Take it Pro

Logic and tactics are rarely enough to win.

Some days, even if we love doing it, it’s good for us, and it’s worth doing, that rational part of the brain just can’t be bothered to put up a fight.

Pushing through on those days is the difference between good and great.

Doing it when we want is easy. Doing it when we don’t want to is the whole point.

The days when we take it pro and push through regardless of whether we want to or not are the days we make the most progress. 

Because nothing worth having ever came easy. 

 

Noca cola

One small gesture can make a whole lot of difference.

Especially when you’re one of the most famous people on the planet.

Cristiano Ronaldo has indeed taken just as much money off corporate food giants as any other sportsperson. And he’s probably even drank pop before.

But that one simple act of removing a bottle of coca-cola from where advertisers had carefully placed it, and replacing it with water, might change how a million children view sugary drinks.

Luckily, most of us don’t have our every action scrutinized by a billion eyes. But we still never know how big a small gesture can become because we never know who’s watching.

 

 

Any Way

There’s an easy way and a hard way.

There’s a smart way and a silly way.

There’s a simple way and a complex way.

There’s a short way and a long way.

And fortunately, there isn’t a wrong way.

We can go any way our heart desires. But there’s no way we won’t regret it if we don’t give at least one way a try.

And there’s no getting lost because all ways lead home.

 

Precedent

Decisions made before we get there are tough to swallow.

That’s why all kids burn their fingers on the stove. They weren’t there when it was decided it was too hot to touch, even though the information was relayed to them sincerely.

Telling somebody, “We decided giving you Y would be better than giving you X” is pointless because we didn’t give them a chance to consider the alternative.

Something isn’t better than nothing if you didn’t realize you were getting nothing to begin with.

And what might seem like the best of both worlds could turn out to be the worst of both for the person who wasn’t involved in the conversation.

It’s safer not to assume otherwise.

 

Rules is Rules

Usain Bolt isn’t always the fastest man in the world.

Not all of Stephen King’s books are good.

And even Novac Djokovic occasionally drops a few sets.

All lovers hate each other sometimes.

All parents make mistakes.

Up must come down.

Everything goes around.

Nothing is the same twice.

And everyone gets another turn.

That’s the rules!

 

Damp Days

Perhaps it’s 15 years of school summer holidays drilled into my biological clock.

Maybe it’s 25 years living on a wet, windswept island off the coast of Europe. Or the ice-walled winter that keeps Canada locked inside for six months of the year.

Whatever the reason, it’s tough to work when the sun is shining.

After a weekend soaked in sunshine, this damp and grey Monday makes it possible to sit down at a desk for six hours and tap tap tap out a living, without too much anguish.

So, I am grateful that today is cooler and damper and grey.

Another perfectly sunny day would have been too much.

 

Kaizen Quotes

 

These are all the quotes I could find about kaizen and continuous self-improvement. They are mostly related to personal development and kaizen but there are some about kaizen in the business world too. 

There are lots missing from some of my favourite books about kaizen for self-growth, which I will be adding as soon as possible.

In a manner reflective of kaizen, this post will be continuously updated with more kaizen quotes as I find them and improved with images and sharable stuff as and when I can. I will also attempt to verify who they are attributed to as much as possible.

 

 

Patience is a competitive advantage. In most fields, you can find success if you are simply willing to do the reasonable thing longer than most people.”
— James Clear


Average ones compete with others. Great ones compete with themselves.”
— Vadim Kotelnikov


“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.”
— Max DePree


“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
— Sir Winston Churchill


“Kaizen is like a hotbed that nurtures small and ongoing changes, while innovation is like magma that appears in abrupt eruptions from time to time”
— Masaaki Imai


“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
— Vince Lombardi


“There are no big problems, there are just a lot of little problems.”
— Henry Ford


“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
— Henry Ford


“The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.”
— Author Unknown


“Fall seven times. Stand up eight.”
— Japanese Proverb


“There’s no limit to the possible expansion of each one of us.”
— Charles Schwab.


“The message of the Kaizen strategy is that not a day should go by without some kind of improvement being made somewhere in the company.”
— Masaaki Imai


“Never stop investing. Never stop improving. Never stop doing something new. Make it your goal to be better each and every day, in some small way. Remember the Japanese concept of Kaizen. Small daily improvements eventually result in huge advantages.”
— Bob Parsons


“The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.”
— Shigeo Shingo


“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”
— Joe Paterno 


“The Kaizen Philosophy assumes that our way of life – be it our working life, our social life, or our home life – deserves to be constantly improved.”
— Masaaki Imai


“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”
— Mark Twain


“The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.”
— E.J. Phelps


“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
— Robert Collier


“Kaizen means ongoing improvement involving everybody, without spending much money.”
— Masaaki Imai


“Kaizen and innovation are the two major strategies people use to create change. Where innovation demands shocking and radical reform, all kaizen asks is that you take small, comfortable steps toward improvement.”
— Robert D. Maurer


“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.”
— Tom Peters


“You can’t do kaizen just once or twice and expect immediate results. You have to be in it for the long haul.”
— Masaaki Imai


“There’s no good idea that can’t be improved on.”
— Michael Eisner


“The secret of getting ahead is getting started”
— Mark Twain


“Small actions are at the heart of kaizen. By taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial or even laughable, you’ll sail calmly past obstacles that have defeated you before. Slowly – but painlessly! – you’ll cultivate an appetite for continued success and lay down a permanent new route to change.”
— Robert D. Maurer


“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
— Bruce Lee


“Sometimes the best kaizen is no kaizen at all.”
— Jon Miller


“As you experience success in applying kaizen to clear goals like weight loss or career advancement, remember to hold onto its essence: an optimistic belief in our potential for continuous improvement.”
— Robert D. Maurer


“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” 
— Yogi Berra


“The past does not equal the future…unless you live there”.
— Tony Robbin


“There is always one more thing to learn”
— Steve Jobs


“If you stop learning, you stop creating history and become it.”
— Vadim Kotelnikov


“If you’re not getting better you’re getting worse. ” — Pat Riley


“No company can afford not to move forward. It may be at the top of the heap today but at the bottom of the heap tomorrow, if it doesn’t.”
— James Cash Penney


“To make the quickest progress, you don’t have to take huge leaps. You just have to take baby steps-and keep on taking them. In Japan, they call this approach kaizen, which literally translates as ‘continual improvement.’ Using kaizen, great and lasting success is achieved through small, consistent steps. It turns out that slow and steady is the best way to overcome your resistance to change.”
— Marci Shimoff


“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”
— Linus Pauling


“An open society calls itself open to improvement. It is based on the recognition that people have divergent views and interests, and that nobody is in possession of the ultimate truth.”
— George Soros


“Never be so afraid of making mistakes that you stop taking actions.
Kirtida Gautam


“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time”.
— Thomas Edison


“Excellence is not a destination; it is a continuous journey that never ends.”
— Brian Tracy


“Change is inevitable… except from a vending machine.”
— Anonymous


“Control your own destiny or somebody else will”
— Jack Welch


“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
— Henry Ford


“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.”
— Kim Collins


The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
— Albert Einstein

 

 

 

The Magic Juice

The cliche moments in films — the cringy ones you know are coming — are there for a reason.

Take The Magic Juice. Space Jam was where I saw it first.

The protagonist and their team drink some “magic juice” that helps them win against the odds. But near the end, they find out that it was just boring old water, and they had the power in them all along.

This isn’t just the World Mothering Association trying to get you to drink more water and eat some fruit…

The magic juice has to be water because the protagonist has to learn that doing the “boring” stuff we can all do is what makes them a winner.  Not some unattainable, magical remedy.

The secret to success is doing the boring stuff, like drinking more water, walking 10 km, doing a bit of exercise. Consuming in a way that doesn’t destroy our planet. Working on something long-term that fulfills us and improves our community.

It’s all small and trite and uncool. Nothing mysterious about it.

But if you can pull that off for any length of time, you win.

 

 

Bad Idea

One life-changing moment was when I realized I would never have another good idea.

It was Seth Godin’s fault.

He was telling some overly enthusiastic podcaster that most of his writing was below average, and he had no idea which of his ideas were any good — even after they were published.

“I can just tell which ones are most popular,” he said, that mischievous little smile tweaking the corners of his lips. “They could still be terrible ideas.”

Many creatives, particularly writers, get caught up thinking they must have something to say.

It’s an ego thing. Just ask Dostoyevsky.

There are plenty of terrible, meaningless, and badly-made ideas that are considered extremely valuable and worthwhile by many people.

The secret to being a successful creative or entrepreneur isn’t having one big idea or one breakthrough piece or one work of critical acclaim that blows everybody’s socks off. 

The secret is getting used to getting a ‘D’ and still keep on plugging away at it, churning out bad ideas.

You never know which one might stick.

 

What a Ride

Did you hear the one about the woman who fell in love with a rollercoaster?

It wasn’t a joke.

Maybe there is some security in knowing that a rollercoaster will never look at other rollercoasters or try to rub rails with them.

Maybe there’s some comfort in knowing that a rollercoaster will always be there; colourful, well-oiled, steadfast, and reliable.

Maybe it’s the taboo thrill of the safety bar closing around your chest, locking you in a PVC-scented embrace.

Maybe it’s the tickle of the cold steel brushing against the hairs on your arms. Or the loss of orientation, and the screaming as things go rapidly downhill.

I’m not sure what has to happen to a person to make them fall in love with a rollercoaster, but let’s assume it isn’t great.

It is pretty cool that despite that hurt, the human heart will always find something to love, even if the brain is too scared to let it be another human. 

Excuse me while I hug my guitar.

 

Second Best

Scrapping the participation medal is a great idea. Losing is a prize.

The greatest thing about playing sports is winning, and the same goes for any competition. After all, that’s the point.

And the next best thing to winning?

Losing.

Losing is the next best thing to winning because it means you were in the race.

People who have been forced to the sidelines are often delighted to lose because they finally got a chance to win.

And if you have been in with a chance for a while, losing usually means you’re a step closer to winning. 

Another lesson learned. Another hurdle crossed.

Losing sucks. But it’s a lot more fun than spectating.

 

 

Who said it?

Most people don’t speak for themselves.

It’s not that we can’t. It’s just easier to trot off someone else’s line. And just as easy to drop it if it doesn’t fit.

We see something in the news that sounds good and seems to align with what we believe, so we start repeating it. That’s just human.

The danger is when this happens unconsciously. When those alien thoughts trickle into our brain and start to pool without our noticing.

Then something comes out of our mouth that we don’t recognize. Something that surprises us. 

And we think, “Whose line is that?”

Because that sure as hell wasn’t me.

 

Mind the Grass

Humans sure love a patch of grass.

Maybe it’s because we were born on the savannahs and emigrated to the river banks, where grasses tend to grow.

Or it could be because the human eye perceives more shades of green than any other colour, and grass has every single one.

Grass is such an important part of human culture that we even have a few cliches about it.

Yes, the grass is always greener. But have you ever actually watched grass grow?

Sure, it’s not exactly a white knuckle thrill. But it’s not boring either. 

Checking in every day. Tempting the grass to grow this way or that. A little snip here. A seed or two there. 

Tending grass — or any plant — while it grows is one of the most interesting and fulfilling things we can do with our time.

Watching grass grow: not half as dull as watching paint dry!

But then again, I’m no Picasso.

 

You First

There’s nothing wrong with a selfless act, but let’s be realistic here.

It won’t pay the rent.

Putting yourself first isn’t selfish by default.

The cyclist at the front of the peloton creates a windbreak for the pack behind. And they wouldn’t be at the front if they’d spent time giving tips to other riders.

Doing something for other people is always much harder when we haven’t looked after ourselves first — no matter how much we want to do it.

When we give ourselves enough time, love, care, and respect first, there’s always more than enough to go around.

And it’s worth sharing.

Because you can’t win a race that nobody else is running. 

 

25k to go

This week, the 202nd KaizenBen blog post was published.

There’s a story behind the 25,202 number, which we’ll save for another day. But I’ll give you a hint and tell you that I’ll be ninety-nine and a half years old by the time the 25,202nd blog post goes out.

If I haven’t kicked the bucket, that is.

With any luck, the commitment might drag a few more undeserving years out of me, and I shall drop dead moments after hitting ‘Publish.’ 

It’s pretty sobering to see your life reduced to a handful of digits.

25,202 blogs left to write.

25,202 days left to live.

For most things, that’s more than enough. But until that moment, the days had seemed countless.

It wasn’t until those immortal snakes danced across my notepad that fateful morning that I realized: it wasn’t very long at all.

And only 24,999 left to go!

 

 

Car Wreck

Progress looks like a car crash in the rearview mirror. 

We catch a glimpse of it and think, “Wow, that was dumb.” 

Or, “Damn, that looked pretty bad.”

Or, “I hope that wasn’t my fault.”

Tempting as it may be, it’s important not to spend too long looking back, or we’ll end up in another one.

Eyes on the road ahead. Glad that isn’t you anymore. 

And just a little embarrassed that it once was. 

Press that pedal to the metal!

 

Hot Stuff

Do you know those people that you see pretty frequently but always seem to avoid actually making contact with you?

It’s never someone we really know, but maybe we see them at the store or in the street or the park pretty often.

They have a sneaky look, never meet your eye when you turn to look, and always seem to be doing something else. 

It’s because they fancy the pants off you.

They can’t even look at you without getting a tingly crotch.

Every time they see you coming, their stomach leaps into their throat and starts making weird noises, and they have to look away because they can’t breathe

I thought you should know, in case you worried it was something else.

 

Keeping it up

Doing it once doesn’t make it easy.

It usually doesn’t get us where we want to go either.

Most diets fail because they are — by definition — short-term.

It’s one thing to throw three balls in the air and another thing keeping them up. One is playing. The other is juggling.

Our bodies are wonderful machines that can take a real pounding, as long as it isn’t over and over again. The same goes for our minds. 

Willpower doesn’t just grow on trees.

That’s why settling for the smallest step, the thing we know we can actually do every day for decades, is so much more powerful than any crash course, extreme diet, six-month shred, or late-night sprint. 

Don’t do twenty pull-ups one day and none the next. Do five every day until you can do them with one arm.

A little more patience gets us a lot further in the end. 

 

Get over it

Things have taken a turn for the worse.

We made the wrong call.

Wasted our time.

The plan is ruined.

We listened to bad advice.

Made unwise investments.

Trusted the wrong people.

They never loved us.

The world changed overnight.

Nobody saw it coming.

Everything is fucked.

Get over it.

That’s Life.

 

Rhythm of the Feet

It’s funny how things we hate often become part of our personality.

For better or worse.

Running, or anything faster than a brisk walk, was never very appealing; the last resort to catch a train.

It didn’t seem very dignified, especially how I was doing it. I didn’t go very far or fast and did get very sweaty, which was embarrassing. But over the last six years, running has become part of my life.

Starting a run is never easy. But something magical happens about a mile in, when your body has finally accepted that you’re not going to stop.

Rhythm.

The rhythm of your heart pounding gently and the sigh of your lungs sucking long, deep bagfuls of air; arms swinging almost of their own accord, all to the gentle metronome of your feet hitting the ground.

Everything becomes part of that movement, that directed dance.

Head up, putting one foot in front of the other again and again and again just to go where we want a little faster. And by sheer force of will, doing it longer than any other animal on the planet.

Nothing could be more human than that.

 

Make it Easy

The easiest way to make progress is to make progress as easy as possible.

Mastering a skill is about being so terrible at it we have to practice the easiest part a hundred times just to get started.

Think how long it took to learn to walk. It takes at least three years before we can do it without looking stupid.

The ‘secret to success’ is being able to put up with the boredom of being crap — and falling on our arse several hundred times. 

Break down the hard parts into their easiest possible component and then do that until it’s so easy you’re bored to death.

Forget walking. Focus on figuring out how to stand without holding on to something, and you’ll be running in no time. 

 

Whizzing Around

If it sometimes feels like you’re rushing along out of control, that’s probably a good thing.

That is exactly what’s happening.

Everything from the size of a quark to the Milky Way is hurtling about almost completely randomly.

When we bump into something about our size, we explode or cling to each other, tumbling through the swirling void until we collide with something else. Sometimes, it’s both.

Bosuns, atoms, molecules, people, planets, stars, galaxies — all of us whizzing around making fireworks.

Time for a super-loud, mega-awesome, seventeen-million-colour whizz-popper, don’t you think?

 

MVP

We don’t say MVP in the UK; we say Player of the Year and give them a golden ball.

MVP has another meaning: Minimal Viable Product. And it turns out that quite often, the simplest option turns out to be the best one too.

It’s easy to get tripped up adding bells and whistles when all we need is something simple that just works.

 

Settle for Less

It often seems like the quickest way to get through a long to-do list is to rush through as many things as possible.

The hope is that at the end of a few hours, we can look back at a crossed-off list and feel content.

But the list constantly grows. And the little things turn out to be bigger and more tiresome than we predicted.

By the end of the day, only half the list is ticked, and we’re completely zonked.

On days when I settle for less — just the one big thing — I almost always find that I have the time and the energy to do a few of the small things too.

Settling for less often turns out to be way more productive.

 

Never the same

 One of the scariest realities of life is also one of the most comforting.

Many people worry and fret about things changing; some even spend their lives fighting to keep things the way they once were.

But thankfully, nothing ever stays the same. Quantum physicists won’t even say something exists anymore, in case it doesn’t by the time they check again. They will only make predictions about the probability of something existing at a certain point in time.

As Mr. Feynmann pointed out, all the atoms in the universe are in flux. Even if we know where something was, we don’t necessarily know it will still be there when we look again.

And almost always, it’s moved.

Even the bench we sat on today is different from the one we sat on yesterday if we look very closely.

It keeps things interesting. 

 

Sun Stash

Some days are meant to be spent chasing the sun across a patch of grass.

Even though we know it must end eventually, it makes sense to squeeze as much as possible out of a plump, ripe day.

When that white-hot disc dips behind a building and the day is done — and tomorrow turns out cloudy — we’ll regret it if we haven’t caught a bit of it. 

It’s a lot harder to remember the sun is always behind the clouds if we don’t stash some away while we can.

Don’t forget the sun cream!

 

Up to Now

This weekend we were basking in some unusually warm May sun when I caught a moment.

It was passing me by and looking the other way, so I reached out and held it for a while. It didn’t mind too much.

While it was snuffling around, the warm, fuzzy little moment told me that all the ups and downs of existence had led it to pass by me at that time on that bench in that park.

All the good and evil of history, the luck and misfortune of worlds, the colossal interstellar explosions and mass extinctions, all so I could gently cook on that park bench, sipping that ice-cold beer, and think, isn’t this nice.

I thanked the little moment for coming such a long way to see me. 

“Same time tomorrow?” I asked.

But the little moment just winked, and scurried off into the past.

 

X No Way Out

There was a rollercoaster that got us very excited when I was a kid.

One weekend, my friends and I mooched the entrance fee from our parents and set off down to Staines.

X No Way Out was at the top of everyone’s list. The queue stretched back up the M3 to Hampton Court Palace; a vast crowd, chattering away in the bright summer grey, flashes of blood-red stanchion posts the only sign it was a queue and not a block party.

When our turn finally came, we groped our way to the carts in the thin orange light. As soon as we strapped in, the lights went out and we were catapulted backward through the dark to throbbing bass lines and the occasional spray of lasers.

It was awesome.

And not unlike life:

Hurtling through time facing the wrong way, twisting over and around fate’s peaks and valleys, clenching the hand of the person next to you and screaming all the way.

Knowing that no matter how bad it gets, it’ll always change; enjoying every single second because it’ll all be over in a flash;

And ready to queue up for eternity, just to do it again.

 

Beverageless

There’s something about a beverage that makes it easier to talk.

Maybe it’s just a British thing.

For almost every single situation where you might sit down and have a good natter, the Brits have a drink for it.

The pub is a mainstay of society. Walk into any home on that bickering brace of islands, and the first thing you’ll be offered is a drink most likely, a cup of tea.

Beverages lubricate even the most stubborn conversations. But I’ve noticed that drinking something while talking has become a nervous tick. There’s rarely an occasion these days where you’ll catch me beverageless in conversation.

Maybe that’s why my North American friends keep asking me to say, “bottle of water.”

 

 

Ten a day

A friend of mine recently went on a bit of a health kick.

She started running and being mindful of her diet and all the other things we know we should be doing to be healthier.

The one that most interested me was this: every morning, she would get up and do ten push-ups. Then, a little before bedtime, she would do another ten.

It didn’t seem like much. But then my girlfriend started doing ten push-ups every morning, and of course, that meant it wasn’t long before I started doing them too.

Quite often, your ten little push-ups every day are helping someone else get stronger too. Even the smallest acts can carry great inspiration within them.

Ten push-ups aren’t much barely anything  but they add up over time to something great.

That’s kaizen in a nutshell.

 

Achy Legs

Life is full of fantastic sensations — many of them in the bedroom.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sliding between soft, clean sheets after a long day walking around town or playing in the woods or climbing up mountains.

Tired but happy. Feet gently throbbing. With achy legs and a big smile.

What better envelope is there to seal a day well done?

 

Put it in the calendar

A cheap way to learn something about ourselves is by using a calendar.

Once we have to commit to a specific time on a particular day, it’s suddenly very obvious when we don’t want to do something; when it isn’t a priority.

That goes for whether we ought to be doing it or not.

Calendars, agendas, and schedulers aren’t just to write down what we think we want to do.

They can tell us how much we want to do it, too.

 

Drink Carefully

The standing average is about one a month, totally ruined.

It’ll usually happen sometime between 7 and 11 am, but it’s worse when it’s in the afternoon. Sometimes they’re pale blue or grey but usually white.

A moment of distraction and a lukewarm dribble of pitch-black invades the virgin cotton. Somehow, despite thirty-odd years of using it, I still don’t know where my mouth is.

I cannot count the number of shirts I have ruined from a moment’s lack of presence.

There’s an old proverb that says, When drinking tea, drink tea.”

This is very sound advice for life, not just because it’s important to be mindful about what we do, to stay in the moment, and enjoy the little things in life.

But also because if you don’t, you’ll probably ruin your shirt.

Now, that’s wisdom.

 

Rage Freeze

My mum has a trick for instant calm, passed down from her mother and her mother before that.

It works better outside or in a barn, but there’s plenty of ways to replicate it in modern life:

When you’re angry, dunk your head in a bucket of ice-cold water.

If no buckets are available, a tap or hose to the back of the neck works just fine. It’s possible to be disgruntled after a cold shower, but almost impossible to be angry. 

For added effect, dip your toes in too. They can be hot, angry little fellas, but they do love a cold swim.

 

It will get better

Recently, a paralyzed man was able to write using his thoughts.

Ten years after the man they called “T5” was utterly paralyzed, researchers planted a robot in the part of his brain that controls movement. That long after losing the use of his body, they weren’t sure his brain would remember how to move at all.

But it did. When the man imagined handwriting the alphabet, his brain started to light up, and the robot living in there began to learn.

Over many months they grew closer, until the robot knew him well enough to read his thoughts.

Eventually, they hooked him up to a screen and told him to copy some words, until he could do that to their satisfaction. Then they asked him what advice he would give to his younger self.

“Be patient. It will get better,” he wrote.

Even when things get unimaginably difficult, when we are trapped and scared and defeated, we can at least take comfort in knowing that things will always change.

And often a lot sooner than we think.

 

Pick your poison

It’s not like we can lie around doing nothing and enjoy it forever.

At least not without spending a lot of money on drugs.

Sure, it’s nice to hit the beach or the lakes and do nothing for a bit. But after a few weeks, a tight emptiness forms in the guts, followed by a dull nagging in the back of the skull: shouldn’t you be doing something with your time?

Maybe some people are lucky enough to be born truly carefree, with no fear of the rapidly approaching Big Nothing. The rest of us have to distract ourselves by doing stuff.

It seems that we work to death one way or another.

May as well do something you enjoy. May as well get really fucking good at it, too.

Maybe then, it will barely be work at all.

 

Expensive Socs

A guy at work spent the last year working on one word.

Now he’s going on sabbatical.

Big companies that want to handle other big companies’ data must show that they’re going to look after it properly and protect it from anyone who might be snooping.

This guy at work spent the last year figuring out how to do that — and we are very grateful. The thought of all those painful words and mind-numbing legalese sentences makes me want to weep.

Multiple salaries were invested in the project. Operations were overhauled. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t cheap. But he did it.

All so we could add one little word to our website and become:

“SOC2 Compliant.”

That’s one expensive word. One very valuable word.

We’re surrounded by the attentions of others. There are countless little things we take for granted that are the result of a life’s work.

All those things that “just work” when we push the button, work because someone spent their days designing it to work, for us.

 

 

Wake and Bake

Here’s a recipe for a soft and delicious day:

  • One large glass of water
  • 2-4 cups of coffee
  • Walk outside
  • Touch your toes
  • Say thanks
  • Lift something heavy
  • Eat a handful of nuts and some fruit
  • Whisk up a healthy dollop of conservation.
  • Sprinkle in a bit of challenge
  • Garnish with a thin slice of luck, if you can find it.

Once that’s ready, don’t forget to set aside something for tomorrow.

Twist off a healthy goal, wrap it in a warm cloth and leave it in a dark room overnight.

You’ll be ready to bake again by morning.

 

Just like always

If you think about it, it’s pretty much been wins all the way through.

Sure, there have been some rough patches.

There have been a couple of pretty sharp shocks and a fair bit of frustration, if we’re being honest.

But there have been some pretty crazy highs too. And some irreplaceable memories.

It’s worked out pretty well so far, all things considered.

Even when the future looked bleak and you weren’t sure what was next, you kept on plugging away, doing it your way.

Just like always.

Misunderstood

Mondays aren’t bad. Mondays aren’t good.

They’re terribly, awfully, misunderstood.

Monday’s the start. A turn of the page.

The curtain drawn, as a new act takes the stage.

 

 

 

 

Lost Lines

There’s a monastery perched high in the Himalayas, where the monks spend all day making beautiful patterns in the sand.

Then just before tea-time, they brush them away.

They don’t even take photos.

There’s another monastery where the monks paint a circle every day, just to see how close they can get it to perfect.

They never do, of course, and all those paintings are burnt before the sun sets.

Art isn’t about perfect, and it’s not about forever, although our planet is littered with monuments to the contrary.

It’s nice to create for other people. And it’s probably more profitable in the long run. But we always win if we create for ourselves and focus on improvement, instead of being popular.

The person having the most fun is usually the one doing the creating.

If you just create for yourself and you do it often enough, pretty soon people will start turning up — just to see you having fun.

 

Time ain’t fair

Clocks were a good idea but they’re not terribly helpful.

Maybe for catching a train or a movie. But time is squishy and malleable, unlike reliable forces such as gravity.

The less you have of it, the faster it goes.

The more you have to fill, the slower it gets.

The more you’re enjoying it, the less there is of it.

If you’re watching, it barely moves at all. And when something really bad happens, it just stops completely.

Time ain’t fair.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll never get enough.

But I’ll take every minute I can get.

 

Just don’t quit

The secret to success is really quite simple. 

Whenever we ask about success, the answer we get rarely satisfies because it’s so simple. 

How can getting whatever you want in life come down to something so simple?

But when we listen closely, all the athletes, gurus, prophets, and poets start to say the same thing: just don’t quit.

Pick something you think is worth chasing, and never, ever stop.

It doesn’t matter what it is.

It doesn’t matter if you never get there.

The thrill is in the chase, and the chase is till then end.

Or at least until bedtime.

 

Mind Expansion

One blustery British morning, my father and I stood on a damp, pebbled beach, talking about why people can’t swim.

“People can only imagine to the extent of their experience,” Dad said. “Kids that never see the sea rarely grow up to be Olympic swimmers.”

Another great man, Oliver W. Holmes Jr., said something similar:

Every now and then, a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.”

Since then, we’ve discovered this also happens to women.

Just like we have to do a little rolling around on the floor and stretching to stay mobile, it’s important to stretch our minds regularly.

Books are a great way to do this because they take our minds to places we can’t go and people we’ll never meet.

Trying something new is an excellent way to stretch the mind.

Going someplace new is another fantastic option, especially if there are weird new people there.

Stretch your mind a little every day, and you’ll be able to fold it into all sorts of impressive shapes. 

And that’s hot AF.

 

Making Time

Here’s something to help you get what you want today.

Whatever it is you want to get done, write it down. 

Then put it in your calendar or to-do list or a sticky note or your phone, and set an alarm or reminder at a reasonable time to do it. 

Most of the time, taking action towards our goals isn’t the hard part. The hard part is setting aside the time to do them.

When we don’t take the time for ourselves, we give all our time to other people. 

Take a bit of time now and make a little time later to something important for ‘Future You’.

You deserve a little ‘you’ time.

 

 

Worth doing badly

 

Did you know there’s a Toe Wrestling World Championship?

That’s another weird side to humans.

Pick any activity — and I mean any — and there’s probably an International Federation and a World Cup. There’s definitely a World Record.

It’s our competitive nature. Nobody wants to be the slowest when the village gets attacked by a saber-tooth tiger.

Just add agriculture and wait 10,000 years, and you get the World’s Greatest Cherry-Pit Spitter. 

Of course, it’s important to try our best. But not everything has to be done to Olympic standard to be worth doing. And perfection is a poor excuse.

You can be awful at meditation or sudoku or singing and still enjoy them. And you can be terrible at picking up litter, running, giving to charity, or writing, and yet they’re still all worth doing.

Most things that are worth doing are still worth doing badly. And you’re never too bad to get better.

So, get out there and give it your worst shot.

 

Like that time

If you didn’t get the memo, here’s today’s agenda.

Today will be easy, like that test you thought you bombed but actually did pretty well on.

Today will be fun, like when you got chased and thought you weren’t going to get away but then you did.

Today will be interesting, like that weird show your friend forced you to watch that ended up being so good you binged the series later at home.

Today will be fast, like that unforgettable holiday that — after two weeks of — you were quite looking forward to coming home from.

Today is going to be quick, easy, and loud, like that time when…

Well, you get the idea.

 

Go for a walk

If you haven’t already, today is a great day to go for a walk.

Mum would often suggest going for a walk, usually about mid-afternoon on a Saturday, after six hours glued to the screen up to my elbows in cereal.

I, cruelly deprived of television, found this the most outrageous proposition I’d ever heard.

A lively debate about the health benefits of walking would ensue.

Several bouts of growling, groaning, and some light wrestling later, we’d burst out of my Grandmother’s little terrace and descend on the cascading, bloom-laden banks of the Thames.

And before we’d reach the water’s edge, the morning’s gloom would be all but forgotten.

 

Enjoy the scenery

Not everyone finds out the direction they want to go early in life — but most of us have a pretty good idea.

Sometimes we don’t want to admit that’s where we want to go. We might even run in the opposite direction, which inevitably ends in tears.

Once we’ve accepted the direction that resonates with our being and committed to going that way for some time, everything becomes easier.

It’s ok not to know where chasing vague notions like ‘music‘ or ‘fashion’ or ‘writing’ or ‘drawing’ or ‘dancing‘ or ‘helping people‘ will take us.

It’s even ok if we don’t always like where it takes us. We’re constantly on the move anyway.

Just keep on pluggin’ away in the direction you want to go, doing those things that bring you satisfaction and joy, and finding new ways to do them with people you like.

The rest is scenery.

Enjoy!

 

Go smaller

There are some ironic benefits to being an irritable and miserable person. Take it from me.

One of them is that it’s much easier to be grateful for the small things. And I mean, really small.

Like, how there wasn’t a line for the checkout, and they had some of the bread I like left. Or that the stupid compost bag didn’t break when I stretched it over the bin’s lip like it usually does. Or that it wasn’t raining on my run when it looked like it might. Or that there was 30¢ off my favourite hot sauce. Shit, even mayonnaise was on sale. That was a great shop.

We live lucky lives, and most of us have many big things to be grateful for. 

But the small things are often much easier to see.

 

Bigger than you

Most goals fail for the same reason.

It’s easier to give up on yourself than it is on other people.

That’s why we have accountability buddies and life partners and coaches and personal trainers.

The other way to succeed is to make your goals bigger than you. That could mean doing it for the environment, or the animals or the unjustly imprisoned, the maltreated, or the lost and forgotten.

And it could mean doing it for the people that you love: your family and your community.

Whatever it is, it’s a damn sight harder to give up on something when other people are relying on you to turn up.

That’s why you reading this is so important. Thank you!

Make a goal that’s bigger than you, and it will bring you everything you ever wanted.

 

Never stop asking

You can tell a lot about a person by how often they ask, “Why?”

Kids do it naturally; older people less so.

If you want to find out a lot about someone, ask them “Why?” a few times. You never really get to the juicy bits until you ask six or seven times.

School and work teach us that there’s only one right answer — even though that’s rubbish — and so most people stop being so curious as they grow.

Einstein said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” People found him interesting because he was interested.

There is limitless depth and complexity to our world, and it’s constantly changing. And there is no ‘knowing’ why, not really. Ask any quantum physicist.

The fun part — and the important part too — is to keep asking Why.

You never know what you might find, but you can bet it’ll be interesting.

 

Just fail better

Not every day has to be a win.

Most days are going to feel like a tie — at best. Especially when we’re working on something big or important.

Samuel Beckett said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Failing a bit better than the day before is usually the best we can hope for. And all it takes to fail better is showing up, again.

And that’s plenty. 

 

Rolling Balls

There was a big, stubborn rock sitting on my desk this morning.

It took me 15 minutes to move it off, by writing, “Get the ball rolling.”

Rolling the ball off the line is the official way to start a game of football. Once the ball is moving, the game has begun.

We use this phrase at work too, where it means we’ve talked a project to death and must begin the game of creating.

The implication is that it takes a bit of effort to get the ball rolling, but things get easier once momentum is on our side.

Inertia is difficult to overcome — especially if we’re making something new. But once we put in the energy to start, it’s tough to stop.

Fortunately, all it takes to get the ball rolling is a little nudge in the right direction.

 

 

Clichés Are Life

People who don’t like clichés are missing out.

Clichés were passed down over hundreds of thousands of years to communicate the oldest, most profound knowledge about being human. Caveman talk was probably 90% clichés and pickup lines. 

Clichés are unoriginal because they’re true.

This is the story of evil: Hurt people hurt people.

This is the story of happiness: Happy people help people.

This is the story of money: You can’t buy happiness.

This is the story of love: If you love it, let it go.

This is the story of heartbreak: It’s not you; it’s me.

This is the story of fate: Everything happens for a reason.

This is the story of revenge: An eye for an eye.

This is the story of fear: Curiosity killed the cat.

This is the story of envy: The grass is always greener.

This is the story of success: The early bird catches the worm.

This is the story of luck: Every dog has its day.

This is the story of patience: Good things come to those who wait.

Don’t let anyone tell you, “it’s just a cliché.” Clichés are the whispers of our ancestors; life lessons learned long ago.

It pays to listen.  

 

 

Recovery run

Training for a marathon is very different from what people expect.

The biggest surprise for most people is that you only run a marathon once — on race day.

The next surprise is how little running you do. 15 minutes one day.  Thirty minutes a few days later. Some days are short bodyweight workouts. And some days are dedicated to lying on the floor and stretching.

We don’t have to run a marathon every day to get where we want to go. We shouldn’t even run every day.

Time spent rolling around on the floor and stretching is as crucial to running a race as putting one foot in front of the other.

Recovery allows us to keep working towards our goal, even on days we can’t think straight, let alone move fast. And that little bit of extra time we spend quickly adds up. 

Allow yourself a little recovery time now and then, and you’ll go much further in the long run.

 

 

Empty yesterdays

Life’s great lessons have always been taught to music.

Sometimes these lessons are obvious. But often, they’re hidden deep in the third act or the bridge, where they leap out and smack you round the back of the head to make sure you’re still listening.

In The Music Man, it’s this:

“Pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.

Don’t delay the chance to make a little bit of progress towards your goal, however small it may seem.

It doesn’t have to be full. Just don’t leave it empty.

If you put in just a little bit today, you’ll end up with a very full tomorrow. 

 

Could be

It doesn’t have to be new or shiny.

It doesn’t have to be interesting or original.

It doesn’t have to be exciting or controversial.

It doesn’t have to be perfect or polished.

It doesn’t even have to be finished.

That leaves an awful lot of things it could be, and not many excuses why it couldn’t.

Better it be made bad than never to be at all. 

And it does have to be made.

 

Input what you want

If there’s one formula that could be called the “secret to life,” it’s this: input shapes your output.

Our environment defines us almost entirely.

The people we live with change us.

The things we read and listen to shape our thoughts.

What we taste and smell and see affects how we feel.

And our actions build our identity.

Getting what you want from life is as simple as figuring out what it is you want and then shaping your environment — what your body goes through — to create that result.

Like all great games, learning how to play is easy — but getting good takes work.

 

 

 

 

Not what you wanted

Many years ago, my grandmother escaped a shipwreck without so much as a damp toe.

Tired of the harsh life in a broken Europe, she had decided to start anew in Australia. 

On the day of departure, her bags were packed, and her heart was set in stone. She was off to the Great Southern Land. But the fates didn’t want to play Grandma’s game that morning.

Her alarm clock didn’t go off. She misplaced her travel documents. Then the train was late. Every step of her journey was littered with obstructions.

Grandma arrived at the docks just in time to see the ship slip gently out to sea. She was distraught.

At this point, much to the Pope’s horror, Grandma always quotes the Dalai Lama:

“Sometimes, not getting what you want is a stroke of luck.”

Not a soul on board that ship touched Australian soil. It disappeared shortly after leaving Cape Town.

It was just as much her tardiness as it was divine providence (despite what she might tell you) that prevented her premature and watery grave. But if Grandma had got what she wanted that day, I wouldn’t be here at all.

Now, I’d call that lucky.

 

Out the window

Have you ever seen a bridezilla? Or the TV show ‘My Super Sweet Sixteen?’

These people implode into a raging boil of disappointment when they should be having a great time because they don’t know how to let go of a good plan, amongst other things.

A good plan is essential, but so is knowing when to abandon one.

ESPECIALLY if you want a good party.

In R.L. Wing’s translation of Sun Tzu, The Art of Strategy, we read, “Those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively. They are like a great river that maintains its course but adjusts its flow.”

There’s no point obsessing about a plan because most plans go out the window as soon as they’re finished. As James Clear says, “Getting started changes everything.”

We need to decide where we want to go, but we don’t need to know precisely how to get there.

The important part is to get going and be ready to take a detour when we inevitably have to. Often, it turns out that’s the path we were supposed to be on all along.

 

 

Relaxation is key

You might be surprised how much thoughts can impact your body.

Visualization isn’t going to make you shredded, but it might help you get there. The real danger is from the flip side of the coin.

Although some stress is a good thing, it’s vital we’re not stressed out all the time.

If we don’t let ourselves relax — and drop into recovery mode — for a few minutes every day, it has a knock-on effect on everything else; our sleep, diet, mood, focus, everything.

We can take a whole lot more stress if we relax a little now and then. That’s why you get to have a little power nap after a yoga session.

Take a couple of minutes every hour, some hours every day, a few days every month, and a handful of weeks every year to relax.

Go for a walk or lie in the sun for 15 minutes.

Take some of Mother Nature’s valium.

Squish your toes in some earth.

Stare at the ceiling.

Breathe.

Be.

And then crack on.

 

Never too bad

We get all sorts of nonsense stuck in our heads that stops us from getting what we want.

One particularly nasty one that trips people up — especially when starting something new — is thinking that they’re too bad to start.

But as my incredibly wise running coach says, “You’re never too bad to start getting better.”

No matter how bad we think we are at something. No matter how unfit or unhappy or unskilled or unmotivated we feel.

We’re never too bad to start getting better.

And starting is half the battle.

 

Stay Different

Yesterday, the greatest businessman alive wrote us a letter containing some sage words of advice.

And they’re not about how to time your pee breaks.

Ol’ Jeffo’s advice for success is simple: stay different.

The Universe is always trying to reclaim us for itself, to return us to equilibrium, to flatten us into our surroundings.

To make us ‘normal.’

Merely staying alive is a struggle because Life isn’t typical in this cold, vast, empty Universe.

Distinctiveness is what makes you and me different but also what brings us together. And our differences are worth fighting for, together. 

I’ll leave you with the words of the man who will take humanity to the stars

Be kind, be original, create more than you consume, and never, never, never let the universe smooth you into its surroundings.

 

 

His name was Earl

Earl was a troubled child of no determinate birthplace.

His teenage mother would frequently take him to the ER with severe bronchial asthma, probably worsened from sleeping on the floor with the roaches.

By the time Earl was old enough to start school, his mother had knocked out his two front teeth.

When Earl was 7, his aunt got him drunk.

When Earl was 9, his mum locked him in his room all summer.

When Earl was 10, his mum sent him to an orphanage.

When Earl was 14, he was stealing a living on the streets.

When Earl was 16 he was sent to prison.

There, he committed to music and began selling mixtapes on his release.

When Earl was 28, he released three albums in two years. They all went multi-platinum.

Earl was imprisoned 30 times. Earl was a pastor. Earl was bipolar. Earl loved dogs and orchids. Earl was an artist.

Earl was a very troubled man who turned his hurt into some of the greatest, most honest art ever made.

There’s a lot to say about Earl “DMX” Simmons. But nobody can ever say he didn’t give us everything he had.

X gave it to us.

And for that, we’ll remember him forever.

 

 

Special for everyone

Special doesn’t mean good and it doesn’t mean unique.

Some moments are always special: weddings, new homes, first days, birthday parties.

These are special regardless of whether they’re in a fancy hall or under a bridge. And trying too hard to make these special always has the opposite effect.

Some things are special because they mean something to us: a song, artwork, clothing, photos. People have to find that kind of special for themselves.

Most things are considered special because they do something new or better: bike tires that don’t puncture or cars that drive themselves or people that run very fast.

This is a special that everyone can achieve, but it takes a lot of hard work and help from other people; even then, it’s not guaranteed.

The final kind of special is what we call Quality. It’s the kind of special that you feel when you pick up a hand-made instrument or use a very cleverly designed tool—made with love and care.

That’s the special we can all achieve: turning up consistently and investing our time making the best and most useful things we can.

Because, sadly, that’s not very common at all. 

 

 

Forever & Always

Poetry makes it seem like love is something you can lose.

It’s not. But it is fairly easy to misplace.

Cupid swerves his truck through a gutter puddle, soaking a few months or years of our lives in love. But it never seems to last.

And that’s where most people misplace their love. 

It’s hard to see it at first, through all the shouting and screaming and tears. But as time unwinds from love’s silky thighs, a little something gets left behind.

There’s a part of me that remembers being in love with everyone in my past; that remembers a time and place when we were together and we were happy.

We can never go back there but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, locked deep in the past where it can’t be changed.

A memory of time well spent, with someone we cared about.

Always and forever, and never again, all at the same time. 

 

 

 

 

Temporal Bullying

In Ancient Babylon about 3,000 years ago, an old bloke had an idea that changed the world.

He counted seven bright things in the sky that weren’t stars, gave each one a day, and now everyone hates Mondays.

But Monday gets a lot of unfair pressure.

It’s the day we start all our diets and workout plans.

It’s the day we stop smoking and drinking.

It’s the day we start new jobs or return to school.

It’s the day our credit card bills come through.

It’s the day we dread when we hate what we’re doing and the day we eagerly await when we get to do what we love.

Monday is the beginning and end of all weeks, even those that start on Sunday. It’s the day we decided all challenges should begin.

But is that fair?

Wednesday doesn’t get that pressure. Wednesday gets ‘hump day.’

Maybe it’s time we gave Monday a little love — it’s always been there for us.

Even when we don’t want it to be. 

 

Pool Life

It’s very easy to live for eighty years without noticing.

The business of living involves so much worrying, fussing, and faffing that we often simply forget we’re alive at all.

One of the best ways to avoid this is to invest in some pool floaties.

It’s impossible to do anything in a pool floaty except enjoy life. If you try to do anything more than drift very majestically, sipping a Strawberry Daiquiri, you’re going to become very frustrated indeed.

Life isn’t all cocktails and pool floaties.

They just happen to be a particularly good way to stop and appreciate how great life is.

 

Look for trouble

It’s not like anyone enjoys getting punched in the face.

But if you’re going outside, there’s always the risk that some asshole will come along and clobber you.

That doesn’t mean you should stay inside all the time either. There’s always the risk that your house catches fire.

Risk is part of life.

It’s the same if you want to do or make anything interesting or different. Some people aren’t going to like it, no matter what you do. 

My mum loves this quote from the film Zorba the Greek that I keep thinking about: “Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble.”

Life is a thrilling battle with a very definite end.

May as well go down swinging.

 

A shot to flat earth

If you ever doubt we’re spinning, just get a bit drunk.

When you do, it’s immediately apparent that we’re standing on something that’s moving very fast indeed — about 1,000 miles per hour.

Another way is to watch a little kid learning to walk. They move the same as if you were trying to stand up on something wobbly that was moving fast.

Usually, we’d be too busy to notice how much work our brain is doing to keep us upright.

But as soon as we have a few glasses of wine and stand completely still, it’s impossible to ignore that we’re on a giant rock hurtling through space — because it won’t keep bloody still. 

What a ride!

 

What’s the point?

Understanding the “point of life” unlocks all its mysteries and treasure, or so we think.

That’s why the internet is littered with people asking this question.

But it’s really very simple.

Points aren’t real. They’re just how we make a mark on the world.

The point of a pen is to make a blot.

The point of a sword is to make a cut.

The point in an argument is to distinguish between ideas.

The point in sports or games decides who wins.

The point of a compass tells you which way to go.

The point is dimensionless. It’s merely a particular moment in time or space or a particular thought about a specific time in space. And yet, everything seems to hinge around the point.

“What’s the point of life?” isn’t the right question.

Living is the point.

It’s the instrument we’ve been given to change the Universe. 

The question is: “What mark will you make with it?”

 

Ain’t no small thing

Donating a million dollars to charity is easy enough.

If you’ve got that kind of money lying around, the government even offers some very attractive reasons to give it away.

And for the good it may do, that money will disappear at a stomach-churning rate.

The surest way of actually changing the world is bit by bit.

Even tiny actions like waving to a neighbour or holding the door for someone can force a paradigm shift when repeated time and time again.

Any small thing — money, love, kindness, reading, meditation, music — when repeated consistently and often, grows into something significant.

It’s just how it works.

Now, how about that glass of water?

 

 

 

 

Another dollar

What would you do for a dollar a day?

The phrase, “Another day, another dollar,” comes from a time when that was exactly how much a day of your life was worth — if you were lucky.

It was sung while slinging dirt out of the ancient Panamanian soil and hauling on salt-crusted ropes, hundreds of miles away from land.

It was grunted in the dark, forgotten slots of the mines and shouted between the thundering, crashing machines on the workshop floor.

And it’s sighed across cups of thick, lush coffee in sunlight-lanced kitchens as we crack our knuckles, wiggle our toes, and settle down for a few hours talking and typing.

“Dollars for days” is just what we do.

But at least I get to spend these days in my pyjamas.

And the coffee is better, too.

 

 

Stretch it

A simple stretch can give you a big boost on stiff days, even when it seems like a stretch to get out of bed at all.

Stretching releases a flood of endorphins, reduces stress, gets the blood flowing, and could help reduce menstrual pain.

It’s a quick win on any day. And you can do it while you’re still in bed.

Stretch your arms up high. Wiggle those toes way down.

Take a big breath, give it back.

And off we goooooo!

 

 

Imperfect Unoriginality

 

Originality is almost as big a curse as perfection.

For millennia creatives have wasted their time trying to “be original.”

Due to the laws of nature, both measurable and imperceptible, nothing can be the same twice.

Nothing is the same. Nothing is original.

Even if it looks roughly the same. Even if we try to make it precisely the same — and we do — we’ll always cock it up somehow, and it’ll be its own, new, slightly different, not perfect thing.

The best creatives learn to do this “stealing like an artist” better than anyone else: taking something you like and doing it your way.

And although imperfect unoriginality might the best we can do.

It’s always a damn sight better than doing nothing.

 

 

Bacteria rule the world

Most people don’t know this one very gross and disturbing fact about the human body.

Your bodyweight is at least half bacteria cells — maybe more.

Some people think we’re just very complicated bacteria-transport machines. I’m going a step further and saying they run the whole damn planet.

Hear me out.

There are more bacteria on earth than all other life forms combined.

They live everywhere from the sea bed to the roots of trees, and they talk to each other. They live in our gut and they talk to our brain.

And we just found out these crafty little buggers use quantum mechanics to control energy. 

Now, I’m not saying that one day they’ll get tired of us messing with everything and extinct us off their planet. 

But I’m trying to stay on their good side, just in case.

 

 

 

Dangerous Words

In 1945, a decorated Captain in the Red Army wrote a letter that destroyed his life.

As the war ended, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s battle with the USSR began.

He spent eight years in the GULAG, writing without pen or paper. After his release, Alek continued writing secretly.

When he published a story about life in the slave camps, Russia made him a famous writer for a while. But then the regime changed its mind and began destroying his work. 

Alek wrote feverishly in secret, spreading his words with friends of friends across borders. 

In 1970 those words won him a Nobel Prize. Then a year later, the KGB tried to kill him. So Alek smuggled his most dangerous words out of the country and published them worldwide.

The USSR told him he wasn’t Russian anymore and exiled him. But it was too late.

His words had unveiled the brutality of the regime.

And Alek kept writing until the USSR collapsed completely.

Shortly after, he got told he was Russian again and could return. After a little while, he did. And after his death in 2008, The Gulag Archipelago became required reading in Russian schools.

To show words can be very dangerous indeed.

 

 

Fool thy neighbour

Humanity sure does some weird stuff. 

For as long as we’ve been scratching stories down in stone, we’ve put aside one day a year for playing harmless pranks. 

Worldwide. For millennia.

We just love seeing the look on other people’s faces when they think something terrible or wonderful has happened, but it hasn’t. 

Who doesn’t love a good letdown?

Maybe it’s just a good reminder that even in the most crushing disappointments, we can find a bit of light relief. 

 

 

 

 

 

Pain to Gain

If you’ve never heard of David Goggins, whip out your dictionary and look up the word “indomitable,” and you’ll find a picture of him.

David is the guy that gets back up.

He completed the infamous SEAL “Hell Week” training twice. Then he completed Ranger and Air Force training, too, literally for the hell of it.

He’s run over 60 ultra-marathons and triathlons and broke a world record with 4,030 pull-ups in 17 hours.

My record is eight pull-ups in 3 minutes.

He once finished a 150-mile relay race designed for four BY HIMSELF on a broken ankle.

What keeps David going beyond limits and then much, much further?

David runs on pain.

The story of his childhood is heartbreaking. But he crushed that hurt into a fuel cell that drove him to greatness.

In his words, “When we transcend what we once thought possible, your light enables people to see the contours of their own prison; their self-limitations.”

David runs 100 miles because he can.

But he can run 100-miles because he turned his pain to gain.

 

 

 

 

Stubbed toes

It’s easy to forget that nothing is real until we attach words to it, even feelings.

A coffee table is a coffee table. And a stubbed toe is just something that happens when you have toes. This much is obvious to anyone with a coffee table or a toe.

However, in the heat of the moment, that stubbed toe becomes domestic terrorism and that coffee table a vicious assailant in your home.

And we curse that ungrateful, dumb hunk of wood most righteously.

But it would be weird if, after stubbing our toe, we took an axe to that loathsome lumber, ground it to sawdust, and then went to the neighbour’s house to continue the table-cide.

Emotions are there to guide us, to warn us, and to heal us, but if we took them at face value, we’d live in a pretty barren and boring world.

We can stub a toe on pretty much anything, but only you get to decide how long it hurts.

 

 

 

 

 

Chin up, sunshine

As a little boy, I learnt this cute little phrase has a whole lot of power.

Whatever disappointment or injury occurred, Dad would kneel down and enfold me in his vast, thick arms and squeeze until my ribs popped slightly.

Then he’d rub my head or thump a palm into my back or squeeze my arms tightly and say, “Chin up, sunshine, and things will look up too.”

And somehow, pretty soon after that, the sniffles and snot would dry up, and I’d be ready for my next scrape.

We might suck at photosynthesis but the sun is still our lifeblood.

When we’re gloomy and our inner Eeyore is moaning — when we need a little light and warmth — there’s a colossal nuclear explosion just the right distance away to cheer us up.

Step outside, shut your eyes and tilt your face to that warm glow for a minute or two.

No matter how much you have or how little you have not, that’s all you truly need to feel good.

 

 

 

 

Say Nothing

Saying nothing is the most dangerous thing we can do.

We like to think that if we keep quiet and keep our heads down, we’ll be ok. But saying nothing could strip us everything.

‘Saying nothing’ is just as loud as screaming through a megaphone. Sometimes even louder. That’s why “your silence speaks volumes”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn writes in The Gulag Archipelago about how freedom is eroded, one small submission — one short silence — at a time.

When we say nothing against the mistreatment or abuse of other beings, we sanction it. When we say nothing of our own suffering or fail to advocate for our dreams, we bury deep within ourselves the seed of an all-consuming, bitter plant.

It’s all too easy to say something these days, and even easier to say the wrong thing.

But saying nothing in the face of injustice rips the future from under all our feet.

 

 

 

 

 

To dare is to do

Hindsight is a funny old thing.

We rarely give ourselves enough credit for the great things we’ve done.

The trials of education, the stress of finding a job, getting punched in the face, heartbreak, or an early morning run are all hellish at the time.

But this pain fades pretty quickly, and before too long, we think it was easy. We might even think about doing it again.

A bloke called Seneca said something about this back in the day:

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it’s because we do not dare that they are difficult.”

Once we decide to take on — or are forced to take on — a challenge, it becomes a lot easier.

We’re capable of doing so many difficult things, even those we thought impossible. You’ve already done so many!

 

 

 

 

 

School run

It was a strange morning in Shanghai.

Despite its age, the local school had very graciously walked down the street to make room for a new skyscraper complex.

The 7,600-ton building, severed from its roots and mounted on hundreds of mechanical legs, inched 200 ft down the road; without dropping so much as a windowpane.

We don’t always have to destroy the old to make way for the new.

It’s cheaper — and way cooler — to carefully nudge it out the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a flash

Children are always in such a rush to grow up.

We want to be adults, so we understand what’s going on. We want to be tall and strong and smart and rich, so we can buy all the sweets and chocolate and toys those silly adults won’t buy us.

But there’s really no need to rush. Time already flies.

One minute, you’re playing football in the playground. The next minute you’re 30 years old with debt and a desk job and a bad back.

Enjoy it while it lasts; it’ll be over in a flash.

 

 

 

 

 

Struck out

Some days just don’t have you in them.

We wake up feeling terrible.

We drag ourselves away from the soft, warm sheets and out to the cold, hard day.

We take a swing and miss.

And we miss again.

And we miss again.

And just when it seems like another miss might mean the end of it all…

It’s time to go back to bed.

You can’t hit a home run every time you play.

But that doesn’t make you any less of a big hitter.

 

 

 

It’s not really

Humans have extraordinary brains but they’re difficult to drive.

The problem is that our brain is so powerful — so good at imagining the various possible states of reality — that our body doesn’t realize it’s not real.

A few hundred years ago, some writer who fancied himself a philosopher pointed this out with the witty phrase, “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”

We’ve all drifted into a dangerous thought and, before you know it, you’re there: heart pumping and mind racing, vividly day-dreaming the worst possible outcome as if it were happening right now.

But it’s not really happening.

It almost certainly never will.

And even if it does, worrying about it won’t help.

So you may as well think about something nice instead.

 

 

Be done with it

Weekends are funny old times filled with all sorts of odd happenings.

Whatever the plan, it often gets left by the wayside after a couple of mimosas and a splash of spring sunshine.

And that’s no big deal. It’s why they’re there.

Whether it was a workout or work that got abandoned among the Cantalope skins and crusts, at the time, it was the only thing you could have done.

And regardless, it was the thing you did.

There’s no more sense in fretting or punishing oneself for relaxing than there is in refusing a top-up on a bottomless mimosa.

It just doesn’t make sense.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson reminded his young daughter, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.”

Today is a whole new day, in a whole new week, and you can do whatever you want with it.

And that’s all that really matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could never do that

Soon after discovering the monumental Seth Godin, I unsubscribed from his email list and decided never to think of him again.

Not only was it frustrating that some of his blogs were just a couple of lines — not even paragraphs — but it was frustrating that I had written nothing at all.

Writing a daily blog always seemed like the sort of thing I should be doing and yet, for some reason, could never quite manage to do.

Seth’s wonderfully elegant and effortless scrawling reminded me that for all I called myself a writer, I could never do that.

It was magic if I wrote once every six months. And a miracle if it got shipped once a year. Whatever it was that people like that had, I didn’t have it.

I could never do that.

Seven years later and Seth Godin pops up in my life again, talking about The Practice.

And suddenly, it all made sense.

The outcome wasn’t the point; just like ‘enlightenment isn’t the point of meditating.

Don’t write to sell a book. Don’t write to get rich (good luck with that). Don’t write to get famous.

Write every day because that’s what writers do.

All those years spent trying to change into someone worthy of writing every day — a real writer — were just me hiding from myself. 

All it took was actually doing it, and all of a sudden, I was.

 

 

The Cold Side

It’s not always easy.

It’s not supposed to be.

And sometimes it really fucking hurts.

But that’s ok;

That’s what it’s about.

It still really fucking hurts.

So we shake it off.

We get up and get on.

Because that’s the reason we’re here. 

Getting up from those knocks.

Climbing up to those peaks.

Or exploring the cold side of the pillow,

For just a little bit longer because it’s Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

Do yourself a favour

It was a long time before I understood what “Do yourself a favour” meant.

There’s a Past Ben and a Future Ben and Me.

For a long time, I didn’t give Future Ben much thought.

I knew about Past Ben, who I didn’t like very much because he was perpetually screwing Me over.

But Future Ben was smart and young enough to handle the consequences of whatever bullshit I wanted to do at the time; to pay this or that debt or worry or pay the price of whatever I wanted to do at the time.

One night a few years back, I had a dream about Future Ben and he was in a very sorry state indeed. And all he said was, “Why? Why did you do this to me?”

After that, I started to do little things to look out for Future Ben — doing him a little favour now and then — because he wasn’t getting any younger.

And sure enough, Past Ben started cleaning up his act, and I didn’t have such a mess to worry about.

And that just made it easier to do myself a favour more often.

 

 

Skinny Dipping

It wasn’t until I was 27 that I went skinny dipping.

Out in the Bay of Dragons in North Vietnam, my head swimming from Bia Hanoi and cheap rice wine, I finally took my clothes off in front of people I wasn’t about to have sex with.

And we plunged into the dark, star-speckled water, and I was free.

It still took another three years before I had the nerve to show myself to anybody.

I had been holding myself back, fretting about what people would think of me, laying my thoughts bare to the world; worrying what other people would think about what I think.

And whether I would measure up to everyone else writing out there.

But you know what?

Just like that balmy night on Monkey Island, as soon as I took my clothes off, I stopped caring.

It was the easiest, most natural thing in the world.

Whatever it is that you’re hiding inside you, put it out there.

You were born that way.

Heavy Stuff

Have you ever been in love with a thing?

There are few things in my life that I treasure enough to cling to: a battered old flute; a guitar that doesn’t play; some trinkets that have been pressed into my palm over the years; a box of old cards.

We like to collect stuff, us humans; useful stuff, pretty stuff, and boxes.

We love boxes to put things in. And we love boxes even more if they come with a hidden box inside to put our secrets in.

Stuff is great, but boxes are heavy. We have to be careful not to collect too many.

I’ve always found that the more stuff I have, the heavier I feel; the more it weighs me down. It’s hard to love a lot of things at the same time.

So, once a year or thereabouts, anything that I’m not in love with or don’t use at least once a month, I give away.

And, you know, I never miss it. 

Not once.

 

 

 

 

Art we lucky?

Art is an excellent example of humanity at its best.

We’re so lucky to have the luxury of sitting around and thinking of ways to make things pretty. To have time to spare to make a little mark on the Universe:

“I’m just gonna draw my mate killing this mammoth because it was legendary.”

Isn’t that the greatest gift?

It’s probably True that most of what we create comes from a need to be remembered, for our time on this bald, wet little planet to mean something. Our infinity projects.

But you know what’s better than looking at art?

Making it.

It doesn’t matter if nobody sees it. It doesn’t matter if it gets hung on the fridge. It’s the making it that really makes you feel.

That’s what art’s really about.

Hopefully, after you made your art you’ll want to show it to someone.

And they’ll be interested to see what you’ve made.

And maybe you’ll even inspire them to make their own little mark on the world.

That’s art.

 

Who’s too small?

One big issue we must all battle is that we start so small.

The problem isn’t quite that we’re small.

The problem is that we expect the world to get smaller as we grow, to start to make more sense and show where it will bend to our will.

But unfortunately, as our limbs expand, so do our horizons.

The world turns out to be an even bigger and busier and scarier place than we thought. And we feel smaller and less important than ever.

Which is a good place to start.

We are small and unimportant, little more than a mote of sand in the sea or a mosquito in the marshes. 

But put that dust mote into an oyster or that mosquito in a tent and you’ll quickly find out that nothing is ‘too small’ or ‘too big’ to make a difference.

Making a difference is about context and action.

Nothing else matters — least of all size.

Fat people try harder

Exercising will teach you a lot about life and even more about yourself as a person.

When a close friend first dragged my lazy ass to the gym, I was incredibly unfit and doughy and unconfident. And to top it all, I was embarrassed about all those things.

I was scared that people would point at me and laugh as I chafed myself into a puddle, plodding along on the treadmill at a snail’s pace. Or worse — they would pity me lifting these tiny little weights.

The way that I did them.

I would watch that obese guy walking on the treadmill and think, “Give up fatso — you’re not even trying.”

But he was trying a lot harder than me. And deep down, I knew it. 

The problem was me — it was how I looked at people. They were making an effort to improve themselves and I was standing there being a snide little prick because of my insecurities.

I wasn’t mocking them. I was mocking me.

Exercise taught me that the people doing the most criticism are almost always the people who are doing the least to change.

Maybe it’s because they haven’t found their light, their way to improve the world and themselves, and they deeply wish they had. Or maybe because it hurts to watch someone winning when you’re losing or lost and don’t know how to turn it around.

Exercise taught me that it’s a lot easier to mock someone else for trying than making an effort yourself.

Exercise taught me that change is hard, but it’s almost impossible when you hate yourself and believe the world is against you. 

And exercise taught me that I’d rather be the fat fucker plodding away with everyone laughing than the skinny fucker sitting around doing nothing but criticizing.

Now whenever I catch the eye of an obese person trying to turn their life around, trudging along on a treadmill, scared and self-consciously sweating buckets, I give them a nod and a smile so they know I’m rooting for them.

Because now I know how hard it is to climb that mountain.

And how brave they are for trying.