The Art of a Compliment

I love life. One day, and for seven years following, that love was seriously challenged. I was in Nepal, I was at 3,500m in the Himalayas. I felt so much pain in my hip I could hardly breathe. I went to bed with an ache in my leg. I woke up barely able to walk. I had clients to take up another 2,000 meters and eight days of hard walking. I couldn’t move. Tears froze on my cheeks. It was cold, ice cold. No heater in the room. My water bottle was frozen solid. I had spent the entire night coming up with emergency plans. My hip was killing me. Like someone put a knife into the joint and every time I moved, they twisted it. My friend who owns the lodge, went to the home of the Tibetan doctor my mate, Amji, who came with acupuncture and herbal compresses. He may as well have rubbed Yak poo on a log. My hip screamed in agony. I called my trek guide, Dawa, a Sherpa and through tears informed him he would have to lead the group without me. It wasn’t an issue for him or the clients. A brother and sister team were here with me and he was being dragged, kicking and screaming all the way. He would rather be back in Sydney, cross dressing in an Oxford St bar. They left without me. I was so fucking angry. I was angry at the doctor I’d been to before I left Sydney who told me my hip was fine. I was angry at the bed, the hills, the people, Nepal, I was angry at my boots, my walking stick. I was angry that Amji had stuck so many bloody acupuncture needles in me. But most of all I was angry at my body. I sat around the lodge taking pain killers and anti inflamatory medications, herbs, Tibetan medicine and alcohol waiting for my clients to return and then, with a walking stick began the torture of walking 3 days out of the mountains. Then five days through airports and taxi’s back home. Six months of rehab on my hip didn’t work. Finally, an MRI revealed a Cyst in my spine that was pinching the nerves of my leg. No hip problem. A spine problem. Surgery, a Laminectomy. A deep spine removal of the cyst on my spinal column. Eighteen months rehab. Then a bone fragment from that surgery dropped into the spinal column below the first surgery and again, Laminectomy. And eighteen months rehab. Then the two vertebrae that had been compromised for surgery, caused the next vertebrae to collapse. I could have no further surgery. The tissue could not be cut again. Finally, in excruciating pain, I contacted my Osteo with the news of my third spine collapse and he referred be to another surgeon who, operated 3 days later in an emergency protocol to prevent permanent nerve damage to my legs. I’m ok now. But what does this have to do with compliments? When pain comes to us, we stop giving and receiving compliments because we shrink. We are in pain, both emotional and physical, we become compressed whereas compliments are given and received from a sense of open heartedness. When we feel bigger than our challenges we feel grateful, when we feel grateful we compliment, both ourselves and others. So, compliments given and received is a great measure of the degree of the Human Spirit we carry, Our open heartedness is measured in our compliments to others and self. If we cannot be complimentary to ourselves, we cannot sincerely compliment others. Empty words my leave our lips disguised as compliments, but they land on deaf ears. I know this because I lived it. It was my single greatest struggle with my spine. The temptation, especially under the influence of pain relief medication was to shrink and feel sorry for myself, to excuse myself, to become a survivor and tell my story as a “lucky to be alive” peanut story. To shrink to the level of the pain. To become my story of poor me look what happened. To see myself as a wounded warrior. The temptation was to identify with the problems of my life and be the battler who made it. And each time that toxic self came to me, the compliments I would give myself or others were weak. Maybe they were even tinged with jealousy or anger of “poor me,” I don’t know for sure. Each time I visioned myself cured, I hammered another nail into my spine. Each time I wished I wasn’t in pain I created a tomb to grow my hurt. It was not thankfulness that would heal me. I was not gratitude in some hollow interpretation of my circumstances that would cause my mind to remain connected to the bigness and huge vista of life, it was, in the end, compliments. Compliments to that doctor who misdiagnosed my hip way back. Compliments to my Sherpa friends for their love. Not just silent gratitude, but outspoken, outpouring of defensive proactive compliments. Compliments to my wife and friends who fed me. Compliments are spoken. Gratitude can be hidden. Compliments are given. Real compliments do not need a reaction. Real compliments are real. They come from us, from our soul, from our bigness, they are the difference between leader and follower. And, funny enough, we are afraid of them. We prefer criticism. We worry that if we compliment people they will become too big for their boots. And one might ask “what’s wrong with that.” We know that nobody beats us up more than we do to ourselves. So, we can relax in criticising others. They’re doing a great job of it already. And insincere compliments are great evidence of our own “attitude sickness.” Which leads me back to my spine. The greatest challenge for the seven years of spine surgeries was not the pain or fear of not walking after each surgery. My greatest challenge was my attitude. And there was no greater metric, no greater measure of my attitude sickness, than the inability to give a sincere and heartfelt compliment. That’s life.


We share a journey together and as your coach thank you for the trust.

“Changing our attitude.” These are three words that roll off the lips with ease. But I think, after 40 years of coaching to help people change, it’s the hardest thing to achieve. Changing attitude: live with spirit, be inspired, love life, make a mark, create a better world. Give a Compliment!

We can always find an enabler to validate our attitude, no matter how sick our attitude is, someone always feels sorry for us. And therefore enables us.
Your kids might feel sorry for you or your partner or your family. It’s one of the dangers of support groups. They enable attitude sickness.

To challenge those attitudes is not easy. WE can justify how we feel, what we think and defend it with our lives. Just look at the riots in the US. Try telling them that their anger isn’t justified. Everyone has an opinion and that seems to have become the “god given right” that we will fight for.

But we are more than our opinions. Those opinions can change, and can be wrong, or toxic, or broken. Those things we fight for, the right to an opinion, can be so important and yet, our opinions can be wrong. They cannot become the foundation of who we think we are. Fixed, rigid opinions can be the very essence of our misery. And yet, we fight for not the freedom to have an opinion, but the opinion itself. They are two different things.

People, whether you love them or not are magnificent and deserve your compliments.  Every single soul on this earth deserves compliments because this is not only good for the world, but a test of our own healing. We heal ourselves by loving, complimenting others.

Gratitude is weak. We can think it and think we are healed or good but still be a small shadow of ourselves. A compliment on the other hand, reveals us, it requires courage. Strength. Depth.

Your attitude will grow to see the world as it is only when you let go of your opinions, hold onto the right to have freedom of changing your opinions and replace gratitude with compliments.

This is healing. Mind, body and spirit

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