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Proactive and positive

I have just listened to a wonderful interview on the Between Two Beers podcast with guest, Russell Packer, a former professional rugby league player. Before the interview my impression of Packer was quite negative, based on an on-pitch incident and a more serious one off-pitch which led to him being sentenced to prison for two years. Having now listened to the interview, my view has taken a 180 degree turn.

The time Packer spent in prison was, to a large extent, proactive and positive, with a lot of the time used to learn. Upon his release he was incredibly grateful to find that NRL clubs were willing to give him a second chance as a professional league player. Packer took this opportunity with both hands, going on to have several more years as a pro, then a successful career as a businessman in his post-league years.

Second chances really can change people’s lives for the better. People do slip up, and Packer did in a major way, but because people were prepared to give him another chance he has gone on not just to help himself, but also to motivate and inspire others to make positive changes in their own lives.

Use what you have

I have heard this quote many times:

‘Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.’

The quote is often attributed to the tennis great, Arthur Ashe, but that’s up for dispute. Regardless, it’s great advice which I was reminded of when I heard Oliver Anthony, who has just released the megahit song Rich Men North of Richmond, interviewed on the Joe Rogan Podcast.

Before Anthony had the huge success he has had with Rich Men North of Richmond he was already a relatively successful performer. There were times, though, when he wasn’t so successful and didn’t have his current resources. He needed to get his music out to an audience. To do this, he recorded himself on the front camera on his phone and uploaded it on YouTube. This is something anyone could do, no expensive equipment is required, just the willingness to be brave enough to share in public with an online audience.

Too often people will wait until everything is exactly perfect before real action is taken, when a better approach is to follow the advice of Arthur Ashe and the action of Oliver Anthony. This is how success and recognition will come.

Getting better slowly

I read a feature story in the Post newspaper that was an extract from a book on personal growth and development. The focus was on the Japanese concept of Kaizen, which essentially means getting better through small incremental steps.

Often we will look at the huge changes and processes that we feel are necessary to improve any facet of our lives. However, these are likely to be unsustainable, perhaps offering small-term improvement that is soon forgotten and lost, as the commitment to maintaining them is unrealistic.

What does work, according to Kaizen theory, is to implement small changes that you know you can maintain. This may not lead to huge initial positive results, but you will build momentum that can be sustained, which will lead to significant improvement.

A reminder

On The School of Life app today a photograph of stars appeared. Beneath the photo were the instructions to flip the picture over by touching it. When I did so, the words ‘Small Pleasures – The Stars’ appeared.

This is such a great reminder. There are so many incredible things that we encounter every day, yet might not even notice them. Imagine if you’d never seen stars before, then looked up to see the night sky full of them – that would be a truly magical experience. However, just because we do see them often, this doesn’t make them any less magnificent. And there will be times in which nature does its work in an even more spectacular way, such as when a city dweller spends time in the country and sees a night sky that hasn’t been dimmed with city lights; but we’re only going to notice small pleasures like this if we really take the time to deliberately pay attention to the world around us.

Be proactive with treating yourself

This is an idea that was shared by author and self-help guru Jay Shetty on his Daily Jay narrative. Often we will treat ourselves reactively in response to something that has happened, whether it be a good or bad experience. This could be buying something if we come into unexpected money, or eating a packet of chocolate biscuits after a bad day at work. Both of these are treats, but they won’t necessarily make us feel better after a short period of time has passed – once the packet of biscuits is finished, or the initial excitement has passed with the new item bought, we may actually feel worse.

Jay thinks we should take a more proactive approach with treats. Instead of waiting for a reason to reward ourselves, we should instead have a plan to treat ourselves. This could be having a planned treat day, perhaps once a month, in which you decide in advance what the treat will be, giving yourself something to look forward to. The treat might then happen during times when everything is going well, helping to maintain the positivity, or it could be during tough and challenging times, helping to overcome difficulties we may be facing.

Being proactive with anything will give us a greater feeling of control. Why not extend it to the ways in which we reward ourselves?

For passion and fun

This month, Fiji beat England for the first time in a rugby union international. To make it even more impressive, the match was played at Twickenham, England’s home ground, also described as ‘the home of rugby’. The result came as a huge surprise to most, although those paying close attention might have seen it coming.

Something I found out after the match added to how special the result was – while the English players were paid thousands of pounds to play, the Fijians received little more than a daily allowance. These players weren’t motivated by money, rather, they are motivated by their passion for playing for their country and the enjoyment they get out of playing a game they love.

We can all learn from the Fijian team. Too often we look only to the financial reward for doing all manner of things. However, when we are passionate about and enjoy what we do, that’s when the real rewards and satisfaction comes.

Say it while you can

Spoiler alert – I just watched the final episode of the fabulous Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. In the episode there’s a scene when Beth, the central character, returns to the orphanage where she was raised and learned to play chess, taught by the janitor. When suddenly adopted, Beth never got to say thank you to her surly chess teacher.

Years later, when Beth has become a chess star, about to head off to a tournament against the world’s best in Russia, she returns to the orphanage after the janitor has passed away. When she enters the basement room where she learned to play she finds a wall covered in newspaper clippings covering her career. This makes her feel both incredibly sad and guilty –she never visited or saw him again after leaving the orphanage and would never be able to thank him for what he did for her.

Although The Queen’s Gambit is a work of fiction, it contains a message that we can all learn, this being that we shouldn’t hold back from saying sorry, thank you, or any other important words to those we care about. Just like for Beth, the opportunity might pass and we’ll forever regret it.

Tim Nelson is principal of Lakeview School and author of the book Small Steps for a happy and purposeful life. He endeavours to learn something new every day by reading books, listening to podcasts, and engaging with a wide range of other content.

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Tim Nelson
Tim Nelson
Tim Nelson is principal of Lakeview School and author of the book Small Steps for a happy and purposeful life. He endeavours to learn something new every day by reading books, listening to podcasts, and engaging with a wide range of other content.

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