Back in 2003 – more than ten years ago – I wrote a piece in the Bobby Dazzler Newsletter about “Toughness”. Recently I came across it, and thought it might be of interest to readers of this blog, both those who have never seen Issue #6 of the Newsletter, and those who read it but have forgotten.

If you’d like to read the rest of Issue #6 of the Newsletter, click here. If you’d like to receive the Newsletter by email about every two months, email me at

Here’s the article:

For as long as I can remember, I have thought there was some merit in trying to keep oneself “tough” by choosing to do things like sleeping on a hard bed, or putting up with high or low temperatures, or using a hand saw when a power saw is available. I don’t think I ever implemented this philosophy to any great extent, and its merits seem slightly less convincing as I get older. (It has never been imposed on Bobby Dazzler tour guests!)

Occasionally I read about people such as athletes who engage in the most amazingly rigorous training programs, and I feel like a real couch potato! And some people become tough simply because they accept enormous demands that life puts on them, and, rather than throwing in the towel, find resources within themselves that many of us would think were impossible. You probably even know of such people—or maybe you are one!

The human being is capable of achievements in a whole host of areas which at first glance seem simply NOT POSSIBLE.

And yet, it is so tempting to settle for a pedestrian lifestyle, where matters of ultimately no importance loom large. Will X get evicted on the TV “reality” show? I can’t get my hair just the way I want it. Internet response time is a real pain!

I’m not suggesting that there’s any particular virtue in being uncomfortable, but I do think that modern living encourages us to live soft, and to live well below our capabilities. Achieving our capabilities will usually mean a fair amount of discipline, and of deprivation in the present for the sake of gratification in the future.

Going to the Australian Outback provides many object lessons in toughness—for example, getting a first-hand impression of what was achieved by the early explorers (see following article), and appreciating something of the lifestyles of those who live there today and learn to cope with the vicissitudes of life in the Outback.

People who live in remote Outback areas learn to be tough and resourceful in ways that city people find hard to imagine.

• Imagine living 200 kms (over rough roads, with lots of wildlife ready to jump out in front of you) away from the nearest hospital, where there may not even be a doctor. Imagine bringing up a family in that situation! (Outback people are pretty enthusiastic about the Flying Doctor!)

• Imagine having to do all your shopping once a month, with no chance to pop back down to the shop if you’ve forgotten something.

• Imagine being involved in polling cattle (cutting their horns off—not pleasant), crutching sheep, assisting in the delivery of various baby animals, killing animals for food, and dealing with snakes (in the summer).

• Imagine being a day’s travel away from the nearest movie theatre or cappuccino machine or hairdresser! You’d have to be tough!

On Outback trips, we sometimes meet – and have a chance to talk to – people who live in places where life is like this. They have to be tough!

Cradock track 10-10

No, the road to the shop is not sealed!


About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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4 Responses to Toughness

  1. Sue Emeleus says:

    Dear Rob, Thanks for a great article. I have no memory of having read it before, but that’s more because of my age/memory than because of anything else. I don’t think I received the newsletters then. I’ve been to the shops each day for the last three days because I forgot one thing last time! Looking forward to seeing you soon. Love from S

  2. Lavinia Ross says:

    I agree – nothing like having to rely on oneself to enable resourcefulness and toughness, no matter where in the world one is.

  3. Anne Newton says:

    Reading that article reminds me of my time at Merrowie, near Hillston in NSW. (33 years ago) It didn’t seem tough then. We shopped in Griffith or Sydney, which was an excuse to dress up, have lunch at a cafe, look at dress fabrics and other window shopping and spend a big cheque. The township of Hillston wasn’t far very away if we ran out of wine or cigarettes! I became bogged on the driveway when coming back from Albury with an Esky full of fresh trout from the Hume Weir Trout Farm. I walked the 3 kms to the house in bare feet, carrying the precious cooler, through the red mud. Don’t think I’d manage that now, but it just seemed a big lark then. We marked the lambs with a knife… a bloody and dreadful experience for a Melbourne girl… but it just was the way it was. I can’t remember thinking about hair or coffee. We had so much fun, rearing emu chicks, cooking for shearers, shooting feral pigs, being chased by a goanna, finding an aboriginal canoe tree near the Lachlan, avoiding snakes on the irrigation banks, riding horses and motorbikes and driving big articulated tractors, and wheat trucks through the drought. I was young, slim and fit…. which I am not now, sadly. Probably the best time of my life.

  4. dazzlerplus says:

    Wow, Anne, there’s a book there waiting to be written! Very few of the younger generations would have had anything like that breadth of bush experience. And I’m sure the toughness it gave you has seen you through a few sticky spots in later life (without compromising your innate femininity). And of course everyone should have the experience of being chased by a goanna at least once in their life.
    By the way, I’ve had the pleasure of spending a few more hours than I’d planned in Hillston in recent times, due to rain closing the road out to Willandra National Park. Hillston’s been shmicked up a treat in recent years — at least the main street has — and you can get a decent cappuccino and a croissant (!) at “The Shed on the Lachlan”. I dare say croissants didn’t feature much out there 33 years ago!

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