I was lucky enough to yesterday sit in on a lunchtime SmartNet seminar led by motivational speaker and sports psychologist John Shackleton, a Brit who now lives in the Bombay Hills. I'm always skeptical of these sorts of motivational speeches having seen plenty of them around the world on various business trips.

But John's session was actually really good. At 52, John is a competitive swimmer and one of the five fastest swimmers in the world in his class. But it's obvious that he deeply regrets the fact he never made it as an international competitor when he was in his prime. John always seemed to come fifth, and there are never any medals for fifth. He's been trying to figure out the answers to suucess in sports, work and life ever since.

John showed a great video of a Chinese swimmer at the 2000 Sydney paralympics who had no arms, but was competing against other swimmers who had arms but other disabilities. The swimmer was leading the field but missed out on the gold medal because his competitors were able to touch the wall a fraction of a second ahead of them. They, after all, had arms, whereas the Chinese swimmer had to hit his head against the wall of the pool to finish the race.

John suggests we constantly attribute the success of leaders in their fields to natural talent.
"Natural talent is an excuse used by those of us no prepared to do what is necessary", says John.
As he points out, the armless Chinese swimmer was not gifted with natural talent, he just worked work towards his goal of winning a Paralympics medal.

Instead, says John, most successful people, like the world class swimmers "who follow the black line up and down every day for four or five hours", just work really hard to achieve their goals.

Anyway, John injected a little humour into his session when he psycho-analysed the New Zealand woman who complains that "all the decent men in New Zealand are either taken or they're gay".

I've heard this line of argument many times myself so I was interested what John would have to say. What he did say makes perfect sense. The job of the brain, argues John, is "to find the evidence to prove what you think is correct".

Therefore, if a woman believes all the good men are taken or gay, she won't see them. All she will see are the men her brain tells her are bastards. So, start out with a negative perception and that perception will only be reinforced. He got us to complete an exercise which proved his point.

The key to success, says John is to like yourself and to have good self esteem. Goals and results are irrelevant unless you start from that foundation. If you don't, you enter the downward spiral.

"When we don't like ourselves, the world seems to be against us. When the world's against us, we fail," says John.

While we're on the subject of things inspirational, consider the case of the two blind sailors who are currently circumnavigating the globe.

After becoming the first blind sailors to cross the Pacific, Scott and Pam, the American blind racing team yesterday set off for Sydney:

"On May 10, 2007 (weather permitting) we will depart New Zealand to start our 2007 cruising season. As mentioned in earlier updates, we will be sailing back to the South Pacific, then working our way northwest through Indonesia. Our current intention is to wait out the Indian Ocean cyclone season in Thailand."

A nice local element to this epic voyage is that Christchurch company Humanware is providing a braille keyboard-based communications system that will allow the pair to access speech synthesized GPS information so they can plot their course.

Here's some information on the Humanware gear the sailros are using:

VoiceNote mPower QT

The VoiceNote mPower is used onboard for navigation through speech synthesized GPS and many it also provides many organizational tasks


  • Computer style keyboard
  • Speech output only
  • One key touch access to the main menu and on line help
  • Two key touch volume, speed and pitch control
  • Weight: 0.75kgs/1.65lbs
  • Dimensions: 25cm x 15cm x 4cm/9.9” x 5.9” x 1.6”

Color PocketViewer

The PocketViewer is used onboard for reading various writing information, but it is especially useful for reading charts


Designed to be truly portable, the PocketViewer's robust design ensures the product goes wherever you do. PocketViewer's superb full color picture quality allows you to read maps, view photographs, illustrations and three dimensional objects. Its built-in writing stand adds increased flexibility making it possible for you to sign checks and write up brief meeting notes. Enhanced contrast modes (white/black or black/white) can be selected for clear and easy reading.

PocketViewer's features include:

  • Full color display
  • High contrast display modes (black/white and white/black)
  • 7x magnification range
  • Retractable writing stand
  • Built-in rechargable battery
  • Extended battery life, 2 hours continuous use
  • Reduced recharge time, 3 hours
  • Battery status indicator
  • Sleep mode
  • Compact viewing are 4" x 3"
  • Portable robust design 6.5" x 3.6" x 1.4"/166mm x 90mm x 35mm
  • Weight 0.7lbs/300 grams
  • Includes AC adaptor and carry case

The PocketViewer's portable design allows you to:

  • Look at details and price labels in shops
  • Sign checks and credit card payments
  • Choose tapes and CD's
  • Read instructions on packets, recipes and bottles
  • Check lottery results, television and radio programs
  • Browse through magazines and read books while traveling.

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