In this edition:
- Nahji Chu is changing the way we eat, and the way we think about refugees, one rice paper roll at a time.
- Meet Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler.
- Jane Rocca looks at what's in store for children's fashion this summer.
I think Id wanna die?). Theres the risk of losing your will to live when you see Kyle Sandilands still in the media.
And then theres the risk of having with the chance of losing your well-paid, high-profile job as a chief executive officer in advertising, with a nice house and mortgage in Sydney and four children under five.
Ten years ago Nigel Marsh took a risk to get off the corporate mouse wheel well, he was let go, so there was a little nudge there and become a writer. Less money but much more freedom, which, as he came to discover, is priceless. He didnt get his big paydays any more but he did put happiness in the bank and watched the compound interest grow.
Marsh wrote a book about it, Fat, Forty and Fired, which was a success and Warner Bros. wants to film it, and now hes written another, Fit, Fifty and Fired Up. The man has lost a lot of weight, hes lost a problem with alcohol, and hes lost his foothold in the advertising industry, but hes gained a lot more.
So its a happy man and, it needs to be said, a loquacious man, given his sentences, which, in his excitement, tend to tumble over each other who answers the door just five minutes from one of the most beautiful beaches in Sydney.
And hes happy because hed got his priorities in order. My wife and daughters are in the UK, so Im here with my sons alone for two weeks, he says. My younger son has had a school skiing trip, staying in some cabin with 50 boys in one room in Jindabyne and coaching to Perisher every day. I thought Do you know what? Im going to hire a hotel room in Perisher and join you at the end.
This is not something Marsh would have done in his previous life when he was fat, 40 and still employed.
There are many people who are already enlightened so the story wont make any sense. The people whove cracked the code, good on you, thats fantastic. And there arent many that have, (realising that) life is about meaningful relationships and theyre happy in their own skin. But there are many who arent, and those people, they will recognise what Im saying, which is the notion that I would do what Ive just done, the notion Id even think of it, that it would be a good idea, and the notion that I would actually enjoy it, and it was one of the best weekends in my entire life; you either get that or you dont. Its the mental thing that I would want to.
Its the fork in the road Ive got a free weekend, I want to drink lots of beer and get smashed in the pub and moan about the boss or I want to go and spend the whole weekend just with a 14-year-old lad. Its two different human beings.
When Marsh lost his job he was overweight, unhealthy and in need of some major changes. I had just emigrated from across the world with four kids under the age of five and a wife that wasnt working. You are 15,000 kilometres away from your friends and family, which gives it added complexity.
There was an epiphany on a plane. I was flying back from New York there had been a merge so I knew there was no future and I read a quote from St Benedict Pause for a moment, you wretched weakling and take stock of your miserable existence.
Marsh knew St Benedict had a point. He paused. He had questioned ways of living before and knew a change was coming. I studied theology at uni, so its not as if I hadnt been asking questions. My thought process was as simple as I dont know what Im running to but I know what Im running away from.
When he looked in the mirror, he saw an overweight man a porker. It was a cumulative thing, he says. From 24 until 40 youre just eating and drinking too much and doing slightly less exercise as each year goes on.
He knew he needed to get off the work treadmill and get onto one that made him fit. That was the whole deal for me. Im sitting there, lost my job, four kids under five, alcoholic. I was an unemployed ad man. Its impossible to describe now how genuinely risky what I did was, because its worked out. But at the time I didnt have an agent, hadnt written a word of a book what are you doing? My family and close mates were horrified what are you doing? They said Youve got to get a job lickety-split, because youre f---ed, mate.
Marsh had been a high-flying advertising exec, one of the founders of Earth Hour, and a stressed man. I asked if the kids felt this stress. Lots of shouting, he says. From me. (He has two sons 17 and 14 and identical twin girls aged 12).
And it was a bit of shock not getting the big payslip any more. Of course. But for me, addicted to the lifestyle? Definitely not. Caught in it? Yes. Id had constant dreams about Is this the way youre supposed to live your life? But once youre in it, youre in it. You cant swan in at half-past nine. Its a high-paced, high-pressure lifestyle.
Kate and I are different to some in that we never bought into the Keep up with the Joneses, show off, live right to the edge of your means and beyond. It was an enormous adjustment because we knew there wouldnt be any money coming in, but it wasnt the disaster it is for some where if they stop earning in month one, in month two they have to go to jail. My happiness didnt go down one jot.
He found turning 40 an enormous liberation. I made my way up in the world, doing a theology degree, sleeping in the car in London, working my way up in an industry where there are no easy breaks. You can live a life where you think This isnt really what I want to be doing, but Ive just got to survive.
When you turn 40 I love the notion that you go Do you know what? Youre halfway through. If you arent the man now that you want to be, stop your hard-luck story Gosh, Ive got to work hard to get on the board or the big job and (realise) youre 40, mate. Its not a joke. I realise if youre 23 and you want to get to the next level, youve got to work hard, but youre 40! When is the time when youre going to have a pause and go I wouldnt mind putting some of the things that are important to me at the centre of my life rather than at the edge?
The reaction to Fat, Forty and Fired was extraordinary. Ive had 16,0000 letters and emails pouring their hearts out in a way that they probably wouldnt to their closest mates. They think they know me because they read the book and I put myself in there and they think theyre never going to meet me because why would they? So its a safe audience to say I dont love my husband, I hate my life, I havent got any friends. I get the sex, the drugs, the drink. I also get wonderfully upbeat ones as well.
Losing his job was devastating at the time but it turned out to be a blessing. I feel very fortunate retrospectively about what happened to me because at the time I thought my life was ruined and over. If I hadnt lost my job Id be four stone (25 kilos) overweight, not three (17). I wouldnt be drunk yet (at 4pm) but Id be suggesting Do you fancy a beer?. And Id be a sad (ex) advertising bloke. A completely different human being.
I was sufficiently clever to take the break. What happens to many, many men and women is that they dont The sad letters I get are from the 60-year-olds which is 20 years on from my fat 40 and fired story. (They say) Im on my third wife, I dont know the names of any of my childrens friends. Successful career, old age full of regret.
Assess the type of person you wanted to be and overlaying that with the type of person you actually are. You might decide Im really happy being Gordon Gekko, not knowing my wife or my kids, making myself not vice-president of sales but president, thats great! You crack ahead, mate! You slide into a life where you wake up and go Im divorced three times, I dont know my kids but Im really successful in (business) but I wish I wasnt. I wish I was married and had a few mates.
I asked about Marshs alcoholism. l define myself as an up and out, not a down and out, A functioning alcoholic. If you go to AA, youll see vicars, judges, rock stars, its the whole section. People want the hard-luck story I shot someone, I was in prison (but) I was running an ad agency and Im still married and I dont drink and drive and I dont drink in the morning. You wouldnt know (I was an alcoholic) unless I tell you. And that provides an added problem because part of the disease, and its a clever disease, is you always look for someone worse than you to justify that you havent got a problem. Its pretty easy to justify if you say Im employed, Ive never lost my licence, Ive never hit anybody, how could that be a problem?.
I asked how he felt to be soon turning 50. I dont want to come across as smug or gloating. but orgasmically fantastic. Joyous. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I love not having to pretend to believe things (that I dont). Just being authentic and happy. On paper the next decade I havent got a clue (what Ill be doing). I have no idea where life is going to take me, and Im thrilled and excited by that.
Marsh is now trim and hasnt had an alcoholic drink for nine years. Hes in a good place.
As I leave, the afternoon sun of a crystal-clear Sydney winters day is just starting to dim. Marshs 14-year-old son has arrived home from school and its time for Marsh to start thinking about the evening meal. Hes relishing the rewards of fatherhood, without the stress. He shows me his favourite spot in the house a couch near a fire where he reads. The mouse wheel seems a long time ago.
» Fit, Fifty and Fired Up, by Nigel Marsh (Allen and Unwin) $29.99