I listened to a couple of great podcasts this morning. I’ve been reading about the TED conference for years and dreaming of the day when I’ll get an invite. I recently found out they had a few podcasts up from their 2006 conference and I threw a couple of them onto my iPod. One by Al Gore and one by Tony Robbins.

Now I’m not an American and so pretty much all I knew about Al Gore before his film "An Inconvenient Truth" started being promoted, I learned from David Letterman. You know – the guy has the personality of a block of wood. He thinks he is Tim Berners-Lee. Etc. Here’s what I learned from the podcast I heard this morning – this guy is F U N N Y. And passionate about climate change. It’s an excellent podcast, please go listen to it, then subscribe to our new podcast "Treading Lightly" to keep learning more about what each of us can do to become carbon neutral.

Now… Tony Robbins. I know what most of you think about Tony Robbins. But I’ll tell you a secret. There was a time in my life, when I was about 20, when I would go sit in cafes a few nights a week and I’d read Tony Robbins’ books and take lots of notes about me, my life, where I was going, what I wanted to do. I won’t say his books were the only influence in my life, but when I started reading them I had no university education, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in a country Queensland town, and was working dead-end cubicle jobs making about $20k a year. And – most importantly – I was unhappy. Miserable. Eight years later I was working at Microsoft, traveling the world, making $150k a year. And still miserable. But hey – I was miserable at a higher standard of living. And I could afford a good shrink. 🙂

So anyway, the Tony Robbins talk at TED is about emotion and how it motivates you. He says that from his experience, the key element that makes the difference in people’s success isn’t their education or resources. It’s their emotional motivation.  It struck a note with me because last Friday was an interesting day. I can’t go into details, but about 9.30 in the morning I got some disappointing news. Extremely disappointing news. Now, fortunately for me, I was scheduled to record an episode of my Napoleon podcast with J. David Markham that morning and I decided not to cancel it but to press on. Good decision. Talking with David about Napoleon for an hour always perks me up and makes me think "What Would Napoleon Do?". So by the time I had finished that show I was determined to use the circumstances to motivate me, not allow it to depress me. I jumped on the phone. I sent some emails. I worked harder. I felt energized. And then something happened. Now the thing that happened (again, I can’t go into details)  had nothing directly to do with my efforts of the previous few hours. It came out of the blue. But I can’t help feel that somehow, my decision to jump back on the horse and turn things to me advantage, had something to do with it. Somehow. Don’t ask me to explain it. But the day ended MUCH better than it started.

On Thursday I was with Father Bob and we were arguing about unions and people who cry that they are being mistreated by their employers. Industrial relations and all that jazz. I told Bob I don’t buy it. If you don’t like your job; if you don’t like your boss; if you don’t like your life – do something about it. Read a book. Read a thousand books. Figure out how to make your life different. Go to your local library and read biographies on people who did extraordinary things with their lives. That was the best piece of advice I was ever given, when I was about 20 years old, when I was fortunate to have a late night coffee with a guy called Peter Daniels. He told me "invest 10% of your net income into books which will increase your value in the marketplace". I tried and it’s hard to read that many books. But I gave it my best shot. And I still do.

Now, of course, there are some things reading a book won’t fix for you. If you are a quad like my mate Dave The Lifekludger, reading a book won’t fix that. But Dave isn’t a guy who seems to lack motivation. I’d put Dave in the top 1% of motivated people I know. If you are mentally challenged, reading a thousand books may not help you. But then again, usually the most successful people I’ve met weren’t the brightest people I’ve met (okay, Bill Gates is the exception). They people I’ve met who seem to have accomplished the most are usually passionate and singularly focused. I admire that last trait a lot because I’m ADD and can’t focus on anything longer than….

Sorry, just had to check my email. Where was I?

Oh, right. Get emotional. Use your circumstances to your advantage whenever you can. When something bad happens to you, ask yourself "how I can I use this to my benefit?". Get pissed off. Tell yourself you aren’t going to stay like this any longer. Go to your local library and get out biographies on people you admire. Read about what motivated them. Read about the challenges they faced along the way and how they overcame them. As James Brown said: Get On The Good Foot!