Wellness - individual

Mo-vember WRaP EM blog – Peter Rizzo

Dr Peter Rizzo – FACEM

Due to someone’s lapse in judgement I was asked if I would like to contribute to the Movember WRaP EM blog. I shall pontificate……

“Stop, who would cross the Bridge of Death (and depression)

Must answer me these questions three, ‘ere the other side he see

Ask me the questions blog keeper, I’m not afraid.”

– What do you do to look after your own health?

– What are ways for workplaces to help male staff pay attention to their wellness

– What wellness advice would say to a younger version of yourself?  

1. What do you do to look after your own health? 

I will stab myself in the eye with a fork if I see one more motivational poster or hear one more comment telling me to “Look after yourself,” or “Do what makes you feel good.”   

So here’s my story of how you can look after your health – with variable amounts of rubber, metal and innovation.

Over a business dinner, my accountant could tell I was sad and in deep contemplation regarding my deep, near explosive frustration at our hospital administration. (To his credit) he did NOT point out I was sad, frustrated, and needed to do more things that would make me happy. 

Over beers we ended up chatting about our happy places. For me, this is the back of a motorcycle.

Motorcycles have always been a fun distraction and a passion for me. Don’t get me wrong. I am NOT some petrol head. My motorcycling is like my running: a man who runs like a drunk woman with a broken heel.

A few years ago, my then young son had begun asking “Do we HAVE to take the Harley to school? Can’t we take the car?”  I then realised he couldn’t take his soccer ball, he couldn’t travel anywhere with one of his little friends, and the attraction of traveling on a motorcycle (even a 1998 Harley Davidson Dyna Wide Glide) had worn off for him. 

At a motorcycle sidecar dealership, my son decided a motorcycle with hack (sidecar) would be a neat thing. Coincidentally, the bottom had dropped out of the Australian dollar the week before we had come to this realisation. The price was over $30,000. Yeah. No. 

I also discovered one cannot just find a sidecar and attach it to a motorcycle. 

I also was NOT going to sully my baby (the motorcycle, not my son).  Then I found the one I was looking for, based off the highly regarded, esteemed, culturally significant TV show CHiPs.  In one episode, the actor Ken Berry had designed a sidecar that leaned with the motorcycle! How cool was that to the impressionable 12-year-old! Clearly, I’ve never forgotten it. Now I own a Flexit sidecar. It leans with the motorcycle, is an unbelievably amazing analogue engineering feat for its time. It is also ugly as sin. 

My son LOVED IT. 

My clever accountant shared my vision and has since registered a business name and written the rules of my company -> I am changing the future of motorcycling! 

I am currently working through the engineering component of the linkage attaching the chassis to the sidecar with another creative guy (yes, the accountant is creative) in custom motorcycle design which continues to provide ongoing distraction and FORCES me to remove myself from the bullsh*t grind that can make us all depressed. 

This motorcycle sidecar continues to allow me to happily skip down several rabbit holes.

Rabbit hole #1: creating something inclusive – adults, children, and even the dog. It will also allow all abilities to ride, specifically para and quadriplegics to ride.

Rabbit hole #2: engineering something that can be removed and reattached within 10 minutes. It will be created to be flat packed (thanks Ikea). 

If I sell 100 of these, I will have changed motorcycle history in a small way. I will have a Wikipedia page! I can sell T-shirts! I am now involved with an industrial designer; a patent lawyer AND I get to name it! 

To inadequately distill the first question of this blog into something that will fit on a poster or meme would be to: 

Embrace a suggestion from anyone outside one’s immediate circle to distract oneself from the grind. Engage in something such that it requires different concentration skill sets; 

Take a class in learning to run if you aren’t a runner NOT because you have found a new hobby, but to do a deep dive into a possible event. The class is the paradigm shift. 

Go climbing steep rocks with a guide, NOT just so you can say you have gone rock climbing, but to have truly learned about the difference between a bowline, and a doubled back figure of 8 or to engage on a proper multipitch climb instead of some gym. 

Take weeks or months to do this. 

Maybe, change motorcycle history. 

Now I cannot get the phrase “Find a new hobby” out of my mind. Damn it! Hopefully you haven’t stabbed yourself in the eye with a fork just now.

2. In general, men can be challenging to engage in self-care conversations and activity. What are some ways for workplaces to help male staff to pay attention to their wellness? 

Work is rarely, if ever, going to take you out and ask what makes you happy. 

What happens though if you meet a boss who could start a different kind of conversation in your ED……. 

During a 6-month review that was two years overdue, the new boss made sure we had one. We went through the usual crap of what I thought of my performance, how I thought the department ran, blah blah blah. Then he asked me about the project I was supposed to present to him. I lobbed it out there like a big soft piece of rotting fruit to be smashed with a bat. 

He asked, “What if you did this?” 

I responded “Well, we will probably run into trouble with that.” 

Then he asked, “What if you did that?” and I responded with “Well…we will probably have issues with this.” 

He became excited and asked, “How about if you…” 

I stopped him, and I said “John*, I really appreciate your enthusiasm on this, but to be quite honest, this is something I came up with this morning over coffee just to get through this review.” 

He didn’t care. He got a gleam in his eye and said “Perhaps if we changed this and that, we could avoid those problems!” I looked at him in a sort of stunned way and could not figure out what his secondary gain was. 

So, Captain ‘Frontal Disinhibition’ that I am, I said, “Look, I get you are excited about this, but truly, this is some half-assed idea I had just to stall you on this review today. Why are you so enthusiastic about this?”

He paused, sat back and conversationally waved a hand asking “Peter, I get the feeling you want to do great things, right?”

 “Yes” I cautiously replied. 

He continued. “If you have done great things, what have you achieved?”

“Great things.” I said. 

He smiled a bit, became more earnest and asked “What happens to this department if you, Jen, Ali and Pierre*, and everybody else does great things?” 

My answer was slow to form as this began to sink in. 

“Is this place not a better department, one where you want to work, because you guys knew what was important, found projects you were interested in, and you achieved great things?” 

Then he leaned forward, smiled, and said, “There is no money in the budget, but it costs me nothing to help you all, to work with you, to achieve great things in whatever way you and I can.” 

Then he sat back, and I smiled. Then he smiled even wider and casually tossed out the following, “And who is your boss if you and this department do great things?” 

So, after this, what would I say about what department leaders could do, to engage us in a meaningful conversation……..

Department heads could be seen to work with, and shoulder the burden of, individual projects that make workers achieve great things. 

They could find a way to allow people to put artwork on the wall, put someone in touch with the graphic designer of the hospital/district to show how to best write a newsletter (there is one, I guarantee you), find a way to change flow in one tiny section of the department. 

Demonstrate that they, the leader, are working WITH the workers not simply directing. Celebrate the failures as well as the successes as leaders and team members alike try to achieve great things. 

Don’t tell me to look out for myself. That will lead to me stabbing YOU in the eye with a fork.

3. If you could give wellness advice to a younger version of yourself (say 5-10 years younger than you are now), what might you say to yourself?

“Peter, you will go on to do great things. There will be people who help you achieve great things. Be one of those people.”

“Go ahead, stir the pot.”

“Don’t stab yourself in the eye with a fork.”

*Not real names

About Peter Rizzo

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