15 November 2021

Burnout, mindfulness and meditation. 7 best tips to prevent and transform burnout.

Would you know if you had burnout? Would you admit to it? Would you recognise burnout in someone else? And what to do about it? How to prevent it? How to get through it…

Burnout is commonly associated with exhaustion, lack of empathy and reduced performance. It has become a massive issue in the wake of the pandemic, so this week we examine this debilitating issue more closely, and offer some possible solutions, but first


    Thought for the day

         Profound peace,

           Natural simplicity,

              Uncompounded luminosity

    The Buddha’s first words after attaining enlightenment





Commonly burnout is associated with the workplace and 3 main symptoms 

1. Exhaustion: People affected feel drained and emotionally exhausted, unable to cope, tired and down, and do not have enough energy. Physical symptoms can include pain and stomach or bowel problems.

2. Lack of empathy: People start being cynical about their working conditions and their colleagues. At the same time, they may increasingly distance themselves emotionally, and start feeling numb about their work and lives.

3. Reduced performance: Burnout affects everyday tasks at work, at home or when caring for family members. People with burnout are very negative about their tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless and lack creativity.

But other conditions such as depression often include these symptoms, so how to be sure what the problem is? Well, that is not so easy. 

Firstly, recent research indicates people can experience burnout outside of a formal workplace. 

Also, those with burnout often report a common list of symptoms 

- stress or anxiety (anxiety is when stress becomes overwhelming), depression and low mood, irritability and anger, sleep disturbances, lack of motivation or passion, lack of concentration, memory loss or brain fog, withdrawal from others, physical symptoms such as aches, headaches, nausea, low libido and emotional fragility. 

Quite a list.

There are a number of self-assessment questionnaires, but generally a high score indicates the need to seek professional help. 

If the symptoms listed are an issue, going to a GP or mental health professional may well be necessary; clarification is important as different psychological conditions often require disorder-specific treatment strategies.

Amongst many other issues, the pandemic has disrupted many of our usual social supports. No surprise many are feeling stretched to their limits and beyond, and burnout is rife. The financial burden is incredible, with stress-related work absenteeism and presenteeism currently costing Australia nearly $15 billion per year!

So the intention here is to avoid adding more potential stress, but to acknowledge the size of what is a huge and debilitating issue, and to suggest some solutions purely from a meditator’s perspective.

WHAT TO DO?


If in danger of burnout, if you suspect burnout is a looming possibility, if you feel burnout is a real issue for yourself or someone you care about...

1. Regard the situation as a medical emergency

If you were bleeding badly, you would go to a GP or call an ambulance – immediately. Potential or actual burnout needs to be taken that seriously – by the individuals affected, their workplaces, colleagues, friends and families.

2. Make the effort to talk about it

A common issue that aggravates burnout is it can be hidden. Many who burnout are high achievers and perfectionists who tend to be pretty good at masking their issues. Admitting to a problem does not come easily, but the effort is essential in prevention and recovery. If it is someone else you are concerned about, be prepared to persist and raise the issue repeatedly until a reasonable conversation can be had around your concerns, the response of the other person, along with an exploration of possible courses of action.

3. Lighten the load

Here is some news that may disappoint. You may consider yourself to be indispensable. However, it is highly likely if you do take some time out, if you do say no occasionally, even often, the world will continue to spin. Disappointing, but true. Give someone else a chance to do what you do so well – they may well surprise you…

TAKE TIME OUT. 

SAY NO WHEREVER POSSIBLE. SAY NO WHERE IT DOES NOT SEEM POSSIBLE. 

SAY NO WITH ENTHUSIASM AND AIM TO DO SO FREE OF GUILT OR REMORSE. 

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!!!

4. Practice deep relaxation

The Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise – as on our Allevi8 app – done lying down is highly recommended. 

If it does cause you to drop off to sleep, no worries. 

When you wake up, either repeat the exercise or go on with your day and come back to the PMR soon. 

Over time the weariness will wear off and you will relax and meditate with more awareness; in the interim, entering into sleep via deep relaxation will be highly restorative.

5. Ease up on the perfectionism

We are all perfectionists to a degree. Aim to scale it down a bit. Do some things that actually trains you to let go a little – like deliberately leaving clothes on the floor or delaying some cleaning for a reasonable while. 

6. Practise self-care – on the indulgent side

What does this mean for you? Massage? Movies? Eating out? Time in nature? Hot baths? Time with people you are close to? Time on your own?

This is not just self-indulgence; this is a therapeutic necessity to regain your balance. It will not hurt to overdo this a bit to begin with, then settle into a more balanced mix of work and time for self.

7. Ask for help

Now there is a radical idea. 

At home, ask the family or co-habitants to do more with the day-to-day tasks. 

At work, speak with the boss, explain the situation and ask for a review of workloads.

Can you seek help from cleaners or babysitters? 

Personally, with a diagnosed burnout, my feeling is such services should be available like a physio is for someone with a bad back, and as such should be available on Medicare. Now that would be progressive! 

Maybe best not to wait… but in the interim, realise it may well be money very well spent.


OVERALL


The need is to reduce the stress loads 

and to give time to relax and regenerate. 




RELATED BLOGS 

What is behind the panic around COVID-19, and what to do?


Stress management in the time of COVID-19 – a holistic approach

 




01 November 2021

How long does it take to change a habit? – the myth, the facts and the best techniques

When was the last time you attempted to change a habit? My guess is for many of us coming out of lockdown the temptation will be there to make some changes…

So how long does it take? There is a popular myth that repeating a new habit daily for 21 days does the job, but where does that come from, and is it true? Spoiler alert – not really, but this week we find out for sure, but first

   Thought for the day

        Anyone who enjoys inner peace 

        Is no more broken by failure 

        Than he is inflated by success. 

        He is able to fully live his experiences 

        In the context of a vast and profound serenity, 

       Since he understands experiences are ephemeral 

       And that it is useless to cling to them.


                                Matthieu Ricard


For decades I have heard people – both professionals and others, say we could change anything by repeating the new pattern daily for 21 days. Having worked in intense settings for years where many people felt their actual lives depended upon changing lifestyle habits, it amazed me how quickly some people accomplished change, and how others never managed it at all. So the generic “21 days” never seemed quite right. 

In my own case, when diagnosed with advanced cancer I soon concluded eating a plant-based diet was essential to recovery. Literally overnight I transitioned from being a rabid carnivore to virtual vegan and never looked back; no regrets, no longings, no relapses. 

On the other hand, I have worked with people who laboured away for months until they finally shook off an old pattern and became securely established in the new.

So what about this 21 day myth? 

Where did that come from? 

Seems like Maxwell Maltz was the instigator. 

Actually, Dr Maltz is something of a hero having written the fabulously informative Psycho-Cybernetics way back in 1960 (most of the best self-help books are the early ones!) – a must read for anyone interested in how the active mind works and how to use it to best effect. 

Maxwell was a cosmetic surgeon who progressed to become a psychologist :) 

He observed his patients and noticed it generally took about 3 weeks to adjust to new things like cosmetic surgery or moving into a new house. 

So based on his clinical experience of people getting used to new things rather than deliberately choosing to break a habit, the “21 day myth” somehow came into being. 

What then does the research say? 

One might imagine a lot of effort has been put into investigating this matter as it seems so crucial to personal development, healing, recovery and a good life in general. Yet curiously, there is not much solid research and the few articles are from years back…

A 2012 study found 10 weeks, or around 2.5 months to be the average for most people.  

Gardner B, Lally P, Wardle J. Making health habitual: the psychology of 'habit-formation' and general practice. Br J Gen Pract. 2012;62(605):664-666. 

A 2009 study probed more deeply and found a wide range was required to establish the change - from 18 to 254 days, with 66 days being the average. This seems to match my own clinical experience; it is variable and for some can take a long time. 

Lally P et al. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 40, 998–1009 (2010)

The actual time will be affected by our motivation, how long we have had the old habit, how strongly we are attached to the old habit, the advantages and disadvantages of both the old and new habit, and very importantly, what opposition or support we garner from those around us.

Happily, this 2009 research did demonstrate missing one opportunity to perform the new behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process, and consistent repetition does eventually get you there.

HOW TO CHANGE A HABIT

A. From my own experience…

Read and apply the steps set out in The Mind that Changes Everything

B. From the 2012 study :

1. Decide on a goal you would like to achieve for your health.

2. Choose a simple action that will get you towards your goal which you can do on a daily basis.

3. Plan when and where you will do your chosen action. Be consistent: choose a time and place you encounter every day of the week.

4. Every time you encounter that time and place, do the action.

5. It will get easier with time, and within 10 weeks you should find you are doing it automatically without even having to think about it.

6. Congratulations, you have made a healthy habit!


It may be helpful to write out a plan – the first step towards commitment...

My goal (e.g. ‘to eat more fruit and vegetables’) _________________________________________________

My plan (e.g. ‘after I have lunch at home I will have a piece of fruit’)

(When and where) ___________________________ I will ___________________________

Some people find it helpful to keep a record while they are forming a new habit. This daily tick-sheet can be used until your new habit becomes automatic. You can rate how automatic it feels at the end of each week, to watch it getting easier.

Happy days…


18 October 2021

Coming out of lockdown – 6 tips from a spiritual perspective

Six lockdowns, a world record 263 days; who in Melbourne is not ready for our latest and hopefully last lockdown to end this Friday? But I hear of widespread apprehension as people everywhere emerge from their own lockdowns and engage with a post-pandemic society. 

So this week, a different perspective. 

Six tips from a spiritual viewpoint on how to make the most of this brave new world, but first

Thought for the day

To our human meaning and purpose. 

As history unfolded and civilizations and cultures developed 

So did different religions, 

Each one of them giving birth 

To unique insights and perceptions about this silent mystery. 

And common to all these Traditions 

Is the existence of a practice of silence 

That takes us beyond words, 

That takes us from the mind to the heart,

To the way of pure attention and the way of pure being, 

Meditation. 

Laurence Freeman - Benedictine monk

Lockdown seems to have worn many people down. Or is that most? The cost has been great – financial, emotional, mental; it may well have challenged many people’s spiritual views and values. 

Yet emerging into the post-pandemic world carries its own challenges - there is still plenty of virus around. 

Coming to grips with who is vaccinated and who is not and how that affects family, friends, business, sport, leisure and entertainment; not to mention gaining access to a vaccination certificate if your IT skills are limited! 

So much uncertainty about the future – even more than normal and heavily compounded by the over-arching environmental clouds.

So what will be helpful. What do the wisdom traditions have to offer in times like these? 

Spirituality is of course different to religiosity. Spirituality is to do with everyone’s inner journey. That process of turning our attention from the outer, material world of “doing”, to the inner realm of meaning, purpose, values and “being”.

Here then are 6 tips from a fresh perspective; the spiritual perspective – based upon what are called in Buddhism the 6 paramitas. Now again, to be clear, these suggestions do come from a particular tradition, but they come free of dogma and could be well described as the fruit of mind science; form when people study the mind and find whatever anyone from ant tradition could find, verify and use to good effect in their life.

Paramita translates as 'transcendent perfection'. The 6 paramitas are actions we are encouraged to develop and take into daily life in a non-egocentric or self-less manner. While they are key practices Buddhists train in on the path to enlightenment, transcendent also means more simply - transcending the ego-based self. For this reason, these techniques and principles can be used by anyone of any or now particular faith.

Here they are, the 6 paramitas with their Sanskrit translations, 

a simple descriptor and a brief guide…

As the great Tibetan teacher Chogyam Trungpa said 'Transcendental' does not refer to some external reality, but rather to the way in which we conduct our lives and perceive the world—either in an egocentric or a non-egocentric way. The six paramitas are concerned with the effort to step out of the egocentric mentality.”

So how does this translate into a post-pandemic world and the process of emerging and re-engaging?

1. Generosity (dāna) : to cultivate the attitude of generosity

Easy enough in theory, but the challenge? It starts with your self. Be generous with your self, then it is easier with others. Give yourself time and space. Recognise any fears you may have. Deliberate. Consider what you need amidst these challenging times; what will help you? Do it! Who supports you? Seek them out. How to protect yourself without becoming paranoid? How best to practice self care? Make a plan; be clear on where you will go and what you will do.

Then be generous towards others. Remember what we have all been through – tough times… People may not be at the best as they emerge. 

Giving your time to others, even more, giving your attention to others is a gift indeed. And sharing a meal works well too!

2. Discipline – sometimes described as morality (śīla) : refraining from harm

A bogey for some. But here is the point; real discipline is not imposed, it comes from personal kindness. Generosity quite naturally leads on to transcendent discipline. With generosity building, you become gentler with yourself, and in the process become more self-less. That is real Self care. 

And with that, it not only becomes easier to do those things that are good for you; you become increasingly averse to harming others. This sort of discipline develops consistency in avoiding harm and in generating good actions.

3. Patience (kṣānti) : the ability not to be perturbed by anything

Out of discipline comes stability; the powerful emotions like anger, greed and jealousy begin to diminish. There is less reactivity, a growing sense of self control that is increasingly effortless. While a sense of gentle personal inner strength begins to manifest, there is also a reduction in aggression and defensiveness; an open-ness that feels comfortable and fulfilling.

4. Diligence – sometimes described as vigor (vīrya) : to find joy in what is virtuous, positive or wholesome

Maybe the secret here is a growing sense of gratitude. As the previous 3 paramitas begin to take shape in one’s life, there is now an increasing sense of gratitude which coincides with a genuine joy in this very life. With joy, applying one’s self comes naturally; we find it increasingly attractive – and easy - to do what works and feels good in our lives. What a delight!

5. Meditative concentration (dhyāna) : not to be distracted

As life progresses, meditation becomes more compelling. Meditation is at the heart of the inner journey, the reliable pathway to real self-discovery. And yes meditation is more than just practicing formally. As we progress, it rapidly informs how we live; indeed, it becomes our way of living.

6. Wisdom (prajñā) : the perfect discrimination of all phenomena

As we meditate consistently, inevitably we come to know our selves better, and we come to know the truth of the world and people around about us. We move from the intellect to wisdom and this wisdom, knows what to do and when to do it. As we develop the 6 paramitas and they actually begin to blossom in our lives, this wisdom guides us with clarity and confidence. 


Now, we have spoken here of the 6 paramitas, 

but it is said many rivers flow into the one ocean. 


The ocean here is the ocean of wisdom, 

transcendental wisdom and many traditions lead into it. 



May a simple knowledge of these 6 paramitas be of some use in the ongoing journey as we emerge from lockdown and re-engage with our families, friends, colleagues, and our wider communities…

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04 October 2021

Mobile phones, 5G, radiation damage and cancer risk – an update for this, the 400th post

How often are you using your mobile phone, the time slips by and then you feel the warmth around your ear? “Oh my God! Am I giving myself cancer?” Ever worried? Well, to mark this 400th post, let us go Out on a Limb once more and examine the latest evidence; who that evidence comes from, how credible it is, and what is the most likely truth in this controversial matter, but first


    Thought for the day

       Both the Observer and the Observed 

       Are merging aspects of one whole reality 

       Which is invisible and unanalysable.


                 David Bohm – theoretical physicist


Mobile phones...

Biggest health risk? Almost certainly driving while using one. Biggest health benefit? Almost certainly providing reliable communication in emergencies and therefore saving many lives. 

But what of cancer? 

Do mobile phones increase our risk of developing brain cancers in particular?

Sadly, the answer depends upon who you ask. 

I say sadly because we commonly turn to science for evidence, and yet, that evidence we know is skewed depending upon who pays for the research – particularly when multi-billion industries are involved. 


Drug studies sponsored by Big Pharma have about 4x the odds of a positive conclusion compared to independent researchers. Yet this is a modest bias when compared to studies on the health effects of second-hand smoke; studies funded by the tobacco industry have 88x the odds of reaching a “not harmful” conclusion!

So what about mobile phone research? Most independently funded studies show an effect while most of the industry-funded studies do not. The bias? Not toooo bad – industry-funded studies have about 10x fewer odds of finding an adverse effect from cell phone use. 

How then does this show up in what you might read? Here are some examples 

From the USA FDA 

To date, there is no consistent or credible scientific evidence of health problems caused by the exposure to radio frequency energy emitted by cell phones 

And this from Cancer Council WA – under the heading of Cancer Myth 

Mobile phones are in widespread use and so it is important to continue to investigate and monitor any potential public health impact. Although there remains some uncertainty, current scientific evidence indicates that a link between typical mobile phone use or mobile base stations and cancer is unlikely. There is inconsistent evidence to suggest that very heavy users of mobile phones may have a slightly increased risk of cancer.

What are we dealing with here? 

In a major article published in 2020, concerned scientists had this to say

An important factor may be the influence on politicians by individuals and organizations with inborn conflicts of interests (COIs) and their own agenda in supporting the no-risk paradigm. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has repeatedly ignored scientific evidence on adverse effects of RF radiation to humans and the environment. Their guidelines for exposure are based solely on the thermal (heating) paradigm. The large amount of peer-reviewed science on non-thermal effects has been ignored in all ICNIRP evaluations. Additionally, ICNIRP has successfully maintained their obsolete guidelines worldwide.

Hardell L, Carlberg M. Health risks from radiofrequency radiation, including 5G, should be assessed by experts with no conflicts of interest. Oncol Lett. 2020;20(4):15. doi:10.3892/ol.2020.11876

What about 5G?
 The same authors continue…

The fifth generation, 5G, of radiofrequency (RF) radiation is about to be implemented globally without investigating the risks to human health and the environment. This has created debate among concerned individuals in numerous countries. 

In an appeal to the European Union (EU) in September 2017, currently endorsed by >390 scientists and medical doctors, a moratorium on 5G deployment was requested until proper scientific evaluation of potential negative consequences has been conducted. This request has not been acknowledged by the EU. 

The evaluation of RF radiation health risks from 5G technology is ignored in a report by a government expert group in Switzerland and a recent publication from The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. 

Conflicts of interest and ties to the industry seem to have contributed to the biased reports. The lack of proper unbiased risk evaluation of the 5G technology places populations at risk. Furthermore, there seems to be a cartel of individuals monopolizing evaluation committees, thus reinforcing the no-risk paradigm. 

We believe that this activity should qualify as scientific misconduct.

So in whom may we trust?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization. It is recognised as the authority when deciding what is and is not carcinogenic. The IARC identifies 5 categories: Group 1 carcinogens are agents that we know with the highest level of certainty do cause cancer in human beings, Group 2A probably cause cancer, Group 2B possibly cause cancer, Group 3 : not sure, and Group 4 probably do not cause cancer.

In 2011 the IARC evaluated cancer risks from radiofrequency (RF) radiation. Human epidemiological studies gave evidence of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma. 

RF radiation was classified as Group 2B, a possible human carcinogen. 

Further epidemiological, animal and mechanistic studies have strengthened the association. 

Why no action – or at least cautions?

In spite of the findings, in most countries little or nothing has been done to reduce exposure and educate people on health hazards from RF radiation. On the contrary, ambient levels have increased. In 2014 the WHO launched a draft of a Monograph on RF fields and health for public comments. 

It turned out that five of the six members of the Core Group in charge of the draft are affiliated with International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an industry loyal NGO, and thus have a serious conflict of interest. Just as by ICNIRP, evaluation of non-thermal biological effects from RF radiation are dismissed as scientific evidence of adverse health effects in the Monograph. 

This has provoked many comments sent to the WHO. However, at a meeting in 2017 it was stated that the WHO has no intention to change the Core Group.

Hardell L. World Health Organization, radiofrequency radiation and health - a hard nut to crack (Review). Int J Oncol. 2017;51(2):405-413. doi:10.3892/ijo.2017.4046

Recent research – there have been many papers published!

As examples, this 2017 systematic review reported a 33% increase in brain tumours with long-term use.

Prasad M et al. Mobile phone use and risk of brain tumours: a systematic review of association between study quality, source of funding, and research outcomes. Neurol Sci. 2017 May;38(5):797-810. 

This study, also from 2017 demonstrated 46% higher odds for tumours on the phone side of the head. Significantly, both these reviews included the industry-funded studies that have been accused of bias and underestimating the risk, however, in fairness they do note the available data they used to reach their conclusions is still rather flimsy. 

Yang M et al, Mobile phone use and glioma risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2017 May 4;12(5):e0175136. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0175136. 

Despite – or because of this, some scientists are pushing hard to have the IARC reclassify cell phones as probable carcinogens or even elevate them all the way up into Group 1, at least for brain cancer and acoustic neuroma. 

As individuals, what to do?

There is no doubt mobiles have many obvious benefits and risks. Their effect on our relationships and way of doing business is enormous, and again, some effects we could call good, some bad.

In context, my clear sense is the cancer risks are real but quite small. Take the risk of developing brain cancer… Current statistics suggest there is a 1 in 161 (or 0.62%) risk of being diagnosed with brain cancer by the age of 85. Even if mobile phones were to double your risk to 1 in 80, that is still quite small. Way less than the risk associated with using a mobile while driving. Researchers at Monash University’s Accident Research Centre say driver distraction causes about 16% of fatal crashes, with only 7% of those distractions being mobiles (a statistic I find surprisingly low).

Still, it does make sense to minimise cancer risk wherever possible and there are things we can do

 1. Provide distance

Radiation intensity drops off exponentially with distance, so the further the phone is from your head the better. 

This is considered particularly important for children. 

Use a speaker phone (this is what I do whenever possible) or a hands free set (including Bluetooth). It is said this reduces any risks by around 100 fold.

2. Be patient

Fun fact – the few moments when your phone first connects to a new call, is when the emissions are high. So wait for a moment when taking a call before placing the phone near your head.

What about texting?

There is no evidence of finger cancer, so no obvious problem.

What about “protection devices”?


Most have been shown not only to be useless but to partially block the signals and so cause the phone to boost its emission. Better avoided.

What about Public Health messaging and business risks for employers?

Will requiring employees to use mobile phones ever have the same legal issues as requiring employees to work amidst passive tobacco smoke? Good question! 

This is discussed in the risk analysis literature. “From a public health perspective, it might be reasonable to provide cell phone users with voluntary precautionary recommendations for their mobile phone handling in order to enable them to make informed decisions”. But they say there is still “scientific uncertainty” and we need caution not to “foster inappropriate fears.” 

In the current situation, whether health authorities chose to inform the public about precautionary possibilities seems like more of a political decision than one based upon science. 

And personally, if I was an employer requiring staff to use mobile phones frequently, I would be concerned.

Summary


Use your mobile when necessary. 

Question yourself regularly – is it necessary? 

Keep the phone as far from your head as practical. 

Do not use the mobile while driving. Or eating. Or while talking face to face with anyone you value.

Enjoy…


20 September 2021

In praise of mentors – and a tribute to a footballing legend

There are many things to adapt to as one becomes older. Speaking personally, one surprise has been the size of the hole left by outliving significant elders. However, with the losses has come an even greater appreciation for the genuine mentors who have blessed, informed and enriched my life in so many ways. 

With my AFL football team - Melbourne - a real prospect to win its first Grand Final in 57 years, it feels appropriate to share something of the remarkable life of a Club legend who was a mentor, and to enthuse about seeking out and maintaining relationships with mentors if you do not have them already, but first

     Thought for the Day


The Buddha is not going to project you to Buddhahood, 

As if throwing a stone. 

He is not going to purify you, 

As if washing a dirty cloth, 

Nor is he going to cure you of ignorance, 

Like a doctor administering medicine to a passive patient. 

Having attained full enlightenment himself, 

He is showing you the path, 

And it is up to you to follow it or not. 

It is up to you now 

To practice these teachings 

And experience their results.

                Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche


Close friend of my father, Godfather to my elder sister, father of 2 sons I attended school with and one daughter, local doctor in outer Melbourne at the one family practice for life, footballer, incredibly decent human being and powerful influence in my own life for good – Dr Donald Cordner. 

Our families grew up together and we visited regularly. But imagine this – it speaks to the modesty of the man – not until around the age of 30 did I come to know Donald had won a Brownlow Medal in 1946 (best and fairest in the competition) and that he served on the Melbourne Football Club’s Board and as President of the Melbourne Cricket Club. He never spoke of his considerable accomplishments.

Also, for those who watched the pageant and tasteful ceremony of this year's Brownlow presentation as a major event on television, consider this. In 1946, Donald was advised by mail he had won the Brownlow. He was summoned to a Board meeting at VFL House (it was V for Victoria in those days not Australian FL) where he waited half an hour on his own in an ante room. The Chair then said "Player Cordner, you have been awarded this year's Brownlow Medal", handed over the medal, shook his hand and sent him on his way. No media, no fuss; that was it!

As a teenager whose mother had died at 12, Donald was a point of reference. Whenever we visited, whenever we met, he greeted me with warm-hearted affection and importantly, with interest. He always took time to enquire what was happening in my life and was full of encouragement for whatever interested me. He was always asking challenging, sometimes provocative questions; stimulating analysis and reflection. One of his habits was to throw puzzles at his children and their visitors; he was fun as well as comforting. 

Along with his equally remarkable wife, Moyle (from whose presence I also derived great benefit) Donald provided a real model of what a long-term successful marriage could look like.

When my cancer appeared in 1975, my father was living overseas. It was Donald who came to the Hospital and helped arrange the best care and steer me through the difficult choices that led to my leg being amputated. Again, his inner strength and calm was steadying.

As the years went on and my work shifted from the veterinary world towards that of medicine, Donald was happy to discuss issues and provide insight. From time to time we would meet at the MCG, discuss the footy, usually lament the parlous state of Melbourne’s performances, touch on the news of the day, the progress in my life and work. Those meetings were always like a tonic.


Sadly, Donald died in 2009 aged 87.

With Melbourne playing in the 2021 Grand Final, 

Donald would be thrilled. 

I think of him and feel so fortunate to have had this man in my life.


The message? 


Mentors play a key role in life. Elders are important and warrant close relationships, but mentors go to the next level. Some mentors drop into your lap, some you need to seek out. Either way, whether young or older, make the effort; actively build a relationship with one or preferably more mentors. And as you advance in age, experience and wisdom, consider who you might be able to mentor. Pay it forward…


       And of course 


            - Melbourne for premiers!!!