Category Archives: featured

The story of Mei Ling and how it came about

I was sitting in a very tiny cinema in the heart of the Gum San Museum with my young son. A short film was running through for the second time. In black and white, a boy was saying goodbye to his sister on the shore of a lake next to their village in Canton. He was about 17 and had to leave his family to find gold—so that they could be saved from devastating poverty. It was 1857 and the clouds around their hearts were almost visible.

I related to that girl. Being left behind. Watching a beloved person walk away with the strong sense that he may never come back. Although my mind shied away from it, I could not help imagining how I would feel if that was my beautiful little son? It left a very strong impression.

Wind forward 15 years.

My mother was recovering from surgery and needed to get away from Melbourne. I suggested we go for a Paint Out holiday. That is what we call our plein air painting expeditions. We have clocked up many hours chasing the light around southern Victoria. Mum was excited and we spent a few days deliberating on where to go. It was May 2016 and it was cold.

I proposed that we follow the route taken by the Chinese miners in 1857. I wanted to see where that brother walked. We would start in Robe and work our way to the gold fields. There must be lots of beautiful scenery along there and it would take about a week. Mum had lived in China, so she was interested in the story.

We headed off. I was not thinking of Mei Ling at that stage. I just wanted to see the landscapes and feel what it would be like to trek through, carrying all you owned on bamboo poles. Knowing Australia, I thought it would be epic. And it really was.

We saw seascapes that literally blow your skin off. Scrub of the most tangled and vicious kind. Weird grass trees that spring up after a bushfire. Endless miles of natural, undulating meadows. Sharp mountain edges backlit by winter storm clouds. Lots of winter storm clouds. Sunsets of pure, molten gold.

Our canvases got rained on, blown away and fried in the sun. I discovered that oil paint really stings if you get it in your eyes. I think it was the oil paint, anyway.

We made it to Dunkeld, having just left Casterton where a Kelpie Muster was in progress. (Every red dog in Australia, and their owner, was in town. But that’s another story.) We walked around town and found a remnant of a Chinese market garden. Mount Sturgeon was towering over us and a storm was just about to break. I read that some of the walkers never got to the goldfields. Instead they worked in these gardens, cooked and helped to build walls, cellars and buildings in the region for their community and for the local settlers. One of these could be the lone woman.

I’d been hearing about this lone woman all along the route. There are countless references to her in the official records. But no one knows her name or her age. I started to feel that people were fascinated by the mystery of her invisible trek and were starting to weave her into their ‘historic records’.

Then I remembered my feeling at the Gum San cinema and knew why. We can all relate to those that were left behind. But we can REALLY relate to the one that wasn’t.

Clive Sinclair with his portrait interpretation of Mei Ling.

I went on a flight of imagination. What if that boy’s sister actually had to follow him? What circumstances would have led to such a break from tradition?

I was in our cabin painting a scene overlooking Casteron town and I imagined this girl arriving there. Would she venture in? Or would she go straight to the Chinese commune in nearby Sandford? How would she be received. Then I realized why she became invisible—at least officially. She and her family honour had to be protected.

Then I had this really strong sense of a great big conspiracy carrying her across the country. Hiding her from the authorities, making sure she was safe. A bit like Frodo “the ringbearer” heading for Mordor, in the Lord of the Rings.

By the time I finished that painting I knew I wanted to create a story about her. I called her Mei Ling (like Mulan) and she has been keeping me awake at night ever since.

Video of Mei Ling’s arrival at the Chinese Commune in Sandford, Victoria.

The Ararat Caretakers

Occasionally people do things for others they don’t know and have no direct or familial association with.

Why?

When I met Henry Gunstone, I understood why he is devoted to creating the Gum San Chinese Heritage Museum in Ararat. He didn’t tell me, I just knew. In my soul. I got it. The moment I met him. He knew I knew. I was introduced to him by Heather and Joy because they knew I would understand.

Later Henry said “it’s a story that just gets under your skin”.

Norma and I had just spent five days on the road–painting scenes along the way from Robe to Ararat. Trying to capture the story of the Chinese Miners. By the time we arrived in Ararat, the story was definitely under my skin, and these people could tell.

Ararat Caretakers (left to right) Heather Lockland, Joy Gunstone, Henry Gunstone. Talking to Norma Sullivan.

Joy and Heather volunteer at the Museum, taking people through the exhibitions and explaining this amazing slice of Victorian History. They and Henry, and others in their community, made this museum happen because they wanted the world to remember how Ararat was founded and the epic journey of the people who found it. That was in the Eighties.

They care. They are The Ararat Caretakers. They are ordinary rural towns people. They are not Chinese. They just grew up in a town that they love and want to make sure important parts of what makes this town what it is are not forgotten.

Lest we forget.

Is it so hard to understand why people might spend the energy to collect money in cake stalls, fundraisers and submissions to the government–to build a monument?

When they didn’t quite have enough money in the beginning they approached the local business community and suddenly found themselves roaming even further afield. Chasing down promising opportunities.

The word got around. The Melbourne Chinese community wanted to support the project. So relationships began to form. Between the people of Ararat and surrounds and the people of Guangdong, China. Henry wound up travelling thousands of miles.

Not searching for money anymore. Enough of that came in to build the most magnificent monument you will see outside a capital city in Australia. The Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre is as epic as the story it records. Now Henry had other promises to fulfill. And he wanted to make sure promises were kept. When people start giving to a cause, they want to see results. So Henry was making sure the promised things were delivered.

A tapestry of promises. “If you do that I will do this.” By the Nineties there were thousands of people involved in Henry’s project. From all around the world.

By the time I wandered into the Museum with my sons as a tourist in the Nineties, the building although new was imbued with all this promise-keeping and care-taking. Most big buildings have a cold, concrete feel about them. This one is a lot warmer. All this history soaked into its stones and tiles. Seeping up from the mine shafts underneath and in from the surrounding community. Filled with objects, artworks, sculptures, books and media. Everything donated by someone who cared.

And at the door, most days you will be greeted by Joy, Heather, Henry and others who are the Ararat Caretakers. They, more than anyone else, inspired me to create the Mei Ling story.

Henry (seven from the left in the top row) welcoming the pilgrims on their walk June 2017.

Hope: From Robe to Riches Art Exhibition

A painting exhibition of The Great Walk by Victorian Artists. To be held in the September school holidays.

Launch: Sunday at 11:30am on Sunday 24 September 2017.

The Great Hall, Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre, 31-33 Lambert Street, Ararat, Victoria, 3377

For bookings please ring: 03 5353 1078 or email: info@gumsan.com.au

Bought to you by the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre, The Ararat Regional Art Gallery and Stellar Ideas.

The story

The paintings, drawings, illustrations and videos in this exhibition tell the story of the journey of Mei Ling–a 19 year old Chinese woman who traveled from Southern China to the goldfields of Victoria in Australia in 1857.

Visit YouTube to see paintings in progress and interviews with the artists: Hope: From Robe to Riches on YouTube.  (https://goo.gl/CTzcTU)

Each piece in the exhibition depicts a scene of significance for Mei Ling and the 14,000 others who walked 440 kilometers across an unforgiving, alien Australian landscape to find a better life.

Visit our YouTube channel to view videos of the story and of the artists at: Youtube/Joanne Sullivan

The Artists

David Chen: Internationally respected, award-winning artist. David’s work has been exhibited in China, France, The National Gallery of Victoria and The United Nations Conference. Based in Melbourne David is an art educator and academic who offers master classes in painting and drawing. Through minimal yet eloquent use of stroke, colour and greytone, David creates a mystical quality whereby viewers feel they are glimpsing the hidden worlds of dreams and memories.

Clive Sinclair: Member of the Melbourne Twenty Artist Society, Clive is a world renowned landscape artist. He specializes in atmospheric, impressionistic, open-air painting.

Gwendoline Krumins: Signatory member and teacher at the Victorian Artists Society since 1976. Gwen owns her own art school and travels the world working from life whenever possible. Painting since a very young age, Gwen now has a large student base and social media following.

Hugh Foster: Hugh is building a professional career as a painter. Hugh has a great eye for light and colour and spends much of his time in the Victorian rural region capturing and bringing to life everyday images.

Norma Sullivan: Norma has exhibited her work in art shows around Victoria. Norma is a prolific and passionate painter who captures scenes and translates them into vibrant stories on canvas. A career anthropologist, Norma is interested in people and the tales behind the painting.

Joanne Sullivan: Joanne specializes in digital “Paint Stories”. Joanne is an artist and designer who creates time lapse video of paintings in progress, then overlays these with audio, music and other visual materials to create mini-multimedia offerings for the social-mobile platform. Each one tells a story.

Stellar content offerings

For a mobile audience it is critical to think clearly, fill your offering with value and structure it so that it is easy to find, scan and digest. 

content-module-structure-v1-23nov2015

What will people value in my offering?

You are an expert. No doubt you have something of value to offer people online. The trick is to package that offering in a way that helps your audience to resolve everyday predicaments and to significantly optimize their quality of life, while they are on the move. These are the Stellar Ideas.

It helps to imagine that you are lobbing an expert idea into someone’s predicament:—They have got their phone (check); They are having the sort of trouble that your can help with (check); They have your offering (KAPOW problem solved!).

How grateful will they be? How will they feel about further engagement with you?

How do I package my content to be valuable for a mobile audience?

It always helps to start with a post. Whatever form your offering eventually takes (video, podcast, infographic) being able to clearly convey your idea in writing will help you to think clearly about what you have to offer.

8 tips for writing (thinking) clearly

Focus on a single valuable idea in your offering. Unpack what your want to say and leave things out that cannot be expressed in 300-500 words. (These can become separate, related offerings.)

  1. Choose a nice place to write
  2. Pick a time when your brain is fresh
  3. Plan what you are going to write before you start
  4. Think of questions your audience might ask
  5. Work in 20 minute spurts (with rests in between)
  6. Use: http://www.hemingwayapp.com/
  7. Give your brain a night’s sleep before you publish
  8. Get a buddy to proof read it

How do I structure the offering?

Start with your conclusion!

In journalism this method of starting with your conclusion is called the Inverted Pyramid style.

Here are some principles for structuring your content to really help people when they are using mobile devices:

  • Start with your conclusion
  • Provide a summary (take away) at the top
  • Provide an image to illustrate the key concept
  • Provide a call to action at the end
  • Organize everything in between in order of importance
  • Phrase headings as questions
  • Front load paragraphs
  • Limit to 300-500 words (5 minutes)

How does this help people?

  • Your audience can scan
  • Your audience can stop reading at any point in time and still come away with the main point
  • Starting with your conclusion boosts Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Having built a bond with my audience, what can I offer them next?

If someone reads to the bottom of your offering, they have invested 5 minutes of their time and may be ready to invest more. Examples of a “call to action” are:

  • Link to my related offering
  • Register for my seminar
  • Enrol in my online course

Watch my video

The following video is an example of a mobile content offering in video form. It’s a mashup showing how to powerfully convey a stellar idea to a mobile audience.

Mobilize Your Business to Achieve Your Main Goal

As a small (probably solo) business owner you can no longer afford to be locked into static business practices or environments. Your market, staff, competition are on the move: how ready are you to compete? This article describes how to use the mobile internet, apps and mobile-first content to free yourself so you can concentrate on what really matters.

focus-road

Why am I mobilizing?

Being mobile is an essential human quality of life requirement. 

Mobilizing your business will give you a more balanced life, which for highly effective people is the main goal.

“To live a more balanced existence, you have to recognize that not doing everything that comes along is okay. There’s no need to overextend yourself. All it takes is realizing that it’s all right to say no when necessary and then focus on your highest priorities.” Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Bringing a balance to my business is exactly the same as bringing a balance to my life. In this sense—I am my business. My business is not a separate entity that will control me or get out of my control. So I have the power to say no, but what to?

What really matters?

Having control of my business matters!

“It’s OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket.” Elon Musk

I want to be free of restraint so that I can move in my intended direction. Not static. Not stuck. So what things am I going to mobilize (which have kept me stuck until this point):

  • My online presence (website and social media): so that they exclusively support me as I mobilize my business. Exclusively means—that this is their only purpose. They are no longer used for marketing purposes, efficiency purposes, administrative purposes, and so on. [These are traditional ways of using these technologies—which have caused me to become stuck.]
  • So, from now on I am building mobile-first content and nothing more.
  • My customers (through mCommerce and mLearning): so that they can be mobile. When they interact with me they will not be stuck with traditional ways of doing business. In this way I am bringing real value to their lives by helping them to also mobilize their business.
  • My resources (apps and cloud services): so that I can run my business while I am on the move.

What do I have to do to make this happen?

It’s more about what you have to stop doing: wasting time doing things that are not helping you to mobilize your business and your important ideas.

Do nothing that is not helping you to mobilize your business. Say no. Stop overextending yourself. Stop writing unnecessary content, posting random blogs, tweeting, filming videos, updating web pages and website designs, running around after clients, searching for new models and answers.

Stop all random publishing, responding and working online.

From now on think mobile-first. Ask “how will this help me to mobilize my business?”. Prioritize those activities that have the greatest mobilizing impact, which:

  • provide you with direct and immediate income;
  • clinch a deal (not just bring you leads);
  • help you to marshal, bring together, prepare (power, force, wealth, resources, networks, content) for action;
  • are responsive and capable of moving or being moved readily

Beware of traditions. Those activities, mindsets and people who want to keep doing it the old way. These are now traps on mobility.

Modularlize everything you do so that you invest your energy wisely and this investment can serve multiple purposes and can be mobilized.

Your Ideas Can Kick Start Your New Career

How to work out what makes you tick. So that you can build a personal online presence based on your important ideas and share it with a niche audience. And bootstrap your way out of employment into a profitable and meaningful new career in the Global Ideas Economy.

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost.” by Martha Graham, from Blessed Unrest.

The world of work and education are changing profoundly. They are going solo, mobile and global. In this rapidly changing economy, most of us are getting buffeted around in our jobs—which hurts. You may be feeling disillusioned. Needing an escape. Wanting inspiration and a new beginning—a new career.

You can be part of the new Ideas Economy emerging online. The Internet has become an Ideas Platform where individuals can make a significant contribution and have a distinct competitive advantage. Ideas people thrive online. Creating the future with their visions.

In an Ideas Economy your ideas are assets that can generate income and make you financially independent. In this type of economy, people place the most value upon ideas that allow them to resolve their everyday predicaments and to significantly optimize their quality of life. These are the Stellar Ideas.

How do I find my Stellar Idea?

To contribute to the Ideas Economy you need to know what makes you tick. You are your ideas. The ones to develop are the ones that capture what is truly important to you, that you wish to share. When you tap into your true passion it becomes a wellspring of energy and further ideas.

The best way to get started is to ask: What idea is important to me, that I would like to share? Then ask seven more times: “why is this important to me?” until you arrive at the deeper values that make you tick. See my example:

hermeneutic-sprial-what-makes-me-tick-24march2015

Download a blank What Makes Me Tick Template and find your important idea.

What is the next step?

Once you know what makes you tick, share it with the world. You will need a website in your own name. WordPress blogs are a good starting point, because they are really mobile friendly. Each post is a powerful content offering to people on the move. If designed well, they will be appealing to a global niche audience.

You are not ‘blogging’ though. Instead, you are talking exclusively and strategically about your important ideas. This website is your Ideas Platform. Over time, if you focus on helping people to optimize their quality of life, you will be able to charge a fee for this content. Since it is on your website (and not a social media platform) you will always own and control your content. [You can use the social media platforms to promote your own website and bring traffic to your content.]

How can I do this while I am working for someone else?

Many people are using their online presence and the passive income they make from their content to bootstrap their way out of employment.

Growing an Ideas Domain in your own name is a sustainable business model in the Global Ideas Economy. Through this domain you can change the world.

More about participating in the Global Ideas Economy

  • Download a blank What Makes Me Tick Template and find your important idea.
  • See video : Dare to Imagine: What will The World Look Like in 50 Years (created by the Skoll World Forum).

Building value into your mobile content offering

Content delivered to this platform has to be immediately valuable. It is not enough for it to be useful/usable.

in-the-flesh

It helps if the content provider understands that people use the mobile platform to continually optimize their quality of life. With this idea in mind, the important questions when preparing a mobile content offering are:

  • Who, specifically, is this content for? (the target audience)
  • What contribution can this offering make to their quality of life in the moment of use?
  • What are their circumstances in the moment of use? (It helps to think of their predicament)
  • How can I build a bond (ongoing relationship)?

The experience of using content delivered to your mobile device is different to the experience of using any other computing or audio visual platform. It is more personal. More immediate.
Often, time-sensitive.

People on this platform are limited by demands on their attention, lesser bandwidth and device performance. So, rejection is the default user attitude. Mobile audiences often experience problems (for which they may be reaching for their mobile device to solve)—and the need may quickly become urgent.