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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who needs to remember?

Recently, something the dead guitarist said hit home and I began to wonder why we bother to ‘remember the moment’ at all.

That punk philosopher said:

“I realized that so many moments in my life I’d been trying to ‘capture,’ to remember and enjoy later. But there was no point in doing that anymore because I was going to die. Every moment, I just had to enjoy for itself because that was it. I wasn’t going to be able to remember them.”

We’ve all done this — trying to ‘capture a memory’ to savour later. I thought that was being present but it wasn’t at all.

Because that’s really it.

That moment exists and then it’s gone forever.

But isn’t the fact you got to see it just fucking marvellous? And not just see it.

You got to feel it.

You got to hear and taste and smell and live it all.

Nobody else will ever live what you lived.

Who needs memories when we get to live them every day.

Fini.

 

 

 

 

 

A little spark

The more I write, the more I realize how important it is to the soul to write — to create.

To make a mark; a little spark.

To rub my fingers against the fabric of reality and warm it in my favour.

We’re all out here, one of eight billion souls (that we know) trying to figure out Why in our own little way. 

What else is life but a reason to share our little spark, our short story, with the rest of the world?

You’re you. And we’re here.

So, start a fire and let the rest of us know.

We’re listening. We want to hear you.

That’s how we make fire.

And that’s how we change the world.

 

 

Pi is stupid

Circles are proof we don’t know anything.

We live such vibrant and data-filled lives that it’s easy to think everything has already been invented or danced or sung or written or painted.

Nothing is original and everything has been found. And there’s nothing left for you to discover or create for the world.

Fortunately, that’s just not true.

The truth is that we make a lot of noise about what we think we know, but ask any math professor what (π) is they’ll only be able to give you an approximation.

It’s a very accurate and useful approximation but it’s still an approximation.

A computer hasn’t figured it out yet after three months of trying.

That doesn’t mean it’s worthless — it’s accurate enough that we can send rockets to the moon and make incredibly well-rounded balls and engines that fit together oh-so-beautifully.

But that trillionth of a trillionth place is still unknown. (π) is still represents an anomaly. It’s just a letter we use to describe something we don’t understand or haven’t met yet. Something we don’t understand.

Don’t let anyone tell you there’s nothing left to do or find or make.

We haven’t even started.

Keep plugging away

Back when death was cheap and disease was rife, a young man wrote a poem about persistence that still rings through our language today.

Like all the best poetry, it’s simple and yet it sings with wisdom.

The wisdom comes from countless generations of people who had no choice but to “keep a-pluggin’ away” when there was little hope. When the only success and the only certainty of respite came from a clean death.

When the clouds have rolled away,

There will come a brighter day

All your labor to repay,

Keep a-plugging away.

Paul Laurence Dunbar published a dozen books of poetry, four books of short stories, four novels, lyrics for a musical, and a play before he died of tuberculosis aged 33.

 

 

Making is better

There’s a lot of money to be made in the world of Art.

There’s a lot of poverty to be made as well.

One of the travesties of our childhood is that if you weren’t ‘creative’ then you didn’t get to do creative stuff.

But being human is being creative. It’s not something for ‘creative people.’

People are creative but we get trapped into thinking that what matters is that other people pay for it.

I’m blessed that anyone reads this; I truly am.

But strangely, it wasn’t until I accepted nobody might read it that I was able to start writing it at all.

 

Making Life Meaningful

There’s a lot of woo-woo and hoo-hah out there that veils one of Life’s Great Truths.

“If you want to have a meaningful life, make life meaningful for other people.”

There are lots of ways to do this.

Steve Jobs wanted to put a computer in the palm of everyone’s hand in 1976. That was an old sci-fi dream and now it’s real. It took 32 years — and his life — to achieve that. 

Jeff Bezos gave people what they wanted: cheap shopping delivered fast. And that meant something.

Self-help gurus like Jesus and Buddha eschewed material wealth but brought meaning through knowledge and belonging. 

But we don’t have to serve a billion souls. Who needs a 150ft super-yacht or a $400 million tax bill or an army of sycophants anyway.

We can bring meaning from behind a post-office counter if we give it long enough. Or we can write a song or draw a picture or play a game or have a conversation or kick a ball, really, really fucking well. It all means something to someone.

And when we find the people to whom we can bring meaning and show up every day, life becomes meaningful.

The rest is just trimmings.

Change the world

Oh, didn’t we all dream to change the world.

I wanted to be king of the galaxy. You may laugh, but there’s still time.

One of the most frustrating things about becoming an adult was realizing how little power I had over the world.

I didn’t like the world the way it was. And the world didn’t give a fuck about what I wanted, which only made it worse.

It took me another decade or so to realize that Life is more subtle than that.

Anyone can change the world.

We can change the world one little bubble at a time.

Sometimes that bubble is small and sometimes it gets really big.

But often we’re so busy looking at other people that we forget how many people are looking at us — looking up to us — for guidance in this mad world.

At least three people are copying you because they think you’re cool. Really.

We change the world one brick at a time.

One little action. One little word. One little smile.

It doesn’t just add up — it compounds.

Keep at it.

 

 

Making bad good

Some blokes smell powerful.

It’s like they have so much mass that it leaks into the air around them.

Jocko Willink is one of those blokes.

He was a Navy SEAL officer for many years in the Middle East, and he told me this trick to flip the switch on adversity.

And when Jocko tells you something, you listen.

Anytime something bad happened, he would just say, “Good.”

Sand in your gun? Good. Now you can practice cleaning it.

Shot in the leg? Good. Now you can get some time off.

Lost your job? Good. Now you can find something better.

Didn’t get a date? Good. Now you can go out with your mates.

Gym closed? Good. It’s about time you got into running.

Stuck at home? Good. Maybe it’s time to write that book.

Didn’t get funded? Didn’t get a raise? Sprained your ankle? Got rejected? Got locked-in? Got locked-out? 

Got beat?

Good.

Because when things go badly, some good will always come of it.

Fail at what you love

Jim Carrey is the guy who wrote a $10 million cheque to himself and it became true.

Some people think he’s weird because he’d go to work with Limburger cheese in his pockets and hug everyone.

But that’s what you get when you hire a method actor.

Other people think Jim is strange because he’s not materialistic and he told Oprah how to manifest 10 million dollars.

But if you want to ‘manifest’ things you have to accept that you don’t need or want them to be happy.

Jim also talks about doing what you love.

He says: you can fail at what you love, and that hurts pretty bad.

But when you fail at what you don’t love — when you compromised and things still didn’t pan out — that’s crushing.

You can fail at what you love, or you can fail at what you don’t love.

There really isn’t a choice.

Something Special

There’s something special that we all take for granted a little too often.

It seems trite, but the best ideas are always obvious.

There will never be a single person like you. 

Nobody in history has seen, heard, or felt the things you have.

Nobody in the next hundred billion years will get to experience what you have over the last few years; unless they’re playing a video game of your life.

And even then, they wouldn’t be able to recreate the smell of your dorm room at University perfectly. 

We take our uniqueness for granted but the life you’ve lived and will live are thoroughly special.

You’re something special. Your story is worth telling.

And don’t you forget it. 

Just wait a bit

Time is a great nurse but an even better comedian.

As we know, the real reason ‘they who laughs last, laughs loudest’ is that they didn’t get the joke. But all they need is time.

It might only be a little time: on the drive back it clicks, and they’re howling all the way home.

Or maybe years later they’ll watch an old film and finally get the reference.

And almost always, many years after that, their future self will look back with a chuckle and say, “Oh boy, was dumb.”

And they’ll get another laugh out of it then too.

If you’re not getting the joke right now, that’s ok.

Just laugh it off and wait a while.

 

Endless probability

Here’s something they don’t teach you in school because it would undermine everything.

It’s as factual as science can be, but it’s tough to wrap our little brains around — like the fact you’re moving at 67,000 miles an hour

Here are some more facts they won’t tell you:

  1. We don’t know what makes up 95% of the Universe.
  2. Look closely at any particle and it looks like an energy wave.
  3. Nothing exists until we look at it but it exists wherever we look.
  4. Atoms in your DNA can teleport.
  5. There’s a good chance you are a quantum glitch.

The Universe is just limitless, unrealized potential. The very fabric of reality is energy waiting for you to turn it into something.

The first person to truly understand the consequences of this was Douglas Adams, who created the Probability Drive.

Scientists labelled this quantum mechanics in the hope that would stop any awkward questions. And — unless you’re a quantum physicist — there isn’t much point in asking ‘why.’

The real question is: what are you going to do with all that potential?

 

 

What have you done?

You might think you’re powerless but that’s the easy excuse.

Nobody is powerless.

Even just setting an example by the way you live could have a bigger impact than you realize.

It’s so easy to point at other people and complain, “They should be doing such and such a thing.”

Or whine, “Why aren’t they doing this other thing?”

But are you doing it?

What have you done to make the world a better place? Maybe those people think the same about you.

Before pointing fingers, throwing stones, or smearing shit, start by asking, “What am I doing to make the world better?”

Every time I ask myself this question, the answer is, “Not enough.”

And every time I ask myself, “Am I setting the right example in the way I live?”

I find that I could be doing that a lot better too.

Everybody is beautiful

One winter evening my sister and I were smoking weed out her bedroom window when she said something that still rings in my ears.

She was even a little embarrassed to say it.

“I think everyone’s beautiful, in their own way. At first, maybe they’re not beautiful, and then you look a bit closer and find that even the weirdest features have their own weird beauty.”

Every day is like that; every plant, every animal, every relationship. Even the grim and horrifying parts of life have their own, twisted, fascinating beauty.

Life is beautiful.

It’s not that everyone’s beautiful to somebody.

Everybody’s beautiful when we take the time to look.

Sometimes it’s just really hard to find.

 

 

This morning sucked

Some mornings are terrible.

This morning I woke up angry that I’d slept in and was behind, disappointed that I wasn’t full of energy like I had been recently, and sad because it felt like I was losing control again.

I was mad because I felt like I was letting myself down. My inner Eeyore was freaking out.

But instead of wrestling with my angst or hiding behind work or drugs, I decided to talk to him. And it turned out he just needed a hug.

When you’re having a bad day, give someone a cuddle and then settle for the smallest step forward towards your goals. Even if that just means getting out of bed.

It won’t fix things, but it might put you in the right frame of mind. And if you don’t have anyone to hug right now, send out a message instead. 

That’s the next best thing.

 

 

 

Is this working for you?

Is this working for you?

If it is, keep doing it.

If not, maybe it’s time to change it up.

It’s either change it up or put up and shut up, right?

And nobody should have to do that.

Least of all you.

An apple a day

This article isn’t about apples but it might get a bit fruity.

For many years I was very cruel to my body and will suffer the consequences of that for the rest of my life. Not all of those consequences were negative, though.

One of the positives was that I had to start caring about food.

For those first 25 years my body was a machine—a roiling furnace. A power station that would burn anything and everything put into it. And I tried.

Then things began to fall apart and start to leak and the wheels fell off and I was left with a choice: an inevitably painful and premature death. Or start caring about what went into my body.

The choice was easy but the decision was hard.

And it’s still happening six years later.

But it started with one little step at a time.

A glass of water first thing.

A walk through the cold.

An extra piece of fruit a day.

A trip to the gym.

A moment alone.

All to keep the demons away.

Hard decisions

When someone is letting you down they’ll often say something like, “This is the hardest decision I’ve ever made.”

It sounds nice. And it’s nice that they bother to say it. But it doesn’t do much to soften the blow and does nothing to change the fact they’re rejecting you.

What they’re really saying is, “I know this is going to hurt you, which is probably going to hurt me too but I’m doing it anyway.”

And when you put it like that, the first way does sound a lot nicer.

They often mean that it was an easy decision not to…

The easier decision to stay. The easier decision not to say no. The easier decision to stay in their comfort zone.

The shit thing about life is that the hardest decision is usually the right one.

Easy road, hard life. Hard road, easy life.

As they say.

Who really cares?

Part of being human is worrying about what other people think.

We’re all born like that, and there’s a special word we use for someone who doesn’t care about what people think.

It’s not the same as not caring how you make other people feel: that’s a sociopath.

And not caring about other people at all? Psychopath.

But when we see someone dancing in public or talking to strangers or just being their full selves because they don’t care if other people think it’s weird? That’s confidence.

The next time you start worrying about what other people think, get specific. 

Look around you. Look out the window at the hundreds of people out there milling around the daily business.

And ask yourself, Who cares? “

As soon as you try to get specific about what other people think, you’ll find that you have no idea. And you probably don’t care about that person’s opinion at all.

They’re definitely not thinking about you.

Pick someone else. The same thing happens.

And that’s when you realize that we’re not worrying about what other people think.

We’re worried about what we think other people think.

And they’re probably just thinking the same.

A life in pulp fiction

When I was but knee-high to a grasshopper, Dad would often pop his head into whatever bubble I was in at the time and spin a battered and yellowing paperback onto my lap.

“Here, read that. You’ll like it,” he would say.

Then he’d wander off to build a homeless shelter or a school or a choir or whatever else he was crafting for the world at the time.

It wasn’t until many years later that I realize that he was crafting me too.

Those books prepared me for things I would encounter later in life that there are no lessons for; love, drugs, adventure, luck, betrayal, and death.

Those ageing and comically-fronted tomes of pulp fiction changed the way I thought about the world.

They opened my eyes to the possibilities and the madness and the complex, crushing beauty of it all.

And I wouldn’t be me without them.

Friday nights in quarantine

Most Fridays for most of my life were happy days. Drunk days.

The days I was released from the yoke to drink and revel and rut. 

Good times.

But since lockdown started and Friday nights turned into a night like any other, something weird happened.

I noticed that — left to my own devices — at around 2 or 3 pm on a Friday, I would crack open a beer and lean back into my chair and start to work.

Not in a frantic way — just keen. Almost like I enjoyed it.

And I was.

Don’t get me wrong, as soon as they let us out, I’ll be hitting one of those sticky downtown bars.

But I think I’m going to give myself a little date every other Friday to sit down while the rest of the world relaxes and write.

Third eye blind

In a couple of hours a nice young doctor is going blind me.

She’ll be very polite about it but there will be a good few minutes — as she scrapes the skin off my eyeball — when my future is entirely in her hands.

Then she’ll zap my eyes with a laser and I’ll be blind for a bit.

Hopefully until Monday. Maybe forever.

That extreme uncertainty, the polarity of futures I’ll face in those short minutes has been straining my ‘third-eye.’ Like a vice locked over my temples, squishing the blood out of my prefrontal cortex. 

There’s no way out but to surrender to the unknown and get ready to spend some serious ‘me’ time.

No screens. Nothing to read.

No way to write.

Just me, my thoughts, and a goodie bag of CBD-laced chocolate and Percocet.

Terrifying stuff.

I’ve queued up some of the blogs I’ve written over the last three months that I was too shy to publish earlier.

Thank you for reading my little infinity project.

And if my lucky string continues, I’ll see you on the other side.

How to see the stars

Humans are great and all but we’re total cowards when it comes to nature.

It’s a miracle that we survived long enough to escape it at all.

We trap the sun in a glass to ward away wolves, wrap ourselves in comforting cloth to forget the cold of the wild, and bang our drums all night to scare off the ghosts.

And that’s all great.

But one thing we never see anymore is the stars.

Oh sure, we’ve all seen a couple of them. You probably even know the names of a few. But most people never get to truly see the stars.

That thick, soft, glimmering night that presses itself into the back of your eyes from beyond time.

The startling realization that you’ve lived 30 years in the light and haven’t really seen anything at all. 

The unsettling thrill of knowing there is really no end to the places we can go and the wonders we’ll see…

But nobody gets to see the stars anymore because we’re too afraid to walk into the dark. 

And that’s the only way to see them.

Stop for a second

No matter how busy we think we are, there’s always time for this little lifehack. It’s super easy too.

Just stop and look around at where you are and all the incredible things you can see right now.

That shouldn’t be too hard unless you’re driving.

Traffic lights and trees are equally marvellous subjects of wonderment; whatever you’re reading this on is a bloody miracle.

Then take another second or two to look inside your head at how far you’ve come and all the astonishing things you’ve done in your life so far. I bet you’ve got some crazy cool memories stashed away somewhere.

At this point I usually say to myself something like, “Damn, I’m a lucky boy.”

That’s it.

There’s always a moment spare to stop and take it all in.

And when you do, you’ll realize just how long you’ve been winning.

 

 

Get up

Our world can descend into chaos pretty quickly if we’re not careful.

When we make a mistake or get something wrong or get betrayed, we trip and fall. We ‘fail.’

But the world has tarnished the word ‘failure’ and made it seem like something to avoid.

Having failed many times before, I can confirm that it’s impossible to avoid failure.

And the most successful people on the planet — whether they’re artists or entrepreneurs or athletes or scientists — know they’re going to fail.

They will even seek it out.

The secret to their success isn’t the ability to avoid failure. Success is your ability to bounce back, get on your feet, and start over knowing you’re going to fall again.

Even if you ‘fail’ by the afternoon EVERY day and get back on the next morning, you’d still be doing — still be ‘winning’ — half the time.

That’s all success is, really.

‘Winners’ are just people who started and failed and got back up again more times than anyone else.

So, up you get.

 

 

 

Give yourself a ‘D’

Elizabeth Gilbert — author of “Eat, Pray, Love” has a great story about creativity.

She talks about how dozens of people asked if she was worried she would never write something as big as EPL again.

And then she starts thinking, What if they’re right?

Those doubts lead to her throwing the next book straight in the bin, never to be read.

To publish another book, Elizabeth tells us how she had to come to terms with the fact that whatever she wrote would never be as successful as Eat Pray Love.

Seth Godin calls this, ‘Giving yourself a D’ so you can move on and make something better. It’s not a Fail but it’s definitely not great. 

When I heard this for the 47th time it was like a weight had been lifted.

I was finally free to do some writing. There’s no way I can publish every day without most of it being below average. And none of it will be perfect.

The thinking is that if I write enough, somewhere along the way there might just be something that blows your fuckin’ mind.

But I’m not making any promises; except to show up every day and write.

Hurt & Happiness

Few things make much sense about Life but here is something that does.

This one makes so much sense that it’s written in every holy book — and a great deal of not-so-holy books too. It’s in thousands upon thousands of songs, stories, poems, prayers, and proverbs.

It explains everything from the opioid crisis and the Palestinian conflict to Mother Theresa. And it’s so ubiquitous and enduring because it’s true.

The words might be different but the sentiment is always the same:

Hurt people hurt people. Happy people help people.

That’s not woo-woo. It’s science.

That one idea can save a lot of suffering, so I try to keep it with me.

 

 

Double-fisting screens

The ‘Golden Age of Media’ is gone for good.

TV isn’t more boring than it used to be. The stories and production are probably better.

But when was the last time you watched TV without getting distracted by your phone? 

Is that because TV now is crap? Or because our phones have us better trained than the gogglebox could ever manage?

Recently I was scrolling Instagram for memes and an argument while watching a violent TV show, and I caught myself: spread across the sofa, devouring media with both hands like a fat kid up to his elbows in a pot of peanut butter. 

Shovelling those images and sounds into my brain as fast as my weak human senses would allow, wallowing in the hormones milked from my tired little brain.

And I thought, “Fuck this.”

So I went and found a book to read.

But that didn’t last very long before I fell asleep.

You built this for me?

Times are changing faster than ever.

Some days I look around at the technology we take for granted and can barely believe I get to see this happen.

Computers used to be a joke. We had a computer with 128kb of RAM when I was a kid. 128 kilobytes!

I’m not even sure you can find an image that small these days.

We can speak to anyone face to face through this tiny computer I can put in my pocket. We have robots that dance and space rockets that land themselves. Self-driving cars and drone-taxis will be standard in ten years.

And we’re still not impressed.

This is the stuff I used to dream about in sci-fi books but I never thought I’d see it happen. 

Some days I sit here and look back at those dark, bloody, scary, slow pages of history and think:

They really did all of that for us?

And they really did.

That fills me with such pride for humanity that I want to pass it on.

Today is important

One evening a few years back, an old Super-Bowl winner told me about a prayer his college coach made him repeat every morning.

It struck a chord so I began to repeat my own little version of it.

It’s quite long so I won’t repeat it all now. But the message that would often send a shiver down my spine is short:

Whatever you do today is important because you are about to exchange a whole day of your life for it.

Make sure you don’t regret the price you pay.

And that usually got me out of bed pretty quick.

 

 

Just a feather

We like to think we’re in control of things — especially when they’re going well.

But as ol’ Bill wrote, “We are but a feather for each wind that blows.

When a chinook of change rips across the prairie of Life, plucking us from our steady path to dance with Fortuna and Discordia for a time, there isn’t much we can do about it.

By the time we settle back down to ground, Life has changed.

Often, we have changed too.

Many people busy themselves trying to stay rooted to the ground — to steel their future against fickle flaws of fate.

Have you ever watched a swallow bursting its little heart flapping against a gale? 

It never lasts long.

When those winds wail through, there isn’t much else we can do but let go, spread our arms, and hope that where we come to rest the sun is shining.

Not finished yet

It’s well-known that humans are terrible at remembering things.

We peer through the blurry lens of time, forgetting the boring or nasty or annoying memories and embellishing the tasty morsels.

It makes us awful at predicting the future too.

We ignore all of the massive, disruptive change we’ve lived through and decide that the future will be pretty much the same as it is now. Nothing will change. We are at the end of the line—the end of history.

But we’re not.

We’re not even close.

Imagine a 20-year-old suggesting that they’d done all the changing they’d ever do and life would be plain sailing for the next decade.

Laughable.

Yet, that’s what we do to ourselves every day.

I aim to change my life every 6 months and the last year has still seen far more change than I ever expected. And I’m betting Life will change again by the end of this year for all of us. 

Don’t beat yourself up by imagining the future is the past.

Not finished yet?

More like just getting started

One last hurrah

Here’s a story about an old bloke who went on one last adventure.

As the pandemic shuttered doors across the globe last April, Captain Tom began to walk a marathon around his garden to raise £1000 for the NHS. And when you’re 99 and use a walker, that’s no mean feat.

By the morning of his 100th birthday three weeks later, Tom had raised over £35 million and was nothing short of a household name.

He received 150,000 birthday cards. The RAF flew over his house. The Queen knighted him. He recorded a number one single, has two Guinness world records, and was GQ’s ‘Inspiration of the Year.’ 

On January 31st this year, Captain Sir Tom was admitted to hospital with COVID-19 and died shortly after.

The last year of his life was nothing short of remarkable and he never saw it coming. He just decided to do what he could to help out.

What a way to go. 

And it just goes to show that it’s never too late to make a difference, even if you think that difference is too small to bother making at all.

Life might just surprise you.

 

 

The dead guitarist

You might not know Wilko Johnson is but he was a pretty cool dude back in the 70s.

His band — Dr. Feelgood — was so cool that it inspired some people you probably have heard of: Paul Weller, The Who, The Jam. The list goes on.

Back in 2013 he was diagnosed with cancer and the Doc gave him a double-fistful of months at most. 

He said, “It was like my life was complete. The idea that death is imminent makes you realize what a wonderful thing it is to be alive. By the time I’d walked home, I was almost euphoric.”

Wilko then did what any self-respecting punk guitarist would do. He turned down chemotherapy and went on tour. 

“If it’s going to kill me, I don’t want it to bore me,” he said.

Wilko is still touring today — more than seven years after his date with death. That raging punk rocker just wouldn’t put down his guitar and die. 

We are vividly alive.

Take a moment today to enjoy it.

Reinventing the shoe

I had something else scheduled for today but there’s news I have to tell you and it’s so big I’m breaking my own rules.

Nike reinvented the shoe (again) on Tuesday by releasing a pair of fully ‘hands-free’ sneakers.

And. They. Are. Stunning.

Not only are they sci-fi sexy, but they’re also a monumental feat of functional, behavioural design.

There is not supposed to be pics in this but would you just look at them:

nike fly go ease best trainers in the world

This formidable team at Nike set out to make a shoe that made life easier for members of their para-athletics team.

They ended up with something so simple, so obvious, and so beautiful that you just know it’s going to be around forever.

That’s why Nike is awesome. They don’t just make cool gear. They reinvent how we use clothes — and not in that bullshit catwalk way.

I’ve personally ruined every pair of shoes I’ve ever had by stamping down the back to take them off.

Just take my money, Nike.

I’ll never buy another pair of shoes again.

How to be right a lot

People who are right a lot all do the same thing.

First, people who are right a lot listen a lot. They often read but they all know how to really listen. 

They also change their mind a lot.

Most people spend a lot of time trying to back-up their beliefs.

But people who are right a lot change their minds a lot because they’re always looking to prove themselves wrong. 

In other words: people who are right a lot work very hard not to be.

Simple, eh?

What the hell is a dog psychiatrist?

In case you were ever worried about the robots coming you should know that AI won’t take our jobs.

AI will offer us new, better, more interesting work that we’ll enjoy more.

If you told someone back in 1920 we’d have cat psychiatrists, dog masseurs, and a ten-year-old who made millions from unwrapping presents, they’d probably put you in an asylum.

Yet here we are, psychoanalyzing pets and making synchronized dancing videos for cash instead of squeezing down a mine or milking a cow.

Don’t fear the future.

Imagine whatever wild place you want it to be and start walking.

The rest of us will just have to catch up.

Bald Bezos and His Big Hairy Goal

Everybody knows ol’ Jeffers — Head Honcho at Amazon and richest man in the world when it’s not Elon Musk.

If you ever wondered what Bezos was doing with all that cash, it’s Blue Origin (great name) and a space ship that looks like a sex toy.

What I found out recently was that Blue Origin isn’t a way to get richer or save humanity.

This guy really has 300-year goals to ‘build a road into space.’

He said, “I’m going to use my lottery winnings from Amazon to make it easy for some kids in their dorm room to build a giant space company in 100 years.”

It’s his ‘calling’ to empower the human race to take the next step and he doesn’t even expect to see it happen.

That’s one big tree to plant. One massive hairy goal.

And one that — quite frankly — I’m happy to donate to.

Getting toilet roll delivered to my door in 36 hours is like, a bonus.

 

Two steps forward one step back

People say things like, ‘Two steps forward, one step back’ because that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work. Especially if you’re going far.

There’s never a straight path to any goal and trying to go the most direct route is often the quickest way to burn out. So beating yourself up when you take a hit or get diverted doesn’t make sense.

It’s ok to sit down by the side of the road for a breather after a tough day.

Same as it’s ok to cry when you take a fall.

It’s all part of getting where you want to go.

Nobody cares until everybody does

This week the internet introduced me to a guy called Kofi who made a great album a couple of years back. If you like good words and chill beats I highly recommend it.

The title track is a great little story about people and making art…

One cold night in Birmingham city center, Kofi stood on a corner rapping as the world walked by.

For hours he spat into the void but folks were too busy Christmas shopping to stop and listen. He knew they could hear and he was happy doing his thing so he kept on going. For hours.

Eventually one person stopped by to listen to him and before too long a large crowd formed. Because when you’re creating, Nobody Cares Until Everybody Does.

And I’ll bet Kofi will be making music long after people stop caring because that is what we do when we decide to create.

Thanks for being the first to stop by and listen.

I hope you stick around.

Beware comforting stories

When people talk about identity what they’re saying is: “This is my story.”

Whether that’s where we came from, what we believe, the food we like or who we have sex with, it’s all part of our story.

For many years I told myself stories like, “I’m not a morning person,” or “I’m an introvert,” or “I can’t write every day,” or “rich people are bad,” or “stopping smoking is hard.”

Worst of all, I told myself I didn’t have anything to add to the world.

But no matter how many times I told myself those silly tales, deep inside I knew they weren’t true. And I was slowly killing myself trying to drown that little voice every time it spoke up to remind me so.

Because the stories we tell ourselves are the fluffy cushions that make our comfort zone so comforting. But they’re also the locks that keep us there.

Luckily, we hold the keys. And it’s never too late to change the story.

History in the making

It doesn’t take a historian to tell you that we’re living through history.

But let me tell you anyway: they are not joking when they say these are “unprecedented times.”

And it’s not even just history. I’ve read over 100 science fiction books to prep for the future and not one of them mentioned this. Not one. 

Life will never be the same. A whole generation of babies will view the world differently. And we’re probably all going to have PTSD or mysophobia. Or both.

And yet here you are at the end of another week. Another day closer to the end of this madness. Still here. Still smiling. Still living through it all and not doing badly either.

Just making history, as you do. 

Nice work. 

 

Making Mayonnaise

A few months ago, I tried making mayonnaise.

It was a miserable and messy process, but it unexpectedly taught me something about life that I think about every time it comes out of the fridge.

Like doing anything worthwhile in this life, making mayonnaise takes time.

You can’t just sling some oil and eggs into a blender and blitz it. You could try. But you won’t get delicious mayonnaise; you’ll get a gross, fatty mess that’ll never quite wash out.

To make great mayonnaise, you have to mix the oil in ever so slowly, drip by drip. It takes effort. It takes patience. It takes measured, deliberate progress and a wrist with some stamina [insert masturbation joke here]. And you have to screw it up at least once.

Most people just fling their hopes and dreams in a blender, zhush it up, and then go back to buying Hellmann’s when it doesn’t work out.

And that’s fine. Not everyone wants to spend their time making mayonnaise. 

But if you do want to make your own special sauce, get ready to make it slowly.

Nice glow

Wherever you are.

Whatever you want to call it.

There’s something within you that can light up the darkest place.

Even when no one can see it — and even when you forget it’s there — you carry that warm glow of love and kindness everywhere.

Don’t forget to share.

The best time to plant a tree

It’s strange that’s it’s already been a year since my babies were just small black dots with tiny green mohawks. 

They’re about four inches tall now.

I should explain. At the beginning of the pandemic, I planted six Japanese Black Pine trees to bonsai. Growing a bonsai tree from seed is called ‘misho.’ 

It will be at least five years before they’re big enough to be called a tree, but I figured there was a chance lockdown would be over by then.

Somebody gave the seeds to me and I had no idea when or how to plant them. Google said the three best times to plant a tree were:

  1. Autumn/Fall
  2. 20 years ago
  3. Now

If we want to sit under the shade of a beautiful tree, we probably should have planted it a few decades ago. Seeing as we didn’t, the next best time is right now; late is better than never!

Even if we don’t get to sit in that shade very long before, it’ll make a beautiful shelter for generations to come.

Choose miracles

The travesty of many religions is their claim that miracles are rare and supernatural. That’s an absurdity designed to make you join their club.

Miracles are everywhere. We’re just not looking for them. A wise bloke once said something about this:

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

People get worked up about whether Einstein said this (I doubt it) or what he meant by a miracle, but they’re missing the point.

The odds of you being alive are basically zero (1 in 10 x 2,685,000).

So it’s a goddamn miracle that you’re even reading this at all.

 

Don’t mind the gap

If you’ve ever ridden the Tube, you’ll have heard a robotic voice reminding you to ‘mind the gap’ as you leave the train. 

Ignoring these words could delay the train, one of the worst crimes you can commit in the capital.

But there’s another kind of gap that we shouldn’t mind at all because it makes us unhappy.

Most people make the mistake of measuring how far they’ve come by how close they are to achieving their vision. We measure the gap between where we are and where we want to be, which is usually not as close as we’d like.

It’s far less depressing if we take the time to measure how far we’ve come from where we started; we measure our gains.

If we’re too busy fretting about the gap between where we could be and where we are, we’re missing out on enjoying all the gains that got us here now.

Don’t mind the gap, except on the Tube.

Talent is overrated

Talents are pretty much useless.

As Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.”

There’s an ancient story about talents that goes like this:

Once upon a mountain, an old lord went travelling, leaving his favourite servants with some silver coins (called Talents).

When he returns, the servants have all done something different with their Talents:

  1. The first servant — who got five Talents — blew it all on drugs and women and fast donkeys.
  2. The second servant — who got two Talents — was terrified he’d lose them, and so he buried them deep in the ground, where nobody could find them.
  3. The last servant — who only got one Talent — put it to work every day, investing in other businesses and earning interest on loans. By the time his master returns, he has ten Talents.

If we don’t show anyone our talents, they’re just going to stay buried and useless.  

There are thousands of talented ‘geniuses’ who put in minimal effort and end up with nothing. And there are thousands of idiots who’ve made millions because they knew they weren’t talented and decided to outwork everyone instead.

We don’t need talents to be successful. We just need to show up and do the work every damn day.

That’s how you become ‘talented’ at anything.

The girl with one eye

Once upon a beach, a girl with one eye said something about pain that still rings in my ears today.

She’d been flung off a speeding motorcycle and had faceplanted a tree stump. It was a miracle she’d survived. The impact took out half her skull, and I could still feel the steel plates in the back of her head.

Typically insensitive, I asked how she’d dealt with losing half her face at sixteen. She said,

“The worst thing that’s ever happened to me is the same as the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. You just get on with it.”

It wasn’t until many years later that I understood.

There isn’t a human alive that hasn’t suffered. And anyone’s hurt is just as valid as anyone else’s.

We might not be equal in wealth or status, but we’re equal in our experience of suffering. Our individual experiences of pain might be different, but we all share in our knowledge of it.

We all share in our trauma, one way or another.

That’s just what it means to be human.

 

Everyone starts out crap

Failure is frustrating, so it’s important to remember that we all start out crap.

Whenever we try something new, our first attempt is always terrible. And we usually stay pretty terrible for many more attempts after that.

It’s normal to be shit at stuff.

As James Clear reminds us:

“Your favourite athlete’s first workout was just as bad as yours.

Your favourite chef’s first meal was just as bad as yours.

Your favourite artist’s first work was just as bad as yours.”

Your heroes and idols embraced this fact of life and kept going until they made something awesome.

Keep going, and you will too.

It’s just a thought

It’s easy to get caught up in our thoughts, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay in them. 

Thoughts are just random brain cells talking to each other.

There’s rarely meaning there; it’s just a biochemical process that happens automatically to stop us from getting bored.

And we get to choose what we think about, just like we can choose what channel to watch or book to read.

If we’re not paying attention, our thoughts will whisk us away to some fantasy realm where we said something different, or how we imagine something later will be.

But we don’t have to listen to that crap if we don’t want to.

Thoughts might happen in our heads, but they don’t define us.

You are not your thoughts.

The next time you catch yourself thinking something nasty or frustrating or just plain unhelpful, remind yourself, “It’s just a thought.”

Wikipedia was tiny

Today, Wikipedia has over 6,229,184 million English pages.

Tech companies and governments use it to source news, fact-check, and fight misinformation — despite despairing teachers everywhere. There’s even a copy of Wikipedia on the moon.

But in its first year, Wikipedia only published around 20 pages.

The gamechanger for them — letting other people contribute — almost never happened at all. But just a year after they’d made that one small change, they had 20,000+ articles.

When we’re on a journey and things aren’t going our way, it’s tempting to give up. But the gamechanger is often just a bit further down the path, around a corner where we can’t see.

A couple more steps forward, with maybe a small pivot, and life can change pretty damn fast.

Mind follows body

People think that to change your behaviour or reach your dreams, you have to change your mind. But that’s backwards.

Mindset plays an important part, but the truth is, when we change our actions first, our minds will follow. 

That’s why even a tiny behavioural change — like drinking a glass of water in the morning — can make us healthier. 

That one small action opens the door to dozens of other small but positive actions over the day. And over time, these all add up and move us closer to where we want to be, and who we want to be. 

We can’t talk ourselves into change, but if we act as if it’s already happened, our minds will quickly catch up.

Doing the bare minimum

Doing the bare minimum is often a negative thing.

But some days, it’s the best we can do.

On those days when all we want to do is crawl back into bed, turning up is often enough to make progress.

Putting in the minimal effort every day isn’t how to get what we want from life.

But if ‘doing the bare minimum’ means showing up on the worst days and doing a shit job, that’s still better than doing nothing at all.

Raising the bar slowly

The current high-jump record is nearly two and a half meters (8.13ft) — a superhuman leap. 

But when Javier Sotomayor took his first jump, he set the bar much lower.

Each round, he raised the bar a little, sometimes as little as a quarter of an inch. Jump by jump, he pushed his body slightly further from the ground, until eventually, he achieved something remarkable.

Set the bar too high and we’re bound to bump into it.

But if we focus on raising the bar just a tiny bit higher at every attempt, we can go higher than we ever thought possible.

Even robots make mistakes

It’s impossible to ignore the rise of robots.

They’ve gone from ‘awkward factory joke’ to ‘overlords-in-training’ in a handful of years. And it turns out the breakthrough was teaching them how to make mistakes.

Our brains learn through trial and error. For many years, when a robot produced an error it would simply stop, shake, make weird noises, give up, and perhaps leak a little fluid — like many people.

Teaching robots how to accept and learn from errors instead of grinding to a halt completely changed the game. It even makes them more likable.

And robots are happy to make 1,000 mistakes an hour because they don’t have egos (yet), so you can bet they’re learning fast. Really fast. Here they are, practicing a dance to celebrate their global takeover. 

It would be deeply ironic if we wiped ourselves out by teaching robots to do the very thing we haven’t yet mastered: learning from our mistakes.

 

Everything is change

It’s human nature to look for meaning in the world; to attach labels and think up laws to make sense of the chaos.

But there is only one True Constant in the Universe: everything changes.

All empires eventually falter. Our things break and need replacing. Fashions cycle, meanings shift, and one way or another, every relationship comes to an end.

We cause ourselves a great deal of pain by ignoring this simple fact.

Change isn’t just something that happens; it is Life itself.

Everything in existence is just matter changing from one form to another at different speeds. We can influence it, and often we can direct it in our favour, but we can never prevent it.

This eventuality is something to be grateful for when we’re ill, depressed, stressed, waiting on hold, and even if a narcissistic, racist orange with tiny hands runs your country.

Nothing lasts forever.

And I find that oddly comforting.

Mother Nature’s Valium

Here’s a powerful shield against anxiety that we can take everywhere.

Meditation takes advantage of it, but we don’t have to meditate to quiet anxious thoughts or help us sleep. 

The fastest way to reduce stress is to take a breath and a half.

In the 1930s, scientists found that all mammals have this automatic breathing pattern that helps them calm down. It helps us offload CO2 and triggers the parasympathetic nervous system — aka rest & digest mode.

Try this:

  1. Take a breath through your nose.
  2. Before breathing out, take another little breath through your nose to fill up your lungs.
  3. Release your breath naturally through your nose or mouth
  4. Repeat from step 1 a couple more times.

And that is Mother Nature’s Valium.

Drop it anytime — there’s no maximum dose.

 

60ft flying lizards and gold

It was always funny to me that dragons hoard gold.

In almost every story we have about a dragon, they harbour some deeply valuable and important treasure; the hero must outwit or outfight the beast to get it.

But why?

What does a giant flying lizard want with a pile of shiny metal or a bejewelled cup?

Dragons are a storytelling device; an ancient meme designed to teach us about life. They always hoard treasure because the thing we want the most is always where we least want to go.

If we want the gold, we must first leave our comfortable castles and slay the dragons of chaos within us.

Only then, can we live happily ever after.