Change the world

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone can change the world.

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

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

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

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

We change the world one brick at a time.

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

It doesn’t just add up — it compounds.

Keep at it.

 

 

Making bad good

Some blokes smell powerful.

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

Jocko Willink is one of those blokes.

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

And when Jocko tells you something, you listen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got beat?

Good.

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

Fail at what you love

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

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

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

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

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

Jim also talks about doing what you love.

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

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

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

There really isn’t a choice.

Something Special

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

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

There will never be a single person like you. 

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

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

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

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

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

And don’t you forget it. 

Just wait a bit

Time is a great nurse but an even better comedian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just laugh it off and wait a while.

 

Endless probability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

What have you done?

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

Nobody is powerless.

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

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

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

But are you doing it?

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

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

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

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

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

Everybody is beautiful

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

She was even a little embarrassed to say it.

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

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

Life is beautiful.

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

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

Sometimes it’s just really hard to find.

 

 

This morning sucked

Some mornings are terrible.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the next best thing.

 

 

 

Is this working for you?

Is this working for you?

If it is, keep doing it.

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

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

And nobody should have to do that.

Least of all you.

An apple a day

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

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

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

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

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

The choice was easy but the decision was hard.

And it’s still happening six years later.

But it started with one little step at a time.

A glass of water first thing.

A walk through the cold.

An extra piece of fruit a day.

A trip to the gym.

A moment alone.

All to keep the demons away.

Hard decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As they say.

Who really cares?

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

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

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

And not caring about other people at all? Psychopath.

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

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

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

And ask yourself, Who cares? “

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

They’re definitely not thinking about you.

Pick someone else. The same thing happens.

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

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

And they’re probably just thinking the same.

A life in pulp fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I wouldn’t be me without them.

Friday nights in quarantine

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

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

Good times.

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

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

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

And I was.

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

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

Third eye blind

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

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

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

Hopefully until Monday. Maybe forever.

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

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

No screens. Nothing to read.

No way to write.

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

Terrifying stuff.

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

Thank you for reading my little infinity project.

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

How to see the stars

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

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

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

And that’s all great.

But one thing we never see anymore is the stars.

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s the only way to see them.

Stop for a second

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it.

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

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

 

 

Get up

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

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

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

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

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

They will even seek it out.

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

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

That’s all success is, really.

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

So, up you get.

 

 

 

Give yourself a ‘D’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hurt & Happiness

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

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

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

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

Hurt people hurt people. Happy people help people.

That’s not woo-woo. It’s science.

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

 

 

Double-fisting screens

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I thought, “Fuck this.”

So I went and found a book to read.

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

You built this for me?

Times are changing faster than ever.

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

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

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

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

And we’re still not impressed.

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

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

They really did all of that for us?

And they really did.

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

Today is important

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

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

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

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

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

And that usually got me out of bed pretty quick.

 

 

Just a feather

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

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

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

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

Often, we have changed too.

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

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

It never lasts long.

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

Not finished yet

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

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

It makes us awful at predicting the future too.

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

But we’re not.

We’re not even close.

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

Laughable.

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

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

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

Not finished yet?

More like just getting started

One last hurrah

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a way to go. 

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

Life might just surprise you.

 

 

The dead guitarist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are vividly alive.

Take a moment today to enjoy it.

Reinventing the shoe

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

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

And. They. Are. Stunning.

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

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

nike fly go ease best trainers in the world

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

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

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

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

Just take my money, Nike.

I’ll never buy another pair of shoes again.

How to be right a lot

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

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

They also change their mind a lot.

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

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

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

Simple, eh?

What the hell is a dog psychiatrist?

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

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

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

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

Don’t fear the future.

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

The rest of us will just have to catch up.

Bald Bezos and His Big Hairy Goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Two steps forward one step back

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody cares until everybody does

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for being the first to stop by and listen.

I hope you stick around.

Beware comforting stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History in the making

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

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

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

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

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

Just making history, as you do. 

Nice work. 

 

Making Mayonnaise

A few months ago, I tried making mayonnaise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice glow

Wherever you are.

Whatever you want to call it.

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

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

Don’t forget to share.

The best time to plant a tree

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

They’re about four inches tall now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose miracles

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Don’t mind the gap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talent is overrated

Talents are pretty much useless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The girl with one eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s just what it means to be human.

 

Everyone starts out crap

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

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

It’s normal to be shit at stuff.

As James Clear reminds us:

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

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

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

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

Keep going, and you will too.

It’s just a thought

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

Thoughts are just random brain cells talking to each other.

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

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

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

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

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

You are not your thoughts.

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

Wikipedia was tiny

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mind follows body

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

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

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

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

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

Doing the bare minimum

Doing the bare minimum is often a negative thing.

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

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

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

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

Raising the bar slowly

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

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

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

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

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

Even robots make mistakes

It’s impossible to ignore the rise of robots.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Everything is change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing lasts forever.

And I find that oddly comforting.

Mother Nature’s Valium

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

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

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

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

Try this:

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

And that is Mother Nature’s Valium.

Drop it anytime — there’s no maximum dose.

 

60ft flying lizards and gold

It was always funny to me that dragons hoard gold.

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

But why?

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

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

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

Only then, can we live happily ever after.

Is this helping me?

A few years ago, James Altucher taught me something that helps calm dark and anxious thoughts.

Life wasn’t easy at the time. A cruel twist of fate had me walking past my new ex-girlfriend’s road almost every day after work. Grim visions of mistakes and arguments would envelop me as I passed, blackening my mood for the rest of the evening.

To stop this, James told me that every time I caught myself thinking negative thoughts, stop and ask, “Is this helping you right now?”

Almost always, the answer is ‘No.’

It takes some effort to remember to do this when we’re swept up in a storm of thoughts, but it becomes easier with time. To create a bigger gap from the tempest, we can follow up with, “What is useful to think about right now?”

Every time we do this, we save ourselves from a little unnecessary suffering and we train our brain to be more positive in future.

Do it enough, and eventually you’ll barely need to do it at all.

There’s no such thing as ready

Hugh Laurie is an interesting chap with an expressive face and an impressive career.

If you’ve been struggling to get started on your goals this year, he said something that might help you out:

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that, actually, no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now, and you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll never be ready at all. It’s called “chasing a dream” because it’s a journey into the unknowable. 

We don’t know how we’ll realize the dream or what will get in our way. No matter well we prepare our plans, life changes them the moment we step foot on a new path.

There’s no such thing as ready.

That’s why the only proper answer to “Are you ready?” is: “As ready as I’ll ever be.”

Find something you love to hate

I don’t want anchovies on my pizza, but I don’t hate them. I don’t care enough about anchovies to hate them.

We have to love something or be scared of losing something we love to hate anything.

I often hate writing.

I hate the thought that I’m going to dedicate my life to doing it, and it doesn’t care about me. I hate it when the words don’t come. I hate that for them to be any good, I have to put myself in them. And I hate that no matter what I do, some people won’t like what they see in them — and they might hate me too.

But I love to hate it.

Just like a sports fan loves to hate their biggest rivals. It’s all part of the game.

It’s no fun hating a rival team that you never get to play, that you never get to score against, that you never get to holler and swear and shout at. It’s no fun when there’s nothing to challenge you.

Some days, we lose, and there are tears. But that just means there’s more war to wage tomorrow.

Find something that you love to hate, and you’ll battle with it forever.

Fuck someone else’s perfect

Perfection is an illusion of the mind.

It’s natural, though, to look at all the ‘perfect’ pictures on social media and wonder if they have something we don’t.

But there is no one-size-fits-all magic solution to get what we want overnight.

We might get lucky, but even winning the lottery screws people up.

And trying to fit into someone else’s idea of perfect only ever ends badly.

If you’re still looking for the ‘perfect diet’ or the ‘perfect workout’ or ‘perfect partner,’ stop.

It’s not going to happen because it doesn’t exist.

What does exist are the fruits of people who took action towards their dreams, screwed it up, and carried on anyway.

Find what works for you, do it every day, and build from there.

Fuck everybody else’s perfect. 

Music is magic

Words are great, but music is the best thing we’ve ever made.

Hands-down.

It took me a long time to realize what a powerful tool it is.

We’re the only animal that responds to music at a physical level.

It’s so powerful that it can even relieve the symptoms of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Music fuses to our core. It entangles our emotions and weaves through our memories.

In many ways, the music you listen to is you.

I bet you even know what tracks would change your mood right now; to put a swagger in your step or a tear in your eye.

Or go back to a time in your life. Like time travel— our brains whisked through time hitched to a couple of bars of The Libertines or No Doubt or Bob Dylan.

Maybe people who “don’t listen to music” are a bit scared of its power, and they’re probably right to be. It’s light we can feel — and it’s powerful magic.

Careful how you use it!

Ringing in your ears

Words are incredibly powerful.

These little sounds and symbols are programming for humans. Without them, our world falls apart.

Some words are so powerful they stick in our brains — ringing in our ears — and changing us forever. It becomes true.

The words we use to talk about ourselves are the most powerful because we listen to them all the time; they work a rut in our brain that’s hard to escape.

We never know when something we say will strike a chord and change behaviour — including our own.

That’s why we have to be so careful with what we think and say. And if we want to do something, we write it down.

Listen to the words ringing in your ears and ask if they’re in harmony with your goals.

If not, start to change their tune.

It doesn’t matter how you make the bed

You’ve probably heard of the US Navy Admiral who speaks about how making your bed can change the world. He even wrote a book about it — he was obsessed. But with good cause.

Our physical surroundings affect our behaviour, and mess causes stress.

Being the kind of person who makes their bed makes us feel like the kind of person who does other productive, organized things and looks after themselves.

71% of bed-makers say they’re happy, while most non-bed makers say they’re not. Bed makers are also more likely to own a home, enjoy their work, sleep better, eat better, and exercise regularly. They also have more sex.

And as JP said to teenagers everywhere: “If you can’t even clean up your room, who are you to give advice to the world?”

Slaying that first little dragon of chaos only takes 90 seconds, but it sets the tone for the day. 

There’s no right way to do it; doing it is really all that matters. But its impact is noticeable because we’re taking charge of our small domains and deciding our future.

And every time I do that, my day is that little bit better, and I take a bigger step towards my goals.

3 simple rules for success

There’s lots of advice out there these days, so it’s tough to hear the wisdom in the noise. But sometimes, you hear something that rings so loudly with Truth that it’s hard to ignore.

Whether they’re his or not doesn’t matter, because when the compelling Chris Voss uttered his ‘three truths of life’ they hit home:

Be curious because you’ll learn more.

Be nicer because you’ll get wounded less.

Be grateful because you’ll recover faster.

Any one of these alone will put you in a mindset where you’ll achieve more than you ever thought possible.

It’s hard to argue with that!

Finding motivation

What we think of as motivation is actually inspiration.

The problem with inspiration is that it’s fleeting — that’s just how it works.

We might watch a movie or read a book and be uplifted or watch someone else doing what they love, and that inspires us: “I want to do that.”

Sometimes that inspiration trickles into action. But pretty quickly, the reality of the task ahead squashes the inspiration out of us because inspiration alone isn’t enough to get motivated.

We get motivated by being specific about what we want and then going after it. We get motivated by taking small, specific actions towards our goals.

Choose to take action, and you’ll find that your motivation isn’t too far behind.

Keep playing

Children naturally make mistakes and think little of it.

They’re not bothered at how bad their painting is. They’re just happy to get covered in paint making it and even more delighted if it gets stuck on the fridge.

As teens, we’re taught to stop playing and stop making mistakes so that we can pass into the world as sensible “adults.”

But we can carry on playing forever. And we should!

Playing with new things is how we learn, and playing as an adult is called creativity. It doesn’t have to be a painting either; you can play with anything.

Keep playing. Keep trying new things and messing them up to make something unique.

One day, someone might just think it’s good enough to stick on their fridge.

Or better still, pay you to keep playing.

Another step forward

Let me be the first to say: fuck you 2020. But also, thanks for your help. 

It’s stupid to think that it’s taken about five years to get to the starting line. Five years of trying to make it make sense and failing and starting again and failing; and giving up, and starting again and failing, and giving up again.

But always starting again, because there isn’t a choice.

That’s what we do as humans. We dream a path, and we start out upon it. We try things out, we invent, we test, we fall, we fail, and we start again. And even when we succeed, we start again because that’s the point.

There’s no wrong or right way to go. It’s just one small problem after another. A challenge overcome here, a step forward there, never sure what will cross our path next but always knowing that we’ll have to go through it. 

Last year was crazy, but now it’s over. You survived. We took a spin around the sun, and you took another step forward.

This next year will be crazy too, but whatever life throws at you, know you can handle it too.

And it’s only going to make you stronger.

 

It’s not your fault

This last year was a mad one, it’s true.

At times, things seemed closer to breaking than when we nearly nuked ourselves into oblivion, and the next few years will be a real mess too.

But it’s not your fault the world is like this. It’s not really anybody’s fault.

Our world has such astounding diversity that it has no choice but to veer from change to change. That’s just what it does. We’re swept up by vast currents of change that ebb and flow and gust for reasons far beyond our understanding.

All we can do is keep paddling in the direction we want to go, knowing that the winds always change with time and hoping that one day, they change in our favour.

Pick your destination, haul your sail, and cling on tight.

It’s going to be a wild one.

Be careful who you cuddle

Some words that transformed my life came from Jim Rohn:

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

If you’ve spent time with other humans, you’ve probably noticed that they tend to ‘rub off.’

Maybe it’s a facial expression or how they speak. We think it’s funny or cool, so we try it out later for ourselves. It gets a good response and it sticks.

This is why groups of close friends usually share similar opinions and mannerisms. It’s one of the things that makes a tribe a tribe. 

But this ‘Law of Averages’ goes deeper.

If you average out the salary of those same five people, you’ll find that it’s almost exactly your salary. It’s terrifyingly close.

We like to think we’re unique, individual, autonomous creatures, but we’re enslaved to our environment and chained to the people around us.

Surround yourself with people you want to be like. Seek out people who push you to be better and listen to people who challenge your mindsets.

And be very careful who you cuddle.

There is no finish line

A few years back, I surprised myself by getting into running and discovered something strange.

There’s a race for masochists down in Tennessee called ‘Big Dog’s Outdoor Ultra.’ It’s a four-mile loop that you run until everyone else drops out. This year , Courtney Dauwalter, ran 283 miles in just under 72 hours, non-stop.

Running an eternal loop seems crazy, but many competitors say it’s easier than running a ‘standard ultra.’ 2018’s winner said, “Because there’s no predetermined finish, you can’t think in terms of ‘how many miles do I have left? It’s always just the next loop, the next loop, the next loop. You’re never overwhelmed by what you have left to run because you simply don’t know.”

Strangely, setting a ‘finish line’ can be detrimental to growth, especially when you’re just getting started.

The best thing you can do is choose a direction and focus on putting one foot in front of the other; running today’s race as best you can.

Worry about tomorrow when you cross that starting line.

Trees are great

Trees have a sturdy grace that makes good company. 

And they can probably teach us a thing or two about living on this planet, after 400 million years of it.

They don’t worry about how fast they’re growing or what their neighbours are up to. When the sun is shining, they lean into it; when it thunders, they cling on tight, dancing with nature’s punches. And they rarely cause a fuss.

Social life as a tree isn’t as boring as you might think either — they’ve got their own internet of fungi they use to trade with each other.

They’ve probably survived this long because they look out for each other, give back a little more than they take, and leave the world a bit better than it was the day before.

That’s probably why they make such good company too.

Thanks for everything, trees. Life wouldn’t be the same without you.

Blue cheese and suffering

Children hate the taste of some damn tasty treats like truffles, coffee, wine, beer, tea, dark chocolate, whiskey and that stanky blue cheese.

We say that’s because their taste buds ‘haven’t matured,’ and as a child, I often wondered what that meant. What does it mean to ‘mature?’

As an adult who can chomp through a wheel of stilton faster than you can say, ‘pour me another scotch,’ I’ve come to believe that you must suffer a little before you can enjoy blue cheese. 

Children don’t appreciate these flavours because they haven’t learnt that Good needs Bad. They’re too young to know that enjoying delicacies takes effort, and time, and suffering.

Like Life, you often have to get through an initial bitter shock and salty tang before you get to the creamy goodness. It takes work to appreciate many delicacies!

Maybe blue cheese only tastes good when you’ve lived a little; when you’ve cried, when you’ve tried and failed, fought regret — and learnt to put up with a bit of suffering to get something you can enjoy forever.

Yum!

You are enough

It’s easy — and very common — to think that you’re not enough. Lots of people worry about it.

We think we’re not smart enough to be funny, or rich enough to be happy, or attractive enough to be loved. But that’s all rubbish that someone else made up.

The world is full of other people telling us we need to buy such and such a thing to feel like we’re enough. And it never does the trick.

Because they don’t know shit.

You ARE enough.

You already HAVE enough to be happy.

Trying your best every day is just being more you.

That little step forward every day just takes you closer to yourself.

And you are enough to change the world.

 

Take it with you

When we were children, we learnt to play the tin whistle.

It’s a shrill little instrument that probably blew out the eardrums of anyone who heard us practicing.

Years later, whenever I left to go travelling or university or to move country, my mother would thrust this cold little tube into my hand and say, “Take it with you — you never know when it might come in handy.”

I never took the whistle, but I took the idea to heart. Knowing that whatever happened, I’d be able to earn myself a meal by practicing in public.

It took me a while to work up the courage, though!

You never know when something silly might become useful later, when it merges with something else and that opens up the world.

Walking through walls

Walking through a wall is very very very very unlikely, but science tells us it’s not impossible.

It’s called ‘quantum tunnelling’ and it’s why the sun explodes, and how your DNA replicates, and how light passes through a solid object.

A very clever teenager explained this to me this morning in under three minutes and closed with these (almost) impossibly wise words:

“Maybe the quantum world is telling us that when faced with an obstacle, there’s a small chance we can defy expectations and breach barriers.”

She absolutely nailed it.

I’m not saying take a running jump at the closest wall. But the next time you’re faced with something that seems ‘impossible,’ remember you always have a chance.

That’s just how the universe works.

Life is a tightrope

In 2011, a mother and her son walked 300ft along a wire no wider than your thumb, 121ft above the ground — with no safety net.

It was an emotional moment for them both.

The woman’s father, The Great Karl Wallenda, had plunged to his death from that same spot 33 years earlier. He was 73.

If you haven’t heard of him, Karl Wallenda was the acrobat.

He and his family formed The Flying Wallendas, who created many of the acrobatic feats performed today. They were renowned for pulling off the most daring stunts while dangling hundreds of feet in the air — without a safety net.

Earlier that day, he was asked his terminal question: “Why?”

Karl is quoted as replying, “Life is on the tightrope, and the tightrope is the only place to be. The only place I feel alive is on the wire. Everything else is just waiting.”

Life is a balancing act. Our job as humans is to shuffle out along that wire every day and perform our best, knowing that one day we will fall. And walking out there anyway. 

Because that thrilling fear that comes from doing something uncommon — that’s being alive.

That’s what it’s all about.

The rest is just waiting.

Look at all you’ve learnt

You won’t remember being a loud and smelly and unbearably cute baby.

It’s hard even to imagine that once, all those years ago, you were tiny and helpless and literally couldn’t even wipe your own ass.

But look at everything you’ve mastered since then!

Every single skill you have today was once unknown to you.

And now you’re so good at most things that you don’t even have to think about it.

That’s not a fluke or an accident.

Your brain is a learning machine, and you’re doing a damn good job of using it.

Just keep on feeding it something new every day.

You’re doing great

Sometimes you probably think you’re only doing ok, or maybe even ‘not great’ at all.

Well, I just had a quick check and it looks like you’re doing pretty damn well.

Check it out:

  1. You’re not worried about finding breakfast. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to skip breakfast because I ate too much this weekend. So you’re doing better than about a billion people.
  2. You have an email address, which means you have the internet, and you paid your bill. Nice one! You’re already doing better than about 40% of the planet.
  3. Like all humans, you’ve been through some tough times but you’re still here. Which means you survived them, which means you’ve learnt and grown from them. Life didn’t get easier. You just got better at doing it.

See?

You’re doing great, and you’ve barely even got out of bed.

Keep it up!

Last night I thought I died

I don’t dream much, but every few years I have a dream that sticks with me; as vivid as if it were real.

The other night I had one, and in it, I died of COVID.

At first, it was all running around as one does in dreams, trying to figure out what was going on; why nobody would talk to me.

And then I realised — I was dead.

That was it—no more Ben.

All I could think to myself was, “THAT’S IT. You’re DONE. All you’ll ever have done is what you’ve done already.”

And it was sickening.

I was angry.

I’d done nothing, and now I couldn’t do anything about it.

It was all over, and I had just gotten started.

Boy, was I happy when that alarm clock woke me up.

Happy to be alive!

200 shitty words a day

Nobody knows who said this but I suspect Mark Manson made it up in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck.

In the story, he asks a prolific author how he managed to write 70 novels.

The author’s answer is simple: 200 shitty words a day.

That’s it. That’s the secret to motivation. The ‘secret’ to creating prolific work — and to success.

Motivation isn’t outside ourselves, it’s something we give to ourselves through doing.

If you want to get motivated, just do something; anything. 

It could be as simple as making your bed.

Because when you take that one little step forwards and you’ll create momentum that makes the next step easier.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be good.

You just have to get it done. 

Get going!

And thanks for reading mine.

Who invited Eeyore?

You don’t need me to tell you that life can be pretty bleak sometimes.

All the great philosophers from Cicero and Buddha to Louis CK have nailed it: life is suffering.

Ironically, it seems that the reason that life is suffering is to keep us alive.

There’s a little old nut-shaped part of your brain called the ‘amygdala’ that controls how you feel about stuff.

The amygdala is that miserable, mean, pessimist we all have inside us.

It’s our own little Eeyore living in our heads, seeing the bad side of everything, scared at every turn; certain that taking it will turn out for the worst.

It’s the reason that we have a negativity bias, and tend to see things as threats.

But guess what?

It’s also the source of our compassion and empathy.

That’s why the best way to stop your anxiety and depression is to help someone else with their problem — no matter how large or small.

You distract your Eeyore by helping other people with theirs.

It works every time.

eeyore sitting down looking sad

How to win the stock market

The people that make the most money in the stock market aren’t day traders. Ever.

They’re the patient ones. The people who wait it out.

They’re not trying to make a million today, or even tomorrow, because they know that if they turn up and put in a little extra every day, they’ll be head and shoulders about the rest in a decade or two.

They don’t worry when the stock market goes down. Or too pumped when it leaps up.

They just turn up every day and look for little ways to improve.

Life is a bit like the stock market — it’s all over the place.

Some days are going to feel like you’re going backwards.

You’re not.

And guess what?

Just like the stock market, a little investment in yourself on those down days is worth a lot more when your stock goes back up.

That’s just how it works.

Kerching!

Some days are just crap

Some days are great.

Some days are not so great.

And some days are downright terrible.

But remember, that’s all they are; days.

If you’re having a bad day, that’s all it is, a bad day.

You’re still great.

And you’ll still be great tomorrow.

I’ll bet on it.

Perfection is a dirty lie

‘Perfect’ might just be the most useless, mean, and stupid word in the English language.

It trips us up and it holds us back and it turns our heads.

First, let’s get this one thing clear: perfection doesn’t exist.

It’s an illusion of the mind.

Everyone from Plato to Taylor Swift has said this.

If you’re waiting for the ‘perfect time’ or the ‘perfect job’ or the ‘perfect idea’ you’re going to be waiting an awfully long time.

The irony is that the word ‘perfect’ comes from the Latin word for ‘completed’ or ‘accomplished.’

Instead of aiming to create something ‘perfect,’ we should aim just to complete it.

Accomplishing something badly is far closer to perfection than never starting it at all.

Fuck perfection.

I’m happy with getting it done.

Today is day one

Some ‘life advice’ is just terrible.

“Live each day like it’s your last…” is one example.

It sounds good. It has that existential quality, and it nods to our great motivator: death.

But beyond that, it’s useless.

First, most people wouldn’t spend their final dozen hours doing anything productive at all. And even if they did, it’s doubtful that they’d be able to create anything worthwhile in a day.

Just as you won’t change your life in a day.

So, as attractive as it may be cast aside our responsibility for tomorrow and focus on what we want right now, this won’t get us very far.

The chances are, we’re not going to die today.

Why not live each day like it’s our first, instead?

Lay each day like a bricklayer places the first brick of the world’s tallest building: carefully, in the knowledge that he has many more bricks to place on top. Each brick must be laid well, or the building will fall.

Every day you have the opportunity to lay the foundation for something monumental.

And if you do that, when you look back, you’ll see that what you’ve built is great.

Not doing what you love is insane

Way back when Apple was still making great stuff, Steve Jobs would occasionally drop a bomb line that made a hell of a lot of sense.

He was that kind of guy.

One time, he explained that you have to love what you’re doing because it’s insanely hard to be successful if you don’t.

He said, “Doing something you don’t love is so hard that any rational person would give up.”

And that’s usually what happens.

If you’re doing something that you hate, you’d be insane to want to keep on doing it every day, to go through the worry, the stress, the failure, and not get some pleasure out of it.

The problem is that most of the time, the things we’re doing are just ‘ok.’ So we bear them.

Every business I’ve started that was based around the outcome — the money — has failed because I didn’t love what I had to do to get it.

It could have been interesting to learn. Or beneficial to people.

But I didn’t enjoy doing it, and that made getting out of bed to do it that much harder.

These days, I do pretty much what I want; mostly, write. I don’t always enjoy it, but I do love the struggle.

And every morning I get up because I’m looking forward to writing.

I don’t even mind doing the other things related to writing that aren’t writing, because I know that by doing them, I get to write more.

And if just one person finds my writing interesting or useful, I’m happy.

That’s the bonus!

Your best is the score

I didn’t try very hard at school.

Luckily for me, I didn’t have to. I was smart enough to come home with a pretty decent report card. 

But the results didn’t make me happy. I’d put nothing into them, and so I got nothing out of them.

I’ve since failed many times, at things I wanted to do and things I was sure would succeed at.

Every time I failed but tried my best, I was far happier than when I didn’t try and found success easily.

In the end, the success didn’t matter — the result wasn’t the important part.

It was trying my best — knowing that I put everything I had at the time into it — that determined if I was happy or not.

When you take your next step today, don’t worry about the outcome, or where it’s supposed to be taking you, or even if you’re doing the “right” thing.

Just give it your best shot.

Don’t let life happen

Don’t let life happen to you; to toss and throw you in its fickle fingers.

You’re the one in charge.

You’re the reason it’s all happening.

Life doesn’t happen to you: You happen to life.

So strike out.

And life won’t know what hit it.

Why life gives you lemons

That saying about making lemonade was written by a bloke called Elbert Hubbard in 1915, shortly before a German U-Boat sank him.

As his boat sank, he calmly remarked, “Well, Jack, they have got us. They are a damn sight worse than I ever thought they were.”

He then locked himself in his cabin with his wife and waited to drown.

I’m not sure if I would call that making lemonade.

Elbert had written that famous phrase in the obituary of his friend, a famous entertainer called Marshall P. Wilder:

“He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade stand.”

And he was right: Marshall was born with achondroplasia when many people regarded it as a severe disability.

And Marshall would have told you that life gives us lemons because life is usually pretty sweet. It just wouldn’t taste any good without some bitterness.

Just like good lemonade, we need that bitter tang. It might overwhelm the sweet at first, but it always balances out in the end.

Remember, when life throws you a lemon, it’s all part of the recipe.

And you’re definitely sweet enough to take it. 😉

You’re more important than you think

It might seem like you’re just one person with no power, but let me show you why you’re much more powerful and important than you realize.

The ‘grand scheme of things’ seems so grand that we forget how much influence we have on it.

How can we influence the world when we’re just one tiny ape amongst billions?

A lot.

We can change the world because your story isn’t just your story; your story connects to everyone you’re connected to — your network.

We might come into contact with 1,000 people in our lives, maybe even more now we’re all online. And if each of those people comes into contact with 1,000 people, that’s 1 million people.

That means you’re just TWO people away from touching 1 billion people with your story.

Terrifyingly awesome.

Go write today’s chapter.

Don’t break these promises

Everything in life is an agreement.

Whether that means we’re agreeing that it’s bad to kill people, agreeing on the price of a coffe or agreeing to drive on the same side of the road — it’s all an agreement.

And the stories we all agree on are what we collectively call ‘reality.’

The most powerful kind of agreement you can make is to yourself.

Unfortunately, it’s these promises that we break more than any other.

Every time we say we’re going to do something and we don’t, we lose trust in ourselves. 

Even if nobody else hears the promise, we feel it when we break it. It hurts our brains and we get weaker. It fractures our identity.

Just like every time we back up our word with action, we get a little stronger. We become a more consistent person.

Back yourself up today.

 

Wiggle it away

It’s impossible to be angry and dance.

That’s a fact.

You just can’t be angry when you’re dancing.

And it’s very hard to be sad too.

There are lots of biochemical reasons for this, mainly those lovely juicy endorphins and hormones like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin.

And researching this, I just learnt that dancing can even MAKE YOU SMARTER! Whaaaaaat?

So, if you’re feeling a bit shitty today, or tired, or angry, or stressed — or just ‘meh’ — turn up the volume till the bass makes you tingle, and wiggle those hips.

This will even work if you’re in the middle of an argument with someone!

I dare you to try and be angry and dance.

It will probably explode your head.

Whatever today throws at you today; if you’ve got the Monday blues or you get blindsided by something nasty later or you’re just feeling a bit meh…

Shake and jiggle it out!

Better late than never

About 2,047 years ago, a Roman historian wrote the eternal words, “potius seo quam numquam.

Or in our words, “rather late than never.

But nobody told my high school teacher, Ms. Kattan, that.

She made it so awful to be late that I would rather skip school than face her wrath. I often chose ‘never.’

As children, life throws all sorts of deadlines at us: you’re an adult at 18, have kids by 35, retire at 65, die at 85…

But, time doesn’t really exist.

It’s just an agreement that we make with ourselves so that we can meet people for lunch or catch the train.

The danger is when we start to believe that it’s real.

We miss our goals or deadlines, and we start to believe those dreadful words: “It’s too late.”

It’s never too late.

If it was too late, you couldn’t switch from journalism to midwifery at 32.

And you couldn’t give up engineering and move to Florence to design shoes at 55.

And you definitely couldn’t be 74 years old and follow your dream of being a stand-up comedian — like Julie Kertesz did.

But you can do any of those things.

These stories prove that late is better than never.

So, screw you, Ms. Kattan.

I might be late, but at least I turned up.

If this isn’t nice…

Some of the most powerful lessons are learnt through fiction and literature, and great authors like Kurt Vonnegut.

Once, he said that it’s all too easy to notice when things are going badly, but often we don’t notice when things are going well.

And I’m not talking about the obvious times like getting a raise or getting laid or getting a compliment.

I’m talking about the little things — the tiny things that make us happy; like that warm glow of sunshine across your face on a crisp, bright, blue winter’s day.

Or that tingly chill of a fresh margarita on a summer afternoon.

Or that deep tang of your first coffee of the day.

Or the waft of freshly baked bread tickling your nostrils.

Kurt said that when that ‘nice’ thing happens, call it out.

Say out loud, “Well, if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

And pretty soon, you’ll notice that life is full of these beautiful, plain, every day, fantastically nice moments.

Nice.

Being unmotivated is good

Did you know that ‘motivation’ is a pretty new word?

It’s only been around for about 150 years, probably less.

Shakespeare had no idea what it meant, and he made up a bagful of silly words.

Before the English picked it up, nobody was motivated to do anything, and so nothing got done. Everyone just sat around in their top hats, feeling sorry for themselves…

Ha! Of course, they didn’t.

They just didn’t rely on motivation to take action. In the past, people did things because that was the thing that needed to be done, even if they didn’t want or agree to them. There was no choice. You just did.

We’re so lucky that we get to be ‘unmotivated’ because that means we’re doing something that we don’t have to do. We have a choice.

Choose to take a step forward today.

Choose to do the hard thing, and you’ll find that your motivation isn’t too far behind.

Something to say?

You are here and you have something to say.

We all do.

You might not think what you have to say is important, but it is.

We need to hear it!

What’s more, we want to hear it.

Stop holding out on us and let’s hear what you have to say to the world.

Seeing as you’re here…

Let’s hear it!

Mistakes are sexy

You’ve probably heard that scars are sexy.

Some psych students even ran an experiment and found it to be true enough.

But why?

Scars are sexy because they’re a sign that we’ve lived. That we’ve tried; we fought for something we care about.

They’re a visible reminder of a mistake.

Shakespeare wrote, “A scar nobly got, or a noble scar, is a good [badge] of honour.”

We don’t just have courage or wisdom. We develop it by taking on challenges, making mistakes, picking up scars, and surviving.

They might hurt at the time, but they usually make a pretty good story later.

And they make you sexier.

So, be proud of your mistakes, whether they left a visible scar or not.

They’re what makes you, you.

What if you had to live today forever?

We watched 50 First Dates last weekend.

It’s the one where Adam Sandler gives up chasing all the women to chase one (Drew Barrymore) who will never remember him for more than an afternoon — because she has anterograde amnesia.

Drew can’t remember a single day since her memory was damaged.

She does the same thing every day because to her, no time has passed since her accident (more than a year ago).

And she’s totally happy living that day again and again.

About halfway through, my friend asks: What if she’d gone to the gym instead of the waffle house that day?

She’d be absolutely ripped!

What if she’d played a game of chess or meditated? Imagine how good she’d be after 2, 5, 10 years of doing a crossword for 10 minutes a day.

And what about if she got drunk? Or actually ate the waffles instead of playing with them?

I’m not so sure Adam would’ve fallen for her.

It’s funny to think about, but this type of amnesia can happen to anyone.

You could bang your head on a cupboard one day and: bam—Groundhog day.

So — what would you want to do for eternity, even if you didn’t know it?

And what would that day do for you?

Mind your head!

Not great isn’t bad

It’s not easy being great every day.

So it’s ok that some days you don’t feel like it.

You’re already doing so much better than you give yourself credit for.

An hour spent stretching is just as valuable as an hour spent lifting weights, in the grand scheme of things.

So, give yourself a break from being great, and just be good for the day.

When you’re not feeling up to it — when you’re hungover, or tired, or grumpy — doing the smallest thing is worth so much more; especially if you wouldn’t normally do it on a ‘bad’ day.

On those ‘bad’ days, maybe being great just means reading something interesting or watching a documentary that teaches you something new.  Or drinking that extra glass of water. Or ordering a large fries instead of your usual extra-large. 

And that’s more than good enough.

Did you try restarting?

Beep

Every morning, we’re born again.

What we do today is what matters most.

Your cache is cleared. The slate is wiped clean.

There’s no sense in tripping yourself up with guilt or fantasizing about how things could have been different.

You can’t change the past.

It is done.

Now, forget what did or didn’t happen and decide what one step you’re going to take today.

After all, your future’s in front of you.

Don’t look back.

How to predict the future

Not many people saw the pandemic coming. And nobody predicted what actually happened in 2020.

Don’t believe anyone who says they know what’s going to happen in the future. At best, it’ll be a lucky guess.

We can’t predict what happens to us, but we can decide what we do next.

We always get to decide how we react.

When you know how you’ll react before the Universe throws the shit — that’s what we call ‘having values.’

And having values is how you predict the future.

So, if kaizen is one of your values, it means you’ve decided to improve: To take a little step forward every day.  To learn something new. To leave our beautiful home a little better than when we arrived.

And to me, that’s greatness.

It doesn’t matter what you do

If you woke up this morning with a big old task list weighing you to the bed, this might help shift that nasty beast.

Just do one thing.

It doesn’t matter what it is.

It doesn’t even matter how well you do it!

All that matters is that you take that one little small step.

That one little task looks a lot sweeter and cuddlier than an ugly old list. And motivation almost always comes after we take action, not the other way around. 

Taking that one little step will motivate you to take the next one.

Mark Manson calls this the ‘Do Something Principle.’

If you’re struggling to start a project or tackle a big task, just do a little something towards it.

It doesn’t matter what it is. Seriously — anything will do.

And you’re gonna feel great when you’ve done it.

Take it from me. 🙂