The best defences take time to build.
We don’t get many choices in life, but we do get to choose how we respond when things we don’t like happen.
Some will argue that our reactions are not real choices — and they’d be right most of the time.
But we can train ourselves to act in a certain way to events until it becomes automatic. It becomes our spontaneous reaction.
Just as the fighter trains his counter-moves thousands of times until they become instinctive, so too we can train our reactions.
It’s not easy — I need to learn this lesson more than most — but it is possible. It just takes practice.
When angered or shocked, we can always say thanks.
When confused or disappointed, we can always say thanks.
When saddened or scared, we can always say thanks.
The best defence is always gracefully moving out of the way because it leaves our assailant few places to land except flat on their face.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As a little boy, I learnt this cute little phrase has a whole lot of power.
Whatever disappointment or injury occurred, Dad would kneel down and enfold me in his vast, thick arms and squeeze until my ribs popped slightly.
Then he’d rub my head or thump a palm into my back or squeeze my arms tightly and say, “Chin up, sunshine, and things will look up too.”
And somehow, pretty soon after that, the sniffles and snot would dry up, and I’d be ready for my next scrape.
We might suck at photosynthesis but the sun is still our lifeblood.
When we’re gloomy and our inner Eeyore is moaning — when we need a little light and warmth — there’s a colossal nuclear explosion just the right distance away to cheer us up.
Step outside, shut your eyes and tilt your face to that warm glow for a minute or two.
No matter how much you have or how little you have not, that’s all you truly need to feel good.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
You’re doing great, and you’ve barely even got out of bed.
Keep it up!