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Someone Who Is Different

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sunrise over manhattanWords 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!

Now, Not Later.

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Photo of Hans Rosling: Challenging people’s preconceived ideas (TED)

“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.

Training Schedule: Week 4

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imageHere 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 Date Load
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

Dear Kevin…

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img_6547Dear Kevin,

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.

Training Schedule: Week 3

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Training Schedule for the Marine Corps Marathon to be held in Washington DC on 30 October supporting The Mission Continues:

Day Date Load
Day 14 Monday, 19 September 2016 8 km
Day 15 Tuesday, 20 September 2016 8 x 400 m, then 4 x 800 m, then 2 x 1600 m
Day 16 Wednesday, 21 September 2016 8 km
Day 17 Thursday, 22 September 2016 7 km running for speed
Day 18 Friday, 23 September 2016 Rest
Day 19 Saturday, 24 September 2016 30 km
Day 20 Sunday, 25 September 2016 Rest

Training Schedule- Week 2

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Week 2 of the lead-in training schedule ahead of the Marine Corps Marathon to be held in Washington D.C. on 30 October supporting The Mission Continues.

Day Date Load
Day 7 Monday, 12 September 2016 8 km
Day 8 Tuesday, 13 September 2016 6 x 200 m,
then 3 x 400 m,
then 3 x 800 m
Day 9 Wednesday, 14 September 2016 8 km
Day 10 Thursday, 15 September 2016 5 x 1000 m,
then 3 x 400 m,
then 6 x 200 m
Day 11 Friday, 16 September 2016 Rest
Day 12 Saturday, 17 September 2016 27 km
Day 13 Sunday, 18 September 2016 Rest

And How About Today?

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ruok-skywritingRUOK Day has come and gone. Let’s all get back to watching the rugby…

I know, I know. This is not a binary choice either way. It is good to be critical, and it is also good to try. You never know the consequence of your actions.

This post is about RUOK Day- it was earlier this week, and you can read my post that I posted then here.

The point is that all too often ‘raising awareness’ ends once the enthusiasm from the celebrity laced event concludes. It becomes namedropping collateral, humblebrag for another time. Or is it?

Yes, I jest. Sort of. My point is though that if we care, then we should do more than just be satisfied with a minimalist approach to slacktivism.

This blog is about improving child survival. My earlier post was about improving mental health among veterans. Where is the connection?

This is what is on my mind: too often there is great enthusiasm to talk about an initiative, especially among politicians. After the press brief, it is back to business as usual. Not for those who are in the thick of it. Not for veterans struggling. And importantly not in the remote villages where child mortality is an unwanted blight.

No, while these things still prevail, I am not ok. And neither should you be.