Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

Notes from an important moment – on family, leadership, love, dignity.

In General Mish-Mash on May 21, 2012 at 9:30 pm

In 2005 Roger Cowan (my father) retired from the position of CEO of Panthers (Penrith Rugby League Club Ltd) after 40 years.

A function was held in the EVAN Theatre at Panthers, Penrith. Speeches, tributes, and testimonials were given by a variety of people.

I was asked to speak on behalf of my brothers and our families. Following this introduction is the written version of my speech.

I have included this in my MishMash for a couple of reasons.

One reason is that it connects with another blog I have about childhood memories (365 Short Memories) – it connects but it doesn’t fit there. Yet, I wanted readers of some of those memories to have the opportunity to understand their significance  – in particular those memories relating to the Port Macquarie holiday that features in this speech.

Anyway, here is the speech I spoke on behalf of my brothers – as it was written, possibly not as it was spoken.


Somehow I always seem to get elected to say something on behalf of my brothers.

Tonight, I’m really not sure what I should be talking about …

I guess I could tell you a few anecdotes that simultaneously give you a laugh and highlight some of Roger’s Achille’s heels. The main one being:

–     naivety

Although our preferred term is –  stupidity.

Anyway I’m not gonna do that.

You’ll get a far bigger laugh and it’ll  be much more fun if sometime during the night you catch a few of us together and have those stories told in a more natural setting

– a setting that encourages a little more colour, and a lot more derision.

To help you out here’s some tips on topics that might be fun for you …

 * You could ask about the great canoeing adventure down the Shoalhaven River
* Or maybe request a description of Roger’s fabulous and innovative technique for underwater photography
* Or what about something as simple as the enormously difficult task of dropping the kids off to school
* Or How Shamu the Killer Whale joined Cowan folklore

 And this is a beauty – the tale of the car, the apple and the chicken coop – that one has gotta be told a few times tonight, I reckon.

There’s a vault full of stories that will bring a good laugh at Roger’s expense. So have fun with that.

From me, tonight – it’s a story of a different kind.

One night, not so long we  – the family – were having a few wines together.

I told them something I had told no-one about. It was a very personal and private memory about a very personal and private experience. A memory that has remained crystal clear with me for the best part of 40 years.

Here is the essence of what I related over those few glasses:

 I was walking alone along the breakwater at Port Macquarie, the sky was rich in colour, though cloudy, and the rays of the sun were like spotlights through the clouds. I was singing a song – who will buy this wonderful morning, such a sky I never did see …

 I was 7 years old, it was a family holiday – Roger, Mum, 3 boys (Phil you were just a glint in the eye at this point) in a small caravan next to the breakwater – and walking along that breakwater that more I had some sort of awakening, I felt as if I had been blessed with a deep insight into life.

 After describing this event in a bit more detail, Mum in her inimitable and direct fashion pipes in and says ….

 “Yeah! Well let me tell you that was no bloody holiday … WE WE’RE ON THE RUN!

We were flat broke, in debt over our heads – we couldn’t pay the mortgage on the house and if the creditors had have been able to catch us we would have lost the house.

We went to Port Macquarie so Roger could try and earn some extra money in the area selling encyclopedias door to door.

That shed some light on part of memory of that time:

Ah! So that’s why we played that game of searching for pennies under the back seat of the car??

Now, I tell you this not to reveal something about myself – my revelation was and is a very private thing

But I wanted to offer it to you in order to reveal something about Roger and Mum.

I mean … 4 boys under 8, severe financial stress, the threat of house repossession, searching for lost pennies so we can eat, desperately knocking on doors to earn a quid … and I come out of all this feeling that

on this best of all holidays, I have been somehow touched by God’s favour.

No coincidence.

Here we had 2 young people with nothing to share but each other and the love of their children – great things to share

But even with that many families are torn asunder and individuals scarred badly after encountering lesser problems.

There was an extra ingredient that formed a strong amalgam with the sharing and the love.

It is an ingredient that has allowed all in our family to be their own person, to develop in their own way.

It is an ingredient that enabled my brother Pete to comfortably and happily live at the edge of society from a young age.

It is an ingredient that gave us all solace in the face of Pete’s death – and gave us great reason to celebrate and have pride in his life.

It is the ingredient that allows my brothers and I to carry our love for each other constantly in our hearts – there is never a need to be demonstrative or expressive about it …we simply know it to be there.

It is this ingredient that projects Roger above being a good leader … to being a great leader.

It may in fact be the ingredient that defines great leadership.

Too often we look to call people leaders because of the results they achieve … but it is the chosen journey and the way it is traversed that really stamps the leader.

And an exceptional leader ensures that every single step on that journey is taken in a way that protects and enhances human dignity.

That is the ingredient.

It is the greatest legacy of Roger’s work life here at Panthers – it needs to be continued, protected and nurtured.

And for my 3 brothers and I,  our partners and our families it is this quality – paradoxically both fragile & resilient – that we hope to embrace with the same intensity and integrity as Roger and Mum … and we strive to pass on to our future family members (and anyone else, for that matter).

It is for this gift we offer you both – Roger and Mum – our gratitude – for you have made our world a seriously special place.


The Six Enemies of Greatness (and Happiness) – Forbes

In Quick Mish-Mash on May 9, 2012 at 10:23 am

I get tired of hearing – no, seeing – the tweets and posts that offer profound wisdom and deep insight about success, happiness, and the state of the world -using 140 characters or a few spur-of-the-moment, off-the-cuff words.

This article is brief – but it is brief not because of a limitation on characters, or a limitation on analysis – it is brief because someone has put in the effort to think about the subject and to think about how to present it.

Well that’s my opinion, what do you think.

The Six Enemies of Greatness (and Happiness) – Forbes.