No Worries, Mate

I just returned from Australia where I attended the Utility Arborist Association's annual meeting, which was held in Parramatta (west of Sydney). While attending the outdoor exhibits and indoor sessions, I realized that the pace of life in Australia is decidedly laid back.

As expected, my wife, Alice, and I were greeted with “G'day mate” everywhere we went. However, we were surprised to find that Aussies don't say, “Let's throw some shrimp on the barbie.” In fact, they don't even say shrimp, they say prawns. And they say grill more often than barbecue.

The Aussies often say “Cheers,” which suits me quite well; I found myself smiling all the time. But that isn't my favorite saying from Down Under. My new favorite Aussie saying is “No worries.” This phrase has such a soothing and freeing ring in our world, which is too often amped up. Most of us tend to blow small issues way out of proportion. Not the Aussies.

Here are some of my “No worries” experiences.

We were staying in one of those caravan parks that are situated right on the beach. One night, Alice plugged her 120-V hair dryer into the 240-V outlet and knocked out the power to our cabin.

As there was no illumination in the cabin, I used the backlight on my watch to find my cell phone, and then used the glow of the cell phone to look around the cabin for a circuit breaker panel. I finally found it in a back bedroom closet, but none of the circuits were tripped. I was then reduced to looking for the main panel outside, which I found on the backside of our cabin. I got the panel lid open and flipped the switch. Voila, the lights were back on!

But that didn't solve the immediate dilemma. Alice has really thick hair and no hair dryer, and she didn't want to sleep with wet hair. So I improvised, holding up a room heater so she could dry her hair before going to sleep. That was one of those moments when a woman is glad she married a boring engineer.

The next day, I stopped in the office to share our evening's experience and let the ladies at the desk know they might want to check out the electrical circuits. They responded with a few giggles, followed by, “No worries.”

I got the same response when I overstayed parking by more than 24 hours. The attendant smiled, “No worries.” And again, when I asked the guy at the ferry if he could wait a few minutes because I was having trouble with the ticket machine.

Then it was my turn. I ordered a sandwich at lunch on a café overlooking the Parramatta River but was told they were out of beef. I responded, “No worries,” changing my order to soup and salad.

How many of us stress over situations we have little or no control? Talk about being counterproductive. Still, I see bosses who continue to dump work on their staff until they see signs of cracking, and then they dial it back a notch. What a crass way to manage fellow human beings.

To paraphrase that great sage Stephen Covey, our lives are interdependent. So beware of individuals claiming, “I did this” and “I did that.” In fact, my stress-reducing strategy now is to acknowledge that the effort is up to me with the results going to the man upstairs. This philosophy runs counter to what many executives preach, which is “you are rewarded only on what can be measured.”

But let's stop and think. If we come to realize that the results — whether tremendous, weak or nonexistent — are a function of collaborative efforts — along with good or bad timing and of trends beyond our control — maybe we should just shut up and work, and let the chips fall where they may.

My buddy Tommy McKoon puts it this way, “If you're busy paddling, you're probably not complaining.” In fact, I see greater accomplishments when we focus on what we have to give rather than on what we have to gain.

I'm now reading one of John Wooden's books where he shares his approach to life. This head basketball coach developed his philosophies over a lifetime of coaching, with his last stop at UCLA. His definition of success: “Success is the peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

Notice what this definition doesn't include? Nowhere does it mention how many baskets you score, how many shots you block or how many wins you chalk up in a season. And this is from a coach with the most NCAA national basketball titles in history. His definition of success resides entirely within the reach of each individual.

Wooden's approach leaves room for us all to be individuals. We don't have to look or act or talk like anyone else. We merely have to do the best we are capable of doing.

While in Australia, Alice and I visited my friend Paul James who lives in Canberra. I first met Paul a decade ago when he worked for Country Energy in New South Wales, and we've kept up ever since. Paul was sharing an Aussie phrase he thought might particularly apply to me, “Rick, I'm afraid you have a few roos loose in the top paddock,” to which I replied, “No worries.”

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