8 July 2020
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12 steps to a better, richer you

Peter Switzer
17 March 2017

An earnest professor, two beautiful kids and a desperate wife became the news story of the week, with over 18 million downloads on You Tube for Robert E. Kelly’s clan. And while I laughed at it out loud (LOL, as the social media fraternity likes to put it nowadays) watching it over and over, I have to say it took me both back and forward with my thoughts and, hopefully, will leave me in the present.

Let me explain.

The backward thoughts, thanks to the Kelly clan, were of my own family’s experience, being a former academic expert commentator, who eventually tossed in university life for a full-time commitment to building a media business, and then a financial services operation.

For over 30 years, I’ve done radio phone interviews for the ABC, US business media outlets, the Kiwi national broadcaster and just about every commercial radio and TV outlet in Australia.

I’ve had smashing pots and pans in the background, as my family led their normal life as I pontificated on the 1987 stock market crash, Dr. John Hewson’s GST and his hard-to-stomach cake question that brought him undone on TV, John Howard’s GST and the GFC.

I’ve walked in Professor Kelly’s shoes and the funniest family clash for me was when my son Marty rang me at Triple M (when I worked with Doug Mulray) to tell me to hurry home as he had to go to school early for footie training.

By accident, Marty was put through to the A studio rather than the B studio, where I was recording my Friday satire piece called The Big Game. Marty ended up going through to Doug, who could always spot a potentially funny spot, and so he put him to air.

He asked him why he was calling. Marty said: “Because Dad had to drive me to school and he’s late.”

Doug then teased by informing him that his Dad worked with him and couldn’t just rush off. But as he was working Marty for the benefit of his listeners, he stopped and asked my son: “What’s that music in the background?” Marty explained it was his Mum’s classical music and to that, Doug asked: “Doesn’t your Mum listen to me and your Dad?” And to that Marty replied: “No, Mum thinks you’re too gross, Doug.”

Doug then asked: “Marty, can you put Mause on the phone?”

What followed was a funny encounter of Maureen (a.k.a Mause) justifying her decision that Doug and his number one rating antics needed to be rationed in the Switzer family. People today still come up to me and remind me of that story and Prof. Kelly and his embarrassment certainly took Mause and me back.

All this came after I’d interviewed my old mate, Dr. Ross Walker, on my Sky News Business TV program during the week on the subject of stress.

Ross says meditation is a great solution to beat stress and admitted that he’s been doing it for decades. Ross argues that it’s not only good for your well being, it’s great for your productivity.

Experts like Ross say it helps with a condition the Buddhists call “monkey mind”, which means ‘unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable’.

As someone who tries to get investors and business-builders to think clearly and perform at their best, these unusual subjects for a money-man (what a difference a ‘k’ makes!) have real relevance.

The website — The Mind Unleashed — lists 12 ways to fix up your mental processes and, unsurprisingly, meditation is one of them. Here’s the list:

  1. Eliminate the clutter.
  2. Stop watching TV.
  3. Meditate.
  4. Remove the ego.
  5. Your body is your temple.
  6. Exercise.
  7. Escape time.
  8. Have fun!
  9. Stop trying to control everything.
  10. Start a daily diary or dream journal.
  11. Live in the now.
  12. Connect with nature.

I reckon too many of us do the complete opposite of these 12 steps to a better life. In fact, this list reminds me of that alleged observation of Albert Einstein, who might have said: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." (Some narks dispute he said this but if he didn’t, he should have!)

At the core of what troubles a lot of us and what holds us back from success and happiness (they can be related) is our preoccupation with the crappy things in our past and anxiety about our future. However, if this is you, I might have a solution all the way from God! As you can see, I recruit the best when it comes to advice.

Some years ago at a public get-together called “Burning Man”, which was an electronic arts and music festival for which 50,000 people went to Black Rock City, Nevada, there was a phone booth in the middle of the desert with a sign that said "Talk to God".

The idea was that you picked up the phone, and God — or someone claiming to be God — would be at the other end to ease your pain.

In a series of articles called, “The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment”, this is how www.psychologytoday.com explained the God thing.

“So when God came on the line asking how he could help, my friend was ready. "How can I live more in the moment?" he asked. Too often, he felt that the beautiful moments of his life were drowned out by a cacophony of self-consciousness and anxiety. What could he do to hush the buzzing of his mind?

"Breathe," replied a soothing male voice.

"My friend flinched at the tired new-age mantra, then reminded himself to keep an open mind. When God talks, you listen.

"Whenever you feel anxious about your future or your past, just breathe," continued God. "Try it with me a few times right now. Breathe in... breathe out." And despite himself, my friend began to relax.”

The smarties who are meditation men and women argue that “life unfolds in the present but so often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, and squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what's past.” (Psychology Today)

All too often, we are blaming the people in the past for our own actions then and then dreaming of a future rather than learning to make a happy now. It’s classic monkey mind.

"We're living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, de-coherence," says Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. “We're always doing something, and we allow little time to practice stillness and calm.”

The bottom line is that we need to live in the moment, which is called “mindfulness”. And it’s what meditation brings to its practitioners.

“When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them,” Psychology Today informs us. “Cultivating a non-judgmental awareness of the present bestows a host of benefits. Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with cancer. By alleviating stress, spending a few minutes a day actively focusing on living in the moment reduces the risk of heart disease.”

The experts argue mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure. They have higher self-esteem and are more accepting of their own weaknesses.

I know when Mause and I looked at the Professor Kelly replay on YouTube over and over, we laughed and laughed. We were truly in the present. It’s a really strong argument for more laughter in our life and more living in the now.

I’m off to meditation classes this week but I won't think about it until I do it!

(Correction: In Weekend Switzer last Saturday, (the past!) I talked about Robert Beno Cialdini, the Regents' Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and was a visiting professor of marketing, business and psychology at Stanford University. I said he was UK-based. Apologies)

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