James Bradey on the value of hard work and managing lockdown when you can’t sit still

Story by James Bradey, owner and operator of Liquid & Larder Group (Grandma’s, The Wild Rover, The Gidley & Bistecca) in Sydney

Never has it been more obvious to me the real value of work and I’m not talking about your paycheck. When I was growing up, it never dawned on me what my Dad was doing when he made me run to my mate’s house (8kms down the road) instead of driving me there like I’d asked. This seemingly lazy response from my Dad taught me there is joy from hard work.

We are so very fortunate here in Australia, especially in Sydney in how we have mostly dealt with this pandemic.  But now. stuck at home watching Lion King in bed with my six year old to stop her driving me bloody crazy at 1.31pm. in the midst of our second lockdown, I cannot wait to get back to work!

To me, it doesn’t matter what task you are doing: the satisfaction and joy you get from putting in the effort, the work, to maximize the result is one of life’s very simple pleasures. I’m not talking about the result or whether you win or lose. The true value of work is knowing you have put in the effort, improved your environment and effected change.

Mental health is a very real and dangerous issue for many of us. The Australian Bureau of Statistics states more than one million Australians suffer from depression, with over two million battling with anxiety every year. As an industry, a recent study completed by SmartCompany found 68% of all hospitality workers reported experiencing a mental health condition in the last 12 months. Add on the real side effects and prolonged damage caused by this global pandemic, and you’ve got a potential tinder-box.

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Personally, I struggle to stay still so lockdown sucks for me. But what I’ve tried to focus on is keeping myself active and engaged with my friends and colleagues.

Fitness is a recently rediscovered passion of mine. After years of living in the typical hospo wilderness, occasionally hitting the gym, my old body started to break down. I went and saw an old security guard mate of mine, who now works as a personal trainer specialising in rehab.

What he saw in the last lockdown was those who lead busy lives and hold high pressure jobs doubled down on themselves and trained harder. They identified that in order to succeed in these trying times you have to back yourself and work harder. And that being in optimal physical condition not only helps your mental state but allows you to keep up with the demands of everyday life.

“I’ve found being aware of what makes me tick, what drives me and what I need to recharge my batteries is key. And I’ve also become aware that what I need has and does change throughout my life and career.”

Staying connected is also key. After years of living abroad and having friends all over the world, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been slack at maintaining friendships and haven’t been a good friend at times. Maybe because I thought I didn’t need to put in the effort, that relationships don’t require work, effort and attention? However I was recently reminded of the importance of friendship, and so now more than ever, I have come to appreciate the most rewarding things in life are achieved through hard work and effort. Staying connected should not be hard with so many various platforms connecting us. I’ve even tried out this new thing called Instagram although my photos could do with a little more work!

Now, a lot of the above is easier said than done and putting in the effort takes work. I’ve found being aware of what makes me tick, what drives me and what I need to recharge my batteries is key. And I’ve also become aware that what I need has and does change throughout my life and career.

I’ve always been a confident and driven person but I’m now acutely aware that I need to focus and work on myself to improve my environment and my life. We all have areas of growth, but it’s sometimes really hard to drill down and identify our areas of weakness. And in times of stress like we’re all experiencing now, it becomes even more important to get off your arse, physically and mentally and put in the work. It’s not like we are time poor which is our usual excuse. Time has never changed; it’s simply our choices, our priorities, which we can control that require our attention.

I find one of the main obstacles for those not willing to put in the work is a fear of failure. But to this I’d say don’t be afraid to fuck up. We grow and learn from our mistakes. Weight training is simply our muscles tearing under stress, rebonding and healing together bigger and stronger than ever. I’ve found it is no different for my mental toughness and growth.

When we come out of our forced withdrawal from work, there will be no time to ease back into it. And why would you want that? We all entered hospitality to be around people, to enjoy their company and to create experiences. After being deprived of this for however long this lockdown lasts, I for one can’t wait to shake myself off, kick the six year old off my lap, get into my respective venues and work my arse off!

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