My Healthy-Cooking Challenge!

In early January 2022 we spent the day with Debbie Tong in her kitchen – where her Thermomix sat with pride, revved and ready for a cooking demonstration.

We picked 4 recipes we knew you would like. With the ingredients already prepared by Deb, we were ready to roll. Simply click on the headings to watch the demo (the LSA video includes the banana tofu ice-cream recipe).

1. The ‘LSA trio’

Grinding the ‘LSA’ combination – linseeds, sunflower seeds and almonds – is so easy with the Thermomix, and takes 9 seconds flat! Refrigerated in an airtight jar, it remains fresh for up to 2 weeks. Sprinkle some on your rolled oats, banana or yoghurt; or use instead of breadcrumbs to deep-fry lightly battered fish (beautifully crunchy!)  

My LSA-crumbed Barramundi

LSA’s benefits are endless: gut-friendly fibre (important for digestion), plant protein (if you’re not a great meat-eater), minerals and phytonutrients. All natural with nothing else added. (Chewing a handful of almonds, walnuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds is just as good, but you must chew them well.)

2. Banana tofu ice-cream

I thought it was a strange combination and wondered how it would taste: it certainly didn’t disappoint when we had it for dessert after lunch.

“ … consider the ingredients commonly used in the manufacture of mass-produced, commercial ice cream: benzyl acetate, aldehyde C-17, butyraldehyde, piperonal, ethyl acetate … ” 

Raubenheimer, D. & Simpson, S. (2020). How to Eat like the Animals, p.136. HarperCollins Publishers: Sydney.

Please look it up. These ‘artificial flavours’ belong more to the chemical industry than in the food we actually pay to consume! Anyway, shouldn’t ice-cream be homemade with cream, honey or natural fruit flavours??

3. ‘Traffic light salad’

Deb beautifully blended broccoli, apple, carrots and red capsicum following Thermomix instructions. The salad was crunchy, fresh and easily digested. You’d never buy anything as good as this!

4. Cauliflower rice with creamy coconut chicken curry

Deb saved the best till last. Step by step and weighing everything before starting the cooking process, she made it look effortless – aided by instructions on the Thermomix. 

We already knew it would be delicious before we sat down for lunch from the tantalising aroma! Honestly, I could not think of any restaurant where I had curry this tasty. The spices, the coconut and the chicken were so perfectly balanced, without a drop of ‘flavour enhancers’. (And have you noticed lately that more sugar and salt are added in almost every ‘ready to eat’ meal you buy??)

What’s more, the cauliflower rice was crunchy and not overcooked. It doesn’t make you feel as ‘full’ compared to jasmine or basmati rice; we couldn’t resist having second helpings. 

Then came the banana tofu ice-cream – so refreshing in summer, and completely dairy-free. The taste of tofu was subtle, and the banana and honey rounded it up nicely. 

Driving home, I thought how useful it would have been to have had a Thermomix wedding present – but it wasn’t around in 1980 when I married and had to find my own way in the kitchen. Bereft of my gifted Singaporean cooks, I dreaded having to prepare family meals. (Of course, I was fine with everything on toast: eggs, cheese, baked beans, or peanut butter). 

Cooking dinner – crown of the evening – completely threw me. I could ‘do’ simple salads which my husband insisted on (we never had them in Singapore), but would gaze totally confused at the chopped ginger, garlic, onions and raw chicken before me intended to produce Mum’s chicken curry (her Sunday-cooking special, but only after the maids laid out all the ingredients!). 

I did however compile a recipe book before leaving Singapore. My aunt Gertie, cousin Joyce and granny Azizah were my favourite cooks. So I started with their recipes: 

  • Gertie’s Chicken Soup & Roast Chicken
  • Joyce’s Spaghetti Bolognese
  • Granny’s Apple Jam (specially for the Jewish New Year).

My husband dared me to attempt his lentil soup and ‘vegetable pie without the pie’, which he wrote down in my book (somewhat weird – but as I didn’t like pastry, I thought it was worth attempting).   

His family took pity on me and invited us for dinner almost every weekend, giving me leftovers to take home. And it was at one of these gatherings almost 26 years ago that I met Deb Tong. I never forgot how she captured my imagination with the lovely dishes and salads she’d bring. She encouraged me to cook with simple ingredients. Stir-fries were a good place to start, and they worked well for me. At the time, I’d also been reading Norman Walker’s Colon Health and Diet and Salad.  

So began the ‘spark’ we call desire: learning to cook tasty meals without elaborate seasoning, no junk cereals, bottled drinks, biscuits, sugar treats and factory ice-cream. I bought rolled oats, wholegrain bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, and natural Greek yoghurt. I used raw honey to sweeten, and had fruit before meals. 

I began to feel better. It meant much more work in the kitchen, but my goal was not to be a hospital statistic, and to have a healthy family. (Birthday cakes and ice-cream were reserved for those occasions and at parties.)  

My love of cooking grew over time. Now I can think of nothing else I’d like better. I continue to walk past aisles of biscuits, ‘ready to eat’ meals and soft drinks (I confess I do love ‘Kettle Chilli Chips’ in small handfuls).

… and glorious tropical fruit
Vegetable glory at fabulous Tekka Market, S’pore

In the good old days when I made at least 2 annual trips overseas, most often to Singapore, the first place I’d go was ‘Tekka Market’ – to be surrounded with local fruit and vegetables. HEAVEN!

Have I given you hope?


There’s nothing you can’t do when you have a reason, a desire, or a passion. These are ingredients you must have to fuel your goal and succeed in whatever you wish to do, become, and have.

You’ll enjoy watching Deb cook in the videos – and even more when you learn how wonderful it is to taste food that is HOMEMADE and FRESH.  

Now try NOT opening pre-cooked ‘meals’ and/or drink cans for a few nights … and watch what happens!  

What’s ‘New’ in January 2022?

Does 2022 really seem like a new year??

We’re still stuck with the same old C-19, but now with the new ‘O’ strain – something ‘new’ for all the wrong reasons!

Pubs, cafes and clubs in Sydney are half-open, with hordes of staff missing in ‘isolation’; hospitals and paramedics are under pressure and parents’ worst nightmare – home-schooling – is looming again.

We miss our Gladys (Gladys Berejiklian, the former NSW premier). She was the rock we clung on to when the seas were choppy. We felt her sympathy and knew she cared. It doesn’t feel right without her at all. 

What concerns us? Jobs, family, friends, finances – and of course our health – because without health everything else is thrown into chaos


We need to be kept busy and working, but unfortunately not always in jobs we like. We hang in there because we need the income and wait for the time when something better comes along.

There were days when I absolutely hated being at work – this was not because I hated my job but because of our managers. Some were insensitive and controlling; they invariably had their ‘favourites’ while the rest of us looked on in frustration and despair. This made me so angry, and resigning was not far from my mind. But I didn’t. I resolved not to allow any one person to take away the job I loved. I took deep breaths, calmed down and got back into work.  

On the plus side, the ‘bad’ managers eventually moved on and nicer people took their place. Staff morale was restored, we actually enjoyed being at work. But such managers are rare; make sure you thank them!


How is a good family life important? Simply, it builds close relationships which benefit us for a lifetime!

I had a large family in Singapore – my parents, siblings, grannies, many aunts and uncles. I learned so much from each of them: investing, saving money, stamp-collecting, telling stories, loving music, playing an instrument, being kind and generous, amongst others. 

Those beautiful memories stay with me each day – and your kids need to experience this too. Be there to engage, teach and talk to them. Recognise and nurture their talents. Pushing their pram or holding their hand in the park while fixated on your smartphone won’t cut it.


Raising a family to eat well from infancy is also crucial. When I had my son in 1983, Norman Walker’s Diet & Salad was my guide. No biscuits, soft drinks or mushy cereals – only rolled oats, freshly-squeezed orange juice, yogurt and fresh vegetables. No fruit after meals either. We all had less tummy problems! My hand-held ‘Bamix’ blender pureed every meal for him – rice, potatoes, meat, chicken, fish and vegetables. The time I sacrificed avoiding sweet snacks and ready-to-eat meals meant less time at the doctors. And it was well worth it.  


I treasure each one. My best friends mean as much to me as my family. Forty years working in a large hospital put me in touch with people that remain close to me till today.  

We started work each morning with “How are you?”, or “How are your kids?”; or if they didn’t look happy, “Is everything alright?” When I now see signs along the corridors of our hospitals reminding us to ask “R U OK?”, I shudder. Do we really need to be told? I believe this sign should be aimed specifically at department managers! 

In my entire working life, particularly after the 1990s, never did a manager stop by to ask, “Shirley, how are things going?” In fact, concern was only shown when a staff member fainted or rushed to the toilet in tears.

By contrast, in the ’80s and ’90s our supervisors had a sense of humour, and always passed by our desks with a greeting. It was an environment that promoted happy people getting the job done. It appeared very few had mental health issues then. 

Attitude amongst those receiving the highest wages has worsened since the smartphone became an appendage. Their personal lives and problems now override their duty of care. Smiles or a “Good Morning” are sadly gone. If you’re in such a situation, I suggest you stay true to your values. Be kind and caring and look out for your colleagues – you need each other. And if you’re lucky enough to have a caring and empathic manager that actually stops to listen, thank them


Your pay is your lifeline but it shouldn’t be your only source of income. Sam and I will continue to give you simple steps to building wealth. 

Feeling secure and living an active, worry-free life in retirement is what we want you to achieve

So what’s been in the news since 1 January? 

Lots and lots of advertising … white goods and home-tech especially, the lure of 2 years interest-free with a minimum spend of $1000 … retail outlets in partnership with credit card companies who deduct your payments once you’re approved for the loan. And the added $1000 gift card is so enticing – as long as you sign up and make the $10K minimum purchase.   

But before signing, think of this: Do you really need to spend $10K to get the $1000 gift card?

Your interest rate would rise to 22–26% p.a. if you don’t pay your loan off within the interest-free term. Worse, if you request a reprieve for “financial hardship” your credit rating will take a dive. 

For large purchases, I suggest using a credit card with an ongoing low interest rate. If you have a mortgage, use your offset account instead. 

Now for some good news on my side: I finally finished preparing my paperwork for my 20/21 tax return, thanks to Sam. He’s put me on a cloud-based software called ‘Share Sight’ and at last, all my ASX contract notes and ‘CHESS’ certificates have become a joy to behold! It’s now so easy to evaluate my losses and capital gains and updating them is a breeze. I’m so relieved. (Sam will tell you more about Share Sight in his next post.) 


We’ve lately seen many ‘tips’ written by dieticians in the newspapers. Peta Bee writing in The Times this year gives “8 Simple Health Hacks for the Over-40’s” as a daily regime: 

1. Eat 2 tablespoons of sunflower, pumpkin and/or sesame seeds (or my ‘LSAs’ – linseeds, sunflower seeds & almonds) 

2. Have some yoghurt (for gut health)

3. Don’t sleep with a health-tracker (they’re only 38% accurate)

4. No nibbling late at night

5. Take Vitamin D (especially when you don’t get too much sun)

6. Walk an extra 1000 steps

7. Eat a veg to fruit ratio of 3:2 (middle-agers with a flavonoid-rich diet have on average 20% lower risk of mental decline) 

8. Have a 10-minute run at the very least (it promotes both physical and brain health). 

The Times, January 4, 2022.

Also have a read of these recent articles in Australia’s The Sun-Herald

As expected, “gut health” and “gut microbiomes” are mentioned a lot – but I’m curious why the word ‘colon’ (which is really your gut) hardly ever is. Avoided because it doesn’t sound as ‘nice’, and harder to sell? [insert carrot pic & video]

What we read today is what I knew 3 decades ago. It’s very simple:

  • The colon (our ‘gut’) is responsible for 70% of the health of our immune system
  • The colon needs 2–3 litres of water per day to properly eliminate waste
  • Fruits are the body’s cleansers and the best detox – pink grapefruit and pineapple particularly (for optimum absorption & less bloating all fruit should be eaten at least half an hour before food or 3 hours after food 
  • Raw vegetables: if you had to pick one, chew on a carrot one of the most valuable and complete foods containing essential fibre and all the nutrients & vitamins required by the human body
  • Exercise – the colon inherits its benefits and passes it on to your brain. 

My Diet & Your Colon posts provide all the information you need on keeping healthy. And naturally, there’s a new video too …

I wish you all a Healthy 2022, and for many, many more years to come!

2021’s Mystery Flight 19

Wasn’t it just like that?

How long would the trip take? What would the weather be? Did we budget correctly? Would our clothes be suitable?? …

We’d anticipate turbulence. The ‘ding’ of the seatbelt sign would come on, with the crew telling us to fasten up and fold tray-tables. “Don’t worry, it won’t last long!”, their reassuring smiles would say. At times we’d see blue skies, relax again – but almost without warning, dark clouds would gather. The ride becomes bumpy, seatbelt lights ping on again. We’d clench our teeth until they went off.  

Of course, the first real jolt was provided by ‘Delta’ (Airlines?!). In Sydney, our premier gave daily media updates on the virus. Growing infection rates, hospital admissions, ICU patients … the numbers kept climbing. Some days were slightly better and we saw bluer skies. Did it mean we were beating this?   

We had to wait until October to be finally freed from our belted seats, and the buckles came off. 

BUT … just weeks before Christmas, the next heart-sinking descent was ‘Omicron’. Black clouds hovered again, and we had to strap in. Another jab, literally, with booster shots. 

So this is where we are now, folks: Christmas in Australia, 2021. 

We’d love to believe the flight’s finally ‘landed’, and we’ve ‘touched down’. But it does sometimes seem like we’ve never been to this city/country/island at all! That’s the mystery flight. 

Until I see clear blue for days on end, I’ll stay home and only be with those I know. It’s still too early for my third vax, and I won’t be on a real plane until that’s done. 

It’s not all bad, really. I’m grateful my local gym is open to small classes, and my new trail shoes give daily walks so much more spring. I’ve not eaten out or binged on pastries, sat for hours watching videos, or gained pounds. 

Moving on to New Year’s resolutions. Realise they really don’t work, and don’t last longer than a month or even a week. So let me help you make just one: FOR THIS YEAR AND FOR ALWAYS, DECIDE TO EAT BETTER.  

I have a gut feeling (go the pun!) 2022 will be the YEAR OF …THE COLON. You’ll see more research proving that what you eat will either make you sick and age sooner or keep you well and looking younger!

You might say, “It’s only the luck of the draw!” – and you may be right. But you can also keep the odds stacked in your favour. Add to this being financially secure, enjoying your work, family and friends, you’ll be fun to be around – active, enthusiastic, creative. 


We’re all hearing of how Covid has left us with more money to spend. If you really want a New Year’s resolution, start a savings plan for yourself and your family. Watch this video of my trip to the Canberra Mint!

Shirl’s Pearls turns … ONE!

To all my dear Pearlers, Friends and Family:

Yes, it’s now almost a year since we launched!! 

It was my dream. In 1959, aged 10 and with a pile of Enid Blyton books beside me, I remember closing my eyes and saying, “One day I will be a writer and speak to many people about my book!”

Sixty years later, my “book” is a website and my talks are on YouTube. You know, dreams do come true … weaving their way into a future we could never have imagined. 

It all started with the phrase on my first page: “I thought I would never grow old”. I loved my family so much – but would I grow as ‘old’ as them? Complaining about aches and pains? 

I wanted to be a doctor so I could cure everyone who was sick and suffering. My Mum did too, but the Japanese occupation put an end to that. I read books she bought on medicine and physiology, learned about chronic diseases, and the names of our organs and bones. But I found nothing that explained why old people became fatter, had trouble walking or suffered from some kind of illness. 

The answer came many years later: ‘‘The people you meet and the books you read”. These were the keys to knowledge and wisdom, and they defined my life. 

The book was Diet & Salad published in 1949 by a doctor of chemistry, Norman Walker. It was given to me just before I left Singapore to live in Sydney. Dr Walker wrote that the COLON was the indicator of your health. The colon??

He described it as your engine room, “intimately related to every cell and tissue in the body”.1 It works tirelessly, 24 hours a day, supplying nutrients to your blood and your organs, getting rid of what it doesn’t need, and ensuring every part of your body functions well.

If the body doesn’t function well, “the intellect cannot be expected to function or develop constructively …2

What do we need to keep the colon healthy? 

  • Raw vegetables or vegetable juices, fresh fruits, unprocessed grains, plenty of water
  • Salads
  • Right food combinations
  • Fibre
  • Water
  • Exercise (which I found the most challenging). 

Dr Walker was emphatic. DON’T mix starches with proteins. Fruit after a meal interferes with the digestive process resulting in fermentation, acid reflux, bloating and gas. Have another look at his Food-Control Guide from my Raw Real Life! post. 

From my teens to my early 30s, I suffered gastritis and frequently took antacids. Would the cure be that simple? My mother said citrus fruits were acidic and best to take after a meal to properly digest food. But taken before a meal according to Dr Walker, they have an alkaline reaction on the body! 

Don’t you think it’s worth a try?

  1. AVOID FRUIT AFTER A MEAL. Start your day by squeezing half an orange and grapefruit diluted with lots of water. Wait. Any acid reflux? I didn’t have any. Then have your tea or coffee with breakfast half an hour later. 
  1. DRINK MORE WATER. Limit or avoid alcohol altogether. And NO MORE SUGARY DRINKS!
  1. EXERCISE for at least 30 minutes after your morning juice. I recommend a brisk walk. Read again the benefits of walking in Move! 1.0 post. (If your job is stressful as mine was, that walk will give you a full working day of energy. I could still smile at the end of my day!) I took the next step and joined a gym at 68 – how I wish I’d done this sooner!

I was raised on lavish, tasty main courses, followed by rich desserts and sweet tropical fruits (which I found the hardest to resist). I knew I had to take a slow, steady approach or I’d easily give up.

I now found having substantial salads before main meals helped control the craving for nibbles like chips and eating too much in my main meal. It’s the fibre in the salad which keeps hunger at bay. I also didn’t have a second helping of the main dish, and avoided dessert or fruits after. Did you know that the brain needs time to tell us we’ve had enough to eat? To my surprise, I felt full an hour later and didn’t feel like having ‘something sweet’ at all. 

This regime took 2 years, but that’s essentially how I went from a size 12 to an 8. It’s all in Move! 2.0

My diet has sensibly evolved over the years; as we age, our food, vitamins and supplements must also be rebalanced. 

However, what I’ve NEVER changed is the way I time and separate what I eat! 

I’m convinced this has helped my metabolism work better and the nutrients from raw fruit and vegetables to be absorbed much faster, keeping my colon happy.

So, everyone – it truly is your COLON, GUT and MICROBIOMES. They hold the key to a long and healthy life. It’s what I learned 40 years ago. And if all those Christmas carols you’re hearing prompt you to buy another gift, I suggest Eat like the Animals by Professors David Raubenheimer and Stephen Simpson. It’s a book everyone should read – solid evidence from years of research showing the results of our poor eating habits.

A recent University of Sydney study in fact found that diet “could be more powerful than drugs in keeping conditions like diabetes, stroke and heart disease at bay”.

Now a word about our Team – we’ve pooled talents to give you our very best: 

  • Sam – who got our domain name on WordPress, and writes regularly on finance in Sam’s Corner
  • Lina – who brilliantly created and formatted the website, and who manages exasperating customer-help chats with calm and expertise
  • Amos – cameraman and video editor extraordinaire, who’s always patient, meticulous and reliable on assignments (he even tells me how I should sit, where to put my notes and glass of water!)
  • Kristie – who drew and painted the Shirl’s Pearls logo and keeps surprising us with her fun illustrations
  • Dave – an indispensable editor.

And special thanks to those talented and giving people who’ve contributed to our posts this year: 

  • Ros in Sydney for providing her lovely kitchen for our videos and for being a warm, generous human being
  • Shosh in Perth who spent much time setting up and capturing ‘people pics’ for the site, and for giving invaluable advice and guidance 
  • Lionel for his audio editing, snapshots and filming
  • Tony, Jeff, Phil and Efrem for their heartfelt, well-crafted writings in our Cope with Covid series (and cope we did!)

Finally, Pearlers – our final home video to end this very difficult year. We felt you shouldn’t be denied! Is it about … 


Unclassifiable, I’m afraid. 


 1 Walker, N.W. (1940/1970). Diet & Salad, p.25. Norwalk Press: Summertown, Tennessee.

 2 Walker, N.W. Diet & Salad, p.26.

December 2021

I was re-reading our September post on Investing Updates – and I thought this needed to be said again: 

No-one can, or should, attempt to predict the future. Stick to the fundamentals and don’t get carried away by the hype. ‘A rising tide lifts all ships’ – but don’t be one of the dead fish on the sand when the tide goes out! 

It was all green on my watchlist in September. It was also dividend month. We were told the NSW lockdown would soon be over and we could finally look forward to being free again. No surprise I hated updating the September share table last Friday, with some of our stocks in the red … but at least we had more greens! 

Sam Sherry contributed to this post, and here’s our updated share table for December: 

In early November, there was talk of inflation. Would interest rates go up? The Reserve Bank in Australia kept us wondering. Investors were spooked, and tech stocks especially began to move downwards. 

The silly part of this was that even if interest rates were to increase, it would not be more than half a percent and likely even less – hardly enough to significantly affect company fundamentals. More likely, the interest rate uncertainty (i.e. if, when and by how much rates would increase) was just an excuse for investors to sell stocks that analysts believed were already over-valued.

There was more bad news on 26 November, with concerns about yet another virus variant dubbed ‘Omicron’ circulating in southern Africa. Of course, the media had a field day:

Investors wiped $41 billion off Australian shares, the Aussie dollar and industrial commodities dropped and bond yields dived as Covid worries spooked global markets … Travel stocks pummelled by Covid variant. (The Australian, Friday 26 November)

Omicron now dominates the news media, with medical experts giving alarming statistics, more needles stuck in arms (this time in South Africa), and stark graphics. But as for its likely impact, we simply don’t have enough conclusive data. While Omicron appears to be more transmissible, there’s no evidence (so far) that it causes more severe illness, or that it will be able to evade the vaccines. But having said that, this does not mean it’s of no concern; we don’t know, for instance, if we’ll have to wait longer to enjoy quarantine-free travel again – and this will certainly affect the economy.

Unsurprisingly, the market’s initial reaction to the news was negative, as investors adjusted their expectations in response to the new information. As we learn more about Omicron in the days and weeks ahead, watch how investors revise their expectations!

I have lived through several market crashes and recessions. Here are some valuable lessons from each of them that I’ve applied to every aspect of my life:

  1. Don’t borrow more than you can repay. Likewise, in your business or personal life, don’t commit to anything before you have time to think about it.
  1. Invest long-term in stocks that consistently generate profit and have good growth prospects. By having a long-term perspective, short-term price fluctuations become less important than the general direction in which the company is heading. Similarly, remember that everything you do to enhance and improve your knowledge, creativity, or emotional and physical health takes time. Rewards always come. 
  1. Diversify. Sam’s recent post ‘All About Options’ explained how options can help us hedge our bets. But we don’t all have to become option traders to do this, as there are other strategies we can apply to protect ourselves from uncertainty: simply look at the economy around you! For example, if you’ve previously bought Qantas or Flight Centre shares anticipating a pick-up in the travel industry, you can protect yourself by picking alternative stocks such as pathology company ACL (Australian Clinical Labs) and profitable online retailers Accent Group (AX1), Adairs (ADH) and Harvey Norman (HVN). 
  1. Don’t over-focus on the macro. While it helps to pay attention to broader economic trends, don’t fixate on these at the expense of company fundamentals. Often, good stocks will continue to perform well in a ‘bear’ market, while a ‘bull’ market may sometimes fail to save certain ‘dogs’ (poorly performing stocks).
  1. Disasters and setbacks, whether personal, financial or physical, might come your way – but these will pass and often with less damage than we feared. Everything takes its course. Keep that thought. 

Finally, some better news, which should give us reason to be optimistic: Investment opportunities await!

After payroll figures yesterday showed an almost complete recovery in employee jobs by the start of this month, EY chief economist Joanne Masters said the figures were the latest sign that the economy was “roaring back”: “Pent up demand, combined with dollars in the bank and the wealth effect of higher house prices, suggests this spending boom will continue through the festive period”. (The Australian, Friday 26 November)

In the meantime, keep reading Shirl’s Pearls. I’ll make sure you look after your colon and stay healthy – and also give you more investing advice so you can enjoy the rewards!

‘Posture’ for success!

You know the tired old lines: “Shoulders back, head straight, tummy in. And do balance a book on your head while you walk!!” …

Of course, bad posture will give you neck, back, shoulder aches and pains, which become more severe if not corrected. Physiotherapy may be needed in this instance. 

In this post however, I will explain the other meaning of posture: the one that comes with your particular approach or attitude. In the most positive sense, it also means kindness, humility, knowledge and wisdom. It’s the ‘X’ factor that draws people to you! 

I believe I had some of it in my 20s – but lost it in my 30s when I came to live in Sydney (I was no longer the “stockbroker’s daughter” and singing celebrity!). Thankfully, I rediscovered it in my 40s.

To posture for true success, you’ll need to take steps up to what I call ‘the ladder of self-esteem’. 

It began with the people I met during my time with the Network 21 team in Sydney (see my Self-Esteem post). Gradually, through association and friendship with them (and particularly with Glenda and Uschy), I became the person I am today.

Glenda (left) & Uschy, stalwarts of Network 21.
“You gave me the fuel that lit my dream. Thank you!”

I saw immediately that they stood out from the crowd. Their personality so attracted me: charisma that was cool, but not loud or pompous. Engaging. Humble. Willing to listen. To hear your story. To help you achieve your goals

I know I keep returning to my father – but I believe he was a man with posture simply by being himself.

It’s a regular day at Dad’s stockbroking office. Two phones on his desk ring in tandem, and well-heeled clients swarm everywhere, feeding his adrenaline. His Indian moneylender walks in with a friend, who is introduced as ‘Jeet’. He is dressed in a dhoti and white shirt, and the soles of his black leather shoes are almost worn out.

My father gets up, shakes his hand firmly and asks him to sit down. 

“Jeet, you want a soft drink?”

“No Sir, thank you.”

“Are you married? Do you have children?” 

“Yes, Mr Alex, my wife is in India with my 2 sons. I want to bring them to Singapore. I work very hard and saved $500 to buy shares!  Can you help me?”

Dad pats Jeet’s shoulder and smiles in approval. 

“Don’t worry Jeet, I’ll look after you. Keep working hard and save. We can bring your family here in 2 years. Let me think about what shares to buy for you. Come back tomorrow and we can talk about it, OK?”

Jeet gets up, clasps his hands in a ‘Namaste’ gesture, and bows his head in thanks. He is encouraged, his spirit lifted, and now has a goal. He gives someone he’s only just met his hard-earned $500. Jeet trusts my father not because Dad boasts that he’s a clever stockbroker, but because Jeet’s moneylender friend tells him so.

What did Dad do? There are clues in this story to help you develop your posture and harness the strength of doing these 7 simple but POWERFUL things:

  1. HUMILITY. Do you really want to be with a puffed-up, arrogant windbag who looks down on those “not like them”?
  1. A FIRM HANDSHAKE. A limp, half-hearted one says you’re not interested!
  1. A PERSON’S NAME. “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the most important sound in any language!”1 (And why is it that these days when you ask someone on the phone their name, you can hardly understand what they said?)
  1.  PRAISE AND A SMILE. This is so encouraging and uplifting!
  1. LISTENING. Ask questions, get others to talk about themselves. Do this sincerely and you will make a friend! Read all about ‘active listening’ here
  1. HONESTY AND THE TRUTH. In Dad’s day if you cheated someone, they would take your car away; if you lied, your business would die a slow death. Today it’s the smartphone which can reveal all. Be careful what you say or write online
  1. WORDS. Use words that encourage and inspire, and use them often

Dad had all these qualities. Later on, when I was older, I took a phrase from an ancient Jewish proverb:

“He who walks with the wise grows wise”. 

I began to turn my attention to observing those people I wanted to emulate. They didn’t become successful by accident. Rejections, disappointments, family problems and ill-health came their way. My life seemed blissful compared to theirs. How did they push through and accomplish what they did?

Dad, always practical, would say, “They worked hard and they learned from those smarter than them!” Mum, more imaginative, would tell me, “ … you must keep picturing what you want and it will come true.” And they were both right.  

So I say to you: 

Get a mentor.  

Know your ‘why’. 

Write it down and picture it. 

Work hard and trust your subconscious. 

Our Network 21 business model had a system: cassettes (so last century, I know), books, and live meetings. A business which, if you were serious and built it, would give you passive income. All of us had jobs. This was not something you left your main source of employment to do. 

I heard speakers from various backgrounds who had unimaginable challenges, but those who stayed the course succeeded.  

Learning how to build this business came easily to me. The difficult part was going from an anxious worry-wart to being brave enough to look fear in the eye and say, “SO? WHAT’S THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN?!”

The best things that happened to me were actually the worst! I had rejections, excuses and so many disappointments. I couldn’t find the right words to say – only, “I’m sorry I wasted your time”, and then run to my car and cry before gathering enough composure to see the next person.  

Months and years out of the wreckage, I extracted these diamonds:

  • I became a good listener. I asked (many) questions, only to find the problem was never the problem. What an asset in my payroll job. 
  • I learned to observe: your eyes, mouth, hands and even feet, tell me a story. 
  • I discovered ‘metalanguage2 or “how to read between the lines” – so essential when investing! 
  • I formed beautiful friendships worth more than money.
  • I recognised that ‘value’ is far more important than ‘cost’. Know the difference3.  
  • I learned to say ‘Next!’ instead of agonising over mistakes and wrong decisions.  

So much more to tell you, my friends and Pearlers – but this is just another picture out of my Secrets to Success album. I hope I’ve put you on the path to achieving whatever you want to have, to be, or become. 

The lovely graphic is by Kristie Chandra (who also crafted the Shirl’s Pearls logo!)

1 Carnegie, D. [1936, 1981] (1989). How to Win Friends & Influence People [Revised edition], p.113. CollinsAngus&Robertson Publishers Limited: Pymble, New South Wales.

2 Pease, A., & Garner, A. (1985). Talk language: How to use conversation for Profit and Pleasure, pp.3–28. Camel Publishing Company & Pease Training Corporation: Avalon Beach, NSW. 

3 When I joined Network 21, I got comments like “ … all those meetings and travelling, your tapes and books – it must cost a lot!” But in terms of value the cost was negligible. After 30 years, the people, books and tapes are still part of my life – in contrast to all the managers I’ve worked with who never showed any interest in my personal development or advancement.

Help for your Joints

In 2017 I injured my knee, and an MRI revealed a torn meniscus. My orthopaedic surgeon preferred not to operate and suggested I start physiotherapy and continue walking. I managed the pain without anti-inflammatories and painkillers – choosing instead topical creams and gels, adding more raw vegetables and papaya (rich in papain, an enzyme known to reduce inflammation and swelling) to my diet. 

There was a slight improvement after a year. I could walk slowly, but my knee hurt terribly if I increased my pace – running was impossible. 

I heard about ‘Arborvitae’ on the radio and was prepared to try it for at least 6 months.  The improvement in my knee was nothing short of amazing; slowly and steadily, I began to increase my walking pace with less pain. After 18 months I could run!  Usual muscle aches in my neck and back were much less, and my joints didn’t feel stiff. It was like having a new body! 

My website will always remain free of ads. Telling you about Arborvitae is my personal endorsement of a product that has helped me lead the active life I love and want to share with you. Enjoy the video!

Back to living strong, staying strong!

Our gym class is full again and I’m so happy that our ‘Live Long and Stay Strong’ group at DirksHealth in Sydney is back in action. Oh, how we missed this!  

I was a little rusty on the treadmill, but was forced to keep up the pace … especially with Dirk’s regular checks on me. I think he knows I lower the resistance level as soon as he walks away, but sorry, Dirk – the treadmill is getting to be quite strenuous.

Importantly, we’d love you to see the music video we completed only 2 weeks before lockdown. I was disappointed to postpone it, but gyms are now waiting for you and I hope it MOTIVATES YOU TO JOIN ONE!

And I finally had my hair professionally trimmed (Lionel had his first and last chance). Sydney’s ‘Freedom Day’ was 11 October, but for me it was ‘Happy Haircut Day’. I didn’t think to book weeks prior, and started to panic when nearly every salon I visited had waiting lists a month long. 

Lagaya is definitely what your hair needs!

Except ‘Just Cuts’ at Eastgardens, Pagewood. Six people queued outside, but my heart leapt when I was told wait-time was … 40 MINUTES! Hallelujah. I just had to celebrate with a large cappuccino at a café while I waited.

Lagaya did a great job – she is such an experienced stylist and a lovely person. We didn’t stop talking and I will definitely be seeing her again soon.  

So for all you Pearlers this week:

Treat yourself to a good haircut with an expert stylist like Lagaya.

To live long and stay strong, look for a gym near you and find your Dirk! 

(Courtesy of Andrew Dyson, SMH, 23/10/21)

Post-lockdown joys

Thank goodness – so far, Sydney is looking well post-lockdown!

As I walk past, tables are full at cafés, and my favourite retail stores are now open. My very first purchase was a pair of ‘trail’ shoes – I wore out mine walking furiously during lockdown just to keep sane. Speaking of that awful period, I have had my second AstraZenica jab; apart from a slight fever and headache, I was fine from Day 2. 

I’ve also recently had my 5-yearly colonoscopy. Thankfully, all’s well. The special homemade bone-broth which I prepared and froze beforehand, and the unsweetened coconut juice and ginger tea made my fasting routine the day prior a breeze. (But I made sure I had 2 large poached eggs for breakfast before the fast – marvellous for keeping hunger away for longer.)  

However, I did succumb to certain ‘comfort foods’ saturating the media during lockdown. A modest square of Darrel Lea’s dark chocolate with licorice and a handful of almonds and walnuts was great in the lazy afternoons.  

TIP: Nuts eaten with anything sweet stop cravings for more sugar. Carry almonds and walnuts with you everywhere, and have them with 1 or 2 dates if you’re hungry in between meals. 

So did I gain extra kilos during lockdown? NO! 

Best of all now, we’re going full throttle at Dirk’sHealth on our bikes and treadmills. I missed the gym so much, and that exhilarating ‘high’ after our 45-minute routine was so worth it. I’ve already arranged a lunch date with gym friends, and am excited about spending time together chatting away, sharing our thoughts and experiences. 

Next week, you’ll see exactly what I do at DirksHealth – stretch pants and all. (We filmed that video 2 weeks before Sydney’s June lockdown, and it was so frustrating having to wait until now to show it.) 

More Self-Esteem

I keep referring to Florence Littauer’s book Personality Plus – simply because it held the key to my personal development.  

Funnily enough, reading this book and others recommended by my ‘Network 21’ support group (see my first Self-Esteem post) and listening to speakers talk about their lives and their challenges brought me back to my childhood.  

Me, Mum, baby sister & Nanny (‘proof’ we were special!)

As a little girl up to the age of 6, I was my mother’s “darling Shirley-Anne”. She adored me and I idolised her. She took me shopping, bought me pretty dresses and sang to me at bedtime. I was perfectly happy. She made me feel important. 

Things changed as I grew up. I spent less time with Mum and more with Dad, learning about the sharemarket. I was absorbed with books and learning to play the piano. I told her I didn’t  want to wear dresses and preferred shorts and T-shirts! I didn’t want my ears pierced either. She was disappointed because I now had an opinion which conflicted with hers. 

Her words kept echoing even many years into my adulthood: “Let me choose your outfit for you, you might buy the wrong thing!” … said to me as a teenager wanting something new to wear at a party. And: “… you really should get your ears pierced and use earrings – you need to light your face up!” Whenever I was paid a compliment, she’d say, “Yes, she’s just like her mother!”; or “of course she’s smart, she learnt from me.” It was so different from Dad’s “Yes, that’s my Shirl”, as he patted my head. 

Dad worked hard as a stockbroker, and his business soon flourished. He loved his friends (usually also his clients) who came from all walks of life. He spent most of his time with them. My mother didn’t ‘fit in’ with his crowd, feeling more at home as an executive secretary at the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, and showered with gifts from bosses and appreciative customers. 

But she had strengths I have always admired, and still do. She learnt shorthand in a Japanese internment camp in Singapore during the War. She worked straight after the war as a stenographer and within months was elevated to executive secretary. She earned more than my father in his government job, and helped support her mother, sisters and brothers. She sent me to Sydney in the 1960s to complete high school, and helped Dad buy a seat in a stockbroking firm (where he did extremely well).

But she had one weakness. She wanted control. We had to listen to her because her advice was better than anyone else’s. She craved attention and praise even if it meant taking it away from people she loved. She would keep reminding us of the sacrifices she made. 

This trait is explained so well in Wayne Dyer’s book, Your Erroneous Zones

“Love is a word that has as many definitions as there are people to define it. [It’s the] ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.”1

Mum retired from work at 50. She kept saying I was her “Rock of Gibraltar” – but really, she wanted me all to herself. She showed signs of depression (casually referred to as a “nervous breakdown” in the 1970s). I was the eldest worrying daughter who was there by her side,  wanting so much to help her. Of course I couldn’t; she needed professional help, which she refused. 

In hindsight, I should have been more assertive and not allowed myself to be dominated. But that realisation only became clear as I sat through the Network 21 seminars, and read more books. 

Even at nearly 40 years of age, I was the proverbial doormat and lacked personal direction and goals. Now I had a choice: either to be influenced by past conditioning or to take control and change. How could I achieve this? 

As I’ve said before in my posts: when you’re ready, a way will appear. This time it was the book Believe You Can by Allen Carmichael: 

“Far too many people, in making what they think is a positive decision, spend too much time thinking about how the result can be achieved. The decision must be made on the WHY not the HOW. … the desire to change must precede commitment to ACTION.”2

So this was my weakness: over-thinking, over-analysing, and no action!

I wrote these words and put them under my pillow:

Decide. Take action. The ‘how’ will reveal itself.

And it did. 

In books, tapes, meetings and my Network 21 support group, I got all the help I needed. But perhaps I also needed to heed Mum’s advice about makeup and skincare … 

Tania’s still a great friend & trusted adviser

Throughout my singing career, I applied foundation, rouge on Mum’s insistence (she said my skin “lacked colour”), a bit of eyeshadow – all later washed off with simple soap and water. Tania Belej from my support group came to the rescue, spending an hour with me using Amway’s ‘Artistry’ product range to “Cleanse, Tone, Moisturise”. WOW! My skin glowed. I was so excited. I bought the products and have never used other brands since. I now had a practical skincare routine and of all people I became good at this, doing “beauty breaks” with family and friends.

Next, it was clothes. I was clueless. On stage singing with my aunt Margaret in the ‘70s, I wore tailor-made outfits, with styles picked from fashion books and material bought from Hilda’s (then a large retail clothing store in Singapore). Later in Sydney, I stuck to drab-coloured wear, mainly because I couldn’t find  off-the-shelf clothes to fit me, and I was too afraid to try anything on. 

Viv’s an expert at matching skin tones to clothes!

In the 90s, Network 21 invited an image consultant, Vivienne Cable, to talk about matching your complexion with the right “cool” or “warm” colours in clothes. I saw Viv then at her Sydney store. She knew exactly what to do with me, and with sizes 6–8 available, I was in heaven … and best of all she said I could wear black (the colour Mum said I should never use!). Viv now consults by appointment only; please contact me and I’ll pass your details on to her.

The very last step for me was to change from within. 

Emotionally, I was a habitual worrier, lacked confidence and was scared of anything I couldn’t control. I resisted even the slightest urge to express my opinion, fearing no one would agree with me and that it would start an argument. I had to overcome my fears and anxiety to complete my transformation.

‘FEAR’ = False Evidence Appearing Real.  

I conquered it by deliberately putting myself in situations I would never contemplate being in, for instance: 

  1. Driving further than 10km away from home in the evenings when it got dark. I saw prospects in Outer Western Sydney, the Upper North Shore and as far south as Wollongong. In spite of my map and written directions, I’d inevitably get lost. Where were those house numbers or street names?? Sweat was pouring. I stopped to  look at the map again, sipping tea from my flask. How good did I feel when I found the place!   
  1. Piercing my ears, tattooing my eyebrows and using electrolysis (not wax) to remove hair from my upper lip. All involved some pain and embarrassment. But you know what? I met the loveliest people in my search and best of all discovered ‘Emla’ cream! 
  1. I role-played with a very patient mentor who fired questions and objections at me on the phone. How absurd I thought at first! I stuttered, hesitated, couldn’t find the words; I was hopeless. “You can do this” I was told, “Keep going!” And after nearly 100 pretend phone calls later, I got better. I was able to speak assertively with confidence and conviction.  Almost there. Now I had to do this on my own with real people.

So thank you Tania, Vivienne and my patient mentor. My self-esteem returned at 45 and has grown exponentially!

My next post will be on Posture: and it’s not about walking while balancing a book on your head. It’s another secret to success.     

1 Carmichael, A. (1993). Believe You Can, p.37. Wrightbooks Pty Ltd: North Brighton, Victoria.

2 Dyer, W.W. (1976). Your Erroneous Zones, pp.29–30. Hazell Watson & Viney Ltd: Aylesbury, Bucks, United Kingdom.