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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bmag Oct 22nd 2013 - Happiness is Healthy

I’m about to quote a very private essay I wrote when I was 17. I recorded the words into a micro-cassette recorder whilst lying in bed, then transcribed and finessed my latenight philosophising into a written document to be packed away in a box and not revisited until later in life.

This is the first time since then – 3 February 1990 – that I’ve looked at these three typed and dot-matrix-printed pages yet I have often thought about what I wrote and how I still agree with 17-year-old me. The essay is entitled – cue the dramatic music – “The Meaning of Life”.

What inspired me to share this with you now was a blackboard outside a clothing shop in Toowong. On the board were the words: “Do more of what makes YOU happy.” It stopped me in my tracks. On the surface, it might seem an egotistical approach to life. But I believe much good can and does come from people pleasing themselves.

Seventeen-year-old Spencer takes up the story: “While we cannot answer why we are here, we can explain why we do the things we do. “Having resigned to the fact that we are here, and that we are only here for a short time, humans all attempt to make the most of that time. It is my firm belief that every human being seeks pleasure as the number one lifetime goal. No-one ever does anything that does not bring pleasure or prevent displeasure. Every single human action has pleasure as its goal. Even the hero who risks his life to save a child from a burning house does so to prevent the possible displeasure he would otherwise feel for not trying. Given there is no reason, no why, no explanation for us being here, why do people breed more people? Again, for the pleasure. The pleasure of parenting, the pleasure of resuscitating the marriage, or the pleasure of security and care in the senior years”.

At this point, the essay really does start to sound like it was a written by a wide-eyed innocent 17-year-old boy, but I said I would share it with you so here goes: “The ultimate pleasures, according to the Krishna movement, are eating and sex. You can only eat so much before you become ill, and even sex has its limits.” How funny.

I’ll save you several paragraphs and jump to the conclusion: “Now we are coming closer to the meaning of life. Lifestyle, it would appear, is a conscious attempt to make the most of a limited lifetime. Whilst there is no reason for life, there is a reason for lifestyle.” It goes on (and on and on) but you get the idea. Over the years, whenever I’ve heard about people doing great deeds, I’ve found myself asking the question: are they getting pleasure from this? Invariably, yes, they are. And it’s not a bad thing. Happiness is not a dirty word. Charity workers, from Meals on Wheels kitchens in Brisbane to orphanages in third world countries, are all harnessing their own desire for happiness and using it to help others.

Even those working within church organisations who would say they are serving God are also making themselves happier in the process. As that blackboard said, “Do more of what makes YOU happy”. To take it one step further, I would just say that if you can find a way of helping others that makes you happy, then you’ve hit the jackpot!

Last column, I told you about my wife Nikki now working at 612 ABC Brisbane. I wasn’t overly anxious about the situation but I knew there would be some challenges and I quoted other couples who had worked together. I’m pleased to report that I have loved these past three weeks!

With me presenting 612 Breakfast and Nikki producing Tim Cox 3pm to 6pm, there’s only an hour or so where we’re in the office together. But for the eight years I’ve been on the cornflakes shift, I haven’t seen Nikki until she’s arrived home from work, usually after 7pm. So to be able to gaze at her for that hour a day has been wonderful. And so far, only once has she asked me over the partition to pick up milk and bread on the way home!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bmag Oct 8th 2013 - Working with the missus

Have you ever worked in the same company as your significant other? Think about it. Could you work alongside your husband/wife/other half? My wife Nikki and I met at a community radio station in Brisbane in 1992. I was one of two paid staff and Nikki was a volunteer. In my diary that first day I wrote: “With me tonight were two trainees including Nikki, est. 17/18, blonde, short, shy and VERY CUTE!” And you know what? I can still see that straw hat she was wearing!

Several months later, I summoned the nerve to ask her out. I remember the phone call: “Would you do me the honour of accompanying me to the opening night of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat? How dorky. You’d have thought I was asking her to marry me! Anyway, she said yes – eventually I confessed that the tickets were freebies – and we’ve been together ever since.

Back then we were young and it sure was fun having your girlfriend with you at work. The stories I could tell. And yes, whatever you’re imagining right now, it probably did happen at that radio station when everyone else had gone home!

Fast-forward to 2013 and Nikki has just started working at 612 ABC Brisbane, producing Tim Cox 3 to 6pm weekdays. Now, I don’t want you to think I’m at all anxious about the distraction of my beautiful wife as I glance up from my computer screen, but there must be pros and cons. For example, do colleagues expect you to share the same view on company decisions, rather than seeing you as two different people? And then, if you don’t agree in the workplace, how does that play out at home? I’d love you to email me with what you know, what you’ve seen and what you’ve learned.

A former radio producer of mine, Majella Marsden, says it’s a minefield for co-workers. “What about where one partner has knowledge of events that may impact on the other?” Social commentator Brett Debritz says it can make colleagues feel uncomfortable, especially if one of the couple is in a more senior position. Just ask ambo Bob Hartley: “We had some issues as my wife was in a subordinate position to me for a while. We had to use the drive home as a defuse/debrief”.

I.F. and R.B. ran a company together for two years. I.F. says they would never do it again: “Too much arguing over business decisions which led to resentment at home. The best thing we ever did was sell the company. We have a better marriage for it". For Daniel John, it meant the end of the relationship: “It was the worst mistake ever. Constant bickering all the time. It was a contract cleaning job at a factory. We worked right on top of each other. We were partners before and not long after".

But there are success stories too. Real estate agent Brett Andreassen has made it work for the last three years. His tip: “Don’t take work home and don’t bring home issues to work". Kallee Buchanan and her husband Ross work for the ABC in Central Queensland. Kallee says it’s okay to take work home: “It’s great having someone who gets the passion for the job. But you need to have your own time, away from work and home".

Nataasha Torzsa and her partner work for a telco. They’ve devised three rules: “Don’t discuss personal things during work hours, act like friends at work drinks etc., and don’t discuss 'us' with other workmates”. But the most surprising story I’ve heard so far comes from admin manager Brendan Taggart: “I used to work in the same department as my partner. The only issue was travelling to work together. He was always late. He was SO slow in the mornings, it was legendary. I hate being late. So I got my own car. Problem solved!” That is one expensive solution.

Coincidently, you may have noticed the new series of Survivor (Thursdays on GEM) sees loved ones pitted against each other - uncle against niece, brother against brother, husband against wife. I can tell you Nikki and I were both relieved to see all the married couples survived the first tribal council! A good omen perhaps.