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.
What is it about a sphere that gets us so excited?
Such an alien shape.
Everybody loves ’em.
Dogs. Humans. Even cows.
You can kick ’em. You can throw ’em.
They fucking roll!
One little ball can be the cause and the solution to so many of our problems.
Great all round.
You’ve got it all right here.
Everything you need.
Anything you ever wanted.
Even things you can’t imagine right now are yours, should you choose to take them.
It all lies within you.
All you have to do is decide what you want.
And take a little bit of it every day.
The closer we are, the more obvious it is.
That might mean close like family close, or that could mean physically close like locked in a prison cell close.
Either way, the closer we are, the harder it is to ignore our impact on the people we live with.
When we’re all up here under the big sky, it’s easy to forget those invisible ties. The ripple we create is quickly absorbed in the ocean of humanity around us.
But under one roof, when that ocean becomes a puddle, the ripple we create is much more noticeable.
Writer’s block is for amateurs.
There are few things more intimidating than a blank page. But everyone knows that the way to get through any creative block is to just get going.
For writer’s block, write something. For painter’s block, paint something. For accountant’s block (is that a thing?) do your favourite equation or something.
Whatever we do, every day is a clean slate — a blank page.
Some of us may have an itinerary, but there are always big blank spots that need filling, and they are can be just as intimidating as sitting down at an actual blank piece of paper.
That’s one reason why doing something deliberate early, a small morning routine like drinking a glass of water or exercising, can be so powerful. It helps us get going. It breaks the seal on the day.
It’s my remedy to “being a functioning member of society block.”
We saw it a lot last month, those golden moments of failure.
Athletes who tried their best and didn’t perform as they or we expected.
We saw many Olympians who spent the last four years or more preparing for that moment and found themselves wanting on the day, for whatever reason. That’s the way it goes.
On my bad days or weeks, it’s often a struggle to get out of bed, let alone perform on the world stage. But on their bad days, they still show up.
They shoot their shot anyway, knowing it will fall short. Accepting that this time, it’s just one more leg in their journey to the top of the podium.
And then they get up tomorrow and do it again.
Some people have no regard for where things belong.
The other day I saw a bloke walking down the street holding a coffee mug.
Not a disposable cup or one of those reusable cups that looks like a disposable cup, but an actual fucking proper mug. It even had a handle!
The absolute nerve of this guy.
From the wary glances of passers-by, you could tell that this flagrant disregard for societal norms was making people uneasy.
Why does a ceramic mug belong on a table but a paper cup can go anywhere it likes? Who makes these rules?
These little rules exist in our brains to alert us to a difference in the environment that may or may not be a threat. It’s not a rule it’s just out of the norm.
Doing it on purpose is what we call creativity.
Doing it every day makes it a habit.
Doing it in public makes it normal.
Doing it for money makes it professional.
And doing it for free makes it an identity.
Except for mugs.
Mugs are just mugs.
If only things were different,
I wouldn’t have to be the same.
I could be tall or short or fat,
Or get paid for playing a game.
If only things had been different,
If I’d done that instead of this,
I’d probably be sat on a beach right now,
Immersed in perpetual bliss.
If only things had been different,
If I had been there or then,
I could’ve been stupidly rich and cool,
But then I wouldn’t get to be Ben.
Not many people want to hear this:
If you’re insulted by something, it’s your fault.
This is my favourite of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements because it’s so hard to agree with, and to put into practice fully.
How can it be our fault if we get insulted by someone who is screaming at us or calling us names?
The idea is that we always have a choice; we are the ones who allow words to carry weight, whether we’re conscious of it or not. And of course, often what people are angry about has very little to do with us or what just happened.
It’s one thing to know that it’s not our fault when someone is angry at us. But it’s far harder to remember that when we’re mad at someone else, that’s on us.
Much easier said than done!
Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say.
It started as we all must: pretty poor. Just a cluster of farmer’s huts dotted across the hillside.
It’s not like anyone can just pick up a guitar and start playing it. Or read. Or walk.
Even simple things that we assume we can all do – like a star jump – don’t come naturally to the human body. We just forget how much effort we spent learning them. And often, how much help we had getting there.
There is nothing in this world worth doing that doesn’t take some practice. Nothing in this world worth having that won’t cost us some time in one way or another.
The best chance we can give ourselves is to start poorly and keep on plugging away until we fail better.
Or at least until we’re finished for the day.
We all know that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.
But the next best time is now, and we need trees planted now more than ever.
Mass tree-planting is back-breaking work. And there are only so many trees you can plant on a balcony before you start getting complaints.
But what if it was as easy as listening to a song? Or perhaps even a 30-second ad?
Well, that is how easy it is because some clever bloke decided to make a 30-second track and use the money it earns from streaming to plant trees.
We should all be planting at least six trees a month to offset our carbon. So, add the song that plants trees to your playlists and play it for a few minutes every day. That’s all it takes.
You can even use this method to make a small amount of money for yourself. But better still, if you could make a “song that does something,” what would it do?
A song that cleans up litter? A song that saves the bees?
Now that anyone can write a song for change, what will yours be?
Several years ago, I was staying in the back room of my parents’ house with little idea of what or who I wanted to be.
I knew that if I were going to survive in the world of work, or have any chance of success as a writer, I would need to learn to type.
People talk about how writing with a pen is more ‘connected.’ But it’s also slow and impractical in the modern age.
That connection is learned like any other, and so I decided to practice often to form that same deep connection with a keyboard.
So to start my day, and to instill the belief that I was headed somewhere, I would spend about 15 minutes every morning practicing touch typing. Then I would apply for jobs I didn’t want.
That bit of time invested has probably saved me hours since.
Today, the words flow through my fingertips onto the screen with the same ease as a pen and three times faster — faster than I can think.
The pen still feels snug in my hand. But when I sit down at a keyboard, the words just fly.
Back in the rectum of history, some boys in white coats stuffed a few hundred fleas into a mason jar.
I don’t know where they got the fleas and how they got them into the jar, but it’s probably safe to say there was a lot of cursing and itching.
Once the fleas were in the jar, they kept trying to jump out and hitting their heads against the lid. Eventually, they gave up.
When the researchers took the lid off, the fleas still didn’t try to jump out because they thought it was still there.
There are many other examples of this trainable aspect of nature, in humans too.
But the magic we humans have is the power to think again and un-break ourselves. We can always try another way. We can keep jumping now and then to be sure the lid is still there.
We can resist any training, but we often fail to recognize the psychological bonds we have wrapped around ourselves.
A kaizen mindset means that we always assume the way we’re doing things wrong in some way.
When we learn to challenge our beliefs regularly, we can even distort time.
We’re not all in the same race.
Some of us aren’t even running in the same direction.
So, there’s no point judging our pace by looking at other people.
When a wall or a river crosses the path, we all tackle them in our own way. Some people are better swimmers, while others can race up a wall like a gecko. Others are swimming upstream.
When an obstacle crops up, the best we can do is tackle it on our own terms, at our own pace. Trying to match pace with someone in a different race or different strides will only tire us out.
We can give help and get help, but taking it in our own stride also means realizing that other people aren’t obliged to help us either.
It’s your race when you take everything in your stride.
And running your own race is the only way to win.
A lot of the science we learn in school is wrong.
It’s mostly either oversimplified or partially disproved by the time we hear it.
One myth is that the right brain is creative, and the left brain is logical, right?
The right side of the brain is best at novelty: identifying new problems and solving them, learning new things. Experimentation.
The left side of the brain is concerned with sorting the results and recalling them when needed. Matching them up.
When a student plays an instrument, their right hemisphere is firing all the time. But Miles Davis, the right side would be only simmering gently; the patterns of chords and melodies neatly delivered from the left side.
Even that is a gross simplification.
But it’s clear that by performing a creative task every day, creativity becomes muscle memory.
That’s why experts can see all sorts of patterns that a novice may miss. They just pop out. And those experts can get so used to seeing those patterns that they forget to experiment with them.
Art is experiementation. Science is experimentation remembered.
Now, remember your art.
There’s a lot that goes into winning at a professional level.
Most of it is off the field of play.
Training. Practice is everything when perfecting a skill and learning to play together. But we need more than that to reach the top.
Harmony. Harmony is more than teamwork.
Great teams are a symphony of minds. And that goes for all those involved, not just those doing the running around.
Harmony is every person playing their part in the same story — singing from the same hymnsheet.
Harmony of purpose and place is at the core of every world-beating business and every world-beating team.
There are few things worse than hearing the same tired old tune played badly.
Do it because you’re happy.
Do it because you’re sad.
Do it just because it feels good.
Or do it because it feels bad.
Do it because it’s easy.
Do it because it’s tough.
Do it because it fills up your cup.
And don’t stop till you’ve had enough.
Do it every morning.
Do it whenever you feel.
Do it just because you only live once.
Do it till it’s lost all appeal.
Even if we’re paying attention, we don’t see every sharp turn coming.
Life is hurtling along at a grand old pace when a sharp corner appears over the horizon—a bend or a twist that we missed the sign for.
Or we saw it coming, but it was one of those cheeky ones that start smooth and get sharper so fast that before you know it, you’re veering across the lines with your ass pressed against the door, praying that the wheels stick.
Can’t slam on the brakes. Can’t stop turning. Just got to ease off the pedal a bit and hold on tight until things level out.
And they always do.
The most dangerous ideas we have are the ones we use to limit ourselves.
Interestingly, we base many of those on our ideas about other people.
It could be things like “boys like cars” or “girls like dolls” or “salespeople are extroverts” or “running is hard” or “they’re better than me.”
Our identity is as much defined by the things we think we aren’t as by what we think we are. To misquote Seth Godin, “people like me can’t do things like that.”
Fortunately, there are millions of people out there that are just itching to prove us wrong. People who are doing things we think we can’t do but who look suspiciously like us.
There are few things better than having a conversation with someone you admire and respect deeply and realizing that you’re not so different.
Because that’s when “that’s not me” turns into “that could be me.”
And another door opens.
We all need a kick in the seat of the pants, at some point in life or another.
It could come from a teacher, a friend, or our boss — or a loving boot straight from our mother.
It might not feel good, and we might feel some shame; all those things should quickly pass.
But there’s one thing for sure that we’ll look back and say: that we deserved that kick in the ass.
The human eye is a remarkably poor tool for observing the world.
We can look but often do not see. And seeing certainly doesn’t result in believing.
We can focus with great skill but at the risk of blinkering ourselves.
Best of all, we can hold such a strong belief in our brains that it determines what we see and what we focus on — what’s real.
It’s funny how easy it is to ignore what’s right in front of us — and terrifying how we can focus on what isn’t there at all.
Seeing is rarely believing.
But when we really believe in something, that’s all we can see.
Before we could write books or draw maps, we told stories to guide our children.
One of the oldest stories is about the Troll who lives under the bridge.
The story is about how whenever we try to cross to better pastures or make a change in our lives — when we attempt to bridge the gap between ourselves and our future self — we will bump into a Troll.
The Troll will psyche us out in whatever way they can: telling us we’re too small or weak or stupid and we’ll get eaten alive. Or that the grass isn’t greener. Or to try tomorrow when the Troll isn’t there (it’s a lie).
The Troll that blocks the path to our dreams is the same nasty, hairy ape that lives in us all: the one that’s scared of change and worries about food all the time.
The only way to get past the Troll — to reach our dreams — is to stamp our hooves on the ground, lower our head, and charge straight through that fucker.
Bill was a bit confused by all the fuss.
The journalists, bored of the wildfires and plague, had pointed out that he had just dragged the New England Patriots out for full training in the pouring rain.
Bill Belichick replied the only way he knew how: with a sentence stoic enough to have tumbled from the lips of Cato or Marcus Aurelius himself.
One that has been echoed over thousands of years by warriors and athletes and artists and anyone who ever wanted to get something serious done:
“If it rains, it rains.
If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
If it’s hot, it’s hot.
If it’s not, then that’s what it is.”
Circumstances are bound to change how we execute our plans, but we can’t let them get in the way.
The world is full of elements that are out of our control. Regardless of what they throw up, when we’ve got training scheduled, we train. Because that’s what training is.
The line between what’s real and what’s not is worryingly out of our control.
When we take a moment to examine the fabric of space-time — when we crush our tiny cone of perception back into it — it all starts to look like the same geometric nightmare.
There isn’t really an I or them it’s just us.
Surrendering our limited, singular view of the world for a moment helps to remind us that we’re never separate. Just little nodes of awareness popping up to see what we look like from different angles. Experiencing the potential of the universe through as many different views as possible.
Inseparable from the ether, no matter how long we spend telling ourselves otherwise. No sense in trying to fight it closing.
Just enjoy the connection while it’s open.
We don’t need a reason for everything.
Sometimes we do it for bants.
It could be a skydive or a trip to Milan.
Or a magnum-sized bottle of champs.
We don’t need a reason for everything.
We mostly just do it for bants.
There’s a prize to be had, even when it goes bad.
And that’s the prize of having a bant.
Some people just love to crawl under your skin.
It’s one thing when they do it by accident. But some people definitely seek to irritate.
Getting under someone’s skin is a great way to get their attention – it’s not the sort of thing you can ignore.
One way not to be irked, not to fall into their twisted embrace, is to stop and ask: why does that irritate me?
The list might be longer than we think.
But the interesting part is that it rarely contains much about them.
We are all in transition.
From asleep to awake.
From young to old.
From naive to wise (if we’re lucky).
Our ideas about the world change almost as often as the world around us does.
Our bodies are constantly ebbing between hot and cold, sympathetic and parasympathetic, elated or depressed. It is never the same.
It’s abjectly terrifying. And thrilling. And essential.
That’s why all sports are won or lost on our ability to transition between phases; attack and defence; perform and recover; between one spin and the next.
Every coach knows the importance of mastering the transition – preparing for it and responding when it happens. Because the only time a transition is a problem is when we fight or ignore it.
Master those transitions, and nothing will phase you.
The first rule of survival is that you must always be doing something.
It could be hunting. It could be chopping wood. It could be making tools or clothing or food.
It’s the first rule because survival takes a huge amount of effort. It’s a constant struggle just to get enough food.
But every one of us is a survivor.
The amount of energy required to survive is so much that as soon that ferociously powerful brain of ours gets time to stop and think, we are instantly overwhelmed.
That’s what powers the ticking clock within us. The nervous itch, the restless tapping of our feet — it’s all because the ancient ape within is wondering how the hell we’re going to survive if we’re just sitting there.
We must move.
So we work. We make. We explore.
Or we dampen the urge with drink and drugs and food and fighting; we consume.
We made fishing hooks and wheels and philosophy and farms and skyscrapers and the blockchain all because that curious chimp couldn’t sit still.
The devil will make work for our idle thumbs, if we let him.
Only daily practice, kaizen, a future self, can keep him quiet.
Your brain is hiding quite a lot from you.
Maybe it just gets lost. Perhaps we’re just scared.
It’s not like it’s ever been easy to start taking on the world in our own special way. But we do it all the time.
And when we think about it, starting was always the hard part.
We don’t give ourselves enough credit for the number of times we’ve yanked the ripcord on our diamond-edged brains and unleashed some badass topiary on the world.
Those first struggles fade, the little pains and victories that seem so big at the time quickly withering into yesterday.
Some days when it seems particularly hard, it’s useful to remember that it’s never been easy, but we’ve done it many times before.
And we know exactly how things will go if we just get started.
So give it a yank and get going.
Art doesn’t come easy.
What to say?
No wisdom to expound. Or inspiration to share.
It would not be missed if it was never made.
But there lies no escape.
What else to do but make?
Hammer down those dumb words.
Lash the paper with ink.
Rip a chunk from the mould and hack hack hack away until the tears flow.
There. It is done.
There’s nothing like a good castle.
We build them with massive chunks of stone carved from the mountains nearby.
We build them with steel and glass stacked so high they breach the clouds.
And we build them with ideas and rules and stories about who can do what and who doesn’t deserve it.
Most of human history was met on the barricades of one castle or another, stone or otherwise.
It’s sad that our institutions still work to uphold the walls that so many of us question. It’s up to those on the ramparts to reach out to those who have been shut out.
Like the US Men’s Soccer team backing up the Women’s wage discrimination lawsuit against their own federation. Or every player that takes a knee for their teammates. Or every athlete taking part in mixed events this year.
There are certainly still barbarians out there, but far fewer than some would have us think.
Not everyone knocking on the gates is trying to break them down. Most of them just want shelter too.
And there’s plenty of room.
Big brains must give off more electromagnetic energy or something.
Occasionally, we’ll meet a person whose brain is so chock full that it leaks out of their ears into everyone around them.
It might be new information. Sometimes it’s just a different way of looking at things. And just listening to them talk is a learning experience.
That’s why James Altucher says we should try to be the stupidest person in the room.
The best way to fill our brains is to fill our lives with wonderful, colourful, big leaky brains of all types.
And let our brains soak up all that juicy knowledge.
We never really appreciate a great routine until it’s gone.
A great routine can work such deep, comforting grooves in our brain that it becomes almost impossible to do anything outside of it.
Routines can turn a frustrating chore into an automatic action we don’t even remember, but the trick is getting them good enough to take out of the box.
Skip town or jobs or even just a weekend and it’s not long before that routine crumbles and all the things with it.
The workout plan got left at the boarding gates.
The healthy diet got left on the plane.
It’s about all I can do to cling to these words.
Until I’m back in a routine again.
There’s a line on my resume that says, “fire-juggler.”
It’s been quite a few years since my Dad dipped a club into some paraffin, sparked its tip to a flaming ball, and flicked it 15ft through the air at my head. But I’m pretty sure I could still return a couple before setting my hair on fire.
And it’s not like they can ask me to show them in the interview anyway.
Juggling is an overused metaphor for so many great reasons.
For starters, it’s not easy to keep your eye on several things at once.
We can certainly learn to juggle more, but that means being comfortable with dropping those balls a lot more.
Just speed up the rhythm until those flailing wrists are sending them sailing above your head with a 12345671234567123456712…
It doesn’t matter how good we get at juggling; eventually, we have to drop the ball.
It’s not how long we can juggle for that makes us great at juggling.
It’s how quickly we pick the balls up when they fall.
The Loop is how we survive, particularly from terrors of our own making.
It used to be a series of giant fires spread across hilltops, from coast to city. Their smoke would relay a warning only as fast and as far as a person could see.
Later, The Loop would be scratched on clay tablets and raced on horseback across the desert or hurled into the sky in little parchment scrolls strapped to bird’s legs.
We evenutally squeezed The Loop into copper wires and accelerated it to the speed of light until it included everyone and no one at the same time.
The Loop is how we share information. The Loop is how we shout a warning or send help. The Loop is where the action happens.
In the show Hamilton, Alexander sings that he longs to be in the room, the room where things are decided; The Loop.
The News loves to make us feel like we’re in The Loop when we’re usually not. And we won’t go very far if we’re out of The Loop at work.
The Loops we maintain or let go are what holds us together.
Don’t stay out the Loop too long!
There are statues of men and women both good and evil all across the world.
There are stories both true and untrue of the things they did and the people they helped and hurt.
Millions of people have built great knowledge and wealth into our societies in their own little ways; and just as many have taken from society for themselves.
Whichever side we believe we’re on, the truth is that it doesn’t matter.
We can be terrible or wonderful and there is no right or wrong about it, there is only the world we create around us, which is where we all have to live and eventually die in.
Now that we all have a digital record forever, what will it say on your bronzed nameplate?
“You’ve got to know when to stop,” was probably the best culinary advice my dad gave me.
The same would go for drawing, plasticine, model airplanes. Even turning off the tap.
Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to ignore their parents, and many a stir fry was mashed into a pulp in my early attempts to cook. But I do make good mashed potatoes.
Humans have such a great ability to understand and manipulate the world around us that it’s hard to not believe that we can fix things we’ve broken if we carry on going.
But in our hubris we forget that we are still learning about the ways this planet is connected.
Whatever clever way we design to make it rain in the desert won’t fix the drought problem.
Mining coal and cutting down rainforest on the other side of the planet might not seem related but it certainly isn’t going to help.
Most of the best work we’ve done has been giving back what Nature needs and then just leaving it the fuck alone for 10 years.
Because Nature certainly isn’t going to leave us be.
Five days a week for the last few years, the Universe has sent me a short note to remind me why we’re here.
They almost always give me a little smile, and I don’t let the fact that a T-shirt seller from Florida writes them spoil the fun.
It’s also true that he is partly responsible for this project; him and Seth Godin and a few others.
The Universe’s emails are a little out there. And by “out there,” I mean angels and pre-life memories and destiny.
Pretty far gone, some might even say.
But it does remind me that there are signs all around us and within us to guide us in this Life. Big red flags and deep hollows. Moments of bliss and contentment and certainty.
Roads that always seem back to the same place.
And whether you believe the Universe is trying to tell us something or we’re telling it to ourselves through our surroundings, not listening hurts.
Caring about anything can be a thrilling and dangerous business.
That shouldn’t stop us. But beware caring about things you can’t control.
Caring about things we can’t control is a bad idea because we will inevitably be disappointed.
They will change and there’s little we can do about it. But just because change is inevitable doesn’t mean we should stop caring.
Care about the things we can change: the things we do and say; the work we produce; the way we treat people; the things we put in our body. The promises we keep.
We can’t care about it all. But we can decide to care about one or two big ones — things that do impact us all — and really care about those.
And caring means actually doing something about it.
It’s act or ignore.
Few of us have the energy or time to do more.
Laughter is one weird evolutionary quirk.
Thought you were going to die and then didn’t? Shake uncontrollably and make weird panting sounds.
It doesn’t seem like there would be much use for that on the ancient savannah. Yet, of all the weird things babies do, smiling is one of the first.
Maybe it’s because they see so many faces light up when they come into view.
Maybe it’s just a natural part of our trauma response, the last few sparks flashing down the wiring as our flight-or-fight system switches off its pre-flight checks: relax, you don’t have to run.
Whatever it is, we learn it early because we need it.
We can meet anything in the world with a smile, and when we do, it only ever makes things better.
Smile first. Smile last. Smile because it’s better than crying.
Smile because that’s the way things go.
Smile as often as you can, even if it’s only a grimace.
It’s so easy to get dangerously distracted.
A glint of gold. A flashing light.
A list of things we should be doing or a meeting that’s happening right now.
An hour or two slips by and suddenly, that milestone in the day has slipped out of sight.
Technical issues are one thing.
Getting distracted is a survival tactic.
We’ve got to learn to ignore that basic instinct to follow the will ‘o wisp into dreamland and focus on what counts, if we want to thrive.
Every morning is the chance to start again.
To turn the page.
Make a fresh start.
A dozen tiny buds just itching to bloom.
Which will get nurtured today?
Nothing brings up tears like packing the car and saying goodbye to our friends from the summer.
Travelling far away back home, away from the sun and sand and mud and grass and adventure. Sad to close the chapter on the summer and the friends we made, even if we know we’ll be back next year.
It’s never the same when that year has passed. We’re never the same after a year of school and growing and new experiences. And neither are they.
Waving goodbye to summer friends always brings tears because we’re waving goodbye to part of ourselves too, a moment in time when we were and could be something else.
Often, it isn’t until many years later that we realize the last time we saw them was when we waved them goodbye out of the car window that day.
We never know who will arrive at the end of the journey. But we know they won’t be the same as when they left.
So wave hard and wave long; until they’re completely out of sight.
That’s the secret to success.
Be happy to fail.
Accept that you’ll fail.
Prepare to fail.
Get up when you fail.
And look for more ways to fail when you succeed.
Take the biggest, most ridiculous thing that you can think of doing and go fuck that up real good for as long as possible.
Try something so impossible that even when you succeed, you’ll still have only started, so that you can keep on failing.
Fail for the sake of it, and fail at what you love.
There’s nothing worse than failing at something we don’t care about.
And there’s nothing better than failing at something we do — especially because it doesn’t feel like it.
Kids are terrible at drawing, but most of us don’t get much better.
For over 65,000 years, Humans have painted the walls of our caves with plant blood, scratching in the stories of the animals nearby; where the deer drink; where the big cats lurk.
And for 63,350 of them, nobody gave a damn about perspective.
After all, it’s not like you get long to practice art when you’re halfway between starving to death and eaten alive.
Then one day about 600 years ago, some bloke finally figured out how to properly draw perspective, and before you could say “vanishing point,” everyone was at it.
What takes most kids just a few years to pick up — and less if we try — took dozens of millennia for Humanity to learn.
But just because we can all learn to do it now doesn’t make it any easier than it ever was.
We’ve just got 150,000+ years of lessons to lean on.