could. It consumes me so completely – I am so immersed in what I am doing – that I am not worrying about or planning anything else. So much so, that 20 minutes and more can go past, without me even noticing or keeping track of it. When I do get the sudden thought-interruption asking me “what time is it”, I can’t check, because the clock on the wall still says 5:45, just like yesterday, the day before, and the day before that. Time has stopped, for me. And once I get past the initial annoyance regarding that fact, I realise I don’t mind one bit. I am free.


The 5:45 zone. What is it, for you? A long walk? Playing a musical instrument? Painting? Going to the beach alone with your iPod, to sit on a rocky cliff or the wharf and look at the ocean? Going to a cafe or bar to sit and write? Cooking? Art? Surfing? Running? Whatever it is, you need to IDENTIFY it. And then, do more of it. You’ll be better off for it – more relaxed, more productive, happier, and more aware of yourself and what’s going on inside you, and in your life. Remember the movie “What Women Want”? My favourite scene in the whole movie is when Mel Gibson’s character, an advertising executive, presents an ad to Nike that his team has worked on for weeks. I love this ad. The video for the ad is in black and white, and shows a woman pounding the road in her shorts and running shoes. Nothing before her; nothing behind her. She is running. Alone. For me, it encapsulates the idea of the 5:45 zone. In the movie, Mel Gibson reads the voice-over script to his Nike advertising clients in a dark board-room, while the video is playing on a projector. The script is perfect (he wins the Nike account with it). It’s targeted at women, but the point applies to men just as much:


One with the Road.


You don’t stand in front of a mirror before a run

wondering what the road will think of your outfit.

You don’t have to listen to its jokes

and pretend they’re funny in order to run on it.

It would not be easier to run

if you dressed sexier.

The road doesn’t notice

if you’re not wearing lipstick.

The road does not care how old you are.

You do not feel uncomfortable

because you make more money than the road.

And you can call on the road whenever you feel like it.

Whether it’s been a day, or even a couple of hours

since your last date.

The only thing the road cares about

is that you pay it a visit once in a while.




No games. Just sports.


The 5:45 zone. What’s yours?




Beauty & the busker

23 03 2009

Here is a fantastic post I read this morning on

A fascinating true story.

























A violinist was busking at a metro station in Washington DC on a cold January morning during rush hour.


He played six Bach pieces, lasting around 45 minutes. During his performance, 1097 people passed him by. Of that total 7 stopped to listen, and 19 gave him money. He collected $32 in total. When he finished playing nobody applauded; no one even noticed he had stopped playing.


The violinist was Joshua Bell, former child prodigy and now one of the world’s great violinists. He had just played six of the most intricate pieces of music ever written, on his $3.5 million violin. Two days before Joshua Bell had given a sell out performance in Boston at $100.00 a ticket.


This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by The Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.


For me it raises one interesting and fundamental question: Like the paper bag blowing in the wind in American Beauty, how many beautiful things do you pass on the street every day of your life without ever noticing one of them?

Aussie film-maker finds plane wreck

22 03 2009

OK. I know this is not exactly a motivational piece. But I couldn’t resist putting it on here: the aircraft wreckage of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who crashed and disappeared off the coast of Burma in 1935, has been found! The intrepid treasure-hunter is award-winning film-maker Damien Lay, one of my commercial insurance clients. Arranging the insurance for a search expedition like this involves LOTS of work, but was interesting all the same.  Hearing of the operation’s success, I couldn’t help but feel a glow of delight wash over me as a behind-the-scenes participant. Now to call Damien to congratulate him! Here’s the article from Sydney Morning Herald…



Kingsford Smith mystery ‘solved’

  • March 21, 2009 – 12:50PM
Charles Kingsford Smith
Charles Kingsford Smith

To the untrained eye the sonar images are a little blurry. But Sydney filmmaker Damien Lay says he is 100 per cent certain he has found the final resting place of Australian aviation pioneer Sir Charles Kingsford Smith off the coast of Burma. If so, he will have solved one of aviation’s greatest mysteries.

Sir Charles and his co-pilot Tommy Pethybridge disappeared without trace in 1935 while attempting to break the record for a flight between England and Australia in the Lady Southern Cross. Nearly 75 years later, Mr Lay believes he has solved what he called Australia’s “last great mystery” with he and his search team locating the wreckage of the Lady Southern Cross off the Burmese coast on February 24. During the five day search, which involved 63 dives and sonar tracking, Mr Lay said he found the wreckage under 20 metres of water and mud in a bay of remote Aye Island.

The “smoking gun” backing his finding is the unique design of the Lady Southern Cross, a Lockheed Altair. Details of the plane recorded in sonar imaging matched that of the Altair, Mr Lay told reporters at a news conference in Sydney on Saturday morning. “The Altair itself is a very unique aircraft, there were, I think, only four Altairs built,” he said. “If it is a Lockheed Altair it wouldn’t be anything other than the Lady Southern Cross and the aircraft flown by Kingsford Smith.”

Mr Lay said the plane’s state of preservation, as a result of it being covered in mud, meant the remains of Sir Charles and Mr Pethybridge might also be found. The filmmaker said he would now seek confirmation that the wreck is an Altair from Lockheed in Australia and the United States. He plans to mount a recovery operation in November this year.

Discovering diamonds

21 03 2009

Diamonds are forever

Stepping into line with the 21st Century…

After months of blogging on Facebook, and procrastinating setting up a proper blog, I have finally dragged myself by the ear (or hair, whichever fits best with your mental image), and uploaded myself to WORDPRESS.

So. What can you expect from this blog?

If all goes according to plan… posts here will include (among other things) motivation; inspiration; challenge. This blog is essentially ME preaching to mySELF and anyone else who happens to be passing by. Some people might find the positive focus one-sided. Talk is cheap, isn’t it? My response: you can’t practice what you preach, if you never preach.  You can’t acheive a goal if you haven’t defined it; it is impossible to reach a destination – and unlikely that you’ll head in the right direction – if you haven’t taken a map or made a plan, first.

So in view of that, the more motivation, wisdom, inspiration, and tellings-off you can get along the way, the better.

Why “1000 Diamonds”?

The “1000 Diamonds” idea came from one of my favourite songs, Wish You Were Here by Incubus:

I dig my toes into the sand
The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds
Strewn across a blue blanket
I lean against the wind
Pretend that I am weightless
And in this moment I am happy

I wish you were here

I lay my head onto the sand
The sky resembles a backlit canopy
With holes punched in it
I’m counting UFOs
I signal them with my lighter
And in this moment I am happy

(When was the last time you had an experience, by yourself, life this?)

Life’s a beach, they say. Sometimes I wonder if, in our 21st Century busyness, we’re so busy running along that beach to catch up with the people ahead of us, or just to reach the next landmark and set a new “personal best”, that we forget to look around and see the scenery of the world and the people around us. We also forget that, hidden in the sand beneath our feet, there are strewn thousands of diamonds – glittering jewels of wisdom, insight and inspiration for us to find if we but stoop down to look for them. Some of these diamonds are uncut, rough, and natural – gems of brilliance left for us by nature herself. These ones are the hardest to find, and require washing, cutting and polishing to bring out the shine of truth inside. Other diamonds are left there by those who have gone before us – some forgotten and dropped in the sand, and others carefully placed for us to find them, by other beach-walkers eager to share what they’ve picked up along the way, and keen to see a fellow-traveller discover something new.

1000 Diamonds. This blog aims to dig around and sift through the sands of experience and thought, and uncover some of these diamonds of wisdom, insight and inspiration, in order to present them to YOU. Hopefully every now and then, one or two of them will catch your eye and strike you in a way that sticks in your mind, uplifts you and helps you along your way for a while.

Some of these diamonds will be rough-cut thoughts of my own, freshly unearthed from my own experience; a little grubby, but still holding potential and maybe even value. Others will be jewels found, cut and polished by others who have displayed them elsewhere. Whichever diamonds catch your eye, I hope you take them, look at them, and benefit somehow from the discovery, appreciation, or deeper understanding of something valuable. The sands of time may disappear, but diamonds are forever.

Happy treasure hunting.