A bit more about me
A reader of Paul's Tips has written in asking me to reveal a bit more about myself and my life. I'm usually happy to oblige a reader's request, so here's a quick bio of me for those who are interested.
I was born in Canberra, the capital of Australia, in 1971. My mother is a clinical psychologist and my father was a government economist. I was their first child, but two years later, my younger brother joined our family also.
Canberra is a well-planned, wealthy and quiet town of mostly government workers and their families. I went to school there until the age of eight, when my parents divorced. Almost immediately after the divorce, my mother moved to live with her new boyfriend in Alice Springs. Soon afterwards my brother and I moved there to join them.
Alice Springs is a small desert town right in the center of Australia. When I went to live there in 1980, it had a population of about 20,000 people. It's one of the most isolated towns on Earth, surrounded by empty red desert for a thousand miles in every direction. When people think of the Australian outback, the area surrounding Alice Springs is the most classic example of that kind of landscape.
Alice Springs has a very large aboriginal population, which is why my stepfather lived there. He's a researcher in education and is particularly interested in aboriginal education.
Living there was very different from Canberra, as I'm sure you can imagine. I went to a school where about half the kids were aboriginal, many of them from families living traditional lifestyles - sleeping under the stars around campfires and the like. Many aboriginal kids live tough lives, and bring that to school with them. I was exposed to a lot more violence than in Canberra. But many of them are also very happy and friendly, so I made a lot of friends as well.
There wasn't as much organized entertainment in Alice Springs as I'd been used to in Canberra. There was no cinema (although there was a drive-in) and only one TV channel. Because of this, we learned to make our own fun and I have fond memories of riding around the desert on my BMX playing games with my friends.
Four years later, my family moved to Darwin in Australia's tropical north. This is another frontier-type town, although a bit more sophisticated than Alice Springs. I did most of my high-school in Darwin.
In 1986, my family moved back to Canberra, where my father still lived. I did my last year of high-school there.
It was a tough year, as all the other kids had been together all through school and I was a new arrival from the north of Australia where the culture is somewhat different. A group of kids took a dislike to me, and I spent a year of being picked on by quite a few people, although I had friends also. I'd always been quite popular at the other schools I'd been to, so it was a real shock to suddenly find myself ostracized. I think you can't really appreciate how horrible it is to be the victim of constant childhood bullying until you experience it.
Fortunately, that experience only lasted a year and I went to a college on the other side of town. I almost immediately made a whole bunch of friends, many of whom were quite naughty kids in retrospect. I got into smoking cigarettes, taking marijuana, popping LSD, teenage sex and drinking. It sounds dark, but we actually had quite a lot of fun. Unfortunately, many of those people continued with this lifestyle well into adulthood, with predictable consequences. Quite of few of my friends from that time are now dead. Because of this, I'd never recommend anyone else get into that kind of lifestyle.
Because I'd spent so much time having fun at college, my marks weren't very good and I failed to get into university. In 1990 I entered the workforce with no qualifications just as Australia was entering its worst recession since the great depression of the 1930s. It was pretty hard to get even a burger-flipping job at McDonald's during that time, and like a lot of school leavers, I learned that the world of work is much tougher than I imagined.
In 1991, I went to live with my father and returned to study my Year 12 Certificate so I could qualify for university. The next year I started university in Canberra studying communications and economics.
When I turned 21 in 1992, my family offered to buy me an expensive gift as a reward for reaching adulthood. My uncle, who travels a lot, was planning a trip to India and I said I wanted to go with him. So at the end of my first year of university I spent two months backpacking around India. We covered quite a lot of the country, travelling about 2000kms, mostly by rail and bus. That was a real eye-opener for me as I discovered that most of the world was nothing like the safe, ordered and wealthy society in Australia.
India at that time was an extremely chaotic and poor country. Everywhere I went I was mobbed by beggars desperate for me to give them even a few cents. It was a daily occurrence to see things like crippled children crawling with their hands on the ground while their legs dragged uselessly behind them. Or beggars who'd hack off their own limbs just so they'd seem more pathetic and likely to get money. Most rivers were full of sewerage, dead animals and the like.
Of course, we see third-world poverty on television, but I think you can't really appreciate just what a nasty place the world can be until it's rubbed in your face like it was for me in India. To think that a lot of the world's population lives like this is depressing.
At the same time, I saw many wonderful things in that country. India has been a great civilization for thousands of years, and there are all sorts of interesting sites to visit there.
I'd caught the travel bug and when I finished university in 1995, I worked and saved for a trip around Europe. I flew to England that year, and travelled by train and bus across France, Italy, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Holland, and Belgium over about 6 months. I stayed in backpacker hostels and spent most of the time travelling alone, although I did hook up with other backpackers sometimes.
I flew back to England from Cairo at the end of my trip and moved to live in Windsor just outside London. I was living in a kind of residence for young people and made lots of friends from all over the world while there. That was a wonderful time in my life, with all my friends living in the same building as me.
After I'd been living there about two years, a beautiful French girl moved into the residence and - amazing as it might seem - took an interest in me. We fell in love and have been together ever since.
In 1997, my visa for England ran out, and I had to leave that country. At that time, I was working in information technology for a big paint company. They sent me to a few business meetings around the world and I ended up spending time in Cleveland, Toronto, and Singapore. I was in Singapore for about two months, so got to know that place quite well.
After I finished up there, my wife and I moved to Sydney. We rented a flat in Bondi, which is a beach-side suburb with a buzzing entertainment scene and a famous beach.
I married my wife in Canberra in 1998 in a nice ceremony in a garden. This was actually a tough year, because my father died of cancer only a few weeks before our wedding.
We really liked living in Bondi, but my wife was a little disappointed that she'd got to spend so little time in England. So a year later we moved to London, where we ended up staying for three years. I found some very well paid jobs in the information technology industry and we had a good lifestyle - going for holidays in Miami and Europe quite often, for example. London is a fun place, but it can also be quite stressful because so many people live there.
Eventually, we decided to move back to Bondi, which is my favorite place in the world so far. We travelled across America on the way back which was a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed driving around the Grand Canyon and back through the wilderness in California.
We've now lived in Bondi for over four years and really love it here. I think we'll be living here now for the rest of our lives, but you never know what might change.
So there it is, my life up to this stage. I hope it gives you a bit more insight into just who the heck the guy writing all these tips is!
|Don't get sucked in by empty promises |
|I was at a work function last night where we were all getting treated to free drinks and food. There was a very attractive girl there who was enjoying the attention of many of the men.|
|Take the initiative in establishing new relationships |
|The world is filled with people who are dissatisfied with the state of their relationships. They think they haven't got enough others in their lives, or else they believe the others they have aren't up to scratch. Whether it's friendships that are missing or something more, a lack of satisfactory relationships is a common complaint.|
|Don't hate your body too much, it's the most amazing machine on the planet |
|We live in a society fixated on machines and gadgets. The media obsesses over iPods, BMWs, laptops and phones. And we consumers gobble up every titbit of information available on those topics.|
|Science is the closest thing to verifiable truth that we have |
|Wait! If you're the type of person who reads the word "science" in a title then moves quickly on, then this is an article you need to read. I promise it won't be boring.|
|Become excellent at creating new opportunities |
|The scouts have an excellent motto. It says simply “Be prepared”. Whether or not you have ever been a scout or a guide, this is a good attitude to have towards life.|
|Incompetent people tend to overestimate their skill level |
|Something interesting happens to me whenever I try to learn a new skill. I tend to underestimate just how hard it's going to be. For some reason, part of me thinks I'm going to be naturally talented at it, even though I have no evidence for that being the case.|
|We're all just lost at sea |
|Picture this. You wake up to find yourself aboard a huge old sailing boat. You can't remember who you are, or where you were before. You can't even remember what your name is.|
|Perfect contentment leads to stagnation |
|Have a look at how so many of us live our lives. We get up in the morning, go out all day and work, work, work. Whether in a rich country or a poor one, a good neighbourhood or bad, you can be sure that most of the people around you will be working most of the time.|
|Find the right balance between improving your situation and enjoying it |
|There's a funny scene in the film "Thank you for smoking" where the main character, a public relations shill for the cigarette industry, is asked how he can do such an unethical job. "Everyone's got to pay the mortgage", he replies.|
|The world's best investment |
|Many people don't think of it consciously, but much of our lives are spent deciding how to invest our resources. Families decide whether to move into a bigger house, or save their money and stay in the current one. Young women decide which man they should bet their reproductive potential on. Workers ponder what they should do with their holidays. And so on.|
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