Category: Personal

The carrot and the stick: behaviours based on negative and positive emotions

The carrot and the stick: behaviours based on negative and positive emotions

A lot of our human behaviour is motivated by negative emotions, or “sticks”, such as guilt, fear, shame, or entitlement.
These behaviours wouldn’t exist if they weren’t “useful” (in an evolutionary psychology sense), just like many other heuristics (or “biases” in the negative sense).
However, just because things may be useful (instrumental in achieving specific goals) it doesn’t meant that they’re necessarily optimal for human flourishing.
If you’ve trained an animal in recent years you’ll probably have noticed that many animal behaviorist focus on carrots more than sticks.
Instead of removing these emotions entirely I’ve tried to “hack” some of them to use them as tools. One example is my Beeminder goals which I use my fear of losing money and shame of failure to force my future self to do things that it won’t necessarily feel like doing in the moment but will like having had done later (such as writing this as part of my 50 words a day commitment).
I wonder if it’s possible to optimize for the flourishing of sentient beings without using negative emotions as one of the tools?
I hope so. It’s worth trying to use them less at least.
Thanks to Malcolm Ocean for sparking this line of thought in our conversation the other day. Also, go read his blog.
I'm back and no longer playing secret squirrel!

I'm back and no longer playing secret squirrel!

I’m back from my travels with as much if a tan as a pasty guy can expect and many stories to talk about!

I’m also finally writing the post that I promised so many of you I’d write to tell you what I’m actually doing now for work. I know I’ve been playing secret squirrel until now but it’s come to a stage where I can talk about it.

So the long and short of it is that I’ve joined James Moody (innovator, entrepreneur andauthor who you may remember from ABC’s New Inventors) and a small, very talented team to work on two startup projects: TuShare and Sendle.

I’ve told some of you already about TuShare, it’s Australia’s fastest growing giving network where every item is free! The goal is to divert as much of our perfectly reusable stuff from ending up in landfill while building a positive community. I encourage you to check it out and see if you can snag something you want for free, or if it can help you do some much needed de-cluttering.

This leads onto the project which I’ve been quiet about so far: Sendle. After setting up the logistics of the door-to-door delivery of rescued resources for TuShare, the idea was to make door-to-door delivery at post office prices available to everyone! No more waiting in post office lines during precious business hours, needing to pick things up at inconvenient times, being charged extra for tracking or insurance or getting parcels delivered to the wrong address — we even have a cool feature where addresses remain anonymous!

If that sounds good to you then please let me know as I can probably swing some free/cheap delivery for you guys while we’re still in beta (initially it’s domestic only).

If you have any questions or want to catch up please don’t hesitate. I’m still living in Lane Cove and my new office is now near Town Hall/Hyde Park if you’re ever in the neighbourhood and want to get a beverage or a meal.

2014 Cycle to End Poverty: Festum Prophate Ride Report

2014 Cycle to End Poverty: Festum Prophate Ride Report

Sunday at 6:10pm marked the end of my 600 gruelling kilometres and just over 25 hours in the saddle, many of which were off road & hard climbs. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Thank you so much to everyone who sent messages of support and those that demonstrated their support for me by ponying up the cash to also support something that I care deeply about. Thank you from all the people whose lives will be changed by getting access to the means to bring themselves out of poverty.

As of the end of the ride there was $3,115 of donor support to Good Return and I’m so touched by all the support that I’m going to find a way to match the $3,115 instead of just the first $2,500. In the days since the ride the total has come to $6,350.

I didn’t think I could have got back on the saddle after stopping at Hornsby 325km into it… everything hurt and I was exhausted. Seeing all the support got me back on the saddle (wincing as my rear end touched it!).

The pain my body suffered is relatively fleeting, I am well on the road to recovery… but the support to helping those facing poverty will make a lasting impact to people like Candy who I met during my trip to the Philippines last year.

Candy Paris
Candy Paris

Just four years ago Candy received an AU$50 microloan (and financial literacy training) and since then she has developed several streams of income by cooking and selling native foods and delicacies, raising and selling pigs for the local market, selling solar lamps and energy efficient stoves to her village, and her most recent passion is making peanut butter and other preserved foods. She has reinvested in her community and is helping to put her grandchildren through school. The impact of a small investment is huge.

All the people who donated are AMAZING for their generosity! By investing in the prosperity of the lives of people facing poverty they are making the world a better place. I’m blown away by the generosity displayed and cannot express my appreciation enough.

No one deserves a life of poverty and I can’t thank people enough for their support!

Now, I’m sure some of you are wondering how the ride actually went down. So if you are interested in the minutia of detail as to how it all went then you can continue on and read my ride report (full of photos).

Thanks everyone!

Ride Report

At 5:45am I arrived at Jersey Street in Hornsby and was wondering where everyone was. About 10 minutes later a couple more riders showed up.

Seconds before starting I realised that my final bike modification from the night before had gone afoul… the thick bar tape I’d wrapped on top of his other bar tape was loose.

At 6am I was told that it’s just me and one other rider (a fellow Easy Rider nicknamed Wilson) still signed up to ride the 600km course and only 3 others on the 200. Everyone else had pulled out.

At 6:10 we rolled out in the cold & wet.

Fifteen minutes later the rider that Wilson and I were riding with had the first “mechanical” of the day; he broke a spoke.

This was the last we saw of any other Audaxers (the 600km ride is called an Audax which is latin for “dare”).

The clock struck 6:30am as the rain started to pelt down harder.

By 7 am my handlebar tape was completely unwrapped below the shifters on the left (Wilson soon gave me a piece of double-sided Velco which did the trick – note to self: bring strips of double sided Velcro on long rides).

We then continued along the well trodden path of the Old Pacific Highway until taking a convoluted back route to Wong near the reptile park.

Within an hour we were hit by our first off road section which was worse than some of the fire trails in Terrey Hills. Our road bikes were shocked… literally.

I soon learned that my GPS navigation file compression had made it easy to miss details because we almost didn’t make it back on track! Thankfully the other rider, Wilson, had a better GPS navigator so we were soon back on track.

We made it to Wyong, completely drenched by about 9:30am for a cheeky bacon & egg roll and a flat white (which apparently comes with chocolate powder sprinkled on top).


The easiest leg was over and we were back in the saddle.

The trip to Yarramalong included a lot more off-road sections than we anticipated. We arrived all shaken (not stirred), muddy, hungry, in need of charging the GPS and in need of refilling our water.

The All-Day Breakfast we ordered for our late lunch was served to us at a leisurely pace (delaying by half an hour or so) but it REALLY hit the spot.

There was no mobile phone reception in Yarramalong so the respective bosses (spelled W.I.V.E.S.) were left to worry about our safety until the next checkpoint (and Luke’s Instagram followers were left without a photo update).

We got back on the bikes with USB chargers all jerry-rigged to charge GPS devices while riding and we started relying more on our cue cards.

The next section had the most off road/unsealed road conditions and they all felt much longer than it says on paper.

Le Tour De Bœuf

“Toto, we’re not in Sydney anymore… we’re in cattle country.”

We had a few run-ins with cows.

In the first instance we were cycling along an unsealed road and went past a few cows lingering along the side of the road. As we went a little further past a tractor we saw a herd of cattle (20 or so heads) running along all over the road… A gap opened up and I raced through it, making it through on the left and causing the cows to all to rush to the right. This opened up a short gap. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough and Wilson missed the gap and the cows quickly covered the road again. Almost a minute passed as Wilson sneakily crept through our remaining bovine comrades.

Another hour or so passing after seeing the cows and we saw some brief signs of civilisation…

For the second run in it was pitch black and we were cycling along another unsealed road, minding our own business… what do we find smack in the middle of Wilson’s path? A big black cow. Wilson screeched to a halt and once again made it through in one piece.

(see the cow? neither did we)

After a 35km stretch of unsealed road is over we came into St Albans and I rushed in to grab an OJ (not the Simpson variety) from the bar and filled up my water bottles.

The bartender then informed me that “it’s not far to Hornsby from here”… When I pulled up my drink bottles he then added “…by car that is” and suggested that we stop for a meal. I thanked him and told him that we’d better get to Wisemans Ferry soon or I wouldn’t make it to Hornsby at all (I then started to dream of drinking several pints to numb the quite literal pain in my rear end)!

Onwards to Wisemans we went!

We cruised into Wisemans at about 7:30pm and quickly headed to the bistro to order some dinner (we may have got lost along the way and found ourselves ordering an “isotonic beverage”).

All fed we jumped back on the bike and slowly grinded our way out of Wisemans (yet again on unsealed road).

We spent the next few hours trying to stay awake and safe until we made it to the Berowra ferry (we subsequently made some more friends on yet another ferry).

It’s not until after 11pm that we find our way to the Hornsby Golden Arches and top up our energy with supreme nutritional value.

At this point Wilson bowed out after a champion effort (biggest ride ever and only ride bigger than a 70km this quarter) and I found my way to the car to catch a little bit of sleep.

Day 2

At 4:20am I woke up very disorientated and aching all over, wincing as I walked to the Golden Arches to get changed into fresh clothes and address the calls of nature.

After doing some work try to fix things on the bike (trying & failing to change seats) and restocking I realise that time is of the essence and I must get going.

Everything hurt.



“Oh mummy, please make it stop.”

…eventually the self-doubt subsided, the sharp pain became a dull ache and as the sunlight hit hope was regained (although moments later I was overtaken by a few bikes out for their Sunday ride).

Following the masochistic route into Springwood (wondering “does the route REALLY need to depart from the main road to take all those small detours up bigger hills?”) the first 100km of the day hurt and I arrived at Springwood with only 40 minutes to spare before cut-off.

A quick bacon & egg roll and coffee was followed by a banana bread and I quickly got back on the bike on my way to Sackville.

I was back onto the off-road/unsealed sections for a good chunk of the next 100km to Sackville. When I arrived I saw that the next checkpoint was closed (see the bandits on bikes who shut the place down) and that there was nothing else in town.

With empty water bottles and empty stomach I went on an excursion to try and find more food & water.

No luck.

Off to the Sackville ferry it was then.

A few more km down the road and this sign appeared…

I was without phone reception so I followed the detour not knowing where it’d take me.

Quickly enough I was back on path.

Eventually I found a service station at Maraylya to refuel and revisit the route. My rough calculations showed that I needed 9km more to make up for the River road affair.

A second wind came on and I powered it back to Galston with dreams of eating dinner before 7pm…

After grinding up from Galson Gorge I was passing by Somerville Road when I remembered that I was still going to end up 8km short at this point so an extra loop would be necessary to reach the 600km. In the meantime my mum was following my location on Find My Friends and started to think that I was delirious because I was off the official course and heading away from Hornsby.

Soon I was back on track and finally arrived at the final checkpoint, Hornsby Police Station, at 6:10pm.


It was quite an experience, one that I will remember.

But at the end of all that the question is, what does pushing myself out of my comfort zone and cycling 600km have to do with helping to end the cycle of poverty (aside from the word ‘cycle’)?

I had a lot of time to think during the ride and during the lead up and I thought it would help for me to unpack that question.

What is the link?

  • Is it that it’s (perhaps more) uncomfortable to think about poverty than it is to ride 600km?
  • Is it that it’s hard to live in poverty and it’s hard to ride 600km?
  • Is it that a rickshaw driver toils for over 12 hours a day and I sit at a comfy desk job?

I’m sure that there are many links that could be drawn but for me the answer was really quite simple (albeit less direct).

  1. I’m incredibly lucky to have a network of family and friends who support me.
  2. I’m incredibly lucky that through the means of the ovarian lottery I was born to be affluent by global standards and so were my friends and family.
  3. I’m incredibly lucky that when I choose to do something difficult my friends and family are not only happy to support me, but generous enough to transfer that support to something I care about, to helping make the world a better place.

I’m one lucky guy with awesome people in his life. I got their attention by doing something brave and I’m endlessly thankful that they came through for me.

Now the world is just that much better.

And for that, I am truly thankful.



Things may be hard at times but when it comes down to it…

…I’ve got it so damn good!

The things I have coming up in my life are so worth waiting for!

So close, yet so far away

So close, yet so far away

I think this is just about the hardest part of waiting for something, the part where you are “so close… yet so far away” – it just sucks.

You’re constantly excited but simultaneously reminded that you’re not there…yet.

It’s the part where your mind plays tricks on you, where your thoughts can’t stay where they should, where nothing else seems to matter as much anymore, where you think you’ll suffer serious long term problems with your blood pressure for maintaining that consistent level of anticipation 😛

I think the boys at rowing (as I see them all the time) are about to shoot me if I say “I just can’t wait to be in Canada…HURRY UP!” one more time… eek! The only thing stopping them is that I’m pulling bloody hard and they need me to race 😀

Things will probably be more bearable once I’m finished with my Uni work, and much more bearable when I’m flying overseas because I’ll be en route 😀

After Henley I really hope to try and enjoy Europe as much as possible considering my anticipation.

Ha…I seem to get some serious respect every time I mention all the things that I’m doing and why I’m doing them. That only makes my anticipation more intense!

Also in other news… ah, don’t worry I’ve got to clean up – just remember when I try and finish this post I was about to write about why my fist is sore from punching a poster of a good looking woman 😛

…more on that after the break 😉