Brendan Norris

Brendan Norris

How Investing in Mental Health is Good for Business

Investing in one’s physical and mental health is essential for wellbeing and is a powerful foundation to achieve personal and professional goals.  However, it’s also good for business in terms of the culture, workplace environment, team well-being and business results.  In this podcast interview with CPA Australia I look at:

  • Exploring the relationship between mental health and physical wellbeing: 02:16
  • The cost of mental health on the Australian economy each year: 03:46
  • Characteristics of poor mental health to look for in others: 05:54
  • What are three ways to improve mental wellbeing? 08:52
  • Identifying characteristics of a mentally healthy workplace: 13:18
  • Signs that an employee is struggling and steps to take to offer support: 18:17
  • The importance for businesses to invest in mental health and the implications if this is not addressed: 23:28

Here’s to removing the stigma that is often associated with mental health challenges and improving the quality of our communication by having the conversations that matter

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The Mobile in the Meeting: How to deal with the distracted

Are you frustrated, fed up and feel totally undermined in meetings where everyone’s on their mobiles and you feel your power as well as what you’re saying goes out of the window?

If this is you (or you’re the perpetrator of this contemporary new social behaviour), then the September 2017 article in The Boss Magazine of the Australian Financial Review is worth a read. It’s entitled, The Mobile in the Meeting: How to deal with the distracted and whilst it might bring a wry smile to your face as you recognise it well, it contains tips to help you overcome the frustrations of people’s mobile addictions and ensure your voice gets heard.


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Don’t wait till you’re on your deathbed to answer these three questions

If you had access to all the money in the world, had all the contacts, confidence, resources and support …

What would you begin to do right now if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Your answer reveals whether you are on the right path.

Each of us are programmed by economic, educational, political and societal systems to think and create in certain ways. We follow in the footsteps of our families, believing the only way to be happy is to work hard, gain financial freedom and then ask, “What really makes me happy”?

When you reach this stage, you’ll probably delay answering the question, instead feel compelled to prepare your children and grandchildren for the same journey. Having the conversations that matter with loved ones about changes that also affect them, is likely to be avoided because they’re just too difficult. Instead, you may settle for a lesser dream, one which takes you on exotic holidays and remodelling of your kitchen or home.

Will this really be enough to say you’ve had a well-lived life?

Is it even possible to have it another way or does that make you prey to the ‘Get Rick Quick’ deals promising greater freedom?

There is another way but you have to change your mindset, challenge the myths that keep you thinking and feeling in certain ways and put in place a system that allows you to create a life where you’re happy with your answers to three essential questions.

Here’s a re-recording of a talk I gave to 50 women at the Behind Closed Doors Connexions event at the Australian Institute of Management in Sydney. Conversations with people since then, reveal that these are the questions we really want to address.

I invite you to answer these questions and take action, so you avoid regrets later in the life, live life on your terms and in the process create a better world for everyone.

WATCH this 20 min video to reveal your answers to those three important questions.

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Inspiring Achievements that Prove the Impossible is Possible

Think about the last day of your life.  It may be today or tomorrow or some time ahead.  As you face your death, would you be satisfied with what you’ve done, who you are and what you’ve been or will you go to your grave with a song in your heart that you never got to sing?  In short, how would you answer these questions:

  • Did I live?
  • Did I love?
  • Did I matter?

On that last day you’re likely to be faced with two things:

  1. You’ll be more upset what you didn’t do that what you did. Thing about it.  Will you wish you had spent more time in the office or will you lament the mountains you didn’t climb, the conversations you didn’t have or the causes you didn’t start?
  2. Of the things you set out to achieve and did, you might ask, “Why did I aspire to do so little and why didn’t I find a way to collaborate with others to make that bigger dream possible?”

What is it that you truly want your life to be about?

  • It may be grandiose on the world stage, maybe ending world hunger, creating a new invention that improves the quality of people’s lives, or the industrialised abuse of animals.
  • Maybe you want to change your own family’s dynamics so that your children don’t continue the legacy of the problems you inherited.
  • Or, like the Australian marathon runner, Janette Murray-Wakelin, you search for a cure for the cancer you’ve been diagnosed with because you made a promise to your grandson that you would always be there for him.

The Privilege of Being a Psychologist

I find myself in a privileged position. As a psychologist, I have heard the personal stories of 1000s of people around the globe who struggle to make sense of what this world is really all about for them.  They all want their lives, work and relationships to mean something and all of them want to truly live, truly love and truly matter.

On 11th March 2017, I was the Keynote Speaker at the Sydney Gala Premier of Raw: The Documentary and this article arose from the speech I gave that night.  The guests at that event were tremendously inspired by the world-breaking record set by two extraordinary Australians, both of them in their sixties.    In my speech, I implored them to look at their own lives and remain open-minded enough to consider the implications the marathon runners ‘achievement in the context of their own lives and ask, ‘What else is possible?”  This article outlines some of the challenges I presented to those people on the night of that Premier.

Singing Your Own Song

Why do so many of us go to our graves with songs in our hearts we never get to sing? I believe it’s because we buy into the personal, familial, social, religious and cultural myths and limitations that keep us from living on purpose.  Instead, we live very conformist lives or as the philosophy and writer Thoreaux once said, we live “Lives of Quiet Desperation”.  When those myths and unquestioned assumptions of what IS possible are challenged, each of us is faced with two broad choices.

  1. Make Excuses For Why We Can’t Achieve Things.
    You can lament that your own circumstances are different, saying, “I am not rich enough, young enough, educated enough or connected enough”.  You can say you left it too late or didn’t have a good start in life so you continue through life making the excuse that you’re not good enough.
  2. Embrace Record-Breaking Achievement as Inspiration To Act.
    You can become excited by new evidence that someone out there has broken all records and demonstrated that it’s possible to get outcomes that others believe isn’t possible.  You can say to the yourself and the world, “I WILL make my dream possible and do whatever it takes to break records”.

Evidence that the Impossible is Possible.

Let me give you some inspiring examples of where the impossible was embraced and outcomes achieved that previously people believed were impossible.

  1. Breaking the World Record for Distance Running.
    The 4-minute mile for distance running was once thought impossible but in 1954 it became a reality.  Not only was it broken but subsequently so many people achieved it  this that it has become the standard for male professional middle distance runners.  What was deemed ‘impossible’ is now a ‘standard expectation’.
  2. Achievements that Medical Science Deemed Impossible.
    The Dutchman Wim Hof, nicknamed ‘The Ice Man’ holds 26 world records including the world record for the longest ice bath.  Wim Hoff sat for 1 hour 12 mins in a bath of ice without his core body temperature falling.  This defied all medical science, yet he proved that it could be done.
  3. Record Number of Full Marathons Run Consecutively in One Year.
    In 2009, the world record for the greatest number of full marathons run consecutively in one year was fifty-two.  It rose steadily over several decades, and although unclear as to the exact number achieved because of record-keeping and the Guinness Book of Records not unable to monitor claims by runners, it rose to over two hundred.  Then in 2013, a staggering figure was reached.  Three hundred and sixty-six full consecutive marathons were run by Jeanette and Alan Murray-Wakelin, a couple from Melbourne, Australia.

Raw: The Documentary premiered in March 2017 charted their journey running around Australia and celebrates this phenomenal world first. In my keynote speech at that event that I asked the audience to consider what this achievement meant for them in relation to their own lives.  I implore you to do the same as you consider what this Australian couple did.

An Existential Imperative

Janette and Alan’s achievement is SO mind-blowing that it’s almost impossible to digest and yet you, like the audience on the night, you have a choice of how to respond. Choose to be inspired not only by their achievement but the existential imperative its message offers, to ensure you sing your own song and make your impossible, possible.

I have chosen to believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that we can create a more compassionate world not only for people but animals and the environment we share it with.

This is my personal dream that some would say is impossible.  I refuse to believe that.  Every day I act to manifest a more compassionate reality and I have chosen to do this in a number of ways:

  1. Create a context for the integration of ethical leadership principles in business practices so principles come before profits.
  2. Teach people to have the conversations that matter (with themselves and others).  Together with the mindset to reach for the impossible, people can learn to truly create lives that matter and which, in turn, positively impact others.
  3. My personal big impossible vision is to become part of a rising tide of social awareness that there is a better way to treat animals, particularly those caught in the abusive process of industrial production.  Few people know that every year, a mere seven billion of us on the planet incarcerate, abuse, torture, rape, kill and tantalise one hundred and fifty billion animals.  This number is difficult to digest for we ask, “Where is all this going on?”  The vast majority of abuse takes place in an industrial system of which intensive factory farming and commercialisation of animals occurs.  It is horrendously miserable for animals but people and the planet also suffer in the process. And all of it is totally unnecessary and is causing the destruction of our planet and moral fibre.

It’s stories like those portrayed in RAW – The Documentary, that inspire me to ensure I stay on track with my dreams so that at the end of my life I can turn within and say, “I truly lived”, I” truly loved”, “I truly mattered and it made a positive difference beyond my own existence”.

I invite you as the reader to do the same.


If you feel there are reasons you can’t achieve what you truly desire, you might start by examining the extent to which societal myths and unquestioned assumptions limit you expanding your mind to seek ways to achieve it.

DOWNLOAD your free digital copy of The Myths of Life and the Choices We Have to further explore the unquestioned social, personal and cultural assumptions that keep you trapped in the “Shoulds, Oughts and Musts” of life.  By identifying the myths against which you make choices, you will expand your options and take the steps to improve your life.






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The Psychology of Escaping the Day Job

If you love your job and can’t wait to get there in the morning and, at the end of the day feel energised, satisfied knowing you make a difference, then stop reading now.

If that’s not the case and you feel trapped and frustrated, wondering how to escape the treadmill, knowing your values are compromised and the thought of politics leaves you demoralised and you know there’s a better way, then I challenge you to examine what it is that’s stopping you changing it?

Whatever your reason, the underlying theme no doubt will be fear.  Twenty-five years of being a psychologist has shown me that the underlying cause of people’s inaction is the fear – conscious or unconscious – of what might happen if they step out of line.  Here are some of the typical things I have heard over the years:

  • Once I have enough money put away, I will take the risk.
  • If I knew the future was predictable, I would quit now.
  • If my new venture was a guaranteed success, I’d leave in a heart-beat.
  • Once I am truly qualified, I’ll feel confident to make the change.

What is the Fear?

Underlying each of these excuses is the fear that you will:

  1. Fail and feel stupid.
  2. Run out of money and have to live on the street.
  3. Be humiliated with smug naysayers saying “I told you so!”
  4. Feel foolish that you ever thought your situation would be different.
  5. Feel isolated because there are so few people on the road less travelled.
  6. Never get back on the ladder and have to be satisfied with less.
  7. Feel even more trapped, having gone through savings or worse, got into more debt.

These fears all take place within what Alain de Bottom (2004) calls Status Anxiety.

The desire of people in many modern societies to “climb the social ladder” and the  anxieties that result from a focus on how one is perceived by others

it is this anxiety that will keep you from acquiring the mindset and skills to:

  1. Get up every morning, vibrant and existed about your life.
  2. Develop the ability to have the conversations that matter with yourself and others to find new solutions to age-old problems.

Let me tell you a secret.

  • No-one is watching.
  • People who criticise you may do so because your actions reflect on their own status anxiety e.g. parents who resist their children going against the norm.
  • Those who ridicule you as naïve do so because if they no longer feel safe in the knowledge that everyone is in the same boat.

The majority of what keeps you trapped in a job and life you don’t enjoy is Uncertainty. If you have any doubt about the power of avoiding uncertainty, consider the attempts we have created to maintain certainty:

  1. Life insurance – so others will be looked after if you die.
  2. Health insurance – so you’ll be supported if you get sick.
  3. Income protection – so you’ll always have enough.
  4. Superannuation – so you don’t end up old and poor.
  5. Mortgage – so you will have a roof over your head.
  6. Investment properties – so you’re not left behind.
  7. The list goes on…..

The Certainty Myth

One of the myths I explore in The Myths of Life and the Choices We Have is the Certainty Myth.

It is better to be part of a group than to be an individual.

In our world of overwhelm and fear, conformity is sold to us disguised as certainty and safety. However, such conformity in its most powerful form stops you even thinking about other possibilities, instead acquiescing the going along with the norm that says, “Work hard, put enough money and security aside and one day you will be free to choose the life of your dreams!”

I come across every day, with people telling me that their anxiety is reaching intolerable proportions, and no amount of foregoing the pleasure of doing meaningful work, is helping them face with the dread and mundanity of having a job and lifestyle they despise.

How do you escape?

If this article resonates with you and you know you’re are not truly doing what you want, eager each morning to face the world, there is a way to get out of the trap.

If you want to have what you have not, you must do what you do not

  1. Question Everything.
    Don’t accept the status quo.  Look for ways to make your dream a reality and ask people who have successfully made the shift for their advice.
  2. Embrace Fear.
    Make friends with your doubts and use them to highlight what you need to change and what you don’t.  See anxiety as a loyal friend who is saying things are out of balance and negotiate with it to discern what is self-sabotage and what is excitement.
  3. Accept that No-One’s Watching.
    People are preoccupied with their own status anxiety and fears to worry about yours.  Those who criticise you for taking steps to improve your life may not have your best interests at heart.  Surround yourself with people who truly want the best for you.
  4. Romance Your Dream.
    Create a vision of the future you want to create.  Don’t allow doubt and practicalities to get in the way of thinking big and access the emotion you anticipate feeling when you make it happen.  Quantum Science tells confirms that this technique is a powerful way of manifesting reality, not merely alternative trickery.
  5. Embrace Uncertainty.
    Accept that there is no insurance policy on life, but you will be safer if you embrace ways to ensure you can deal with whatever comes along.  See uncertainty as a normal and predictable part of life, bringing new opportunities and challenges to live meaningfully.

Contact me if you want to explore how I can help you make this happen.


DOWNLOAD your free digital copy of The Myths of Life and the Choices We Have to further explore the unquestioned social, personal and cultural assumptions that keep you trapped in the “Shoulds, Oughts and Musts” of life.  By identifying the myths against which you make choices, you will expand your options and take the steps to improve your life.
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Feeling undermined at work?

Do you ever feel undermined at work?

Maybe you find yourself in 1:1 conversations or in meetings and that rolling of the eyes, sarcasm in the voice or back-handed comment from someone triggers you to think, ‘They’re deliberately undermining me!’ What do you do? If you say there’re undermining you, they’re likely to deny it or say you are being too sensitive. If don’t raise it, you feel you’re not standing up for yourself, become tongue-tied or feel resentful and short-changed.

As an organisational psychologist, I believe the majority of communication challenges we all face within organisations – whether as leaders or in other roles – relate by the ‘dynamics’ within the exchange. We hear someone say something, yet their body language contradicts it and yet we don’t know how to point it out without it turning into conflict or denial.

Watch this video on ‘What to do when you feel undermined at work’ and learn how to confidently speak out on these issues without feeling anxious. After all, it’s our job to educate others how to treat us.

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What Successful People Do That Unsuccessful People Don’t

Successful people decide and act differently than unsuccessful ones.  There is overwhelming evidence that successful people decide quickly and rarely change their minds.  Unsuccessful people take a long time to decide and are always changing their minds and often feel anxious about the rightness of their decisions.  My recent experience at a yoga class not only reminded me of this reality but highlighted something important about communication.


I recently joined a new six-week yoga program. Fifteen people started but by the second week only three, including myself remained. Maybe the others found yoga not to their liking or by some coincidence each found themselves facing other commitments that didn’t allow them to continue.

The teacher said she had not heard from the non-attendees and the committed people, including myself entered a lively debate about what they non-attendance was communicating. Several questions arose:

  1. Were the non-attendees lazy or people who give up easily?
  2. Were they rude in not advising the teacher or their colleagues of their actions?
  3. Because the purchase of the classes was a transaction, does this give the purchaser the right to not take responsibility for explaining the impact it might have on the teacher or other people in the group?
  4. What are the implications for creating community where people see an intimate setting of a class as a business transaction which, after payment, the purchaser can decide whether to use or not?
  5. Would story telling of the remaining few be different if the non-attendees where to call and explain their actions or apologise?

All these questions and more point to the individual meanings and story telling that occur in social interactions. Depending on each person’s subjective meaning and existing worldviews, their interpretation will be different. Here are some suggestions of those different perspectives:

  1. Some, longing for community and connection might be saddened by the transactional way in which a customer acts in such an intimate group.
  2. Another may be unaffected, believing each person has paid in advance and therefore is the only one to suffer if they do not take advantage of the whole product/service.
  3. Generational differences might occur with younger generations believing the consumer can do what they like, whereas baby boomers might tend to think there is greater responsibility for affecting the feelings of the teacher who has put a lot of effort into preparing the class.
  4. Some may be disappointed and point to a wider breakdown in societal values that put a commercial overlay on personal actions, believing instead that personal integrity is at stake when not advising others of their actions.

The list of possible meanings is probably infinite. What it does point to is that whatever we do is communicating something very powerful to others and might be very different to what we intend.

As observers, we place meanings on others’ behaviour, which is always highly subjective. It reminds us to pay attention to times when others are left to their own interpretations because we have not specifically communicated our actions to others or assume they place similar meanings as ourselves on what we and others do.

Communication is much more than an exchange of information. It is a highly subjective process that reminds us that communication is a complex process, linking to what we believe we and are others are. We cannot experience other people’s experiences but we can ‘experience them experiencing us, experiencing them… and so on’.

In order to communicate more effectively, we must each be open to others’ different worldviews and take steps to tell others what we mean, for without this there is potential misrepresentation of ourselves which impact on the quality of all our relationships.

How we act also has implications for our success.  If we are anxious and unsure about decisions, constantly seek feedback in order to choose, this communicates something very important to others about who we are and what we are capable of.  If we have clear goals, a passion about what we are doing and act in accordance with those convictions, it communicates a stronger message and others respond and collaborate with us differently.

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Thanks Gen Y – Keep Questioning The Leader

Every generation no doubt reaches a certain age when they raise their hands in the air and ‘Despair for the youth of today!’  When the behaviours, values and norms of individuals belonging to a younger generation are so different from those of an older observer, it might seem that the world is becoming a worse place.  However, given the unprecedented times we currently live in, it might be that Gen Y’s rapidly changing values, however threatening, are challenging a style of communication and leadership that is ill-equipped to deal with the social, economic and environmental challenges facing the world.

Gen Y and their younger counterparts who are often criticised for their ‘Why should I do anything?’ attitude might well be praised for questioning their leaders –including their family –  as it could be that they hold the key to a more collaborative society.  One only has to observe Gen Y’s online behaviour to see that far from being selfish, they have a culture of sharing – of ideas and information – and their questioning of society might throw light on changes that are happening and the potential to develop our organisations and communities in more effective ways.

In conducting research for my book ‘Communicate: How to say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, in the way it needs to be said’, I have found that the era in which we live finds us questioning society at all levels and  we would do well to embrace it.   In my interview with Andrew Mowat, joint author of ‘The Success Zone: Five powerful steps to growing yourself and leading others’, he points to three distinct eras in society over the last hundred years.  These are mirrored in our education and organisational systems.  These broad eras are set out below and their values and messages influence our expectations and ways in which we communicate and influence other people today. The era we currently live indicates some of why Gen Y behaves as they do and the value of this.

The Era of Obedience

‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’

Formal education has been around since the early 1800s and was built around a sense of obedience.  The values of this era were ‘If you don’t what you were told, you will be punished’.  No value or focus was placed on developing children’s abilities or acquiring knowledge.  The focus was purely upon control and getting children to do as they were told.


The Era of Reward

‘Do as you are told and your job’s for life’

Around the end of the Second World War and the Great Depression, the notion of obedience began to break down because the world was changing and new knowledge and skills were required to prepare people to grow the economy.  Suddenly the teaching of knowledge and skills were required to prepare people to equip people to contribute to society differently.  Suddenly the teaching of knowledge and content became important.  With this came a different regime or set of values that read ‘Do as you are told and everything will work out’.  Corrigan et all (2009) refers to this as Education  2.0’.  In that phase, children were encouraged to behave correctly and if they didn’t behave they were punished.  Corporal punishment was legal in schools and the purpose of was to condition respect in children towards their elders.  The whole message of ‘If you do as you are told, you will get the result you need’, infiltrated society and organisational life.  For example, people were told and believed:

  • If you work hard you will have a job for life
  • Put money away and you will be safe in the future
  • Invest in your superannuation and money will be there for you later.
  • Pay your taxes and the state will look after you


The Era of Respect

‘Teacher and leader as facilitator and change agent’

We now live in a very uncertain world with an unprecedented rate of change.  We all know, although veterans and older baby boomers might prefer it not to be the case – that there is no such thing as a job for life.  This is mirrored in changing values towards systems and people who traditionally would have engendered respect purely because of their position.

Today, doctors, politician, managers, teachers and religious leaders are questioned and technology and access to information at the push of a button, allows us to become informed and the chooser of services that once were not questioned. This puts the onus of responsibility directly on a person for their own performance and earning of respect; no longer can they hide behind a role or title that once afforded them respect.

This whole sense of respect has shifted and the youth of today work with a value ‘right or wrong’ for veterans or older baby boomers, that, ‘If you won’t listen to me, why should I bother listening to you?’ ‘’Respect me and I will respect you’.  In a transactional sense, the interaction comes down to ‘Who gives the respect in the first instance’.  In the second era, ‘respect your elders’ was the prevalent value.  Today, getting cooperation from other people (especially the younger generation) works much more powerfully when you listen, acknowledge and respect the other person regardless of their age.  By embracing the values inherent in the third era model, t is more likely that you will engender cooperation and respect from other people.

The calm communicator, who I talk about in my new book, is someone who operates within the era of respect paradigm. They listen and acknowledge other people; they ask questions to truly understand the other person and apply specific languaging and collaborative skills that make them communicate and lead with impact and presence.

”The most effective leaders and effective teachers are those that do not presuppose those who demand respect, they earn it in the first instance’. Andrew Mowet (2011)

With this in mind, it is apparent that we are in a transition with the majority of school, political and organisational systems that still preferring to use an older model that is clearly breaking down and not working.  As leaders in all walks of life embrace this collaborative era, the potential for individual and collective innovation and collaboration is enhanced.  If we adopt the communication style of ‘expert’, it assumes that people must listen to us. Many marital, teenage children and organisational conflicts occur because the person speaking presupposes they are the expert:

  • As a speaker or senior manager I know best
  • As a woman I know how to show emotions
  • As a parent, I know more than a teenager
  • I am a professional and know what to do
  • I sell this product and know what you need

When we adopt the position of listener and collaborator instead of expert, we set up the conditions of respect.  There is a very high correlation between experiencing respect from someone and experiencing good listening from someone.  This requires us embracing society or education in the era of respect paradigm and becoming a facilitator who genuinely and sincerely listens to others to understand them as well as becoming informed in decision making.  This is the hallmark of the calm communicator who is a sophisticated communicator with skills to communicate effectively in the boardroom or the bedroom and everywhere in between.  This style of communication is also correlated with a more collaborative style.

A collaborative leadership style is one that embraces greatness in others and realises that innovation and creativity is found in organisations and just needs to be brought out.   Gen Y, who question leaders, teacher, elders and professionals are effectively opening up the path to truly embrace new ways of operating in society in all walks of life. I believe they hold the key to a new style of leadership which is inclusive, open-minded, and truly embraces input from people willing to contribute, regardless of their status, age or seniority.

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