the opposite of addiction 

This is a 7 minute talk I presented recently at my local Toastmasters club.


Heroin. Sex. Facebook. Gambling. Working too much. Exercise. Alcohol.

What’s common about all these things?

They are all forms of addiction.

One of my favourite philosophers, Alain de Botton, once said: “almost everyone is an addict, when addiction is defined as a manic reliance on something as a defence against dark thoughts”.

Also, Russell Brand, a rather famous former alcholic and heroin addict once said “I look to drugs and booze to fill up a hole in me; unchecked the call of the wild is too strong”.

But is addiction this bad? Can we overcome?

There’s a common belief about heroin addiction that if you take heroin enough times then you will become a heroin addict.

This came from a series of experiments last century where they put a rat into a small cage and they gave the rat two choices: water and water mixed with heroin. What they found over and over again is the rat would drink the heroin water and then couldn’t stop drinking it, ultimately overdosing and killing itself. This same thing happened over and over again leading us to think what we think about heroin addiction.

But imagine you seriously injured yourself today. You’d probably be taken to hospital in an ambulance and you’d most likely be given heroin. It would be much like street heroin, only more pure and effective. And when you discharged from hospital, chances are you’d continue on with your life. You wouldn’t be a heroin addict. But this contradicts what we think about addiction.

In the seventies there was another series of experiments with rats. Instead of putting a single rat in a small cage alone, they built a much larger cage, called Rat Park, and put lots of nice things inside: ramps and amusements, fresh food and lots of rats. Rats could connect with other and have sex with each other, and they provided the same drinking options: plain water and water mixed with heroin. But what they found this time around is whilst some rats tried the heroin water out of curiosity, not a single rat became hooked, not a single rat overdosed, not a single rat died from the heroin.

It seems the original rats died from lack of connection instead of addiction.

But what about seemingly good addictions? Like exercise, or working hard all the time?

Can “good” addictions be bad?

These seemingly good addictions are bad because they are about avoiding inner thoughts of our mind. They’re not about connecting with others.

I’m a reader and big supporter of The Big Issue magazine in Australia. The Big Issue is a unique publication in that it’s sold on the street by homeless people who become street vendors, they each get to keep half of the cover price which is currently $3.50 of seven bucks.

But I’ve read numerous stories about the biggest difference being a street vendor for The Big Issue makes to a homeless person’s life isn’t the income, it certainly helps, but the connections that are created between the vendor and their customers. Having customers the vendors get to know mean they start establishing human connection: something that is missing for a lot of homeless people.

We may never overcome addiction, so the key is to choose the least harmful one.

Get addicted to connecting with and helping others.

Johann Hari once said “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it’s connection”.

I recently saw the sequel to the cult classic 90s film about heroin addiction called Trainspotting. I’ll leave you tonight with a quote from the sequel to that film:

“You are an addict, so be addicted. Just be addicted to something else. Choose the ones you love. Choose your future. Choose life.”

Audience erupts in thunderous applause.

cho-cha foodstore, kuala lumpur

We didn’t have one bad meal on our recent trip to Kuala Lumpur, so the bar is very high, but the one meal I remember most was a snack I had during a 9km walk I did around the city on Sunday morning.

The place was called Cho-Cha Foodstore which is a restaurant in an old hotel building at the Southern end of Chinatown/Petaling Street.

From the outside it looks like an old hotel:

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As soon as you enter inside you find a restaurant but they’ve kept a lot of the original interior design and have given it a modern/urban/industrial edge:

I ordered the fried chilli squid and a homemade pineapple soda. It was hands-down the best fried chilli squid I’ve ever eaten: so much flavour including kaffir lime leaves, lemon, fresh lime and it came with nuoc cham which complimented it perfectly.

Feeling very satisified I left to continue to explore the great street art around Southern chinatown in Kuala Lumpur.

10/10 would eat fried chilli squid at Cho-Cha again 😊

five qantas international cabin classes

I’ve been lucky enough to fly Qantas internationally in all cabin classes. One of the key differentiators of cabin classes is usually quality and variety of alcohol but since I don’t drink I’ll compare the tea.

  1. Qantas Economy (B747/A380): narrow seat with average leg room, tea comes pre-brewed in paper cup, no amenities kits, cabin smells like fart.
  2. Qantas Premium Economy (B747): a slightly wider seat with slightly more leg room, tea comes pre-brewed in small porcelain cup, small ‘Country Road’ amenities pouch (toothbrush and eye mask), lots of people pretending to be people they’re not, and wine discussion; cabin smells less like fart.
  3. Qantas Business (A380/B747): a wide seat turns into a fully flat bed (with the world’s thinnest mattress topper), tea comes freshly made in small porcelain cup, amenties kits contain actually useful products; feels like a rich person pyjama party.
  4. Qantas Business (B747 Upper Deck): same as Business class on the lower deck of the B747 but a much cosier cabin size, especially when you have a whole row of four seats to yourself. Plus you can see the cockpit (see pic). Feels like flying on a private jet; so worth it.
  5. Qantas First Class (A380): instead of having a seat you have a suite which is like a mini cabin all to yourself. There’s no meal or drinks service, you order whatever you want whenever you want. There are so many staff as soon as you turn your head someone is there. Amazing SK-II amenities kits. Tea comes freshly made in a pot. The pilots come and say hello. As close as you can get to heaven at 40,000 feet.

→how to make tea correctly (according to science): milk first

“having been to America and sampling the weak tea made there, it must be stressed that the teabag should either be in a pot or the mug itself; it is not sufficient just for it to be in the same room.”

An aside from an entertaining article about whether you should put the milk in first when making tea. I sit firmly in the milk last camp.

arugula

On my recent trip to Washington DC we visited &Pizza; a cool local pizza chain that constructs and cooks an oval shaped pizza in front of you with whatever you like on it. After my pizza was cooked I asked for ‘rocket’ to be sprinkled over it, as you do, only to be met with blank stares. My work colleague came to the rescue and told me it’s called arugula in the US. That was the first time I’d heard that name.

Arugula: one of my favourite things.

you come at people with an open mind…

“You come at people with an open mind, but you never fail to get them wrong.

You get them wrong when you’re with them, or you tell someone about them, and get them wrong again

That’s how we know we are alive. We are wrong.”

I watched four movies flying east at 40,000 feet across the Pacific last week, but this quote is all that I can remember due to my long-haul haze. It’s from a movie called American Pastoral I remember choosing because it stars (and was directed by) Ewan MacGregor.

washington d.c april 2017

I’ve been working with my team in Washington D.C this week. It’s my first time to the nation’s capital and I made the most of a tight schedule to see some sights walking around and about in between work.

I really enjoyed the cherry blossom around the tidal basin, and all the different street art around the place. We walked as close as we could get to The White House to be suddenly told (with everyone else) the park was being vacated – it turns out the President was being visited by the King and Queen of Jordan.

The food was particularly great as there are plenty of healthy options around; my favourites were Cava, &Pizza and Shake Shack (which is arguably not that healthy).

→ parenting advice: don’t kill them

I’ve maintained the idea for some time that becoming a parent is simultaneously the best and worst that can happen to you. That is why I am always torn about what to say to couples who are expecting their first child as you see them seemingly obsess over trivial things like buying cute baby shoes and over what colour to paint their newborns room-to-be.

From now on I’ll just refer to expecting couples to this article, it’s dark, but so true.

View story at Medium.com

my favourite quote

I was recently asked to for my favourite quote and it took me a while to remember this one. Recording it here for quick reference!

“One must never miss an opportunity of quoting things by others which are always more interesting than those one thinks up oneself.”

— Proust

a perfect brisbane-toowoomba day trip

Toowoomba is a pretty sweet little city. Despite having a relatively small population (~100,000) it has the vibe of a bigger city.

Another good thing about Toowoomba is its proximity to Brisbane. You can get up there fairly easily in 90 mins on a weekend, which makes it a perfect day trip destination if you set off early.

I set off early yesterday as the sun was rising and began my road trip. I couldn’t help but stop at the abandoned Servo Plus service station at Plainland (cool suburb name) for a few quick snaps.


There’s also a really cool red elephant statue on the same side of the road at Plainland (right near Wet Dreams Aquatics 😳) which is worth checking out as you drive by.

My first destination in Toowoomba was Table Top Mountain. This is a mountain just East of the main range which has a large grassy plateau on top which you can walk around on checking out the views of the surrounding pristine Lockyer Valley. I wanted to get here early before it got too hot, and also to see the rising sun to the East. The climb isn’t for the unfit or faint-hearted but the views are definitely worthwhile.


After admiring the views I made my way into the city to check out some of the Toowoomba street art. There’s a long weekend festival in Toowoomba each year called First Coat where street arts cover buildings around the city in murals. It’s been running since 2014 so there’s already plenty of murals to check out. Any lane in the city is pretty much guaranteed to have a few different murals.


One of the benefits of exploring the laneways in the city is you come across places to eat you wouldn’t otherwise discover. One such place was called Skewers which is an Indonesian street food style restaurant serving skewers grilled over hot coals, and slow cooked rendangs 😍


After wandering the streets and eating some lovely food I decided to start making my way back home.

I’m a huge fan of roadside produce stalls and doing some Googling I discovered that the Lockyer Valley sitting just East of the Great Diving Range has lots of farms, and lots of roadside produce stalls. So I descended from Toowoomba into Flagstone as Flagstone Creek Road has heaps of the roadside stalls. My favourite stall was at Winwill, and during the drive back I managed to pick up two dozen fresh eggs, two pumpkins, spinach, potatoes, a watermelon, two punnets of tomatoes, and three stems of broccoli.  All so fresh and delicious! The fringe benefit of this ‘produce run’ is that the views driving through the valley are top-notch:


It’s been a long but fun day so I make my way home to unload the produce and edit all the photos I’ve taken. Good times. 

 

toowoomba street art

For a city of only 100,000 (ish) people, Toowoomba has some amazing street art. Most of the large scale pieces have been done as part of the First Coat Festival which has been running over a weekend in May since 2014.

There’s even a Fintan Magee mural (the elephant) who is one of my all time favourite street artists.

Toowoomba is only about 90 mins drive from Brisbane so I’d thoroughly recommend checking this out sometime if you’re into street art.

table top mountain, toowoomba

I started my day in Toowoomba by climbing to the plateau of Table Top Mountain.

I can’t believe I hadn’t been up here before: it’s amazing.

The climb up and back down was much quicker, but much harder, than I was expecting. Once you’re at the top there’s a huge grassy plateau to walk around and admire the gorgeous views of the pristine Lockyer Valley around you 😍

There were a number of large prickly pear cacti growing around various parts of the mountain covered in fruit.

I definitely would do this again if I was in the Toowoomba area.

Elevation: 596m (206m gain)
Time up: 19m
Time down: 18m

the gutter is within

“I have a friend so beautiful, so haunted by talent that you can barely look away from her, whose smile is such a treasure that I have often squandered my sanity for a moment in its glow. Her story is so galling that no one would condemn her for her dependency on illegal anesthesia, but now, even though her life is trying to turn around despite her, even though she has genuine opportunities for a new start, the gutter will not release its prey. The gutter is within. It is frustrating to watch.”

~ Russell Brand on Heroin Addiction

one good thing

I’ve found that focusing on having one good thing of each thing makes me happier and my life easier, plus it’s better for the environment.

Take a pen for example. It’s easy to have lots of various, cheap, disposable pens lying around and be constantly losing/finding them as you don’t really care about them as you’ve just picked them up at a conference and can easily get more.

But imagine if you had just one good pen. You’ll notice how suddenly you care about that pen. You won’t lose it as it’s your only pen, and it’ll be much more pleasant to have a good pen that you know will always work for you and is nice to write with.

The same applies to other things in your life:

  • one good pair of shoes for walking;
  • one good pair of sunglasses for seeing;
  • one good razor for shaving;
  • one good suitcase for travelling; and
  • one good teapot for brewing.

It’s all too easy to continue to accumulate cheap, disposable crap in this day and age, and it can be sometimes hard to justify $30 or $50 on a pen (when you buy a box of cheap biros for a few dollars), but it’s definitely better in the long run 😊

mt edwards

I woke up before 5am on Saturday morning and drove (1h:10m) to Mt Edwards which is part of Moogerah Peaks National Park (next to Lake Moogerah) to hike to the summit. The hike up wasn’t all that interesting (besides walking over the dam wall at the start) or challenging (just a constant 3km ascent) but the views at the top were 💯 as you are right at the top of a very steep cliff-face.

Elevation: 634m (520m gain)
Time up: 1h:04m
Time down: 54m