The next series of posts are essentially draft entries in the soon to be published book “All Backswing” which I am aiming for launch at the end of June 2016.
All Backswing will feature 100 chapters to talk about a manifesto for change by examining the motivation for what eventually became the 10 City Bridge Run, commentary about the journey itself, and importantly lessons learnt as it relates to undertaking epic endeavours that seek to make a difference.
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The Lansdowne is closing.
It is a venue which much history, known to many for a thousand and more personal memorial and recollections. Memories that are often grounded in the performance of a certain band, rather than specific moment in time.
My memories are from different venues, actually multiple venues, and bands that defined a moment. As I think through the list, the memories become more and more lucid, and the list grows longer and longer. Hunters and Collectors, The Angels, Machinations, INXS, Divynals, and on and on the list grows.
Many of those venues where those memories are from are either closed, or it was so long ago that what happens there bears absolutely no semblance to what went before. The place has lost that magic from that night many moons ago. This is not about nostalgia or showing my age. Rather, it is recognising that things that went before make us who we are now, and they are very much in the past. Not to be returned to.
And so the Lansdowne is closing. And it will close. And in many respects it has already entered into that place of ‘remember when’ for many. That is not good or bad. It just is.
It will close, and something else will open. Now, we are being told that a student accommodation facility will stand in its place. It is less the sign of progress, but more the allure of profit that drives this decision.
Speaking to the staff the previous weeks, their disappointment is palpable. Their morale is shot, in part because they will be looking for new jobs, but I would say that it is more because they are grieving the loss of a friend.
My friend Fay tells her stories of being a barmaid in the Lansdowne in years before many of those staff were born. It is the same venue, and no doubt she will feel the same sense of loss knowing that the taps will be shut off and cleaned for one last night in the coming week.
But let’s make a distinction. This is something that is closing down, not a last stand.
A last stand invokes a sense of defiance. It is a gnarly expression of resistance to the inevitable, It is a critical and defining moment in time.
I had launched the 10 City Bridge Run at the Lansdowne. To be honest, the launch was pretty crappy compared to what was possible. That was my fault and no a reflection of anyone else. At the time, there was a lot of stuff going on that was distracting me from doing my best in other areas. Stuff that doesn’t need to be explained or discussed here. Just stuff.
But launch the 10 City Bridge Run we did. And without the people who attended, it would have been crappy, but they made it special. It is always the people who make it special.
When I learnt that the Lansdowne was closing I was in Seoul. It had been many months since I had concluded the 10 City Bridge Run, at the conclusion of which I was exhausted. It took a few months to make sense of what I had done. Much like the launch, many parts of the 10 City Bridge Run were also crappy, but in its entirety it made something that was worth noting.
I explored a decision to hold a ‘Last Stand’ gathering at the Lansdowne. The idea was a little half-baked, but worth pursuing. The response from people was good and supportive. The venue was receptive, although the manager seemed to be accommodating but less than enthusiastic. I considered the time I had available to me. Not enough, but I wouldn’t really know unless I tried.
Good friends who are hip hop artists were behind the idea, and willing to perform. The delay seemed to be in the response from the venue manager. I was left uncertain of some arrangements that we had emailed about. My hesitation in following up the email conversation was perhaps a reflection of the circumstances.
This was going to be an afterparty for the 10 City Bridge Run. Not a wake. It was not a Last Stand.
No, this is not a Last Stand. The afterparty for the 10 City Bridge Run is going to be a celebration. A celebration of the next steps ahead in our pursuit of delivering on the promise to improve child survival.
So, this is a long winded apology for a half-hearted effort to gather a performance at the Lansdowne on 10 September. It is a Thursday night, and I will be there. You are welcome to join us too, but it is likely to be a quiet night.
My secret hope is that a few people with guitars might turn up, maybe even a melodica. The stage is ours for the evening if we want it. But at this stage, I think it will be a few people sharing a few laughs around a bar that has seen better days.
There will be a long-overdue afterparty for the 10 City Bridge Run on 10 October, and more details will be coming soon. It won’t be half-hearted, and won’t be crappy. And I hope you can join us as we take the first of many next steps ahead.
But for now, the Lansdowne is closing. I’ll be there on Thursday night. Join me for a beer, and to share some stories. If we can gather some interest, who knows, there might even yet be a Last Stand to be had.
Keep pushing and take some risks
Getting closer to the last four legs of the 10 City Bridge Run has presented its own challenges. The cost of living and travel to UK, Canada and US are significantly higher than the Asian cities where most of my time has been spent to date.
By itself, that ought to not be cause for concern, except that I am travelling on a very tight budget. Extending myself increases risk, and to a point that is not acceptable.
My earlier intention was to travel through New York to run on UN Day, 24 October. But it was a bridge too far, as it were. On 22 October this week, I was clear this wasn’t going to happen.
I held on to the possibility of achieving this plan of running in New York as scheduled until the afternoon before the day I was due to travel. The last safe moment. By then, it was clear that not only was I not going to make it to New York on 24 October, but because that is where my focus had been my preparedness for a contingency was only lightly developed.
There have been enough delays since 2010 with faltering attempts to start the journey. I was well aware of that. This was a stunt to inspire the imagination, not a catastrophe.
I don’t propose to apologise for a changing schedule. Yes, there are ways this initiative could have been better executed. But guess, what? This is me..
I’m flying to Seoul tonight, arriving in time for UN Day, but arriving at the airport, I recognised I was not prepared to run. Physically I am good. But the preparation on the ground is not as it should be.
24 October had become a distraction. Yes, it is good for the narrative. But no one really gives a second thought to the date. I will use this opportunity to get better organised, connect with a wider network I have yet to engage.
Seoul is a great city to run in. Let’s go, get organised, and enjoy this run.
Filmed on the same location across different seasons, this really isn’t a film about running. It is a film about life.
I think we can all relate to this. You don’t need to run. You just need a heartbeat.
Stop and watch this tonight.
The inserted image was of two sisters in Port Moresby taken just before I took the first steps on this journey for the 10 City Bridge Run. Papua New Guinea is an amazing country for its diversity and beauty, but has struggled across the last 39 years in the face of corruption, exploitation from foreign ownership, compounding invidious conditions that have reinforced poverty that the country is striving to escape. It is likely that none of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals will be achieved by Papua New Guinea before the end of 2015.
How much do we all take for granted? It would be nice if these sisters who live in a country rich with natural resources might enjoy the same opportunity as you and I.
Game On! Flying to London
Good news. A very good friend loaned me the additional funding needed to start this journey. Tonight I will fly to London, and the first leg of this will be run closer to Easter.
It is perhaps an opportunistic start, and hasty. But let me ask you: if you have a chance to make a change in the world, but must act now when you are less-than-ready, will you pass it up so you don’t lose face?
It is all part of the conversation we are building asking: “how might we use our networks to reduce child mortality?” It is raw, it is visceral, but it is real.
It is likely I will return home directly to Sydney to conduct the second run in early May. I am still mending from the torn calf muscle in late December, so need to get this journey started, but also do it safely.
More later, but right now I have to zip. Thanks to everyone for getting behind this epic journey.
Tiffany Eyes Off Grace’s First Birthday Cake (…meanwhile, somewhere in Sierra Leone…)
My good friends Nick and Liz have a daughter. Her name is Grace, and last weekend we all gathered in their backyard to celebrate her First Birthday Party. It was a beautiful day, lovely weather, too much food to eat, and many friends (old and new) to mingle with.
You can see from the photo that her friend Tiffany perhaps enjoyed it more than anyone, while she eyed off the birthday cake. I imagine she was thinking: ‘If everyone is looking the other way, would anyone notice if I just had a little taste of this cake before it was cut?’
Most of us have been to this sort of party before. Many of you will be parents who have had the pleasure and privilege to celebrate this occasion for your own child or children.
Such a stark contrast with other countries that for one reason or another don’t make it onto the radar of what gets printed in our newspapers. It is a tragedy unfolding every day.
We live like royalty in comparison. Even with problems we all encounter: the boss is a jerk, coffee was too bitter, missed the 7.05 bus, caught in a traffic jam for 45 minutes this morning.
Here is some food for thought. I hope this brings some perspective as to why I am about to run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries all inside of one month. To open a conversation asking how might we use our networks to alleviate child mortality. Consider these facts:
- About half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries:India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, and China.
- India (24%) and Nigeria (11%) together account for more than a third of all under-five deaths.
- The highest rates of child mortality remain in sub-Saharan Africa where 1 in 9 children dies before the age of 5. That is more than 16 times the average for developed regional (1 in 152).
- By 2050, 1 in 3 children will be born in Sub-Saharan Africa, and almost 1 in 3 will live there, so the global number of under-five deaths may stagnate or even increase without more progress in the region.
- The proportion of under-five deaths that occur within the first month of life (called the ‘neonatal’ period) has increased 17% since 1990, from 36% to about 43%. This is because progress in reducing the neonatal mortality is slower than that in the mortality for older children.
- Almost 30% of neonatal deaths occur in India.
- Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest risk of death in the first month of life and is among the regions showing the least progress.
- Historical trends show that for most countries progress has been too slow and that only 15 of the 66 countries with a high under-five mortality rate (at least 40 deaths per 1,000 births) are on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4.
This information is taken from the 2012 Report Levels and Trends in Child Mortality developed by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation published in 2012.
There is some good news. Sub-Saharan Africa has in the last decade seen a faster decline in its under-five mortality rate, with the annual rate of reduction doubling since the decade before. We are making progress, much work attention is needed, and now.
Happy birthday, Grace.
Other Mens’ Flowers
I was fortunate to spend some time with Fred Chaney over the last two years. He gave me wonderful advice, whether I wanted to hear it or not. That is the sign of someone who really cares- they take the time to tell you the truth, not just put sugar coating on everything.
One conversation he gave some clues about how to have impact which was profound advice. I summarise it by the expression ‘Other Mens’ Flowers’. Here is what it is about:
- Other Mens’ Flowers: Use what others have produced as a foundation.
- Find Fellow Nudgers: We are not in this alone. Collaborate.
- Small evolutions: Big revolutions are actually rare. Focus on getting the small evolutions right.
- Not random interventions: Focus. Stay focused.
- What is the one big game changing idea?: What are you about?
Reflecting on this was on my mind over the last month as I reviewed the 10 City Bridge Run. I need your help to move forward. Please join with me as a ‘Fellow Nudger’ to help change the game and improve the lives of millions.
I want to introduce you to Xander, by brother’s son who tragically died about 36 hours after he was born.
This is my own personal experience with child mortality, seeing how my brother and his wife were affected by this bitter and cruel event.
If this is what it feels like when the chances of it happening are so remote, what must it be like when there is a 5:1 change of it happening in communities where young children are not named until their first birthday?
I will take this photograph with me when I leave Sydney. The child mortality I seek to influence is coincident with extreme poverty. This photo, where my brother and I together make a bridge each connected to his young boy gives me some context so that this is not just another string of statistics.
I am sure many people reading this will have their own stories and experiences. Please take time to ensure you address this issue. Please join with me over the coming month to make these experiences have meaning.
There are circumstances that must shatter you
My friend Cori passed on this quote from Leon Wieseltier about a year ago. I liked it and keep in close by in a journal:
There are circumstances that must shatter you; and if you are not shattered, then you have not understood your circumstances. In such circumstances, it is a failure for your heart not to break. And it is pointless to put up a fight, for a fight will blind you to the opportunity that has been presented by your misfortune. Do you wish to persevere pridefully in the old life? Of course you do: the old life was a good life. But it is no longer available to you. It has been carried away, irreversibly. So there is only one thing to be done. Transformation must be met with transformation. Where there was the old life, let there be new life. Do not persevere. Dignify the shock. Sink, so as to rise.
It is blunt, and maybe not the message we want to hear. Sometimes there is no hiding from the roller-coaster that life invites us to ride.
In this TED Talk, Stacey Kramer gives her own experience about an encounter with unwelcome news. It is a short talk at 3:18. Stop and take time to watch this and think about your month ahead.
The next time you are faced with something that is unexpected, unwanted and uncertain, consider that it might just be a gift.
In my next post I will introduce my nephew Xander. A sobering reflection on taking a romantic view about the difficulties we face.
We are so incredibly lucky to be able to reflect about these thoughts from our comfortable surroundings of the West. Might someone in extreme poverty just think that this is all self-indulgent clap-trap?
Suzuki, cut-through and authenticity
A good friend made a comment earlier about a talk they attended about a decade ago in Byron Bay where David Suzuki spoke. Similar to last night where the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House was full, in Byron 800 people were hanging on his every word about the necessity for action in saving the planet.
That was all great, until my friend stayed behind to help clean up and had to pick up the drink bottles and papers these same ‘green’ people had left behind.
This is not a spectator sport. Watching passively is not enough. How can we avoid ‘greenwashing’ and achieve authenticity?
My friend Matt the other day had some suggestions about cut-through and how difficult it was to achieve. We have all observed over the last few years that cut-through without authenticity is an empty and gesture. Perhaps a lighthouse is a good metaphor for cut-through and authenticity
I think my friend Fay has a solution:
Bring on some mindfulness – and some action.