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.
There are a few certainties in life and one of them is that undesirable things will happen. Or are they undesirable? Hmmm, interesting question! Depending on where you live in the world, you are currently experiencing some level of COVID, which was supposed to be gone by 2021, wasn’t it? You may have experienced loss of a job, a relationship, a level of your health or something else that was important to you? That adversity you experienced or are currently experiencing can be an absolute gift if you choose it to be. So, my message this week is, don’t waste that adversity.
I consider myself an extremely blessed person. I grew up in a loving home and had every opportunity to develop myself and create success in my life. I was able to play professional football, become an author and now am incredibly grateful that I have found and am living my purpose. Sure, I have had some challenges throughout my life, but who hasn’t? What I have learned is that those challenges do not define me, but with the proper perspective, it’s my attitude towards them and the actions I take as a result of them which is what defines me.
I am continually inspired by people who have experienced far worse adversity in their lives than I have, yet have not wasted it. Instead, they have used it as a platform to find their purpose, create opportunities and help many people. In my podcast this week called, ‘2020 – The foundation of transformation’ I talk to two of these people. Stacey Copas, who at the age of 12 dived into a shallow pool, broke her neck, drowned and became a quadriplegic. I think you would consider that adversity! She is now an inspirational author, speaker and coach and is using the gift of her trauma as a platform to help many people. Deborah Stathis, at the age of 19 was involved in a devastating car accident which caused life altering spinal, facial and acquired brain injuries. She was told she would never function normally again, but if you interact with her today, you would never know that her face and brain had been ‘smashed in.’ She not only defied overwhelming odds against her, she has used the gift of her accident and trauma to become a globally acclaimed author, speaker coach who is impacting many lives.
Stacy and Deb experienced adversity far greater than most of us ever will, yet have not wasted it. You and I deal with adversity on a daily basis, at some level or another. It may be as simple as your shoelace breaking, getting a flat tyre or running out of milk, or it may be more significant like a health, relationship or financial crisis. The point is, whatever the adversity, don’t waste it. Author and entrepreneur, Robert Kiyosaki says, ‘Within every problem, lies an opportunity.’ The opportunity may be a lesson we need to learn. It may be a platform to grow and expand from. It may be a test to prove to you that you have what it takes to be the person you want to become. It is always an opportunity for you to believe in your inner strength.
I have experienced this to be true in my own life. Getting sacked as a professional footballer opened the door for me to explore a wellness industry career. Owning a failed café and losing close to $100,000 was the lesson and the moment I needed to decide to write my first book. Losing my mother to cancer, as devastating as an event as it was, moved me to write a book about her and use her life, courage and lessons to inspire people all around the world. So, I hope you can see, every adversity is a gift which, when unwrapped, will offer an incredible blessing in your life, and the life of others. The key is, you need to be looking for the opportunity, platform, lesson or test or you will waste this wonderful adversity that has been presented to you and will continue to be presented to you each and every day.
If you can reflect back on 2020 and see all the things that you may have considered as undesirable, can you see the opportunity, platform, lesson or test that came from them? If not, look harder or you will waste them. And, as 2021 unfolds, just know, without taking this as a negative statement, there will be things occur that may seem to be undesirable, BUT they will be wonderful blessings if you will stop, look, learn, explore, question and discover the opportunity, lesson or test that is there just for you. As you move forward from today, please don’t waste wonderful adversity.
When we think of courage we may go to the movies and think of people like Indiana Jones, Wonder Woman or James Bond. Maybe courage for you is displayed by sporting heroes, business leaders, celebrities or other well-known people. I think we would all agree that people like Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and Fred Hollow all have amazing courage. I know for me, courage is displayed by many normal people, as they work to overcome undesirable circumstances. Courage is even displayed by people willing to do things that are not easy or comfortable for them. So, the question is; where does courage come from, and, how do we get it?
The greatest misconception about people who display courage is that they are ‘fearless.’ In my opinion, there is no such thing. No-one is truly fearless, however, some people have learned to manage their fear and not let it stop them taking action anyway. The best definition of courage I have heard is from Franklin D Roosevelt, who said; “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” For me, this is the essence of courage, taking action even though the fear is present. So, again, the question is, how do we attain courage?
Firstly, I need to tell you that you have the most amazing potential and incredible capacity for achievement. You are capable of doing and achieving anything you choose, if you are willing to take action. I have absolute belief in you and know that you are definitely good enough. So, whatever you want in your life, go for you, you can do it.
Do you know what I just did in that last paragraph? I encouraged you. Let’s have a look at the word ‘encourage’ for a moment. En-Courage means; to put courage in. What I have tried to do is put courage in you, which I hope helps to make you feel a little stronger and more capable. Think about how you feel when someone tells you, ‘you can do it. I believe in you. Go for it, you are good enough.’ It feels great doesn’t it? And, for a moment, it puts courage in you to help you get started on a fearful or challenging journey. In fact, in an experiment was done on people standing in freezing cold water, it was found that those who had someone there to encourage them, were able to tolerate the discomfort for twice as long.
What happens, however, if you don’t have anyone there to encourage you? What if, in fact, you have people discouraging you and telling you, ‘you can’t do it and you are not good enough’? What then? In this week’s podcast, ‘Choose happiness,’ I speak with the inspiring Amanda Webster. Two years ago, Amanda found herself all alone on the window ledge of an out-of-town hotel room, planning to end her life. Thankfully, she is alive today to tell the story. The question is; who brought her down off that ledge and moved her to make the changes in her life that now allow her to help and encourage so many other people? That person was herself! She put courage in herself.
It is great to have other people encourage you, but if you are relying on other people, then you are going to struggle to find the ongoing courage you need to get whatever job you need to get done, done! Rely on yourself! Be the one who puts courage into yourself. Start telling yourself that; you can, you will, you can improve, and you will do what it takes. Tell yourself that you have the god-given potential to overcome, create or achieve whatever you want. Start remembering the things that you have already achieved in your life and start believing that anything is possible for as you move forward after reading this blog.
I will continue to encourage you as much as I can with my books, my blogs, my podcasts and if we ever get the chance to speak, but please don’t rely on me or anyone other than you. On a daily basis, put the courage in yourself with empowering and uplifting words. Tell yourself you can and you will, and with every encouraging, empowering and uplifting word you use, you will put the courage in to go on and live your best life.
I think, to some extent, everyone’s confidence has taken a little bit of a hit over the course of 2020. There’s a little more fear, uncertainty and conservative behaviour creeping into to everyone’s lives at some level, and even though I talk a good game, that counts for me also. Whilst a little nervous, I had my first real adventure this week since COVID has kicked in, and it was such an awesome experience that I want to encourage you to embrace any and all opportunities for adventure.
I had a school session booked in for last Friday. It had been booked in for several months, and because of current circumstances, I had assumed it would be an online session for this group of year 9 students. Well, about a week before the session, I got an email from the guy who was co-ordinating the session to say they had justified my visit as ‘being essential,’ and so I would be going to the school. Interestingly, my first reaction to that was not excitement that I would be getting out to go to a school, it was actually a little anxiety.
I was anxious for several reasons. The first being that the school is in Geelong, a rural town about 90 mins to two hours from where I live, and I don’t have a driver’s license, so I didn’t know how I would get there. The second reason was one I had fought hard for 8 months and was fear about getting out in public again, even though I knew there was nothing to worry about, the bad news and fear that had gripped the world had infiltrated my defenses. Finally, because I had been at home delivering online sessions for so long, and it had really become my new normal, I was concerned I would not click back into the face to face session as easily.
However, despite my concerns, I decided to embrace this adventure, get out there and make it an amazing experience. The main challenge was getting there, so I decided to catch a train into the city and another out to Geelong. Then I had a friend who wanted to observe the session, who would pick me up from the station, we would go to the school together, afterwards go out for lunch and then she would drop me back off at the station. Sounded like a great plan until the school came back and said that they could not approve her visit, as it was against the ‘COVID’ rules. So, I had to get myself to the school, and then she would pick me up afterwards.
At this point, however, I was committed to and actually getting excited about this adventure. My amazing father, always concerned about me, actually offered to pay for an Uber from my place to the school 90-minutes away, a $150 fare! As much as I appreciated the offer, and told him so, I explained how I was committed to and excited about the adventure of finding my own way there. I think he thought I was a little looney, even though he has got used to that over the years. So, Friday came along and off I went. I caught and Uber to the station, a train into the city, a train to Geelong, got a taxi to the school, but because of roadworks and lots of confusion, I ended up walking about 1km on a dirt road, jumped a locked gate and finally got to the school. Quite an adventure already!
I then delivered this session and, oh my gosh, it was so amazing to be back in a room with real people. I could see their faces, feel their energy, respond to their questions, interact with them and I really feel like I made a difference in their lives. It reinforced to me my mission and purpose in life and it excited me even more to get out, travel, have more adventures and impact more lives, all around the world. I left feeling so incredibly inspired and energised.
My friend picked me up from the school, after her own challenges finding it, and we went off to have lunch at the café she had booked. The adventure continued as, after we were asked for ID at the café, they told me that I could not eat there because I was from Melbourne, the naughty corner of Australia and the world! I wasn’t allowed to eat in any café or restaurant because of the COVID restrictions place on all Melburnian residents! So, we went and bought some take away and sat on the grass overlooking the beach and had a very enjoyable lunch and conversation. Not what we had planned, but an exciting adventure, nevertheless! My friend dropped me back at the station and I got home without any further detours and, as I thought about and reflected on the day and adventure I had just had, I smiled!
I am so glad I did it. I was a little hesitant at first, but so grateful that I chose to take it on. I know life is still a little uncertain at the moment, but don’t let COVID or fear dampen your adventurous spirit. There is an amazing world of opportunity, joy, achievement, significance and purpose just waiting for you. In my podcast with Kim Vandenberg, called, ‘Stay in your own lane,’ she talks about her wonderful adventure of getting to the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a swimmer. She totally embraced adventure in her life, and it has led to some incredible outcomes and opportunities. So, why not you? Get out, while you can, and make the most of every second of the wondrous possibilities and excitement that life offers each and every one of us if we are willing to embrace adventure.
I am taking no credit for this week’s blog, and I am giving it all to the amazing Stacey Copas. This lady has totally inspired me on my podcast this week called ‘Gratitude is a choice.’ She is the one who coined the phrase, if nothing is certain, then anything is possible, and I loved it so much I decided to write about it in this week’s blog.
I really want to encourage you to listen to this week’s podcast, and hear Stacey for yourself, if you haven’t already. Oh my gosh! She will change your life, if you listen and apply what she says. From the age of 12, and after an accident, diving into a shallow pool, Stacey has been a quadriplegic living in a wheelchair. Now some 30 years later, she has found incredible joy and significance in her life. So, when she dropped the phrase, if nothing is certain, then anything is possible, I asked her, ‘what do you mean?’
Now, as I try to explain it, and I won’t do as good a job as Stacey, I want you to think about the immediate impact this statement will have on your life, if you get it, and act on it. She said that it had come up in her life over the last couple of years, but was really reinforced to her this year, 2020. I think we would all agree that in these ‘unprecedented’ times (together, we actually banned the word!), there has been a lot of uncertainty. She went on to say, that whilst ‘uncertainty’ is seen as a negative thing, upon reflection, it meant to her that if nothing is certain, then essentially, we have a blank canvas. If we have a blank canvas, then anything is possible. I don’t know about you, but I love it!
If your job situation is uncertain, then you can go and create any career you like. If your relationship status is uncertain, then you can decide to make it the best it can be, or a find a new one and make it amazing. If your health position is uncertain, then you have the choice to start the journey of creating optimal wellbeing. If you are uncertain about how long COVID will last, then you can use the time to write a book, learn an instrument, start a podcast, start a ‘side-hustle’ business. By the way, ‘side-hustle’ is getting close to be another term that will be banned, as is the word ‘pivot’ LOL!
As I look back at my 2020, I am going to say something that may be controversial to some, and I certainly don’t mean it disrespectfully to anyone who has experienced any suffering or loss in this time. I am very empathetic to those people. I have to say that the best thing that has happened in my life, for a long time, is COVID! Yes, I told you that sounds weird and a little controversial, but let me explain. In many ways; I am a better person, I am able to make more of a difference, I have found a global audience, I have connected with some incredible people, and, most importantly, I have re-built the most important relationship I have, the one with myself.
The uncertainty of my future speaking and mentoring, has opened the possibility of the other ways to help and communicate, and so I have actually moved from a local market to a global one. I am a much bigger thinker and have met and am now collaborating with winners all around the world. It wouldn’t have happened without the uncertainty of this time. I have finally started my podcast, which I am loving and I know it’s making a difference. I doubt whether it would have happened without lockdown and the uncertainty that came with it. I have found more people to help; write their books, improve their wellbeing and enhance their financial position. Without the uncertainty of this time, I don’t think these opportunities would have been a possibility. Most importantly, the uncertainty of lockdown isolation has created the most amazing possibility, the possibility to take the time to get know, like and even love myself. What an absolute gift.
As you move forward in your life and deal with the uncertainty that still lies ahead of all of us, and will continue to do so, try to see the wonderous opportunities that are out there in what seems to be a void. As Stacey Copas so profoundly said, that uncertainty is actually a blank canvas. It is up to you what you paint on that canvas. Right now, as you deal with uncertainty, get excited and be grateful knowing that, as a result, anything is possible.
There are storms in our life, literally and figuratively. In fact, at any one time, we are either in a storm, coming out of a storm or about to go into a storm. That just seems to be the way life is. COVID has been one of those storms. There are also financial storms, relationship storms, health storms, career storms and many other types of storms we deal with on a regular basis. The storm itself is not the problem, it’s how you respond to the storm that matters. I just heard a wonderful story about why it’s important to drive through the storm.
A man and his teenage daughter were driving home after a day out together. The daughter was learning to drive at the time and needed practice, so asked her father if she could drive. Being a supportive an encouraging man, he said, ‘Absolutely.’ They stopped the car, swapped seats and the daughter started driving. The father was very impressed by what an attentive and competent driver his daughter was. After a short time driving, big black clouds started rolling in and they could both see a storm coming. The daughter started to get a little concerned and asked her father whether they should pull over and wait for the storm to pass. The father looked at her and said, ‘No, we’ll be fine, keep driving.’ So, with his confidence in her, she kept driving.
Soon, the wind started blowing and the rain started falling and it was getting quite heavy. The girl, started to get scared said, ‘Dad, I think I should pull over and wait for the storm to pass.’ But again, the father said, ‘No darling, just keep driving through the storm.’ She trusted her father and God, so she kept going. It didn’t take long before the storm really started to reach its full force. There was thunder, lightning and the rain was pelting against the windscreen, making it difficult to see even just a few feet ahead. All the other cars on the road were pulling over and stopping. The terrified girl again asked her father, ‘Shouldn’t we stop? All the other cars are. It’s hard to see and I’m scared.’ The father, in the same calm and relaxed fashion, said again, ‘No, keep driving through the storm.’
Very soon they were through the storm. The rain stopped, the wind eased, and the sun started to break through the clouds. The girl was visibly shaken, but relieved and proud of herself, as she looked at her father, smiling. After regaining her composure, she asked, ‘Why did we keep driving through the storm dad, when stopping seemed to be the safer thing to do?’ The father requested that she stop the car at that point. They pulled over, got out of the car, looked back along the road they had just travelled, and the storm they had just come through, and he asked the girl, ‘Where are all the people who stopped?’ She looked quizzically, shrugged her shoulders and said, back there somewhere, in the storm.’ ‘Yes,’ her father replied, ‘they stopped and so they are still in the storm and will be stuck there longer. We kept driving and we made it out the other side.’
There are two powerful messages in this inspiring story. The first is to keep moving when you are dealing with a storm in your life. Don’t; stop, give-up, have a tantrum, start blaming, go into victim-mode or believe you aren’t good enough. Keep moving forward one step at a time, taking positive action and soon you will be through the particular storm in your life, whatever it may be. The second message is one I believe may be even more powerful. If the girl didn’t have her father by her side encouraging her to keep going, what would she have done? She would have stopped in the storm and been stuck in it for longer, right?
I heard this story last Sunday, and it really resonated with me this week, as I, like many, are travelling through the storm which is COVID19. I have often thought I just need to toughen up and get through it alone, but I have recently recognised that I have people around who have helped me through the storm. There is one person in particular, who has been an amazing friend and support, and has helped me enormously to drive through the storm. If this person is reading this, they will know who they are, and I say, thank you for sitting next to me in the car as I drive through the storm.
As for you, please find someone to encourage and support you as you keep driving through your storm, whatever that may be. In this week’s podcast, ‘Present – It’s your body.’ I speak to the inspiring Dr Kelly-Anne Garnier, who had to drive through many storms to become a General Practitioner. She now spends her time encouraging people, who need help with their mental or physical wellbeing, to present themselves to their GP, or other practitioner, to partner with as they drive through the storm to optimal wellbeing.
Life is a wonderful place, full of amazing possibilities that are waiting for you on the other side of the storm. All you need to do is to find a partner, a coach, a mentor or a friend and, with their support and encouragement, drive through the storm to the sunshine waiting on the other side.