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Recognised for being the BEST

Recognition for being the best at something by society is special. It is something each and every one of us continue to search for in our lives.
Here I am with one of my signature poses at the 1st World Natural Bodybuilding Championships I competed in, representing Australia.
They only reward the Top 5.
I made 4th.
Not bad for a boy from the Fiji Islands who not only dared to dream… but to Dream BIG.

Running a political party

Most of you know that once upon a time, I owned and managed a Family Gym for about 7 years, a gym that was me .. and me, it.

It was like running a political party with many factions/sub-groups within sub-groups in the party and I was the Leader/Prime Minister.

We had many sub-groups – policemen/women; ex-police vice – commissioners; ex-inmates; Italians; Greeks; arabs; South Americans; Pacific islanders; Irishmen; Englishmen; Americans; Canadians; French; Germans; Africans; South Africans; dads; mums; athletes; plumbers; electricians; designers; accountants; chairpersons of and senior executives of banks; lawyers; engineers; politicians; powerful businessmen; construction workers; builders; rubbish collectors; … you name it.

We had them. A great cross-section of Australian society. They all belonged to my extended family – of love 💓 (hence, 💓alentine).

And I had to ensure that each sub-group worked well with each other & most of the time they did. But it took work… a lot of work.

And I loved it.

 

A night out with some of the Gentle. Men in my Family Gym.

Conflict Resolution – a skill for Life

I learned a lot.

Chief among them was – The art of negotiations and collaboration with anyone. I was a connector and connected people. I got warring groups to “get along” … that it was ok to “agree to disagree” (luckily there were few and far destructive disagreements). I learned that you can disagree with someone and not feel threatened or does not mean that you hate that person.

From biker gang Bosses and their members to retired citizens … I found myself constantly diffusing problems and potential problems.

Naturally, one of my major strengths now is: Conflict Resolution.

If I can’t provide a solution, I will definitely know someone, who knows someone… who can.

A ‘sick day’ from school day for us here, 4 years ago now.
Enjoying the entertainment at Sydney’s beautiful Luna Park.
I never let schooling interfere with my or my family’s education.
Children teach you better conflict resolution skills

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

Despite there being so many differences I also learned that we all have more in common then we think … if you –

“don’t judge a book by its cover “.

Very difficult indeed for many but that is what I did … and still do.

I welcomed anyone and everyone in to my gym, with a smile and a question that has stayed with me til today –

“How can I help you?”

The members that were courageous enough to walk through my doors to seek help were .. got my undivided attention. They were invited to be in my extended family if they chose to … and I treated and see them like that ‘til today, even though I don’t speak to many of them since I let the gym go.

My grandfather taught me many things, one of which is not to judge anyone based on the person’s image. And … give people a second chance. Leave the judging to God.

We had a 70:30 ‘split’ between males and females, with age ranging from 90 year old to my son at that time (between 0 and 2 and half years old). Members came from up to 20km away (& drive past 15 other gyms to get there) …and from all levels of society.

We had members from all levels of society … from one of the Top 200 wealthiest people in Australia at that time to some of the less fortunate in the neighbourhood.

This latter group made my gym operation very ‘un-business like’ because I try to do the right thing whenever I can, which is to give people access to my gym facilities even if they didn’t have any money to pay.

 

Gym members of all ages and sizes came to my Family Gym.
They even stopped by to say hello before their High School Formal

A partially Charity Gym

So, my gym was very much a partially Charity gym as I would help almost every person that made their way up the stairs if they made the decision to help themselves. I gave a lot of the members a platform to launch their best selves (many who could not afford to pay their gym membership or coaching. I would help them and never turn anyone away).

I could not & did not turn any person away because I just can’t (when you put yourself in their shoes ), and empathise, you automatically open your arms (even though it goes against everything you learn in your business degree about making $ )

And … expect nothing back. You just GIVE and … Give …&

Provided they genuinely wanted to and would allow me to help them, help themselves.

Basically show them “how to”

And they did.

Me my extended family members; a group of members of my family gym.
They all loved training and being part of the extended family that was my gym
Relationship take time to develop .. just like an Oak Tree needs time to grow

In the years that we entered the Community Business Awards (I think we entered it 3 x) and won our ‘Health & Fitness” category in one year and was finalist in the other two years.

It was certainly a very proud moment for my wife, Cathy and I as it was voted on by the many local communities that make up the Northern Beaches. We were recognised for being the Best at what we did and were the best gym in the Northern Beaches, Sydney, Australia.

Confirmation that the community of people at large agreed with and appreciated mine and my staff’s efforts to provide a vehicle to help people, help themselves … find something they care about.

Because I cared.

I’m content I … “took a stand back then. For 7 years I did. A stand for what I believed in … that every person, irrespective of their background or place in society, should have access to the best help they can get.

My members knew they did,. They didn’t just have any gym owner and coach to guide them, no, they had me, a 2 x World Natural Bodybuilding Champion to help them, help themselves move towards something they cared about. And I enjoyed every challenging minute of it. Even though, it costed me $$$ and thousands of hours of free gym membership and knowledge and ‘know-how’ so people could help themselves.

Simply because of the person that I am.

Giving. I gave them my knowledge and ‘know-how’ … my life and contributed to making the world a better place, by empowering one person at a time.

We received the award from the honourable Government Minister, Miss Bronwyn Bishop.

Was a lovey night.

Lovely memories … of once upon a time … and it is very lovely to say –

“I used to …. do a certain thing at one point in my life .. but I no longer do”

 

Cheers & ahoy!

The old Cap’n Viking Pirate … & a period of time when I used to own and manage a beautiful, one-of-a-kind’ Family Gym

Receiving the Local Small Business Award from the government minister in Australia – Mrs Bronwyn Bishop
Category: Best Gym in the Northern Beaches – Health & Fitness category

 

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awards, caring, compassion, intimacy, intimacy awards, man, real man

Intimacy Awards please.

Photo op with a local resident and her dog. Lovely.

Photo op with a local resident and her dog. Lovely.

In my life so far, I have observed that there is an award for all the great traits society appears to hold above all others. Traits most of us aspire to. In today’s world, people are amazingly connected to their teams – you name it. They identify strongly with their sporting teams, their club teams, their individual sport (that is a team sport) etc.

Men (and women) battle it out on many sporting arenas, education, politics and business to win the cup/trophy/prize money. Demonstrating all these tangible, hard – winning skills.

There is an award for almost every trait related to hard work, determination and success – an outward expression of strength, power and discipline and determination. A beautiful thing that is celebrated and written about (from the winner’s perspective) throughout history. Whether we’re talking about successful people or successful nations (in wars).

History is biased towards awarding the victors. That’s just how it has always been.

But the world has changed a lot.

Not only just with technology but with regards to everything else. It is a flat world after all. Definitions of what it means to be a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ today is very different to what they were say, 50 years ago. Definitions of a family, sex, sexual preference and marriage is different today too.

Maybe, just maybe, we should start giving out awards for the more ‘softer’ skills of an individual. Things like – compassion, care, trust, intimacy and conflict resolution. Not just awards for being the strongest, fastest athlete or ‘talent’ in the business world which it has always been. Why do we think that these men are the best men to model yourself after? They may be great at ‘making money’ but may not have great skills at other important areas of life. It seems, the ‘halo effect’ is at play here for many ‘perceived leaders’ in the Corporate & Financial World of our society.

Not a very wise thing to do.

I think there should be awards for the men, who embrace change. Men who embrace the softer skills that is part of the modern-day definition of what it means to be a man. There should be awards for the courage taken for intimacy and compassion and show of affection. There should be an award for men who place family over career promotions. This is fear personified. A very tough choice.

Men are not just what society makes out the majority of the species to be – selfish, power-hungry, career-focused, sexually-obsessed being. No, a man has other parts to his being that often does not get a chance (as often as society allows) to ‘see the light of day’. A side that is ‘put under the carpet’ and rather neglected over many generations.

My children - Olivia and Zachary striking a 'front double-biceps' pose for the camera. Watch out, these Valentine Guns are loaded!

My children – Olivia and Zachary striking a ‘front double-biceps’ pose for the camera. Watch out, these Valentine Guns are loaded!

Whilst these parts of a full-man is walked on as a doormat, the more commonly emphasised parts such as – uncaring, careless, aggressive side is stressed. We hear, see, read about this every single day. On the sporting field, in the business world, it seems in every single crevice of this earth. No one is immune to this.

Maybe, just maybe, society should start recognising the courageous men out there who are:

  • Not afraid to demonstrate genuine affection to those he loves
  • Not afraid of genuine intimacy with others
  • Not afraid to accept equal responsibility in the raising of children (in every sense of the word – not just from a financial sense)
  • Courageous enough to perform all the tasks required of a ‘dad’ just as it is for what was a ‘once-upon-a-time’ womans’ domain
  • Courageous enough to be a role model for the young men (sons, nephews) of the changing perceptions of what it means to be a ‘man’
  • Brave enough to demonstrate his full display of affection and role model to his daughter/daughters
  • Not afraid to get in touch with his ‘feminine side’ – not just as a trend but as an obligation that goes along with what it means to be a man/father/dad.
  • Embrace the changing status of what a ‘real man’ is.

Society should start giving out awards of bravery not just to celebrate the historically implanted image of men who went to war, carrying a gun. Yes, these bravery awards are well deserved. But history is littered with wonderful examples of this and this image of bravery is forever etched in our psyche.

But, I believe there are also heroes that stay behind. Men that never get a chance to carry a gun. Men that never ever go off to war. Men that never ever get a chance to win that ‘bravery award’. No, but these men are still here. Men that are not afraid to get in touch with their ‘feminine side’ and this isn’t saying the ‘gay’ side (not that there’s anything wrong with that  … as Seinfeld would say). Just plain old simple men who have made different choices to their fathers and grandfathers and all the men that have come before them. Better choices. Choices that are relevant to the times we live in. These are Trailblazers. They are all around us. Could be talking of you. Maybe of some the male friends you know. I bet you have many.

They’re everywhere! But they’re afraid to come out.

I had a family gym that was predominantly male (70%) for about 7 years. I encouraged the men to speak freely and communicate all their feelings and we shared stories and helped one another through tough emotionally difficult phases of life. What a wonderful group of ‘post-feminite new age males’.

I believe a lot of these men still bottle up these genuine ‘softer – parts’ of themselves for fear. I believe it is mainly a deep-seated fear of ‘what other people would think of them’. It is not fear of being a failure of being a man, a father in today’s world, according to today’s definitions. No, it is a fear of criticism that goes along with your decision to fully accept all the responsibilities that go along with what it means to be a MAN.

Fear of what people would think of you if you gave up a promotion at work because you put your family first. This would be totally abnormal. “Are you insane!” … you would hear friends and family say. Because it goes against expectations. It goes against prevailing perceptions. It goes against the ‘status quo’. Something that will take time to change and fully accepted. Just like it has taken time for countries to pass laws to de-criminalize same-sex marriages.

A big part of this, I believe is acceptance of the ‘other side’, the feminine side to his character. There should be bravery awards given to men and dads who demonstrate great skills at the softer skills to his being. Softer skills that don’t necessarily make him soft. No, far from it. Soft skills that make him a complete, whole, real man. An authentic man.

This is the definition of bravery – doing something that you’re afraid to do but you do it anyway. Pessimists would call this stupidity.

A group of men of different ages chatting about challenges of life as we transition through the phases of life. Storytelling was a big part of my gym where all men of all ages took the opportunity to share their fears, their desires and mistakes and more . A wonderful informal male-bonding and vitality enhancing phase of my life.

These awards of public recognition for bravery in intimacy will encourage the current crop of men to embrace this neglected side and part of them (just like it has been for their fathers and grand-fathers and every male figure in their family line). But more importantly provide a re-wiring opportunity for the men of tomorrow (our sons) to embrace the changing definition of what it means to be a ‘real man’.

That the young men of today – my son, your son(s) may look upon traits such as tenderness and care, compassion and heart as acceptable and as important as work ethic, discipline and winning at all costs.

My hope is that recognising bravery awards for the men of today who make these choices would lift the lid on this stereotype and ‘free’ and liberate the ‘hidden, softer’ male that is in every man out there.

Not all heroes hold guns. Not all great men climb to great heights. Not all great men seek this definition of success. My grandfather, a very influential man in my life was a great example of this. To me, he was my hero. A true gentleman. I only fully realized the man he was when he died. I couldn’t believe the amount of people from all walks of life that paid respect for this man.

I only truly understood the man he was and what he meant for my life and view of life only after he died. I was very fortunate that I had him as a mentor in my early years of life. His definition of success was not skewed unhealthily towards material and financial gain at all costs. He had a much broader view of success. Success in all areas of life.

There is a hero in every man. Yes, there is a hero in you, too (and you don’t need to be awarded a Victoria Cross for this)!

With two good friends and gym family members. Two men who should win “intimacy awards’ for choosing to be the man that they dreamed to be.

In my books, all heroes believe in what is right. These heroes go to great length to stand by what they believe in. To STAND THEIR GROUND. Even if this means that they are in the minority at this present time. Even if they are going up against the status quo. Even if they are ‘rocking the boat’ about what it means to be a ‘real man’ in today’s world. Even if they are as proud to receive a ‘bravery award for intimacy/affection/compassion etc’, publicly.

And hope that one day, these awards for the ‘softer-side’ of a man is held in as high regard or close to that of a man who goes off and wields a gun in a war. Or to that of a man who climbs the corporate ladder to his imaginary snow-capped mountain top and feeling unsatisfied with life when he gets to the top and realises that there isn’t any snow at the top.

The war WITHIN is far greater and tougher battle than the war without. For ALL MEN. How you manage and choose to navigate this internal emotional mine-field as you pass through the different phases in life is very telling.

All the best to all the young dads/men out there trying to make sense of life and what it is to be a man and looking for answers to the question “Is this all there is to life?”

This question, my friend is one that only YOU can answer. There is one certainty: you will find YOUR ANSWER. How you go about finding that answer is the issue here. Aim to search for the answers in the right places. For those of you men that already get that public recognition of bravery, bravery award of intimacy on all levels. Think of yourselves as the lucky ones.

Congratulations. You deserve it! You are a trail-blazer, you are an example of courage in action. Come on, men, I know the “Real Man” lies dormant in some of you reading this … it is time to let him out so that you can be free of the chains that burden and hold you down, just for being a man. The chains of living a life based on expectations of others.

You have one life. Live it with total and utter intimacy and know that it is very ‘manly’ to do so. Reach out and for that Intimacy Award, I’m sure you’ll get it if more choose to do so.

There is hope, so, let’s all get together and request for Intimacy Awards please!

Choose well.

 

Until next time,

Life is about choices. Choose well.

Life is about choices.
Choose well.

~~Life COACH~~

~~Energy, VITALITY & Life COACHING Conversationalist~~

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A special kind of blindness.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I was once the proud owner and manager of a gym for about 7 years. It was the first gym I ever stepped foot in when I was in my late teens. I used to stand at the doorway as I left the gym, turn around to look at the owner (then) and say –

“One day I’m going to own this gym or something like this Tony!”

Imagine that, a young teenage boy still completing High School audaciously believing and saying out loud that he would own “this’ gym or something like it … one day? But I knew that I loved it and I didn’t know how then, but I knew that I desired it strongly. I had many dreams … this was one of the many. It lay dormant for a number of years.

He would say – ‘yep, but not this one … I’m not ready yet.”

Fifteen years later, I receive a call from him … saying “Remember me … remember what you said when you still in High School … well, I’m ready now, would you like to buy this gym?”

I said .. .”What took you so long?”

The rest is history.

I ran it like a family. A gym like no other. My little young family was intricately connected with hundreds of other families, making it one large huge extended family in this phase of our lives. I loved all the hundreds of relationships I had with the members along with the wider community. We won the Best Small Business Award for the Northern Beaches in one year and was a Finalist for many years.

I knew instantly that I wasn’t in the business of running gyms … no, I was in the business of managing relationships and I just happened to sell health, vitality and life-enhancing products and services. People would say “what?!” including my wife who would, after a few months, realise the truth in my statement.

Friends that workout together … stay together?
Some of the family of gym members that called my gym ….. our gym .. their gym.
Lovely people in a lovely phase of life.

Stories … ahh … this is one of the things I miss – listening to the hundreds of individuals’ stories over the years. Was fascinating and I feel very blessed that I was able to listen to and help the members write chapters of their life stories. I also feel very blessed to experience life through other peoples’ experiences.

Our gym was a place of social interaction where everyone knew one another’s names and we were always happy they came to the gym. Our gym was a ‘home away from home‘ for all the family of members. Just the way I envisioned it to be, the way gyms used to be.

I loved it. I lived and breathed it. I never took leave for 7 years because I loved what I did in serving the community the gym was in and all that came from afar (some driving past up to 15 gyms before they got to my gym). I helped serve people increased awareness, through increasing their knowledge of possibilities that would take them from where they were to where they would want to be. Using programs tailored specifically for each individual that was based on the framework that took me to 2 x World Championships and place in the Top 5 of both.

This blog is about one particular member. Her name was Margaret. She was an amazing woman.

The Family of Male Friends that bonded and developed great friendships in my gym … our gym.

She had been frequenting the gym 3 times per week for about 8 years. Rain, hail, dust storm, heat-wave. You name it. No extreme weather pattern stopped her from walking the 2km walk from her home to the gym. And Back. She does so with so much enthusiasm. I don’t think I have ever heard her whinge in the time I knew her.

Ever.

What’s special about her is that she is accompanied by her friend – Desarae. You see wherever Margaret goes, her friend is by her side. Her friend knew each corner of the gym now and each machine. Her friend never utters a word but observes her very intently. Her friend watches and observes Margaret’s every move and never lets her out of her sight. Her friend even knows the order in which Margaret has to move from one machine to the other when she is executing one of her daily ‘work-outs’ specially tailored to her goals and needs.

Her friend listens to everything Margaret says but also most of what she does not say. A possible definition of a very good friend. But Desarae has not lifted one piece of weights equipment. You know why? Well, you see, Margaret’s friend is a guide dog and Margaret is blind.

Now, I know we read and see a lot of things and people that can be classed as “Inspiring” almost every day of our lives. You see and hear many grand, over-the-top stories that people class as inspirational. Well and good.

With Margaret and her guide dog. She was such a lovely human being. Never said never.
I trained her daughter (who was also partially blind) to represent Australia at the Paralympics.
She was one tough school girl with a lot of GRIT. Just like her mum.

However, each individual’s idea of what is or who is “inspiring” could differ and vary quite greatly. It’s all a matter of perspective. What someone may find inspirational may not be to another. If anyone asks me what or who I would consider inspiring, apart from my beautiful wife, Margaret would be another that would readily come to mind.

I’ve mentioned it countless times since I have known Margaret that everyone – men, women and boys and girls – everyone, could ‘take a page out of her book’.

Why?

Well, in a world; where there is a dwindling of personal responsibility and accountability; where reasons are only too readily replaced with excuses; where mediocrity is celebrated; where instant gratification dwarfs delayed satisfaction and patience … We have a no nonsense and unassuming, visually-impaired lady “working” on herself. Without fan-fare. Just going about what is part of her ‘daily-routine’.

She is physically blind, not emotionally or spiritually.

It seems like she has turned this apparent weakness into a strength. I see the strength in this woman every time I see her. Not only when she lifts weights and goes through her workouts but the strength in the way she walks, talks and laughs. In the way she relates to the other members of the gym. It’s in her air of quiet confidence as she goes about her business.

Some of the members that came and enjoyed being part of my big ‘extended family’

Although she is blind in one sense, she seemingly has a special kind of blindness for a lot of the ‘other’ things in life that tends to affect us. Those of us who are fortunate enough to see.

So, I leave you with one thought: try to block out some of the clutter of life and don’t let anything or anyone prevent you from carrying out certain daily habits if they contribute to you being a better person – physically, spiritually, emotionally or intellectually.

When you find reasons to give in, think of Margaret. Work on developing your special kind of blindness. There is a champion in every single one of us, including YOU. Believe it so. Never stop dreaming, dreams do come true and dreamers change the world. Listen to your intuition. The combination of these two important ways of thinking ….  is the beginning of taking the “I-M” out of “IMpossible”

All the very best!

 

Until next time,

Yours in muscles & iron,

 

The Old Captain Viking Pirate Fiji-Island born Muscle Monk

Some of the older female family members showing ‘how it’s done!”
Branka and Karen were two ladies that had very positive outlooks on life and did everything they could to maintain the discipline and privilege of staying strong, healthy and wise.
It was a way of life for them … and all the family of gym members.

Gym Extended Family Members enjoying a day of Lawn Bowls.
We had some great lawn bowls events over the 7 years.

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