We like to think that we know what will happen next — or at least we have an inkling.
Most of the time, we’re not too far off. But the truth is that there’s nothing more uncertain than what will occur with the passing of time.
The future is little more than what we hope and work towards; it rarely wants to play with the same ball as we’ve been practicing.
That race we’re preparing to win might be a lesson in humility in disguise.
That mountain we’re scaling may be about to teach us how to fall.
The treasure we’re hoarding might only be there to teach us how to lose it all.
We can dream and hope, pray and labour, fret, wail, and shake. But we just don’t know what the words on the next page say until we turn it over.
And we never will.
The best way to keep yourself young is to switch it up regularly.
Eat a dish you’ve never tried before.
Make something different from the normal.
Take a chance. Place a bet.
Don’t just shuffle the playlist. Try a completely new genre.
Move across the country. Travel around the world.
Make a new ambitious goal you have no idea how to achieve.
Break your routine on the river banks of Comfort, put it all together again on the other side, and you’ll never stop growing.
That’s all young people do; grow.
There’s no secret to getting what you want.
There’s no special path or magic juice.
You might need a slice of luck now and again.
But the best way to find that is to set a goal, work hard towards it, and don’t stop until you arrive.
It’s no secret. It’s usually not even as hard as we might think.
But it does always take hard work.
It’s not every morning you wake up to discover you’re a mass murderer. But that’s what happened this morning.
Go back 600 millions years and we find the ancestor we share with the insect world — probably some sort of a slug with limbs.
That slug had feelings. Feelings of joy upon finding a dirty great pile of rotting foliage. Maybe fear whenever the local sulphur geyser erupted.
Those emotional states — it turns out — are just as present in their modern day arthropod descendants; The same as they’re present in us.
Bugs don’t just feel pain. They feel anxious. They get depressed. They experience hope and desire; If not exactly as we do, then pretty close.
Maybe the only thing that’s surprising about this discovery is how long it took us to notice.
Let’s just hope the afterlife isn’t full of dead bugs.
There’s nothing like a shot of tequila and a waft of pheromones to really get to know someone.
The more of either the merrier!
Never underestimate the power of environment on one’s behaviour.
We like to think we’re fully in control, but often we’ve just been subconsciously reacting to the space around us, forming habits in association with it.
If we’re smart, consciously moulding it to help us reach our goals. And that’s been doing more of the lifting than we realize.
Change the space and suddenly, we’re back to square one.
The French say that we eat with our eyes but I think that’s just so they can get away with smaller, prettier portions.
How we present ourselves or the things we’ve made to the world matters, as much as we might hate to admit it.
We’re giving the world something to feast on, so make sure it doesn’t need too much extra seasoning to make it palatable.
The whistle shrieks.
The bells rings
Grab your coats.
Sprint or you’ll miss it.
It’s time to go home.
Good descriptions are like lingerie.
That’s why the characters we love in books never look how we imagine when we see them on the silver screen.
It’s not some casting agent’s preference or the director’s mate or the need for a star to lead the line — although those can be reasons.
The main reason is that there wasn’t much of a description in the first place.
That was probably the best lesson I ever learnt about writing character descriptions: Don’t.
A sentence is often more than enough:
Small and pale, with a mess of black hair and a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead.
Her hair fell over a sheer cliff of cheekbones in a soft golden wave, rising gently to curl against a blood-red purse of lips.
He was a giant of a man, with calloused, hairy hands and a voice like a gravel driveway.
Everything else happens in the reader’s mind.
That’s why nobody likes to read those overly lengthy, dense descriptions slung with similes.
They’re probably fantastic examples of communication, but they don’t leave much to the imagination.
Something happens after the third day “off the wagon.”
The links between the chain of habits, especially when it’s a new one, stretches past breaking point.
It’s no longer a cheat day or a recovery weekend or whatever you want to call it to justify it at the time.
After three days, the old habits ambush the new ones, and generally they win.
One day is ok. Three days is pushing the limit.
On the fourth, it takes exponentially more energy to get back on the wagon. It’s travelled too far since we took a tumble.
It’s not impossible but you’ll have to work pretty hard to catch it up.
It’s not eating too much or eating the wrong thing.
It’s that feeling the next day that I should have eaten more of those goodies while I had the chance.
There’s an easy way to find out how somebody feels about that big secret you’ve been hiding.
They might not like what you have to say.
And you might not like their response.
But it’ll be a damn sight easier — and 100% more accurate — than not saying anything and leaving it to your imagination.
The most dangerous time to be on a sailing boat is when it’s barely moving at all.
When the boat is ripping along at full pace, sails stretched full, hull creaking and humming under the pull of the wind, it’s relatively safe.
But when a sailboat turns, it slows to a stop. The sails shiver. There’s a brief lull when the only sound is the clinking of rigging and the groan of momentum soaking the hull.
Then there’s a whistle and a loud crack, as the huge pole hung along the bottom of the sail swings across the boat. That pole is called a ‘boom’ because of the sound it makes when it moves.
Many men have heard that whistle — the devil’s catcall — but not the boom that follows.
The most dangerous time to be on a sailing boat is when it’s changing course.
If you don’t have all hands on deck, aware of what’s going on and ready to haul on the right ropes, someone is likely to get cracked in the skull.
The hardest questions in life often have the simplest answers.
Most of the time, we already know the answer. We just don’t want to hear it.
The fantastic Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, calls these “VCR questions.”
Questions where the answer is in the question.
Things like, “How can I talk to her?”
“How do I move out of my parents’ house?”
“How do I drop out of med school?”
“How do I stop smoking?”
“How do I lose weight?”
The answer is painfully obvious when someone else is asking. I bet you could tell me the answer to any of those questions right now.
But there’s a jungle of emotion between us and where we want to be, and it’s full of whispering lies about epic embarrassment.
We are not scared.
We just feel scared, and that can and will pass.
After a few brutal, hacking steps, we almost always find that the brambles only block the entrance to the path.
There’s a very clear route behind them.
We had the best car growing up.
It was a yellow Fiat saloon.
The seats were walnut brown. The interior was various shades of mud and sun-kissed polyvinyl.
Rust-red paint licked out from the wheel arches, giving the car a “just fled the battlefield” vibe. This paint was designed to prevent any further rust from forming out of sheer pity.
The paintwork was faded. The chrome was flecked. But the car moved, and that little yellow tub took us all over the country.
We’d squeeze in, Dad would slot in a Massive Attack tape, and we’d hurtle on to the A406 in a puff of smoke.
By the time we hit the motorway, the driveshaft would be clanking in time to track four, and we’d holler out the opening lines of one of the greatest songs ever:
“Though you may not drive…a great big Cadillac…”
Whenever we arrived after a long journey, Mum would pat the dashboard and say, “Thanks, little car.”
And she meant it.
We loved that heap of shit so much that when it finally limped to the scrapyard, Dad found the only other one still puttering around and bought it.
We loved that one even more.
Everything was different a year ago today.
But three hundred sixty-five spins later, some things are the same; I’m still sitting here, still writing.
Every year has its changes, but this year feels a little longer than most, now there’s a post to mark each day.
No longer am I bobbing aimlessly at the mouth of the stream, waiting for the journey to begin; Undecided.
Now the words flow past. When I look back, I have made it further upstream than seemed possible just a few short months ago.
There is much paddling to do yet.
Hesitation will only whirl me back downstream.
But today, in between strokes, I can celebrate a little; Mark this little milestone on my riverbank.
And paddle on till tomorrow.
The best defences take time to build.
We don’t get many choices in life, but we do get to choose how we respond when things we don’t like happen.
Some will argue that our reactions are not real choices — and they’d be right most of the time.
But we can train ourselves to act in a certain way to events until it becomes automatic. It becomes our spontaneous reaction.
Just as the fighter trains his counter-moves thousands of times until they become instinctive, so too we can train our reactions.
It’s not easy — I need to learn this lesson more than most — but it is possible. It just takes practice.
When angered or shocked, we can always say thanks.
When confused or disappointed, we can always say thanks.
When saddened or scared, we can always say thanks.
The best defence is always gracefully moving out of the way because it leaves our assailant few places to land except flat on their face.
We all say things we don’t mean to sometimes.
Our prefrontal cortex gets caught napping for half a second and some terrifyingly honest sentence slip out from the base of the brain.
Test failed. Thinking brain beat.
Subconscious gets it’s way today.
Try again tomorrow.
Everyone knows about the chemistry teacher that became a crystal meth millionaire, but have you heard about the chemistry teacher who beat Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Frank was a skinny little teen, clocking in at an effeminate 130lbs.
He studied mathematics and chemistry and taught both at local high schools. And the whole time, he lifted metal off the floor over and over again.
He ate protein pills and studied and lifted more weights. And every day, he said his mantra 1,000 times; Sometimes 2,000 times.
On the hardest days, he would repeat it 3,000 times.
The same four syllables, again and again, until they were branded across his subconscious:
In 1977, Frank stood on stage next to the greatest physique of the era — The Terminator himself — and beat him to a Mr. Olympia title.
Frank won it again the next year and the year after that.
He won Mr. Pennsylvania. He won Mr. America. He won Mr. Universe.
And he’s been winning ever since.
If you ask Frank what his secret is, he’ll tell you without hesitation.
“I already believed I’d won. It just took a lot of work for other people to notice.”
Winning streaks are impressive because winning all the time is against the Laws of Nature.
The Invincible Arsenal football team of the early noughties went unbeaten for 49 games — nearly a season and a half. That number is so unfathomably against the odds it boggles the mind.
Especially because it doesn’t get easier the more we win. It gets harder. The odds of failure double every time we roll the die.
The most exciting thing about a winning streak is that every win brings us closer to that inevitable loss.
Like the streaker who knows it’s only a matter of time before the security guards of fate crush his face into the cool grass of reality, we know it won’t be long before the odds catch up with us.
Most of the thrill of winning is knowing we must fail eventually and fighting on still. We feel it in our gut, as much as we wish it postponed.
And the longer a winning streak, the more we realize that failure is part of the fun.
Some say it may even be the whole point.
It is possible to walk through the land of the dead and live to tell the tale.
All it takes is a breath.
As anyone who’s sat at the bottom of the swimming pool knows, it isn’t long before the body demands air.
First, it’s a dull ache in the pit of the stomach. Then a moan, rising and filling the chest. A few seconds later and it pushes at the neck and face. Alarm bells start to ring.
Wait a little longer, and every nerve begins wailing and clanging; eyes bulging; veins wide blue and bursting through the skin in a desperate hunt for oxygen.
That is where most of us give in.
But beyond that — across the wailing river of blood — there is calm.
Any of the world’s four dozen professional free-divers can confirm it.
The body slips into a different realm, and we find that we don’t need to breathe at all.
It’s the same calm that was there before the Universe took its first breath. And the same peace that will meet us with our last.
Just remember to come back while you can!
Did you know God hates artists?
Several hundred years ago, when books were rare and information even more precious, freedom and justice were just good jokes.
But soon after the printing press was used to spread Bibles, an enterprising Italian family decided to print their own tomes: little-known texts from early modern Humanist philosophers and their ancient counterparts.
These contained some deeply concerning ideas for the Church because they put agency into human hands instead of God’s. It was an indirect attack on the Church’s absolutism.
Until then, monks wrote all the books. Attempts to spread new ideas were labelled blasphemous and met with a pretty rapid and terminal punishment.
The Medici family changed this with the most successful content marketing campaign in history.
Wealthy nobles were soon throwing gold at artisans and entrepreneurs instead of priests, eager to demonstrate their status and cultural preeminence to posterity with new ideas and technology.
God had to make room on their throne for some new deities: Freedom; Ethics; Science; Justice.
Controlling the flow of ideas is how you control the world. The internet made information free.
And that’s why Facebook is building the Metaverse: It’s a printing press for Gen-Z.
We may not be able to see the future, but we can use a couple of tools to get a pretty good idea.
The first one is a vision.
When we have a vision, whether, for a business or a product or just ourselves in ten years, we’re choosing the future we want.
We may not be certain how it will pan out. It will rarely feel the same as we imagine. But we can be sure that it will look pretty close, as long as we use the second tool: plans.
Once we have a vision, we can make a plan.
And once we have a plan, all we have to do is stick with it and get the future we chose (or something very like it) sooner or later. Often, it’s later than we’d like but sooner than we expect.
Nothing is unattainable if we have a strong vision and a plan to get there.
Sadly, many people don’t realize that it’s as easy as that, and they never choose a vision at all.
Decisions feel like a punch in the gut.
The hard part isn’t making a choice, it’s the taking action that comes with it, which is typically not what we want to do and comes with some unpleasantness.
The uncertainty is stressful but we often know what we should do far sooner than we’d like to admit.
The delay is the most harmful part, and can result in a worse outcome than making a “wrong” move too quickly.
“I wish I did this earlier” feels way better than, “I wish I’d done that” and is the far more likely outcome.
The most effective people take action quickly and completely, following through until another change of course is required.
All the decision frameworks in the world pale in comparison to a strong vision and values because they make every choice binary: ‘Will this get me closer to my vision/does this fit with my values’ is far easier to swallow than weighing the data scientifically.
That leaves you with the energy to see that decision through.
Stomach it and do what you have to do to get where you want to go. If you’re not sure where that is, that’s the first course.
Once upon a Tuesday, the Dean of Music at USC was standing in the local candy shop in his briefs, screaming at the top of his voice.
It was one of those Tuesdays.
The candy shop was stuffed with sugar in every shape imaginable: Tall skinny bottles bristling with Strawberry Laces; Shimmering bell jars hovering atop saucers of snow-white Gobstoppers; Deep, wide baskets brimming with Sticky Toffee Apples and Turkish Delight and Curly Wurlys and Sherbert Fountains; And buckets upon buckets of Love Hearts and Refreshers and M&Ms and Pop Rocks and Skittles and everything in-between.
The Dean, like any hyperglycaemic toddler, was hysterical. His father had caught him with his hand — quite literally — in the cookie jar.
The infant Dean’s excuse: “I was going to pay for them later.”
His father replied with words so powerful they still rang in the Dean’s ears five and a half decades later:
“Son, it would be better to simply take all you want and call yourself a thief every time.”
Fixable but unfixable bad performance is bad character. Making excuses for bad performances only creates more of them.
That’s why it’s better to be an honest thief than a dishonest judge.
Not so long ago, writing was my greatest fear.
A monthly article seemed too big a commitment, let alone a daily blog.
How could there be that many things to write about?
What if I ran out of ideas?
What would happen when I had nothing to say?
In the 355 days since this blog began, I’ve run out of ideas many times. There was rarely much in my notes that seemed interesting enough to write about.
The stress or distractions of my life often threw up a great wall between the muse and me. The glowing white screen before my eyes frequently mirrored an empty expanse behind them.
The pressure to write something meaningful or entertaining prevented me from writing anything at all.
On those days, I had no choice but to settle for writing about nothing and simply write. And before you know it, something was written.
Just like today.
The human race has a fantastic propensity for killing one another.
We’re so good at it that we’ve even come up with stirring stories to kill each other with. They help us get it done and live with it later; Historically speaking, at least.
If you tell these stories just right, you can get thousands of people to join you in the slaughter, even if they don’t understand why.
Aren’t stories wonderful?
Here are the most popular stories we use to kill each other:
- They’ll do it to us if we don’t do it first
- They’re animals who eat babies
- We’re saving them
Use them prudently. These stories have a habit of escaping the narrator and taking life on their own.
One of the most common complaints successful people have is something we all have to live with.
That feeling of not being quite where we belong; that we might get caught out; that one day people will see through our veneer, realize we’re an imposter, and run us out of town on a rail.
The good news is that only idiots never doubt themselves.
That kind of comparison is just a part of human nature. It’s one of the many ways our hormones and nerves collide to help us socialize.
The bad news is that only the foolish let that doubt stop them.
Letting doubt stop us is foolish because we’re pretty much always going to feel like we’re failing. Being successful feels like failing. Being mediocre feels like failing. And doing nothing at all feels like failing.
If you’re feeling a little out of place, you’re probably exactly where you should be.
The Universe sure knows how to pile on the pressure.
Like a haywire tennis ball machine, challenges ping out the ether in a relentless stream, and we scramble to return them without getting hit in the face.
Getting hit in the face hurts. But it’s part of the game. And the only thing that getting hit in the face means is that another ball is coming up pretty fast behind it.
The whole point of the game is to have problems hurled at us non-stop; how else can we return them?
So there are two options when we miss or don’t see one or just plain hit a dud into our face.
We can curl up on the floor to get hammered by the next dozen problems, or we can adjust our footing, spin that racket, and use the adrenaline spike to smash the next issue right through the net.
Now, let’s see that backhand.
The hardest choices often have the biggest impact.
Spending too much time making a decision that only has a minor impact is wasted energy.
That’s why large inter-government conventions always disappoint. The outcomes are disproportionate to the size of the meeting and the resources required to make them.
While it’s true that the Laws of the Universe determine that the larger a group, the harder it is to get it moving, we also have the internet, which eliminates the need for physical proximity; Unless you want to whisper in someone’s ear.
It’s almost as if our leaders fear that without all the fanfare and security and photo opportunities and protestors, people might notice they don’t make many decisions at all; Unless you count choosing the status quo, of course.
The only thing more naive than expecting a government to make a real decision is expecting them to follow through with it.
But it’s a great show.
That’s why the clown got the ringmaster’s hat.
We never really know how we feel about something until we try it for ourselves.
The more distinct that new thing is, the less likely it is that we can conceive of what it will feel like.
Feeling very uncomfortable is just what ‘new’ is supposed to feel like.
That feeling is the same every time.
But we never feel the same once we try the new thing.
That always feels different.
It’s not every day you find a 70-year old mother pursuing her son up a vertical cliff face.
But then, Dierdre Wolownick isn’t your everyday kind of woman.
She didn’t learn to swim until her 40s, but then she taught herself. She took up running in her 50s after her recently-divorced husband dropped dead in an airport; her escape from a “life of turmoil.”
And in her mid-60s she took up rock climbing with her son.
These are mighty big rocks we’re talking about here, like Yosemite’s notoriously challengingly El Capitan.
This self-described “lumpy old middle age woman” didn’t just climb this rock. She scaled it four times faster than the average person.
What has climbing taught her about life?
“Climbers get to go to the most unimaginable, beautiful, inspiring places, and the only way to experience them is to put in the hard work.”
It’s never to late to start climbing your peak, whatever it is.
There are two ways to react to anything in life:
Laugh. Or cry.
And there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two.
Everyone knows about laughing until you cry, but it’s just as easy to cry until you laugh. I thoroughly recommend trying it.
That’s why the funniest bone in the body is the one that hurts the most.
Today, take a look around at the people who colour your life.
They will not be with you forever.
Your paths may interweave, for now; crisscrossing one another for a time; sometimes running so close they are almost one path.
But time is an endless fork.
All roads lead to change.
Sometimes it takes years. Often, a mere bustle of weeks.
But always, we bare our teeth at one another for a final time, sometimes, without even knowing it.
Take a look around at the people who colour your life.
They will not be with you forever.
But today, we are close.
Do you know what you are, you sweet little thing?
Covered in soft flesh and bursting with life, gushing with all the potential in the Universe.
Helpless mushy bag; powerful enough to move mountains, should you try.
Not into the world. Nor out of it.
A part of it. The point of it.
The smallest seed.
Fruit of the World.
Some of the most useful stories are the shortest.
There’s an ancient fable about a Frog and a Scorpion, which you may even know already.
It stuck around because it’s true.
If you haven’t heard it yet, Scorpion persuades Frog to carry him across a river. Frog isn’t keen about this until Scorpion points out that if he stings him, they’ll both drown. That seems rational enough, so Frog agrees, and off they go.
Obviously, Scorpion stings Frog before they reach the other side.
As they start to sink, Frog cries out, “What the fuck, dude?!”
Scorpion shrugs and says, “It’s just what I do, bro.”
And they both die.
If you expect people to act differently to the way they’ve always done, you’re going to be disappointed.
ESPECIALLY when they’re acting in groups.
Not every win comes with a bottle of champagne and a big fat check.
Precious few do, in fact.
Many of the wins don’t feel like much at the time. Some of them even feel like losses.
It’s important to remember that when we get hit by a win that feels like a loss, the only way to tell if it actually is one will be in hindsight.
More often than not, when we look back, we find that even the big losses contributed to our future wins in some way.
So until you hear otherwise, treat every loss like a win.
If it isn’t one now, it will be later.
Some surprising things you can do and still reach your fitness goals:
Taking a slice of chocolate cake.
Lying on the couch all day.
Eating a wheel of cheese.
Drinking eight beers.
Staying up too late.
None of these things will stop you reaching your goals as long as you stick to this one rule:
Get back on it the next day.
And the day after that.
And probably a few days after that too — especially if you had beers and pizza.
I woke up this morning with frown lines across my forehead.
They were not there yesterday, I am sure of it.
I pulled apart the furrowed skin, peeling back the valleys of flesh to reveal a bright pink riverbed meandering across my forehead.
Three of them, in fact.
Tributaries of emotion. Tributes to my perpetual confusion.
Perhaps I’ve been waking up on the wrong side of bed for a few mornings now.
But am I really old enough for wrinkles?
To reach The Goal, we must be ready to make The Change.
And to make The Change, we must admit we want to change.
There is always a vast distance between The Goal and Here. And the person who crosses the finish line will not be the same person that we are now.
That’s just how The Change works.
In our hearts, we know this to be true. And it is terrifying because The Change means Loss.
But we must go through The Change if we want The Goal.
We see bright lights and cash raining down and countless adoring eyes and voices, and we dream of them singing our praises. We see the show but not the work it takes to set the stage.
To make The Change, we must accept that it will not come easy.
To make The Change, we must accept that we will lose ourselves.
To make The Change, we must accept that we will lose it all — and demand to find it on the other side.
There’s a myth that art requires passion.
It often crops up as a cringy movie scene. The artist “expresses themselves,” dancing naked across a canvas or hurling themselves at their art, releasing the muse by flailing their arms and waggling their toes and hollering to the heavens.
And behold: Art is made.
Maybe that works for painting.
It doesn’t work for writing.
This is what happens when a writer flails:
Writing with passion is like pulling fingernails out of your eyelids: painful and confusing.
But writing with misery wrapped around your throat?
Well, that’s how all the great books were made.
There are precious few things we have control over.
Most of us have control over what we put in our bodies, what we put in our minds, who we let in our lives.
We like to think we have control over what we say and do — how we react or respond to the events that life throws at us.
But some things are terrifyingly out of our control, no matter how much we prepare for them or how much attention we pay to them when they arrive.
Sometimes, the only thing we can do is turn up and jump off and hope that the Universe has prepared a landing soft enough that we don’t get smashed to bits.
The only thing we get to decide in those situations is: swan dive or cannonball?
Do not look upon a loss and weep,
For it was never yours to keep.
Do not bask in bright sunlight,
And wish against the coming night.
Do not tie your loved ones near,
For love always escapes the snare.
Do not curse a wind that blows,
Thank it for the seeds it sows.
Do not fear or run from change,
The only constant is exchange.
One of the best things about words is how they can mean completely different things depending on who is saying them.
Slang and pidgin dialects aren’t misuse either — they’re how languages evolve.
When I was a kid, swag meant several varieties of crap.
As in, “those sneakers are swag (ugly)” or “maths is swag” (boring) or “Mr Linnane is swag” (he’s a prick).
In the couple of decades since (or maybe it always was), swag has come to mean the clothes and trinkets that brands give out, enthusiastically festooned with their logos, as if they were automatically cool.
This swag is typically worn inside the office or while redecorating the house but rarely anywhere else, primarily because it’s got some company’s logo all over it.
If the gear was intended to serve the wearer, the logo would be discreet: Here’s a nice gift you want to wear.
But it’s not.
It’s covered in a brand logo to serve the brand.
And that’s what makes it swag.
Most people don’t know the truth about karma.
I’m not going to pretend I understand it either but some very wise people have told me something about it that I will relate to you.
Karma isn’t only about consequences and the impact of our decisions — how the Universe responds to our actions.
It’s how the Universe challenges us to overcome our karma too. The obstacles in our lives are the opportunity to progress.
It’s how we respond to our actions too.
We can’t escape the real obstacles in our lives because the Universe will keep throwing them up again in different forms until we learn how to overcome them.
So yes, it’s personal.
Hearing voices in your head isn’t crazy. It’s just human.
Various clever people have tried to give each of them names.
You’ve probably heard about the one called the “ego.”
There’s one that I call Eeyore.
There’s one that doesn’t speak. It only shouts.
There’s one that doesn’t speak and only acts. None of the others like that one.
There are probably a few more in there that I’m missing, friends and family and lovers and enemies and memories.
They make a babbling mess that rarely quiets.
All sorts of things will bubble up from the cacophony of consciousness; some of them almost certainly come from outside.
A lot of them surprise. Some of them worry.
When one gets particularly loud or suggests something particularly nasty, there’s a little trick to shut them up.
We can ask, “Who said that?”
That usually quietens the party for a moment; reminds them of who gets to choose what gets heard.
You — the listener.
Recently, I experienced some nerve damage that threatened my livelihood.
A trifling thing like a tingly pinky finger may not seem much of a threat; to a writer, it was existential.
Bad typing habits and slouching over a desk for ten hours a day for seven years had taken their toll.
The left hand was colder; the left side of it numb. Every time my pinky rapped against the keys, jangling pins and needles would fizzle up to my elbow.
It was clear that unless something changed, this problem was only going to get worse.
Not writing wasn’t an option. That would mean Death.
The only thing to do was to learn how to write. Again.
The first week of writing with a new keyboard layout was painfully slow. The second was pretty rough too.
Going from typing as fast as you can think to 15 words a minute is like running backward on one leg.
But it got easier, as all trials do.
And that suffering now will make it easier later too — hopefully, until all my bones grind to a halt.
Suicide is only for the luckiest people.
The starving don’t worry too much about whether they’re living their best life or if they’re happy. Mostly they worry about how to get half a bowl of rice to feed their kids.
The wealthier the country, the higher the suicide rate.
The US wins a gold medal there.
But the rest of the G12 are close behind.
We’ve got so much food that it’s killing us.
We’ve got so much free time that it’s killing us.
We’ve got so many friends that it’s killing us.
We’ve got so many opportunities we can’t make a choice.
We’ve got so much stuff that it’s making us sick.
And money can’t buy health.
One damp afternoon in the mid-90s, my mother slotted a cassette tape into our kitchen radio and pressed the giant ‘Play’ button home with a clunk.
It was a story about a little caterpillar called Clive who was having a shitty day. Clive was sad because he had nobody to play with.
Along comes a painfully cheery Butterfly called Bertha, who tries to lift his spirits by pointing out all the lovely things that happened that day, how lucky he is to be alive…yadda yadda.
But Clive doesn’t care. He is enjoying being a miserable sod.
His Eeyore is wallowing.
Eventually, he reveals the real reason he’s sad: he didn’t get invited to a birthday party.
Hardly surprising, what with him being so miserable.
But Bertha isn’t fazed for a moment.
“You don’t need a birthday to have a party,” she says, “because today is your unbirthday.”
And before you could say, “that’s not the ending,” they were up to their eyeballs in tequila and horse tranquilizer.
To days we were born on or otherwise — all worth celebrating!
Recently, I spent some time watching a young human try to move the world.
He pumped his little arms and legs wildly but was getting nowhere fast, not that it seemed to deter him.
Watching his limbs flail helplessly, grasping for something tangible, made me feel better about my lack of ability to change things.
We spend our whole lives worrying and making decisions and fretting and choosing between evils when there’s a fairly good chance that most of those decisions were already made for us.
Not by Fate or The Universe or one Deity or another, but by our own deep, subconscious desires.
Does flapping against the world ever leave a mark on anything but our own souls?
Perhaps if we cease trying to force the Universe to go our way, we may find that we didn’t have much impact anyway.
After all, in hindsight, didn’t you always know it would turn out this way?
Before we had email and texts, we had paper and that was it.
Reams upon reams of it. Our house was stuffed with paper.
Books of poetry. Books of cartoons. Books of art.
Books for teaching. Books for dreaming. Books filled with the addresses of old friends.
Books of pictures of people that were, apparently, related to us.
Storybooks; technical books; photobooks; notebooks; chequebooks; receipt books.
Diaries and journals. Books of lyrics and plays and propaganda.
Books filled with flowers as thin as the pages they lay on.
And, of course, boxes of books of correspondence.
“Always get them to write it down,” my Mother would say, “so you have proof of what was said.”
“You’ll be surprised how often people forget,” my Father would add, smirking wryly.
I’ve never been able to keep a journal except in the most tumultuous times, when the pen’s scratching helped me process the change; to cope.
But I always keep a record of official correspondence.
You’d be surprised how many people turn tail and run at the sight of a piece of paper with their words on it.
You can’t see this, but there’s a secret labeling system in these blogs.
Each blog has a handful of tags to describe it, so I can find articles on the same subjects later.
They also help me to understand what I like to write about most.
If you’re any good at HTML, you can probably still see them in the source code.
The most common tag used on the blog is “Life.” This tag is completely useless, but it is easy to use.
The next one is “Mindset,” and the third most popular is “Kaizen.” Motivation, Creativity, Change, Stoicism, Being Human, and Buddhism all make the top ten.
It’s usually well maintained, but when writing is an obstacle, the tag system is ignored in my haste to get something published.
Classification is useful. That all science — what all human knowledge — is. Different hierarchies of labels.
Labels are useful, yes; powerful, even. But they’re not necessary for creation; they mostly get in the way. They’re only useful post-creation, for people who like to know the labels that are in vogue.
So, don’t let one little label stop you from what might have been.
When things are going well, it’s just as easy to forget one’s obligations, as it is to make excuses when things are going badly.
Once, a half-naked man handed me a revolver and told me to shoot him in the chest.
I was about ten at the time.
My parents were there. They were laughing and clapping, as were the two dozen spectators who had gathered around our unlikely duet.
The man was a street entertainer; a child waving a gun in the middle of Covent Garden was a great way to draw in a crowd.
The revolver wasn’t loaded (I hope).
When I was a little boy, I would volunteer for everything — even to a partially-clothed punk waving a gun in the air — as any happy child will; flinging my finger in the air as high as it would go, straining to raise it above a quivering sea of pudgy digits.
The best thing about volunteering is that you can quit anytime you want. Nobody can tell you to change how you’re doing it.
Better still, nobody can get you to stop.
We always have that power.
Nothing can defeat the human who volunteers for life, in all its different moods.
Only the unwilling march the road to hell.
We can get in some pretty disastrous situations simply by closing our ears.
And we can miss out on some of life’s great pleasures too, or remain ignorant of many of its many naughty little secrets.
I’ve always been fantastic at ignoring people.
Most of the time, it would be to get out of doing something that I don’t want to do or care to hear. But recently, I’ve noticed there’s another, more primal way of not listening.
The shadow that rises from the gut to clench the base of our skull and scream, “Fuck You, I Won’t Do What You Tell Me!”
Something that makes that big a racket must have something to say or some reason for being so obnoxious and fearful when challenged.
What is it so afraid of?
Well, it turns out that listening to what makes the darkest of our shadows bubble with rage is the key to keeping it quiet.
After all, everybody needs validation — even the demon within.
Routines are great.
Routines can turn a chore into something we love.
Routines help a busy day slide by smoothly.
Routines can build a powerfully productive day, but they’re as fragile as a butterfly’s eyelash.
All it takes is one missed beat and lose track of the routine entirely.
Routines are great but not to be relied on.
Many of the most impressive tricks are little more than an illusion.
A common example would be juggling three balls.
When people see those balls whirling overhead, they are often amazed at how one person can keep all three balls in the air at once.
The trick is: you don’t.
As soon as you look carefully, it’s plain to see that only one ball is in the air at a time. And only one ball is being caught at a time. That makes things a lot easier on the juggler.
Even if we throw all three at the same time, or give them four or five or seven balls, the juggler still only ever catches one ball at a time.
They’re constantly switching their attention from one ball to the next, which takes an incredible amount of energy focus.
No matter how good we get at switching our focus, we’ll never be able to multitask.
We’re either focused on doing one thing well or lots of things badly.
If it wasn’t part of the plan, it’s a distraction.
Distractions are only useful if they’re stopping you from getting hurt.
Getting distracted by a sabre-tooth tiger creeping up on you is useful.
Every other distraction is harmful.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because we have a name for it we know what it is.
Labelling and understanding are two very different things.
You will see this most often when people are debating the nature of existence, but it applies everywhere.
One of them will say, “it means this” and the other will argue that, “it means that” and nobody is any the wiser.
But if tens of thousands of years of culture and examination of the cosmos have taught us anything, it’s that the universe is a wave perpetual probability.
And so the correct answer is always, “both, maybe, always, and, it depends.”
Even longer ago than you realize, a death squad boarded a helicopter fleet under cover of darkness.
The team of 79 commandos (and a very good boy) had a simple task: assassinate the leader of a covert Pakistan Army unit. You probably knew him as Osama bin-Laden.
The flight would take over an hour and a half, and there was little the soldiers could be certain of except that death was waiting for them at the end, likely in the form of a hail of rusty nails.
Yet, many of these battle-hardened marines did what any good soldier does when given a moment to sit; they fell asleep.
For those of us who struggle to sleep on a transatlantic flight, catching forty-winks in a tank hurtling 2,000 ft over the desert towards certain death sounds impossible.
But the US Marines have a secret weapon that allows them to relax in the middle of a suicide mission.
It’s called Yoga Nidra.
And every marine learns it right after they learn how to meditate because control of our mind and body is the single greatest weapon we can arm ourselves with.
It’s nice to pretend we have control over our day.
When you have priorities — certain things that need to be done in certain areas of your life — then you’re only ever one dumpster fire away from having your plan for the day totally blown out of the calendar.
Some things just won’t stop screaming until you attend to them.
A mighty river flows not from one but thousands of trickling springs across the mountain range.
Truth, too, flows from many sources.
The river may look the same when one or two sources run dry.
But stifle too many, and the river becomes a swamp.
And we all drown in shit.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve made a tonne of silly decisions and mistakes.
Most of mine were fun at the time — at least to start.
Many went on a little too long and stopped being fun at all.
A few left a hook in me that I couldn’t get free: several bad habits; harmful ways of thinking about the world; a mountain of debt; a damaged body.
At one point, it didn’t seem like there was any hope of making up for all the bad humours I had acquired over the years. After all, why stop if it’s already too late?
May as well enjoy it while it lasts, however short that turned out to be.
But as the fanfare of youth dribbled into the humdrum of middle age, I began to hear something else: myself—my body, asking me to stop.
And every day, it got harder to ignore. Eventually, I had to listen.
One of the greatest powers we have is the intuition that comes from listening to our bodies; our hearts, heads, and knees (they can predict the weather).
What is yours nagging you about?
And are you listening?
The Blur started long before COVID crept out of China and held us all hostage.
At first, everything was a blur. Childhood is barely distinguishable. High school was a drag, but even that’s a confusing blur now.
University seems like a whole different life now, and a very blurry one at that.
When we got locked in last April, it was no longer possible to hide from The Blur, although it had been creeping up on me for a while.
Looking back over the last 11,000-odd days of existence, it was clear that there was nothing that I could say I did with any real consistency.
Nothing worthwhile, at least.
I cried that night. Soon after, I began to do what I always knew I should have been doing: I started to write every day.
At some point, the days I’ve written will outnumber the days I’ve done anything else.
Then, looking back at that blur, I’ll know: I was a writer.
Some days, the work is easy
Some days, it gets pretty tough
Some days, it’s all fun and games
On others, it can get pretty rough
Some days are there for the taking
But mostly, they’re just good enough
Whichever of those you end up in today
Remember: you got this, hot stuff.
When it comes to health and fitness, people always want to know about the best timing.
We want to know the ideal time to eat, sleep, drink, exercise, work, have sex — whatever.
Here are the answers to the most common:
Should I work out in the morning or the evening?
It doesn’t matter.
Should I avoid eating before bed?
It doesn’t matter.
Should I eat two meals a day or six?
It doesn’t matter.
Should I use the sauna before or after I workout?
It doesn’t matter.
Should I eat carbs in the morning or protein?
It doesn’t matter.
When should I take my supplements?
It doesn’t matter.
Should I meditate in the morning or evening?
It doesn’t matter.
None of this matters because most of us aren’t asking how to improve our athletic performance by 1-2% to win an Olympic gold medal.
Most of the time we are actually asking, “how can I get to my goals faster with as little effort as possible?”
And the answer to that is: find a way to do it every day — at whatever time you goddamn please.
Except for sex.
Have sex as often as you can.
Science likes to put us in groups.
That’s 90% of what science is: classification.
We often read newspaper reports of the latest study that says introverts do this or women prefer that.
Don’t pay too much attention to that pop-science.
The only thing we can be sure of is that those studies were performed on hungover university students by slightly older, arguably less hungover students.
If some parts resonate that’s because our brain is very good at spotting the things we think inside our heads out there in the real world. But there’s little to be gleaned from a study of 20 late-stage teens on a wet Wednesday afternoon in Leeds.
Remember: just because you’re similar doesn’t make you the same.
You are like some people, it’s true. But you are alike no other person that ever was or will be.
Keep breaking that mould, baby!
The first time they suggested it to me, I nearly threw up in my mouth.
Surely, people don’t do that? Are they crazy? Is it even safe?
But then my curiosity got the better of me.
Can’t knock it till you tried it, I always say.
So the very next morning, I set about my experiment.
It was easier than I expected.
The egg whites slipped out of their jumbo-sized carton with a satisfyingly gross glug.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 egg whites.
It only took a handful of seconds to blend in the hydrolyzed vegetable powder, and there before me was a pale mint-green milkshake, crowned with a forest of happy little bubbles.
I shit you not — it tasted like a milkshake.
Trying things we think we won’t like is a great way to discover something we love.
There’s a super simple way to get creative even when you lack inspiration.
Don’t look for it in the first place.
Inspiration is fleeting and fickle and, quite frankly, useless.
The muse is a lace-wrapped stripper who will only leave you blue-balled, waltzing in with her flashy ideas and power-hungry hips, whispering of screaming fans and glory-soaked riches.
Write down her words when they come but never waste your day waiting for her — for she is with another man.
Palaces are built by people wearing work boots.
Making art is often back-breaking work — just ask Michaelangelo. And it’s always hard graft.
Why settle for the flitting fantasy of the muse, when you can marry the miserably frigid matron of creative work and suffer for life instead.
I’ve lost many loves to this moment.
People and things and even bits of myself that I’ve cherished have fallen victim to that moment of frustration, more times than I’d like to admit.
There are lots of reasons that fiery flood of hormones gets unleashed.
We might have been beaten at something. Or maybe it isn’t working how it’s supposed to. Or we have made a mistake and realized it too late. Sometimes, we’re just hungry.
But every time, we feel threatened in some way.
Not understanding the situation, our bodies do the only thing they know to do: fight or flight.
When that blood with all its raging hormones rushes to our head, all it takes is that one sullen word or a flick of the wrist, and we can break something we really love.
Learning how to control that moment, or at least not let it control us, is one of the greatest skills we can learn.
And I’ve still got a long way to go.
Thank you to all the fantastic musicians.
Thanks for spending your days twanging a cat’s gut until it sings or figuring how to make a bass-line so hard it punches deep into the ventricles and brings a tear to the eye.
I might not be that good at making music but what I can do is write. And I can write up a storm.
Maybe one day I will tinker with a turntable. But whatever else comes of this life, I’m going to find a way to use that skill I have to give something back to the world.
I can write the words that others won’t, so I will. It gives me pleasure, and hopefully, them too. And maybe it’ll even help them do their thing.
What are you sitting on?
What talent or skill do you have that could bring other people joy?
Maybe you should start sharing it about a bit more.
Maybe you owe us your song.
Optimize this. Streamline that.
Make it faster. Make it smaller.
Can we cut this and add that?
What if we changed the colour?
It’s human nature to fiddle, to look for a better way. To tinker with things until we understand them or they break.
To speed things up or slow them down or get bigger or smaller or to get there sooner, wherever that is.
Sometimes our fiddling pays off. Sometimes it makes things worse.
And sometimes the way to make things better is to stop fiddling about and go do something else for a while.
Some things are better left unsaid.
Celebrate your joys,
And celebrate your sorrows.
Celebrate your friends,
Celebrate your haters,
Celebrate the real ones,
And celebrate the fakers.
Celebrate it all because
These are the things that make us
We live in an endless arcade.
You can tell when you’re in a game because it has rules.
The game of being a citizen or the game of being an employee or the game of driving.
Most of the games we play overlap but the rules are different depending on who is playing.
The prizes vary wildly — anything we can think of — as do the forfeits for losing.
The rules of some games involve breaking the rules of others. Often there aren’t any rules but those we decide with the people we’re playing with.
There are so many exciting and engrossing games to play that it takes no effort to get lost in one for weeks or even years. Long enough to forget that it isn’t our game.
It’s worth stopping to ask every so often,
“Whose game am I playing?”
If we’re playing someone else’s game, it’s not a game we can win.
Nobody in this life is an NPC.
It’s your game, so play it any way you like.
Which is better, breathing in, or breathing out?
Is that a weird question?
Every inhale and exhalation from now until we die is 50:50.
Another small part of the Universe’s perpetual balancing act, the constant to-ing and fro-ing that occurs at every level from a wave of light to the spaces between galaxies.
Success comes from failure and must eventually go back to it.
We can have good health and happiness because we must be sick and unhappy sometimes.
If we get too attached to one way or another, when the time comes for change — as it always does — we won’t enjoy it as much as we should.
If we do that with breathing, we’ll die.
Why would anything else be different?
We can do a lot when it’s sunny
And almost as much in the snow
But when it’s pissing down with rain all day
There aren’t many places to go.
Everywhere is dripping and glistening wet.
The dogs are as a damp as they’ll possibly get.
The clouds groan full with more rain to fall yet.
Which sea god did we upset?
Most people approach change the way men approach sex: a sprint to the finish.
It’s only natural to want to get where we want to go as fast as we can.
Perhaps that unavoidable terminal that lurks in our future fosters this urge to finish as quickly as possible.
We must get there before we run out of time.
That is also why we often fall short in our challenges, diet plans, workout regimes, and New Year’s resolutions.
We are aiming for the finish line.
But the person who crosses the finish line is always different from the person who started the race.
When we get there, we can’t stop doing all those things that got us there and go back to being who we were before.
“In eight weeks, I’ll be sexy.”
“In two years, I’ll be rich.
“When I get there, I’ll be happy.”
And then, what?
The fastest route from A to B isn’t always a straight line.
There’s a special kind of curve that can get a ball from one point to another faster than in a straight line across the shortest distance.
It’s called a Brachistochrone curve.
It works because of gravity and friction and the shape of balls and all sorts of other juju that we don’t fully understand.
It won’t help you win many races, but it works quite well as an analogy. Sometimes it seems like we’re heading way off-course when we might actually be taking a shortcut.
That’s just how the Universe fits together.
How the math on that works, I guess we’ll never know.
The best plan of action is rarely the most attractive.
Change rarely looks the way we think it will when we start looking for it.
It might even look exactly the opposite of what we want to do. Mostly, change just looks very different from what we expect.
When the plan we get doesn’t look how we want or expect it to, that’s probably a sign it will work — and bring the change we seek.
For best results, execute the plan you least want to.
Clipboard carriers get a bad rep.
There’s nothing wrong with turning up and just ticking the boxes.
Some of the most interesting works of art and all of the wonders of technology are only possible because somebody with a clipboard went around checking wires and ticking boxes and making sure that everything is exactly where it should be.
Turning up and ticking whatever box you told yourself you would is more than enough to reach the stars.
Check ignition and blast off!
It has never been easier to become a billionaire.
You don’t even need a profitable company these days.
If you’re really charismatic, you don’t even need a working product. Just a cool video and a blaze of content marketing.
There are dozens (probably hundreds) of publicly traded companies that have never turned a profit. Never. They are losing billions and nobody seems to mind.
No doubt, companies like Uber are building the next generation of infrastructure and paying for the privilege. Networks are one of our superpowers and worth investing in.
But most of these spiffy startups are not doing anything new. The direct-to-consumer model existed long before the internet.
They are solving the same old problems we have always had but in new ways, and a new story behind it.
And that is all you have to do too.
We can’t input and output at the same time.
Computers can because they have separate processors.
Humans do not. And whatever your 5th-grade science teacher said about left and right brains is almost complete nonsense.
It’s difficult to output without some experience or information we can process and change into something new—some material we can use to create. Input.
Interesting creative output requires interesting creative input.
But the output directs the input.
Without our own output to direct what we put in, we just become someone else’s input.
Steve Jobs had a thing about bikes.
He’s well known for choosing a velocipede as his mode of transport when exploring a city.
Even more famously (and somewhat ironically), he was noted for calling the personal computer a “bicycle for the mind.”
At the time, it was difficult enough to fit a computer into a garage, let alone your pocket.
But Jobs was talking about evolution and efficiency.
Humans are very average at converting food into movement until you put us on a bike. Then we can go further and faster on fewer calories than any other animal.
Now that we can fit the computing power of the planet into our pocket, we can achieve an incredible amount with the mere lift of a finger (or thumb).
We can move the world — without moving our ass out of bed.
Eat that dust, evolution.
Mark Twain was a smart chap and a great storyteller, but he didn’t say this:
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you all day.”
The idea is sound.
Completing the most challenging or least enjoyable tasks first greases the wheels of the day. Everything goes a little smoother afterwards.
It’s such a sound idea that OG business coach Brian Tracey wrote a whole book about it.
It’s why Admiral McCraven tells us to make our beds in the morning and why drinking a glass of water first thing can change our lives.
Writing this note to you is often the hardest part of my day.
But here’s my favourite part about this expression.
When M. de Lassey said it, he said it about Napoleon and his cronies, and it originally went something along the lines of:
“If you have to spend the day in court, eat a toad first so that nothing more disgusting happens to you all day.”
There are some secrets to happiness that stand the test of time.
The most important one is not to go looking for happiness.
We can never be satisfied with anything that must be pursued because even if we catch it, we will always need to chase down more of it, given time.
If we chase happiness — hedonistic or wholesome — it won’t be long before we’re itching for more.
Happiness isn’t caught.
Happiness sidles up to you at a party and pinches your bum.
Happiness slips into bed for a quick early morning cuddle.
And happiness puts wings on your ankles halfway through an evening jog.
Happiness smells like coffee and feels like sunshine, and sounds like a beach, and if you can imagine any of that right now, you already know how to uncover that “happiness” within you anytime you want.
There’s no need to go searching for happiness because it can be found anywhere we look.
People have worked remotely for thousands of years.
Before the Industrial Revolution, women in cottages across the land wove wool into cloth and sold it to manufacturers who turned it into clothes.
Technology developed, and it was more profitable to have everyone weaving together, so the factory was born.
Two hundred years later and we are going back to our homesteads.
Technology has spawned a new breed of the industry: cottage creators. Or perhaps, more aptly, condo creators.
Individuals or small groups can now produce content as well (or better) than most major studios and publishing houses.
Watching 5-a-side pick-up games on YouTube is more fun than the big leagues in many ways. We can even save lives with memes.
Supporting upstart musicians, independent journalists, and Instagram artists creates an explosion of cultural diversity and creativity that makes the Renaissance look barbaric.
It’s a part of an unstoppable wave of economic adjustment that will leave society unrecognizable in fifty years or less.
As we automate more tasks, we will need more entertainment, more ideas, more stories and more games than ever before. Or things could get nasty.
Now is your chance.
Save the human.
There are two ways sunken costs can trick us.
The first is believing that because we’ve already bought something — invested time or money into it — that we must use it to get our money’s worth.
That’s not to say we should be wasteful, but it does mean that we have to drink the rest of the bottle.
The second way they get us is when we think that we’ve put in enough.
We think that we’ve invested enough to be sure that another minute won’t achieve anything.
Often, that’s the moment when a little extra push would bring success.
Sunken costs hurt us both ways. There’s no way to tell the difference.
The best we can do for ourselves is ignore them altogether.
Because as much as we like to draw lines between the past and present, the only connection they have to the future is the one we choose to make right now.
We are waiting for you.
We are waiting for you to tell us a story — the one that only you can.
We want to hear what the world feels like from where you’re standing.
Do not be selfish with your story. Your story matters.
Open a channel so that it can trickle out and carve a new valley into the world.
We are waiting for you to tell us your story.
Give us a teaser, at least.
If you are ever uncertain of your ability to change the world, know this:
Some people believe they can survive from sunlight and air alone.
A Flat Earth is one thing, but Breatharianism is another thing entirely.
You would think the evidence is pretty sound on the whole sustenance thing. You know, from millennia of struggling to survive.
Nevertheless, some people believe that they can get by on sunlight and atmospheric absorption, or some such guff.
At least, that’s what they tell people.
That means every time they eat or drink — and they do — they are then able to convince themselves that it didn’t happen.
Some people’s ability to delude themselves was so strong it killed them.
That is why arguing with people on the internet is a waste of time.
People don’t believe facts. They believe stories. That leaves pretty much everything up for debate — a debate that nobody ever wins.
Even if we’re going to argue about what we eat, you would think we could all agree that eating some food is necessary.
I guess that’s humans for you.
Limitlessly, psychotically creative
Day One is full of excitement and anticipation.
The vision is strong.
The path for the day is short and straight, or at least it appears to be from where we’re standing.
Bursting with energy and promise, we stride out into the unknown: we invent; we create; we conquer.
As we get older and learn how to tread our path, we often start to coast, to relax. We take our eyes off the road.
We let ourselves get bored.
The risk then is that we just fade away.
The best way to tackle day 303 or day 3,003 on our adventure is to approach it as if it were Day One.
Accelerating into our future selves — naive and eager and ambitious — starting all the way to the end.
It always feels better once it’s done.
Could be a workout.
Could be the washing up.
Could be a walk.
Could be a talk.
Whatever it is that you’ve told yourself you’ll do today.
Get ‘er done.
Then have some fun.
Not so long ago, the best way to share music was by making plastic sing.
We scratched music into 7″ oily black discs in hundreds of neat rings. To get it out, you would scrape a tiny sliver of metal along the ridges.
The size of the disc changed the normal length of songs because you could barely fit four minutes of music on one side.
At first, A and B side was just a label to tell you what song was playing.
Then record labels began only to put the song they wanted radios to play on the A-side. For a couple of decades, the ‘B’ became synonymous with bonus; a special place where artists could try something out knowing their label would just shrug and say, “Make it quick.”
That little creative freedom has spawned dozens of unexpected hits.
There were many ‘B-sides’ that were as much of a hit as their flip-side. Sometimes more. I Will Survive and Ice Ice Baby are just two examples of this.
We can’t always know what people will like — even ourselves.
Always listen to the B-side because you might like it even more than the A-side.
It’s best to strike while the liver is hot.
Somewhere between stone-cold sober and fighting to stand, there’s a lot of creative juice to be squeezed.
Don’t expect it to be much use the next day though.
Editing sober is certainly easier, but it’s painful when hungover.
Trying to be creative in the wake of half a pint of tequila just adds another bell to the banging between the ears.
The only time I ever truly consider throwing in the towel is when hungover.
There’s a lesson in that, most likely.
But right now, all I can think about is fried stuff with cheese.
Most people don’t realize how easily they can change reality.
It’s not that it changes the world materially. It just chooses different materials to make the world.
Our brains are wired to look for things we want to see, whether we’re consciously looking or not.
If bananas are keeping you alive, it pays to be able to spot as many of them as possible, even when you’re not paying attention. The same goes for tigers.
That’s why you always notice more of the car model you’re driving, and ants always all appear at the same time.
If we believe the world is dangerous, then it will become more dangerous.
If we are looking for reasons to be happy, we will find many more of them.
There are too many good reasons to be alive once you start looking.
Sometimes we have to go away and look somewhere else to see what was there all along.
The words “Jesus is coming” are scrawled across the grimy cardboard hung over his chest.
Passers-by squeeze themselves around his eager cries and shaking fists, intent on shutting this loud, dirty intrusion out of their day.
Nobody wants to listen because whether they realize it or not, deep down, we all already know that “the end is nigh,” at least on an individual level.
And whether we’re expecting to meet St. Paul on a cloud or slip into a blissful eternal nothingness, the reality is the same. That unignorable, unknowable finality is what drives us to do anything — or prevents us from doing anything.
The fear of it drives us to survive on a physiological level. When that’s covered, we devote our efforts to surviving beyond the grave, in whatever way we like. Most often, we survive through other people.
As my turn comes to squeeze past the pavement prophet, I get lucky. He spins and leaps away to berate those walking in the other direction. One young woman lets out a small yelp of surprise.
As I barrel away I glimpse the other piece of cardboard, slung over his shoulders with a knotted rag.
It reads, “Look busy.”
Have you ever seen a human play dead?
Lots of animals do this to try and escape a toothy death.
Life moves. If it doesn’t move, it’s usually dead or a rock.
We call it ‘playing’ dead because staying alive is work.
To play dead, you just have to do nothing. Don’t even bother breathing.
Playing dead can work quite well if you’re an opossum or a frog or some other prey that can’t move very fast. So if you’re trapped by a hungry bear, playing dead could be a great shout.
Otherwise, work alive.
Everybody likes a lie-in until it ruins the day.
Dragging ourselves out of bed five minutes before work is an easy way to mess up any plan.
Once the emails start pinging, and our colleagues start singing, there are often very few moments left to do anything for ourselves.
Those precious moments of slumber before we lose the day to the world are some of the most deceptive.
That’s why they call it a lie-in.
Spread snoring across the linen might feel like winning.
But everybody knows that when you snooze, you lose.
There’s visceral magic in a street fight or a pickup ball game on a summer evening.
Acquaintances going to a measured war.
We fall in love with sports on the playground with our friends.
The trappings and red tape that come with the big money often hang a dark veil over that spark.
On the street, where the cursing and scuffling of the players are louder than the crowd, we find a different type of sport—the real one.
The one we can all play. Where the rules are open to interpretation and trash talk is mandatory. Where everybody leaves their heart on the pitch, battling for the sheer hell of it. Playing for the simple joy of winning together and a large scoop of ego.
No doubt, the pros have reached the pinnacle of technical skill.
But out there on that lonely expanse of bowling green grass, I bet you they miss that street heat more than most.