“I’ve never seen anyone go backwards with encouragement.”
That was the motto that Ian ‘Watto’ Watson lived his life by, and in doing so changed the lives of countless men through his Shed Nights ministry.
Yesterday Ian lost his long battle with cancer, leaving behind wife Margaret (it was love at first sight when they met aged 15 and 16), his 3 sons Haydn, Brendan and Luke, and six grandchildren.
Watto was larger than life and a typical Aussie bloke who loved his family, the Big Fella and his footy. He had many talents in both business and sport as an AFL player and coach. But he also had a very special gift.
If you were in his life then he wanted you to be the best you possibly could be, and he would do whatever it took to get you there.
It didn’t matter whether you were a prince or a pauper to Watto; he would happily have a chat and offer up words of encouragement. If you were sleeping rough, or if you were the Prime Minister it didn’t matter.
Ian had the unique gift of being able to relate to people wherever they were, and see their true potential.
Well known in the Australian Christian community through his Shed Nights ministry, Watto would travel all over the country to speak into men’s lives. He was also well known in the wider community with media appearances on 96five, Vision Radio and the ABC.
The Power of Connection
His last broadcast for 96five, heard in September on the Family Worship program (available in the audio player above), reminded listeners of the power of encouragement and connection.
“Plenty of people communicate, but few connect. In public life, as soon as someone says something, then away we go – we pull them down. We’ve gotten into this habit of shaming, judging and criticism.”
“People are important, so don’t hold back any encouragement that’s in your power to give.”
It was Watto’s natural gift as an encourager but also a desire for men to connect that gave birth to the ministry Shed Nights. Greg Polinski was a church mate of Watto who sadly took his life in 1997. Watto told 96five earlier this year that Greg didn’t know how to share what he was going through with those around him.
“He sadly took his life because we couldn’t talk – we didn’t know how. So that has been a major driver behind Shed. We want to help men tell their story in a supportive environment without judgement. We can’t be isolated from each other – connection touches people’s hearts.”
Ian had a successful business career for over 30 years as a heavy vehicle driver trainer, with that success put down to his desire to connect.
“On my trucks it says ‘come and let me treat you like a champion’. I do good business because I know how to connect. Both parties need to win from a business deal.”
As one of Australia’s leading communicators Watto authored four books; Every Blokes a Champion; Even You, Champion Blokes Shed Their Shame, Champion Blokes Learn to Love and the recently released Can We Talk.
Watto leaves behind an incredible legacy, and his life is testament to the power we all have to reach out and change lives.
For those who wish to attend Ian’s memorial service it will be held in the Grand Ballroom of the Eaton’s Hill Hotel this Wednesday December 11th at 2pm.