December 11, 2007


The task of cleaning up my office and bringing order to the chaos was a simple chore, yet one that compounded years of disarray inside my head. In the end it only happened with the dedicated efforts of my wife, and I realise now how difficult life can be without a rail to guide one's path.

Working for yourself is one way to test your metal. Not only are you accepting full responsibility for the financial failure or success that lies ahead, but you are suddenly "free" to do anything and nothing. Keeping the momentum moving forward requires a certain kind of personality. Being an achievement based person is a big plus, but I've seen many talented and driven friends over the years head out into the world of independent employment and simply spiral into depression.

Most of us move through our working careers with clear directions on which way is up, where the next forward step will be and a clear indication of how far we have come. These are the small rewards that keep us coming back to endure the unpleasant realities of employment. The most powerful aspect of leaving a corporate career behind is that you suddenly realise that these traditional milestone markers are just mirages, and in their absence an entire world of possibilities opens up. 

You literally can do anything, be anyone and go anywhere.

This new found personal power is frankly a little frightening, because it comes with responsibility and accountability. Having removed the facade of boundaries you have the freedom to move in any direction, but little in the way of a compass to direct you. In the absence of a clear path, a schedule of things to do and a guide on how to behave the process of getting through the day is one cloud of indecision after another. In the freedom of life without an office we get the chance to immerse our consciousness in life as we experience it within - once we get off the treadmill the best aspects of our lives are magnified, and so are the worst.

After years of working in high-stress jobs and pitting personal sanity against deadlines it's little wonder that some of us step out on our own and become refractive to the very notion of deadlines. What was once a punitive motivation to work harder and get the job done is now a blaring alarm to run the other way. Deadlines become an echo of past traumas, instantly reconnecting your emotional state to the very worst of what you left behind in the corporate world.

In my case the simple act of arranging some shelving and do some filing had become a mountain too high. Not only did I need my wife's help to do the job, but I needed her help to commit to doing the job. My list of people to call, stories to write and photos to process was getting longer and longer - yet I was frozen solid with inactivity due to the cyclone of chaos in my workspace. Having cleared the physical mess it's now obvious that the clutter is just as bad inside my head too. One step closer.

The difficulty of living in a world so wide with opportunities and choices is the lack of restrictions, lack of boundaries, lack of guidance. With so few limitations on what can be, you can end up feeling powerless instead of powerful. The locomotive force of a steam engine changed the modern world, but that engine would have been useless without railway tracks to follow.

December 08, 2007

Liberal Lessons

The dust has settled and the historic winds of change have swept across Australia. In the face of overwhelming popular opinion we have left behind the relentless arrogance of the conservatives in favour of something a little more kinder.

Just how kind is yet to be seen, but the most interesting development in the post-Howard era is not the collapse of the Liberal Party - that was entirely predictable - but the pathetic gum-flapping and denial about why they lost so badly.

The equation is very simple. If you accept that Howard was never a popular leader, but was never opposed by a serious alternative, then the result in November makes a lot of sense. If you cling to the rosy belief that he was a great man and loved by all the people then the debate becomes a farce. The real losers in this conservative blind-spot are the people of Australia.

We don't need ten more years of puerile name calling in our parliament, grubby factions sleazing over remnants of power, or false debates along ideological lines. We need some respect to be demonstrated by our leaders on both sides of politics, we need government for the people and in the interests of the country and we need informed discussion that explores opinion instead of party lines.

So far the new look Liberal Party is stacking up to give minor lip-service to a few obvious policy blunders, but inherently has not changed its spots. They still blame the unions and their TV advertisements for the election loss. They still call the Labor Party a bunch of thugs and they still resort to name calling instead of just answering questions on policy.

Perhaps the most poignant words this week have come from Paul Krugman, a columnist and author who has written much about the decline of values in the democratic process in America. The reflections into our own political problems are worth pondering. At what point did the conservative agenda become taken over by the interests of so few and leave behind the middle-class? At what point do we as a people wake up and start challenging the bullshit our political leaders are feeding us?

Listen to his speech on Radio National