As we entered the last year of this decade, my social networks lit up with people posting their best of 2019 and decade reviews. Instead of reviewing the past year I reviewed the manifesto I wrote in 2015 (see above).

Amazingly I found each item continues to resonate with the person I am and where I want to continue developing my life. That’s not to say I always fulfilled the spirit of the manifesto in recent years. In particular I struggle to not accumulate things, and definitely own more not fewer things than I did when I wrote it five years ago.

Colleen and I continue to buck convention. In 2019 we attended our first Steampunk events in Australia and New Zealand, making new friends with like-minded makers and dreamers. I follow a lot of cosplayers on social media but never really understood the excitement until we got involved with Steampunk.

Buoyed by our success we made Star Lord and Captain Marvel costumes for OzComicon in Sydney. We had a lot of fun, and I see cosplay being a big part of our future adventures.

We travel extensively every year but in 2019 we took shorter trips within Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia. This allowed us to be more reactive and visit family or attend events at short notice rather than planning one big travel adventure. It also brought into sharp focus our preference for cooler climates, and longer stays in each place (minimum 1-4 weeks).

Longer stays allow us to take a breath and just enjoy the view from a quiet cafe or park bench instead of rushing from sight to sight. It also allows us to discover local events and learn more about local culture and lives. Often these adventures result in small adjustments to the way we live our lives and the way we view the world around us.

My creative outlets have been sporadic, long fallow periods followed by intensely creative weeks. My mind tends to create new projects constantly, and seems to create a roadblock in my head that stalls all progress on current projects. This year I am using The Art Assignments as a creative muse to keep me moving forward and provide the momentum to complete my fallow projects.

Ok, that’s enough self reflection, time I started making things.

PoppyANZAC Day is next Saturday, and as the 100th Anniversary of that murderous day approaches the feeding frenzy is sickening. On one side is a parade of sanctioned and tawdry marketing campaigns using the anniversary to further their business success. On the other side is a cadre of journalists, historians and citizens shouting at business and the Government to stop using the memory of ANZAC as a marketing brand for commercial and political success.

So for just one moment, step back and consider this simple question:

Who will you remember on ANZAC Day?

For some families the answer is simple, a great grandfather, uncle or a distant relative in their family tree who served during the Great War. But many Australians, like me, have no direct link to the soldiers, airman and sailors of the First World War. So did a little research and decided I would pause to remember a soldier who originated from the Hunter region.

On ANZAC Day I will remember Port Stephens soldier, Private George Alfred Rush 1045, 9th Battalion AIF. George Rush landed  at ANZAC Cove on 25 April 1915, and was last seen in the firing line at 2pm and is listed as killed in action later that day. He has no known grave. His brother Cecil landed the same day, and was wounded but survived the war being wounded on three subsequent occasions and awarded the Croix de Guerre for his service. Their sister, Edith, enlisted on 26 April 1915 and served as a nurse throughout the war.

Find a name on your local Shrine of Remembrance or search the National Archives for a soldier or nurse who hailed from your town or suburb, and pause for a minute on ANZAC Day to remember him or her.

No RegretsWe left the City Recital Hall with the intense imagery of Neil Gaiman’s stories vivid in my mind’s eye. Outside a gathering crowd of young people is waiting to get into a trendy Sydney club. I compared the evening of wonder we had just enjoyed with the many youthful nights I spent in similar clubs.

I regret how I wasted my youth going to clubs instead of seeking out to events like this one tonight.

You’ve been saying that a lot lately.

Have I?

Yes, and it’s a good way to become depressed if you keep thinking you have wasted your life.

A stomach complaint kept me awake most of the night, and I began to examine the arch of my life without my inner critic for a change. In the early hours of the morning I realised I always saw my life as a series of stages. The shy kid in school who became a sports fanatic who morphed into a military professional and more recently a creative thinker and maker. I locked each phase of my life into a niche without understanding my life’s real narrative, evolution rather than radical change. I continually try new things while maintaining a fairly structured, and in some ways habitual life.

I have always enjoyed reading, and I can sit for hours with my mind transported to another reality by the words but my reading habits evolved over time. As I studied for my Masters degree I read exclusively non-fiction; history, political science and engineering texts dominated by library. I also read endless volumes of design engineering documents for my project management work, so by day’s end I only wanted to chill in front of television or computer game.

When I returned to fiction I discovered a more nuanced understanding of the stories, and sub-plots than I had as a young reader. This evolution could appear a radical change to the people who suddenly found me talking about fantasy novels more often than military history or the latest political intrigue. The real change is more subtle, I have started to pull all the threads together into a coherent narrative of how I live my life. Instead of silos of excellence, keeping my gaming brain separate from the military tactician I took lessons from every aspect of my experience to enrich the current activity or discussion.

My kids joke they don’t me anymore but I don’t find many of these new obsessions too far removed from my past. The difference is the time I allocate to exploring new things, taking the time to look and listen to what is going on around me. Then follow the trails I find interesting, one such trail led me to Sxip Shirey‘s website today. Sxip is an eclectic, electric musician, his style defies definition and a few years ago I would not have stopped long enough to listen. As a teenager I continually discovered new music to add to my eclectic collection but at some point I just settled on a sound and set it on repeat. It became a habit rather than an experience.

Should I regret my life choices because I enjoy different things today?

Of course not, instead of pining over lost opportunities I embrace the past risks and adventures of my life. My trip to China, rugby championship and missing out on the coveted jobs were just as important as hearing Neil Gaiman read his latest stories or briefly discuss Mark Rothko with Adam Savage. Those early experiences led me to this point in life, it made those encounters possible and I am grateful for everyone of them even the soul crushing ones have value.

So, Colleen will never hear me lament the past again. Our future is built on dreams not regrets, and we have a lot of dreams to make real.

Fan encounter with Neil GaimanLast night I took my daughter-in-law to a Sydney Writer’s Festival event featuring Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman and Tara Moss. As we waited in line for the theatre to open the young lady in front of us looked at me, and said

‘You don’t look like an Amanda Palmer fan.’

Well, what the Hell does a fan look like at these events?

Am I too old, too straight, too conservative to be a fan? Fucked if I know, I certainly had more life experience than most of the crowd, and arrived casually well dressed but so what? I grew up in the Seventies, and Punk played an important part in my development through the idea we do not have to conform to every social norm or expectation to be a part of society.

Alright I never quite bought into the anarchist level of Punk, and joining the military at 17 meant I accepted a certain level of conformity in my life. But I didn’t need a uniform to be a Punk, it is an attitude, one I applied liberally within the military to champion ideas outside the mainstream.

In standard psychological testing I have an unusually high score in the fantasy areas. Whilst the other results are consistent with typical outcomes for military leaders, fantasy is usually quite low amongst my colleagues.

I discussed this outcome with the psychologist, and I told him about my love of art, science fiction and my generally geeky/punk outlook on life. He did not see it as a negative, just one of those outliers that occasionally pop up in standardised testing.

Personally I take great pride in my ability to see things differently to my peers, friends and family even if I ultimately choose to support a conservative position. My Punk attitude means I focus on outcomes rather than how I look during development of an idea or working to complete a project.

Western society, maybe society in general, is quick to corral people into groups; conservatives, liberals, punks, bums, heroes and a thousand other labels. I rarely find any of them adequately describe an individual let alone any group of people.

I have an increasingly diverse group of sometimes conflicting and competing ideals, concepts and values. My dress and grooming habits evolve but rarely do they reflect my level of love or dedication to a movement, artist or idea. I’m just a bloke who likes a varied and eclectic range of things, and this makes me happy. It’s just me, and I don’t need a uniform to be me.

Maddog Manifesto 2.0What is a personal manifesto?

A manifesto is a statement of ideals and goals to guide a person, organisation or culture to a better future. It can be as complex as the Koran or as simple as the United States Declaration of Independence. They are often a rebellious call to action because they show people the disparity from their current reality and a better future.

The best manifestos provoke change, challenge convention and generate a commitment to change in their target audience. The Declaration of Independence is a simple document, yet its words reverberate through every aspect of American society and culture.

A personal manifesto is simply your own call to action to live a better life or create a better future for you and those closest to you.

Why write a personal manifesto?

Self improvement is a lifelong pursuit for almost everyone although we mostly do it unconsciously through repetition and practice, it is a fundamental part of what makes human beings a unique species on this planet. Successful self improvement must be consistent with your values and principles.

My own attempts at self improvement often failed because I followed the latest fad rather than a plan to address my own ideals and aspirations. In recent years I focused my effort on obtaining a Command in the Air Force. All my energy went into finding a position to get me noticed by the selection board. During an extended vacation I realised my desire for Command reflected my perception of success as a military professional rather than a step along the road to the person I really wanted to become in the future. I had a plan but it ignored my personal values, goals and philosophy. I decided I needed a personal call to arms to guide my decisions and keep me focused on the better future of my dreams. A personal manifesto.

Many people view a personal manifesto as pretentious but every January we fill the air with our resolutions to loose weight, stop smoking or be a better parent/spouse/friend. Those resolutions are really just a simple form of manifesto but unrecorded and soon forgotten. By writing a simple call to action, and displaying it prominently in your home, office or sanctuary you will soon find yourself being guided subconsciously by those ideals. My own manifesto led me to retire from the military, and focus on creative endeavors like this blog and I could not be happier.

How to write a personal manifesto.

While a personal manifesto may take the form of a long manuscript, I believe simplicity makes it easier to envisage your future. I chose four themes; time management, learning, travel and simplicity.

Next I wrote down what these themes meant to me, developed goals to achieve them and over time refined these ideas into the eight goals and affirmations you see above under each red thematic statement. They guidelines, rather than rigid rules, to keep me heading in the right direction.

I put aside the original rough draft for a few weeks before rereading and refining my manifesto into the document reproduced above.

A printed copy sits prominently next to my desk, and I often find myself reflecting on those words.

I review the manifesto every year, and continue to refine my goals but the basic themes have never changed for me.

As a result I am living the life I imagined but never seemed able to obtain without the guidance this simple document provided me.

 

Camp Lehigh Flag: Captain America
Camp Lehigh Flag: Captain America

2014: A year of change

In 2014 I retired from the military, moved into an inner city apartment and generally disrupted almost every aspect of my life. At times the stress on me and my wife rose above our comfort level but we love our new life and the freedom it provides us to pursue old and new interests.

Making Things in 2015

I want to be a maker of things, and this year I plan to explore a variety of activities and make things to share with friends, family and the world. Last year I built a replica of Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber prop from Star Wars, and the Camp Lehigh flag (pictured above) from Captain America. I found turning the raw materials into these beautiful artifacts a deeply satisfying experience. I mean we have these dexterous hands for a reason right, and it’s not to play video games or channel surf the television.

Luke's Lightsaber: Replica Prop
Luke’s Lightsaber: Replica Prop

So I am going to make physical objects at least once or twice a month in 2015. I have several paper and metal model kits bought in Japan, and a growing list of prop replicas to fill out a year of making. I also have several home improvement projects to complete, starting with a sliding cabinet next to our refrigerator for some of Colleen’s craft materials.

Side Table made with found objects.
Side Table made with found objects.

Apartment living imposes limitations on the projects I can undertake without upsetting our neighbors. For example I need to keep the dust confined to our apartment, and noise to a minimum but this fits with my skill level and preference for hand tools.

Writing a book

I set out to write a memoir in 2014 but fell well short of my goal. Writing the 70 to 100 thousand words required to fill even a modest book is daunting for a novice writer. So this year I will focus on writing 2000 words each week, and see if I have a story worth publishing in 2016.

I tend to get bored with a single project so it’s important I create other publications in 2015. This blog provides me an outlet for writing on any topic I choose, and a place to experiment with style and content for my other projects. I also plan to write a few zines.

In 2015, I will release four limited edition zines with the first one available by March. Each zine will be handmade, individually numbered and signed by myself. The goal is to make a thing, not a perfect thing but an interesting thing and release it to the world. While I hope to make a little money, the main goal is to learn and grow from the experience.

Digital Things

I will release a digital copy of each zine for everyone to download, read and enjoy after the print edition is sold. I will leave it to you to determine their value. Your feedback is more important than your cash but feel free to send cash if you value the content.

Last week I listened to a reboot of Wil Wheaton’s Radio Free Burrito podcast. He wanted to make a thing (his words) and release it. He knew it contained content and production flaws but he thought it was more important to put it out there and then improve his thing with the audience.

It made me think about doing my own audio series, and I have an idea for a companion to my memoir. So I’ll do as Wil did, grab some tools make a podcast and put it out there for everyone. This is a new endevour for me, and digital things are no less challenging to make than physical things but the goal is to learn by making something.

Makers are never bored with life.

I wish I had a dollar for everyone who asked if I was bored in retirement. Most people think retirement is like putting a horse out to pasture. Your useful life must be over, and many retired people share this opinion. I have never been busier, and the list of projects grows every day.

I spend a couple of months a year in uniform to supplement our income but most of my time is spent making things. I didn’t really retire, I just transitioned to a new creative life, a maker’s life and the opportunities are endlessly interesting.

So, what are you going to make in 2015?

Amanda Palmer

Good weekend?

Fantastic, we went to see Amanda Palmer at the Sydney Festival.

Who is Amanda Palmer?

I had this same conversation a dozen times last week, and I kept thinking; ‘How can you not know about Amanda Palmer?’

It’s simple really, I stopped following the crowd and started exploring anything I found interesting to uncover new thoughts, music and art. Amanda appeared on RocKwiz in Australia, she performed live with the band and demonstrated her prowess on the ukulele singing a few bars of Map of Tassie. I saw the white rabbit and followed him into Amanda Palmer land, and I found an eclectic body of music, a Kickstarter controversy and a massive social media presence but her underlying philosophy is what drew me in deeper.

Some people describe Amanda as a free spirit, a radical or dismiss her as just another strange musician with a hyper-active social media fetish. To me she is the quintessential dangerous subversive exploring life on her own terms, and to my friends? Well, to them Amanda Palmer is just another strange part of my own subversive life and one they will never explore for themselves. That’s OK, I stopped looking for approval a long time ago and I enjoy the freedom that it brought to my life. I am more open with people today, sharing my passions and discoveries across a broad spectrum of subjects.

Occasionally they laugh at my latest obsession but often it leads to a deeper discussion on the subject over lunch. A disparate voice is needed to exercise our minds and develop our thoughts into coherent understanding, I am happy to be that voice. Often discussion leads to another discovery, another wondrous world to explore and add to my own eclectic world philosophy.

Who is Amanda Palmer?

She is the next link in a lifelong chain of discovery for me but maybe a better question to ask yourself first is,

Who am I?

 

Fernleigh-Track-Walk-2-1024x731

 

Have you ever wondered what you would find if you went a little further, I decided to find out.

My wife and I walk every day, and have gotten to know our neighborhood pretty well over the last few years. One of our regular routes takes us up the Fernleigh Track, a beautiful shaded walk along an old rail line that the local council turned into a bicycle and pedestrian path. We live near one end of the 16km track but we have never walked past the first road crossing at the 4km mark, and I have always wondered what lay beyond the crossing. Today I found out by walking the entire Fernleigh Track from Adamstown (where I live) to Belmont to see what I had been missing all these years.

Go a little further every day.

Just a kilometre further along the track I spotted a billabong (small lake) through the trees. I wandered down to the edge, and marveled at how much we had missed by not going a little further on one of our walks. The water birds drifted across the shallow water and wadded through the aquatic plants looking for food. By going a little further I opened up a new area in my world, expanded my horizons and found that with a little extra effort you can find great rewards. Our every endevour in life can benefit by taking that extra step, every time you go a bit further you have the potential to reap rewards.

Saving a little extra every week can help you fund that overseas vacation or ride out a loss of income while going the extra mile for a customer will bring them back to your business in the future. I have never regretted going that little bit further in any endevour, it has always enriched my life and the lives of family to see what exists around the corner or over the next crest. We live in a world where many people think that doing the minimum, cutting costs and providing the cheapest product is all that matters to anyone. We think there is no need to go the extra mile because no one appreciates our efforts. Well if we do not care enough to make an extra effort then why expect someone else to care for us.

Go a little further for yourself, I am just as satisfied to know that I do a better than average job whether the recipients of my efforts recognise it or not. My reward for going a little further is to find that unforeseen treasure down the road, sometimes its a billabong next time it might be my next big break in life.

Fernleigh-Track-Map-1024x731

See beyond the horizon.

As I started to write this post I looked at a map of my journey and recognised many of my discoveries clearly marked on the topography. The billabong is right there, and the old train station at Redhead that I had not expected is also clearly marked. I had never taken time to look beyond the horizon, read a map or ask others what lay beyond my normal journey. Sound familiar? How often do you question your life to see if there are other possibilities? Not often enough for most people.

Twenty years ago I had one career plan, a sequence of jobs and training that would get me to Britain and my dream flying job. No options, no alternate plans because my plan had to end at my expected destination. Despite my preparation the job went to someone else, and my boss presented me with some new options that did not overjoy me. I made a choice and headed to Canberra where two months latter I found myself packing for Seattle and the eight best years of my life. I realised most of my dreams, living overseas again, promotion and eventually a great flying job testing the latest technology. This happened because I started to look beyond my own horizon, and analyse the possible futures for me and my family.

Although going a little further down the road can yield wonderful surprises, a little preparation can help you decide whether to stay the course or take an alternate route. Life is a journey and you have to survey the possibilities occasionally and be prepared to deviate from your planned route. I no longer focus on retirement, the end goal for many workers, instead I focus on what I want to achieve professionally and personally before I am cease to be.

So I keep my eyes open to opportunities, a business trip can be a chance to explore a new city or to catch up with friends or family. I have a great job at present but I know that a move into another role is coming within the next few years. By looking beyond the horizon, I know the best paths to find something that interests me if my current route is blocked.

Travel the known road or journey beyond the familiar.

Many people follow the known road, never deviating, never imagining that something better might exist a little further on or down an alternate route. It’s the safe option, no unknown threats or surprises, to let their lives play out down the familiar path. I had gotten into that mindset, safe, comfortable but also bored and dissatisfied with my life. Well no more, I am cracking on down the unknown road looking for adventure and excitement at work and at home. That does not mean I’m jumping out of aircraft or driving racing cars every week (although I plan to do both) but I am changing my approach to life.

At work I am initiating changes that I believe will improve our performance, and make our team happier in their daily work. Outside of work, I have reduced my television consumption and expanded my activities to fill those previously wasted hours. I have projects underway in travel, photography and motorcycling that have produced more results this year than I have had in years. I’m reading for enjoyment again, and I am determined to complete my biggest writing project this year despite a slow start. In the end it comes down to this:

I am Happy.

How about you, are you happy?

No, well then get off your butt and do something, walk an extra mile and see what lies beyond the familiar path.