Long Weekend

Long drives through rolling green hills as far as the eye can see.
Frosty mornings and a heavy fog, lifting to perfect weather and spectacular sunshine that warms your back as you read the morning papers. 
Exploring quiet country towns that house decades of stories and local legends.
Amazing food and drink. Lamb shank soup, cheese, mulled wine, apple crumble. (Too much.) 
A roaring bonfire, and camp ovens filled to bursting with juicy meat.
Flannel sheets and electric blankets. Ugg boots, scarves, games of cards.
Smiling babies and a slower pace, both bringing a sense of balance, simplicity and perspective.
Silliness, seriousness, and a long-yearned-for connection with old and new friends.

These shots were taken at the Farmhouse Dederang and Gapsted Wines.

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Next

A new year and a clean slate holds a certain appeal. I always appreciate a fresh start, and the chance to pause and reflect on my goals and recalibrate my focus. The new year feels like such an opportunity to dream big and use your imagination to do some futures forecasting for your own life. What a fun opportunity!

Rarely do I stop to reflect on past achievements, but today I'm glad to see I've knocked over a few major goals in the second half of 2013, with still a few more to tackle in the coming year.

2013 Wins

  • Taught myself that I'm a good saver when I put my mind to it by doubling my goal of 5K.
  • Made great gains in my adrenal fatigue recovering journey by taking control of my own health, and getting support from the professionals, which I'm looking to build on in 2014.

So, to 2014. I've already set some goals for my job, but it is nice to look beyond that and reflect on personal goals for the year.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a perpetual planner and a chronic goal setter. So I've come up with a mix of big ambitious goals and rituals to form my fairly comprehensive list. I tend to aim big, but try not to beat myself up too much if I don't meet all of my goals. I feel like there's a whole lot of value in the process, but too much pressure makes things get stressful, and a perfectionist like me tends to get overwhelmed. I prefer to think of these as ambitious guidelines.

Goals and Rituals for 2014

Academic

  • Finish my first Masters and get Distinction or better for my last few subjects.
  • Knock 26 books off my reading list by reading one a fortnight.
  • Make time to write and publish a blog post a week, either a book review or a reflective piece.

Health

  • Lose 20 kgs by finding balance with my eating habits and losing the all-or-nothing mentality.
  • Work out every day, over and above my daily bike commute with a mix of crossfit, bikram and running, or even just a dance class, a long lazy ride or a walk - just as long as it is something.
  • Run a sub 60 min 10 km race. Aiming for Run Melbourne on July 27.

Money

  • Remain debt free and stick to a budget to save another 20K by October.
  • Finish renovating Curracloe Farm and have both it and our apartment done.
  • Simplify all our finances.

Work

  • Confirm my next move for study and get accepted into my new course.
  • Explore the ethics/economics space more and refine my goals and next steps.
  • Get some funding for my research project idea.

Personal

  • Refine what I own down to essentials and only things I really love.
  • Go to Beyonce dance classes to get my sass on.
  • Get up at 5.15 with Marcus every weekday morning.

Rituals

On top of this long list, I really love the idea of sprint goals - extra points of focus over a short term which are designed to shake up and reshape your habits. They say it only takes 30 days for a new habit to be established. I've been brainstorming a list of habits I'd like to form that I'll attempt throughout the year:

Sprint Goals

  • Do at least 1 page of journalling everyday.
  • Get out of bed before 6 am everyday - not just week days.
  • No TV.
  • Meditate for at least 30 minutes daily.
  • No sugar.
  • Bikram 30 day challenge.
  • Practice spanish for 30 mins daily.
  • Photo a day challenge.
  • Practice guitar for 30 mins daily.
  • 30 min walk every evening.
  • Eat only food made at home.
  • Make the bed for 30 days in a row.

So there you have it. A long, ambitious list of targets for 2014. It feels good to do some longer term thinking and planning. Don't forget to have fun, be happy, and appreciate how amazing life is.

Bring on 2014!

What are you celebrating in 2013? What are you looking forward to in the new year?

Natural Habitat

I've been on safari in Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania with my family the last little while, and it has been absolutely amazing to see the magnificent creatures of Africa in their natural habitat. We were lucky enough to have great guides with us to explain the social, predatory and sexual behaviours of all the different species and the biggest thing I learned from this is that they're so much like us. The way they interact, learn, look out for each other, the way they team up with other species for mutual benefit. The efficiencies, practicalities, and partnerships that eventuate when living in the wild are really quite amazing. Instinct is so clever!

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What I found even more amazing though, is seeing human beings in their natural habitat. (If that sounds like I've been observing people as though they're displays in a zoo I apologise - that's certainly not the way I intend it. I mean it with a huge amount of curiosity and respect.)

In Rwanda, we saw people farming the green rolling hills. Every single inch of fertile land was terraced and sown with irish potatoes, maize, and bananas. Goats were tied to trees to make the most of any available shoots of grass. Mud huts were just big enough for a family, with an outdoor kitchen and simple ventilation. The roads were bustling. Every hilly spiralling road was a hive of social activity, as people ferried produce and water up and down, back and forth on bikes or by foot. Kids were playing with friends, walking to and from school. People seem happy and healthy.

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In Kenya and Tanzania, the Maasai are pastoralists, walking their herds of cattle and goats across the flat dry land for the day and taking shelter under trees in the warmest part of the afternoon. They keep their cattle safe from predators or thieves overnight by housing them within their communal village boundaries, surrounded by houses and fences made of sticks and trees. They don't hunt the game on the reserves, but have a deep respect for their environment and the opportunities tourism can create for their communities. They are joyful - music and dance are a big part of life, colour and movement are everywhere.

The Maasai and the Rwandans reminded me that we need very little to thrive. We need good food, exercise, strong social connections, something to work towards and something to bring us joy. They also reminded me just how far we in the west have moved away from our natural state of being. I know I've written about this before, but I really believe we are not designed to be cubicle bound all day. We are not meant to be controlled by a series of screens in our daily lives. We are meant to use our bodies to challenge ourselves physically, to related to others on a personal level, to look after those we know and to work to find mutually beneficial outcomes in dealings with those we don't know so well, and to pursue meaning.

There is so much we can learn from indigenous cultures around the world and here in Australia. Lessons of shared history, simplicity, connection to place, resilience, working in symbiosis with our surroundings. Despite the misconception that we in the developed world are "more advanced" than these communities, they are millions of years ahead of us, especially when it comes to respecting the land, and each other, and focusing on the important things in life.

I heard a great definition of indigenous today: meaning "a product of their environment". In that sense, we're all indigenous, but all too often we're moulded by the environment we've created for ourselves and not the natural environment we live in. This trip reminded me of the capabilities we all possess to adapt to our surroundings, to find a good outcome - and really, to survive.

Also, here's a timelapse from Cam of our sunset over Ngorongoro Crater.

If you're planning a trip of your own, I recommend:

Check out what the awesome people at Intrepid Travel are doing. They have a huge variety of trips throughout Africa.

Ideally, go early in the migration season or you risk missing out on seeing the big herds in the Serengeti. If possible, avoid the national parks and spend time in the private conservancies where you can go off road and get up close and personal.

Also, keep enough cash on your for tips, visas, and any incidentals because ATMs are hard to come by.

Key spots:

High School Reunion

On Saturday night, I experienced another adulthood rite of passage, attending my 10 year high school reunion.

Perhaps I'm an anomaly in that my memories of high school are overwhelmingly positive. (Granted, my opinion of the school itself has changed somewhat in the years since.) I had great friends, I did well academically, and I enthusiastically embraced the school's extra-curricular program - if only to get myself out of a few days of school. When I left, Girton Grammar was still quite a small independent school - even with students from all across Regional Victoria, our graduating year 12 class had only 80 students. We were quite close, and despite tight friendship groups within the year level there was almost no-one in I felt I couldn't have a conversation with. As tends to happen in country schools, weekend parties were attended by almost everyone in the year, as well as the year levels above and below, and everyone at the school knew everyone else.

In the ten years since I finished VCE, I've maintained close friendships with a handful of people from school. About half of our graduating class started their tertiary career at The University of Melbourne, so it was almost impossible to walk through the campus without running into someone from home - and from time to time I found this uncomfortable and unwelcome.

Since then though, many of the relationships I formed at school are not as strong as they once were. And how could they be? You make new friends, you get slack, you lose touch... Your plans change, and sometimes moving away from the people you knew helps to get you to where you think you want to go. Thanks to whispers heard second- and third-hand through intersecting social circles, Facebook, and family connections, I had a vague inkling that most of us were still alive, still growing, and still seeing others from our year level.

With this in mind, I was surprised to realise that even ten years later, having not seen quite a few Old Girtonians since graduation, the shared experience of high school is such a strong bond. 

Existing alongside these people at this critical point of our lives, when our fledgling adult identities were just beginning to emerge, creates a strange feeling of familiarity - an intangible sense of knowing - even among those I'd always counted as acquaintances rather than friends. Having seen each other almost daily for a six year period accounts for many a shared memory, and reliving some of these memories brought on a sense of belonging I've rarely experienced in the ten years since.

This feeling was quite unexpected, because when I've visited Bendigo in the years since school, I've felt surprisingly little attachment to the place I called home for most of my childhood. I realise now that my attachment isn't to the places, but the people.

Against my instincts, but at the insistence of my best high school friend, I brought along my husband for the night and I felt like he was getting a crash-course in the formation of Lara. It was almost a relief to have him meet and speak to people who knew me long before he did, like things have become clear to him all of a sudden. And perhaps I make a little more sense... (Although I doubt it.)

Since Saturday night, inevitably, the nostalgia has settled in. I still feel disappointed in myself that I didn't maintain close friendships with the people who knew me best, before I even knew myself. But at the same time, I know those friendships will always be there, because the great thing about high school is that you can never forget it, no matter how much you might like to. 

Maiden

My very clever friend Sandi Sieger was tweeting recently about the kinds of comments she gets about the fact that she changed her name when she got married. I totally respect her opinion and her decision, but I thought perhaps I could write a piece explaining why I didn't change mine.

My husband was disappointed to know that I wasn't going to change my name. According to him I'm "smiting" his family. I think (I hope) this is only said in jest. I'm sure if he had a serious issue and just simply couldn't understand my reasons, this would be a whole different piece and it might titled something like "Why I didn't get married".

I should start by saying that for whatever reason I quite like the tradition of taking your partners name. I think it shows solidarity of some kind. I don't know that I agree with it always being the man's name because I think that's a symptom of an outdated and unfair system, although I don't know how keen I am on someone taking my surname either...

Anywho..

Firstly, I like my name. Seeing as I quite like my name I thought it would be nice to hold onto it.

Secondly, I'm one of three girls, and my husband is one of four boys, there are plenty of them around and I have no doubt there will continue to be. I'd like to stick up for the McPhersons (although they're hardly a dying breed) by holding onto a name that is on its way out in my family!

Thirdly, potential confusion with sisters-in-law could be a problem. So far there is already a Laura Goonan. Oddly enough the other Goonan ladies are an Emma Goonan and an Amy - aka Ems and Ames. Tricky. I'll be intrigued to what happens when the final Goonan Wedding  takes place...

Penultimately, as silly as it sounds, there is a brand and a reputation attached to my name. People know me as Lara McPherson. And the mechanics of changing @laramcpherson and laramcpherson.com and all the other place my name lives in its original format to something else wore my brain out.

Finally and fundamentally, I find the idea of a maiden name problematic. Its not like I've been just existing in beta for 27 years, waiting for some man to come along so that I could scrap my temporary surname (the name of my father) and take up the surname of the man who would determine my identity for the remainder of my life. I've already existed as a fully fledged real life person for a long time, and I don't like the idea of abandoning that part of my identity as if it never existed. The idea of everyone I've known up to this point now knowing me as something different forever more seems odd to me.

Ok, over to you ladies and gents. To change, or not to change? Why or why not?

A Few Things I Learned in 2012

I wrote this a little while ago, but I was worried I sounded jaded and cynical. But after reading this I’ve decided I should publish it anyway.

2012 has been interesting for me. Challenging in many ways, but also enlightening. Hopefully I’ve grown - personally and professionally.

I’ve learned a few harsh lessons. Which are:

If you work for the love of it, and you lose the love, you’re not left with much.
Some of you may also know this as don’t work for free. I worked on some emotionally challenging projects this year. At times, I felt used, exhausted, resentful and unvalued. What I learned is that I will never work for love again, unless it is on my own projects.

Everyone is in it for themselves.
And most likely they don’t give a shit about you, your bank balance, your feelings or your reputation. They want what they want and if you can’t provide it, they’ll toss you and find someone who can. Unless you’re creating value, you’re not valuable.

Kudos doesn’t pay your bills.
Though I’ve benefitted from some lovely pats on the back this year, you can’t pay your bills with kind words and it is another thing entirely to convert positive sentiment to cold hard cash. Clue: You need to DO SOMETHING.

Fragmented focus leads to burn out / Burn out is a real thing.
Fear of missing out and chronic control freak tendencies have left me feeling utterly worn out this year. And while I may not yet have figured out exactly what it is I’m good at, I’ve found things I love doing, and others that I don’t so it hasn’t been for nothing.

I can’t do everything, but I can do something.
I am limited. There are some things (many, in fact) that I am just not good at. Attempting to solve all the world’s problems on my own is sure to lead to insanity. However, doing what I can to the best of my ability is sure to lead to satisfaction, both personally and professionally.

And the best bits:

I’m very lucky to be married to such an incredible man.
Don’t know what he sees in me, but I’m sure glad he sees something.

Delayed gratification is the definition of maturity.
For all her whining, Carrie Bradshaw was right about one thing. And also, doing things for the benefit of others will bring you more happiness and satisfaction than being self involved ever can.

A little bit of perspective changes everything.
Learn to think of yourself from outside your little patch of the world. Then see if you like what you see.

Support comes from where you least expect it.
At periods this year when I’ve really needed support, I have found it from the most unexpected of avenues. As I now know, its when you’re going through a challenging time that you find out who your real friends are. They’re the ones you should hold on to.

I’d rather be farming.
The absolute simplicity of growing your own food, and sitting outside all of the bullshit, is the one biggest thing I’m looking forward to - the light at the end of the tunnel. And I can’t wait.

A Good Year

Yesterday I was so overwhelmed with all the work I need to get through, that instead I watched a film. Yeah. I know. No gold star for me on the productivity front.

The film was A Good Year. Nothing groundbreaking. A sweet tale of the good things in life triumphing over the trivial things we all think we want. Russell Crowe was ever charismatic, and Marion Cotillard was charming, demanding and very french. And there was a surprise appearance by Australian Abbie Cornish.

It has kind of thrown me for a loop though. I thought I was getting my head sorted - focusing on the priorities at hand and working through my very handy (and ever present) to do list. Trying to remind myself not to get caught up in the bigger things I want to do, and ignoring my growing bucket list. For now, at least.

But watching Russell (aka Max) live out my lifelong dream - settling on an old chateau in Provence to make wine - was like poking an almost healed wound. It has brought my wanderlust rushing back, it made my crave some quality time at our farm (permanent if possible), and it made me mentally start reconfiguring my to resemble Russell and Marion’s fantasy existence.

I can’t even explain how this feels.

I know reality is never like it seems to be in the movies, but it reminded me in a very real way that there is an alternative to feeling like a hamster on a wheel or whatever the saying is.

I remember a while ago now, when I told my very conservative businessman father that I wanted to leave my job to work on projects I was passionate about, he said to me “I don’t see how that will make you any money”, and I wanted to scream at him, “That’s not the effing point!”

And it isn’t the point. For me at least. It seems there’s a generation gap here. And it probably has to do with the fact that we’ve always had it good, and our parents have always wanted us to have it good, so they’ve always wanted to provide for us financially. In essence, we’re spoilt. We’re also more socially and environmentally aware, overqualified and underexperienced, and hyper connected to the way the global economy works. In a sense, it is inevitable.

And now, my dad tells me he’s not longer enjoying work. He wants to retire and become a farmer. Isn’t it funny how things come full circle?

There must be a balance somewhere. Is having a personally and financially fulfilling life a figment of our collective imaginations?

Am I deluded in thinking, that as soon as Marcus and I are married (less than 2 weeks from now), we can happily make ourselves at home on our farm, grow vegies, drink wine and be happy? Why is it that this simple life is so unattainable for so many of us? What else is there that’s more important?

Juggling/Struggling

Anyone who has been plugged into conversations happening online and offline in the last couple of weeks will know that things seem to be shifting somewhat of late.Many people I admire and respect a great deal, people I consider to be doing amazing things for the greater good, have confessed that the challenge has become overwhelming. This honesty and vulnerability has prompted a range of reactions from people in similar situations, and those who aren't.

I wrote about my own experiences here and here. But I'm feeling today that perhaps I wasn't honest enough with where I'm at. I've decided I need to be really clear on how I'm feeling. And I'm certainly not intending to glorify this or say that my process is any better or worse than anyone else's. I'm simply talking aloud here and trying to figure things out for myself, and I'm hoping to benefit from the insights of others who are going through or who have been through something similar. If you're sick of hearing me talk about myself, my process and my life, I don't blame you. But if you don't have anything constructive to contribute I'd respectfully ask that you quietly move on and avoid making this harder for me than it already is. I don't want to paint too dire or too self-adulatory a picture here. I'm just trying to figure some things out.

The truth is - I'm completely overwhelmed. It has hit me like a sledge hammer this week. I am burnt out. I am so exhausted from juggling competing priorities for too long. A lovely friend wrote something about me recently and said the following: "If Lara McPherson somehow acquired more than ten fingers and thumbs, there is no doubt she would be cramming them into multiple creative pies at the same time." I hope it was intended as a compliment, but the truth is I cannot keep so many fingers in so many pies.

I think I've finally figured out what has happened and how I have arrived at this point.

1. I'm an intelligent person. I have always done well academically, despite minimal effort. I'm interested in everything. I love learning, either in a traditional educational setting, or in a self driven way. I have always loved reading. Anything. I listen to podcasts - on history, social theory, business, literature, science, food, environment, wellness, travel, whatever I can get my hands on - all the time. At the gym, at work, and when I'm falling asleep. I want to know everything about everything. Or at least something about everything.

2. I'm a creative. I am constantly coming up with new projects to pursue. I thrive on inspiration but I struggle to work without it. I'm also easily bored, bad at finishing what I start. One of my greatest assets (and liabilities) is creating connections and seeing opportunities. I think perhaps this is a virtue of the fact that my interests spread across so many areas and industries. More than anything I love thinking strategically about the way things can be improved.

3. I am unsatisfied with the way things are done. I see injustices, imbalances and impracticalities with the way the world works and I instinctively feel it is my job to change things. In particular, my concerns centre on the way we consume, the way the media works, how little people think for themselves and take on the accepted wisdom, our education system and the current economic paradigm. These are BIG areas to try and tackle, on your own or with a whole heap of people. But I'm only just figuring out that I might not be able to change everything I want to.

4. I have a chronic fear of missing out and I'm prone to choice anxiety. If I have an idea, I hate the idea of hanging it off to someone else to see it realised. Perhaps that means I'm selfish. But also, the idea of missing out on a chance to learn something, to meet people, to find a new opportunity does not sit well with me. At all. So what I tend to do instead is try and do everything. But the reality is you can only juggle so many things at once. And fewer still if you want to do any of them well.

5. I also have a chronic need to please people. I'm not quite sure where this comes from - I'd say it probably has to do with my relationship with my Dad - but it feels really important to me that people like me. This means I'm likely to promise the world to people, even if I can not actually deliver it. The idea of being "too generous" seems ridiculous to me, but I'm getting my head around the fact that I am - and often. Mostly, I give my time too freely and it comes back to haunt me.

6. I'm irrationally optimistic. And for the most part I think this is a good way to be. Though as my previous point might illustrate, it actually doesn't really occur to me very often that things might not work out for the best. I always think the best of people, it doesn't occur to me that everyone isn't in it for the right reasons. I've been incredibly fortunate in my life, and I suppose I have no reason not to think this. But reality dictates that everything isn't right all the time.

7. I'm an organiser. I love people. I love bringing my favourite people together. I also like things how I like them. So rather than jumping on board someone else's idea, I'm always more inclined to organise something of my own - this applies to things like my businesses, my netball team, my running group, and a million other examples. I think it goes back to me wanting to please people. Maybe it is just that I want the pat on the back that comes with it?

8. Money doesn't drive me. My parents have always been comfortable financially, and it never occurred to me that I might not be. The idea of getting a job I don't enjoy to pay the bills feels exactly opposed to my values. In fact I've done it, and I hated it. I don't know that I could bring myself to do it again. My attitude to money means I'm good at spending and bad at saving, because I assume more will always come along - irrational optimism as fiscal policy.

9. I am always on. Because I do what I love, delineation between my work and personal life is non-existant. I'm extremely bad at compartmentalising my life. This means my work and personal relationships collide, my work and personal finances collide, my digital presence serves both work and personal functions. This makes it incredibly hard to step away from work when I need to to focus on my personal life.

10. I like round numbers. Or more specifically, numbers divisible by 5. This is actually a real thing about me. I also like lists.

The culmination of all of these factors looks something like this:

I am involved in a long list of projects, but I feel like I'm doing nothing well. I spend so much time in my head thinking about how to manage competing priorities that I am mentally exhausted. I love starting new projects, but usually I burn out or run out of inspiration before I can see any of them through to completion. I feel like I'm working my bum off, but I'm not actually illustrating my true capacity which is incredibly frustrating. I feel like I've been plugging away for a while now, but that I have almost nothing to show for it and I'm not getting to where I think I want to go. I don't have a good grasp of what my real skills are, because I'm so used to trying to do everything. I love setting goals (with the best of intentions) but I lack the perseverance and persistance to see them realised. I am passionate about many things, but I forget that I cannot be everything to everyone.

What the above list and this outline of my current situation tell me is that I need to do a complete reassessment of how I've been operating.

I'm not 100% clear on how to approach this, but I think I have a few ideas on how to get started. Here's another list.

1. Cull - aka focus. I need to get extremely selective about what I'm involved in professionally. This probably means there will be several people reading this who I may have to have difficult conversations with in the next couple of weeks. I hope that they recognise that this is probably a good thing for them, and it definitely is for me.

2. Become good at something - I think I have an inkling as to what this might be, but now is the time to specialise in it. Absorb myself completely in one thing. Just writing that now feels like such a relief.

3. Be clear about my value - I have been far too inclined to do work for free or for contra. But this is not the path to financial sustainability and it certainly won't pay for my much needed holiday. I need to get into the habit of clarifying the terms of any work arrangement I enter into before I take it on.

4. Take time to reflect and appreciate - I tend to get too caught up in the doing to spend time thinking about what I'm doing or why I'm doing it. Just starting to write things down in the last few weeks has been amazing. Sorry if you're sick of reading about it, but having it here is helping me too much for me to stop it.

5. Focus on my physical and mental health - my mind and body have taken a beating in the last few years. Stress and anxiety have wreaked havoc on my hormones, which has impacted on my weight, fitness, self esteem, mood, emotional stability, and even my sleep. (I never thought I would say that.) For too long now, I have ignored the signs of physical and mental exhaustion and managed to get by on caffeine and carbohydrates. But my body cannot handle this anymore so I need to make my health a priority to ensure I'm reaching my full potential.

 

Well, that's a start. I would love to hear from any of you who have words of wisdom to share. I know there is a wealth of knowledge in the community and I'm choosing now to make the most of it if it is available.

Today is the first day of spring and it is a beautiful day in Melbourne. Life is good and I feel extremely fortunate to have so many inspiring, supportive people around me.

Learning

This week has been interesting. Following my confession on Tuesday that I'm not good at everything (shock horror!), and that I've been struggling to come to terms with this, I've been overwhelmed by the support I've received from all the wonderful people around me.Some really interested points were raised in response to a confession from David Hood, another person I admire and respect, that he too was stretched. David and I do similar kind of work  - centred on engagement, education and collaboration for good. Though his work is mainly focused in the broader social change space, and mine in specifically in the fashion sector, I see a lot of cross over. Hence much of the discussion really resonated with me. Here's are some extracts:

 

>>> On the risks of this kind of work:

"We know the benefits of operating in open, collaborative, networked and real-time ways - are these the negative impacts? A reminder to be mindful... and create space." - David Hood

and

"I came to realise was that my greatest strength...the ability to remain open and see so many connections and opportunities that others couldnt even recognise, was also my greatest nemesis." - Annalie Killian

and also

"When the majority of what you do is live event-based I think the risk of burnout is especially high." - Tom Dawkins

These comments particularly rang true for me with the kind of work that I do. Like Annalie, one of my greatest strengths is my ability to see connections and opportunities, and also like Annalie, I find it almost impossible to leave this alone and to turn it off. As someone who is interested in everything, I'm forever coming up with new projects/collaborations/endeavours. And I have trouble reconciling the idea that they don't all need to be realised, and certainly not all right now. As David says, when we are all connected and accessible all the time, it is so difficult to know when to stop. As Tom notes too, working in live events, to concrete deadlines (where the culmination of your work is often realised in person and measured by the level of social engagement) is extremely exhausting.

>>> On personal sustainability:

"What is really useful [is] to translate the principles of sustainability on the personal eco-system." - Anni Roolf

I've written before about balance. And while I stand by my statement that it isn't the be all and end all, this comment prompted some kind of small personal epiphany in me. The idea of personal sustainability has been raised frequently in the past couple of years. But this comment from Anni prompted me to think about it as I would triple bottom line reporting for an organisation. Similar to the recommendations I would make to any fashion business looking at "sustainability", I've been thinking about this in terms of people/profit/planet. To me, this translates as mental (social and intellectual stimulation), financial (business and bank balance), and health (physical and emotional). Ideally, these things should be mirrored in the community you're a part of too - ie, you should also work on the sustainability of those around you in tandem with yourself. Give and take between these three pillars for you as an individual and in your community is not only necessary, but vital for the best outcome. I guess I am really talking about balance here, but I prefer to allow plenty of room for ebb and flow, understanding that all pillars will rarely be in perfect alignment, and in fact that is the point!

As with in the sustainable fashion world, what has become increasingly evident, is the importance of  transparency - or in this sense, honesty. This seems to really go against the grain for many, as vulnerability is not popular where personal branding exists. It is risky, from a professional standpoint. But for me, it is because it is unpopular and because it is perceived as risky that it is powerful. The very clever Kirk Bennitten has been doing some thinking along these lines...

 

>>> On limitations:

"You're loved, you're supported and you're freakin' awesome; you're also a frail, weak and limited human being and you need to come to terms with the reality of your own constraints." - Cameron Burgess

I've spent a considerable amount of time with Cameron in the last little while in his capacity as my business mentor, and board member of Sustainable Fashion Australia. Additionally, he is a profoundly intuitive person, and I learned a great deal from him beyond business strategy! His comment here is so, so valid. We are all limited, we can't achieve everything all on our own. We can only work to our strengths, be supported by others and achieve what we can.

 

>>> On being ahead of the curve:

"I've come to accept that the life of a frontrunner is a hard one, that he will suffer more injuries than most men and that many of these injuries will not be accidental." - a quote from Pele via Jennifer Sertl

and also

"Your work is not to drag the world kicking and screaming into a new awareness. Your job is to simply do your work - sacredly, secretly and silently - and those with 'eyes to see and ears to hear' will respond." - Viv McWaters

I've been having many discussions about this in recent months. There is no doubt that it is easier to follow the established path through life, rather than walk the road less travelled. There are inherent risks involved in doing things differently, but for me, like any gambler knows, with greater risk comes greater potential rewards.

 

>>> And finally, a comment on creativity:

‎"Creativity and solitude are inextricably linked." a quote from Robert Hughes via Tony Hollingsworth

I've always loved Steven Johnson's philosophy "chance favours the connected mind" which he espouses in his "Where Good Ideas Come From" talk which you can see here on TED.com (which links back to Annalie's comments earlier), but perhaps I've forgotten the vital next step when it comes to actually creating something. As Robert Hughes alludes to here, the processes of creation requires sustained focus, concentration, and drive and solitude is a great friend to these principles. All too often I'm too busy having good ideas, collaborating and sharing, to actually sit with them and work to see them realised. Reflection, analysis and recalibration have been underrated in my life to this point, but this is about to change.

 

I don't have all the answers. I haven't learned all the secrets in the past week. But Anni Roolf did offer some fantastic suggestions to work on which I've paraphrased below:

> Create areas in your life that have nothing to do with your work :: doing nothing, doing beautiful things with no aims. > Develop a personal, healthy time structure / rhythm :: we personally and also the whole (connected & global) society needs new rituals, structures, rules, borders, habits, routines to stay sane. The old ones are no longer suitable, so it's our task to create new ones. > Challenge the dominant ideology of borderless networks. > Physical exercise and nutrition. > Let go of fast :: best to let things go -- huge psychological effect. > Review your own attitude to performance. Review your life and work goals :: Why I don't respect my own borders? Why I don't respect myself? Which is my real motive to perform? Is it a good one? > Be conscious of inputs of all kinds: music, people, media usage (virtual, TV, radio), books, leisure activities. (Less is more.) > Enjoy all kind of nature experiences as often as possible / walk for hours in the nature. (Slow types of movement.)

As Paul Szymkowiak noted, "self-help" frameworks are sometimes at risk of becoming yet another thing we must do (part of the reason why I've never managed to establish a meditation routine), which entirely defeats their purpose. For me, it is more important to be aware of these things, apply them when they serve you, but don't work yourself up about it if they're not in your best interests. So that's what I plan to do. Although I've added a couple of my own:

> Read more. > Write more. > Do nothing more.

 

When all's said and done, a few things have become extremely clear to me this week.

1 > My experiences are not at all uncommon. Many very smart, very special people in my sphere are experiencing similar challenges. People I admire very much are also owning up to the fact that life isn't as rosy as they might like it to be. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if you're not experiencing this on occasion, then you're not pushing yourself. But the key is to push yourself just the right amount so that you're reaching (rather than surpassing) your limits.

2 > I am extremely lucky. I am so fortunate to be in a position to pursue the things I love. I am supported by my nearest and dearest more than I could wish. I am given every opportunity to pursue my dreams. I have always known this, but this week has served as a handy reminder.

Thanks to my gorgeous friend Dani Sirotic for her support this week and for bringing my attention to the discussion started by David.

Melbourne's Most Influential, Inspiring and Creative 2010

I recently read The Age Melbourne's List of the the Top 100 for 2010.Amazingly, there were close to none on the list that I would have had on mine. So I decided to write my own - not quite 100 though... Now, given that I spend so much time in the online world, its fair to say that I exist in a fairly different space to most mainstream print journalists so its hardly surprising that we don't see eye to eye on this, and those I've selected are certainly indicative of my areas of interest. But I think my choices show - to some extent - just how far removed so many traditional journalists are from the many channels of conversations that are happening online. It is also testament to just how much of an impact the connections I have made online are having on my real life relationships, my ongoing personal development and my decisions.

How lucky am I to have spent time with these amazing people in the past year?!

Kate Kendall - used the internet to bring people together

Kate is a bit of a legend in the Melbourne online space. She is responsible for creating many meaningful connections and relationships within the community and has helped people get jobs, make friends, find love, discover their passions, meet interesting people and has established the SocialMelb meetup as a way for online relationships to move into the real world. Kate may be known for her work in digital strategy but she is also a gifted writer, communicator and a born innovator with an entrepreneurial streak. Kate sees social media as an extra tool for education, development, communication - not a replacement for real life interaction. It is impossible for me to say enough things about Kate's brilliance in 150 odd words but she is an incredibly perceptive, aware and compassionate person. After having known Kate only a short time I am sure she will remain a close friend for a lifetime. And I am really excited to see what she comes up with in 2011.

More about Kate at her website.

Tresna Lee - pursued her passion and simplified her life

12 months ago Tresna's life was vastly different. As far as I can tell, it has been a tumultuous but immensely rewarding year for a young lady who made a choice not to take the easy way out. Tresna has left behind the promise of a lofty career in HR to pursue her interest in food. By embracing a minimalist lifestyle she is living more, with less. She now spends some of her days indulging her passion for high quality food in 2 of Melbourne's newest favourite food spots - The Palace by Luke Mangan, and Earl Canteen. She has also found the time to establish a really interesting new creative project - Foodhands - which documents the stories of people working in the food industry and is a really great insight into the motivation of people who pursue their passion - in any field. She continues to educate and inspire me to pursue my passions and dictate the way I want to live my life.

Read Foodhands or more about Tresna at her blog.

Kealey Nutt - challenged traditional notions of online/publishing

When Kealey made the move over from her native Perth to pursue further study, she knew a handful of people and was living on a student's wage (ie. nothing). In the space of less that 1 year she has established herself as a force to be reckoned with in the online publishing world. By launching Thelma - a digital magazine with a conscience - she is challenging businesses with a much larger pool of resources to step up to the plate. By creating her own format, constantly changing and evolving, and providing interesting young people from all fields with an opportunity to contribute or be featured in the magazine she is setting the bar high for others in the industry. Most impressive though, is that she is only at the beginning of learning web coding. Scary to think just how good it can get.

Read Thelma or visit Kealey's website.

Mikala Tai - established a gallery space for asian contemporary art

Mikala is a dynamo. She has established a gallery space for contemporary asian art with her business partner Bryan Collie. She curates the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program. Plus she is completing a PhD. All before the age of 30. What I admire most about her though, is that she is unfailingly generous with her time, eternally optimistic and dedicated to developing emerging talent in her fields of influence. She is one of the nicest people I have had the good fortune to meet in 2010 and certainly someone who has influenced my direction professionally and personally.

Visit the Melbourne International Fine Art website.

Karen Webster - pushed the agenda of local fashion

Most fashion loving Melbourne folk will know of Karen from her work as Director of the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. Taking 5 years off from her role as Director of the RMIT School of Fashion, she was responsible for expanding the festival to unprecedented levels. Finishing her fifth and final festival in March and handing the reigns over to new Creative Director Grant Pearce, she has returned to RMIT and continues to champion the work of emerging local designers, and somehow finds time to work on her own PhD, plus give much needed assistance to many in need of mentoring, myself included.

David Hood - used social media to do something good

David uses his considerable skills and compassionate spirit to work solely with people and organisations who are doing some good in the world. In 2010 he contributed to the success of two of my highlights for the year, the TEDxMelbourne events and the Hub Melbourne Incubator, among many others. He has also set up his social enterprise Doing Something Good to facilitate collaboration, education, knowledge sharing and help for people working on great causes in Melbourne. He has also been extremely patient and generous with his time with me as he is with others.

Check out Doing Something Good or visit David's blog.

And a couple that were on the Age's List that I would have included on mine too...

Grace McQuilten - combined fashion and social enterprise

Grace has a long history as a contributor to the work of some of Melbourne's greatest causes. This year, her own organisation The Social Studio has gathered momentum as one of Australia's most impressive social enterprises. Arming refugees and recent immigrants with the skills to work in the textiles industry, its principles and designs have been talked about for all the right reasons. Grace was even shortlisted to meet Oprah as one of Australia's most innovative social entrepreneurs.

Read more about The Social Studio at the website.

Dan Sultan - brought soul and sex appeal back to Australian music

Dan Sultan is a character. The kind of which I feel has been missing from the Australian music landscape for quite a while. His smoky voice is rough and soft at the same time. His songwriting is nostalgic in many ways. He is a modern day sex symbol and poet rolled into one - a mix of Michael Hutchence and Paul Kelly perhaps? He sings about life in Melbourne and pinpoints the emotion with such skill that it reminds you again and again why you love this city. I'm really glad to see him catch a wider audience this year.

Watch the clip for "Old Fitzroy".

And just when you thought I was done... a few more amazing ladies that continue to inspire, influence and excite me with their creativity, generosity and ability to take risks to pursue their passions. All of whom I met through the internet. Weird? Maybe... Awesome? Yes.

Lou Pardi - took a risk and left her job to pursue a career as a full time freelance writer - her website

Cheryl Lin - managed to juggle a full time job as well as her many other projects - her blog

Lyrian Fleming - dedicated her life to environmental and humanitarian organisations - her blog

Bhakti Talreja - established So Ethic - Melbourne's first not-for-profit ethical clothing store

Here's to a spectacular 2011. May we all strive to achieve great things, and inspire others in the process.