What I've been up to

Hey there.  So it's been about four years since I wrote anything solid here.  During that time I've been doing a lot of things, some of which might be interesting to you, the fun-filled people out there on the Internet.

Enjoy!

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UPDATES
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Finished my Degree
Late 2010 I completed my Bachelor of Business (Entrepreneurship).  This was without doubt one of the most frustrating things I have ever done in my life, but also the most rewarding.  The night I went up and collected my certificate, I had a feeling and expression of excitement and happiness of completion of something hard.  I had never experienced that before.  All the hard work made that moment worth it, and looking back, I got a lot of value from my degree.  The content itself was not the most important thing, but the connections I made, the books I was referred to and the teachers I had made some of these times really priceless and valuable.

Consulting
I spent four years working as a consultant before stepping back into active management earlier this year.  I learned a lot of knowledge and skills being a consultant, and I couldn't say that I wouldn't do it again in the future.  I can say however that I am grateful to be back in an active management position, one where I have a greater impact on the business results.  I see massive value in coaching and advisory services, it's more a matter of how these services are delivered that I question nowadays.

Religious Roots
About two and a half years ago I was having dinner with a few friends, and I was very skeptical about the religion in which I was brought up, Christianity.  Cleaning up post dinner I remember asking one of my mates who was really devout, "How do you know the Bible is true anyway?" His response was, "Oh, I just take the Bible as truth and everything has to conform with that." Despite the simplicity of the answer, I left that night determined that in order to continue to profess any level of allegiance to Christianity I needed to at least know what the Bible said.  It took me about 14/15 months to read through the whole thing (not including the Apocrypha contained in the Catholic Bible, which I still have to finish reading one day).  During this time I learned the following important lessons:
  1. If you are going to read the Bible, I found reading plans didn't work for me as I constantly feel behind the daily commitment required.  Whilst disciplined, I didn't read it every day.  Instead, I did a cover to cover read, taking a minimum of one or two chapters at a time.
  2. Most people that belong to a religion have never read their own religious book in its entirety, and consequently can only tell you what they believe not what their religion actually teaches.  These beliefs are often subjective, and not congruent with the teachings of their own religion.  Consequently, you are more often than not getting opinions when you start asking questions beyond the fundamentals. Note: I have been and am as guilty as anyone else in this matter.
  3. By reading the book, you are often able to refute a number of these beliefs, as many are clearly contradictory to the plain teaching of the books themselves.  That doesn't mean you should argue with others, but rather than you can formulate your own opinions on the matter.
  4. The default position historically in Christianity appears to be Catholicism.  Most other churches don't use the word Catholic positively anymore, but history shows that most churches not Catholic try to justify why they are Catholic, at least in the early stages.  Catholic by definition means 'universal'. The reformation, which occurred in the 16th and 17th Centuries has led to many of the churches that exist today, and they are known Protestant (Protest-ant) churches or denominations, meaning they are protesting against the Catholic church for some reason.  This is important to note when studying history.
  5. I have found the arguments on both sides of various debates compelling, and have often taken one over the other.  However, to quote the Bible, 'The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him' (Proverbs 18:17).  The wisest thing a person can do is to listen to both sides with as little bias as possible and reserve judgment.  Then, one has to make a decision based on the cases presented.  This relatively simple logic led me to withdraw from further studies in this field, as I found a number of people who couldn't clearly articulate the views they were opposing, but instead were presenting a 'straw-man' of the opposition's arguments.   
  6. One needs to be wiser than myself in investing time into the religious space.  It can become all consuming and can cause one to continue on an endless quest of searching, resulting in analysis paralysis.  I think the 80/20 principle is of great use here - read the 20% of books that are most recommended by leaders (not peers) in the field, listen to the 20% who are the most devout, etc.  The exception to this would be if it is your career.
  7. A saying I heard recently not related to religion but interesting all the same and applicable here was, 'A leader doesn't know all the answers.  Their job is to ask the right questions.'
Travel
Consulting allowed me to visit Canberra for the first time in about ten years, and also allowed me to visit Perth a number of times when I had never been there before.  The latter is a beautiful place that I would like to visit for a holiday on some occasion.  I would still like to do some overseas travel in the future.  Jerusalem and Rome are of particular interest to me, as is England.

Relationships
- I had a relationship that lasted nearly three years come to and end.  I also learned there were parts of my character I was not prepared to compromise on, and some that I didn't compromise on that I probably could have.  In any case, things worked out for the best.  I'm am now back with the girl I dated prior to this three year relationship, and things are going really well.  This new (or old) relationship has taught me the importance of investing time, money and effort into people, even when you think it is not noticed.  I never thought we would have established communication again after all this time, but my attempts made during the interim period were noted and appreciated when we did finally reconnect.
- Another important point; love people unconditionally.  Anyone can like the people that like them, it is loving the people that don't love you or respect you that truly shapes your character more than anything else.  In some sense, a conditional love is no love at all.

Dating 
After much pressure from many people, I tried the online dating thing.  I got a number of dates out of it, but it never really did much for me, other than cost me time and money.  I did however learn a lot about people in the process.  I would strongly suggest approaching people in person.  It is far more likely that a person already within your circle of influence will be an option for a long-term relationship than someone online.  Note: success online does depend on your goals to some extent.

Plans & Expectations
When I was younger I thought I would be a lot further along in life than I am now.  The scary thought is that in some ways my little sister has beaten me to many of the milestones of life.  This was the price I paid for obtaining a degree, and whilst I am starting to reap the benefits now, I am aware that this came at a cost in the short-term.  

During the last few years I have had years where I planned and years where I didn't.  I don't think I ever fully achieved my plans, but I know that in the years I have had a plan I have been more successful and have accomplished more than in the years I didn't have a plan.  The two takeaways: Have a five-year plan (I used the template from Neil Strauss for this) and find people that will support and push you to achieve your goals.  Being around complacent people begets complacent thinking.

Health: 
  • Mental: I've been through some tough spots over the last few years.  Having had depression when I was younger, I have learned that mental health is very important to succeeding in life.  Mental health tends to be connected in some sense to our physical health, so it is important to manage the two appropriately.  
  • Physical: I've signed up for the gym a few times now and have recently done so again.  I also signed up for karate for a quarter, but am finding I just don't have the time to do both.  Reviewing my five-year plan, my focus was on getting super fit not achieving a black belt, so I'll be investing future resources in this area into personal training, diet and time in the gym rather than karate classes.  It's not that the latter couldn't make me achieve my goals, its just that I tailored a plan around gym and need to stick to my original plans.  Further proof of this: my time and flexibility have reduced since I started karate, as it is set times a week that I cannot reschedule around other priorities in my life.  I have found however that because the gym is open 24/7 it provides a better solution for my lifestyle.  On another note, I have in the last month or so struggled to sleep, especially after years of running on less than 8 hours of sleep a night.  Time to start playing catch up.
  • Spiritual: I've taken a step back in this space.  It is still an interest, but I don't want it to become all consuming, which it had done in the past to the neglect of my physical and mental health.  Maintaining balance is important.
  • Intellectual: I've continued to read books and sharpen the saw, but I intend to devote more time to reading for work in the months ahead rather than for spiritual reasons.
  • Social: Some social circles are uplifting, and some are draining.  And depending on my mood and where I am at in life, I can find various circles to be either.  Nevertheless, having a good social circle is important to good health, and I intend to continue investing in this area of my life in the future.  We tend to value our relationships more when we invest into them, and I have found that continual investment over time begins to reap a mutually beneficial relationship with most parties.
Books
  • Read: The Bible, The Pilgrim's Progress and the Confessions of Saint Augustine.  These were probably the more valuable reads from my religious studies, along with the Book of Concord (which contains the Lutheran Church's documents) for historical background regarding the break from the Catholic Church.  
  • Reading: The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, and the first Jack Reacher book by Lee Childs
  • Still to Read: Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larrson, Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury,   
Television
  • Californication: Probably the only series that has captivated me for a long time.  I recently saw some of this on my girlfriend's TV (I don't have foxtel) for the first time since seeing an episode or two in 2008.  I subsequently went out and bought the whole series.  I'm about halfway through and find it fascinating!  There is much that is wrong and inappropriate with the series, but it strikes a cord with me in a number of ways.  This series paints quite well what it's is like for an artist that is struggling.  It also shows the complications of relationships and the things that tend to make them more problematic.  In any event, I think this is worth a look for most adults (not suitable for children).
Personal Finances
I still believe the most important thing a person can do in this space is create an emergency fund.  This allows you the ability to have fund that prevent you from getting in debt.  I have setup my finances on virtual autopilot now and things are starting to work better after a backward step in income whilst self-employed.

Being an Uncle
My sister had her first child about a year ago.  Being an uncle has been a true blessing in my life, and it is great to be able to invest in another person from the future generations.  For a long time I didn't want children of my own, but being an uncle has really helped to change my perspective on that.  All things in good time though.