It’s been a reflective week. My mother, who passed away in 2004, would have celebrated her 86th birthday this week just gone by. As I reflected on the journey she went on, the devastation of losing her when she was just 69, and now the impact that together she and I are having on many, many lives, I can see how very different things can be, when we dig below the surface.
I have the day that my mother died firmly entrenched in my mind and my heart. That day was the most heart-breaking and traumatic day of my life. Yet upon reflection, and under the surface of the tragedy, there were so many blessings that have sprouted since. I will share this in a shortened version, the full account can be found in the book I wrote about my amazing mother, called Dance Until it Rains.
On this particular day in December 2004, my mother had been on a fifteen plus year journey with cancer and beaten just about every medical odd to have survived and thrived for so long. I had planned a weekend away, but was on the verge of cancelling it and staying by her side. However, on the encouragement of my dad and her doctor that she was stable, I decided to go. Well, it didn’t last long because at 5pm on that Friday I got a call from my dad saying that she had taken a turn for the worse and I should get back to Melbourne. Panic set in!
I was in Sydney. I rushed to the airport, I bought a ticket and waited for my flight, which after a lengthy delay was cancelled. I was frantic and clearly desperate as flight crew managed to get me on the next flight home. As I sat on that flight, in mid-air, I got this immediate and painful sinking feeling in my gut, and I just knew I had missed her. I knew she was gone. As the plane landed, I turned on my phone and a message from my father confirmed my worst fears, that she had died whilst I was in the air.
It’s hard to describe how I was feeling at that time. Numb initially, then anger with myself for going away, and then finally desperation to get to the hospital to be with my family and see her for the last time. I decided to save time by going and getting my car first and then coming back to get my luggage off the carousel. The plan was going perfectly until I came out, after getting my luggage, to find I was being written an infringement, by a humourless parking officer, for stopping in a bus zone. I pleaded with him, and he ignored me, so, I said, ‘Do what you have to do, I’m out of here.’ I drove off leaving a stunned parking officer, with a half-written parking infringement in my wake.
When I finally got to the hospital, it was around midnight and heading into Saturday morning. I sat with my mother for about an hour, holding her hand, sobbing and telling her how much I love her and how sorry I was for not being with her. I am not ashamed to tell you, I was devastated and traumatised by this event for many months, even years. In fact, it wasn’t until I was writing Dance Until it Rains, that I allowed myself to see the treasure that was buried beneath the surface of that tragedy.
The first insight I got, as I was writing and healing, was that maybe my being away when she passed was actually a blessing. I think she held on longer than she would’ve liked, because she didn’t want me, or us, to be in pain, and I believe my being away allowed her to give herself permission to go. I had to dig below the surface to see and feel that. The second amazing blessing, since her passing, is the loving and joyful relationship I have been able to develop with my father. Then, the greatest treasure I found below the surface was discovered after Dance Until it Rains was published in 2011. Since that time, my beautiful mother and I have been together every single day as we share the message of hope, courage, love and purpose. She has left an impressive legacy and I am grateful that I get the opportunity to help her take it to the world. Since she has passed, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how many lives have been touched by her life, her story and her inspiration. Wow, what a privilege. For a long time, it certainly didn’t seem like any positives would come from her passing, and it wasn’t until I started digging below the surface that the magic appeared.
In my podcast this week, called ‘The hidden benefits,’ with Natalie Matthews, we discuss the wonderful opportunities that come hidden in every challenge, problem or adversity, if you just dig a little. Natalie has struggled with separation from her family in the UK due to COVID and talks openly about her struggles, and about the wonderful benefits that she has discovered as a result. It is my greatest desire that from reading this blog and listening to the podcast, you will also dig to find the hidden benefits that lie just below the surface of every single challenge, problem or adversity.
No matter what you are currently facing in your life, I want to encourage you scratch below the surface. Underneath your relationship issues you will find opportunities to create wonderful connections. Below your financial woes you will discover lessons to help you create stability. Beneath your health challenges, there is wisdom, inspiration and advantages that will help you regain your health and then claim optimal wellbeing. The answers and opportunities are there for you, just under the surface, and all you have to do is start digging. You will be amazed, delighted and excited by what you find when you dig below the surface.
It’s been a very interesting week for me. Certainly not the one I expected when I was sitting writing my blog last week. All I knew is that I was feeling more anxiety than normal and was experiencing some physical signs that were concerning me. What I didn’t realise, just a week ago, was that the anxiety and physical symptoms were simply ways my body was trying to tell me that it was time to reset.
I have mentioned before that I have been prone to anxiety in my life. It was something I believe I inherited from my mother when I was a small child as I observed and felt her own anxiety. For me that anxiety had all but disappeared over recent years as I had become more comfortable with who I was, what I was doing and my place in the world. In fact, loving my life was how I would describe my situation. So, this anxiety and these low-level headaches that began, surprised and then started to concern me.
I wasn’t sure where the anxiety was coming from and, as I mentioned, the headaches started to concern me, which then just continued to fuel my anxiety. This is how it works folks, and I can give you this information firsthand. It all came to a head through a couple of very uncomfortable conversations with some very important people in my life about my style of leadership and basic communication characteristics. These conversations, whilst hard to hear, were exactly what I needed, because they immediately shone the light on a business area of my life that I then knew was the source of my anxiety.
As a result, I made a time to talk to my mentors and I realised that, right now, even after many years of experience, I need to reset, and go back to the basics. You see, before this penny-drop moment, I was working hard but spinning my wheels. Up until that time, I was not enjoying what I was doing and feeling like I would never get to where I wanted to be. It was the events of this week that have helped me clean the slate, reset, and start again with a fresh approach, clear vision and a willingness to accept help.
It’s been a tumultuous week in some ways and a transformational one in others. I am happy to say that it has helped me enormously and now I hope I can help you. What I realised is that the achievement of any aspiration is not possible if you are not aware of where you currently are in relevant areas of life. Here is a simple example. What if you had the exact address of a destination you wanted to visit, but had no idea of where you currently were, would you get there? Here is the answer, no way! Not until you can precisely determine where you are, can you move towards where you want to be.
This is so true for me. I was working away at a part of my business, with a goal in mind, but no real concept of my current status. That’s why I needed to gain that awareness and then reset. My question, as always, is does this apply to you in any area of your life? Are you spinning your wheels, treading water or feeling stuck in any way? If so, there is a two-step process here. First, you need to be honest about where you are currently at. Second, you need to simplify, reset and go back to the basics.
Are you getting no traction with your wellness goals? Can you be honest about where you are at, and hit reset? Are you struggling with conflict? Are you willing to take responsibility for your role and then hit reset? Is your career stagnating? Are you ready to discover why, and then hit reset? The truth is this, if you are stagnating, stuck, frustrated or anxious, I would have to say, you are probably not aware of or being honest about where you are currently at. The moment you can reflect and discover your current location, you can move from just surviving to thriving.
In my podcast this week, I invented a new word, ‘thrival.’ The podcast is called, ‘Survival to thrival,’ and I talk with the amazing Tracey Jewel. She found herself at rock bottom in her life, just a few short years ago, and after some time to stop, reflect and then hit reset, she began to thrive in life. It’s a great conversation and one I wholeheartedly encourage you to listen to, particularly if you are feeling stuck in any area of your life. Don’t waste any more time feeling anxious, unwell or stuck. Get real and honest with yourself, hit reset and watch what happens.
We often hear about the comfort-zone, but the reality is that the comfort-zone, for many people, is not comfortable at all. In fact, author and speaker Deborah Stathis, says it this way, “Our comfort-zone usually isn’t even comfortable, it’s just familiar. That which is familiar, isn’t necessarily the best thing for us!” It is so true, what we allow to become familiar, often is not comfortable at all, or the best thing for us. So, are you ready to go from familiar to fabulous?
You may have heard the story of the man sitting on the park bench with his dog sitting next to him. Even though the dog was quietly whimpering away, it didn’t seem to bother the owner. A passer-by who noticed the whimpering dog, stopped and asked the owner, ‘Do you know your dog is whimpering?’ The owner answered, ‘Yes, she’s been doing it all morning.’ The passer-by then asked, ‘What is wrong with her?’ The owner explained, ‘She is sitting on a sharp stone.’ With a confused look, the passer-by then asked, ‘Why doesn’t she get off the stone?’ The owner said, ‘It doesn’t hurt enough!’
The stone was not comfortable for the dog, hence the whimpering, but it became familiar enough to just settle for. Does it sound crazy that, as easy as it would be for the dog to get off the stone, it just sits, stays and whimpers? It does sound ridiculous, doesn’t it? I would, however, ask you to think about something in your life, right now, that may be familiar to you, that you may even complain about, but you have settled in and do nothing to change. Ouch! Are you familiar in a job, that no longer stimulates you, so you whimper about it, when you just need to get up and go find another job? Are you familiar in your financial struggles, often moan about, but don’t get up and look for the myriad of solutions that are out there? Maybe you’re familiar with your lack of energy and ailing health, complain about it, but don’t just get up and start moving towards more energy and better health.
Have I annoyed, agitated or angered you? If so, hopefully to the point of moving you from what is familiarly uncomfortable and starting the process of creating fabulous. In my podcast this week called, ‘An amazing life lies beyond comfort,’ I speak with Australian actor and celebrity, Tim Robards. He has an amazing story of how he transitioned from an Exercise Physiology and Chiropractic career to become a successful actor. He knew the wellness industry intimately and it was familiar to him, but he had a burn inside of him to create a fabulous acting career. He said multiple times in the podcast, he often did things that were unfamiliar, and that terrified him, but every time they led to something great. He never settled for familiar, he wanted fabulous and so he went for it.
Familiar to me was personal training. I had done it for fifteen years and I could do it easily, but it got to the point where it no longer stimulated me, in fact, I began to resent it. I was in my late 30’s and got horrifyingly close to accepting that as my life, just putting up with it yet complaining about it every day. Thank God, I didn’t. I was working too many hours, I was financially unstable and I was always tired, and it was definitely not how I wanted to be living. Whilst it was very familiar, it was also very uncomfortable, So, I asked myself, ‘Andrew, how do you want to live?’ As soon as I asked myself that question, I was clear that I wanted to be healthy, have time and choice, be financially secure, have beautiful relationships, make a difference in the world and be joyfully happy.
Personal training was never going to help me achieve that, so, at that moment in my life, I knew it was time to get off the sharp painful stone. That’s when the most unfamiliar and uncomfortable idea came into my head… to write a book. I had a burning desire to change my life, and I could see an answer, I just had no idea how to do it. So, I got off the stone and started moving, and amazingly, as unfamiliar as it was, the path opened up for me and, I am grateful to say, that I went from familiar to fabulous in a very short period of time. The hardest part was making the decision and taking the first step.
If you are ready to stop whimpering about the stone you are sitting on, then this message is for you. Get a strong vision for the ‘fabulous’ you want to achieve and move it quickly from your head into your heart and then into your gut. Once it’s burning in your gut as a non-negotiable, you are ready to make the decision and take the first step. From that point, moving from familiar to fabulous is a done deal. You deserve fabulous, but it’s not just going to fall in your lap, you will need to get out of the familiar zone and make it happen. You can do it and you will be so glad you did.
Have you ever had a magical moment in your life? I’m sure you have. Would you like to have more of them? I’m sure you would. Would you like to know how to create magical moments on a regular basis? Of course you would! Are you sick of me asking obvious and rhetorical questions? Okay, I’ll stop. The key to creating magical moments is to understand that magic isn’t actually required, but living in the common zone of two simple concepts is the key.
Let me illustrate this with my own personal experience. Over the last twelve months there have been many things happening that are out of our control, and I definitely don’t feel the need to list them here, as I’m sure you know exactly what I am talking about. For me, as a speaker, where a large percentage of my income came through standing in front of groups of teenagers in schools, or adults in workplaces, and sharing my ideas, within a heartbeat, and through no fault of my own, all those bookings and that income were ripped from me. I remember, at the time, sliding down the wall in a state of fear and anxiety and laying on the floor in a foetal position for a short time.
In that helpless moment, I was very firmly focused on what I could not control and what I did not want. After a short period of thumb-sucking, dummy-spitting and tantrum-throwing I got up and shifted my focus. I started to think about what was most important and what most mattered to me, and then I started to think about what I could actually control and then… BOOM! I got clear, I got excited and I got into action. Within a very short period of time, I was delivering multiple online presentations to schools, companies and I had more work than before lockdown began. I was doing more of what I loved, I was living more of my purpose, which is to create a wave of wellness around the world and help people live their best lives.
It all happened in the magic zone. It was there where I started focusing on what mattered to me the most and what I was in control of. The second I found myself in that zone, the magic happened for me. This realisation for me, helped me to understand and believe that no circumstances can ever affect the life I live, only I can do that. Because, whilst there are many circumstances out of our control, there are just as many, if not more things, that are in our control. When these things are applied to what matters to you most, that’s where the magic happens.
So, my question to you again is are you ready for more magic moments in your life? If you answered yes, then I am excited for you. I encourage you to think of a situation or area in your life where you would like to experience that magic. Got one? Okay, great. Now, either think about or, even better, write down what about creating this change matters to you. Why is it important? Now, either think about or write down all the things that you are in control of. As you look at both lists, can you see the things that you can control will contribute to what matters to you most? If so, that is where you want to be, because that is where the magic happens.
In my podcast this week, called, ‘Control the controllables,’ I speak with world class diver Laura Hingston about her journey and aspiration to be selected in the World Cup and Olympic teams in Tokyo this year. She told the story about an outdoor training session when she totally misjudged the dive and landing flat on her back. It was a ‘splat’ as she described it! She hurt her back, her ribs and even ripped her skin open, yet despite pain, fear and suggestions that she should retire for the day, five minutes later she was back on the 10m platform to dive again. Why? It was important to her that she got the dive right, and she was in total control of the choice to get up and go again and do it on that day, or risk fear that would grip her if she left that day with the ‘splat’ vision in her mind. As she climbed back up to the top of the platform, she didn’t feel the pain, because she placed herself in the zone where magic happens. She re-dived and nailed it!
I’m not suggesting you need to do a triple twinky off a 10m platform, but I want to encourage you this week to laser your focus on the intersection of what is most important to you and what you are in control of. That, my friend, is where the magic happens.
Have you ever been told by someone; ‘stop stressing,’‘don’t stress’ or ‘there’s nothing to be stressed about’? When someone says that to you, do you just want to slap them? I know I do! They talk as if it’s not a big deal, right? When actually, for you and for me, it is a big deal. If whatever it is wasn’t a big deal for us, we wouldn’t be stressing about it, so it’s important to validate our stress. Probably more important, however, is to understand why we have it, the damage it’s potentially causing and how we can break the stress cycle.
My latest podcast Feed the brain to be stress resilient, with Dr Delia McCabe has literally blown my mind and given me a totally new perspective on stress and how to manage it. It’s been a long-held belief of mine that we create our own stress with the thoughts we focus on and the perspective with which we look at things. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still believe that, but there is another very significant aspect at play here, which Delia explained to me on this podcast. You can try as hard as you like to have the right mindset, learn new things and deal with stress the best you can, but if your brain isn’t being fed to allow it to function optimally, all the strategies to manage stress, remain calm and stay in control will be much more difficult. She used the analogy of building a house, and that you can’t just build the roof, or even the walls, or even the floor. The most important part of any building is the foundation. Without it, you will end up with a pile of rubble. Many people’s lives are rubble because they haven’t been aware of the proper foundation to build to ensure they are fully able to cope with the demands of life.
Delia has spent many years researching the field of nutritional neuroscience and what she has discovered about the nutritional impact on brain function and hormone production is game-changing. I am going to do a terrible job trying to relay this information, so I strongly recommend you listen to the podcast to get it straight from Delia. However, she explains that stress is very greedy from a nutritional point of view. For the brain to produce the hormones adrenaline, cortisol, serotonin and melatonin it requires us to consume significant nutrient fuel to allow these hormones to be produced in the quantities we need.
The immediate effect of stress on the body is a release of adrenaline and cortisol, the fight or flight hormones. They are useful hormones, but in too much quantity can be damaging, and need to be balanced by more healing hormones. So, if we don’t have a good nutritional foundation, then these two hormones will gobble up all the available nutrients and leave nothing for the body to produce serotonin, which is the body’s calming hormone or melatonin which helps us sleep. Wow! This is mind-blowing information if you really understand it. The stress cycle you may be currently on, can be simply broken by ensuring that your foundation is strong and that your body has the stores of nutrients it needs to feed all hormone production.
If you needed another reason to start eating better, that’s a pretty powerful one. I am not going to bore you with what you should eat, because you already know it, and Delia goes into detail on the podcast and in her books and blogs. What I do want to ask you is, do you want to break the stress cycle you may be on? Do you want to have better moods and stronger relationships with the people you care about? Do you want to be more productive, make more money and live on a beach somewhere? Do you want to look and feel great? Do you want to live your best life, for as long as possible? I am pretty sure you answered yes to those questions. So, are you finally ready to feed your brain and break the stress cycle?
When you eat real foods, natural foods, like; all the colours of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and quality proteins, you will create a stable blood sugar level, which will keep your moods and energy stable so that you can better handle demanding situations. We already knew that, didn’t we? But, now to know that the food you are eating is either feeding or starving your brain and its ability to produce the key hormones that will lead to peace, love, happiness and sleep is the best news I could possibly share with you.
Whilst yes, your mindset is critical to the task of breaking the stress cycle, unless you feed your brain with the right foods, you are not going to be able to focus the mindset on the things that will help you diffuse and solve the issues at hand. This is so easy to do, so please make the decision today to really start eating the way you know you need to eat. Not just to look great, not just to help you maximise your energy and productivity, not just to help your body function optimally, but also to build the foundation that will allow you to break the stress cycle.
One of the greatest movies of all time and one of my faves is Grease. I’m about to date myself right now, but in 1978, when it was released, I was 14 years old. So, it was made for me and my generation. Watching it made me feel alive, because although a different culture and a fictional storyline, I related to the struggles of teens and I was empowered by the audacious characters. For me, as I’m sure most, the favourite song was ‘The one that I want.’ It was the song that evoked the most emotion for me, particularly the verse:
If you’re filled With affection You’re too shy to convey, Meditate in my direction. Feel your way.
Obviously, this song and verse are fuelled by sexual tension and emotion, but nevertheless it is a powerful moment in the movie. If you watch the clip, from the movie, you will see John Travolta immediately and powerfully emotionally effected when Olivia sings the line, ‘feel your way!’ This blog is not about Grease, but it is about the power of emotion to move us to great things in life, whether that be romantically, financially, physically, professionally or any other area of your life you are wanting to see happiness and fulfillment. The key, I believe, is to… feel your way!
On my podcast this week, I speak again to the amazing Deborah Stathis. The podcast is called, Harnessing the power of emotion. I urge you to listen to the conversation because Deb describes this far more powerfully than I can. She lived it. After a devastating car accident left her face and brain seriously damaged and disfigured, her future looked bleak. If logical thinking was to prevail, she would not have been at all optimistic about her life ahead. But Deb didn’t act on logic, she felt her way! She looked in the mirror and really studied her face, her damage and her options, and it immediately created fear in her body. Fear of a life well short of what she had planned for herself.
She then used that fear in a constructive way to start thinking about the life she did want, and that vision sparked in her, as she describes it, ‘a relententless pursuit’ of her best life. It was this powerful emotion she felt and harnessed that moved her into action and kept her going until she had overcome every single limiting medical prediction for her life. She is now a gorgeous, fully functioning and inspiring lady making a difference in many lives.
The greatest mistake we make is trying to think our way, when the answer is to feel our way to our best life. If logic ruled, I would never have played professional sport. I was moved by the feeling and excitement of success in that arena. If common sense had prevailed, I would never be an author of eight published books today. It was the desire to change my circumstances and to impact lives that moved me into illogical action that has transformed my life. I am very grateful for the fact that I am a very emotional person and moved far more by feelings and far less that logic.
Here is the one piece of advice I would like to offer you this week; get out of your head quickly, get into your heart and feel your way! When you stay in your head too long, you often talk yourself into and then straight back out of things that if you acted would change your life for the better. Do you know what I mean? When you get an idea, a thought or an impulse, the quicker you can act on the feeling, the quicker you will be in motion. When in motion, things will start to logically unfold, and the path will open itself up to you. I have experienced this time and time again in my life.
Will you make some mistakes? Probably. Will you need to course correct at times? Definitely. Will you end up loving your life? Absolutely. You can’t go wrong if you act on an intuitive impulse. So, right now, as you are reading this, what is it in your life you want to change, achieve, acquire or resolve? Have you got a clear picture of what you want? When you think of being there in that moment, having realised that vision, how does it feel? You may not know exactly how to go about it, but don’t waste that powerful emotion. Get clear, get excited, get moving and… feel your way!