Discovery

There’s barely anything in the textbooks.

They make it seem like everything has already been discovered: all the plants and birds and fish and bugs.

Soo many bugs.

And that everything has been recorded: countries and peoples and histories and wars.

Soo many wars.

But we’ve barely touched the surface.

Scientists discover 10,000 new species every year.

And they reckon we’ve only found about 10%.

History gets retold every generation.

There are miles to explore under the sea and above our heads.

Every time we split an atom, we find another layer of the Universe.

And we’ll never run out of things to fight about.

Fifth Try

It’s not about getting it right the first time.

It’s not even about getting close.

If things are going well and your craft is easy, that’s good.

But it’s not a challenge.

And we’re probably not learning much.

It’s not until the fourth or fifth or even sixth try that we start to figure things out.

You won’t be in the game long if you expect to win on your first go.

Getting beat isn’t the hard part.

Going for your fifth try after a beating is though.

Governance

Here’s a quick guide to becoming a powerful dictator.

It’s been tried and tested over millennia.

The first thing to do is control the narrative.

If you control the narrative, you control anyone who believes it.

Fearful narratives are excellent because people don’t think straight when scared.

For example, the narrative that gets people to fight wars is that it is honorable to die protecting your family.

If you can’t scare people, try greed.

Next, we need obedience.

You can’t have people questioning orders.

Force subservience by creating arbitrary rules for no purpose.

Punish anyone who questions them harshly, and punish those who disobey them even more severely:

Take away their freedom.

Get them fired.

Freeze their bank accounts.

Ostracize them.

But don’t kill them, yet.

Everyone else must know how miserable they will be if they disobey.

Finally: dependence.

Control their sustenance. Control their beliefs.

The fewer people who can survive without you, the better.

Frequently change the arbitrary rules you created, and do so without warning.

U-Turns are not only acceptable but preferable.

Change the meaning of words until people begin to question their senses.

Get people to question things that have been true for generations.

Once everyone is confused and scared, they’ll avoid suffering by deferring to you for guidance about everything.

There you have it: your own autocracy.

The Number 73

If you don’t see it, did it happen?

When I was a tiny boy, my mother and I boarded one of London’s famous Number 73 double-decker buses — the old ones with the open back.

We were probably on the way to the zoo.

I was delighted.

It was the first time I had been on this type of bus.

Turning to my mother, I exclaimed,

“We’ve never been on this type of bus before, have we?”

She laughed.

No,” she said, “You haven’t been on this type of bus before.”

It took the three-year-old Ben a little while to digest that.

Was it possible that the world and my parents had existed — and had experienced things — before I was born?

It seemed implausible. Unimaginable.

We laugh at this infantile view, but most people live in this state.

It’s very human.

We call it recency bias.

We’ve been loping around this planet for a million years.

Modern society has been developing for at least 20,000 years.

What makes anyone think that what is going on right now hasn’t been tried before in any number of ways?

Chronological arrogance is rampant.

Ignoring history usually ends up taking us backward, not forwards.

Faker

You sound fake.

People often tell me that my accent sounds fake.

When I was younger, they told me I sounded posh.

In my school, that wasn’t something you wanted to be.

So, I faked it.

I copied the way other kids talked in an effort to blend in.

At first, it was a constant effort.

Eventually, it took more effort to speak in my natural voice.

Years later, a woman showed me a picture of her younger self.

She was unrecognizable.

I asked her how had she transformed from a mousy-haired dweeb into a blonde party girl.

“Fake it till you make it,” she told me, in that ridiculously thick French accent.

Another friend makes a funny little ‘V’ sign whenever they take a photo.

She said it started as a joke, but now it’s just what she does.

As a young football fan, I didn’t understand how anyone could go ballistic celebrating a goal.

So I faked it.

Now it comes naturally.

Faking till you make it is how you make it.

Dress for the job you want, as they say.

And beware of who you pretend to be because it will probably end up true.

Bellicose

It’s getting pretty scary out there,

On the streets,

And in the threads.

Homo sapiens got where we are because of our bellicose nature; our innate truculence.

You can tell fighting is important to us because there are about a dozen words we use to describe this disposition.

In experiments, scientists have demonstrated that we get more pleasure from conflict than anything else.

So much so that most people will choose to consume things that make them angry over things that make them happy — and will report feeling better for it.

Conflict is how we establish our identity.

You’re either with us, or you’re one of them.

Take a stroll through Twitter and you’ll see this pugnacity at its finest.

Our willingness to fight — particularly to defend the stories we believe in most — shaped our world.

And will continue to shape it, for better or worse.

There’s never been a better way to keep people distracted than getting them to fight one another.

That is how the few control the many — and how they always have.

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned war to bring people together.

Afresh

You can only ignore it for so long.

One of the core tenets of kaizen philosophy is remembering that however we are doing our work now is probably the worst way we could be doing it.

It might not be completely terrible.

But there is a high chance that we could get better results by doing things differently.

It’s all easy too easy to turn methods into routines and beliefs into habits.

We get to attached that we can’t see them for the barriers they are.

The only way to improve continuously is to destroy them routinely and try something different.

You Know

You probably already know the answer.

One of the first questions I always ask when someone has a problem is, “What do you think you should do about it?”

With most problems, people already know.

We know we should eat less and exercise more to get fitter and sexier.

We know we should invest more if we want to be wealthier.

We know we should turn off notifications and delete social media if we want to be happier.

So what stops us from doing these things?

It takes effort.

Effort takes practice.

If you want something — anything — you got to hop on the good foot and do the hard thing.

There really isn’t any other way.

Shortcoming

There are few worse things you can tell a child than these words:

You’re so smart.

or

You’re so talented.

or, perhaps worst of all:

You’re so beautiful.

Everything is subjective.

As smart and beautiful as a child may be to its parents, the chances are they are somewhere around average.

Telling a child that they are special only leads to their shortcoming.

Thinking that they have some god-given edge will likely result in them being less talented or smart than they could have been.

Even if it’s true in their current surroundings, the world will quickly place them on the bell curve, likely somewhere around the middle.

There are some incredibly smart, talented people.

The rest of us have to get up earlier in the morning.

And work a little later.

Failed Flat

We like to think we know what failure looks like;

That we’ve anticipated the worst that can happen, how we’ll react, and how quickly we’ll get up.

We like to think we’d struggle through regardless, armed to the teeth with motivational quotes and inspiring stories.

The truth is that Life doesn’t let us fail that easily.

If it did, we wouldn’t learn.

We wouldn’t have fallen, merely stumbled.

Failure is when we physically can’t push any further.

Failure is when there isn’t just a lack of desire to do something.

Failure isn’t a mistake or a wrong turn.

Failure is when we stop caring about the journey altogether.

We question our destination.

We question ourselves.

We question everything.

Failure is not when we fall.

It’s when we lie down in the middle of the road and wish for a truck to flatten us forever.

Fences

This didn’t happen by accident,

This world we live in.

All these gadgets, things, rules, and agreements were determined by someone, or some people, at some stage.

Fences don’t build themselves.

They take quite a bit of planning and work to build.

The same goes for institutions and social contracts.

Before we destroy any fences, we need to know why they were built.

Otherwise, we might just be making things worse.

Preparation

Academia is nonsense.

Knowing the names of English royalty or the date of the Battle of Waterloo won’t do you much good in the real world. Most of it is bullshit anyway.

And let’s face it: Who cares?

We can follow all the “experts” and run thousands of models and surveys, and the value of all that effort and data is still pretty much nothing.

We’re still not going to be able to predict what happens next.

The Universe has a habit of surprising us. And it’s always more surprising when we think we know what to expect.

So why waste time trying to anticipate it by learning nonsense names and dates? Who are we trying to impress?

Investing our time in developing skills that prepare us for whatever the Universe cooks up next is better.

Persistent practice trumps knowledge every time.

And success comes when the well-prepared and well-practiced get a little lucky.

Tyrants

Gently, gently, the tyrants rise.

Their gilded words but a dark disguise.

Self-righteous lambs, they may appear:

They are the wolves that we should fear.

Do not be charmed by good intentions.

Their trusted tool is still dissension.

Our fears and doubts are their inventions;

But tyrants feast on our ommission.

Indulgence

There’s nothing like a cold beer to whisk away the day’s troubles.

A cold beer and hot smoke — or maybe something a little stronger.

I’m not sure where we got the idea that steeping our brain in alcohol and choking it with drugs was a way to relax or escape our problems for a little while.

In times gone by, the Pope (and a lot of swindlers, too) would offer out “indulgences,” which was basically a coupon that allowed you to skip purgatory — and presumably go straight to the pearly gates.

But in my experience, indulgence only leads to one place:

Hell.

Deep Quiet

A lot can be heard in silence.

Sometimes we’re so busy working and worrying that we barely hear anything. Not even our own thoughts.

It’s possible to do a lot and experience none of it.

And that usually leads us nowhere.

If we don’t make the time to be quiet, to sit with ourselves and Be, Life will make quiet for us.

That silence will be deafening.

But we must not fill it with pointless nothings.

There’s a lot to be said about nothing at all.

But you have to say nothing to hear it.

First Blood

I don’t want to know the answer,

At least not without trying.

Let me punch a few doors in first;

Bang my head against the wall;

Suffer the pain of misunderstanding.

Bleed out a bit.

I need to know I need help myself.

I need to know I gave it a go,

Before I can ask for help from anyone else.

Iced

How cold is a duck’s bum?

I watch them on the lake, floating around quite happily on the slushy water, nudging icebergs aside with their breast.

I guess they’re used to it.

What is it about the cold?

Something primal.

Something unavoidable.

An addiction.

Kiss the snow.

Inhale the ice.

Breathe through it all.

The pain is life.

Abnormal

Are you normal?

Ask a room of people if they are normal, and most will say yes.

Who’s going to answer no to that?

We all want to be accepted by the tribe, after all.

But it’s not normal to be great.

Running 100m in 10 seconds isn’t normal.

Lifting 1000 lbs isn’t normal.

Winning three Michelin stars isn’t normal.

Making a billion dollars isn’t normal.

Remembering everyone’s name isn’t normal.

Abnormal outcomes are mostly the result of abnormal behaviour.

So if you’re looking for a winner — act different.

Puzzled

Are you missing a piece of your puzzle?

How do you know?

It’s impossible to tell you are missing a piece until the puzzle is almost complete.

Learning something new is like doing a jigsaw puzzle with only a fantasy to guide us; A blurry image, at best.

We open the box and get started, scattering the pieces across the floor and flipping them over one by one, unsure where to start.

The edges or corners are usually decent places to start making ground.

Nothing goes anywhere at first.

But after some time, a piece or two come together.

Then three or four, and more, until we start to see what we’re working towards.

The pieces begin to come together faster.

Sometimes we won’t find a piece, but it’s not missing — we have to put together some other pieces first.

By the time we get to the end, the picture is almost complete, even if one piece is still missing.

We can fill in the blanks ourselves.

And that missing piece always turns up, eventually.

Gaslight

This year’s word of the year?

Gaslighting.

For those who aren’t sure, gaslighting is the act of convincing someone that what they’re experiencing is fantasy.

The aim is to get them to question their own senses, which isn’t as difficult as it sounds — because our experience of the world is our perception of the world, not the world as it really is.

I can’t tell you what the world is really like, I can only say what I think it is like, based on my experience.

The reason gaslighting works is that humans want to be accepted more than they believe in their own senses.

That seems ridiculous.

Surely red is red?

Hot is not cold.

Two lines are either the same length or different lengths.

One would think.

But two or three? Not so much.

When in a group, more than 35% of people will defy their own senses or values to conform to the loudest opinion.

Even when they can see with their own two eyes that the opinion is wrong — people would rather not cause a fuss.

Dangerous stuff, if you know how to use it.

More dangerous still, if you don’t.

Recency

Humans are prone to live in the near term.

Our recency bias.

Besotted to the exponential moving average.

It can be a very dangerous inclination indeed.

We assume that because things are the way they are now that they were always that way — and so will stay that way forever.

Funnier still, we think that we will stay the same forever.

What could possibly change?

Everything.

Especially the things we are most certain about.

They are guaranteed to change;

Nothing becomes history faster than today.

Clown

If they call you a clown or they call you a fool,

You’re probably on the right track.

So put on your pack,

Pick up your tools,

And plan your line of attack.

Cherish

Most free things are worthless.

They may have had value once and may have it again in future — or even now, but somewhere else.

But something we get for nothing, something we got without struggle or investment, rarely has lasting value.

The things we have suffered for we tend to cherish the most.

Balderdash

It’s ok to stumble.

It’s ok to fall.

It’s ok to lie down and stare at the wall.

It’s ok to cry and wail and gnash,

And scream out all sorts of balderdash.

If anything, sometimes it’s necessary.

Leak

Some things were made to drive a man wild.

A leaky boat is one of them.

You can make it out of wood or steel, or fibreglass.

You can triple-line it.

Cork it.

Paint it and reinforce it, but every goddamn boat leaks.

There’s rarely a hole.

Water has some sort of quantum capabilities where eventually, the probability of it being in the boat is higher than outside the ship, and your feet get wet.

The best approach to a leak — the surreptitious ones at least — is to accept it and make bailing it out a part of your routine.

Trying to fix it would only drive you insane.

Big Ears

There’s something funny about clever people’s heads.

Mostly, it’s their ears.

Their ears are quite special.

They look fairly normal while being transported around town or having a shower.

But as soon as they enter into a discussion, something magical happens…

Their ears grow.

Slowly but surely, their lug holes unfurl and expand, a peacock’s tail of inexplicably rigid flesh shivering out behind their heads.

They catch all the words.

Every single one.

Were these people smart before they had big ears?

Or did having big ears make them smart?

TTID

The four most dangerous words in investing are:

This Time It’s Different.

It’s a message of hope.

A message of change.

But a deceptive story.

Of course it’s different this time but it looks very similar.

It plays on our desire to be different, to feel special and believe that evolution truly broke the mold with us.

Because this time we’re different!

We weren’t there before.

This time we’re better. We’re smarter.

We learned our lesson.

This time it won’t crash.

This time your money is SAFU.

We’re not the same as those other folks that screwed you.

This time it’s different.

We’re really in this together. Promise.

They often add on four even more deadly words:

You can trust us.

This time might be different.

But it will feel pretty much the same.

Dead Wood

A tree cannot shed its own branches, even when needed.

Many trees can dispose of their leaves once a year, the thick, crisp carpet of orange decaying under the snow, their nutrients feeding the forest.

But as overweight or dead and rotten as they may be, a tree can never shed its branches without the help of a storm.

The day after the storm, we walk past the severed limbs of the forest — huge fingers of warped lumber curling up from the forest floor.

The carnage seems unnatural but it is not.

These branches were in excess. Or they were weak. Or rotten.

Maybe a bit unlucky.

Is the tree sad to lose its branches?

Perhaps.

But all the forest will be happier and healthier for it.

And after a few months, so will the tree.

The economy works in a similar way.

If the trees are the institutions.

Then a recession is the storm.

And it’s never been wise to stand in nature’s way, no matter how many branches we might want to save.

Experience

What do you do if you don’t have the experience?

Only one way to get the experience?

You go have the experience.

Just don’t expect it to look like the experience.

Until it’s done.

Contrarian

You wouldn’t jump off a bridge,

Just because everyone else is.

Or at least that’s what they say.

I don’t know if that’s true.

But a contrarian view.

Can be quite a good way to get paid.

Better Bad

Perfection is impossible.

Just make better bad choices.

With your money.

With your health.

With your time.

Eventually, making the better choice will become your baseline.

That’s when it’s time to challenge if it’s still a better choice.

Or at least, still not a bad one.

YMYL

“Stick ’em up!”

I would shout, waving my finger pistol menacingly at my sister.

“Your money — or your life!”

That’s what all the famous highway robbers said.

The most famous of the British highwaymen was Dick Turpin, the butcher-turned-bandit.

Dick was a young entrepreneur. He had just opened a butcher shop when the Essex Gang approached him, looking to shift their pilfered deer meat.

Dick joined the gang. It was a no-brainer.

For the next few years, Dick rode his horse — Black Bess — at the helm of that brutal band as they terrorized the craftsmen and farmers of the Home counties.

Within five years, they all swung from the end of a rope.

Except for Turpin.

Turpin evaded the authorities for several more years, becoming more violent and careless, until he was arrested for shooting another man’s chicken.

After a short trial, Dick was convicted.

He was sentenced to death for stealing horses.

When the terminal day arrived, he wore a new suit, thanked the audience, shared a joke with the executioner, climbed the gallows unaided, and threw himself off.

He expired in five minutes.

He had lived for thirty-four years.

His story will live on for a few more.

Passion

It’s okay if you haven’t found it yet.

It’s okay if you haven’t figured out what to do with your life.

There are so many places and activities that it is almost impossible to try everything.

How could we know which one will be our passion?

What if we never got the chance to try the thing that gives us the most passion in life — the thing that doesn’t feel like work?

What if circumstance prevents us from finding it?

Bollocks.

You don’t need to try everything to find your passion.

You already know what it is.

Your passion was discovered as a child, and you have been laying the foundation for it since — consciously or not.

You probably just forgot, thought it wasn’t possible or was too hard, that your parents wouldn’t like it, or it wouldn’t make the money you thought you’d need.

Most likely, you pushed it back a little, then a little more, and then a little further back until you couldn’t see it at all.

When you rediscover that younger you that clasps your passion tightly in its hands, there will be tears.

Tears of joy for time lost and found.

Now — run with it.

Failure

The hope of a new goal is blinding.

Past failures whither under its glare.

Is this not the time for infallibility?

That early motivation is just the inability to anticipate the struggle ahead with clarity.

Ignorance is strength, as they say.

superman

When I was younger, I wanted to be Clark Kent.

I figured I didn’t need to dress up in all that spandex to get the superpowers and Lois Lane.

I didn’t realize I could actually do it…

I write for a living.

Working out gave me pretty decent pecs.

A crazy doctor put lasers in my eyes.

Now all I need to do is figure out how to fly…

Black Swans

We didn’t expect to find out that way.

We didn’t expect it would happen.

We didn’t even think it was possible.

But looking back now, it seems obvious.

How could we have thought it impossible?

That’s a Black Swan.

The thing that most people forget about Black Swans, is that there were people asking if it was possible.

The jesters and children and old wives telling tales.

They whispered about the swan with feathers darker than night.

We just thought they were crazy.

You Win

There’s one thing nobody can beat you at.

They don’t have a chance.

Not in a million years.

Not a hope in hell.

Not a thistle on your whistle.

You’ll beat them hands down, every time, all the time.

Just by being you.

Dots

Looking for your passion?

Just connect the dots.

You’ve left them lying throughout your life.

Here a win;

There a mistake;

And n less than a several dozen fortunate incidents and happy accidents along the way.

It’s probably something you don’t like.

It might be something you hate.

The breadcrumbs are there, so follow the trail.

Don’t despair if you can’t see anything yet.

You’ll know it when you find it.

Will you accept?

Master Key

Unlocking the life you want is a lot easier if you get some practice.

Once we’ve figured out how to get what we want once, we can expand that methodology to everything else.

That’s why doing something as simple as drinking a glass of water morning can make you rich.

It’s the mindset and the method that counts.

Life doesn’t care much for the humdrum.

It will always throw a new challenge into our path, whether we’re looking for it or not — and I suggest looking for them.

When those challenges arise, those same keys that unlocked the simple things can unlock as many more, complex or confusing things as we may need or want.

It can be hard to trust the process when faced with the sheer cliff face of an unexpected, novel challenge.

Don’t worry about the struggle ahead.

Take small steps every day and the years will always bear fruit.

Gut Punch

Realization feels very much like a punch in the gut.

A hollowness sucking in the other organs around it.

The fire within extinguished by the rush of recognition.

Now you know.

Can’t unknow.

Can only take it on the chin.

Convert

Often, the strongest evangelists of any Faith were those who despised it before.

There are many things I looked down on or judged but have come to love — that have become a part of me.

A passion, even.

Maybe the fear that drives those feelings comes from knowing what would happen if we explore that which disconcerts us so much.

What do you sneer at that could be your passion?

The more ridiculous it sounds, the more likely it is.

Old Skills

Old skills are the most satisfying.

The ones that used to keep us alive.

Finding water.

Making a fire.

Growing food.

Hunting.

Cooking.

Fighting.

These are the skills we’ve been honing for millennia.

These are the skills we must not forget, or there will be no humanity in our future.

Do not give up the skills that got us here, or there will be no choice in where we go next.

Sting

Good experiences hurt.

They don’t feel like good experiences at the time.

But eventually, the sting wears off, and we’re left with a lesson.

Let it sink in.

Scratching it will only make it worse.

Control

You are in control.

You might not get to choose what happens,

But you always get to decide what happens next.

This is your game.

Other people’s rules only matter as much as you’re willing to suffer for them.

Deciding what you want is the hard part.

After that, it’s just a matter of sticking with it.

Square One

All that way around the board.

Countless cards turned.

Dozens of rolls of the dice.

All that effort just to end up back at square one?

Of course.

The board is a circle, stupid.

Get on with it and Pass Go.

Cash Splash

It’s raining money outside.

It’s leaking through the walls.

Currency is drowning everything,

But we’ve still got nothing at all.

The government is raining money.

They’re printing out massive stacks.

Soon we’ll all have bags of cash to carry.

But we won’t be able to buy jack.

Casting

Casting is deception.

It’s not the real thing.

We might cast a model or cast a line or cast a prediction.

We can even cast a person as someone else and — as convincing as they may be — they are not that person.

And we can’t count the number of fish we’ll catch by the number of times we cast our line.

We can’t make a cast of one thing and expect it to be exactly the same the next time or the time after that.

Just ask Tesla.

Models

Who doesn’t love a fun fact?

Data is incredibly valuable.

Once we start doing something repeatedly, we notice variations between each action.

If we want to be really good, we start to look for a pattern to understand how to improve on it.

We collect the data points and build the model.

We average out our experiences in the hope that — if and when it happens again, we’ll be able to react better, faster, and with more confidence.

But all models are wrong. Technology fails.

That doesn’t mean they’re useless.

We shouldn’t mistake a model or a theory for the Truth.

No matter how often something has happened, there is no guarantee it will happen again.

The Universe will always surprise us.

That’s its job.

Latecomer

This blog is very late.

It snuck in through the backdoor of the blog, flustered and ashamed at its tardiness.

It was so late it missed the automatic collector that sends out the email. Conspicuous only by its absence.

Sorry.

I did promise to be here every day.

And so, just like my old school teacher used to punish us, here are my lines, so I never forget again.

I must not wait until midnight to write.

I must not wait until midnight to write.

I must not wait until midnight to write.

I must not wait until midnight to write.

I must not wait until midnight to write.

I must not wait until midnight to write.

I must not wait until midnight to write.

I must not wait until midnight to write.

I must not wait until midnight to write.

I must not wait until midnight to write.

I must not wait until midnight to write.

I must not wait until midnight to write…

I must not wait until midnight to write.

I must not wait to write.

I must not wait to write

I must not wait.

I must write.

I must.

Stupid or Evil

Some acts are so stupid, so mistimed, or so irrational that it makes one think:

Are they really that stupid?

Are they really so detached?

Are they really so narrow-minded?

Or was chaos their intention all along?

Thunk

Don’t worry about it.

Let someone else do the worrying.

Take off a load.

Thoughts flow like water: Via the easiest route possible.

After they’ve run that way a couple of times, they’re likely to run that way again, and again, until it becomes habit.

That first thought doesn’t even have to be our thought to wiggle that first path through our lobes.

When we’re in groups, it’s ever so easy for someone else’s thought to get picked up and carried along in everyone’s brain.

Especially if we were thinking about something else.

We go along with an idea for any number of reasons: we don’t care, we don’t want to be outcast, we weren’t listening to the question.

It’s called, “Groupthink.

It’s a lot less stressful than having to think about something ourselves in any great detail.

Of course, you have to really trust that the person doing the thinking, will be thinking about you too.

Good Intentions

Every disaster started out as a good idea to someone.

We like to think we know best and that we can fix things, but fixing something in practice is a lot harder than we imagine.

First we have a problem.

We have an idea and it seems to work.

People like it. They give us money.

They thank us.

After a while, we notice that it’s not fixing things as much as we thought it would, but it’s too late.

People already like it, they seem happy.

Most of them haven’t noticed the downsides.

Yet.

We wonder, maybe if we come up with another idea — another smart solution — people might not notice the damage done by the last one.

And so the cycle continues.

Totally innocent; with the best of intentions.

The road to dystopia is paved with such ideas.

But there

Find Your Song

Everyone should learn to play an instrument.

At least one.

It’s a great practice to have — one that will teach you everything you need to know about learning and discipline and kaizen.

But most importantly:

Everyone should learn to play an instrument so that they can hear what their album sounds like.

It doesn’t come at first, but once you get the basics down, you start to mess around.

That’s when you discover your first sound; your first song.

The beat and harmonics that make you you.

Everyone should learn to play an instrument.

That’s the reason why we can all sing.

History

History doesn’t repeat because it is almost entirely lies.

Ask any historian.

Humans are incredibly unreliable eyewitnesses, particularly if they’re pumped up after crushing the skulls of their enemies.

All the details about Who Did What to Whom, all the silly names and events we’re forced to memorize in school, are largely irrelevant.

That is, unless you’re trying to convince someone that your culture is the best by telling them a story about all the great things it has achieved.

But I digress.

History only rhymes because it marches to a beat.

So it is only useful when looked at through a wide lens.

It doesn’t matter who shot Franz Ferdinand or even that he was shot at all (sorry Franz).

What matters is that The Superpowers Went to War Over Who Controlled the Energy and Money.

That war lasted from 1914-1945 (with a break in between).

We went from a smoggy world of shillings and steam to a shiny one powered by glistening black gold and green dollars.

This time, it’s no different.

The Players and The Prize are the same, but the Stakes are higher than ever.

So it won’t be over by Christmas.

Long Live Lettuce

There once was a dunce named Liz Truss.

Whose tax cuts made all the Banks fuss.

It caused such a backlash,

They refused to print cash.

Now her reign won’t outlast this lettuce.

T

What she really wanted was cake.

So she could have it — and eat it too.

But she must’ve forgotten to eat her greens,

Or was the greenest economist you’d ever seen,

Her policy left the banks weak at the knees.

Now her reign won’t outlast this lettuce

She’s been a little limp for a while.

Now they called her Liz the Lettuce.

And that’s the reason why.

One Back

Life isn’t linear.

That would be too easy.

Two steps forward.

One step back.

Trip over.

Wander in the wrong direction for a bit.

Sit.

Figure out where we were going.

Wonder what went wrong.

Two steps forward.

And so on…

Nose

I couldn’t believe it.

12oz of egg whites. For breakfast?!

I read the rest of the meal plan and then started again at the top.

It still said 12oz of egg whites. With oatmeal.

My stomach turned.

Where the hell does one buy egg whites anyway?

As it turns out, the answer is: Everywhere.

I stomped down the dairy aisle of my local grocery store, braced for disappointment.

But there they were.

Egg whites in cartons. And four different types from two brands.

Right next to the butter I buy every week.

Right in front of my nose all along. Not that I had been looking.

We cannot anticipate a road we have not begun to walk.

It may seem like the resources we need to fulfill our vision are far-fetched or illusive.

But once we start, we quickly find that the information and resources we need were always there, all around us.

Not hiding. Just not seen.

Waiting to help us when we’re ready to be helped.

Right in front of our noses.

Stan

“That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard.”

Stan’s editor was adamant.

“Everything about it is wrong!

Nobody likes spiders.

Nobody likes teenagers.

And nobody — NOBODY, STAN — cares about a teenage superhero with personal problems!

Well, Stan did it anyway.

Because when you have an idea that you think is really great, you don’t let some idiot talk you out of doing it.

Hubris

Hubris is the original sin.

It is so ingrained in human nature that we barely register it in ourselves or our culture.

It is so human to believe that our experiences hold the most Truth that we have several other names for it.

Hubris that is so deeply ingrained in our thinking that we don’t notice it is called bias.

Hubris for our appearance we call vanity or ostentatious.

Hubris for our abilities we call audacity or chutzpah.

Hubris in the face of one’s authority is called insolence.

Acceptable hubris we call cocky, which is also a clue about who is allowed to be pretentious and who is not.

Hubris on an individual level is unavoidable. It’s everywhere.

An individual with a lot of hubris mostly has an ego problem.

They’re arrogant, which may harm them more than others.

Hubris on a societal or institutional level is dangerous.

When an institution has a hubris problem — when they can’t admit there are other possibilities, such as the possibility they might be wrong — we call it tyranny.

They Said

I’ve always hated them.

You know the ones:

The People That Say.

Some of us hear what they say and believe it.

The rest? Idiot scum.

They say all sorts of reassuring things.

They said it’s always been done that way.

Now they say it’s high time it changed.

They said that it was safe.

Now they say that it’s not.

They said it was bad.

But it’s the best chance we’ve got.

They said we should avoid it as much as we could.

And any prior statements were misunderstood.

Whatever they said, it’s safe to assume.

It’s not what is said that’s the clue, but by whom?

Control

It’s all very well saying you’ll change it tomorrow.

Tomorrow never comes.

Control today is control of your future.

We will never build the tomorrow we want unless we work on controlling the present.

Ugly Swans

Losses and mistakes are like ugly ducklings.

At first, we don’t even realize we’ve made a mistake.

Then, we’re forced to confront it. It obviously turned out ugly.

It looks really bad.

We run away.

We curse the ugly mistake and wish it were different.

We try to forget about it.

When we come back later and look at it again, the mistake has changed.

Maybe we’ve changed too.

Often that mistake — just like the ugly duckling — turns out to be the start of something beautiful.

Rear View

History doesn’t repeat.

And although it follows the same beat over the centuries, the harmony is always very different.

Data can be incredibly powerful, but it’s still the same as driving while looking backwards.

Today is not yesterday.

And neither is tomorrow.

Correlation is not correlation; eventually, we completely complete the bell curve and find ourselves on a different chart.

But there are clues in history. And if you listen closely, you can hear the rhythm of history change key.

The rules have changed.

And nobody knows what that will look like.

Reinforce

Little steps every day don’t just take us forward.

They take us up as well.

Any new habit or lifestyle is a struggle at first, but it will always be more of a struggle if we keep telling ourselves how hard it is, how bad it tastes, or how little we’re enjoying ourselves.

That only reinforces that it’s something we don’t want to do.

If we tell ourselves that we enjoy it, and quite often, our body will start to tell us that it enjoys what we’re doing too (which is always a good sign), and the reinforcement cycle begins.

Good choice,

Acknowledge the good choice,

Feel good about it.

Repeat.

After a while — it’s true.

I put “good choice,” but the scary truth is, it can be anything you want.

Or — if you’re not careful — what someone else wants.

Reinforce your values daily, or someone else will sneak in theirs.

Levels

We love to promote a bit of competition.

Who doesn’t want to beat the game?

But it’s important to focus on mastering the level we’re on.

If we worry about how complex or challenging the next level will be, we’ll never get past the one we’re on.

Free Dome

You don’t put a prisoner in an ivory tower.

You put them under the ground, where they can’t see the sky.

Preferably, you don’t give them any natural light at all.

There’s a part of the story soon after the prisoner escapes — usually at night — when they realize they have made it.

They look up, see the stars, and weep.

It’s almost impossible to imprison a human that can see the stars.

But once you take them away, it’s only a matter of time before they forget how free they were under that big glistening dome.

And then you don’t need any walls to keep them prisoner!

Cheaper

What’s one good thing about high inflation?

The real value of your debt (as long as the interest rate is lower than inflation) will be reduced.

When we don’t have inflation, we get deflation.

Deflation is when everything gets cheaper.

Our money buys more, not less.

Things like technology drive deflation.

Deflation sounds pretty good, come to think of it.

The only thing that doesn’t get cheaper with deflation is debt.

Debt gets more expensive. It grows.

The thing you bought is now worth less than you paid, and you still have to pay the interest.

Everything, including our time, gets cheaper.

Cheap

There’s only one thing you need to know about inflation:

Today is the cheapest day you can buy something.

Anything — including your time.

Tomorrow will probably — it probably be the same price.

But next year, almost definitely not.

Variety

When Life is getting you down,

And you’re not sure if the Universe has your back.

Remember that the Universe makes every sunset different — just so those that can’t get around very well still get a little variety in their day.

The spice is endless!

MO2

Trying to get motivated is a waste of time.

Watch several hours of motivational videos, and you might get a little pump of the stuff.

A quick little hit of M-O2 into the old prefrontal chamber can get the old machine purring. But it’s just a brief spurt of nitro.

The real fuel — the gas that drives the wagon forward — is discipline.

When you have discipline you don’t need motivation.

You’re getting there some day or another anyway.

Any motivation that comes as we grind towards that goal is just a sweet little booster.

And now we’re cruising.

Book it in

If they’re not in the calendar, they don’t exist.

Urgent work makes itself a priority.

And all work demands time.

But if we don’t make time for the important things — the things that make the difference in the long term — we’ll never have any time left at all.

Time to spend with the family?

Book it in.

Time to learn.

Book it in.

Time to practice.

Book it in.

Time to breathe.

Book it in.

Are you sure?

Do you really want all that money and responsibility?

Do you really want 12,000 people relying on you to get out of bed and work so that they make their pay cheque?

Do you really want to go through all the hardships, stress and worry?

Or would you settle for winning the lottery?

Rubik’s

What’s really holding you back from learning something new?

It took me twenty years to learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube.

But it all came together quite quickly in the end.

I spent nineteen years, three-hundred and sixty-two days thinking I could figure it out — maybe get lucky once — maybe thinking that asking for help was cheating.

Then in just four hours on a Saturday afternoon, with a great teacher and the basics were down.

Then a couple more days practicing the steps just a few times a day.

And that was it.

Rubik’s cube could be solved.

And like any great talent, the fun isn’t just to be had in learning how to do it the first time. That first solve is always clunky as hell.

It’s finding out how good you can get doing it again and again and again.

Kinder

Nobody is going to listen to you.

Unless you say it the right way, it doesn’t matter what words you use.

There are lots of ways to get our point across.

The kindest route is often the hardest path to take.

But it’s the most effective too.

Biscuits

Always risk it for a biscuit.

This is wise advice and common sense too.

Another word for risk is opportunity.

The opportunity to get a biscuit, in this case.

The opportunity of a biscuit also comes with the opportunity to choke on said biscuit; The risk.

Biscuits are always worth the risk of choking on them because they are delicious and the source of infinite crumbs.

Crumbs are just tiny biscuit babies — small enough to inhale — and so impossible to choke on.

Hence, it is almost always worth it to risk it for a biscuit.

Cookies included.

Duality

When is it bad to be good?

When is it good to be bad?

Everything that exists in the Universe has an opposite pole.

Up and down. Dry and wet. Hot and cold.

Happy and sad.

Alive and dead.

In the same way, everything has two ends. Everything exists on a spectrum of itself. Never fully at one end or the other; always somewhere in between.

Discipline means having the tenacity and accountability to keep pushing on. But discipline also means having the awareness to know when to stop pushing.

Being well-behaved is great, until it becomes harmful.

We all like to have fun until the fun stops being fun.

Equilibrium is found in the knowledge that anything exists at every point along its spectrum at all times.

That’s why we see it, wherever we look.

Thank You

It’s the easiest way to make someone smile.

It only takes a second — barely a breath.

But it can make someone’s day.

And it feels pretty good too.

Comeback

Ever wish you had a better comeback?

We can’t change the past.

But if we wanted to have good comebacks in future, we could write down five comebacks a day for a few weeks.

The next time we needed one, there would be one waiting to be unleashed.

That wouldn’t be a very productive way to use our time.

But if it will work with comebacks — it will work with anything.

Storm

A gust rips along the water and thunders into the beach, rocking parasols and snatching at hats and towels.

A dark beast looms over the horizon.

Bruise blue clouds boil over one another, dragging a dreary skirt along beneath them.

There’s barely time to find cover before the tempest erupts.

Thick, heavy drops pound the earth.

Everything is wet.

The ground shakes as the beast bellows.

We huddle together until it passes.

As it always does.

Never Always

Two words that are more dangerous than they are untrue.

When we tell ourselves things like we never get what we want or we always get ignored, we’re only lying to ourselves.

It’s not true, even if we want it to be.

The only correct way to use never is in the sentence:

Things never stay the same.

And the only way to use the word always in the sentence:

Things always change.

HOPE

They say you can’t time the market.

But this might help you avoid getting sunk by it.

This interesting pattern can help you understand why we’re only at the beginning of this downward trend: HOPE.

Housing. Houses are expensive. Most people can’t buy a home outright, so they take out debt. Housing is the first area to decline when the market begins to turn because it is particularly sensitive to high-interest rates.

Orders. Orders refers to the net new orders placed for equipment and services. As interest rates increase, companies decrease the number of things they buy.

Profits are next. Fewer orders mean lower revenue and profits. When earnings start to drop, there’s only one thing left to fall.

E is for Employment. Believe it or not, companies don’t want to fire people. It’s very expensive. But when Profits collapse, there isn’t much else they can do.

Then — and only then — have we hit the bottom.

The final, critical information to know is that central bank rate increases take about 18 months to impact the market.

That gives us six months before the shit hits the fan in Q2 Earnings Season 2023.

You heard it here first.

Double-Whammy

Isn’t it suspicious that all those fossils were neatly preserved?

The odds of a moving animal ending up in circumstances required for fossilization are pretty low.

Religious fundamentalists have long bemoaned their Satan for leaving all those bones around to confuse the picture.

Why are there so many dinosaur bones?

They say a big, old, firey space-rock smashed into our nascent home, throwing up clouds of dust that choked off 99% of life.

That seemed the best explanation, especially after we found a massive hole in Mexico that looked very much like the sort of hole a bloody big space-rock would make.

Except, that wasn’t the only mass extinction event. And there are just as many fossils wrapped in those layers as in the dinosaurs’.

Why?

Volcanos.

Enormous fucking volcanos spouting hell-fire-on-earth and spewing boiling rock all over our lovely green home.

Presumably, the dinosaurs pissed off one deity or another because while rivers of lava were oozing across West India, that massive rock smashed into the other side of the planet.

And apparently — on a planetary timescale — those volcanos happen pretty regularly.

Pompeii was just a taste.

Think Different

The first step of kaizen is the first rule of success:

Always assume you could be doing things better.

Seek out new and different approaches.

If we want to change our lives, we must first change how we think.

The way we think now will only get us further down the path we’re on.

Don’t just ask, how can I do things differently?

Ask, how can I think about this differently?

Why do I think about it that way?

And what am I not seeing because of it?

Cycles

People move in circles.

History moves in cycles.

Big crushing waves of change we can’t escape, even if we notice them at the time.

We’re hurtling into the close of one of those cycles right now.

The economy isn’t money, it’s people. These sweeping macroeconomic forces are created by millions of us all behaving slightly different day to day.

Some say there are several more cycles coming to a close — more subtle, centuries-long cycles of power and wealth shifting beneath our feet.

Only time will tell if history continues to rhyme, but we can be sure that there is more change than we can possibly imagine coming.

And that change means opportunity, if you keep your eyes peeled.

Cinch

Most of our problems have an easy solution.

At least on the surface.

To lose weight, we just need to eat less.

To get strong, we just need to work out.

To be successful, we just need to work harder.

Walking a thousand miles is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.

But simple doesn’t mean easy.

We know what we need to do.

Knowing the solution isn’t the problem.

The challenge is doing that simple thing enough times to amount to something great — to secure something we want.

We can all put one foot in front of the other, but how many times can you do it, in the direction you want to go?

Sod’s Law

Murphy’s Law says that the worst that can happen will happen.

Finagle’s Law says that the worst that can happen will happen at the worst possible time.

Sod’s Law says that the worst that can happen will happen to you, because you’re a particularly unlucky sod.

Sound advice from all three miserly idioms.

But only for those that dare to adventure.

Practical Will

There isn’t a secret method,

And you can’t buy a magic pill.

Dreams blossom from taking steps daily,

Practicing living our will.

Goodbye Big Sky

By the time you read this, the stars will be gone.

Not gone from the Universe, but gone from our sight.

Over the weekend, an antenna the size of a squash court will be unfurled over our heads.

Some people are worried that its reflection will be so bright that we won’t be able to see any of the stars.

It probably won’t be as bad as people say, but it won’t be the last shiny big thing we hang above our heads.

Many city folk have never seen the stars anyway. So they won’t know what they’re missing.

Not properly seen them:

Lying flat, back pressed safe against our big warm rock, eyes wide to catch every photon, soul lifted into the thick, swirling, endless night.

On the rare occasion I get to truly see the stars, I shit you not, I cry every time.

My heart aches for our loss now and our losses to come.

Get out and look at the stars tonight from somewhere really dark.

You will probably have to drive quite far.

But at least you won’t have to go to space.

Starline

I caught the stars dancing last night.

They didn’t see me see.

They were twinkling away in the velvet blue,

As normally as could be.

When they must have heard a penny flute,

Or the beat of a tom-tom drum.

Because right in front of my honest eyes,

There began a strange procession.

The stars abandoned their usual posts,

And shuffled into a line.

Then began to march across the sky

In a quivering celestial spine.

You won’t believe this tale I’ve told,

Without evidence, I think.

So jump into the cyber web,

And Google, “Aliens or Starlink?

Daily Gains

Work doesn’t have to be gruelling.

Working out shouldn’t be a punishment.

We don’t have to love our practice every day, and it will certainly be tough at times.

But pleasant practice makes perfect practice.

Scientists recently found that just a small amount of exercise — just lowering a heavy weight — a couple of times a day produced more muscle strength than working out intensely once a week.

And maybe if we took it a little easier on ourselves while we were working, we’d look forward to it more next time.

Work doesn’t have to be a punishment.

Daily gains come from small, manageable practices.

The Last Rule

The last rule is: Break all the rules.

Wedding ourselves to a mode of practice can be a great way to build our knowledge and skills.

But if we stick with it too long — if it’s the only way we work towards our goal — it oftens leads to a plateau.

Then we must break our rules.

We must always challenge our practice, challenge the rules and methods we use and ask: do these rules still serve me?

Are these rules guiding or blocking me?

Let them moan

Starting a new habit is hard.

The old habits don’t like it.

They moan and squirm and itch under the skin telling us to pick up the phone, the controller, the lighter, the bottle, the pipe, or the spoon; the implement of our addiction.

They whisper how hard it will be, how much we’ll ache and sweat, and how little it will do to make us happy.

But it’s never as bad as they say it will be, and most of the time, it’s better.

Let them moan.

Undiscovered

They say Atlantis has been found.

And so has the Lost City of Gold.

The Pyramids of the Pharaohs’ are Old News.

Anything with legs, we’ve named too.

But don’t let that confidence fool you.

There’s much more to be discovered yet.

Out there, beyond the stars, that’s true.

But right under our noses, too — I’ll bet.

Phase 1

Your next project is bound to come in late.

And probably over budget too.

It’s just the way things go — and is the last thing that should prevent it from getting started.

Our blueprints and Gantt charts are essential to help us feel our way through a project — to map the steps we must take to reach our vision’s peak.

But Time doesn’t care about our timelines and deadlines.

When things are falling behind schedule, we can always be grateful that we have another day to finish the job.

Calm

Even billionaires struggle to buy it:

A few moments of peace and calm, alone with nature.

Tress whispering.

Waves lapping.

Waterfowl cooing.

How often do we let it slip us by without noticing?

Enjoy the calm before life’s storm starts purring again.

Cows

How many cows is your daughter worth?

A perfectly normal dilemma facing any household leader of millennia long past.

How many cows is this year’s crop worth?

How many cows to buy the gold leaf of Athena’s shield?

We don’t measure wealth in cows anymore, but it’s still a pretty good measure of wealth.

How much is a cow worth anyway?

Five barrels of Brent Crude Oil.

A third of an ounce of gold.

A tenth of an pound of Saffron.

0.025 of a Bitcoin (today).

0.0013 of a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT (but more tomorrow).

500 dollars.

300 of the queen’s pounds.

One cow.

It’s all the same, as long as we agree.

Soylent Beef

It’s not as cool as flying cars, but we got liquid food.

Many old sci-fiction writers imagined that poor people in the future would eat flavoured protein bars and drink vitamin-enriched sugar water to survive.

We’re not there, but we’re pretty close.

The vitamin water is just sugar though, so it makes us fat.

We had to add the vitamins to the food because it wasn’t nutritious enough to be sold as food.

Everything in the grocery store is in a brightly coloured container and will last for weeks, if not months.

We can get all our nutrition in powders and pills and packets.

We’ve even recently rebranded hydrolyzed soy protein with flavouring as “future beef.”

Hydrolyzed soy protein lasts a lot longer in a bag than a fresh slice of cow butt.

Watch this space for the ‘tasty insect’ rebrand coming soon.

Will they ever have to rebrand human meat?

Maybe as “man’s best friends’ best meal replacement?”

Hopefully, we can figure out how to grow steak in a tube before it comes to that.

And the flying cars too.

Washout

As a fabled King once found out, we cannot escape the rising tides.

Every champion has their down days.

The weather will always break eventually.

Every washout brings us closer to a gorgeous, crystal blue sky.

Odds On

Uncomfortable Universal Truth #3.1: Mathematics is great.

Most children dislike arithmetic, although only for the same reason they hate spinach or mushrooms.

I disliked it too. It always seemed too complicated.

But for all its funny little symbols and relationships, Maths is far simpler than the Arts.

2×2=4. Or you’re wrong.

Maybe that was the real reason I disliked it.

I relish in the grey areas; where one could never be fully wrong.

It wasn’t till later that I realized how cool maths was — how many of life’s wheels it can grease.

No thanks to our Mathematics teachers, to whom the pinnacle of success was becoming an accountant.

But Maths makes life easier.

Compound interest. Boy, I wish I’d understood that ten years ago.

Mean reversion. It’s the way of the world.

Probability. What are the chances of anything?

But nobody told me that creative genius could be explained with Maths too.

The more work we produce, the higher the probability that one of our pieces is deemed insightful, popular, or great.

Let me know when you see it!

Quantum Kaizen

Science can explain Kaizen’s power.

And it’s the most fun kind of science too: Quantum Mechanics.

Practicing something every day in a mindful way isn’t really about physically getting better at anything.

It is mostly so our mind can practice entangling with the right metaverse: The one where we become great at this skill.

Yes, our brain and bodies will adapt a little as we progress. But strength doesn’t come from muscle size. It comes from teaching our brain how to move that amount of mass through time and space.

It’s the same with every other skill.

Every athlete is strong, but they aren’t all good at the same thing.

The more we think about something, the more we practice it, visualize it, live it, the more our brains align with the future where we succeed at it.

Every opportunity that we give our minds to latch on to a photon from that alternative future, the closer we get to becoming it.

Simple, really.