Some would see success as merely the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. However, many tend to see success as only attainable if we become rich or famous.

The ability to raise our social status by openly displaying our affluence is often seen in the luxury and opulence with which we surround ourselves. Successful people motivate and inspire others. For some, hard work and dedication usually over a lengthy period, enable them to be recognised as earning their success and associated benefits.

Bob Dylan said we are successful if we get up in the morning and go to bed at night and in between we do what we want to do. He was fortunate that doing what he wanted to do made him sufficient money to enjoy life in his own way.

To quote Ralph Emerson, an American poet and writer, when asked to define success, his response was: “To laugh often; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To appreciate beauty and find the best in others.”

He also suggested “We should leave the world a bit better, by knowing even one life has breathed easier because we have lived.” This, he said, “is to have succeeded.”

To me, Emerson’s suggestions seem a very effective gauge of success which, if we adopted, would enable us to help each other make a success of our lives.                                                                                          

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Spectator parents

It sometimes takes considerable planning and time management to ensure parents are present at their children’s various sporting events. It is usually obvious from our kid’s attitudes that they expect you, not only arrange their transport to and from their sporting venues, but that you are there to watch and encourage them.

While this process can take up a major chunk of your time, it is important parents watch with interest how their children perform. There is no doubt parents will need to be attentative, to be involved in the after-the-event discussions.

Our children’s involvement in sports is a healthy exercise for them and needs to be encouraged. How, we as parents, provide that encouragement can be vital to the effectiveness of their participation.

The more recent concept of giving each competitor a reward for their involvement, in my opinion, takes away the need for children to strive to perform at their best. This, consequently reduces the value of the reward for the victors.  Given the right encouragement, hopefully, those who fail to achieve an award will try to improve and thus gain more benefit, both mentally and physically from the exercise.

How we go about encouraging our children in improving their participation in the sport of their choice is of great importance. The first question we must ask ourselves is whether the choice of the particular sport was theirs or ours.

Sometimes, because we played a particular sport when we were younger, we assume our children will follow in our footsteps. This can often lead to outbursts of anger from the side lines if parents see in their children what they would deem as failed performances, based on their own adult standards.

This negative form of attack on our children is far from encouragement and could be said to cause the child considerable anxiety and mental stress. Positive suggestions and helpful encouraging advice will help our children aim to perform at their best while competing.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Polling day

His election day started badly because, upon arrival at the polling booth, he was unable to find a space in the car park area adjacent to the local hall.

He was heard to be muttering as he reversed out and had to park some 50 metres up the road. During his short walk back to the hall he was blaming the staff at the booth who he claimed must have taken up all the parking spots.

As he walked up the pathway to the front door he was offered How-to-Vote cards by the ever smiling voluntary party representatives. He snatched a card off each as they stepped out from under their candidate emblazoned colourful umbrellas and he stormed towards the entrance.

He found he had to join a short queue waiting to enter the voting area and this caused an outburst from him which enabled others in the queue to be well aware that ‘this whole show was a waste of time’ and that he ’would rather be out fishing’.

When it came his turn to proceed to the registration table, he barged forward and placed his two palms on the table surface. He then belched a concoction of last night’s beer and this morning’s bacon, eggs and after brecky fag.

Before the young male Poll Clerk had a chance to offer a greeting, the disgruntled voter blurted out a surname that sounded like ‘Johnson’ and then added, Michael John.

This was the Poll Clerk’s first election and although he had been trained on what he should ask, the sight (and smell) of the person in front of him took him off guard. He fumbled with his list and looked up JOHNSON, but failed to find a Michael John.

The man in front of him was obviously getting agitated so he courageously asked how to spell the name. The reply, J.O.H.N.S.T.O.N.E. was spat out, the letters coming in quick succession.

At last Michael John Johnstone was given a voting paper and as he marched off to the nearest vacant booth, he informed the Clerk and others around him that he was only doing this so he ‘wouldn’t be fined’.

He cast his vote and threw the How-to-Vote sheets on the floor. He made sure as many people as possible saw him place his folded voting paper in the box and then he stormed towards the exit still mumbling about the stupidity of the process and how ‘you couldn’t trust politicians anyway’.

Later that night as the votes were being counted, the Poll Clerks and the scrutineers wondered why a person would just put a large cross over the whole voting paper and render it informal. Perhaps, they thought, such a person did not deserve to live in a democratic country.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Forward thinking

We all tend to get excited prior to the start of each new year and think seriously about what New Year’s resolutions we will make. New Year comes and New Year goes and we often find our resolutions tend to fall by the wayside. Some just prove to be impractical, others get relegated to the too hard basket and occasionally we persist with one until it seems to lose its relevance.

Perhaps, rather than wait for the new year to come around, we might take the time to stop and have a stocktake of our life to date and consider what has occurred in our past and what might become part of our future.  The word ‘hindsight’ is always associated with any review we might do of our past.

Perhaps we might regret some things that we have done in the past and don’t really want to rake over these old coals. With hindsight we know we certainly would have acted differently or made entirely different decisions and often we kick ourselves for the errors of the past.

Mentally, we need to tell ourselves that in the past, when we acted in such a way, this was what we felt was right at the time. Nothing can now change that decision, irrespective of what current wisdom hindsight might uncover. So, let’s not dwell too long on the past.

By giving ourselves the chance to look at our past we also give ourselves the opportunity to learn from previous decisions we might have made, so we might react differently should a similar situation arise today.

So, what of the future? Are we brave enough to consider doing or achieving something that has only ever been a distant dream in our subconscious? Perhaps it has never even rated a mention in any of our New Year’s resolutions lists. There will always be numerous reasons that confront us as to why our dream can never become a reality. If we were to put aside the negative reaction and force ourselves to strive towards achieving our dream, it may give us a whole new purpose in our life.

It is my opinion our past and our future can be compared to the inside of our car. That’s the reason why our rear vision mirror is so small compared to what we can see through the windscreen.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Adopt a loner

A recent Australian Government survey found 83% of people over 60 would prefer to stay living in their own home as they get older. With just the right amount of extra support and care, staying in their own home can mean maintaining their independence for longer.

Many older Australians (aged 65 and over) have accumulated assets, such as their own homes and savings, which can be used to support their living into retirement. According to the latest Government figures, the number of people in this age group is predicted to increase from 3.8 million to 5.2 million by 2027.

All too often we hear where an older person living alone has been found to have died in their home days or even weeks before being discovered by a concerned neighbour. What a sad way to end one’s life.

Social experiments where young people visit nursing homes and mix with the residents have proven to be of immense value, not only to the elderly but also to the youngsters who gain from the wisdom and caring attention they receive. In addition, the children seem to enable the residents the opportunity to relive the fun and enjoyment of their youth. A definite win/win situation.

I am sure there are many country areas and suburban neighbourhoods where people are isolated and living alone and although, surrounded by families, they never actually get to know each other.

How wonderful it would be if we were to seek out a lonely person or couple living alone and befriend them. I know how busy we are in today’s modern world, but here is an opportunity to reach out to someone who may be lonely and rarely leaves their home or even gets visited by family and friends.

Here is a chance to show our gratitude for what our life has given us here in Australia. Enabling isolated people to still feel loved and wanted will brighten their days and give them a reason to look forward to living.

Adopting a struggling person in our neighbourhood could be the start of a whole new friendship with lasting benefits to both parties. It could also be a fine example to our younger family members of the importance we place on caring for each other.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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The story goes, how some years ago now, a Swedish industrialist was reading his morning paper over breakfast and to his amazement read his own obituary. Obviously, the newspaper had reported on the death of the wrong man.

The man read on, intent on finding out what would be said about him, assuming he was dead. The column heading read, “Dynamite king dies”. As he was reading the text underneath, he was surprised at the description of him as, ‘a merchant of death’. He was the rich inventor of dynamite and the manufacturer of weapons and explosives.

He was concerned at this description of himself as ‘a merchant of death’. From that point on he devoted his energy and money to works of peace and human betterment.

Today of course he is better known, not as ‘the merchant of death’, but as the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was Alfred Nobel.

William Shakespeare said,The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”. In Alfred Nobel’s case, he got prior warning of how he would be seen by future generations and he decided to do something positive about it.

Perhaps it might be an interesting exercise for all of us to examine how we’re living our life at the moment and consider how we might be seen by others after our death.

It’s never too late to change our ways. Particularly if it means offering help and support to those in our family and community, instead of concentrating on our own wellbeing and importance.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Safety and Health

It had taken some effort to crawl under the family caravan. It was hot and the dusty ground was hard on his back. Yet he managed to get into a suitable position where he could drill the two holes needed in the metal frame.

As he was about to commence his work, he realised he had forgotten to get his safety glasses from the shed. The thought of crawling back out from his cramped position was enough for him to say to himself; “Ah, she’ll be right, only two holes to drill and then I’m out of here”.

As the day wore on it became evident that he had something irritating in his eyes, so he tried the old eyebrow over eyelash and blow your nose trick, but that didn’t work. Neither did the eyedrops kept in the fridge for such an event offer any relief. Still the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude persisted, even into the next day.

It was only because it became hard to sleep that he realised he should do something about it. So, at midnight he arrived at the emergency entrance of the local hospital and joined the Saturday night queue, along with blood besmeared accident victims and others obviously ill and needing medical assistance.

Fortunately, the hospital was equipped with an optical consultation room and it was here he was informed he had pieces of steel in both eyes. The pain deadening drops were a relief, but then came the removal process, which had to be done by flipping the metal pieces out with a blunt needle.

Having survived this attack, he was next informed that because of the time he had taken to have the steel removed, rust had formed on his eyeballs. This required removal with a torch like battery operated shaft containing a small grinder. At the successful completion of this process, his eyes were thoroughly checked and he was informed he was very fortunate he had not done permanent damage to his eyesight.

And the moral of the story is that it is just as important to recognise safety and health issues at home as it is in the workplace.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Our hectic days are full of mini-stresses, decision making, constant communications, traffic, work, family needs and even the expectations others have of us.

Australia is becoming more urbanised and the majority of us live in, or near, large cities. Unlike our early ancestors whose lives centred around living in natural environments, we have had to adapt to city life and the pressures and stresses associated with urban living.

We can’t all live in the country, but if we consider nature as a place of peace, calm and rest, then we might consider escaping our city living occasionally to refresh our minds and our spirits and breathe in pollution-free air.

A natural environment, such as watching ocean waves rolling into the shore, the flames in a fire or birds in the forest trees can give us a sense of awe, satisfaction and peace. By concentrating on the softness of nature we can reverse our negative feelings into positive ones.

Going for a walk in the bush or just looking up at the stars on a clear night won’t necessarily erase grief or physical pain but it will allow our brain to rest from its normal hectic lifestyle activity.  The peace and inner tranquillity we gain from our nature experiences can, in itself, reduce stress and even assist in any on-going healing process.

While we might be able to calm our thoughts with meditation and other religious practices, most religions throughout the world agree that nature is sacred. So, let’s try a drug-free environmental change to relieve some of our daily stress and anxiety pressures.

Not only will we feel better for the exercise, but it might also help us understand the value of maintaining a healthy environment, particularly during this period of climate change.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Over recent years the role of grandparents has changed, as we often see them being called to assist their working children. Today, many parents are required to both work, as an economic necessity. The cost of using childcare centres five days a week can seriously eat into weekly earnings. 

Grandparent’s and adoptive grandparent’s level of assistance varies. It can include babysitting, pre-school child minding, school plck-ups and after-school care, sleepovers, attending sports activities plus the constant need to fulfil hunger claims.

Most grandparents have the time to nurture, love, share, teach and play with their grandkids. While they generally enjoy their role, at times it can be tiring keeping up with the younger ones. However, there is no doubt that with regular contact grandparents can have a positive effect on the emotional development of their grandchildren and generally form a beautiful lasting and loving relationship.

Trusting relationships are formed as children learn that when they are with their grandparents more relaxed behavioural boundaries tend to exist except when it comes to manners and respect.

Interestingly enough, being with young children can have a positive effect on grandparent’s own lives. Thoughts of a quiet retirement fade as their youthfulness is once more revived and life becomes more joyful and meaningful.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Men and their sheds

The Men’s Shed organisation is an Australian concept that has become popular in all States. These shed locations, sometimes purpose built, are where older men can have the opportunity to make friends and share meaningful activities. The idea originated to improve the health and wellbeing of members.

Today many younger people’s immediate reaction is one of shock upon seeing an organisation established that doesn’t cater for both males and females together. However, before you decide to send off a protest email to your local member of parliament it might be a good idea to get an understanding of why such an organisation needs to exist.

I think most will agree men can be complicated individuals. More so, the men who have been raised and grown up during a period when the male in the family had far different expectations placed on him than what we see today.

From a young age, todays older male Aussie was given lessons on how to be a man. These started by being told not to cry. Big boys don’t cry. In those years, society had set views on manhood. You didn’t reach out to others when you felt vulnerable. You didn’t seek help. You had to be in charge and you would use force if necessary, to get your own way.

As these generations grew, considerable peer pressure ensured any intimate or open close relationships with other men was frowned on by other men. Blokes had mates they drank with or played sport with but rarely formed any long-term relationships. The results caused today’s older male to have experienced emotional periods where anger, bullying and violence came to the surface.

Spending time with your mates at a men’s shed is an important way to introduce change to men giving them the freedom to become more vocal, empathetic and compassionate. Men’s sheds are good for men’s health.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.  

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