Melancholy Meandering

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Photo above: Good ole Daz back in his happy place...but not before wandering aimlessly for many months...randomly shouting at people like Brick Tamlin^ Read on for the whole story...

I’ve always had a way with words. Or perhaps, more accurately;

I’ve had my way with words.

And I choose these words —about words— not to be clever, but rather, descriptive. Because sometimes it felt almost adulterous. Intoxicating. Secretive. Obsessed. I mean, we’re talking completely fixated, ensconced; just prosing away. Reveling in the magnificence that seeps from words well put together.

Thankfully, most of the time my relationship with words was more like a long, happy marriage. Hard work, sure, but the deep sense of appreciation and gratitude that comes only through time leaves any discomfort or challenge faced along the way cowed and beaten under the power of love. The love for vocab.

And then there’s the other times. Well, they just feel like I’m downright whoring my way through the English language. And not high-class escorting either. Nope. I use it, drop it, abandon it and abuse it through pure selfishness. I treat it dirty and it treats me with contempt in return, but daren’t say so. It’s at my whim. I don’t respect it and it is there to serve me. I’ve left my cash on the bedside chest of drawers and often more than a few dollars short for the services rendered.

Oh yes, dear friends, I’ve had my way with words.

 

My melancholy meandering

About 18 months prior, me and them wordy-words…well, we had-it-goin’-on. I mean it was ON. Full throttle. I was voraciously reading; it was nothing for me to have anywhere between 3-5 books on the go, reading upwards of 100 books a year. My backpack would have a cluster of books within; perchance any spare time on a flight or airport lounge —even just 15 short minutes— it would immediately be taken advantage of. I’d ravenously devour the pages like a savoury feast that might be taken away at a moment’s notice. Oh, and I was writing furiously. Determinedly. Doggedly. I’m not sure if it was just discipline or working at my craft, but heck, I was cracking on.

And then it stopped. Dunno when, or exactly how, but it did.

I fell out of love, lust and longing with words. My-oh-my, this was much more than some internal disquiet. I stopped my practice of writing. The weekly newsletter I pounded out, nary missing a week over almost 7 years…just stopped.

And reading. Argghh. This is the one that really stings. It just ground to a halt. There’s a little part of me that feels deep shame when I admit this, but I think I only read five or six books for the whole of twenty-sixteen. Jeez. That hurts to write —and even more to sit here re-reading those words. I didn’t read. Wow.

Reading.

Writing.

Gone.

I kept waiting for the love to come back. Yet it didn’t. Granted, I didn’t exactly engineer a spiritual awakening at an ashram; nor did I try for an epiphany while overlooking some impressive vista like you see on a million godawful iStock pics. There was no lightbulb moment or sign for me to re-embrace words.

The love had gone. And it wasn’t coming back anytime soon.

The love of words.

And I wondered if it ever would return.

The love of words.

And it made me sad. Emoticon-sad-face-in-my-heart-sad.

This wasn’t just a couple of gloomy days. It lingered longer. There was a deep sense of loss that my primary creative outlet (and inspiration) had just up-and-gone. There were countless futile attempts of opening my laptop with the express intention to write; I’d buy a book with the inspiration to read…but still, nothin’.

Perhaps it was the way I’d abused it over the years. Maybe I hadn’t respected it enough. Should I have been gratitude journaling each day and professing my undying love for writing and reading? Perhaps I needed to set the mood, a few candles, and mebbe a bottle of wine? But rather than use the bottle of wine as a conduit to rekindling my romance for words, I just drank it.

And even when the hangover subsided, still the words didn’t come to be written, and nor were they read.

 

Sit and stand, these hours at hand

knowing there’s more in me

than what I show.

Wanting to be taken, captured and enraptured

by the words that never came

instead, just a melancholy meandering  

It left me, wrought and racked in the most terrible of doubt

of ability. of desire. of worth.

my feckless heart; ruined by the words that never came

 

It really messed with my head. And strangely, this was in spite of all the other cool happening that were going on.

Here I was (with Ali and a team of superstars) building a rocketship of a business, Pragmatic Thinking. 2016 was a year of unparalleled growth, progress and #winning. PT is a business that will find its way onto BRW’s Fast 100 list in 2017. Of that I’m certain. It’s grand, scary, alluring, and meaningful. I can’t accurately tell you just how many personal values this wonderful business and thepeople working within it fulfil for me —it’s too many to list.

So here we were delivering some absolute belter leadership programs for clients, achieving substantial results*, and yet…amongst all this activity —this meaningful work— my verve for words just up and left. Gone.

For so long, the word game —the cornerstone of my thought leadership— was broken and cracked.

And at the deepest level, it scared the shit out of me.

 

Progress can be a poultice

All the while colleagues, mates and family sat in wonder of what we were achieving.

‘You guys are killing it!’

‘You’ve grown so fast since we last spoke…

‘Hang on, are you just employing more peeps ‘cos you’re lonely?

The chorus of people cheering us on grew alongside an increasing head count of superstars at Pragmatic Thinking. I look back on the past 18 months with immense personal satisfaction with what we’ve achieved professionally. Thanks in part to Alison, I also did my best to not give in to excessive hubris.**

In fact, as we continued to exceed our targets and do great work, there was a distinct lack of lavish celebration…in fact we were borderline neglectful in recognising success. But in retrospect there was a deeper reason to not smell our own flowers.

Deep down all this progress we were making in PT at a personal level was just a medicinal masquerade. It provided distraction from a deeper pain I felt. But this progress; ah, it was good stuff! It gave me purpose in each day. It made me work, not mope around too much, because there was always stuff to do. Progress got me out of bed, to speak on stage, to work with clients and do many good things.

Despite this, the melancholy was still there at a deep level and the behaviour of my interaction with words —or lack of it— still existed. No writing and no reading.

So here I was in this progress-fuelled paradoxical pickle. 2016 was my most successful professional year. Easily. It was hardly a year of regret or waste. By almost every measure I was freakin’ braining it.

But still.

Meh.

And then I realised something big. What I was doing was the perfect antidote to being in a funk.

A funk is a space most of us reach often and in cycles. It’s a very natural sensation for smart people to get them feels that we’re doing OK but we’re not exactly flying. And so here I was exposing myself to the same treatment I’d used successfully countless times in the past. Get busy. Be smart. Work hard. You’ll bust outta this funk. Just trust the work.

But the activity didn’t heal what was a deeper problem; this malevolent malaise that I finally came to realise would grow ever more cancerous without the right treatment. This was something that would continue to eat away at the best parts of me unless I dared to face it.

I needed to have my way with words, all over again.***

Y’see while progress is so important to our mental health, our motivation and our productivity, it also can become a noble misdiagnosis, ignoring the beating heart of a bigger problem.

Alison talks at length about the balance of purpose and progress. That your purpose doesn’t have to be esoterically aligned; y’now, not mahlife’s purpose. Rather, seeking purpose in the activity you’re doing is a bloody good place to start. She’s smart. It makes sense. It’s right.

Jason writes beautifully on the quest for meaningful progress. That progress can be a distractor. And he’s spot on. He also talks wonderfully about krakens of doom, showing your honour, whisky and other weird and wonderful things. But the progress piece…that’s his jam. So good.****

Heck, I even wrote a piece for AFR/BRW a while back on the high octane fuel that is progress. Why we should be careful with the heady mix of neuropeptides and transmitters that can drive crazy, unsustainable behaviour.

And so there’s two very smart cookies (and me) who advise to treat progress carefully. That it is something to embrace but be discerning of. That the pursuit and intent of making progress each day is a good thing. And we should all aspire to it. It’s an itch we should scratch.

But what if it’s deeper than said scratch? What if you’re trying to treat a bigger problem with the noble, yet misdiagnosed prescription of progress?

After all, you can’t put a band-aid on cancer.

 

Unleash your creative heart.

What I’ve come to is the following conclusion;

Deep at the heart of any malaise —and we’re not talking a funk, but rather, a deep and ugly restlessness— is a creative yearning yet to be met.

If you’re listless, beating yourself up with all that you have (job, pay check, good health, etc) yet still don’t seem to be fulfilled…well, it might just be something other than you being an ungrateful prick/prickette. Sure, people around you and that internal narrative of yours might call it as a first-world problem, but in my view, it’s a problem for sure. And you shouldn’t feel shame because of it.

That melancholy; well my friend, that is a craving for creativity.

This shouldn’t be confused with psychological or safety needs being unmet. That typically manifests as anxiety. Those fight or flight chemicals such as adrenalin and cortisol course our synapses because we live in fear of scarcity. Tens of thousands of years ago, knowing where our next meal might come from, or where we might spend the night safely; well they were real worries where the consequences were huge. It was life and death.

But when these life-or-death things disappear —and they have disappeared for the vast majority of the population according to vast reams of data, then what is it we’re feeling? If it isn’t the neural response of anxiety, when business is thriving, family is in good health and relationships are great, then WTF is going on? What are we really experiencing?

Well firstly, that experience of yours —of mine— I’m convinced for many of us that it’s a problem. It’s real. It’s serious. Or at least it is if you want a fulfilled life.

That problem? It’s creativity not met.

And I’m quite aware this is hardly earth shattering news. There’s no eureka moment here. But if you’re in a dispirited state and have been for a while, then this might just be a nudge or gentle reminder; for me however, it was the slap in the face I’d been waiting for. I know I needed it.

If fulfilment is what you’re after, then we need to express ourselves beyond being productive and making progress. We need to tap into our inner desires to create and play. To be curious and dare to think thoughts beyond the rational and obvious. And this is what words do for me.

While I don’t need words like I need oxygen, water, or coffee; say a bushranger† from here or a sneaky piccolo or latte from here. There without doubt necessities required to sustain life. I do need words as a part of my life to find those satisfying moments of fulfilment. Even just sitting and poring my thoughts through the keys of my Macbook Pro right now lifts my spirits and makes my heart a little lighter.

 

And if you don’t think you need creativity for a fulfilled life, then I’d ask you to be curious about the way the world reacted to the artists we lost in 2016. Bowie. Prince. Cohen. Michael. Depending on your genre or taste, there was true mourning. People spoke from the heart about the loss they felt. And why? It’s not simply because these geniuses were creative. It’s because they gave us a chance to feel creativity. They let it run through us.

So, I’ve realised through making extraordinary progress in the lead up to —and within 2016— I became efficient, productive and successful, yet I stopped honouring my deeper creative drive. The more disconnected I became from my creative channels, the more I numbed. Either work or escapism, I was walking away from the very cure of my discontent. Instead of reading, I binge-watched. Instead of writing, I surfed social. Neither of these things were food for my soul.

So, I’m making a declaration. It’s already happened internally, but public accountability carries more weight when it comes to permanent shifts of behaviour. I’m going to write my arse off in 2017. There's been small changes such as changing my writing font preference to serif font styles to embrace block readability and a hat tip to the past. From a tools-of-the-trade POV I’ve already changed the game by buying one of these to carry one of these and I’m also buying a five minute journal to start the day in the right fashion. And loving it.

 

And reading. Oh lordy, it’s back on! I’ve read Pay Off, and am part of the way through reading Homo Deus (gawd it’s good!). And this one in prep for a mid-year trip to France, and this one to explore what it is that makes the successful tick. And I’m excited to have this one next in the line.

So, it’s game on. This isn’t rhetoric, it’s happening.

But be forewarned. This personal realisation of mine —the overdue awakening of my creative side (and subsequent declaration of writing more) means things for you too. You’ll have a choice to make. You can read my musings (that’d be super) or the increased frequency of my writing might mean you don’t want to read it or even hit the delete key, so you may want to unsubscribe. That’s cool. Loaded inboxes and all that jazz. I geddit.

I guess if there’s value in this post, it’s this: if you’re entering 2017 with that deeper feeling of unease; if you hear yourself in the melancholy I’ve described, then find your creative space.

Capture. Paint. Sing. Build. Craft. Sculpt. Speak. Shape. Colour. Read. Write.

I’ll be doing a heck of a lot more of the last two. You can bank on it.

 

Alf veeter sayin’

Darren

*One we’re especially proud of is the work we achieved with the top 200 leaders in Siemens ANZ in 2016. We’re even in the final 3 of some big award hoo-ha in Germany in February. Go us.

**Whenever my ego tries to run its own course too much, I’m reminded of one of my all-time favourite quotes Rohan Dredge shared with me years ago. ‘Give a man a humble badge and if he wears it, take it off him’. BTW, there’s a delicious irony that always rattles around my brain that to talk in any first-person form of personal humility is in fact not being all that humble…lols. 

*** I spent some time working with Mykel Dixon last year trying to find some creativity. It was the first sign of me awakening to my creative need. I’ve little doubt MD could see what was clouded for me; to help me find this realisation. I also knew I knew it. Somewhere, deep down, but just hadn’t fully crystallised it. Much magic ahead for us still Myke. Big love mate.

 

**** I’m such a card-carrying fan of Jason and Kim (aka dangerlam). The congruence they show in dedicating themselves to the art of creating art is flat-out f*cking inspiring. If you don’t have a copy of the cleverness biannual, what are you thinking? I cried when I saw it for the first time. Truly, I did. It’s #neklevel

† FYI, A bushranger is our local term for a long black with splash of pure pouring cream. It's Delish. Like, the cream separates because the heat and you get these globules of coffee-infused fat swimming on top...mmmm, coffee fat. ahghlrhglhhlgh

^Fans of Anchorman would've got that reference

Pleasure and Pain

Do you like chilli? Yep? Turns out you and 2 billion other people also like the sensation of something burning your mouth. And in that lies something to help us at work when the going gets tough…but first, let’s talk effort.

 

Let’s face it. Work is often hard work. Y’know what I mean?

 

Sure, there’s the enjoyable work we do where a combination of autonomy, challenge and the pursuit for a worthy goal leaves us wrecked after a day, but happy. Content, even. 

 

But it’s important to define that we’re talking good-wrecked, not bad-wrecked here. It’s that feeling of exhaustion mixed with fulfilment. A wonderfully satisfying feeling, one I refer to as the ‘kelpie-dog-smile’ effect.*

 

But what of that time when hard work is just plain hard? No fulfilment, just exhaustion. Is there a way to navigate this or change it to gain a greater sense-of-worth that simply energy drain?

 

Turns out there is some recent research coming out of the University of Pennsylvania that gives us an interesting new way to look at hard work. Paul Rozin and his team have been studying reverse hedonism, or more specifically, benign masochism; a delightful term where people derive enjoyment from things that are actually painful. Eating chilli, hard exercise, even a deep tissue massage are all activities we can engage in that are inherently painful, but we can derive pleasure from. Incidentally, I’ll be talking about this very thing at The Future of Leadership in Melbourne in three weeks time on the 6th of September. You should come. If you’re in Melbs, then it’s a no brainer. If you’re interstate and not been to Brissy or Sydney, then heck! What’re you doing? Get on it. A plane. Get your tickets here.

 

So now you’re signed up to to the Future of Leadership, back to our discussion at hand. Can we apply these benign masochism principles to work? Can a painful work task actually become pleasurable? Quite possibly. Let’s look at a few factors.

 

It has to contain a sense of safety

Rozin and his team found a key factor in achieving a reversal of hedonism (something going from pain to pleasure) was establishing a sense of safety. Whilst that vindaloo curry is crazy-hot, the moment you realise it won’t kill you, it starts to be come more enjoyable. Your first run in training for a marathon, you literally think you will die — but a few weeks in, you now can start to enjoy the runs. We also need to ensure this principle is followed at work. It can’t be life and death. As a leader you have a key role to remind people in busy times that the game of work is best played as such — a game.

 

Chunk it down

Pretty simple really. If a task has enormity, you’ll likely panic, which brings back the whole ‘holy-crap-i-might-just-die!’ reaction. The work then becomes painful. But when we break it into manageable chunks, then it opens up the progress principle and assists in the motivation of even the most mind-numbing of tasks. This is where taking on a giant pile of data entry or waging war on your inbox can be liberating rather than debilitating. 

 

Disassociate yourself

Some call it the ‘helicopter view’ others call it taking a step back. I call it ‘get some f*#ing perspective!’ Hmmm, mebbe others have a better use of this english-stuff than I do? It all means the same thing though. That task that you’re driving yourself crazy about…the thing that is causing untold pain…well, it’s really not that big a deal is it? In the grand scheme of things, you sucking it up and grinding out 2 hours worth of data entry isn’t going to rate on a world scale of heartbreak or hardship. Take a break and gain some perspective…the easiest, cheapest way to do this is physically remove yourself from the environment and engage in a little bit of mindfulness. Take your time over lunch. Enjoy that coffee rather than gulping it down. 

 

Part of work is hard work. That’s not in dispute. But what is up for negotiation is how you frame and approach the less-than-enjoyable work. Simply readjusting your focus can result on turning pleasure into pain.

 

*Y’know when you have a working dog (like a kelpie) and they seem at their most content after a hard days work? That’s the kelpie-dog-smile. Doing something they were bred to do. However, put that same working dog in a small confined space for 8 hours and they positively have evil in their eyes…

Expensive coffee can take your breath away

The simplest definition of a leader; 

the person who breathes deepest in a crisis.

Several years back, my dear friend Michael Grinder explained this to me in his usual uncomplicated fashion. At the time I thought wow, that’s a killer soundbite/tweet but it took a few more years for this to truly sink in; as such is Michael’s teaching — it tends to surface months, sometimes years after the fact. I guess when you’ve been studying the science of education and non-verbals for over four decades, as he has, you’ve got a few Jedi-learning tricks in your kit bag.

Well this week I was reminded of this wisdom, over a house-made organic almond-milk latte at a cafe in Byron Bay. That cup of coffee cost me —outrageously— eight dollars and fifty cents. 

Yep, that’s not a typo. Eight-freakin’-buck-fitty! 

But it turns out the value was immeasurable. But more on the cost of Byron Bay coffee later…

Y’see even after being exposed to Michael’s well-thought beliefs on leadership, I genuinely still believed the leader was the smartest person in the room. Not IQ smart, but more streetsmart; a combination of emotional and social intelligence. That’s a leader for sure.

Oh, and a leader needed to have hustle. And lots of it. Bustling their way through a day with a voracious energy that swept everything (and everyone) with them. That’s powerful stuff.

And don’t forget certainty. Having an unshakeable belief around ‘the why’. A fiercely held mindset around the purpose of our work and its impact upon the world. How could people not follow someone like that?

Streetsmarts, hustle, certainty. They’re all really important qualities. Heck, you’re probably thinking gawd, I’d like my boss to show me a bit more of them stuffs from time to time!

And I’m still convinced I’m right. But I’m here to tell you, Michael Grinder is more right. Righterer, I suppose. This deep breathing breathing business. It’s the real deal.

And y’know why it’s so damn powerful? It’s not the fact you are breathing deeply; it’s the process you went through to find the calmness to allow you to breathe deeply. That’s the key leadership skill.

Great leaders need much more than streetsmarts, hustle and certainty. They need a healthy sense of detachment; this shouldn’t be confused with not caring —but more being able to objectively reason that things are never as good or as bad as the seem. Thing just are.

Whether it’s labelled Stoicism, Enlightenment or even Mindfulness, the leader who can rationally see any given situation (and importantly the emotions that come with it) as simply being ‘just is’ — well, that’s the magic trick that precedes breathing deep.

Now back to Byron Bay and that coffee. Eight dollars for a f*cking coffee! Can you believe it?

The truth is any outrage I experience is simply mine to own. 

The price the cafe sets on their coffee is what it is. It’s written on the recycled artisan paper menu. I can pay it or not. And the coffee doesn’t care less either. It too, just is.

It’s simply the voice in my own head I need to observe be curious about and ultimately, quiet.

Want to find the calm one in your office when everything is an absolute sh*tstorm? That’ll be the one practicing that detachment from the incessant conversation rattling inside their heads. Make no mistake, it’ll still be happening, but they won’t let it drive their decisions and actions. 

I hope you’ve seen the message in this post. If you’re frustrated, cheesed off, flummoxed or exasperated by the actions of someone at work…well, that’s all you, not them. Perhaps your place of work is going through a major transformation or restructure (who isn’t?) and tension and uncertainty are high. But the stress you might feel, the anxiety that lives in your gut; well that’s yours to own too.

So if you find yourself busy blaming a particular someone or even the whole world for your ails, then you’ve forgotten that all that stress —it comes from you, not them. And you’re certainly not much of a chance at this deep breathing caper that great leaders demonstrate as a regular practice.

Don't play games with me. Are you kidding? We should be playing games all the time, especially when work gets tough...

Don’t play games with me.

Play one game at a time.

Players gonna play, play, play, play, play.

There seems to be an awful lot of negativity that seeps into our language when it comes to games. So often in our cliches, lyrics and regular discourse we talk play down —give it a bad rap; that to partake in a game is childish at best and deceitful at worst. 

Yet our best states of work, effort, exercise, strategy and love —yep even love— take place when we approach life as a playful game. This isn’t simply a nice-to-have, it’s actually a must-have for our mood states and even our hard-wired neural pathways.  

Research has shown that after bouts of vigorous play, we get increased levels of BDNF. Now that’s not some weird code on a dating website, it actually is short for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF is essential for the growth and maintenance of brain cells, so when we talk about being ‘brain-dead’ it’s often because of a lack of game play in tough times in our life.

So as you fully roll into the rhythm of 2016 and hard work feels like, um…hard work, do yourself a favour and embrace a playful, game state. Your mood, your brain and your colleagues will all thank you.

But before you go! I’ve got a few more things;

  • three quick tips for approaching hard work as a game, 
  • two magnificent books, and
  • a free gift for y’all.

A trio of tips

Set rules 

All good games have rules. What are yours going to be? Start with the basic parameters such as time, number of people and outcomes. Then set some rules around physical state and conduct.

Rightio, this email game is going to run for 30 minutes, I’m gonna take my inbox from 200 to 30 and I’m gonna insert some cheeky and playful in every second reply by using the magic word.*   

Include others in the game 

Games played together give you stories and memories. Even if you’re playing an individual game (like smashing your inbox) why not co-opt a few others into a world-championship email smashup game for the morning? Mucho fun. Email Ninjas. Huddle ‘round, set the rules and then check in at the end of it.

Reward yourself

Cut deals and bargain to your heart’s content, but make sure you have a prize or some sort of recognition for stages within your game. So perhaps your game is to come up with three cracking ideas out of a brainstorm session on how we can reduce office waste. The rules are set. Cool. What reward will we give ourselves? A coffee? Collective high-fives? A cat video marathon? Once we win at our game we should bask in the glory of success.

A stunning read-a-thon

Games are much more than simply child’s play. They are the most important things (both constructive and destructive) on the planet. If you haven’t read James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games - a vision of life as play and possibility, get on that. If you have read it, read it again. So brilliant.

So you'll know we are unabashed fans of our mate Dr Jason Fox. Well he's done it again. Blown our f*%^ing minds, no less. His new book, merely a day or two old, How to Lead a Quest - a handbook for pioneering executives is simply a work of art. This is like, #neklevel book. Get on it. 

A Freebie

Our next Think Tank which we run in conjunction with the wonderful peeps at Bond University will be going deeper into this whole take-tough-work-and-play-it-like-a-game scenario. Sure, I get not everyone lives in SE Qld, but it’s a free session and is worth the flight into the Gold Coast. And heck, why not stay a day or two? Chillax. Mebbe go to Seaworld, Dreamworld, or the Nerang Community Bowls Club. Fun times for all.

Anyhoo, hope this helps you manage the year coming at you.

Game on.
Darren

* The magic word isn’t some weird gameplay or ‘safe word’ like 50 Shades kinda thing. It’s picking a word such as koala, cumulus or even unicorn and seeing how you might insert it casually into a sentence. e.g. Hey Mike, got your email about the ACME project and the first stage seems under control. I’d suggest we look into the legislative standards to cover us from random things; potential liability, customer backlash, or even angry unicorns.

Books I’m reading at the moment...

Hope life finds you well and you’re absolutely flying as you head into the last quarter of the year, and by flying I mean first-class hob-knobbing rather than budget airline, cramped legroom waiting-in-queues-for-hours-type-of-flying.

Just thought I’d let you know what’s on my bookshelf at the moment —given we have the smartest newsletter list on the planet— you’re probably a lot like me and always looking for the next book (or three) to read.

Well here they be;

Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith 

Goldsmith is an absolute legend, being arguably the best Executive Coach to have walked the planet. In this book he looks into habit formation. Goldsmith refers to some of his own research throughout and has a lot of references to work with previous clients that are really interesting.

If you’ve read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg then you’ll love this. It’s in Goldsmith’s style. Economy of words, homespun truths and in short, a very good read. A nice book to set up your new years goals and directions.

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

OK, so I’ll put it out there straight up, I bloody love Brene Brown. I saw her speak a couple of years ago in Sydney (after years of waiting) and I still think she’s the best keynote speaker I’ve seen. Beyond her her ability to tell stories on stage, her pursuit to bring vulnerability, shame and adversity into the global conversation in tremendously inspiring.

In Rising Strong she challenges us to welcome the heroes journey, but more importantly, embrace the pit of despair, because that’s where true growth and wholeheartedness lies. Her best book yet IMNSHO (in my not so humble opinion) 

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

OK, I’ll come clean, I’ve only just read the first bit. And I didn’t really even want to.

Alison came running into the room last week, book in hand going

‘Oh. My. God.’

‘Ohmygod!’ 

‘OHMAHGAWWWWD!

Yep, Ali was very excited...y’know spittle coming from her lips type of excited. The type of excited she gets when Gerard Butler or Ryan Gosling have a new movie coming out. Go figure. ‘You’ve gotta read this!’ she said, throwing the book at me.

I looked at it, seen the author as Elizabeth Gilbert and thought. Oh. My. God. 

Not the good OMG however. ‘Twas more like, oh-my-god-shoot-me-please type of OMG. 

Y’see I read Eat, Pray, Love a few years ago to see what the fuss was. Let’s just say I was less than impressed. It just stunk of 300 pages worth of first-world-problems to me.

Anyways, after expressing a few concerns to Alison (like losing a few hours of my life I’d never get back by reading another Gilbert book) I did assure her I’d read it, even though in my mind I figured I would read the first bit and ditch it.

Well I read the first chapter and...um, well....crikey. There’s only one way to put this, and I should warn you for your own good. It’s absolutely freakin’ AMAZING. Seriously. Its incredible. It’s all about bringing your inner creative out to the world and it is so beautifully written it was taking my breath away. #notjoking #notevenalittlebit

Her call to action and word mastery is brilliant. A must read.

So anyways, there’s a couple of reads that can sustain you through the latter part of the year, and any of them will serve you as holiday reads too. Love to know if you've bee reading any good books lately. Please let us know if you have...