“Creating the Perfect Lifestyle”: Book, EBook and Website
I initially met with Alan Duff in 2008 and we had a lively discussion. He must have enjoyed the conversation because he gave me an autographed copy of one of his books.
Alan Duff had an extraordinarily difficult upbringing and it is testament to his tenacity and literary ability that he has overcome huge obstacles to become a bestselling and award winning author.
The interview was conducted in 2010 by email. Alan Duff currently resides in France. Just like his books and his conversation, his interview is breathtakingly honest.
OH: What advice would you give yourself if you could talk to yourself at age 17?
AD: Tell myself shyness is a state of mind, so is poor mothering, and get the hell over it - now. But since I didn't it has extracted far more tax than I should have paid, in so many ways, affecting many others. Help, can I start again!
OH: How can a young person today achieve great things?
AD: Be positive. Only keep the company of fellow positive thinkers. NEVER have a friend who is negative, see as little of them you can if a relative. Never believe a word a socialist says and nor believe an arch capitalist. One is greedy for power and control over you and hates success. The other is greedy for money and power and can't stand sharing even when he's got billions. What's wrong with a little self-honesty and a little sharing?
OH: What wise words have been important to you in your life?
AD: Read, read, read. The written word contains every diamond, every gold nugget, barrel of oil, piece of land, etc. And given the Western world has libraries, it's all free.
The other was to be self-employed. That way YOU get to decide your future, YOU are master of your own destiny.
OH: What is the best advice you have ever received?
AD: Lots, but I didn't listen enough! Laughter helps. So does crushing one's ego so to get closer to the kernel of one's being. "Lead a useful life" says my friend Bruce Plested, founder of Mainfreight.
OH: What mistake have you learned the most from?
AD: I'm one of those people who keep making the same mistakes once too often. So rather than focus on a litany of mistakes, I'd rather tell myself I managed to spread a bit of happiness, a few million books to kids where they were needed, a few original ideas and concepts, the odd literary gem. Otherwise I am a highly ordinary man of many flaws.
OH: What activity has been the biggest waste of time in your life?
AD: "A busy fool" as a friend once told me. Screaming around at 200kph and getting nothing done. Energy is not output. Activity is not unto itself, there has to be a plan and fore-thought and fore-sight. I wasted so much money on nothing but appeasing my lack of self-confidence. Dulling my senses with alcohol so not to face the fact I had emotional afflictions. A bit of narcissism in other words. Someone should have told me: "Shyness is really self obsession. Why worry what people think about you?"
OH: Who are your heroes and role models?
AD: I have many business and sporting heroes. Zinzan Brooke (All Black), Mohammed Ali, and countless others. Bruce Plested, of Mainfreight, the brightest shining light. Extraordinary man of extreme modesty, extreme generosity, no ego whatsoever, therefore no plans to build personal edifices to himself. The most moral man, along with my father, I ever had the privilege of knowing. If I can half emulate him I will have done well.
OH: What are the reasons you have succeeded while many others who have tried have not succeeded?
AD: Despite the repeat mistakes never ever giving up, but maybe a pause or three to 'catch my breath.'! When your first novel is not published until you are forty, then you have a right to pause.
OH: If a score of 10 means that you have lived your life to its fullest potential, what score out of 10 would you give yourself on your life to date?
AD: Certainly not a 10 except with giving myself to friendships, to children on our literacy programme, to my father's memory. Right now? A 3, but only one way to go - up!
OH: What would you have had to do differently to be able to score a 10?
AD: Change mothers, ha ha! If only. But she did take a big chunk out of her boy Alan and I think he wasted too much of his life trying to heal himself. So I wouldn't let her get to me like she did. Then who knows, I might have scored 12 or 13! But I’ve been quite a good Dad, just ask my daughters.
OH: What does a person need to do if they want to realise their dreams?
AD: Not get paralysis by analysis. Walk it don't talk it. But do give it some careful thinking. As a writer I start with a blank page and write, "Once was ..." It can only be started by you. But the talent does have to match the dream, or something does. To quote another Plested-ism: "It's not what you start it's what you finish. There's only thing more certain to fail than not finishing, is not starting."
OH: If you could start again and dedicate your life to one cause, what would it be?
AD: Literacy for the disadvantaged of the world, period. Quieter moments to understanding and enjoying fine red wines and good French cuisine.
OH: What is the most important lesson you have learned in life?
AD: Don't sweat the small things. But don't mistake small for big, either. Learning to be frugal at the age of 58, disciplined with money (because I don't have any) for the first time ever (I always thought there was more around the next corner, busy fool that I was.) It is always okay to dream - always.
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