Words that can turn a man cold!

The following words will normally fill a man with dread – “Honey can we try the sustainable food restaurant on Sunday evening” “Sustainable food”? I ask, “Yes” she said – it serves mainly vegetarian dishes, you eat off wheat based cutlery, oh and it does a great Lionfish curry. It must have been a weak moment for me because normally I would be clamoring for a Sunday roast or at least a meat based hearty affair washed down with a nice red wine. Alas, as good husbands do from time to time I simply said “sure, why not”. Although I could think of a million reasons why not my head was saying, but she wants to and you always eat what you want.

So with very little enthusiasm (from my part) we set off for a new sustainable eating restaurant called Vivo, it’s based on north west point road in West Bay Grand Cayman. Only a 5-10 min car ride from seven mile beach. Its located in a popular dive spot/hotel. Upon arrival I was not bowled over, metal chairs no cloths and a take out style inner room. However you sit outside looking over the ocean which surprisingly is not that common as only a few of the restaurants her come with ocean views. Our server Lori, greeted us with a warm smile and “sit wherever you like guys” which I immediately warmed to. It made me realize that look, dinner doesn’t have to be stuffy just go with it try something new and relax! Lori immediately bought over the iced water some table mats and asked had we visited Vivo before. She explained what the restaurant was all about and made some recommendations for the starters which we took her up on, plus a couple of glasses of bubbles for good measure.

The appetizers of falafels and egg plant roll arrived with a mint dip and another dip that looked like honey but actually had a nice spicy bite to it. The egg roll was like a Quesada and was delicious and the falafel was actually pretty tasty and more like a samosa. Both were filling without making you full and I was impressed! Other diners were enjoying their food also and plenty of   yums and wows are being heard. For mains I had the Lionfish curry (Lionfish is an invasive predator fish to Grand Cayman and needs culling so it is sustainable) and my wife had the vegetable curry, simply put both were fab.

Plates finished wine drunk and some happy banter with our waitress Lori who made time for everybody in the restaurant. We asked her to thank Chef Marie who had whipped up our food in no time chatted some more then made our way home happy in the knowledge that we would come back here.

So the morale of this tale – Those moments you keep missing by sticking to the norm, this could have been one of them! Take a chance on something new. I am always berating myself for predicting the outcome of something based on preconceived ideas which have no foundation, just because I’m not a vegetarian in this case. But even then sometimes the food doesn’t matter but the time you spend in the company of someone you find very important.

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Things you can learn at a finish Line

You just have to believe!

No I don’t mean in the biblical sense, I mean you just have to believe in yourself and believe that you can!

Yeah, yeah, yeah why are you telling me this I’ve heard this all before… well you perhaps have but I bet you haven’t done this…

I would like you to seek out a marathon run near you, don’t worry you don’t have to do it, yet. I want you to go to the finish line around the 5 hours plus mark. After 5 hours or more of continuous exercise you are fighting some pretty awesome demons. Just as many as the sub 5 hour people but now they have turned even more evil!

After we finished the Miami half marathon this weekend in Miami we went back to the hotel had a hot shower and then said we would go and watch the marathon finishers. Something we had never done before even though we have taken part in several now! Hands down it was the best part of the whole weekend for both of us! We screamed and shouted for every random stranger that ran over that finish. We felt every bit of emotion with them, so many people shed tears of triumph as they crossed that line and we were right there with them.

Why? because you know their pain so their accomplishment just reminds you what yours felt like, and you know what it makes you want to do it again. Every person that finishes the dreaded 26.2 has a story to tell, they all did it for a reason, many will do one again.

But that’s not what this post is about, if you have not done one you wont be able to relate to those feelings however you can see it in others. No, what I want you to notice is the sheer diversity of people and body types that cross that finish line….. disabled athletes, Amputees, Large people , small people , young, old, athletic, not athletic, every race color and creed, the finish line lets everyone pass and that’s the take away here.

If you can honestly walk away from that finish line and think “I could never do that”, you have missed something. You don’t have to run a marathon, but if you think you can then I promise you, you can. You just have to believe in yourself!

 

Those goodbye letters at the end of a visit

There is a part of living overseas that is truly rubbish, I always remember my mum and my auntie Dee saying ememotional goodbyeotional goodbyes to each other after the summer holidays and that was only a boat ride across the Irish sea! But back then it was hellish expensive to get from England to Ireland unless you went via a 16 hour door to door car journey involving an eight hour sea crossing on the B&I boats, which, back then I used to think were massive, the biggest ships on the ocean some even had cabins! However once you have crossed the Irish Sea in a storm you knew you never wanted to be a fisherman or sailor. When you have seen your Nanna “Mac” throwing up in a plant pot whilst trying to find a seat you know that a better way to travel must be found. These days if there is a stiff breeze the ship won’t sail but back then they went in all weathers! Plus the boats were not the mega cargo hauling ferry boats of today with cinemas and all manner of amusements on board, oh no, you really were in for an epic voyage of discovery. The discovery being the contents of your stomach! Maybe that’s why they got so upset at saying goodbye they really were not sure if this was the last voyage!

However saying goodbye to family, especially my mum really never struck me like it does now, I get to see close members of my family face to face so infrequently that it really is like having a piece of your soul torn away just for a little bit. Then, face-time or Skype conversations resume and its ok because everyday is one more day closer to when you see them again. I also think that as we get older we worry more that something will happen to them that we wont be there for, you feel the frailty of life when you hear so many horror stories and honestly I think you never really know if you are saying goodbye… Now that’s heavy… and I don’t say it to upset you dear reader, but to emphasize the importance of living everyday to its fullest and appreciating the fact that you will always have someone who loves you unconditionally, fat, thin, rich poor, good qualities or bad your family will always be the ones who will be there for you. Of course I am supposing that you and your family are close I can only draw from my own experience and whatever ups & downs we go through we have always remained close.

Of course this most acute of pains, “the saying goodbye” one, is totally self-inflicted as we decided to live our lives away from them. We decided that a life on a Caribbean island was worth the momentary heartbreak of saying goodbye, I say momentary as it actually takes a good few days to subside enough to think about normal things again. But there is a tipping point, should it become too difficult because we didn’t want to be here then we would move in an instant to be closer to them, but for now the pros of living in this idyllic place far outweigh the lows of saying goodbye and one of the best remedies for overcoming the low is remembering just how much of a good time they had whilst with us and that reunion embrace that’s sure to come again very very soon.

We always make plans for the next visit, be it us to them or vice versa so we are able to say “see you in September” as that feels real, tangible almost, it feels close and manageable. As I write this I haven’t seen my sisters or father in nearly 2 years its gone so quickly but I know time has come that I must see them as I can’t bear the thought of it being a further 2 years till I see them again. So the September date has been agreed!

I also write this on the eve of my mums 3 week adventure with us over the Christmas and new years period of 2015/16 coming to an end. Its been 2 years since her last trip here and although we talk most days about life, my siblings and the like, her excitement leading up to this trip was akin to that of a 5 year old at Christmas which was just so lovely. Both Kym and I looked forward to this trip as well for several reasons. We both knew my mum needed the break, she works all the hours god sends to ensure the family can be taken care of even though she should take more care of herself, she is mum and she will never stop worrying. Even though we her children are fine, finding our way in the world making mistakes but generally getting by. Mums will never stop the “what if” thought, so they will make sure they have a little put away! Its part of the reason that Kym and I wanted to ensure she had a complete break, gave her the treats she gave us and hopefully send her back to Ireland feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the world with one small change. Take care of you mum.

So today we have all been a bit subdued as we know the goodbye is coming, its way worse than knowing your going to the dentist to have a tooth pulled because the sadness hits you in waves. One minute you’re fine the next minute a mess knowing that she or they are not going to be a part of your day to day life for a while. It is like grief, and some deal with it better than others. Me, I’m getting worse maybe its because I respect all that they did for me growing up, maybe I can relate to them better now I have some worldly experience, maybe its just because I love them unconditionally and am truly sad that they are going.

But I cant stay sad for long, mum and the rest of the friends and family that visit, love visiting, we create memories, we have quality time and we can remember specific details of each visit. Facebook helps us give them an account of what we are up to and us them. I honestly don’t know how people did this in the time before Internet and skype, maybe that’s why the Cayman Islands were considered a hardship placement! It makes you laugh now but you had to be made of pretty stern stuff to leave everything behind and only be in contact via mail –snail mail that is. I love the wonders of our technology for that. It keeps us close and we are only a call away. Now teleportation that would be cool….

In closing “goodbye letters” its worth noting that I have kept all the little notes we slip under the door or hide in the suitcase that makes us leak a little on the plane or at home when we find them. They are amazing reads for those times when you want the assurance that someone cares and loves the time they spend with you. They remind me of moments I forget and always leave me with a smile on my face because after all they are sonnets for the heart that even Shakespeare, Wordsworth nor Elliot could not capture and personalize for you better than your mum (or someone special to you).

Safe travels Mum see you in September xx

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“A cure for Sunday-itis” TEDx Talk done !!!

A cure for Sunday-it is!

TEDx Talk Bucket list done!!!

This week I did something that’s been on my bucket list since I saw my first TED talk a few years ago. There had been a few ideas bubbling up but this one seemed to catch the attention of the TEDx planning committee on the application.

For those who have yet to fill in a TED application form they are a load of fun! They take some time and require some thought but they are designed to look for something different so you cant cheat them!

Below is the outline of the talk I wrote but what I presented was very different to this and in a very different style. However it did give the cure for Sunday-it is!

TED.com will release the final video but the live stream version is still live at the time of publishing this and you can see it at TEDxsevenmilebeach.com watch online. I present at 2hrs 53.

I hope you enjoy it!

“I hate my job”

I admitted that to myself on a Monday morning sometime in the middle of 2006.

I had Sunayitis – do you know what Sundayitis is?

Well I’m sure there is a medical term for it but I call it “ The absolute dread of going to work on Monday” The feeling that what I am going to do tomorrow is going to sap the life from me.

I would have this internal dialogue with myself about all the ways I could get out of going to work tomorrow. I could be sick, I could arrange a meeting that would allow me a little longer lay in. Seriously this thought process would start as early as midday on the Sunday!

But why? I had been in the same field of work for 5+ years, I had been promoted, I ran teams and as my wife said “I was good at it!”

So why was I trying to not go and do something I was good at?

Eventually this Sundayitis became so severe that I had to do something, look for a way out change my career, because it became all-consuming. The inner dialogue was turning into a full on conversation on an almost daily basis

“Your back here again, you think that guy is a jerk, you haven’t done anything about this, your not going to do anything about this…”

So I had to make it stop!

This is where everyone needs that friend, mum , wife or person who is not going to put up with you whining and simply say.

“Its your life change it”.

Now that’s easier said than done, financial burdens are ever present and I wasn’t in a situation where I could just give up a good job. I had a mortgage, student loans and a passion for food, wine and fun!

My wife repeated the phrase why do you hate something your so good at? But this time I heard her….

We often listen but don’t hear, and significant people in our lives often give us great nuggets and we can miss them and I wish I had heard her the first time she asked this because it was the catalyst for me to shut up that internal dialogue.

OK – So I hate my job – but do I really hate my job or do I hate something else and it just relates to my job?

Hate is such a strong word but if you have ever suffered sundayitis it’s the only word that seem to be able to help define that anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach when you really don’t want to do something but know you have to do it.

I evaluated my job – and came to the following conclusions:

1 – I liked how I made people feel (I got them jobs!)

2- I liked helping people

3- I did make a difference

4- I needed more

Now it was point 4 that really got me excited, ok ok now I know I need more, fantastic I don’t hate my colleagues or my company I just need more….

Problem is I haven’t a clue what more meant…but I did know it had to be somewhere else. I had become so used to the bubble in which I lived that I hadn’t noticed that I had outgrown my bubble.

My bubble was defined by – my gym, my shops, my friends, my house, my environment it was all so safe, I needed an adventure.

The reason I was excited was that my “Spidey sense” was in full gear telling me this was going to happen. I just didn’t know when or how it would happen. So My wife and I started making plans, with no idea how, where or why we would do these things they were just plans, dreams, paths to follow.

We started by looking at selling our house and buying some property in Spain… we even took a trip there three times looking at property trying to figure it out.

But then the universe made something happen. I got a phone call about a job in Bermuda….. WOW …. Adventure has come knocking at my door!

SO now its serious, we have a path laid out in front of us that could lead to something amazing…. So I had to ask Kym the question do you really want to do this? The reason I asked her was that my spidey sense was screaming that this was the thing for us to do, this was the right path, I would love my job doing somewhere exciting. So I asked her…. “Are you sure about going to Bermuda because if I go for this I am going to get it…”

Her response – “Where’s Bermuda”……

Two weeks later we were on a plane to Bermuda to go look – we rented our house and moved there less than one month after that trip.

We took a chance, we followed the Bermuda path

My gut had told me change was coming because I knew I needed change, but “spidey sense” had said look out for it because its there….

All through my career I have been listening to my spidey sense I just didn’t know it. My gut would tell me if this was going to be a great client meeting or if this project wasn’t going to work. Subconsciously I had changed the projects/meetings/events so that they worked.

This became even more transparent after we left Bermuda to return home.

Kym had a great job with John Lewis in the UK I was back inside my bubble and realize that for me it was a mistake to come back to the safety net of my bubble because it hadn’t grown but I had so now it was even more constrictive. I had traveled live in a different country met amazing people had actual stories to tell. Yet I was back – reverted to type – reverted to the same work in the same area with a lot of the same people which kept on saying why did you come back? I knew it was a mistake when I couldn’t answer them. I even turned down several options including working in the Cayman islands because Kym was happy so now I would allow her to follow her dream.

Whilst we were back one of my best friends wife at 34 died within 18months of being diagnosed with Cervical Cancer. Around 2 weeks after the funeral Kym and I were sat in a pub on her 39th birthday and she said to me why are we not in the Cayman Islands? You see I had been so caught up in allowing her to follow what I thought was her dream that I never asked her if this was what she wanted. All the time her gut was telling her she was not going to turn 40 living in Birmingham. The death of a friend so young crystalized both our spidey senses and the next day I called back a man named Steve McIntosh who had asked if I would come to the Cayman Islands and inside of a week was on a plane to check it out.

That was 4 years ago.

I want to leave you with a final story that really emphasizes the importance of listening to your spidey sense

In September last year I was approached about going on a trip to Guatemala, from the moment this was mentioned that voice/feeling in my gut said yes, yup your going to do this and its going to be epic.

The trip was part of a program called the Guatemala Literacy Project (GLP) it’s a program that allows you to sponsor a child to go to school. To help break the cycle of poverty through education.

One of my friends who had done this trip before advised me to sponsor a child before I go as I would get to met them and their family when I was there and it would be an amazing experience. So for $70 a month I did.

That trip showed me what human beings can endure, how the human spirit can get through adversity, but more importantly it put my path through life on a path that affected someone else’s in a dramatic way. I returned having sponsored a second child knowing that the difference I had played in their lives was huge even though to me it was a small amount of money every month.

I had found my something more, through travel, adventure, charity and I have connected my spidey sense with real life. I’ve learnt to listen to that internal monologue and act on it.

I’m doing the same job I’ve been doing for 15+ years and I love it.

Stop using the internet to analyze every decision, use your gut instinct it will never let you down if you truly listen. Don’t miss a path lay the path as you go!

Be your own superhero

In 1983 a woman named Mary Manning a shop worker in Dunn stores in Dublin (kind of like marks and spencer or Macy’s ) started a strike that would allow her to meet world leaders like nelson Mandela, archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Irish prime minister and many others. What did she do?

She refused to sell Cape oranges.

You see at that time in South Africa there was apartheid, and her shop workers union had said they could abstain from selling goods that supported Apartheid. So she started a movement by saying no to cape orange sales. She went on strike for 2.5 years before the Irish government finally supported her action and embargoed South African goods that supported apartheid. She was only joined in her strike by 9 others. But what she and her fellow strikers achieved was simply heroic and worthy of super hero status.

But what intrigued me was why would a woman living thousands of miles away in a different country stand up for someone else.

She didn’t do it for fame or fortune she did it because to her it was a way she could make a difference.

I’m sure many of you have seen the film “the blind side” about the young African American (Michael Oher) who was homeless and taken in by the Toughie family in the mid west. There is a point in the biography and a great point in the film that shows you the moment when someone says… I can change this…

The point in the blind side is when Leanne Toughie (played by Sandra Bullock) looks back at Michael and tells her husband to turn the car around. She didn’t know or could have foreseen how this small action would lead to her eventually adopting and supporting this boy it was for her just the right thing to do.

So recently Emma Watson used this quote in an address to the United Nations: “if not me who if not now when” And I wondered did people knowingly run this quote through their head when they make these life-altering decisions. None of them thus far knew it was going to be life altering but you understand my point.

“No one else is going to do this thing so do I care about it enough to do it?”

Many people look back and these deeds and think yep great wow but I never get the opportunity to do something amazing and I would say you do you just keep missing it!

That’s quite a bold statement.

Think about it – you have had opportunities in your lives right now that could turn you into a super hero, but you either didn’t recognize it or were not passionate enough about making a change, taking a stance or you just didn’t have the time to take it further….

That’s ok, we can’t do everything, there simply isn’t time but how do you recognize something you want to be passionate about?

Someone asked me about 7 years ago what I was passionate about?

I listed a whole bunch of things I liked but they pressed me. Ok but what really makes you passionate… I didn’t know and it wasn’t until I moved abroad that I realized I was passionate about adventure. Trying something knew, having experiences. You see I believe a passion is different to a hobby or doing something you like when you allow that thing to change your life or define you.

When I first met Derek Haines a British man who has lived in Grand Cayman for many years and now calls it home. I had no idea what I would learn from him.

I learnt that you do not have to be extraordinary to achieve something amazing. Derek was simply a man with a purpose. His passion is running and he uses that passion to support causes that he feels benefit others. So when at 66 he decides to run 6 marathons in a year I thought he was bonkers.

He raised over $1million and brought a whole community together that now has a the funds to build its own hospice care facility.

But whilst the fund raising is great that’s not what made him a super hero to me. It was two things:

he made it happen
he inspired me to put one foot in front of the other and start moving
Just over a year ago I tipped the scales at 310lbs

In the last 12 months I have completed 2 triathlons, 2 half marathons, a half iron man, and a whole bunch of 5 & 10 k races – I also lost 60+ lbs

I am alive again. Cayman, Derek a few close friends and my wife saved my life. I was destined for a heart attack. A sedentary life which would have cut short my passion. They are super heroes to me and they don’t even know it.

Derek was also a member of Rotary which is a service club, what I mean by that is they get together and organize projects that benefit the community and others. They identify the need. It’s up to you whether you take part.

Derek was part of a group that have been traveling to Guatemala as part of rotary for a number of years. I decided to join the group this year and 9 of us went on a self funded trip to Guatemala as part of the GLP.

Guatemala is a country less than a few hours flight time from us here. Yet the poverty in the rural areas are 3rd world. Until you have seen 3rd world poverty up close and personal it cannot be described.

The GLP tries to break the cycle of poverty by providing schooling, books and compute centers to schools and children that otherwise would not have access to it. It’s been going 17 years. It works.

Before I went – I learnt that most of the group who have been on the trip sponsor a child through school and the program. A friend who was going suggested I sponsor a child before I went as I would get to meet them and it would be a fantastic experience. So I did it costs less than one meal out per month and yet it changes this child’s life, when you do the math it’s a no brainer.

So what do all these examples have in common?

You have to put yourself out there in order to experience something new.
Only you can make it happen.
There are superhero’s amongst us their identities hidden to only those that they have affected.
You don’t have to wear a cape to be a superhero.
So you can be the difference without knowing it, we have so much opportunity right in front of us. Unplug – talk – go see – have an adventure because if I hadn’t tried something like the Guatemala Literacy Program my two boys might still be working in the fields for $2 a day. To them I am Batman.