The water’s lovely. But it’s not always safe swimming.
It’s easy enough to get distracted when there’s interesting and exciting things going on.
Time slips by. A relentless trickle, washing the sediment of life down to the sea of oblivion.
It only takes a second to slip and fall into the torrent. Or dive right in.
To let go.
To let life carry us where it decides, and to hell with fighting the tide.
Before we know it, we’re a long way from where we started, and even further from where we want to be.
And there are few things in life more miserable than wet clothes and a long walk home.
The world is full of convenient stories, and one of them is that other people can help you get what you want.
That probably seems morbid, but the truth is that most people haven’t even figured out how to get what they want. And what we want is prone to change.
It’s often a struggle to decide what we want for dinner, let alone what we want to do with our life.
Maya Angelou has a great line that goes, “Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
The way I see it, we’re all out here shirtless in one way or another. And as we’re headed on a long journey, there’s no telling what the weather might do on the way.
I’m no Maya Angelou, so the best I can do is, “Pack a jumper just in case.”
The villain always wins the first Act.
If you’re going to tell a hero story — and believe me, that’s what yours is — you need to have a Long Dark Night of the Soul.
It always takes a good beat down before the hero realizes they had it in them from the start.
That’s just how it works.
In the Real, we go through a couple of these a year. Maybe more.
When the bedroom ceiling starts to become the most interesting thing to watch.
When two bags of chips and a tub of ice cream start to look like a well-balanced breakfast.
When the old drugs don’t work like they used to. And the new ones are making it worse.
It’s time to switch it up. Time to make a plan.
Time to double-down and get pumped up for the come-back.
Time to realize what matters, and that the answer was there all along. Even if we didn’t want to admit it.
It’s time for a montage.
It’s alright to have a little cry first, though.
We place so much attention on our sapient side that we often overlook the real driving force: hormones.
It’s nice to feel like we’re in control of our thoughts and actions until we wake up one morning with our hormones out of whack and nothing really matters anymore.
The truth is that on some days, the quest for improvement, kaizen, career, dreams or self-actualization — whatever we call it — is mostly just a fight to control our hormones.
Figuring out what we can do to rebalance them when they get messed up. Uncovering what messes them up in the first place.
Learning how to talk down that ancient, anxious Ape inside. How to hype them up. Cheer them up. Give them a reason not to fling shit at the wall.
And that usually means getting out for some exercise, eating something healthy, and going to bed a little bit earlier. And laying off the fermented fruit for a bit.
But some days, Chimp just doesn’t want to be good.
If it was easy everyone would do it.
If you wanted to do it every day it would be bad for you.
If you always had something interesting to say, it would get boring.
Best to just show up and hack away until it’s over.
And hope there’s something to be said about that.
One thing I’ve learnt writing these blogs is many self-help book authors are liars.
You’d be surprised how many things Einstein, Aristotle, and Ghandi didn’t say.
Today was going to be about “eating the frog.” I’m not sure why Brian Tracy chose to misattribute this quote to Mark Twain, but it’s a great example of why you should always double-check history: some old white bloke is probably twisting it.
“History” is full of misattributions, purposeful or otherwise.
Of course Brian Tracey, the epitome of white America, wouldn’t quote a bastard French revolutionary writer who committed suicide after the democratic government turned on him.
It’s way cooler if Mark Twain said it. Plus, everyone knows who he is.
Most of our history is the result of pandering like that.
Evolutionary Theory wasn’t Darwin’s idea — and it’s unproved.
The richest empire in the world was in Africa long before Europe.
The Nazis got the idea for concentration camps from the Brits.
And everybody knew what happened at those Church Schools long before they started taking childrens’ bodies out the ground.
Why do you think they waited until the perpetrators were all dead?
But it’s only real if it fits the narrative.
The first gut-clench of FOMO for most people comes about 20 minutes after their parents put them to bed.
Sleeping is terrifying and boring. I get it. The journey to the land of nod was always an unwelcome one for me.
Going to bed seems like the worst option of many, much more fun or interesting things we could be doing. And to make it worse, the adults get to stay up as late as they want.
Children don’t realize that adults aren’t staying up and partying. Most of the time, they’re too tired.
Going to bed early is the real adult choice: like a drinking glass of water.
It’s insanely hard to go to bed at 9 pm. But that’s what has to happen if we want to get up and think at 5 am.
As adults, there’s nobody to stop us from staying up all night playing cowboys.
The question is, will that stop us from getting what we want tomorrow?
Sometimes all it takes is a word and we feel out of place.
It casts such a long shadow of doubt over our plans that we decide to rearrange them completely.
We abandon our race.
But there’s a difference between listening to a coach’s advice and running someone else’s race. And the best coaches will tell you to always run your own race no matter what.
Even Usain Bolt can’t tell you how to run your race.
So what if someone thinks you’re going too slow or even in the wrong direction.
The best we’ll ever do when we run someone else’s race is silver.
We might not always win when we run our own race.
But we always have a chance.
How many hearts were lost at sea?
Before we flew, we strung some old cloth to a bunch of dead trees, flung them in the ocean, and clung on tight. Fortunes were made and lost on the high seas.
Many a maiden looked across the harbour, hoping to see the dove-white flash of a topsail on the horizon; their heart returned.
Most waited in vain.
The thing about waiting for our ship to come in is there’s nothing we can do about it. We can gnash our teeth and wail and pray and beg, but that only makes us feel better about our helplessness.
Building a boat isn’t easy. It will take a long time, a year or two minimum. There will be many splinters and bruised thumbs and cursing along the way. Even if we finish it in time, there’s no telling that it will float.
And even if floats, that could spell the end for us.
We could drown, far away from where we began, wet and cold and alone and wishing we’d taken some navigation courses while we were building our boat.
But it sure beats waiting for your ship to come in.
We all wonder what life would be like if we’d done it differently.
We might even wish we could go back to the way things were, so we can do it better or make a different decision; if only I knew what I know now.
If only I’d accepted that Bitcoin back in 2011.
If only we hadn’t walked down that road that night.
If only I hadn’t said that to her then.
But we did. And there’s no going back to change that.
There wasn’t any going back after WWII. Nobody could pretend the housing crash of 2008 hadn’t happened. And the world hasn’t been quite the same since September 11th. Or Trump, for that matter.
But for some reason, people think this time will be different.
Even if we all wanted to, there’s no going back to normal. And the only people who stand to gain by going backward are those selling rear-view mirrors.
It’s time to stop dragging our heels and help push forward.
We’re going that way anyway.
It doesn’t take much to get me to misbehave.
Most of us need very little motivation to do something we want to do, and even less when our mates are doing it too.
Children are pretty busy trying things out, and it’s easy to justify spending time doing that.
Over the years, people tend to forget that we can try things out for the hell of it. Or play a spontaneous pick-up ball game with random people in the park.
Certain things convince us that “need” and “want” are better reasons than “can,” but there’s no difference at all.
That’s why doing the “can’t” is how we get what we “want.”
Isn’t it terrifying that you know you could do it if you really wanted?
Deep down, we all know that if we put in the work — just that little bit every day for a long while — then whatever it is that we dream of would actually happen.
It’ll never look exactly how we imagine, of course. But often, it’s always worth the journey.
That’s the real reason behind every act of self-sabotage in my life.
It wasn’t the fear of failure. It was the fear that it might actually work, and then I’d have to actually do the work, and real people might actually hold me accountable for it.
All of that is rubbish. Ancient fear. It takes years of practice before we’re good enough to decide if we want to carry on doing it anyway.
Just pick something and stick with it for five years. No big deal.
The worst that can happen is you get better at it than most people.
And the best?
Well, I don’t think I need to tell you.
Alcohol is only my third favourite drug, but it just keeps turning up like an old ex.
You know you’re not good for each other, and it’s not even like you have that much fun when you’re together, but for some reason, you keep waking up the morning after a party wondering why the hell you did that again.
These days, even a mild session saps the life out of me.
They say write drunk but they don’t say edit with a hangover and a blinding headache.
The ol’ engine takes a couple more kicks to build up a head of steam the next morning. The day trickles away, spent tinkering with nothing much in particular.
Everything seems a bit shit.
And I think, “Next time, just have a tipple,” knowing even that will likely be too much.
Christ, I’m getting boring fast.
A common misconception about being creative is that it’s enjoyable.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Being creative is fun. Creating for a living is work.
No muse appears for a deadline. We’ve just got to sit down and start working.
We won’t get calloused hands, but we’ll probably get repetitive strain injury. Our back won’t break from hauling stones, but it will creak from hours hunched over a table.
Being creative is rarely fun for long.
But it sure as hell is rewarding when you eke out something where there was nothing before — not even the desire to create.
The whole world can change the moment a fresh perspective is gained.
One truth most people don’t see until it’s too late is that they’ve already won. So, here’s an easy way to tell which side of the table you are sitting on.
If we were to divide all the wealth in the world equally, everybody would get about £27,000, or about $40k. And about $6k a year going forward.
That means that if your net worth, aka the assets you own or your salary, is more than that, you are one of the people that we’ll be taking money from in this global redistribution.
It’s easy to look up at those big houses and shiny cars and think we’ve been hard done by or cheated.
It’s a lot harder to look down at all the people we’re standing on to get that view. And there are a lot more of them.
We are the problem.
Fortunately, that means we can be the solution too.
Try this one simple trick.
Get instant results.
Crush your goals.
Buy this tool or program to unlock the secret; the result; the answer you need. It’s the thing you’ve been missing that will make it all make sense.
But it never does.
When we feel like we’re running out of time or we want results faster, it’s human nature to look for something that will get us there.
But no fancy or complex or brutal weekly workout can beat 30 mins moderate exercise every day. It just can’t.
If you’re plugging away at something every day, you’re already on the right path. Results take time. That is what time is for.
The only thing between you and that dream is a little bit of patience and a lot more time.
As a great pugilist once said, the fight is won long before we dance under the lights.
Just like the race is run a dozen different ways before we even cross the starting line. And the book is written over hundreds of early mornings, with words that are never read.
The training we do every day shapes our future.
What does your day prepare for you?
For a long time, I wasn’t a writer.
I had dreamed about it, but I didn’t have anything that proved it. Nothing had been written.
Evading and denying my inner writer caused great anguish and uncertainty in my life. Later, I found some solace because my work involved writing, but deep down, that wasn’t enough.
It was writing, sure, but it wasn’t my writing. Copywriting is all about writing for someone else in someone else’s voice, after all. But it paid the bills.
Writing to you every day changed everything. Just that tiny bit of doing, and suddenly, I was.
It’s not like it’s easy writing every day. Some days, it’s not even enjoyable. But I write every day because that is what writers do.
Doing is being. Either we do, or we’re not.
But when we are, and we don’t, that’s when things get really messy.
The way it happens is rarely how we planned.
Even when we’ve planned how we’ll react if it happens, for some reason, that never pans out how we intended either.
But it’s important to remember that it happens because it happening is the whole point, not because we’re weak or lazy or stupid.
The best we can do is know that it will happen one way or another, and when it does happen, just be grateful that it did.
Because if it didn’t happen, something else certainly would.
And there’s no telling what that could be.
Logic and tactics are rarely enough to win.
Some days, even if we love doing it, it’s good for us, and it’s worth doing, that rational part of the brain just can’t be bothered to put up a fight.
Pushing through on those days is the difference between good and great.
Doing it when we want is easy. Doing it when we don’t want to is the whole point.
The days when we take it pro and push through regardless of whether we want to or not are the days we make the most progress.
Because nothing worth having ever came easy.
One small gesture can make a whole lot of difference.
Especially when you’re one of the most famous people on the planet.
Cristiano Ronaldo has indeed taken just as much money off corporate food giants as any other sportsperson. And he’s probably even drank pop before.
But that one simple act of removing a bottle of coca-cola from where advertisers had carefully placed it, and replacing it with water, might change how a million children view sugary drinks.
Luckily, most of us don’t have our every action scrutinized by a billion eyes. But we still never know how big a small gesture can become because we never know who’s watching.
There’s an easy way and a hard way.
There’s a smart way and a silly way.
There’s a simple way and a complex way.
There’s a short way and a long way.
And fortunately, there isn’t a wrong way.
We can go any way our heart desires. But there’s no way we won’t regret it if we don’t give at least one way a try.
And there’s no getting lost because all ways lead home.
Decisions made before we get there are tough to swallow.
That’s why all kids burn their fingers on the stove. They weren’t there when it was decided it was too hot to touch, even though the information was relayed to them sincerely.
Telling somebody, “We decided giving you Y would be better than giving you X” is pointless because we didn’t give them a chance to consider the alternative.
Something isn’t better than nothing if you didn’t realize you were getting nothing to begin with.
And what might seem like the best of both worlds could turn out to be the worst of both for the person who wasn’t involved in the conversation.
It’s safer not to assume otherwise.
Usain Bolt isn’t always the fastest man in the world.
Not all of Stephen King’s books are good.
And even Novac Djokovic occasionally drops a few sets.
All lovers hate each other sometimes.
All parents make mistakes.
Up must come down.
Everything goes around.
Nothing is the same twice.
And everyone gets another turn.
That’s the rules!
Perhaps it’s 15 years of school summer holidays drilled into my biological clock.
Maybe it’s 25 years living on a wet, windswept island off the coast of Europe. Or the ice-walled winter that keeps Canada locked inside for six months of the year.
Whatever the reason, it’s tough to work when the sun is shining.
After a weekend soaked in sunshine, this damp and grey Monday makes it possible to sit down at a desk for six hours and tap tap tap out a living, without too much anguish.
So, I am grateful that today is cooler and damper and grey.
Another perfectly sunny day would have been too much.
The cliche moments in films — the cringy ones you know are coming — are there for a reason.
Take The Magic Juice. Space Jam was where I saw it first.
The protagonist and their team drink some “magic juice” that helps them win against the odds. But near the end, they find out that it was just boring old water, and they had the power in them all along.
This isn’t just the World Mothering Association trying to get you to drink more water and eat some fruit…
The magic juice has to be water because the protagonist has to learn that doing the “boring” stuff we can all do is what makes them a winner. Not some unattainable, magical remedy.
The secret to success is doing the boring stuff, like drinking more water, walking 10 km, doing a bit of exercise. Consuming in a way that doesn’t destroy our planet. Working on something long-term that fulfills us and improves our community.
It’s all small and trite and uncool. Nothing mysterious about it.
But if you can pull that off for any length of time, you win.
One life-changing moment was when I realized I would never have another good idea.
It was Seth Godin’s fault.
He was telling some overly enthusiastic podcaster that most of his writing was below average, and he had no idea which of his ideas were any good — even after they were published.
“I can just tell which ones are most popular,” he said, that mischievous little smile tweaking the corners of his lips. “They could still be terrible ideas.”
Many creatives, particularly writers, get caught up thinking they must have something to say.
It’s an ego thing. Just ask Dostoyevsky.
There are plenty of terrible, meaningless, and badly-made ideas that are considered extremely valuable and worthwhile by many people.
The secret to being a successful creative or entrepreneur isn’t having one big idea or one breakthrough piece or one work of critical acclaim that blows everybody’s socks off.
The secret is getting used to getting a ‘D’ and still keep on plugging away at it, churning out bad ideas.
You never know which one might stick.
Did you hear the one about the woman who fell in love with a rollercoaster?
It wasn’t a joke.
Maybe there is some security in knowing that a rollercoaster will never look at other rollercoasters or try to rub rails with them.
Maybe there’s some comfort in knowing that a rollercoaster will always be there; colourful, well-oiled, steadfast, and reliable.
Maybe it’s the taboo thrill of the safety bar closing around your chest, locking you in a PVC-scented embrace.
Maybe it’s the tickle of the cold steel brushing against the hairs on your arms. Or the loss of orientation, and the screaming as things go rapidly downhill.
I’m not sure what has to happen to a person to make them fall in love with a rollercoaster, but let’s assume it isn’t great.
It is pretty cool that despite that hurt, the human heart will always find something to love, even if the brain is too scared to let it be another human.
Excuse me while I hug my guitar.
Scrapping the participation medal is a great idea. Losing is a prize.
The greatest thing about playing sports is winning, and the same goes for any competition. After all, that’s the point.
And the next best thing to winning?
Losing is the next best thing to winning because it means you were in the race.
People who have been forced to the sidelines are often delighted to lose because they finally got a chance to win.
And if you have been in with a chance for a while, losing usually means you’re a step closer to winning.
Another lesson learned. Another hurdle crossed.
Losing sucks. But it’s a lot more fun than spectating.
Most people don’t speak for themselves.
It’s not that we can’t. It’s just easier to trot off someone else’s line. And just as easy to drop it if it doesn’t fit.
We see something in the news that sounds good and seems to align with what we believe, so we start repeating it. That’s just human.
The danger is when this happens unconsciously. When those alien thoughts trickle into our brain and start to pool without our noticing.
Then something comes out of our mouth that we don’t recognize. Something that surprises us.
And we think, “Whose line is that?”
Because that sure as hell wasn’t me.
Humans sure love a patch of grass.
Maybe it’s because we were born on the savannahs and emigrated to the river banks, where grasses tend to grow.
Or it could be because the human eye perceives more shades of green than any other colour, and grass has every single one.
Grass is such an important part of human culture that we even have a few cliches about it.
Yes, the grass is always greener. But have you ever actually watched grass grow?
Sure, it’s not exactly a white knuckle thrill. But it’s not boring either.
Checking in every day. Tempting the grass to grow this way or that. A little snip here. A seed or two there.
Tending grass — or any plant — while it grows is one of the most interesting and fulfilling things we can do with our time.
Watching grass grow: not half as dull as watching paint dry!
But then again, I’m no Picasso.
Some days are easy.
Some days are hard.
Some days we wish will never end.
And others we’re desperate to finish early.
Finishing any day at all is, in many ways, a victory.
Finishing it with even one small step towards your goals?
Keep pluggin’ away because it all adds up.
There’s nothing wrong with a selfless act, but let’s be realistic here.
It won’t pay the rent.
Putting yourself first isn’t selfish by default.
The cyclist at the front of the peloton creates a windbreak for the pack behind. And they wouldn’t be at the front if they’d spent time giving tips to other riders.
Doing something for other people is always much harder when we haven’t looked after ourselves first — no matter how much we want to do it.
When we give ourselves enough time, love, care, and respect first, there’s always more than enough to go around.
And it’s worth sharing.
Because you can’t win a race that nobody else is running.
This week, the 202nd KaizenBen blog post was published.
There’s a story behind the 25,202 number, which we’ll save for another day. But I’ll give you a hint and tell you that I’ll be ninety-nine and a half years old by the time the 25,202nd blog post goes out.
If I haven’t kicked the bucket, that is.
With any luck, the commitment might drag a few more undeserving years out of me, and I shall drop dead moments after hitting ‘Publish.’
It’s pretty sobering to see your life reduced to a handful of digits.
25,202 blogs left to write.
25,202 days left to live.
For most things, that’s more than enough. But until that moment, the days had seemed countless.
It wasn’t until those immortal snakes danced across my notepad that fateful morning that I realized: it wasn’t very long at all.
And only 24,999 left to go!
Progress looks like a car crash in the rearview mirror.
We catch a glimpse of it and think, “Wow, that was dumb.”
Or, “Damn, that looked pretty bad.”
Or, “I hope that wasn’t my fault.”
Tempting as it may be, it’s important not to spend too long looking back, or we’ll end up in another one.
Eyes on the road ahead. Glad that isn’t you anymore.
And just a little embarrassed that it once was.
Press that pedal to the metal!
Do you know those people that you see pretty frequently but always seem to avoid actually making contact with you?
It’s never someone we really know, but maybe we see them at the store or in the street or the park pretty often.
They have a sneaky look, never meet your eye when you turn to look, and always seem to be doing something else.
It’s because they fancy the pants off you.
They can’t even look at you without getting a tingly crotch.
Every time they see you coming, their stomach leaps into their throat and starts making weird noises, and they have to look away because they can’t breathe
I thought you should know, in case you worried it was something else.
Doing it once doesn’t make it easy.
It usually doesn’t get us where we want to go either.
Most diets fail because they are — by definition — short-term.
It’s one thing to throw three balls in the air and another thing keeping them up. One is playing. The other is juggling.
Our bodies are wonderful machines that can take a real pounding, as long as it isn’t over and over again. The same goes for our minds.
Willpower doesn’t just grow on trees.
That’s why settling for the smallest step, the thing we know we can actually do every day for decades, is so much more powerful than any crash course, extreme diet, six-month shred, or late-night sprint.
Don’t do twenty pull-ups one day and none the next. Do five every day until you can do them with one arm.
A little more patience gets us a lot further in the end.
Things have taken a turn for the worse.
We made the wrong call.
Wasted our time.
The plan is ruined.
We listened to bad advice.
Made unwise investments.
Trusted the wrong people.
They never loved us.
The world changed overnight.
Nobody saw it coming.
Everything is fucked.
Get over it.
It’s funny how things we hate often become part of our personality.
For better or worse.
Running, or anything faster than a brisk walk, was never very appealing; the last resort to catch a train.
It didn’t seem very dignified, especially how I was doing it. I didn’t go very far or fast and did get very sweaty, which was embarrassing. But over the last six years, running has become part of my life.
Starting a run is never easy. But something magical happens about a mile in, when your body has finally accepted that you’re not going to stop.
The rhythm of your heart pounding gently and the sigh of your lungs sucking long, deep bagfuls of air; arms swinging almost of their own accord, all to the gentle metronome of your feet hitting the ground.
Everything becomes part of that movement, that directed dance.
Head up, putting one foot in front of the other again and again and again just to go where we want a little faster. And by sheer force of will, doing it longer than any other animal on the planet.
Nothing could be more human than that.
The easiest way to make progress is to make progress as easy as possible.
Mastering a skill is about being so terrible at it we have to practice the easiest part a hundred times just to get started.
Think how long it took to learn to walk. It takes at least three years before we can do it without looking stupid.
The ‘secret to success’ is being able to put up with the boredom of being crap — and falling on our arse several hundred times.
Break down the hard parts into their easiest possible component and then do that until it’s so easy you’re bored to death.
Forget walking. Focus on figuring out how to stand without holding on to something, and you’ll be running in no time.
If it sometimes feels like you’re rushing along out of control, that’s probably a good thing.
That is exactly what’s happening.
Everything from the size of a quark to the Milky Way is hurtling about almost completely randomly.
When we bump into something about our size, we explode or cling to each other, tumbling through the swirling void until we collide with something else. Sometimes, it’s both.
Bosuns, atoms, molecules, people, planets, stars, galaxies — all of us whizzing around making fireworks.
Time for a super-loud, mega-awesome, seventeen-million-colour whizz-popper, don’t you think?
We don’t say MVP in the UK; we say Player of the Year and give them a golden ball.
MVP has another meaning: Minimal Viable Product. And it turns out that quite often, the simplest option turns out to be the best one too.
It’s easy to get tripped up adding bells and whistles when all we need is something simple that just works.
It often seems like the quickest way to get through a long to-do list is to rush through as many things as possible.
The hope is that at the end of a few hours, we can look back at a crossed-off list and feel content.
But the list constantly grows. And the little things turn out to be bigger and more tiresome than we predicted.
By the end of the day, only half the list is ticked, and we’re completely zonked.
On days when I settle for less — just the one big thing — I almost always find that I have the time and the energy to do a few of the small things too.
Settling for less often turns out to be way more productive.
One of the scariest realities of life is also one of the most comforting.
Many people worry and fret about things changing; some even spend their lives fighting to keep things the way they once were.
But thankfully, nothing ever stays the same. Quantum physicists won’t even say something exists anymore, in case it doesn’t by the time they check again. They will only make predictions about the probability of something existing at a certain point in time.
As Mr. Feynmann pointed out, all the atoms in the universe are in flux. Even if we know where something was, we don’t necessarily know it will still be there when we look again.
And almost always, it’s moved.
Even the bench we sat on today is different from the one we sat on yesterday if we look very closely.
It keeps things interesting.
Some days are meant to be spent chasing the sun across a patch of grass.
Even though we know it must end eventually, it makes sense to squeeze as much as possible out of a plump, ripe day.
When that white-hot disc dips behind a building and the day is done — and tomorrow turns out cloudy — we’ll regret it if we haven’t caught a bit of it.
It’s a lot harder to remember the sun is always behind the clouds if we don’t stash some away while we can.
Don’t forget the sun cream!
This weekend we were basking in some unusually warm May sun when I caught a moment.
It was passing me by and looking the other way, so I reached out and held it for a while. It didn’t mind too much.
While it was snuffling around, the warm, fuzzy little moment told me that all the ups and downs of existence had led it to pass by me at that time on that bench in that park.
All the good and evil of history, the luck and misfortune of worlds, the colossal interstellar explosions and mass extinctions, all so I could gently cook on that park bench, sipping that ice-cold beer, and think, “isn’t this nice.”
I thanked the little moment for coming such a long way to see me.
“Same time tomorrow?” I asked.
But the little moment just winked, and scurried off into the past.
There was a rollercoaster that got us very excited when I was a kid.
One weekend, my friends and I mooched the entrance fee from our parents and set off down to Staines.
X No Way Out was at the top of everyone’s list. The queue stretched back up the M3 to Hampton Court Palace; a vast crowd, chattering away in the bright summer grey, flashes of blood-red stanchion posts the only sign it was a queue and not a block party.
When our turn finally came, we groped our way to the carts in the thin orange light. As soon as we strapped in, the lights went out and we were catapulted backward through the dark to throbbing bass lines and the occasional spray of lasers.
It was awesome.
And not unlike life:
Hurtling through time facing the wrong way, twisting over and around fate’s peaks and valleys, clenching the hand of the person next to you and screaming all the way.
Knowing that no matter how bad it gets, it’ll always change; enjoying every single second because it’ll all be over in a flash;
And ready to queue up for eternity, just to do it again.
Let’s not forget the basics.
We can read about how to do it better.
We can watch videos of others doing it.
We can talk about why it is.
We can dream of how it could be different.
But there really ain’t nothing like living life.
There’s something about a beverage that makes it easier to talk.
Maybe it’s just a British thing.
For almost every single situation where you might sit down and have a good natter, the Brits have a drink for it.
The pub is a mainstay of society. Walk into any home on that bickering brace of islands, and the first thing you’ll be offered is a drink — most likely, a cup of tea.
Beverages lubricate even the most stubborn conversations. But I’ve noticed that drinking something while talking has become a nervous tick. There’s rarely an occasion these days where you’ll catch me beverageless in conversation.
Maybe that’s why my North American friends keep asking me to say, “bottle of water.”
A friend of mine recently went on a bit of a health kick.
She started running and being mindful of her diet and all the other things we know we should be doing to be healthier.
The one that most interested me was this: every morning, she would get up and do ten push-ups. Then, a little before bedtime, she would do another ten.
It didn’t seem like much. But then my girlfriend started doing ten push-ups every morning, and of course, that meant it wasn’t long before I started doing them too.
Quite often, your ten little push-ups every day are helping someone else get stronger too. Even the smallest acts can carry great inspiration within them.
Ten push-ups aren’t much — barely anything — but they add up over time to something great.
That’s kaizen in a nutshell.
Life is full of fantastic sensations — many of them in the bedroom.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sliding between soft, clean sheets after a long day walking around town or playing in the woods or climbing up mountains.
Tired but happy. Feet gently throbbing. With achy legs and a big smile.
What better envelope is there to seal a day well done?
A cheap way to learn something about ourselves is by using a calendar.
Once we have to commit to a specific time on a particular day, it’s suddenly very obvious when we don’t want to do something; when it isn’t a priority.
That goes for whether we ought to be doing it or not.
Calendars, agendas, and schedulers aren’t just to write down what we think we want to do.
They can tell us how much we want to do it, too.
The standing average is about one a month, totally ruined.
It’ll usually happen sometime between 7 and 11 am, but it’s worse when it’s in the afternoon. Sometimes they’re pale blue or grey but usually white.
A moment of distraction and a lukewarm dribble of pitch-black invades the virgin cotton. Somehow, despite thirty-odd years of using it, I still don’t know where my mouth is.
I cannot count the number of shirts I have ruined from a moment’s lack of presence.
There’s an old proverb that says, “When drinking tea, drink tea.”
This is very sound advice for life, not just because it’s important to be mindful about what we do, to stay in the moment, and enjoy the little things in life.
But also because if you don’t, you’ll probably ruin your shirt.
Now, that’s wisdom.
My mum has a trick for instant calm, passed down from her mother and her mother before that.
It works better outside or in a barn, but there’s plenty of ways to replicate it in modern life:
When you’re angry, dunk your head in a bucket of ice-cold water.
If no buckets are available, a tap or hose to the back of the neck works just fine. It’s possible to be disgruntled after a cold shower, but almost impossible to be angry.
For added effect, dip your toes in too. They can be hot, angry little fellas, but they do love a cold swim.
Recently, a paralyzed man was able to write using his thoughts.
Ten years after the man they called “T5” was utterly paralyzed, researchers planted a robot in the part of his brain that controls movement. That long after losing the use of his body, they weren’t sure his brain would remember how to move at all.
But it did. When the man imagined handwriting the alphabet, his brain started to light up, and the robot living in there began to learn.
Over many months they grew closer, until the robot knew him well enough to read his thoughts.
Eventually, they hooked him up to a screen and told him to copy some words, until he could do that to their satisfaction. Then they asked him what advice he would give to his younger self.
“Be patient. It will get better,” he wrote.
Even when things get unimaginably difficult, when we are trapped and scared and defeated, we can at least take comfort in knowing that things will always change.
And often a lot sooner than we think.
It’s not like we can lie around doing nothing and enjoy it forever.
At least not without spending a lot of money on drugs.
Sure, it’s nice to hit the beach or the lakes and do nothing for a bit. But after a few weeks, a tight emptiness forms in the guts, followed by a dull nagging in the back of the skull: shouldn’t you be doing something with your time?
Maybe some people are lucky enough to be born truly carefree, with no fear of the rapidly approaching Big Nothing. The rest of us have to distract ourselves by doing stuff.
It seems that we work to death one way or another.
May as well do something you enjoy. May as well get really fucking good at it, too.
Maybe then, it will barely be work at all.
A guy at work spent the last year working on one word.
Now he’s going on sabbatical.
Big companies that want to handle other big companies’ data must show that they’re going to look after it properly and protect it from anyone who might be snooping.
This guy at work spent the last year figuring out how to do that — and we are very grateful. The thought of all those painful words and mind-numbing legalese sentences makes me want to weep.
Multiple salaries were invested in the project. Operations were overhauled. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t cheap. But he did it.
All so we could add one little word to our website and become:
That’s one expensive word. One very valuable word.
We’re surrounded by the attentions of others. There are countless little things we take for granted that are the result of a life’s work.
All those things that “just work” when we push the button, work because someone spent their days designing it to work, for us.
Here’s a recipe for a soft and delicious day:
- One large glass of water
- 2-4 cups of coffee
- Walk outside
- Touch your toes
- Say thanks
- Lift something heavy
- Eat a handful of nuts and some fruit
- Whisk up a healthy dollop of conservation.
- Sprinkle in a bit of challenge
- Garnish with a thin slice of luck, if you can find it.
Once that’s ready, don’t forget to set aside something for tomorrow.
Twist off a healthy goal, wrap it in a warm cloth and leave it in a dark room overnight.
You’ll be ready to bake again by morning.
If you think about it, it’s pretty much been wins all the way through.
Sure, there have been some rough patches.
There have been a couple of pretty sharp shocks and a fair bit of frustration, if we’re being honest.
But there have been some pretty crazy highs too. And some irreplaceable memories.
It’s worked out pretty well so far, all things considered.
Even when the future looked bleak and you weren’t sure what was next, you kept on plugging away, doing it your way.
Just like always.
Mondays aren’t bad. Mondays aren’t good.
They’re terribly, awfully, misunderstood.
Monday’s the start. A turn of the page.
The curtain drawn, as a new act takes the stage.
There’s a monastery perched high in the Himalayas, where the monks spend all day making beautiful patterns in the sand.
Then just before tea-time, they brush them away.
They don’t even take photos.
There’s another monastery where the monks paint a circle every day, just to see how close they can get it to perfect.
They never do, of course, and all those paintings are burnt before the sun sets.
Art isn’t about perfect, and it’s not about forever, although our planet is littered with monuments to the contrary.
It’s nice to create for other people. And it’s probably more profitable in the long run. But we always win if we create for ourselves and focus on improvement, instead of being popular.
The person having the most fun is usually the one doing the creating.
If you just create for yourself and you do it often enough, pretty soon people will start turning up — just to see you having fun.
Clocks were a good idea but they’re not terribly helpful.
Maybe for catching a train or a movie. But time is squishy and malleable, unlike reliable forces such as gravity.
The less you have of it, the faster it goes.
The more you have to fill, the slower it gets.
The more you’re enjoying it, the less there is of it.
If you’re watching, it barely moves at all. And when something really bad happens, it just stops completely.
Time ain’t fair.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll never get enough.
But I’ll take every minute I can get.
The secret to success is really quite simple.
Whenever we ask about success, the answer we get rarely satisfies because it’s so simple.
How can getting whatever you want in life come down to something so simple?
But when we listen closely, all the athletes, gurus, prophets, and poets start to say the same thing: just don’t quit.
Pick something you think is worth chasing, and never, ever stop.
It doesn’t matter what it is.
It doesn’t matter if you never get there.
The thrill is in the chase, and the chase is till then end.
Or at least until bedtime.
One blustery British morning, my father and I stood on a damp, pebbled beach, talking about why people can’t swim.
“People can only imagine to the extent of their experience,” Dad said. “Kids that never see the sea rarely grow up to be Olympic swimmers.”
Another great man, Oliver W. Holmes Jr., said something similar:
“Every now and then, a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.”
Since then, we’ve discovered this also happens to women.
Just like we have to do a little rolling around on the floor and stretching to stay mobile, it’s important to stretch our minds regularly.
Books are a great way to do this because they take our minds to places we can’t go and people we’ll never meet.
Trying something new is an excellent way to stretch the mind.
Going someplace new is another fantastic option, especially if there are weird new people there.
Stretch your mind a little every day, and you’ll be able to fold it into all sorts of impressive shapes.
And that’s hot AF.
Here’s something to help you get what you want today.
Whatever it is you want to get done, write it down.
Then put it in your calendar or to-do list or a sticky note or your phone, and set an alarm or reminder at a reasonable time to do it.
Most of the time, taking action towards our goals isn’t the hard part. The hard part is setting aside the time to do them.
When we don’t take the time for ourselves, we give all our time to other people.
Take a bit of time now and make a little time later to something important for ‘Future You’.
You deserve a little ‘you’ time.
Did you know there’s a Toe Wrestling World Championship?
That’s another weird side to humans.
Pick any activity — and I mean any — and there’s probably an International Federation and a World Cup. There’s definitely a World Record.
It’s our competitive nature. Nobody wants to be the slowest when the village gets attacked by a saber-tooth tiger.
Just add agriculture and wait 10,000 years, and you get the World’s Greatest Cherry-Pit Spitter.
Of course, it’s important to try our best. But not everything has to be done to Olympic standard to be worth doing. And perfection is a poor excuse.
You can be awful at meditation or sudoku or singing and still enjoy them. And you can be terrible at picking up litter, running, giving to charity, or writing, and yet they’re still all worth doing.
Most things that are worth doing are still worth doing badly. And you’re never too bad to get better.
So, get out there and give it your worst shot.
If you didn’t get the memo, here’s today’s agenda.
Today will be easy, like that test you thought you bombed but actually did pretty well on.
Today will be fun, like when you got chased and thought you weren’t going to get away but then you did.
Today will be interesting, like that weird show your friend forced you to watch that ended up being so good you binged the series later at home.
Today will be fast, like that unforgettable holiday that — after two weeks of — you were quite looking forward to coming home from.
Today is going to be quick, easy, and loud, like that time when…
Well, you get the idea.
If you haven’t already, today is a great day to go for a walk.
Mum would often suggest going for a walk, usually about mid-afternoon on a Saturday, after six hours glued to the screen up to my elbows in cereal.
I, cruelly deprived of television, found this the most outrageous proposition I’d ever heard.
A lively debate about the health benefits of walking would ensue.
Several bouts of growling, groaning, and some light wrestling later, we’d burst out of my Grandmother’s little terrace and descend on the cascading, bloom-laden banks of the Thames.
And before we’d reach the water’s edge, the morning’s gloom would be all but forgotten.
Not everyone finds out the direction they want to go early in life — but most of us have a pretty good idea.
Sometimes we don’t want to admit that’s where we want to go. We might even run in the opposite direction, which inevitably ends in tears.
Once we’ve accepted the direction that resonates with our being and committed to going that way for some time, everything becomes easier.
It’s ok not to know where chasing vague notions like ‘music‘ or ‘fashion’ or ‘writing’ or ‘drawing’ or ‘dancing‘ or ‘helping people‘ will take us.
It’s even ok if we don’t always like where it takes us. We’re constantly on the move anyway.
Just keep on pluggin’ away in the direction you want to go, doing those things that bring you satisfaction and joy, and finding new ways to do them with people you like.
The rest is scenery.
There are some ironic benefits to being an irritable and miserable person. Take it from me.
One of them is that it’s much easier to be grateful for the small things. And I mean, really small.
Like, how there wasn’t a line for the checkout, and they had some of the bread I like left. Or that the stupid compost bag didn’t break when I stretched it over the bin’s lip like it usually does. Or that it wasn’t raining on my run when it looked like it might. Or that there was 30¢ off my favourite hot sauce. Shit, even mayonnaise was on sale. That was a great shop.
We live lucky lives, and most of us have many big things to be grateful for.
But the small things are often much easier to see.
Most goals fail for the same reason.
It’s easier to give up on yourself than it is on other people.
That’s why we have accountability buddies and life partners and coaches and personal trainers.
The other way to succeed is to make your goals bigger than you. That could mean doing it for the environment, or the animals or the unjustly imprisoned, the maltreated, or the lost and forgotten.
And it could mean doing it for the people that you love: your family and your community.
Whatever it is, it’s a damn sight harder to give up on something when other people are relying on you to turn up.
That’s why you reading this is so important. Thank you!
Make a goal that’s bigger than you, and it will bring you everything you ever wanted.
You can tell a lot about a person by how often they ask, “Why?”
Kids do it naturally; older people less so.
If you want to find out a lot about someone, ask them “Why?” a few times. You never really get to the juicy bits until you ask six or seven times.
School and work teach us that there’s only one right answer — even though that’s rubbish — and so most people stop being so curious as they grow.
Einstein said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” People found him interesting because he was interested.
There is limitless depth and complexity to our world, and it’s constantly changing. And there is no ‘knowing’ why, not really. Ask any quantum physicist.
The fun part — and the important part too — is to keep asking Why.
You never know what you might find, but you can bet it’ll be interesting.
Not every day has to be a win.
Most days are going to feel like a tie — at best. Especially when we’re working on something big or important.
Samuel Beckett said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Failing a bit better than the day before is usually the best we can hope for. And all it takes to fail better is showing up, again.
And that’s plenty.
There was a big, stubborn rock sitting on my desk this morning.
It took me 15 minutes to move it off, by writing, “Get the ball rolling.”
Rolling the ball off the line is the official way to start a game of football. Once the ball is moving, the game has begun.
We use this phrase at work too, where it means we’ve talked a project to death and must begin the game of creating.
The implication is that it takes a bit of effort to get the ball rolling, but things get easier once momentum is on our side.
Inertia is difficult to overcome — especially if we’re making something new. But once we put in the energy to start, it’s tough to stop.
Fortunately, all it takes to get the ball rolling is a little nudge in the right direction.
People who don’t like clichés are missing out.
Clichés were passed down over hundreds of thousands of years to communicate the oldest, most profound knowledge about being human. Caveman talk was probably 90% clichés and pickup lines.
Clichés are unoriginal because they’re true.
This is the story of evil: Hurt people hurt people.
This is the story of happiness: Happy people help people.
This is the story of money: You can’t buy happiness.
This is the story of love: If you love it, let it go.
This is the story of heartbreak: It’s not you; it’s me.
This is the story of fate: Everything happens for a reason.
This is the story of revenge: An eye for an eye.
This is the story of fear: Curiosity killed the cat.
This is the story of envy: The grass is always greener.
This is the story of success: The early bird catches the worm.
This is the story of luck: Every dog has its day.
This is the story of patience: Good things come to those who wait.
Don’t let anyone tell you, “it’s just a cliché.” Clichés are the whispers of our ancestors; life lessons learned long ago.
It pays to listen.
Training for a marathon is very different from what people expect.
The biggest surprise for most people is that you only run a marathon once — on race day.
The next surprise is how little running you do. 15 minutes one day. Thirty minutes a few days later. Some days are short bodyweight workouts. And some days are dedicated to lying on the floor and stretching.
We don’t have to run a marathon every day to get where we want to go. We shouldn’t even run every day.
Time spent rolling around on the floor and stretching is as crucial to running a race as putting one foot in front of the other.
Recovery allows us to keep working towards our goal, even on days we can’t think straight, let alone move fast. And that little bit of extra time we spend quickly adds up.
Allow yourself a little recovery time now and then, and you’ll go much further in the long run.
Life’s great lessons have always been taught to music.
Sometimes these lessons are obvious. But often, they’re hidden deep in the third act or the bridge, where they leap out and smack you round the back of the head to make sure you’re still listening.
In The Music Man, it’s this:
“Pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.
Don’t delay the chance to make a little bit of progress towards your goal, however small it may seem.
It doesn’t have to be full. Just don’t leave it empty.
If you put in just a little bit today, you’ll end up with a very full tomorrow.
It doesn’t have to be new or shiny.
It doesn’t have to be interesting or original.
It doesn’t have to be exciting or controversial.
It doesn’t have to be perfect or polished.
It doesn’t even have to be finished.
That leaves an awful lot of things it could be, and not many excuses why it couldn’t.
Better it be made bad than never to be at all.
And it does have to be made.
If there’s one formula that could be called the “secret to life,” it’s this: input shapes your output.
Our environment defines us almost entirely.
The people we live with change us.
The things we read and listen to shape our thoughts.
What we taste and smell and see affects how we feel.
And our actions build our identity.
Getting what you want from life is as simple as figuring out what it is you want and then shaping your environment — what your body goes through — to create that result.
Like all great games, learning how to play is easy — but getting good takes work.
Many years ago, my grandmother escaped a shipwreck without so much as a damp toe.
Tired of the harsh life in a broken Europe, she had decided to start anew in Australia.
On the day of departure, her bags were packed, and her heart was set in stone. She was off to the Great Southern Land. But the fates didn’t want to play Grandma’s game that morning.
Her alarm clock didn’t go off. She misplaced her travel documents. Then the train was late. Every step of her journey was littered with obstructions.
Grandma arrived at the docks just in time to see the ship slip gently out to sea. She was distraught.
At this point, much to the Pope’s horror, Grandma always quotes the Dalai Lama:
“Sometimes, not getting what you want is a stroke of luck.”
Not a soul on board that ship touched Australian soil. It disappeared shortly after leaving Cape Town.
It was just as much her tardiness as it was divine providence (despite what she might tell you) that prevented her premature and watery grave. But if Grandma had got what she wanted that day, I wouldn’t be here at all.
Now, I’d call that lucky.
Have you ever seen a bridezilla? Or the TV show ‘My Super Sweet Sixteen?’
These people implode into a raging boil of disappointment when they should be having a great time because they don’t know how to let go of a good plan, amongst other things.
A good plan is essential, but so is knowing when to abandon one.
ESPECIALLY if you want a good party.
In R.L. Wing’s translation of Sun Tzu, The Art of Strategy, we read, “Those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively. They are like a great river that maintains its course but adjusts its flow.”
There’s no point obsessing about a plan because most plans go out the window as soon as they’re finished. As James Clear says, “Getting started changes everything.”
We need to decide where we want to go, but we don’t need to know precisely how to get there.
The important part is to get going and be ready to take a detour when we inevitably have to. Often, it turns out that’s the path we were supposed to be on all along.
You might be surprised how much thoughts can impact your body.
Visualization isn’t going to make you shredded, but it might help you get there. The real danger is from the flip side of the coin.
Although some stress is a good thing, it’s vital we’re not stressed out all the time.
If we don’t let ourselves relax — and drop into recovery mode — for a few minutes every day, it has a knock-on effect on everything else; our sleep, diet, mood, focus, everything.
We can take a whole lot more stress if we relax a little now and then. That’s why you get to have a little power nap after a yoga session.
Take a couple of minutes every hour, some hours every day, a few days every month, and a handful of weeks every year to relax.
Go for a walk or lie in the sun for 15 minutes.
Take some of Mother Nature’s valium.
Squish your toes in some earth.
Stare at the ceiling.
And then crack on.
We get all sorts of nonsense stuck in our heads that stops us from getting what we want.
One particularly nasty one that trips people up — especially when starting something new — is thinking that they’re too bad to start.
But as my incredibly wise running coach says, “You’re never too bad to start getting better.”
No matter how bad we think we are at something. No matter how unfit or unhappy or unskilled or unmotivated we feel.
We’re never too bad to start getting better.
And starting is half the battle.
Yesterday, the greatest businessman alive wrote us a letter containing some sage words of advice.
And they’re not about how to time your pee breaks.
Ol’ Jeffo’s advice for success is simple: stay different.
The Universe is always trying to reclaim us for itself, to return us to equilibrium, to flatten us into our surroundings.
To make us ‘normal.’
Merely staying alive is a struggle because Life isn’t typical in this cold, vast, empty Universe.
Distinctiveness is what makes you and me different but also what brings us together. And our differences are worth fighting for, together.
I’ll leave you with the words of the man who will take humanity to the stars…
Be kind, be original, create more than you consume, and never, never, never let the universe smooth you into its surroundings.
Earl was a troubled child of no determinate birthplace.
His teenage mother would frequently take him to the ER with severe bronchial asthma, probably worsened from sleeping on the floor with the roaches.
By the time Earl was old enough to start school, his mother had knocked out his two front teeth.
When Earl was 7, his aunt got him drunk.
When Earl was 9, his mum locked him in his room all summer.
When Earl was 10, his mum sent him to an orphanage.
When Earl was 14, he was stealing a living on the streets.
When Earl was 16 he was sent to prison.
There, he committed to music and began selling mixtapes on his release.
When Earl was 28, he released three albums in two years. They all went multi-platinum.
Earl was imprisoned 30 times. Earl was a pastor. Earl was bipolar. Earl loved dogs and orchids. Earl was an artist.
Earl was a very troubled man who turned his hurt into some of the greatest, most honest art ever made.
There’s a lot to say about Earl “DMX” Simmons. But nobody can ever say he didn’t give us everything he had.
X gave it to us.
And for that, we’ll remember him forever.
Special doesn’t mean good and it doesn’t mean unique.
Some moments are always special: weddings, new homes, first days, birthday parties.
These are special regardless of whether they’re in a fancy hall or under a bridge. And trying too hard to make these special always has the opposite effect.
Some things are special because they mean something to us: a song, artwork, clothing, photos. People have to find that kind of special for themselves.
Most things are considered special because they do something new or better: bike tires that don’t puncture or cars that drive themselves or people that run very fast.
This is a special that everyone can achieve, but it takes a lot of hard work and help from other people; even then, it’s not guaranteed.
The final kind of special is what we call Quality. It’s the kind of special that you feel when you pick up a hand-made instrument or use a very cleverly designed tool—made with love and care.
That’s the special we can all achieve: turning up consistently and investing our time making the best and most useful things we can.
Because, sadly, that’s not very common at all.
Poetry makes it seem like love is something you can lose.
It’s not. But it is fairly easy to misplace.
Cupid swerves his truck through a gutter puddle, soaking a few months or years of our lives in love. But it never seems to last.
And that’s where most people misplace their love.
It’s hard to see it at first, through all the shouting and screaming and tears. But as time unwinds from love’s silky thighs, a little something gets left behind.
There’s a part of me that remembers being in love with everyone in my past; that remembers a time and place when we were together and we were happy.
We can never go back there but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, locked deep in the past where it can’t be changed.
A memory of time well spent, with someone we cared about.
Always and forever, and never again, all at the same time.
In Ancient Babylon about 3,000 years ago, an old bloke had an idea that changed the world.
He counted seven bright things in the sky that weren’t stars, gave each one a day, and now everyone hates Mondays.
But Monday gets a lot of unfair pressure.
It’s the day we start all our diets and workout plans.
It’s the day we stop smoking and drinking.
It’s the day we start new jobs or return to school.
It’s the day our credit card bills come through.
It’s the day we dread when we hate what we’re doing and the day we eagerly await when we get to do what we love.
Monday is the beginning and end of all weeks, even those that start on Sunday. It’s the day we decided all challenges should begin.
But is that fair?
Wednesday doesn’t get that pressure. Wednesday gets ‘hump day.’
Maybe it’s time we gave Monday a little love — it’s always been there for us.
Even when we don’t want it to be.
It’s very easy to live for eighty years without noticing.
The business of living involves so much worrying, fussing, and faffing that we often simply forget we’re alive at all.
One of the best ways to avoid this is to invest in some pool floaties.
It’s impossible to do anything in a pool floaty except enjoy life. If you try to do anything more than drift very majestically, sipping a Strawberry Daiquiri, you’re going to become very frustrated indeed.
Life isn’t all cocktails and pool floaties.
They just happen to be a particularly good way to stop and appreciate how great life is.
It’s not like anyone enjoys getting punched in the face.
But if you’re going outside, there’s always the risk that some asshole will come along and clobber you.
That doesn’t mean you should stay inside all the time either. There’s always the risk that your house catches fire.
Risk is part of life.
It’s the same if you want to do or make anything interesting or different. Some people aren’t going to like it, no matter what you do.
My mum loves this quote from the film Zorba the Greek that I keep thinking about: “Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble.”
Life is a thrilling battle with a very definite end.
May as well go down swinging.
If you ever doubt we’re spinning, just get a bit drunk.
When you do, it’s immediately apparent that we’re standing on something that’s moving very fast indeed — about 1,000 miles per hour.
Another way is to watch a little kid learning to walk. They move the same as if you were trying to stand up on something wobbly that was moving fast.
Usually, we’d be too busy to notice how much work our brain is doing to keep us upright.
But as soon as we have a few glasses of wine and stand completely still, it’s impossible to ignore that we’re on a giant rock hurtling through space — because it won’t keep bloody still.
What a ride!
Understanding the “point of life” unlocks all its mysteries and treasure, or so we think.
That’s why the internet is littered with people asking this question.
But it’s really very simple.
Points aren’t real. They’re just how we make a mark on the world.
The point of a pen is to make a blot.
The point of a sword is to make a cut.
The point in an argument is to distinguish between ideas.
The point in sports or games decides who wins.
The point of a compass tells you which way to go.
The point is dimensionless. It’s merely a particular moment in time or space or a particular thought about a specific time in space. And yet, everything seems to hinge around the point.
“What’s the point of life?” isn’t the right question.
Living is the point.
It’s the instrument we’ve been given to change the Universe.
The question is: “What mark will you make with it?”
Donating a million dollars to charity is easy enough.
If you’ve got that kind of money lying around, the government even offers some very attractive reasons to give it away.
And for the good it may do, that money will disappear at a stomach-churning rate.
The surest way of actually changing the world is bit by bit.
Even tiny actions like waving to a neighbour or holding the door for someone can force a paradigm shift when repeated time and time again.
Any small thing — money, love, kindness, reading, meditation, music — when repeated consistently and often, grows into something significant.
It’s just how it works.
Now, how about that glass of water?
What would you do for a dollar a day?
The phrase, “Another day, another dollar,” comes from a time when that was exactly how much a day of your life was worth — if you were lucky.
It was sung while slinging dirt out of the ancient Panamanian soil and hauling on salt-crusted ropes, hundreds of miles away from land.
It was grunted in the dark, forgotten slots of the mines and shouted between the thundering, crashing machines on the workshop floor.
And it’s sighed across cups of thick, lush coffee in sunlight-lanced kitchens as we crack our knuckles, wiggle our toes, and settle down for a few hours talking and typing.
“Dollars for days” is just what we do.
But at least I get to spend these days in my pyjamas.
And the coffee is better, too.
A simple stretch can give you a big boost on stiff days, even when it seems like a stretch to get out of bed at all.
Stretching releases a flood of endorphins, reduces stress, gets the blood flowing, and could help reduce menstrual pain.
It’s a quick win on any day. And you can do it while you’re still in bed.
Stretch your arms up high. Wiggle those toes way down.
Take a big breath, give it back.
And off we goooooo!
Originality is almost as big a curse as perfection.
For millennia creatives have wasted their time trying to “be original.”
Due to the laws of nature, both measurable and imperceptible, nothing can be the same twice.
Nothing is the same. Nothing is original.
Even if it looks roughly the same. Even if we try to make it precisely the same — and we do — we’ll always cock it up somehow, and it’ll be its own, new, slightly different, not perfect thing.
The best creatives learn to do this “stealing like an artist” better than anyone else: taking something you like and doing it your way.
And although imperfect unoriginality might the best we can do.
It’s always a damn sight better than doing nothing.
Most people don’t know this one very gross and disturbing fact about the human body.
Your bodyweight is at least half bacteria cells — maybe more.
Some people think we’re just very complicated bacteria-transport machines. I’m going a step further and saying they run the whole damn planet.
Hear me out.
There are more bacteria on earth than all other life forms combined.
They live everywhere from the sea bed to the roots of trees, and they talk to each other. They live in our gut and they talk to our brain.
And we just found out these crafty little buggers use quantum mechanics to control energy.
Now, I’m not saying that one day they’ll get tired of us messing with everything and extinct us off their planet.
But I’m trying to stay on their good side, just in case.
In 1945, a decorated Captain in the Red Army wrote a letter that destroyed his life.
As the war ended, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s battle with the USSR began.
He spent eight years in the GULAG, writing without pen or paper. After his release, Alek continued writing secretly.
When he published a story about life in the slave camps, Russia made him a famous writer for a while. But then the regime changed its mind and began destroying his work.
Alek wrote feverishly in secret, spreading his words with friends of friends across borders.
In 1970 those words won him a Nobel Prize. Then a year later, the KGB tried to kill him. So Alek smuggled his most dangerous words out of the country and published them worldwide.
The USSR told him he wasn’t Russian anymore and exiled him. But it was too late.
His words had unveiled the brutality of the regime.
And Alek kept writing until the USSR collapsed completely.
Shortly after, he got told he was Russian again and could return. After a little while, he did. And after his death in 2008, The Gulag Archipelago became required reading in Russian schools.
To show words can be very dangerous indeed.
Humanity sure does some weird stuff.
For as long as we’ve been scratching stories down in stone, we’ve put aside one day a year for playing harmless pranks.
Worldwide. For millennia.
We just love seeing the look on other people’s faces when they think something terrible or wonderful has happened, but it hasn’t.
Who doesn’t love a good letdown?
Maybe it’s just a good reminder that even in the most crushing disappointments, we can find a bit of light relief.
If you’ve never heard of David Goggins, whip out your dictionary and look up the word “indomitable,” and you’ll find a picture of him.
David is the guy that gets back up.
He completed the infamous SEAL “Hell Week” training twice. Then he completed Ranger and Air Force training, too, literally for the hell of it.
He’s run over 60 ultra-marathons and triathlons and broke a world record with 4,030 pull-ups in 17 hours.
My record is eight pull-ups in 3 minutes.
He once finished a 150-mile relay race designed for four BY HIMSELF on a broken ankle.
What keeps David going beyond limits and then much, much further?
David runs on pain.
The story of his childhood is heartbreaking. But he crushed that hurt into a fuel cell that drove him to greatness.
In his words, “When we transcend what we once thought possible, your light enables people to see the contours of their own prison; their self-limitations.”
David runs 100 miles because he can.
But he can run 100-miles because he turned his pain to gain.