I was lucky to play with some great players, and non more so than Daniel Palmer. One of the game’s best scrummagers, Dan is an incredibly smart bloke (probably why he chose to play in the front row) and sadly had his career cut short by a foot injury. But now he’s the Brumbies scrum coach, a Neuroscience PhD, and someone I’m very lucky to call a dear friend.
Palms recently started his own blog called “Thoughts of the Human Mammal” where he asks a series of thoughtful questions, and has interviewed Michael’s Cheika and Hooper, along with other interesting people from diverse backgrounds.
And because I’m classified as a human mammal, I was lucky enough to be this week’s guest.
Check out Dan’s Blogs for more interviews, and here is this week’s addition of “Thoughts of the Human Mammal”.
Ben retired from professional rugby in 2018 after earning over 70 international caps for the Wallabies and making more than 150 Super Rugby appearances for the ACT Brumbies. He is now a husband and father of three; publican (The Dock, Kingston); co-founder of tech start-ups, Alfred and Fam; and is completing a graduate diploma in Computing at The Australian National University. On top of all of this, Ben was the one of the first people on the planet (apparently) to have a burrito delivered by drone - a tremendous achievement.
Ben is a human mammal. Here are his thoughts:
What brings you the most joy in life?
Spending time with those I love and working hard on problems I believe need solving with people I respect.
What does success mean to you?
Being able to spend your time on the previous answer.
What do you see as your greatest achievement?
I’m working towards it.
What are you most grateful for?
Being alive. My upbringing. My wife and kids.
Who or what has had the biggest influence on your life?
Growing up, my Dad. He is a paediatric geneticist and always told me, ‘Ben, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life’ - and I didn’t understand want he meant at the time, but the no working part really resonated!
Now, my wife - she’s very patient!
More generally, rugby has had a massive influence on me and has taught me a lot. It gave me structure and provided opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
What do you regret?
I’m still trying to figure out if I believe in regrets or not. There are things I’d do differently if I could have periods of my life over again, but I’m not sure I’d call them regrets.
Has there been a defining moment in your life? Can you tell us about it?
My grandmother’s death had a big impact on me - I was incredibly close with her and it was the first time I watched someone die.
Career wise, it was being sent off during the British and Irish Lions series decider in 2013. It was humiliating and beyond disappointing - as it was my dream to be a part of such a special occasion. I’d watched every minute of the 2001 series, and to have it all go pear-shaped when I had my opportunity crushed me. But the experience taught me so much about dealing with criticism and how to bounce back, and I feel better prepared for what’s next having gone through it.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Get your eating under control ASAP - life becomes much better when you do.
What is the most important thing we can teach kids in school?
Understanding how physical and mental health are related, and we need to give them the skills to take care of both.
What do you doubt most?
Do you have a favourite quote? What is it? Why do you like it?
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Steve Jobs.
I love it because it reinforces what my father told me as a kid about finding purpose in life and work. For a long time I lacked the courage to be myself, and would always try to ‘fit in’ rather than forge my own path.
What is the role of luck in our lives?
It plays a massive role and I’m only realising the full extent of my luck now that I’m a parent and can see how lucky my own kids are. But I also believe that you can create your own luck by working hard to put yourself in positions that increases the likelihood that you’ll get lucky.
If you could have a conversation with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
Too many options, but my wife and I watch the Joe Rogan Experience a lot, so a chance to chat with him would be fun.
What would you do with your life if you had unlimited financial resources?
Buy a Tesla and keep doing what I’m doing now.
If you could have the definitive answer to a single question, what would you ask?
Who got Lee Harvey Oswald to shoot JFK and then got Jack Ruby to shoot Oswald?
What concept/fact/idea should every human on the planet understand?
The concept of personal energy and the impact it and nutrition has on how our brain functions.
Do human beings have free will?
Yes - though it may be constrained by the laws of physics that govern how the universe works and the neurochemicals that influence our decision making.
Do you believe in God?
No. But I’m starting to believe in something. Not sure what though.
What do you see as the biggest existential threat to humanity?
The increasing number of people who are unhappy with the direction of their life and feel powerless to make things better. There are many reasons for this, but if this number continues to grow, I fear it will prevent us from making progress on important long-term issues like climate change.
What does it mean to live a good life?
Spending as much time as possible with people you love and working on meaningful things with people you respect.
What is a good death?
Pain free, and at the time of passing, being content with the life you have lived -surrounded by those you love most.
What question should I have asked you?
When are we going for coffee next?
Thanks for your time, Ben!