notes from the road

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PR like travelling

Like a sharp knife cutting through a sponge cake – working in PR gives the opportunity to experience many different layers, and flavours. In the last few weeks I’ve met with and interviewed international experts on post traumatic stress, chron’s disease, Aboriginal welfare and leading sports lawyers. In a way it’s like typing in random words to Wikipedia and then having access to whoever wrote it (though with more women – fact: over 90% of Wikipedia pages are written by fellas!).

I’ve had an interest in cars and sports for a while but that was taken over rapidly with travel. This providing a way to experience lots of odd tid bits here and there. I became fascinted with things i’d previously payed no heed to whatsoever. I’d never had an interest in pouring tea before I went to Morocco but when there I was captivated with the process.

PR consultancy is throwing up similar opportunities to learn odd things from varied people. While learning so much about my own profession, I’m learning just as much about other people’s.

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Popular – for a reason.

Back in the day when Harry Potter first came out, I was a nay saying sceptic. I poo poo’d anyone who read the book and dismissed it as popularist tripe.  And then I read it. And loved it. Since then I’ve encouraged all I know to read it, bought copies for people and even watched two stage musical adaptions of it performed by school kids on youtube (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it – it’s awesome http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OepW-AG-Ris&feature=fvst ).

Point is that I’m often more inclinded to distance myself from something popular initially based on it being popular rather than its actual merits. Perhaps it comes from my penchance for Triple J, which is anything but commercial. Or my desire to be different and unique and like a dazzling star flying across the nights sky…..among all the other stars in the universe.

Regardless, I often do come to realise the beauty of things that are popular and I am not ashamed to sing their praises once I do. My latest is the iPhone. My, what a tool – and I’m not refering to the people that use them as I originally would have. Now days I go everywhere with it, finding my way on the go, booking places, contacting people, taking photos – it’s a veritable swiss army knife with a fifth dimension. Also I can talk to it and it will call people for me – this doesn’t save any time or is really that useful – but I feel sooooo cool doing it. Perhaps I’m being a bit narrow minded when I say this, but I feel like as a modern man, I breath, iPhone. Cavemen used rocks, the modern man uses an iPhone. I’m not going overboard here I think, it’s not like I have a name for the thing and take it to bed with me tucked up in a little iSleepingBag – it’s just an inordinately useful tool – and I really like that and it deserves to be popular.

There’s a reason why there are always crowds at the Eiffel tower.

p.s Here’s a list of other popular things that I am quite partial too.

– The song ‘someone I used to know’ by Gotye

– Lady Gaga

– The new Kia Optima

– Krispy Kreme Donuts

– The sound of a Commodore V8

– The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

– The film Notting Hill

You can quote me on this.

In probably one of the greatest poems ever written ‘If’, Rudyard Kipling writes about the value of being able to talk with Kings without losing the common touch. I take this to mean people of all social standings, economic levels, cultures, genders, sexual preferences, classes, intellect, education, preference of beverage, girth, shampoo choice etc. And recently I’ve been made aware of the value in this.

Whilst living overseas I was able to meet people of all types – from people who had a white grand piano in their two story apartment to people who lived meal to meal. My latest move to Melbourne has been an extension of this exploration and I’ve shared valuable time with a range of people. In doing this I try to adapt and forge myself to fit their mould somewhat, which despite sounding soulless is a necessity to a degree. In different social networks people operate under different norms, codes and rules. Doing one thing in one sub-culture can be interpreted completely different in another. For example gently nudging someone towards a pile of horse manure on the footpath could be seen as a cheeky joyful blag in one culture but a bit on the nose in another.

Yet by quoting another awesome chap from history, I’d like to point out to myself if no one else that it is important not to forget who you actually are. Ghandi said something along the lines of ‘I will open my doors and windows to the winds of all cultures but I won’t let any blow me off my feet’. Recently I have been having trouble with some of the social mores of a certain social group and I was trying harder and harder to fit myself right – struggling with the realisation that I wasn’t quite getting it. I then had a skype chat with one of my mates whose now living in France and the differences between him and my pals here was dramatic.  It got me realising that it is important to understand the rules and expectations of a cultural group, but you don’t have to let them own you. It is handy to have enough social capital to engage with people from different groups, but you don’t have to emulate it to learn from it.

If social groups, cultures, sub-cultures and societies were a smorgasbord of food it would be a shame to gorge yourself only at the one plate – that’s a Justin special.

Mind your step

Your emotions can mess you up. This is the conclusion that I have come to after an emotionally tumultuous couple of weeks. I had a relationship with a lass, and thankfully I still do – but it took a few dips and turns along the way. In a nut shell, we were good friends but I wondered if it could be anything else – a rocky journey followed and now we are back as good friends and we are all happy.

Along the way however my mind got drunk on my emotions and my vision was hazy like a junkie on artificial cannabis. I thought things that I wouldn’t normally have and when I questioned myself I was unsure if I could trust my own judgement. My actions too reflected my inability to function on a proper cerebral level so I clung to the only solid thing I could on the shifting sea of social mores. I stuck fast to the rule of common sense that the best way to get over someone is to give them a wide berth – but to no avail (the common phrase about absence and the heart did not come to mind). And then I listened to this:

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/hvxZgsbTTwI.html width=”480″ height=”411″]

My intentions were always pure but my actions were not being interpreted as such. It was interesting and frustrating to find out that what I did could be seen completely oppositely to that which I intended. As Ellen says – no one rocks up to work thinking ‘I’m going to be really difficult to be around’ or ‘Who’s someone I can bully now’ – interpretations are very personal and there are not always steadfast rules.

So after listening to this I scrapped my rule idea and dug to the root of my feelings. I did want to have this person in my life – and as a friend would actually be quite alright.

All situations are unique and it pays to be mindful.

Homeless – helpless?

Homeless people.  What to do with them? Whenever I walk past a homeless person without looking at them, helping them or even talking to them, I am hit by a little pang of guilt. What astounds me, is that it isn’t anything more than a fleeting knock and I soon am on my merry way spending my money on things I don’t really need. I find it all too easy to disassociate myself from them with all the trappings of ‘the government gives them lots of money, they’ll probably just buy booze and cigarettes and it’s not my fault’. But when push comes to shove, they are probably going to lie underneath a bridge and I’m going to purchase a milkshake. Surely there is something that I can do?!

Recently I struck gold. At work we needed some posters put up around the town and I was asked to find some friends who would like to earn some pocket money. Bingo. So when ever I saw a homeless person asking for money I told them that I had some work that they could do. I took some phone numbers (this is Australian poverty keep in mind), and agreed to meet people at certain places at certain times. All in all I asked six different people, four were very keen but didn’t show when I needed them, one wasn’t interested and one showed up an hour late. So perhaps it was a fruitless exercise, but I think not. The one who showed up had her 19 month old baby in tow and she’d taken a long tram ride to get there – she was determined and happy to work.

Lots of factors must come into someone being homeless in Australia, and I think it would be too easy and simple to stop helping because a few seem unfavorable. Even though most people that I asked didn’t end up working in the end, I’ve no idea what they are dealing with, or what obstacles held them back from earning some money – mental, financial, or physical. One person did come and work though – which I’m sure made a small, but not negligible impact on her immediate future.

From talking to people who are begging for money I’ve found that they aren’t always homeless and might just need some extra money to get by. I don’t think that just handing it over to them is the answer as it continues the cycle but there are things that we can do. Giving food or advice could prove to be infinitely more valuable. Regardless, at the end of the day we are all people.

I’m working on it

Working is great. Being in the thick of a thriving, knowledgeable environment with savvy switched on people is a great way to learn and change your way of seeing how things are done. I’ve had the opportunity to put a lot of my theoretical skills into practice and to kick up some ideas and sail them along the river seeing where they go. But an added bonus of working is that there are weekends! Because times inbetween working could not exist without the work – why have book ends if you don’t have any books?

I thought coming to Melbourne that the weather would be sub par – but I’ve really learned something here too. Despite it being just a few days past the winter equinox the sun is shining brightly and it is ace weather for kicking a footy and cracking out the slackline. I’ve also got my act together on the tennis court and been for many a wander around the streets.

Not only is working good, but it makes not working better too!

Does it matter where your heart is if the result’s no good?

I recently came to the aid of a lady in need on the stairwell of the train station. She was in her 20’s and was attempting to drag a large shopping cart down the stairs by herself. As others sifted past I bent down and picked up the base as she took the handle and together we walked down the stairs. After two or three paces I couldn’t help but feel good about myself – helping the needy as so many others ignored her meagre plight. Then I crashed back into reality. Though it wasn’t me that crashed, but a bag that slipped out of the cart due to the angle that we were holding it at. As I was up the stairs the opening of the cart was on the downward slant enabling the contents to slip out. The reason that the cart was so heavy was because it contained wine and glassware. The bag that slipped out hit the ground with a crash and two wine bottles and a wine flute broke covering the concrete with dark red liquid and shards of glass. I apologised to the lady profusely and she thanked me for my help and quite wisely decided to proceed down the stairs by herself as I put the messy bag in the nearest bin.

This quick transition of do-gooder to what ever the opposite is cut quickly and deeply. I was the direct cause for her wasting two bottles of wine and the glass probably $50 worth or so. That’s the opposite of being helpful.

Unfortunately this transition was one that I’d experience again soon.

‘I got exceptionally bad results’ is what my sister said. That was three weeks after I had heavily edited and made suggestions to her University essay. I didn’t help much with the content as I know as much about psychology as I do about the iPhone app Viber (I know it exists but not how to use it), I only added my two cents worth on the structure of the essay. So my sister following her big brothers advice made the suggested changes and received worse marks than she had received before. The feedback particularly targeted the poor structure.

So once again I’ve created more harm than good even though my heart was in the right place. I wonder what really matters in the end? If I asked my sister I’m sure she’d probably take better marks, and I’ve little doubt the wine lady would take the Shiraz.

What worries me most about this string of doing good turning to bad is that things often happen in threes. So I’ve got a terrible feeling that by reading this you have been sufficiently distracted enough to forget that you left your iron on and your clothes are on fire. I’m terribly sorry.

The weird needs embracing.

Living in a city like Melbourne comes with certain obligations. If the opportunity to join a dance party in the cross section of a two major streets arises, it should be taken. Likewise if there happens to be a mass pillow fight in a park. French choirs, interpretive dance classes, far left revolutionary talks, poetry readings and grotesque theatre are what make Melbourne what it is. These activities and occasions for meeting outstanding people and pushing yourself to do oddball activities are not available in many other places. Wackiness in a place like Tamworth is certainly there but it grows in the dark corners, in Melbourne you’ve got to duck to avoid it.

Yet if it weren’t for all of the loopy, creative and fascinating activities and people in Melbourne it would be a shame to live here. It’s cold, the rent is high and it takes a dreadfully long time to get from anywhere to someplace different. Here the appeal of country towns is evident and it is surprising that more people don’t live there. If working, watching TV, seeing a film, playing sports and having some open spaces is your cup of tea (you must be willing to part with the coffee too) then you should not be in the city. But for me, for this moment I am lapping up the oddities. I just returned from seeing a friend of a friend perform a gig at a hotel down the road. She sung the most hauntingly uplifting songs with an insatiable voice whilst wearing a pink unicorn outfit. Fill me with your weird Melbourne.

POSITION AVAILABLE

I’m just about to move into a new role so I thought it would be a good idea to find someone to take over my old position. Below is an advertisement for the role, please apply if you feel you have the appropriate skills and experience or forward it on if you know someone who does.

Position available for Motivated Self Starter

Interested in having the freedom to work for yourself when you want, where you want and how you want?  Have no experience and want to get out of the daily grind? Then read on and apply.

A position will be made available for a self starter with strong communication and organisational skills. In order to excel you must be highly motivated, have strong presentation experience, creativity and the ability to find and exploit opportunities.

Essential requirements:

  • Strong list of contacts and the ability to network effectively with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.
  • Exceptional time management skills are paramount. This position is very flexible and enables you to work at the hours of your choosing in a completely autonomous environment.
  • Goal focussed and able to reach specific KPI’s (key performance indicators) on a bi-weekly basis.
  • Ability to make appointments with government departments and adhere to them on a regular basis – your salary will depend upon it.
  • Strong communication skills are essential both written and spoken as cold calls will be required and your writing must withstand scrutiny.
  • Outstanding attention to detail and understanding of grammar and punctuation.
  • You must be familiar with Microsoft Word, file management, strategically using social media and have strong internet research skills.
  • Professional appearance and developed interpersonal skills are critical to your success in this role.
  • A University degree will be looked upon favourably but will not guarantee success in this position.
In addition strong budgeting skills will be useful and you must be able to take negative responses in your stride. This position will commence with a three month trial period with support offered at its completion.  If this sounds like you please send a two page personal introduction and CV (limited to 6 pages) to Justin@unemployment.com.au

Catch the Tram

Today I saw something fantastically simple. I was sheltering under my drooping umbrella as I waited in the rain for my tram to arrive when a tram coming in the other direction slowed and stopped at the lights. As it did this little chutes in front of the wheels released a small amount of sand onto the tracks to give the wheels some traction as it slowed down. With all the electronic stability control and anti-lock braking that goes on with cars all trams need is a little sand on the tracks and they are right to go – or stop as it were.

This got me thinking about how the simplest things are often the best. Recently I’ve had the opportunity to go to many job interviews and I’ve tried out a few different techniques. Initially I didn’t want to be too stiff or unnatural so I went in rather casually. Though I dressed presentably my demenour may not have been what was desired. I referenced ‘balls’ somewhere during the interview and though I don’t think it is a swear word, I will concede that it probably wasn’t appropriate. Lesson learned. At the following interviews I tried to be what they wanted – a lean, mean sales machine and I gave them the slicked back ‘I am the right man for the job’ Justin. This didn’t feel natural at all and I failed to truely give the best impression of myself.

I just had an interview today for a job that I am very keen on and I tried to keep the tram in mind. All I needed to do was show why I wanted the job, why I’m good for the job and then let us both decide if we are good for each other. I wasn’t too casual this time, I didn’t try to be anything that I’m not and I took the time to think about the questions I was asked and wanted to ask. These are all simple things but they’re often the best.

Sorry, who did you say you were?

Everyone’s got an idea of their own. It seems like the simplest thing too, but recently I’ve misplaced mine. I’m talking identities. Not who we are on a passport but who we are when we introduce ourselves at parties, or who we are when someone describes us to someone else in 30 words or less, or who we are when we are standing in a crowd and we want to know that we aren’t anyone else there. It’s our Unique selling point, our point of difference – it’s who are are.

For the last few years I’ve had it quite easy. Living in the US and then France I could kick back knowing that I had a ready made identity that would cut to the chase and separate me from the pack – I was Australian. If push came to shove, I was a traveller, a teacher, an intern, a tour guide and I even had long hair! Boom – separating me from the masses was as easy as getting that Friday song by Rebecca Black caught in your head (grrrr terribly catchy pop music!).

But now living in Australia with a shaven mane what sets me apart? Being in Melbourne I initially clasped at the country link and that certainly still lingers ‘ here’s my friend Justin, he’s from Tamworth’. This is quite unique, but I don’t feel that it represents me fully. Being unemployed doesn’t help as work is normally the first one off the blocks in the race to identity. So to get by I’ve been testing a few things out ‘I’m Justin – a writer and PR consultant’, ‘I’m Justin – slackliner and netball player’, ‘I’m Justin – I sometimes wear red pants’…

I’m now tending to think that this is the best way to go. I am now on the cusp of getting a job which I previously hadn’t even known existed and I don’t feel that it will in any capacity define who I am. I don’t want to just be a dark suit in the crowd, so I might stick to defining parts of me by the little things in life and keep people guessing.

‘Hi I’m Justin and I currently have two of my fingernails painted green and black, I’ve volunteered to work for an opera studio and I make up rhymes about marsupials’ – make of that what you will.

Would you like to try: Unemployment!

Life is all about experiencing new things isn’t it? At the moment I’m experiencing unemployment. It’s not something that I would ultimately like to experience for a long time, but I think it is worth while. I now know that the government New Start allowance is spot on. Without it I would not be getting by but it certainly does not give me enough to live a cushy lifestyle – there is plenty of incentive to get work (as there should be). Almost more pressing than the need for money is the need for fulfillment and social inclusion. I want to finish a day knowing that I’ve earned my keep and place in society, that I’ve done something worth while. Though I approach the job hunt like a job in itself (I’ve got another 3 hours until my 45 minute lunch break) I don’t get the same satisfaction. This is quite understandable as my day involves applying for things and receiving negative responses. It’s easy to feel down when everyone around you has a job and you don’t. But this does give some incentive. The other day I saw a man buy some thickened cream, and I thought, one day, one day very soon I’m going to have a job, and I’ll buy thickened cream too! So at this moment where I am very unemployed and for every dollar in my bank account I have 90 dollars in debt (still claiming that it was wisely invested), I would like to place a little reminder marker. Soon things will be very different.

 

Why be a champion when we could be mates?

Yesterday while waiting for a tram – a common past time I’ve picked up, I watched a man get into a taxi cab and was reminded of something that I read in France. It was in a book which taught English learners about different social etiquette in the English speaking world. For Australia it said that it could be offensive to sit in the back seat of a taxi if you are a single passenger. The upshot being that in the back seat you are being chauffeur driven and in the passenger seat you are mates with the taxi driver. In the US this is not the case at all, not only are you in the back of the cab, but there is a divider that you can shut so that you are in your own little cell and not really in the car with a person at all.

This then got me thinking about how we refer to our leaders – which is quite apt now that our PM is up over. It seems that it is quite appropriate when interviewing the Prime Minister to call her Julia (or Jew-liar if you are Alan Jones) like you are out at a barbie. In my time in the US I didn’t once here anyone refer to the American President in an interview as Barack, or rarely even Mr Obama. They use the title Mr President, one that he keeps even after he has lost his position. This explains why Hillary Clinton referred to Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister Rudd a few months ago.

So using these tiny points of reference I feel I can make some grand conclusions. It seems that for two countries that do have much in common there is a discrepancy in how the individual is viewed. The US celebrates personal triumph, individual achievement and readily accepts differences of importance or status of people. Whereas the Australian psyche finds it hard for an individual to be less well off than another, equality reigns. This is where the Tall poppy syndrome starts, the beating up of our successful actors begins and cannonisation of unsuccessful events and people becomes evident (Ned Kelly, Waltzing Matilda, Gallipoli).

Australia celebrates the commonality and the US the champion.

If the world were a pack of wolves, the US would chose to be the leader and Australia would chose to be the mid pack mongrel making fart jokes.

 

Don’t question the Universe…

The other day I was frantically ramming all of my coins into the ticket machine as a train approached the station. When it had stopped I realised that I was thirty cents short and I missed it. As I sat on the bench wondering why the world was so against me I absentmindedly checked my phone – which had a message saying I didn’t need to go to work that day and I could just stay home.  It’s funny how some events can have unexpected consequences.

Today as I was changing trains at North Melbourne I thought I’d profit in my few moments and send a message on my phone but there was too much glare at the platform that I was at, so I sidled under the shade at the adjoining platform. Here I watched as two girls got off the train, one sat down and the other said

‘sorry to be a bitch, but I’ve got to go – hope you’re alright’.

The girl sitting down was wearing big glasses and she leaned over with elbows on her knees – just like anyone would when they are bored and waiting for a train. Just then my train arrived but as I heard what her friend had said to her I asked her if she was alright. She mumbled that she had a sore head and felt dizzy. I didn’t know what to do then, so I patted her on the shoulder like I’ve seen many natural born carers do. Then I felt lame, so I asked if she thought it would be a good idea to get some assistance. She agreed, so I scampered off to get a train official. He then called the ambulance and we both sat with her trying to keep her talking. She was a Uni student about to go to an O-week tutorial and she’d never fainted before or been drinking. When the paramedics arrived I said good luck and hopped on my train – it was after all my second day of work.

At the first station I knew I’d made a mistake and caught the wrong train. I should have walked to another platform earlier on that day and it was only by mistake that I had been at the platform where I saw the girl.

I wonder how much of it really was a mistake though.

Step Aside Robert Downey Jr and Move Over Tri-Athletes……

I’m a 23 year old guy and on occasion I need to look the part. So this week I splashed out and bought the new Philips GC2560 and it is phenomenal. Finished in dark grey, white and chrome it’s got 2100W of power, a 95g boost with high capacity storage, Double Active Calc system and at the press of a button it growls like a tiger. It’s an iron.

Initially I felt really old buying it, like a proper adult. But at the moment it is just something that I really need. All the nice looking business shirts and ties are pretty useless if they are grandma wrinkly. However, upon opening up the box and checking out my latest toy (I didn’t do this in the shop – I just asked for the cheapest thing on offer) I found that this particular white good was actually designed by someone like me, someone on the go, someone who wants to inject a bit of fun into their life. For starters it heats up quicker than a commodore bonnet in Alice Springs and when you press the steam boost button it hisses and snarls in a gloriously angry fashion – I’ve got no idea what it does, but it sounds ace! Best of all though is that there’s a spray nozzle out the front near the nose and at the push of another button it’ll squirt a sharp mist of water. Now many people out there would be thinking

‘why would anyone want to combine a water pistol with an iron, I mean I thought camera phones were a bit silly but this is ridiculous’

But I know, I understand completely. Let me just paint you a picture.

It’s a hot day and you and your family are playing a little water fight game. As time goes on you are nearing the end of your armaments having used up all the water bombs and your water gun is running on empty. Thinking quickly you race into the laundry and confront your adversaries.

‘Ha, an iron what use is that’

They think as they lower their weapons and walk up to you (preferably within 30 cm) and then WHAM you hit the go button with your trigger finger and shower them in a fine spray of iron mist! Boom! You win!

I understand completely, this is a product for all occasions and I am one very proud new owner.

Just call me the Iron Man!