Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Escape to the Murray

Most people like to have some control over their lives and it can be scary to hand over control to others.  I'm one of those who like to know what is going on, and where I am going to be and what I am going to do, at any particular time. Accordingly, when I found out that my dear wife was secretly organising a surprise holiday for a recent birthday it took a lot of self control not to try and find out more. I think everyone who has ever run a business likes to feel in control. Usually I would have tried to weasel the information out of my wife (I didn't spend nearly forty years as a lawyer for nothing) but fortunately I sensed that the holiday and keeping the details secret were important to her and I played the game and just went along with the flow.

For the first time in my life I turned up at an airport having no idea where I was flying to. The good lady had at least told me I would need my passport and had given me a basic list of the sort of clothing I should pack. My children, who were in on the secret, gave me a birthday card with strict instructions not to open it until I was on the plane. When I did I found it contained spending money in Australian currency. Hey, what a change in life that was - my kids giving me money!

We had a great holiday in South Australia that included cruising in a paddle steamer for four days along SAs iconic Murray River, taking in the scenery and visiting: vineyards, sheep stations, riverside towns and Aboriginal historic sites.  Add to that the good company, great food and service and one could say life was pretty damn good. There are times when we all should just switch off, go with the flow, and trust other people with our lives.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Escape the Fungi Growing Syndrome

What happens when your garden is neglected and the soil becomes infertile and sour? Weeds, fungi and other unattractive nasties start to flourish. The colourful flowers, the healthy fruits and vegetables get over-whelmed and eventually choked until they die. What happens if your life becomes perpetually unhappy and unsatisfactory? What happens when you are just survivng and not reaching your full potential and you are finding that what you do an a daily basis no longer makes you happy and self-fulfilled?  In a metaphorical sense much the same thing happens to your soul or your body as in the garden.  You cease to flourish, and your soul, your personality or your inner being - call it what you like, becomes sour and you are emotionally cultivating weeds and fungi.  It's not a good look. It may lead on to despair, depression and other problems.

I had a coffee recently with a former colleague who after forty years is still practising his profession, although he hates the work.  He has convinced himself that working on for a few more years is what he should do because he is still earning good income.  He takes a lot of medication and suffers from a variety of stress related complaints. To put it simply there is not much joy at all in his life notwithstanding that he seems to have a good marriage, loving grownup kids and grandchildren.

He has reached that stage oin his working life where he is really just cultivating fungi on the soul and his work no longer makes much sense.  He goes to work often at 7am and works late.  He is not a poor man but he has fallen into the trap of believing he needs much more before he can retire or make any change of direction in his life. Meanwhile, he is living in a semi-permanent state of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Don't be afraid of change.  Don't work on mindlessly when all joy of work has gone. There are other options and other choices that can fertilise and replenish the inner man or woman and bring joy back into life. Clear out the weeds in your life and let the flowers back in.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Escape from everyday rugby and sex?

Two items in the daily news caught my attention this morning. One was that an international rating agency had downgraded New Zealand's credit rating, the other that most people in the country expect to enjoy more sex than usual in the next few weeks. I strongly suspect that most readers of the newspapers this morning were more interested in the second item than the first, although in the long term the first item may have more effect upon their lives.

What is going on down here deep in the South Pacific?  New Zealand is hosting the Rugby World Cup, our national team the All Blacks is doing well,  and we have all temporarily lost touch with everyday cares and woes - if not in some cases reason and reality. As a nation we are experiencing a feel good factor. Hence the expectation, that a survey has confirmed, that there is likely to be more sex around even if the country is going broke. We will go down the proverbial gurglar making love instead of worrying about our financial situation.  Could be worse ways to go, I suppose.

Just as an individual needs a spot of sport or other recreation as an antidote to everyday worries and stress, sometimes a whole country needs the same and it seems major sporting events, despite their costs and social inconveniences, tick the box for giving a country a positive fillip. Here in New Zealand we are too small to ever host an Olympic Games so the Rugby World Cup is as big as it is ever likely to get for us as a country. It is great to see the enthusiasm, the flags and bunting, the overseas tourists and the whole Pacific culture theme that has overtaken the country.

For a few short weeks we are a different people and we have thrown away some of our cares. After the end of the Cup we will come back to earth but hopefully a little of the positive joyous spirit will still remain within us.  Go the All Blacks!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Escape to the 'Naki

There are days when it is just great to be alive and Monday last week was one of those days. My wife (MW) and I had driven down to Taranaki.  For those not familiar with New Zealand geography, Taranaki (also known by locals as "the 'Naki") is the large bump sticking out on the western side of the North Island of New Zealand.  It has a reputation for being a bit of a wild and unique place, mainly because it seems to get the first dose of whatever weather comes across the Tasman Sea and hits NZ.  Slap bang in the middle of the province of Taranaki is the large old volcanic cone of Mt Taranaki that dominates the region.  There is old Taranaki saying that when you can see the mountain it is about to rain and when you can't see it, it is raining. Taranaki is one of the finest dairy farming areas in the world.

Last Monday there was the most bluest, cloudless sky I had seen in a long time and Mt Taranaki with a lot of snow on it stood out the green forests and pastures like a beacon of hope.  We spent the day driving around the mountain following the coast with the gleaming sea on our right, and non-stop views of the mountain on our left.  Absolutely glorious! We called into many of Taranaki's small towns and villages.

In theory I was working.  I was photographing and researching old courthouse buildings for my next book.  Some photos were taken and interesting conversations had with locals in libraries and small museums around the district, including an interesting time spent with a 95 year old lady whose spryness and intellectual powers were undiminished by her age.  MW and I spent a most enjoyable day in beautiful natural surrounding.

Monday last week was definitely one of those memorable days which made me realise, not for the first time, that pursuing one's interests and passions will always beat a day spent stressed and worrying in an office anytime. No income was made but, hey, there was enough loose change in the pocket for a cup of coffee and some lunch along the way.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Sucked into the Future?

Are you being sucked into the future as if a giant vacumn cleaner was deciding your destiny instead of your own plans and deliberate actions? Unfortunately many so-called "successful" professionals find themselves in this situation as they reach mid-career.  At the height of their powers and earning capacity they are often highly stressed, overworked and with a poor work/life balance.

Instead of taking a hard look at their lives and planning an escape route from the disadvantages of their professional career they convince themselves that there is no escape, and they drift along unhappily for years hoping that the good income will be some compensation for the family unfriendly lifestyle and stress they are experiencing.  Sometimes depression, suicide, divorce and alienation from children are the real outcomes and no amount of income can compensate for those poor results.

There is nothing so sad as meeting highly intelligent, well-educated people who have convinced themselves that change is not possible.  What can you do?

1. Make time to analyse whether you really want to remain in your profession.  Are you simply over being whatever it is you are, or is it the way you are currently practising your profession that is the problem?  If you are a doctor, who is now a full time administrator but you still have a passion for hands on medicine, make the change and take a step back.  It might result in a loss of income or status but if you become happy in your work for the first time in years it will be worth it.  Try and reconnect with what it was that drew you into your particular profession in the first place.

2. Plan your escape.  If there is nothing about your present profession that still ticks those important personal boxes for you then be realistic and recognise the fact.  Money is not everything.  If you want to live a long and happy life you have to make the change.  It may take time but with planning it can be done.

3. List what is really important in your life. ( If it is not being content within yourself and having a good strong family life, and spending lots of quality time with your partner and children - you have a problem.)

4. List what steps you have to take to achieve what is really important in your life. You might be surprised to find that earning a large income and being surrounded by the latest consumer toys does not feature very highly on your list.

5. Talk to the important people in your life.  Get their feedback.  Surround yourself with positive people who will support and assist you to make the changes you need to make.  Avoid the negative ones and the doomsayers.

Go forward into a future you have planned and chosen as being best for you and your future happiness.  Do not allow yourself to be sucked into a less satisfying future due to your own inertia and other folks' social and professional expectations of you. 

Further tips and ideas can be found in my ebook Escape your profession and save your life. (

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Encores and cardboard boxes

This week I learnt a new skill.  It was how to make cardboard boxes from archival acid-free cardboard sheets. As a very unhandy man I thought it was quite an achievement. I'll never make any money out of it and it will not change the course of western civilisation but I enjoyed doing it.  This new skill was acquired at the one day a week I spend volunteering at the local town museum.  Escaping my profession a few years ago means I can choose to spend a day a week pursuing an interest in my own community, purely for enjoyment and without any thought of financial reward. Making cardboard boxes instead of stressing over legal problems is very liberating.

It seems that choosing what are called 'encore' careers are now very much the thing. Like the encore at a concert where the performance ends with something a bit lighter and brighter than the rest of the program, the encore career is one that is a bit easier and more enjoyable than the major career you worked in for most of your working life.  It should be less stressful.  You choose something that has always interested you and if it in someway helps you give something back to your community at the same time then that is a bonus to enjoy. You will not work the same long hours and the financial returns will be much less, but if you plan for it in advance and take time to order your life and work out what is really important for living healthily and happily - it will be a joyous success.  You will finish your working life on a positive high, instead of wearily staggering into a poor-health afflicted retirement. 

Choose your encore career carefully and you will never retire in the usual sense of the word. Your work, play and interests, will simply coalesce. Encore anyone?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

I was a dreamer once

"I was a dreamer once, but now my dreams have come true,  and I am satisfied and happy."  John Wray. These words come from the preface to a classic yachting book, South Seas Vagabonds, first published in 1939.  I know very little about yachting, but having just published a yachting story for an elderly relative made me search out and read South Seas Vagabonds, a book I have been aware of for many years. 

In the early 1930s in the midst of the Great Depression John Wray was sacked from his job mainly because he spent too much time dreaming about building a yacht and sailing the South Seas, instead of adding up columns of figures at work. At 21 years of age, with no money, and unemployed in the middle of a world wide depression was probably not the best time to have too many dreams.  However, Wray decided to build his boat.  He found the timber for his boat from logs that had gone adrift in the local harbour and gulf while being rafted to sawmills.  He borrowed tools and drew up his own plans and over the next couple of years built his boat in his parents' front yard.  Eventually with a crew of similar minded young men he set sail into the Pacific armed with a broken sextant and a book on navigation. John Wray's subsequent long voyages around the Pacific Islands and his unconventional life soon became the stuff of legend.

The book I have just published The Voyage of the Roxane by Keith Dawson has some similarities to Wray's story.  Dawson and a friend wanted to go ocean voyaging and worked hard in seasonal labouring work to save money to buy a yacht.  All they could afford was a 26 footer, not the largest boat to tackle stormy southern oceans, but they were confident it was satisfactory.  In 1937 they set out to cross the Tasman Sea to Australia in winter.  The Roxane was the smallest vessel to receive Marine Department clearance to leave New Zealand waters even though the ship's "lifeboat" was a flat bottomed 6 foot punt.  There was no ship to shore radio, satellite navigation systems, electric winches or workable auxillary engine.

Both Wray and Dawson (who coincidentially knew each other) had a dream and confidence in their abilities to make the dream become reality.They were not put off by the fact they were living during a world wide financial downturn. They didn't spend much time worrying about what they would do after the voyage or where they would be in ten years time or how much money they would have in the bank.

If you want to read either of these books and be inspired, South Seas Vagabonds which has been reprinted several times over the years can be found on a number of secondhand book sites, including Amazon and The Voyage of the Roxane can be purchased on-line through

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Finally - the E-book

Yes, my e-book, Escape your profession and save your life, is now up and available on Smashwords.  Just click on . Escape your profession is written for those busy and stressed out professionals who feel trapped and really want to find a way to escape. Unfortunately for all professionals it is too easy to become trapped by your own success and competence at what you do. Relying on the good income that comes with a busy and successful professional life is part of the velvet handcuffs that tie you to your profession too.

However, you only get one shot at life and it is too short to spend all of it in the office working under great pressure and for long family-unfriendly hours. If you have dreamed of or ever thought of throwing it all in for something that is more satifsying and will give you a better lifestyle then Escape your profession and save your life was written with you in mind.  The book offers many suggestions, tips and ideas about how to plan and make that escape.

I never intended to write a book when I started escaping my profession about eight years ago but so many people have asked me over the years how I managed to do it that a book seemed like a good idea.  I am firmly convinced that one of the saddest sights in life is to see intelligent, well educated men and women, who are really good at what they do, who have convinced themselves that they can not do something different or change their circumstances.

You owe it to yourself and your family to make the most of your life and to live it joyously and to the full.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

This almost writing life

It's the start of another week in the life of the full-time writer.  A storm threatens, coming straight from Antarctica according to the weather forecasters, and it seems a good day to closet one's self in the study and write.  However, instead the full-time writer manages to spend the morning mowing the lawns before the rain arrives, hanging out and later bringing in the day's laundry, washing the breakfast dishes and then preparing lunch for the return of the beloved wife.  Writing undertaken zilch - rise in 'domestic God' status stakes considerable.  Somehow I'm sure famous writers are just that - writers, not would be domestic Gods.  I'm doing something wrong.

It's not that I suffer from writer's block it is just that I have well-developed procrastination skills honed during a far too long legal career. Actually I suffer from being computer gun shy, if there is such a condition.  I am a reasonably competent word processor but ask me to move outside my basic comfit zone on the computer and I freeze.  Getting this blog to its current very basic state has been a life changing experience for a man in his 60s.  I now have to put the e-book up on Smashwords.  It is supposed to be idiot proof, if you follow the clear instructions they provide.

Unfortunately, I have that dark gut feeling of despair that comes from experience that tells me that somewhere in the process I will come across a step that is beyond my capabilities.  That is why there is such comfit in firing up the battered twenty year old lawnmower (do those Briggs & Stratton motors really run forever) and mowing the grass.  I can cope with the technology, even if the only way I can stop the damn thing is by knocking off the spark plug lead with a stick.  There is a fortune to be made by anyone who finds a way to solve computer problems by poking the VDU with a small stick!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Lessons from the Past

Here in New Zealand this year the recent Easter period has coincided with Anzac Day.  Anzac Day is the day we remember those New Zealanders and Australians who lost their lives serving their country in military conflicts ranging from the Boer War to Afghanistan.

During a wet and miserable weekend I spent a lot of time watching commemorative programmes on television.  I'm not usually overtly interested in military matters but it was interesting and moving to hear the stories of famous battles and events.  One channel throughout Anzac Day featured brief bios on all the New Zealanders who had won the Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth's highest and rarest award for bravery.

What has all this got to do with work, retirement and life changes?  Well, I couldn't help but notice two things.  One was the age of many of the servicemen and women featured who had done amazing things.  Usually they were aged in their early twenties.  They had considerable responsibility placed upon them, often leading many other troops, and having to inspire their subordinates, while making life and death decisions.  Despite their hugely different personal backgrounds, most of them rose to the challenge magnificently. Secondly, almost all of them were at the outbreak of war thrust into roles that were new and foreign to them.  Very few of them had spent years learning to be a soldier, sailor or airman.  One day they were working in an office or on the farm, a few weeks later they might be on the battlefield expecting to display the basic skills of a soldier.  When their country required them to step up and acquire new skills and take on a new role they did so, however far removed it might have been from their background and past experiences.  Of course in times of civil emergency, such as earthquakes, we often see the same thing.

Doesn't it make you think how relatively easy it should be for intelligent, well educated professionals in a time of peace, who have the luxury of being able to choose their own timetable to change direction, and who can properly plan their own life-style changes - to go ahead and make those changes?

Perhaps we should be inspired by our heroes and realise that if we have to, or want to badly enough, we can measure up and win our own life battles and bring about much needed changes.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

From a virgin blogger

are you there?
Is anyone listening
the door is ajar, a little.
The first blogs are published
out into cyberspace, like cowpats
falling from heaven to the barren earth below
warm, moist, full of promise, manure for the soul
or may be it's somehting else, simple

thoughts can be.
Words are seditious
an idea can spark a revolution.
Any moment the uprising will begin
the flood surge of words, good and bad,
a vertiable tsunami of adjectives and adverbs,
sweeping everything before it in a relentless tide.
An underflow of flotsam and jetsam -

Welcome to the first blog of "the escapee" (see About me). Why am I writing this blog and communicating my thoughts to the world?  About eight years ago I was a hard working stressed out lawyer, in my own practice and feeling very dissatisfied. Like most busy professionals I seemed permanently chained to my office desk, constantly battling to keep up and satisfy my clients with no end in sight.  Was this the life I really wanted to live all the way into old age? No, was my clear answer and after some thought and planning I sold my legal practice and embarked upon a very different much more enjoyable life. I had escaped the imprisonment of professional life and its unremitting responsibilities.  As soon as I did an amazing thing happened.  Many other professionals contacted me to ask me how I had done it.  How had I escaped? Sadly, despite my telling them, eight years later they are still asking me.

To answer their queries and to hopefully encourage others to live their lives instead of just surviving, I have written an E-book called, Escape your profession and save your life. It can be done!

In this blog I will reflect upon many aspects of life and work.  I'll write about making life changes, finding new careers and retirement options and probably many other things as the spirit moves me.  Sometimes, probably accidently, I may offer thoughts of deep philosophical insight, other times they may be shallow and obvious - but hey, I'm only human too.  Hopefully they may be helpful for those seeking an escape.  The only promise I may is to try hard to never be boring.

Cheers until next time.