Of taking the road less travelled and flipping the script…

23rd May, 2024Storytime

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”


This is a question we hear a bit growing up, especially during our school days. Usually it’s asked out of genuine curiosity but then, as we grow older, it becomes a more serious question. As a kid in primary school, what surprised me was that quite a few of my classmates didn’t have an answer. How could you never have really thought about being grown up and what you wanted to do? Didn’t the concept of being you, but an adult version interest you enough? If I was bigger, more respected, could live in my own place, drive a car and buy whatever I wanted for breakfast, lunch and dinner and get beers – when I reached that age, who did I want to be?


Then there were kids who had an answer – but I felt their ambitions were so-so. A builder. A policeman. A teacher (yuck, imagine being such a boring try-hard that you wanted to come back to school as an adult!) Until around the age of 8 or 9 years old, I wanted to be an engine driver. I’d grown up watching Thomas The Tank Engine and always enjoyed train trips across town or long distance. My school was literally across the road from a major railway line. All day long trains would pass, passenger or freight, headed north or south. Meanwhile, I was stuck in the classroom sitting through another boring lesson and I’d wonder where the train was going? I imagined getting to spend all day/ night at the controls of an engine, headed across the country to places far beyond the playground of my school and the sleepy suburb it was in. How interesting that would be for a job! Also around this same time, I began writing stories based either on existing characters and universes, or creating characters of my own with storylines that typically fixated on my two main interests: trains and racing cars. More on that here. I’ll get back to that writing thing in a moment, too…


But then my choice of future occupation changed around 9 years old. Because sure, driving locomotives and getting to travel all across the state (and the country) sounded like an interesting job, but…if I raced cars for a living? There was the potential of getting paid to race, having a career where there was constantly a chance to win races and put my name on achievements. On top of that? The top racing drivers were rich. I could be set and never have to worry about money again! Think of the financial freedom, houses I could live in, the cars I could own and the places I could visit for holidays? Then there were the accolades- just think of the recognition I could achieve… In this one and only life we had (and by now I understood human mortality) I could be someone. This became my day dream – sitting in class I’d think that while school was boring and being a kid sucked with all its restrictions on my freedoms, the future was much better because I’d be a Formula 1 star. I’d be rich, other adults would respect me, my job would be as much fun as racing go-karts- except bigger and much faster cars and much greater accolades. I couldn’t wait!


Many years later (by which time my life had taken a different trajectory than the one I’d fantasised about in those days) Mum found her personal diary from when I was 8 years old, and at the time had recorded this entry:

I don’t recall making this decision, let alone doing so at a quarter to 10 in the morning during the summer holidays. But looking back all those years later, it felt like fate. I just enjoyed writing stories as a kid, for the simple reason that either:

a) I read existing material and wanted to make it better somehow OR

b) I wanted to write about something I hadn’t read elsewhere, wanted to put my unique take on it in some way

The idea of getting money or accolades or fame or any of those external perks never crossed my mind. I simply did it because I enjoyed it, because I’d get these bold flashes of inspiration and turning them into actual written words and illustrations was the only way I knew to give it closure.


I began writing copy and set up my business primarily as a side-hustle, because at that stage in life (by now my mid-20’s) I wanted to get into film and TV, with a vision of creating my own series. I’d spent my formative years observing – observing the people and places and goings-on in my immediate life, those in the world around me and also seeing movies and watching TV and thinking Hey that’s interesting. But what if…. I had notebooks full of ideas, character sketches, source material, you name it. Writing copy was initially just a tool to keep the money coming in until something else took off…


But one thing leads to another, your ideas about life change, your 20’s draw to an end and so that is where I found myself, focused fully on copywriting and everything else that came with it. I like meeting new connections, that feeling of contribution when you recommend somebody to another person you know well, seeing successful connections or collaborations manifest for someone and knowing you played some part in that story. Collaborating with other talented, passionate people who are great in other areas is also a buzz and again, being able to contribute to projects or grand ideas through writing brings a sense of pride in and of itself. There are some projects where the first complete draft I submit is met with praise and people love it, then there have been others where it takes a bit of revision and several drafts before we uncover that elusive ‘it’ factor, and the journey to reach that point is memorable in and of itself. Two projects are rarely the same, so there’s always the variety and the individual factors of a particular assignment to keep things fresh. Then along comes COVID…


For me, 2020 felt like two separate years in one: on the one hand, there were months at a time where the gym was closed and options for exercise/ travel were notably limited. The world felt smaller and more contained than usual. Yet on the other hand, due to the travel restrictions, many in person meetings moved online. As a result, I’d attend 3 online networking meetings in a day sometimes, connecting with people from all over the country while sitting at my desk. I’d make lists of names, occupations and ideal referrals then spend the evening sending out emails, introducing these people. So in that sense, 2020 was quite a busy year with a lot of activity. It was tiring but there was a real glow of satisfaction I felt, a feeling of contribution, of planting seeds that would manifest once the world opened up again – as it inevitably did. These are simply the cliff notes of my life story until now, and I tell it so you understand what comes next and why:


In the years following the COVID disruptions of 2020-21, I began to wonder…


Because in light of everything I’d learned about writing – and about myself – since opening for business back in my late 20’s, what did I really want to devote my time and energy to from here on? Recently I sat down for a podcast with Lyubo Kuchuk, my first interview in quite some time. You can listen to the full thing here . I was out for a walk at the end of summer and in Centennial Park. Consciously or not, where I sat down for the podcast interview was right near a spot where, out for a walk in the same park some years ago, I came to a realisation:

I’d been setting goals based on external factors: what do I want to achieve, what do I want to point to, what do I want to be associated with? I realised how hollow this thinking was, that the real question I should’ve been asking was: who do I aspire to be, what do I aspire to be like? Take any job title, body of work, financial target, career target or website away from me, and who is left? I realised that the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” makes the linguistic error of suggesting that what a person does for work automatically equates to who they are. As anybody who has dealt with law enforcement, government or management can attest to, you can get people who are easy to deal with and people who are complete wankers, despite having the same job title. Ultimately, if I were younger, a kid or in my youth, who is the kind adult I’d respect even if I couldn’t  explain why it was? I realised that all along, from those childhood years, my real desire was simply to not become boring. And being someone has nothing to do with the house you live in or what you banked last financial year or your job title (to an extent – I haven’t met a boring stuntman. Yet…)


“Dig deep down and ask yourselves: who do you want to be? Not what you want to be but who? I’m taking about figuring out for yourselves, what makes you happy….what is the point of being in life if what you want to be is just like everybody else?”

– Arnold Schwarzenegger.


So it was obvious that I’d enjoyed writing for most of my life, people had generally enjoyed what I wrote – whether my classmates at school laughing as I read a creative writing assignment out loud, friends giving feedback on stuff I wrote for the fun of it or clients who entrusted me with their professional content and then spoke very kindly of my work to other colleagues. And yet-


Writing comes in many forms. So with all the possibilities available, what does that look like for me?


Since 2012 I’ve kept a journal, and for the last half a decade each New Years Day I design a title page and create a title for the brand new journal. It’s something I genuinely look forward to doing at the dawning of every new year. I treat it like designing an album title and cover art. What I title each new edition often has to do with my frame of mind and life’s progress at the time. Some have been more ambitious (‘Climb Every Mountain‘, ‘In The Drivers’ Seat‘) while others are more vague (‘Seeds‘). Yet this years’ journal I named ‘Back To The Future‘ and there’s a reason for it beyond an appreciation for 80’s sci-fi:


You’ve probably noticed this is my first new article in close to a year, after publishing fairly regularly for a number of years before then. In the midst of making space and seeking more clarity on what comes next, over the previous year or so I found myself delving into my past, all the way back to those days of childhood and the milestones in-between. I wrote another book, a personal project talking about albums I listened to at pivotal times over the years and the turning points they were the soundtrack of. I spent a fair amount of time examining my past, looking at what I thought and why I thought it from different points in the timeline, picking apart how I got to be here? I’d been meaning to go back to the Gold Coast and Brisbane – two places where I lived for varying periods of time a while ago – to re-visit the old areas and see what had changed?


I’d wanted to do these trips for a while, but COVID postponed travel plans and then immediately post-COVID I was tending to other things with my time. But, at last I put time aside to make both trips. I went back to the Gold Coast early in spring, the warmer weather an immediate welcome change after the bleakness of winter down south. Going back was like revisiting a fever dream – seeing the old areas and neighbourhoods again, then so many little things I’d forgotten but came rushing back instantly when I saw them. There was something special about going back and seeing so much that was familiar from when I’d left it, yet realising the biggest change had been the one within me since those days…


Seeing Brisbane again in the summertime, when the days are long and muggy, was perfect. So much is the same from when I last saw it, yet the CBD is construction work central as they get ready for the 2032 Olympic Games. During the week I spent there, it occurred to me that it wasn’t so much the place itself I’d missed. It’s all (mostly) still there and felt as familiar as it did when I saw it last. It was really about the particular period in time when I lived there, the life I had and the people I knew. The former two have passed for good, while some of the latter are still around to this day. I plan on heading back again soon and catching up with old friends, but otherwise it feels like a past life and I’ve well and truly moved on. In short, returning to both the old areas felt like closure…

Internally, I also reached a point where I was back-tracking over the same ground, like when you lose something and you’re checking the cupboards or folders you’ve already looked through just in case… I realised I’d done enough revisiting. Anything worth recalling had already been recalled, sorted and viewed with hindsight. Enough. So it was now time to focus back on the present – and maybe that would indeed point to my future. So (mentally) I was going back – to the future (get it?)


In his autobiography Green Lights, Matthew McConaughey references that famous Robert Frost quote about facing two roads that diverge in the woods, choosing the one less-travelled, and how that choice makes all the difference. People often make the mistake of assuming that the path less travelled is a universal one, and therefore the path they should also choose. But for us, the path less-travelled could be the highway for most people. The fact it’s the path less travelled for us may be just the reason we should venture down it, because it could just be the new thing that opens our world up and makes all the difference for us, regardless of anybody else’s journey…


And so, after a lifetime of having a definite answer to that question “What do you want to be?”, my road less-travelled is for there to be no clear answer – at least for now. But it’s not my first rodeo, not the first time I’ve been unclear about a way forward or known what to do next regarding a particular issue before that path becomes evident and the next chapter starts. In the meantime, I’ll continue writing and sharing what comes to mind and feels worthy of doing so here. Because I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a kid.


And while i don’t know exactly where that leads (yet), I am back. So stay tuned…

Like this article? Get every new piece the moment it drops- just enter your details AND grab your complimentary copy of The 3 Posts People Stop Everything To Read – all you have do is click here