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The biggest I lesson from undertaking the book project “Life Bridge” is that there is no substitute for doing the work.
Planning and having a concept will only get you so far.
Doing the work involves stepping out into unknown territory, the journey itself being its own reward.
Opportunity favours the prepared mind, and opportunity also comes to those who would create serendipity through putting themselves in the place of possibility.
Fear of failure, fear that your work will be inadequate, fear that your efforts won’t be accepted are all redundant obstacles. Do the work and smash through these.
The irony of this situation is that the work involved defining an idea of the human bridge. By building the bridge, I would also define the thing I was hoping to realise.
What’s holding you back?
The 10 City Bridge Run basically has three components to unpack the key question at the heart of the project which involved opening a conversation to ask “how might we improve the delivery of child survival?”
The first component was a running stunt that was completed in early 2015. Looking back, it is easy to describe what happened. Recalling the events does not do justice to the difficulty involved in completing that task.
The second component is a book called Life Bridge which will feature a photo essay on the theme of “human bridges”. The central assumption to how change might occur is through connections between people. More than any amount of money, institutional will or technology, there must be people committed to driving change at the heart of any solution. Not only people, but radical collaborations of people through this idea of the human bridge.
The third component is a Design Forum where game changing ideas to address the challenge can be brought to life.
For now, the important work is the delivery of the book Life Bridge because it defines the human bridge.
In some regard, just defining a human bridge makes not one iota of difference. No change directly occurs. It is only conceptual.
This is the challenge. The human bridges have to be more than entertaining concepts. It has to point somewhere. Until I deliver on this, it remains an idea. People will need to see it to believe that it can make change occur.
Earlier, I had though that just by soliciting photos of human bridges that the idea might be demonstrated. I even thought that maybe I could take the photos to illustrate the idea. Neither of those on their own is sufficient. There is a lot of hard work required at the construction of the human bridges, as conceptual as it might be, for it to become a utility for change.
There will be space for collaboration with a broader range of photos of human bridges, but the immediate task is to make the essence of this idea tangible.
I have arrived at an idea where the core definition of the human bridge will be constructed from 24 photos of photos that emerge from collaboration with 24 Korean artists. The reason it is Korean is that there is an interesting perspective about the collective and collaboration from Korean society and thinking, along with the 20th century history which saw the nation emerge from the wreckage of colonialism and war into an industrial powerhouse. It is a country that is not without its challenges, and the fact that there is imperfection readily seen in a good canvas upon which to construct the human bridges.
More particularly, it means that I need to communicate an idea across another culture and language in such a way as to convince other people that it is worth their while to collaborate on this idea. Through that process of dialogue and discovery, the essence of the human bridge will emerge.
I can’t exactly tell you what it will look like now, any more than I could tell you the value of running a ridiculous Quixotic challenge a couple of years back. My concern is that much of the earlier interest in the idea has since waned, understandably. It is now my responsibility to build that interest and attention to what the impact of the human bridge might be.
Any suggestions from you would be welcome. Thanks for being part of the journey.
I can almost hardly believe that I am still yet to deliver on this idea of a Human Bridge.
I have learnt that when I fail to deliver on something it is worthwhile listening more closely to myself. Performance is the best barometer of capability. While that sounds elementary, also like a barometer measuring weather, having an accurate measure of capability allows us to ask why to determine what is causing the change or in some cases the lack of change.
Admittedly there are many things I could have done prior to this moment to have delivered on this idea of a Human Bridge. Those things I could have done include cancelling the idea entirely and putting it behind me as a failed undertaking.
The Human Bridge is only an idea, but it is an idea. Everything begins with an idea, but what is important is the execution. There is an irony that I have not delivered to date on an idea which is based on the concept of collaboration to frame the idea of a human bridge. That irony is that I have failed to adequately grasped the idea to bring the participation of other people into the project.
And that failure, that being to have failed in grasping the concept up to this point, is the only failure that matters. Cancelling the idea as a failed undertaking would have been an unacceptable failure because it would have surrendered to the difficulty of building a human bridge.
There is no “bad” reading on a barometer. It is a relative measure of air pressure. I need to learn to adjust my behaviour to match my capability so as to best influence performance.
I can’t change the weather any more than I can change the reading on a barometer simply by walking around with an umbrella as if willing it to rain. I need to adjust to the reading of my capability, and use that as a guide to adapt to improving my performance.
I’m beginning to learn how to read this metaphorical barometer. It shouldn’t be too much longer before I can work out how to deliver on the task to deliver on the idea of a Human Bridge.
Hustling. Along with words like innovation and entrepreneur, it is overused and misunderstood. It sounds so good. How many posts on Instagram champion the word hustling as a person would wear a mask?
I haven’t really used the word much in the past. I’ve been reflecting on my performance to date, and now I’m thinking I should embrace the word hustle more. Let me explain.
Firstly, performance is defined by my impact not by my effort. In the past, my effort was admirable, but my impact was often questionable. This can’t continue. Something has to change.
I’ve been reflecting on the book Life Bridge which is in the process towards production. There is still a considerable distance to travel, but also considerable progress has been made.
Looking back, I realise that much of my effort has been more grasping rather than hustling.
Grasping reflects a sense of desperation, almost begging. The difference between grasping and hustling is the belief in the outcome.
Hustling is not about pleading. Hustling has to be grounded in a strong conviction that the value you offer is worth more than than what people currently have on offer. Hustling is not delusional. Hustling recognises the freedom of people to decide, and that they will recognise your value to contribute to a given situation all things being equal.
Before I turn to explaining more about the status of the book Life Bridge (tomorrow), I needed to acknowledge what had changed in my thinking. This is important for many reasons, not the least of which is the confidence that the ideas you are bringing into the world have value and should not be ignored.
It’s a binary choice.
Do or don’t do.
It is not a question of trying or not. That is a distraction, because the reality is that many things are exceptionally difficult for all sorts of reasons, and we must try in order to finally do.
I have felt the weighty obligation to those who have supported me to continue. My continuing is not transactional, but I am very aware of the responsibility I have to my supporters.
I suppose it might have been possible to shrug my shoulders in the past many years along this Quixotic journey and to say that I tried. I have helped crowdfund a promising book which was never delivered, and the would-be author wrote a note to say he was done trying. So I know what that feels like, that is I know what it feels like to be left with nothing.
And yes, there is risks involved in delivering a project. But I don’t think it is enough to pass this risk entirely on the consumer. In this case, I believe the consumer has every reasonable right to expect an outcome. The problem being in this case is that time has marched on a considerable distance beyond that which might have been anticipated.
So I made a choice to continue. That was a very early decision. The reason I thought it worth to continue was that the reason for championing this cause was important enough to invest my time into, even if that came at considerable inconvenience.
I have learnt an enormous amount. It has been a baptism of fire. Mostly I have learnt lessons about satisfying customer demand.
Yesterday I mentioned that I’m picking up this conversation again here in the public domain through this blog. I made a short commentary of how the satisfaction of the book ‘Life Bridge’ is progressing.
Tomorrow I’ll write more about how I see that occurring. I am well past a point of managing expectations, and appreciate that most of these have been well and truly stretched to the point of disbelief.
Suffice to say three things, especially to my supporters.
Firstly, I apologise for the delay. I appreciate that there may be some disappointment which would be understandable.
Secondly, thank you. Thank you for your earlier trust and support. I write that in full knowledge some may be disappointed in the result to date.
And thirdly, I’m continuing. I’ll deliver. Late. It’s all on me.
It’s been a while.
How many times have I begun a post like this here? Many. Too many? Hard to say, except one thing I do know is that progress matters, no matter how slow.
There is a case for speed, and not going too slow. The problem being addressed through this project is time sensitive, in as much as delays result in opportunities lost. The stake that is on the line is the wellbeing and lives of many people who live life unseen in poverty.
And that is the balance. Too hasty, and there will be an outcome, but maybe without impact. Too slow, and it results in a perfect solution, although too late. Paraphrasing General Patton:
A good plan now is better than a perfect plan hatched from within the walls of a prisoner of war camp.
This project is about an idea hatched in 2010. It led to the completion of an epic quest at the beginning of 2015. What remains is the publication of a book to help frame a ‘Design Forum’ to discuss this issue about child survival with the broader context of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Most of those delays have been my responsibility, and largely related to my ability to extend myself because of resources at hand. Some might say, including myself, that it indicates a failure of imagination not to proceed, but there is also a need for pragmatism and balanced risk. Things don’t always work out. Sometimes we need to constrain ourselves waiting for a better day.
The important thing is that progress is being made. As if within a cocoon, most of that progress is unseen by others. That metaphor is useful, and I really need to turn the inside out in order to make a difference.
Here is what I have to report on as of now:
The book which was to underpin the journey already completed through pre-sales is in the process of being written. The book, Life Bridge, is a photo essay and will feature 24 artists each with a contribution on the theme human bridge. I expect that these artists will all come from Korea, for no other reason than there is a particular aesthetic towards the collective and design which is interesting from Korea. Seeing a broad range of contributions will also be easier to compare and contrast if generated from a similar background. From the perspective of addressing poverty Korea is also an interesting case study. It is a country which has overcome the wreckage of war, and while now by no means perfect, does give some clues to how best to proceed with progress.
The Design Forum will take place in May 2018. Before that can be organised, there is some preliminary work that is required. More on that soon.
Today is the anniversary of the Armistice signed in 1953 which brought to a temporary cessation hostilities on the Korean peninsula. That too was progress, but also unfinished business.
In the meantime, I’ll begin to blog more frequently on a daily basis and get this back on track.
For all those who have supported this effort to date, thank you.
Words have a power to move. Which direction that movement takes is important to consider. Too often, especially as is seen at the moment, people are polarised by the words of others. Is this reasonable, and is this right?
Jacqueline Novogratz, the powerful force behind the founding of the New York based organisation Acumen, made this comment during the week and I thought it was important to share: “Within all of the division we feel around us, what can we each do for someone else today? What conversation can we have with someone who is different? Inspired by Shaw…”
She went on to share a quote from the playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950). I have had this quote in my mind for a few years, and it is appropriate at the moment having just arrived in Hiroshima.
Tomorrow, I’ll write more about its relevance, but for now I think you can glean the meaning without the need for any further explanation:
This is the true joy in life, being recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature instead of a feverish clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for a moment. I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
Your thoughts? I love to hear your comments if you would share them below!
“If you could live forever, would you?” This is the opening question in an exchange between Neil deGrasse Tyson and Larry King.
An interview between Neil deGrasse Tyson and Larry King, shared by my friend Nat, and originally posted by an intriguing personality and photographer called Hicham Bennir.
“The urgency of accomplishment, the need to express love, now, not later.” This statement was the reason for doing given by Neil deGrasse Tyson. He goes onto say that “the knowledge that I am going to die that creates the focus to being alive.”
Here is the interview here:
I thought those comments were poignant in the wake of hearing news that I listened to Hans Rosling had died.
I never met Hans in person. Maybe you have never heard of him until today. Hans was and remains an inspirational person who shaped my thinking on the journey that became the 10 City Bridge Run. Back in 2010, he wrote to me with these comments:
I wish you good luck Matt.
The seemingly impossible is indeed often possible, but be aware that the impossible is impossible. It takes a lot of wisdom to see the differance between the impossible and the seemingly impossible. We follow you with interest!
Hans Rosling (17 September 2010)
Those words from him were a source of great motivation. It was in the early days of this epic quest in which I had undertook to run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities in 10 countries. The purpose of the running was to create a stunt that might allow a conversation to be opened. That conversation was to focus on a question asking: “How might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”
In fact for the last few weeks, I have been meaning to get back into this blog, because this year I intend to finally convene these conversations which now have taken a broader view beyond just child survival to consider the larger issue of the Sustainable Development Goals. I had in the back of my mind the thought that I could report back to Hans with news of a completed journey after the conversation had been joined.
Now, it is not possible to share this news with Hans, but the conversation must still continue. Hans’ legacy will be seen in many different ways. The renewed motivation to pick up this challenge is but one small expression of that.
To recap, here are some thoughts from Hans:
Here is Hans speaking at a recent TED event with his son Ola.
We can’t afford to wait until “the right time” to do stuff. And more importantly, delaying is costly when it comes to a better world. We must act now.
Thanks for the inspiration, Hans.
I’m back with a fresh resolve, continuing this journey. It’s time to be the difference that makes a difference. Now, not later.
Let’s get to work.
Here is this week’s training schedule toward the running of the Marine Corps Marathon in Washing D.C. on 30 October. I’m doing the run in support of an American charity called The Mission Continues, with the aim of stimulating a broader conversation about how we might better address needs for veterans mental health in Australia.
This of course is not the fourth week of training, but a window into my training as I approach the marathon itself. I am recording the final 55 days of training, posting on a weekly basis.
Toward the end of last week, I sensed that the muscles around my shins were showing signs of irritation, and in response I made the decision to rest and stretch more. So, this week I am back running again, feeling fresh and looking forward to the marathon ahead.
My time in sprints on Tuesday was slow, but despite this I felt good with my stride. This is perhaps reflective of my final time in the marathon, and I will know once I am into the race itself. Onwards!
|Day 21||Monday, 26 September 2016||8 km|
|Day 22||Tuesday, 27 September 2016||5 x 1600 m|
|Day 23||Wednesday, 28 September 2016||8 km|
|Day 24||Thursday, 29 September 2016||16 km|
|Day 25||Friday, 30 September 2016||Rest|
|Day 26||Saturday, 1 October 2016||33 km|
|Day 27||Sunday, 2 October 2016||Rest|
For the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking a lot about your recent disappointment. You passion for the top job was clear. Maybe too clear.
I know the impact of unwelcome news can be demoralising. No one likes to be let down by the institution.
It has taken me a while to respond because I didn’t know what to make of your expression of grievance by turning to the media as a direct channel to express your sense that this was somehow unfair.
I know some people will disagree with my opinion here. I know that you were passionate to help the global community in the top job at the United Nations. And you clearly have a lot to offer.
Your strength of having a sharp insight into the dynamics of international affairs is well regarded, and no doubt this would have been beneficial for the myriad of challenges tackled by the United Nations, not the least of which are the wicked problems which the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals seek to address.
I have an interest in where the United Nations goes because I, in my own small way, am trying to contribute to game changing impact relating to child survival. Some might say and with good reason that to date I have been unsuccessful in my pursuit, but I continue to see what I difference I might make.
As I was reflecting on your grievance, expressed so publicly through the media, I remembered the seeing collateral that the Australian Government was using a few years ago when it was lobbying for a non-permanent seat of the United Nations Security Council. Some this collateral use photos showing the work of many of our Australian veterans who were on deployments under the banner of the United Nations. Many sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen deployed away from their family, often in danger, for long periods of time. Privation is part and parcel of service to country. And yes, we were all volunteers.
And it made me think about how some veterans feel. Many veterans feel completely abandoned by the government after they take off the uniform. And often these feelings held by veterans are not unjustified.
Often the grievances the veterans have relates to government decisions or government policy. Certainly, this often is a matter of interpretation by the veterans involved, but when people have given so much, aren’t they entitled to have this opportunity to express a grievance?
Sadly enough, most of the time their complaints seem to be stonewalled by bureaucracy. Or they get treated like just another number, their surname the unremarkable heading of a file or a letter. There is no sense of dignity reflecting the uniform they once wore in the service of country.
The military culture can be unforgiving at times. Often, in the face of a complaint or grievance the advice from superior officers is to get over it. Suck it up. Move on. Deal with it.
I have listened to the exasperated comments of many colleagues, and more other veterans who I don’t know but who have been brought into my circle of friends through social media such as Facebook. Their complaint is genuine, even if the technicality of their grievance has no basis according to government policy. I know this, and I suspect you know this too.
Worse still, it is these unanswered complaints held by many that I suspect has often been a large factor in many veterans deciding to take their own lives through suicide. Such a tragic waste and loss.
I mentioned that I am committed to making change about child survival. I am spending a lot of time thinking about my approach, and am writing about my experience in the form of a memoir that I think will be of value to others. This memoir will also point to a way forward. In the meantime, I am training up for a marathon at the end of October in Washington DC where I will focus my energies on raising awareness for the need to improve mental health among veterans. As I get more experience in having success in raising awareness in an area I am familiar with, I will deploy that knowledge into this pressing problem of child survival.
It hasn’t been easy, but I think back to the number of veterans who are suffering in silence and know that more needs to be done.
I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t use your platform in a more constructive way after you became aware that it seemed that the rug had been pulled from under your feet in your endeavours for the top job of the United Nations. There are so many problems bigger than your own grievance. Why did it need to come down to political point scoring? Why back yourself? Even if you were right, was there not a better way to have used that opportunity better?
And I think about all those photos of veterans used as collateral for campaigning to the United Nations that wove into your story to strengthen your platform for credibility as a contender for the top job. Many of those photos of veterans who now suffer in silence. Have you thought they feel let down, used and abandoned too? They have no platform to go to the tabloids.
We need better leadership in Australia. This begins with me and you. It is a responsibility for all of us.
I’m sorry for your disappointment. Suck it up. I hope you might contact me as there are more important fights that need your help.