I travelled to Sydney to have a chat with my mate Mike.
Chatting all things Just Be Nice Project, looking after each other, and some other more personal-slightly strange things.
A few good laughs and hopefully a few good insights into the work that we do at the Just Be Nice Project.
Also available on Spotify here: open.spotify.com/episode/1BXVEJUEkjQ2ISHNsOnboa?si=FM0hL3j4Siy4zh1cbYms0A
Check it out, like subscribe and comment! I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Step Up, Reach Out, and do more to look after the mental health of those around you.
Some thoughts on the way that we talk about people who need help, and how copying and pasting statuses means less to support the well-being of those around you, than actually reaching out and making a proper effort.
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Like many people I have a couple of shoeboxes with old letters, photos (yep, real photos) and Christmas/birthday cards in them. I don’t often go through them, but recently I was moving house and opened up the boxes to see what was in them.
It was only to label them for moving (some of the shoeboxes are full of USB cables and old chargers etc) … yet on top of one box was an old Christmas card from my father. I didn’t realise it was from him until I opened it, and I don’t know how it was on top, but it read;
Change is inevitable and it lets us know we’re alive. This Christmas I wish for you the gift of peace. Peace within and peace without – peace with yourself and peace with others. I wish you time to waste = just feeling peaceful. I wish you someone to talk to .. to put your heart at peace. Above all I wish you the freedom to feel and the gift of feeling at peace with the way you feel. You are an extraordinary young man and extraordinary people face extraordinary challenges… they also manage to face those challenges. I know you will face the challenges ahead in ’99 in the same honest, caring, intelligent way you have always done – and I know you’ll come out on top – I just pray that you will know when you get there.
It’s not often you can reach so far into the past and catch a snapshot of who you must have been, but through the context of my life since and our relationship, reading it, I had a little eye-roll to myself. My father aside, I have been fortunate to have had people wishing me peace since I was a kid, and I still get those wishes today. I guess the way that I am is different to most, and people feel I need more peace in my life. It’s like reading my school reports from prep and year 12, both of which say, “Josh is a bit too social in class”. My stormy nature is something that lots of people pick up on.
I’m not prone to extended periods of appearing to “[feel] at peace with the way [I] feel”. Regardless, I am in an unusual way, extraordinarily comfortable with who I am. It is interesting to me that if nothing else, I have been consistent, nearly 20 years later I am still being wished the same things as I was as a young teen.
It was strange to read these words from someone who is no longer here. My father took his own life last year, but he left mine many years before that. Apart from failed attempts to reach out, we didn’t have much contact. His legacy was one of heartbreak, violence, and substance and physical abuse. One of the hardest things to reconcile for people, is the juxtaposition between good moments and the bad. Someone who is always an asshole, is fairly easy to write off. Someone who has shown moments of great caring and love can be harder to give up on completely. It is harder, because of the knowledge that, somewhere in there, lives a capacity for goodness.
Long ago I decided to work on coming to terms with the fact that there are things in your control, and things that aren’t. Worry about how you conduct yourself and focus on being a virtuous person, a character-led person. Earn your self-love, earn your self-respect and let everyone else earn theirs too. Really, in light of this 20-year-old letter, I decided to make sure I continue to face challenges in the same honest, caring, intelligent way [I] have always done.
A moment of goodness doesn’t mean that someone is a good person, any more than a moment of weakness necessarily makes them a bad person; a person is the sum of their experiences and actions.
As a result, I’m able to enjoy the good times that I have had with people who turned out to not be so great in the long run. The fact that, in the end they were not the people I had hoped they would be, does not take away from the pleasant and wonderful moments that we have had together. It also doesn’t mean that I must maintain relationships with them, simply because once or twice they showed me a kindness. Everything has a season. I don’t expect warm days in winter, and I don’t believe that everyone is destined to be in your life for any predetermined amount of time either. There have been kind words, nice letters and pleasant gestures from people that are no longer in my life, and I know I have done the same for others.
In the end, the very last letter that my father wrote to me, was written indirectly, and to all three of his kids.
It was him actively writing us out of his will.
Twenty years later, from this message of availability, love and understanding (even though it was unaccompanied by actions that match the words), the last message was one of isolation, rejection and distance.
Everything has a season. The lessons are no less valid, and in a way, he had given me advice to prepare me for what was to come regardless.
Extraordinary people face extraordinary challenges… they also manage to face those challenges. I know you will face the challenges ahead in ’99 in the same honest, caring, intelligent way you have always done – and I know you’ll come out on top – I just pray that you will know when you get there.
I think maybe the lesson is to take the good times, the good advice and the good people when they have their season in your life. Don’t try to hang on to them when their season is done. Decide how you will face challenges and commit to being a person that you can be proud of. I will continue my work, continue to strive towards being the person that I want to be and encourage people to Just Be Nice. Twenty years on, I still hope that one day I will know when I get there.
Have you noticed lately, how mad everyone is? Angry, hurt, frustrated and vocal. Anger that ranges from casually inconvenienced to visceral rage, from all strata of society, throughout much of the Western world. I cannot speak to the East, because I don’t hear so much from the second and third world, it certainly seems though, that the privilege of first world habitation brings with it a desire or inclination to be whipped into a frenzy.
‘Road Rage’. Literally anger at THE ROAD. “HOW DARE YOU NOT DO THE 20km/hr OVER THE SPEED LIMIT THAT I WOULD LIKE TO DO RIGHT NOW…. GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!! ARGHHHHH”
‘Race Rage’. Exaggerating differences and the impact of these differences, causing various pockets of us and them. The Us invariably being denied opportunity due to the ever-present spectre of Them.
How so many people can reconcile in their heads that the problems caused in an entire country can be attributed to the smallest percentage, lowest socio-economic groups is beyond me, but it is certainly easy to whip people into a rage about it.
This anger has somehow lead to a shift in leadership across the world. In the Philippines death squads have killed thousands of people without trial, while allowing the President unprecedented approval ratings from an enraged population. In the United States, a President who lives in a GOLD TOWER somehow was elected on a platform that he understands the needs and lives of every day (angry) Americans. They are rallying around Confederate and Nazi flags and literally CARRYING BURNING TORCHES! In Great Britain voters approved a Brexit scheme that had no real details, and are now staring down the barrel of economic uncertainty off the back of voters that believed a small minority of immigrants were the reason they were denied personal opportunities and falling behind economically. In Australia, people are mad. I don’t actually even know what for. Mad at renewable energy, mad at incarcerated minors, mad at boats filled with desperate asylum seekers, as though a boat with 20 people on it will cause the economic destruction of our entire way of life. Mad at same sex marriage, mad at politicians with dual citizenship, mad at renewable energy and coal. It seems like people are angry wherever they possibly can be.
Politicians speak about where we are, and why that’s terrible. About the ‘mess they have been left with’, deflecting anger to people and parties that have long since lost their power. Encouraging people to rage at the past, as though that somehow improves the present, or absolves them of the responsibility of how things are now not how they were.
Newspaper headlines have rage inducing headlines splashed across them every day.
SOMEONE DID SOMETHING.
A PERSON SAID SOMETHING.
PEOPLE WHO LOOK DIFFERENT TO YOU DID SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULDN’T DO.
BE SCARED OF THIS THING.
BE MAD AT THIS OTHER THING.
It’s not that we are simply being incited to rage, we have our rage and our anxieties pointed down all the time. Pointed at people we don’t know, pointed at things we don’t understand, pointed at people who are down the chain from us. The upper class rage at the middle class, the middle class rage at the lower middle class, the lower middle class rage at the lower class, everyone rages at the unemployed, uneducated, freshy emigrated, incarcerated and disadvantaged.
Surely these unknown elements are the source of all our problems…. Or maybe they aren’t.
When I was a teenager, we were warned about Asians. Vietnamese Gangs. Cambodian Gangs. Truth be told, as a teen I was chased by some of these gangs, brandishing knives, samurai swords, trolley poles (the handles from shopping carts)… Alongside the Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrant kids there were as many Caucasian kids in the gangs too. In fact, in the case of almost every gang ever, you can just refer to them as ‘Disenfranchised teenagers, who lack support, vision and encouragement, building their self-esteem and self-worth through a community of similarly difficult teens’.
Nowadays I couldn’t pin all the problems we face in society on Vietnamese… Their cuisine is too delicious, I can get it on Uber eats and Menulog for Gods sake! Most of us know a Vietnamese person and can vouch that ‘they’re ok’. The same goes for the Greeks and Italians that we all know and love. It’s hard to be mad at Italian immigrants when I look forward to the next opportunity to be fed to the point of bursting by my mates Nonna. There was a time though when they too bore the brunt of a country’s anger and spite.
How many of us know Sudanese kids? APEX is the gang du jour. The newest and most significant threat to our safety and way of life. Just like the Vietnamese, the Italians and the Chinese were at some point in time. How many of us know Muslims? They make up less than 2% of the population, but somehow they are ruining the very fabric of our society? Those newest to our country? Not the entrenched, the powerful and wealthy, the people who make decisions that decide whether we have access to welfare, healthcare and infrastructure?
Why do we allow these views and opinions to proliferate our social fabric?
Perhaps it is because people are blinded by anger, and enlightened by truth. Blind people are easier to lead, more inclined to give up their autonomy of direction.
One seeks the truth, making them harder to lead. If you are seeking, then by definition you must have some control over where you go looking. Being angry requires nothing more than just your own internal dissatisfaction. I don’t need facts to know I am angry about something, I just know that I feel mad about it.
Anger allows you to shift responsibility to the person or situation that ‘made you mad’. Never mind your choice to allow yourself to be enraged by things that make little logical sense, or that have no real impact on your life or even basis in fact. You can be mad. Didn’t get the job you wanted? Be mad at the person who got it.
Didn’t leave enough time to get where you were going? Be mad at traffic.
Can’t afford a house, or earn enough in your job? Get mad at refugees, who are obviously the reason housing prices have inflated astronomically in the past 30 years, even though the ones you are mad at they have only been arriving in the last 15 years.
Being mad at each other advances nothing, solves nothing and puts blinkers on society to the real things that oppress us. Looking down at the very small and the few things we do not understand prevents us from seeing the great problems that lie above us. Seek the truth, and look for reasons to help and solve problems rather than reasons to be mad.
With your eyes open, you will be harder to lead astray. I am no conspiracy theorist, but look to the actions of those in charge, look beyond the words and fear mongering. Look beyond the headlines and labels given to things we do not understand. The more you know, the harder you are to trick, just like the more you appreciate, the harder it is to be enraged.
Make an effort to understand. Make an effort to appreciate. Make an effort to Just Be Nice. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to create extraordinary positive change.
This past week my father passed away. I received a phone call from an old family friend to inform me that he had not only passed away, but had taken his own life. It took a couple of very sad phone calls, with some heartbroken people to be told "He was bitten by the black dog."
I have to say that it was unexpected. I had not heard from him in about 18 months, and in the last decade, we had only seen each other and spoken a handful of times. It is no secret that there were some traumatic and disappointing experiences that my family suffered as a result of my father’s actions. In many ways, the negative aspects of my own childhood had a significant impact on my development into the person I am today. He himself had suffered at the hands of his father, and his father at the hands of his grandfather. Ultimately, those experiences also shaped the man that he was to come to be.
I was once told that to move past the negative experiences, and ensure you don’t repeat the sins of your father, you need to forgive them. Some of us are able to forgive to some extent (although forget is still beyond me at this stage). Some people are not. It is a heavy weight to carry if you cannot forgive though.
A couple of things had to happen almost immediately after the phone calls. First was my own refection. I’m the eldest of three, and so I had the most time with him when he was still a functioning father. It would be a lie to say that we had no positive experiences together. My life started with two wonderful, engaged parents, and I was lucky in that regard. As a boy, like many boys, I looked up to the big, strong, clever man that my father was in the early years.
Sometimes I wonder if the good times make the tough times worse, or if it is better to have had some good times rather than none. Given my temperament, and the way I look at the world, I tend to side with the ‘some good times are better than none’ argument. We are all the sum of our experiences, both good and bad. While I was lucky to see what a good man looks like in practice, I also experienced the heartbreak of that same good man becoming an agent of disappointment and eventually leaving us all behind.
The second thing that had to happen was to go and tell the family. My Mum, my brother and my sister. The death of an estranged relative is a difficult one to process immediately. It is certainly far too fresh for any of us to really understand how we will feel about it in the long term. We are lucky that even though our family is small, we are very close and open to candid discussions, so with a few tears and some reflection and shock, we all set about beginning the process of dealing with it in our own ways, together. It is a blessing to have an understanding and caring family and friends, and already I owe a debt of gratitude to the kind words and support we have received.
Over the last decade, I had talked about not even knowing whether I would find out if he ever passed away, I was never sure if anyone would get in touch with me to let me know. I had never expected that the black dog would get him like that, but I guess the nature of mental health troubles is that they often manifest in unexpected ways. Honestly, I had said that I wouldn’t be fussed when he passed away, but then, having received the call, maybe I am fussed. I certainly never expected the call to go the way that it did. Maybe I care that my father got a to a place where he believed this to be his best option. I feel deeply for anyone that feels so alone that they can walk through a door and never return.
I have been open in discussing some of the trials and tribulations of my life to date. I don’t have any answers now, and I am at the beginning of a process of dealing with what has happened. I know that ultimately, I will be ok. If I do hit a roadblock, I think that it is worth speaking about it on behalf of those who maybe don’t have the words to express their feelings themselves.
Once again, it’s time to practice what we preach. It is ok to not be ok, its ok to not know how to feel. It is ok to not be sure how to deal with the curve balls that life throws at you, and certainly reconciling the complex emotions surrounding this particular circumstance will take some time no doubt. It’s ok to be ok as well, there is a feeling that some of the responsibility of the expectation to be really upset is offset by the fact that many years ago this man decided not to be a part of my life. In that regard, I am not entirely sure how I am supposed to feel, or indeed how I do feel.
It has made work a bit difficult this week, I’m a thinker, so when my mind is occupied, it can be harder to just focus. I have written this to deal with that, maybe to get it off my chest and begin the process of moving forward. Our family is fortunate to have a wonderful network of beautiful humans around us to help, unfortunately that isn’t the case for everyone, so should you need to speak to someone about any issues you, or a loved one might be facing, the numbers are below.
At the end of the day, now is a good time to go give someone a hug, a smile, tell your loved ones that you love them and as always Just Be Nice.
Lots of love – Josh Reid Jones.
Should you or anyone you know need someone to speak to call:
Lifeline for 24/7 crisis support on: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service for people at risk of suicide, carers and bereavement: 1300 659 467
Kids Help Line – Conselling for people 5-25 years old: 1800 55 1800
Griefline – Counselling service for people suffering grief: 1300 845 745
Are you happy? It is a question that I get asked from time to time, and this week I was asked twice! So I thought I might take a moment to discuss the reasons that I don’t really have a great yes/no answer to that question.
I have never really been too focused on being ‘happy’, perhaps as a defence mechanism to events in my life, I took out the need for super-high highs, in order to take out the opportunity for super-low lows. Paying more attention to how I lived my life and who I am, rather than focusing on what is going on at any particular individual point in time. I would say that by and large I live a life that I am happy with, a life that keeps me content, based on me having the opportunities to act in a way that matters to me.
When it comes to happiness, there are few kinds of situations that might be the focus of what many people call ‘being happy’. There is feeling joy in the Current Moment, there is feeling inspired for Future Possibility and there is a pride that one feels reflecting on Past Achievement. There is also a kind of contentment that comes from Consistent Character throughout the entire process.
A lot of people consider happiness to be the feeling of joy in the current moment, while I think I derive more satisfaction from the constant attempt to live a life of consistent character.
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson believes that happiness relies on four elements.
In asking ‘are you happy’ I believe a lot of people associate a positive state as the primary example of happiness. Unfortunately, that comes at the expense of three other pillars of happiness. I have developed an ability to bounce back from negative states through years of having to develop that resilience. My negative states rarely get too deep, and even more rarely hang around for longer than a day or two. I am constantly working on ways to improve my ability to focus, routine, effort and a drive to improve the world help keep that on track (even though I lose my way from time to time). My entire life, The Just Be Nice Project, my other businesses, my personal development, is all about improving my capacity (and the capacity of others) to be generous, and help people in a meaningful way.
I might not reach the absolute peaks of positivity regularly, but I am absolutely working on the four pillars of happiness every, single, day.
The idea that we deserve a life that is full of outrageous joy every single day has always seemed crazy to me. Tough times are just as important as the good ones. Without the juxtaposition of light and dark we wouldn’t know the difference between the two.
I have always been amazed at how beautiful things are in the half light. As the sun sets, we get the ‘golden hour’. The beauty of life lies in contrast, in the difference between shadow and light, blemishes become highlights, boring landscapes reveal their depth in these moments. I believe life and my own feelings of happiness and contentment to function the same way.
It is not to say that I never experience joy, or even significant joy, but no one lives at the top of the mountain. Once you get there, you are ecstatic with your achievement, you have a unique view and a special moment just for you…. But those heights do not support life full-time.
..no one lives at the top of the mountain.
You descend again, to once more make plans for another big adventure. I find joy in the planning, in the journey, in the achievement and in doing it with a character that I strive to be proud of, every single day.
Take pleasure in the journey, the achievement and the moment. Build yourself into a person that you can be proud of in every situation. Learn to focus, to not only be positive, but to bounce back from being negative and always look to improve your understanding of others so you can improve your capacity to be generous and of course, Just Be Nice.
Today an article of mine was published in The Mighty.
It was written for the team at RUOK Day, who are doing fantastic work in the space of helping peers look after each other.
It means a lot to me to have people share the stories of wonderful men like Greg. They are the unsung heroes of the success and happiness of many people, and they need to be celebrated.
Thanks for taking the time to support publications that spread the good word.
You can check out the article HERE
This week I took a couple of hundred staff members at Sensis, from the CEO to the sales teams, through training to improve the quality of their conversations. Working with the great team at RUOK Day whose mission is to improve connections and conversations across the community.
I was dealing with the second step of the 4-step process to looking after people who are having a rough time.
Ask – Listen – Encourage Action – Check In.
Listening seems to be a pretty intuitive thing to do, especially after asking if someone is ok. Listening without judgement can be a little bit more difficult. I believe that we have issues with judging problems from two sides.
Often the things which cause distress to people are embarrassing, shocking, unusual, socially unacceptable or difficult to talk about. These circumstances can sometimes be hard to hear without passing some kind of judgement.
“I wet myself on the weekend at the club.”
“What on earth did you do that for you idiot?”
The immediate judgement statement is likely to prevent me from continuing my conversation about what upset me in the first place. It is ok to be shocked, its ok to be confronted by something that you haven’t really got any experience with, but we need to temper that shock and try not to pass judgement right away.
“I wet myself on the weekend at the club.”
“Oh my goodness! I can’t imagine what that’s like, and I wasn’t expecting that! Are you ok?”
You can still be shocked, but by avoiding the judgement piece, you are encouraging the person you are speaking with to continue to tell their story and discuss how it affected them. Our preconceived notions of what it is ‘ok’ to talk about often prevent people from speaking about issues that are important or extremely upsetting to them.
I bet you were shocked by my example earlier, and it is such an entry level embarrassment on the scheme of things, that I ask you to consider what else you might be unconsciously preventing people from talking about. Bodily functions, accidental stuff ups, things that happen when we are drunk, sources of shame etc. It is important that we open up lines of communication for those close to us, no matter what the issue is. Etiquette and timing aside, we should be doing our best to listen to problems of any kind without judgement. We don't need to have the answers, we simply need to be able to listen.
The other end of the judgement scale is to judge issues that aren’t deemed serious enough.
“How are you today?”
“Arghhh terrible, I dropped my donut on the way into the building.”
“Come on mate, Is that really a big deal? Don’t you know what is happening overseas?”
Now, we all know someone who loves to make a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to complaining, however, our judgement on whether a problem is serious or not can prevent us from seeing when something really is wrong. Without judgement, the same conversation could go two ways:
“How are you today?
“Arghhhh terrible, I dropped my donut on the way into the building.”
“That’s annoying! Are you ok?”
“Yeah mate, it’s just a donut!”
The problem wasn’t a serious one, and the colleague/friend/family member was just having a little morning complain, which is fine. Everyone agrees a dropped donut isn’t the end of the world. The conversation could also have gone a little differently though:
“How are you today?
“Arghhhh terrible, I dropped my donut on the way into the building.”
“That’s annoying! Are you ok?”
“Not really, it just feels like this is the millionth thing to go wrong this week.”
The donut could simply be the straw that broke the camels back. Listening without judgement provides an opportunity to have the real issues come to the surface so they can be heard.
The other valuable listening piece that is perhaps not spoken about enough, is to take a moment to understand what upset the person about the story they are telling. We get told to pay attention, summarise what people are saying and repeat back to them what they’ve said so that they know that we’ve heard them. Perhaps we share an anecdote of our own experiences to relate to them better.
What we aren’t doing so well is working out why they were upset in the first place.
“How are you today?”
“I’m not amazing, my parents were up all night fighting.”
“Your parents were fighting all night?”
“Oh man, I know how that is, I used to hate when mum and dad would yell at each other, its pretty confronting.”
What’s wrong with that? Summary, paying attention, relating to your friend. Its good right? Well, it isn’t terrible. But it could be better.
“How are you today?”
“I’m not amazing, my parents were up all night fighting.”
“Your parents were fighting all night?”
“What upset you the most about that? Are you ok?”
“Yeah I’m fine, they fight all the time, it’s just how they are. I’m just tired because they kept me up all night.”
In the first example, we assumed what upset them from our own experiences. Turns out, they weren’t upset by the fighting as much as the lack of sleep. If you take the time to work out why people are upset by particular circumstances, you can better help them through it. In this case, perhaps all that is needed is a double shot espresso.
I take my hat off to the team at Sensis who came through with open minds to improve the way they look after each other, from the CEO all the way through. It’s great to see everyone getting behind a few simple things that can help them look after each other better.
For more information on RUOK and the 4 steps to good conversations head to RUOK.ORG.AU There are valuable resources there regarding looking after your peers and what to do when people are in need of help you are unable to give. Check out the resources there.
Keep listening, keep asking RUOK and as always, Just Be Nice.
- Josh Reid Jones
My very talented and wonderful friend Tessa Mansfield-Hung visited a few times, shot some footage and we had some interviews over the last year and a half. I am humbled to have gotten back this piece.
"I've changed my definition of success from how much I can accumulate to how much I can do. As soon as your definition of success changes from you can get to what you can do for others, the meeting or the long time in the factory or these back-to-back meetings with non-profits doing stuff, it doesn't matter, it's helping people. When that's the definition of success, you're winning every day.
Through the violence I experienced, I've found a fighting spirit that has allowed me to get on with things in a different way. To own that fight internally and use it externally to fight for opportunities for people who are unable to fight for themselves. I think boxing as an 11 year old was a big part of that process, turning violence into fighting spirit.
Because when you love something, you fight for it. Not against it."
Music by Delsinki Records and Brooke Taylor
Because when you love something, you fight for it. Not against it.
Head over to check out Tessa Mansfield-Hung on Youtube and Vimeo
I cannot thank her enough for her wonderful work, friendship and massive heart. Turning hours of filming into a few minutes of interview I would find hard to edit myself.
Purpose, Happiness and Impact.
Words that get thrown around a lot lacking clarity of definition. How can we attain things that we cannot define or describe?
This VLOG looks at what a good impact looks like, and what we need to do if we are to improve the ways that we help others achieve an equality of opportunity.
Josh Reid Jones - Founder of The Just Be Nice Project and Odin Sports