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Sunday July 13, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday July 14, 2014 MYT 1:24:29 PM
by tan shiow chin
After 19 best-selling books, thousands of speaking engagements, and three bouts with cancer, Australia’s top non-fiction author is still going strong.
According to body language expert Allan Pease, I have a “very Western/American type of attitude”, based on the way I talk. Hardly surprising, as my main pop cultural references come from the Hollywood mill. Indeed, like many of my fellow Gen X-ers and those born after us, my body language is being increasingly homogenised to the American pop culture standard.
Pease explains: “Body language is a reflection of emotion; it shows how you are feeling. Because all cultures have the same emotions – love, hate, anger – they have the same body expressions, the same gestures; the basics are the same. What used to be significantly different in the past was that every culture would have its own particular gestures that would have evolved within the culture. And in most cultures now, that has disappeared.”
The reason, he says, is due to the pervasive influence of Hollywood.
“People under the age of 20, roughly, have identical movements, gestures, behaviours in every culture. You know why? They’re all playing (adventure video game) Minecraft. They’re all watching American television, they’re all downloading made-in-America movies, and they are emulating those characters; they’re copying the same gestures. I think, within the next 30 years, there will be no cultural differences of any type.”
The two cultures that will hang on the longest to their unique body language differences, he thinks, will be the Arabs and the Japanese, due to the more insular nature of their societies. “The upside is, when members of this generation here," he adds, pointing to his six-year-old daughter, Bella, "interact with other cultures, they’ll all have a clearer understanding of what the other person means; they’ll be using the same code.”
The Big C
While the 63-year-old Australian is primarily famous for his best-selling non-fiction books on communication and body language – most of them written with his life and business partner, Barbara – and for his entertaining motivational talks, Pease is also known for his openness about his battles with cancer.
The first came in 1996 when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer – something Pease attributes to being in Chernobyl for two weeks in 1986, giving talks at the time of the nuclear power plant disaster.
It didn’t help that his business was then in crisis, as it was discovered that his accountant had been siphoning money and accumulating debts up to A$1.48mil (RM4.41mil). Pease was also diagnosed with depression. Fortunately, the cancer, financial crisis and the depression were all beaten off.
Then, five years later, Pease noted that he was frequently getting up at night to pee. His doctor said it was just age – he was 47 – but as his nocturnal lavatory visits became every other hour over the months, Pease knew it had more to do than just getting old. Two prostrate-specific antigen (PSA) tests and a biopsy later, it was confirmed: Pease had prostate cancer – and an aggressive form at that.
His second cancer attack had nothing to do with the thyroid problem as he suspected. But the non-drinking, non-smoking, gym-going vegetarian was told that his prognosis was not good. His doctor said that 97% of patients with his similar condition were not expected to live for more than three years.
In typical Pease manner, he asked his doctor: “Well, okay, I’ll have the 3% (who survive to live a normal lifespan); give me that group.” Pease's doctor then tried to explain that 3% was just a statistical average, and that “you don’t choose your group”.
Pease response? “Why not? Ninety-seven guys die and 3% live. Clearly, the three out of 100 were doing something the 97% didn’t do – eating something, thinking something – something they must be doing for them to be the 3%.”
He adds: “I discovered, at that point, the medical profession really didn’t understand that concept. Statistically, the guy was right – only 3% survive to live to be old, but they hadn’t kind of supposed that you could decide to be that 3%, because that didn’t make scientific sense.”
This conviction led Pease on a three-year quest and through 19 medical specialists to find the people who had beaten the odds, and what they'd done to get there.
He shares: “I’d heard about this woman; she had bone cancer in her entire body and she was given six months to live. She was 27 years old, she had three kids, and she had survived. I went to see her – she lives on a farm; she’s a farmer’s wife. She was 54 when I saw her. I asked her, what did you do? She said, 'I just decided I couldn’t die. I have all these kids, no one to look after them, and I just decided to live.' She didn’t do anything; she just decided to live.”
Pease adds that decision seems to be common across the many unexpected long-term cancer survivors he's come across, and one that he has embraced himself. But he notes that it’s not just about deciding, then not doing anything about it.
Chanting With Monks
Pease tried every medical and alternative cancer treatment he could to potentially improve his odds of survival – the Gerson diet; removing all copper, aluminium and plastics from his house; moving closer to the sea for the supposedly more oxygenated air; removing and “zapping” his blood with electricity before transfusing it back in; removing all his mercury dental fillings; having conventional surgery to remove his prostrate; and radiotherapy.
He also changed his diet, going completely organic vegan at one point, before becoming an organic pesco-vegetarian. “For five years, I lived like a monk, literally,” he shares. At one point, he even “chanted with monks” in Ipoh. Although he can’t recall the community he was with, he does remember one funny story.
“This Malaysian guy says, 'We are going to give you this special treatment. We have to reduce the temperature of your pelvis. You have to stick your arse in a bucket of ice water and sit there for 10 minutes.' I thought, all right, if there’s a 1% chance of reducing my cancer, I’ll do it. So, here I am, sitting in this bush toilet out in Ipoh, with my arse in a bucket of ice water, and there are monkeys running around in the trees outside the window. And I remember I started laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. I’m laughing and laughing, and I remember this Malaysian voice saying, ‘No laughing!’ I fell off the bucket, I was rolling around the floor and I couldn’t stop laughing!”
Laughing at his own memory, he adds: “Did it do anything? I don’t know. But if there was anything possible to do for cancer, I did it, both legal and illegal (not legal in Australia but legal where he did it).”
Getting What You Want
Although he's now lived 15 years beyond his first prostate cancer diagnosis, the disease was found to have metastasised to his bones five years ago. In fact, he had just received his latest test results the day before his interview with Reads. He shares that the previous bone scan eight months before had shown five cancerous spots. This latest scan showed that two spots had disappeared, one had almost disappeared, one was about 60% reduced, and one more had grown larger.
“So, they’re going to ‘shoot’ this (with radiotherapy) in about two weeks,” he says.
But in no was has his health condition slowed him down. Not only is he travelling the world on speaking engagements – before coming to Malaysia, he was in Russia for two weeks – he's also finishing a new book.
He shares: “This is a totally different approach. This one will be about how to get anything you want in life.” The book, entitled The Keys: How To Get Everything You Want In Life, initially started out as an autobiography, “But now it’s not big enough for it. It needs to be expanded, using my own life as just one of the examples.”
He says: “It’s a book on how to decide what you want. Most people have difficulty with this; they don’t know how to decide what it is they want. It’s difficult for younger people today because you can have anything you want. There’s so much; how do you decide what you want?
“So how you decide what you want, and what’s the process you need to document how you’re going to do this. (It) shows you from start to finish what to do to get to where you want to be, whether it’s becoming the new Mother Teresa, the new Warren Buffett, or whatever the goal is you want – how you do that based on what’s important to you. Because my whole life, that’s what I’ve done – my father taught me to do that.”
Ironically, for someone who has written so much, Pease professes not to like writing at all. “For me, I find writing difficult, I have to really be pushed, threatened to do it.” He adds with a laugh: “I found a good way to threaten myself. Accept a good deal of money from a publisher and they put a deadline on it, then they hammer me for it.”
He also insists that this is his last book. “That’s it, I’m not going to write any more.” But he admits: “Every book I’ve written in the last 10 years, I’ve said would be my last. I’m saying it again now, but I feel like I’m serious this time. I can’t sit down and write another one.” Of course, there’s a twinkle in his eye as he saying this.
> Pansing, the Malaysian distributor of Allan and Barbara Pease's 'Body Language In The Workplace' has 10 copies of the book up for grabs for The Star Online readers. To win, complete this statement in under 15 words: Body language matters more than words because.... E-mail your entry to email@example.com; include “Allan Pease Giveaway” in the subject field. All entries must come with your full name, My Kad or passport number, phone number (personal or professional) and a mailing address (home or office). This contest ends July 27, 2014.
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