Thoughts of a Father: You Should Become Who You Want To Meet

One of the accusations levelled against me when Lucy and I got engaged was that I, an itinerant beach-bum, just wanted to marry her because she had a house. Despite the fact that she also had a mortgage, and two children, was entirely besides the point. There was, is, a perception that we marry someone because of what they bring to us.

My observation is that this is insidiously embedded in our culture. In the way we socialise our children. In gender discrimination. And ultimately this becomes the criteria we use to choose our life partner.

One of the most important things I want my daughters to learn is a healthy way to approach long term relationships. I remember my father advising me “Kissin' don't last, cookin' do.”

And that's the last advice I'd ever want to give. Not that we shouldn't value practical care over sex(ual attraction). But that we should care for ourselves rather than needing it from others.

Emergency Oxygen

Speak to any relationship counselor and they'll quickly get to the principle of 'You need to be happy in yourself, before looking for happiness from another.' What I call the 'Emergency Oxygen' principle. You know, put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping a fellow passenger.

Personally I've found this advice to be pretty unhelpful.

I fear there are far fewer people with healthy self-esteem than there are relationships. And mostly, self-esteem isn't an absolute as in, you have it or don't. Rather it's contextual, there are contexts where you can have great self-esteem, only for someone to walk in the room and shatter that.

So to only enter into a deep relationship when you achieve a unicorn state of permanent self-worth is an impossible ask.

The nugget of the principle is true, of course. That's why it's so popular. My experience puts some practical legs onto it though.

Not Why But What…

Ask yourself the question, “What do you want from your partner?”

Is it financial security? A house? Dare I say it, some form of status, like religious, or social, wealth or class status? Do you want someone to keep you safe? Someone to care for you, or (one day) your children?

Whatever that need is (or those if more than one) figure out how to provide that for yourself first.

That's it.

Anything you want, figure out how to get that yourself.


The first step to interdependence is independence.

If you want a husband (or wife) so you can buy a house, figure out how to buy your own house.

If you want a wife (or husband) to cook for you, figure out how to cook yourself.

If you don't believe that you want a partner for any of these things, get honest with yourself 🙂

Admittedly this is an incredibly hard ask when you're young, poor, lonely, and wired for your sexual peak. But if you can figure this out, you'll be in a far better position to navigate life in a partnership. Especially if you're a woman (unfortunately).

Independence empowers you to bring your full self to the relationship. To give rather than take, or the ultimate route to mediocre disaster, 'give and take.' To add to your partners strengths. To become a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

It frees you up from insecurity, fear, jealousy.

The Challenge

Of course there's a challenge of bringing 2 fiercely independent people to a relationship. But that's a far healthier and ultimately easier challenge to overcome than bringing one or two needy people into a relationship.

Life Lessons From Sailing: Just What You Need

One of the most powerful motivators to determine priorities is self-preservation. When you’re in the middle of an ocean, you have to have everything you need. But on a yacht with limited space, only what you need.

Which is why learning to victual (supply) a trans-oceanic yacht is a great way to teach priorities. And this is a great metaphor for business, relationships, and life in general.

Consider your next ‘journey.’ What will you need:

  • If everything is just smooth sailing
  • If things go bad and you have to weather storms
  • To help keep up morale
  • To ensure you remain healthy, nurtured and stimulated

What don’t you have room for?

What could you repurpose?

Take only what you need, but everything you need.

International Friends Day

How are you going for friends?

This question turns out to be far more important than just a superficial nod to social well-being. In a recent TED talk, the current director of the longest serving longitudinal study, the Harvard Study on Human Development, that’s run for 75 years following the lives of 724 men, finds that the single predictor health and happiness is the health of your relationships.

In fact looking at the lives of 80 year olds, then looking back at the data from them at 50 and attempting to predict which would be the healthiest, was not their cholesterol level, but their relationships.

[ted id=2399]

In other words, you have more chance of dying of heart failure as a “healthy”, lonely person, than a fat smoker with deep, nourishing relationships.

Loneliness is a killer. Not only for depressed people, but for your later health. And toxic relationships are a predictor of dementia. It’s better to end a toxic relationship than continue in conflict.

So how are yours?

When last did you take time out for a coffee? Send a thank-you note? Do something outrageous together? Prioritise time for a friendship over your health, your wealth, your work?

Relationships are tough. Messy. Organic. They don’t follow plans. You have to water them, feed them. Spend time, lot’s of time. Prune them.

Here’s a couple of thoughts:

  • Brainstorm a list of your top 13-26 friends (of course family is included). Perhaps go through your Facebook friends, to select the list. Then set aside time once per week to compose and send a hand-written thank-you note for their friendship, and mail it. Then phone them for a catch-up. The only rule is they have to be someone that you’ve spent face-to-face time with at some stage in your life. Either family, or a real friend.
  • Then choose the 12 closest, and set aside a couple of hours a month to take them out for a coffee, a movie, a meal – or just invite them around to your place.

So one call and one thank you card per week. One meal or coffee per month. That should be easy, right? I reckon that from that minimal investment, you’ll grow your relationships much deeper than they are.

Of course you may already invest more than this in friends, at least from a time perspective. But I’d argue that taking time to listen and simply ask, “Tell me about how’re you’re going,” may be necessary in the hustle and bustle of life.

Either way, Happy Friends Day

Your Key to Instant (& Enduring) Happiness

Buy a motorbike 🙂 (just joshing)

How's your day going? Are you overwhelmed by all of the tasks on your to-do list? Maybe you're concerned by all the challenges, the potential pitfalls that could arise. The market is bad, your company is laying off people, interest rates are going up, and then there's the Zika virus, global warming, not to mention Daesh…

How frustrating are the optimists that just tell you to “focus on the positive” in your life. “Be grateful for the things you have.” How do you even do that when you can't find anything positive in your life?

Whilst this advice is both accurate (research shows you are indeed more productive, successful, and happy when you focus on positive outcomes) and well intentioned, it can be downright impossible to execute. Not to mention frustratingly condescending. Bloody optimists!! What do they know about reality anyway?

Here's a little trick that is easy to do, and will absolutely turn your day around. If you make this a habit, it will turn the dial up in every area of your life.

Be The First…

Be the first…

  • …to offer to pay for a shared meal.
  • …to volunteer for the crappy task
  • …to greet everyone in the office
  • …to compliment your co-worker on their dress (or hair, or work)
  • …open the door, carry the package
  • …to buy a coffee for your boss
  • …to do something for someone else, friend, relative, or stranger

So simple, right? You don't have to be rich, or even have a positive outlook. Just be the first to contribute, be kind, and encouraging.

I was taught as a child “Charity's fine subscribe to mine..” and “Look out for #1 first.”

But it turns out those are very poor philosophies to life. If you want to be successful in all areas of your life, productive, and enduringly happy…

…be the First.