Who said that?

Hearing voices in your head isn’t crazy. It’s just human.

I hope.

Various clever people have tried to give each of them names.

You’ve probably heard about the one called the “ego.”

There’s one that I call Eeyore.

There’s one that doesn’t speak. It only shouts.

There’s one that doesn’t speak and only acts. None of the others like that one.

There are probably a few more in there that I’m missing, friends and family and lovers and enemies and memories.

They make a babbling mess that rarely quiets.

All sorts of things will bubble up from the cacophony of consciousness; some of them almost certainly come from outside.

A lot of them surprise. Some of them worry.

When one gets particularly loud or suggests something particularly nasty, there’s a little trick to shut them up.

We can ask, “Who said that?”

That usually quietens the party for a moment; reminds them of who gets to choose what gets heard.

You — the listener.

Happy Unbirthday

One damp afternoon in the mid-90s, my mother slotted a cassette tape into our kitchen radio and pressed the giant ‘Play’ button home with a clunk.

It was a story about a little caterpillar called Clive who was having a shitty day. Clive was sad because he had nobody to play with.

Along comes a painfully cheery Butterfly called Bertha, who tries to lift his spirits by pointing out all the lovely things that happened that day, how lucky he is to be alive…yadda yadda.

But Clive doesn’t care. He is enjoying being a miserable sod.

His Eeyore is wallowing.

Eventually, he reveals the real reason he’s sad: he didn’t get invited to a birthday party.

Hardly surprising, what with him being so miserable.

But Bertha isn’t fazed for a moment.

“You don’t need a birthday to have a party,” she says, “because today is your unbirthday.”

And before you could say, “that’s not the ending,” they were up to their eyeballs in tequila and horse tranquilizer.

To days we were born on or otherwise — all worth celebrating!

Listen in

If you’re anything like me, you’ve made a tonne of silly decisions and mistakes.

Most of mine were fun at the time — at least to start.

Many went on a little too long and stopped being fun at all.

A few left a hook in me that I couldn’t get free: several bad habits; harmful ways of thinking about the world; a mountain of debt; a damaged body.

At one point, it didn’t seem like there was any hope of making up for all the bad humours I had acquired over the years. After all, why stop if it’s already too late?

May as well enjoy it while it lasts, however short that turned out to be.

But as the fanfare of youth dribbled into the humdrum of middle age, I began to hear something else: myself—my body, asking me to stop.

And every day, it got harder to ignore. Eventually, I had to listen.

One of the greatest powers we have is the intuition that comes from listening to our bodies; our hearts, heads, and knees (they can predict the weather).

What is yours nagging you about?

And are you listening?

The Blur

The Blur started long before COVID crept out of China and held us all hostage.

At first, everything was a blur. Childhood is barely distinguishable. High school was a drag, but even that’s a confusing blur now.

University seems like a whole different life now, and a very blurry one at that.

When we got locked in last April, it was no longer possible to hide from The Blur, although it had been creeping up on me for a while.

Looking back over the last 11,000-odd days of existence, it was clear that there was nothing that I could say I did with any real consistency.

Nothing worthwhile, at least.

I cried that night. Soon after, I began to do what I always knew I should have been doing: I started to write every day.

At some point, the days I’ve written will outnumber the days I’ve done anything else.

Then, looking back at that blur, I’ll know: I was a writer.

What time?

When it comes to health and fitness, people always want to know about the best timing.

We want to know the ideal time to eat, sleep, drink, exercise, work, have sex — whatever.

Here are the answers to the most common:

Should I work out in the morning or the evening?

It doesn’t matter.

Should I avoid eating before bed?

It doesn’t matter.

Should I eat two meals a day or six?

It doesn’t matter.

Should I use the sauna before or after I workout?

It doesn’t matter.

Should I eat carbs in the morning or protein?

It doesn’t matter.

When should I take my supplements?

It doesn’t matter.

Should I meditate in the morning or evening?

It doesn’t matter.

None of this matters because most of us aren’t asking how to improve our athletic performance by 1-2% to win an Olympic gold medal.

Most of the time we are actually asking, “how can I get to my goals faster with as little effort as possible?”

And the answer to that is: find a way to do it every day — at whatever time you goddamn please.

Except for sex.

Have sex as often as you can.

Only Like Some

Science likes to put us in groups.

That’s 90% of what science is: classification.

We often read newspaper reports of the latest study that says introverts do this or women prefer that.

Don’t pay too much attention to that pop-science.

The only thing we can be sure of is that those studies were performed on hungover university students by slightly older, arguably less hungover students. 

If some parts resonate that’s because our brain is very good at spotting the things we think inside our heads out there in the real world. But there’s little to be gleaned from a study of 20 late-stage teens on a wet Wednesday afternoon in Leeds.

Remember: just because you’re similar doesn’t make you the same.

You are like some people, it’s true. But you are alike no other person that ever was or will be. 

Keep breaking that mould, baby!

Celebrate

Celebrate today,

Celebrate tomorrow,

Celebrate your joys,

And celebrate your sorrows.

Celebrate your friends,

Celebrate your haters,

Celebrate the real ones,

And celebrate the fakers.

 

Celebrate it all because

These are the things that make us

Great.

50:50

Which is better, breathing in, or breathing out?

Is that a weird question?

Every inhale and exhalation from now until we die is 50:50.

Another small part of the Universe’s perpetual balancing act, the constant to-ing and fro-ing that occurs at every level from a wave of light to the spaces between galaxies.

Success comes from failure and must eventually go back to it.

We can have good health and happiness because we must be sick and unhappy sometimes.

If we get too attached to one way or another, when the time comes for change — as it always does — we won’t enjoy it as much as we should.

If we do that with breathing, we’ll die.

Why would anything else be different?

Then what?

Most people approach change the way men approach sex: a sprint to the finish.

It’s only natural to want to get where we want to go as fast as we can.

Perhaps that unavoidable terminal that lurks in our future fosters this urge to finish as quickly as possible.

We must get there before we run out of time.

That is also why we often fall short in our challenges, diet plans, workout regimes, and New Year’s resolutions.

We are aiming for the finish line.

But the person who crosses the finish line is always different from the person who started the race.

When we get there, we can’t stop doing all those things that got us there and go back to being who we were before.

“In eight weeks, I’ll be sexy.”

“In two years, I’ll be rich.

“When I get there, I’ll be happy.”

And then, what?

Curveball

The fastest route from A to B isn’t always a straight line.

There’s a special kind of curve that can get a ball from one point to another faster than in a straight line across the shortest distance.

It’s called a Brachistochrone curve.

It works because of gravity and friction and the shape of balls and all sorts of other juju that we don’t fully understand.

It won’t help you win many races, but it works quite well as an analogy. Sometimes it seems like we’re heading way off-course when we might actually be taking a shortcut. 

That’s just how the Universe fits together.

How the math on that works, I guess we’ll never know.

Uncovered

There are some secrets to happiness that stand the test of time.

The most important one is not to go looking for happiness.

We can never be satisfied with anything that must be pursued because even if we catch it, we will always need to chase down more of it, given time.

If we chase happiness — hedonistic or wholesome — it won’t be long before we’re itching for more.

Happiness isn’t caught.

Happiness sidles up to you at a party and pinches your bum.

Happiness slips into bed for a quick early morning cuddle.

And happiness puts wings on your ankles halfway through an evening jog.

Happiness smells like coffee and feels like sunshine, and sounds like a beach, and if you can imagine any of that right now, you already know how to uncover that “happiness” within you anytime you want.

There’s no need to go searching for happiness because it can be found anywhere we look.

Sunken Costs

There are two ways sunken costs can trick us.

The first is believing that because we’ve already bought something — invested time or money into it — that we must use it to get our money’s worth.

That’s not to say we should be wasteful, but it does mean that we have to drink the rest of the bottle.

The second way they get us is when we think that we’ve put in enough.

We think that we’ve invested enough to be sure that another minute won’t achieve anything.

Often, that’s the moment when a little extra push would bring success.

Sunken costs hurt us both ways. There’s no way to tell the difference.

The best we can do for ourselves is ignore them altogether.

Because as much as we like to draw lines between the past and present, the only connection they have to the future is the one we choose to make right now.

Look Alive

Most people don’t realize how easily they can change reality.

It’s not that it changes the world materially. It just chooses different materials to make the world.

Our brains are wired to look for things we want to see, whether we’re consciously looking or not.

If bananas are keeping you alive, it pays to be able to spot as many of them as possible, even when you’re not paying attention. The same goes for tigers.

That’s why you always notice more of the car model you’re driving, and ants always all appear at the same time.

If we believe the world is dangerous, then it will become more dangerous.

If we are looking for reasons to be happy, we will find many more of them.

There are too many good reasons to be alive once you start looking.

Sometimes we have to go away and look somewhere else to see what was there all along.

Pavement Prophet

The words “Jesus is coming” are scrawled across the grimy cardboard hung over his chest.

Passers-by squeeze themselves around his eager cries and shaking fists, intent on shutting this loud, dirty intrusion out of their day.

Nobody wants to listen because whether they realize it or not, deep down, we all already know that “the end is nigh,” at least on an individual level.

And whether we’re expecting to meet St. Paul on a cloud or slip into a blissful eternal nothingness, the reality is the same. That unignorable, unknowable finality is what drives us to do anything — or prevents us from doing anything.

The fear of it drives us to survive on a physiological level. When that’s covered, we devote our efforts to surviving beyond the grave, in whatever way we like. Most often, we survive through other people.

As my turn comes to squeeze past the pavement prophet, I get lucky. He spins and leaps away to berate those walking in the other direction. One young woman lets out a small yelp of surprise.

As I barrel away I glimpse the other piece of cardboard, slung over his shoulders with a knotted rag.

It reads, “Look busy.”

Play Dead

Have you ever seen a human play dead?

Lots of animals do this to try and escape a toothy death.

Life moves. If it doesn’t move, it’s usually dead or a rock.

We call it ‘playing’ dead because staying alive is work.

To play dead, you just have to do nothing. Don’t even bother breathing.

Playing dead can work quite well if you’re an opossum or a frog or some other prey that can’t move very fast. So if you’re trapped by a hungry bear, playing dead could be a great shout.

Otherwise, work alive.

Cornering

Even if we’re paying attention, we don’t see every sharp turn coming.

Life is hurtling along at a grand old pace when a sharp corner appears over the horizon—a bend or a twist that we missed the sign for.

Or we saw it coming, but it was one of those cheeky ones that start smooth and get sharper so fast that before you know it, you’re veering across the lines with your ass pressed against the door, praying that the wheels stick.

Can’t slam on the brakes. Can’t stop turning. Just got to ease off the pedal a bit and hold on tight until things level out.

And they always do.

Idle Thumbs

The first rule of survival is that you must always be doing something.

It could be hunting. It could be chopping wood. It could be making tools or clothing or food.

It’s the first rule because survival takes a huge amount of effort. It’s a constant struggle just to get enough food.

But every one of us is a survivor.

The amount of energy required to survive is so much that as soon that ferociously powerful brain of ours gets time to stop and think, we are instantly overwhelmed.

That’s what powers the ticking clock within us. The nervous itch, the restless tapping of our feet — it’s all because the ancient ape within is wondering how the hell we’re going to survive if we’re just sitting there.

We must move.

So we work. We make. We explore.

Or we dampen the urge with drink and drugs and food and fighting; we consume.

We made fishing hooks and wheels and philosophy and farms and skyscrapers and the blockchain all because that curious chimp couldn’t sit still.

The devil will make work for our idle thumbs, if we let him.

Only daily practice, kaizen, a future self, can keep him quiet.

 

Slip in

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.

 

 

 

Montage Time

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.

 

Hormonal Sapiens

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. 

 

No going back

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.

 

Tipple and fall

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.

 

 

 

It happens

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.

 

Any Way

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.

 

Rules is Rules

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!

 

The Magic Juice

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.

 

 

25k to go

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!

 

 

Car Wreck

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!

 

Get over it

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.

That’s Life.

 

Up to Now

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.

 

X No Way Out

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.

 

Pick your poison

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.

 

Time ain’t fair

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.

 

Enjoy the scenery

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.

Enjoy!

 

Clichés Are Life

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.  

 

 

Input what you want

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.

 

 

 

 

Stay Different

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.

 

 

Pool Life

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.

 

Look for trouble

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.

 

What’s the point?

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?”

 

Another dollar

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.

 

 

In a flash

Children are always in such a rush to grow up.

We want to be adults, so we understand what’s going on. We want to be tall and strong and smart and rich, so we can buy all the sweets and chocolate and toys those silly adults won’t buy us.

But there’s really no need to rush. Time already flies.

One minute, you’re playing football in the playground. The next minute you’re 30 years old with debt and a desk job and a bad back.

Enjoy it while it lasts; it’ll be over in a flash.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cold Side

It’s not always easy.

It’s not supposed to be.

And sometimes it really fucking hurts.

But that’s ok;

That’s what it’s about.

It still really fucking hurts.

So we shake it off.

We get up and get on.

Because that’s the reason we’re here. 

Getting up from those knocks.

Climbing up to those peaks.

Or exploring the cold side of the pillow,

For just a little bit longer because it’s Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

Who needs to remember?

Recently, something the dead guitarist said hit home and I began to wonder why we bother to ‘remember the moment’ at all.

That punk philosopher said:

“I realized that so many moments in my life I’d been trying to ‘capture,’ to remember and enjoy later. But there was no point in doing that anymore because I was going to die. Every moment, I just had to enjoy for itself because that was it. I wasn’t going to be able to remember them.”

We’ve all done this — trying to ‘capture a memory’ to savour later. I thought that was being present but it wasn’t at all.

Because that’s really it.

That moment exists and then it’s gone forever.

But isn’t the fact you got to see it just fucking marvellous? And not just see it.

You got to feel it.

You got to hear and taste and smell and live it all.

Nobody else will ever live what you lived.

Who needs memories when we get to live them every day.

Fini.

 

 

 

 

 

A little spark

The more I write, the more I realize how important it is to the soul to write — to create.

To make a mark; a little spark.

To rub my fingers against the fabric of reality and warm it in my favour.

We’re all out here, one of eight billion souls (that we know) trying to figure out Why in our own little way. 

What else is life but a reason to share our little spark, our short story, with the rest of the world?

You’re you. And we’re here.

So, start a fire and let the rest of us know.

We’re listening. We want to hear you.

That’s how we make fire.

And that’s how we change the world.

 

 

Making Life Meaningful

There’s a lot of woo-woo and hoo-hah out there that veils one of Life’s Great Truths.

“If you want to have a meaningful life, make life meaningful for other people.”

There are lots of ways to do this.

Steve Jobs wanted to put a computer in the palm of everyone’s hand in 1976. That was an old sci-fi dream and now it’s real. It took 32 years — and his life — to achieve that. 

Jeff Bezos gave people what they wanted: cheap shopping delivered fast. And that meant something.

Self-help gurus like Jesus and Buddha eschewed material wealth but brought meaning through knowledge and belonging. 

But we don’t have to serve a billion souls. Who needs a 150ft super-yacht or a $400 million tax bill or an army of sycophants anyway.

We can bring meaning from behind a post-office counter if we give it long enough. Or we can write a song or draw a picture or play a game or have a conversation or kick a ball, really, really fucking well. It all means something to someone.

And when we find the people to whom we can bring meaning and show up every day, life becomes meaningful.

The rest is just trimmings.

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. 

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.

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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!

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!

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!

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!

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.

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.

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. 😉

How to flake on your friends and fuck up your life

I’m a pretty flaky guy. And I’m not talking about a skin condition.

I flake out on my friends, the gym, my degree, relationships. You name it, I’ve given up on it. I’ve even gotten pretty close to flaking on my whole damn life a couple of times.

We’ve all got that one really flaky friend. Sometimes more than one. If you can’t think of a really flaky mate, it’s probably you. But that doesn’t mean you’re the only one — we all do it.

And not just to our mates, but to ourselves. You know what I mean.

When you are about to get fit, get a promotion or a job, or start eating healthy, going to the gym – whatever.

Life is going a little too well.

Then, something happens and the ‘fuck it’ button gets pressed. The pressure gets too much. The challenges mount ahead and your brain goes, ‘…fuck that.’

Or I feel a bit crap or lonely and think, ‘fuck it. I’ll just go back to doing what I want – it feels better.’ The pressure goes away and you get to go back to being normal.

Have you ever heard that song with the line, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going…”

They used to play it at my primary school morning assembly; some sort of indoctrination no doubt. Well, I can’t speak for everyone but I can say that it didn’t work for me.

When the going gets tough, I used to flake out and go back to bed. I still do sometimes. Then I can binge on beer and drugs and sugar and Netflix, and the whole world can just go and fuck itself.

Things ‘getting tough’ is a good enough excuse for me to not bother at all. Why go through all the hassle and stress? I’ll probably fail anyway…

When it comes to flakiness, I’m a pro. So much that I don’t even notice I’m doing it until it’s too late…

Past Ben is Out to Get Me

Ever get that feeling someone is out there to trip you up? Well, whenever I turn around to see who’s tripping me up, it turns out to be me. I call him, ‘Past Ben.’ Some people call this self-sabotage. I’ve sabotaged every single relationship I’ve had.

Usually, before it’s even started I’ve laid dynamite in the foundations, ready for me to implode the whole thing when it gets too tough, or too real, too painful. And when it ends and I didn’t want it to, I look back and realise that it was me who’d sewn the seeds of its failure, way back in the beginning.

Maybe so that then I can go back to filling my head with fun chemicals and trying to get into other lonely people’s pants. “Hey! I’ve just had a hard time, I’m allowed to have some fun.”

Even if that ‘fun’ involves drinking myself into the gutter in the closest, darkest bar with some other heartbroken people. All I need to flake is an excuse – and it doesn’t even need to be a good one.

The 5 ‘Es’ of Self-Sabotage

1. Excuses

You could, technically, say that all these ‘Es’ are excuses, and you’d be right. But, then I wouldn’t get to make that hilarious title, would I? Or this blog for that matter.

I’ve talked about excuses before and there are lots of great excuses you can use to avoid success, if you’re looking. Blaming other people is always a great one. It’s super easy to blame someone else when things go wrong or get too hard.

Every single girlfriend I ever had was a great excuse. You know, wanting all that time and attention. How could I possibly become rich and famous if I’m spending all my time with her?

If you’re looking, the world has a tonne of excuses you can use too — just watch the ‘news.’

Remember when all the computers were going to die because of a date change or something around 2000? Or SARS…or bird flu… or swine flu…ebola…was going to kill us all…the recession…the Cold War…the invention of the steam-loom…the Rapture… How could you possibly commit to anything when the world ends tomorrow? But it never does.

I’ve actually been kind of disappointed by how little has changed since Donald Trump got elected President. That was supposed to be apocalyptic. The same goes for Brexit; I was half-expecting the UK to simply ‘pop’ out of existence. More disappointment there.

If there’s one thing the news is good at creating, apart from fear, it’s a disappointment. Stop listening. It’ll only give you more excuses. And we can already make enough of our own.

2. Entitlement

For a lot of people, this is a tricky one because the world is always trying to make us feel like we deserve to have more stuff. Even when we don’t. The proof is in our credit card bills. I recently started apartment hunting and found myself becoming very entitled.

Faced with the possibility I wouldn’t get exactly what I wanted, I started to become very frustrated: “This is ridiculous! I deserve to be renting a furnished one bedroom in the downtown core at age 28.” “I deserve to be making much more $$$.” “I’m being deprived.”

None of those things are true. Not in the slightest.

So, I remind myself I’m lucky to even be thinking about renting an apartment by myself, let alone renting a 15 min walk from work in the financial district. Who the hell do I think I am?

Entitlement is a sneaky one for sure. It will stop you creating the life’s work you were born to do. Gratitude is key to defeating it. I’m going to drop in Envy here too because it’s kind of the same thing, and it also begins with ‘E’.

Envy is a twisted and ugly beast. I once heard someone say that 100% of all haters in the world are because of unrealized potential: When you see something that you know you have in you, that you could have for yourself, something you haven’t realized, you envy the person who has it. And then they become the reason you don’t get it instead. The thing to blame.

3. Effort

After spending a lot of my life stoned, let me tell you that everything, literally everything, takes too much effort. Sometimes even breathing can be a struggle.

There are countless times when getting out of bed to go see someone or do something would have improved my life. Maybe changed it forever. Almost definitely would have made me money. And I just couldn’t be bothered. “Fuck it – it’s not worth the effort.”

I’d say to myself. And curl up into my little ball under the duvet, giving the world the finger. But, Roosevelt was right; there is nothing on this planet worth having that you can get easily. NOTHING.

Steven Hawking, who legendary scientist who passed recently, easily could have given up. He had the excuses. How much effort was it for him to type a sentence, let alone write a book? But he did. And when he finished, he started all over again.

4. Emotion

This one is one of my personal favourites. These last two are. I love all of these and use them all to prevent my own success and self-sabotage, all the time. I’m an emotional guy. Sometimes I can actually feel what other people are feeling as if it was me. I get sad a lot. The world makes me sad. People make sad.

Being sad, or tired, or even happy are great excuses to stop doing whatever it is that I should be doing. I had a bad day. A girl rejected me. I cut my hand. I had a good day. I went to the gym for a few days in a row. A girl asked me out. It’s Thursday. All of these great excuses to give up and go out and get drunk or get high in bed.

5. Entertainment

This one is particularly hard for me because I’m pretty needy and get a lot of FOMO. Always have. It’s probably because I’m worried no one will like me or want to hang out with me. Sometimes I get so worried about this that I just don’t go out or have fun at all. But the rest of the time, going out and having ‘fun’ is a great excuse not to do whatever it is that I’m supposed to be doing.

Drinking. Party. Sex. Food. Films. Drugs. Dancing. Netflix. Ice cream.

Whatever you like.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun. I completely believe that blowing off steam should be part of your routine, as long as it doesn’t fuck up the rest of your life. And I always just want to go that little bit further… And it ends up going bad somehow; so I have an excuse to relax again and stop trying to succeed.

Flakiness = Fear

As I’ve been writing this, it’s become obvious that a lot, if not all, of self-sabotage, is fear. Fear of something better? I’m not sure. Maybe. Fear that I’ll fail, I guess so yeh. Fear that I’ll succeed? Maybe that too. Fear that I don’t think I deserve it?

Fear that people won’t like me?

Fear of death?

Probably all of them.

Becoming less flaky (no prescription cream needed) Although I have a long way to go (I’ve self-sabotaged myself pretty badly at least 3 times this year) I’ve come a long way too. One of the keys to breaching that gap for me was exercise.

If you groaned when you read that, then it’s going to be useful to you too. At best, PE/Gym class was an excuse to mess around with my mates. I’d walk half the 800m warm-up jog.

On forced cross-country runs we’d duck off to try and take shortcuts we’d found while smoking before school. Sometimes we’d stop for a smoke too. But exercising physically is also exercising mentally. They are exactly the same thing.

Forcing yourself to get up and go and get sweaty and do something you hate is also working out your willpower muscle. You’re training yourself to be ready to crush that excuse when it pops up. And it will. All the time. At the end of every lift, or set, or run, or whatever, when you’re pushing yourself to go that little bit further…

That’s your willpower training right there. Sparring with your ‘I give up’ almost daily is the only way to beat it. Like anything, you have to keep at it for a while. But, if you keep at it for a few weeks, you’ll feel great and you’ll look peng AF.

Promise.

— KB

What the fuck do I do with my life?

“How the fuck do I figure out what to do with my life?” my little sister asked the other day.

I laughed. Then I text her: lol.

“Or maybe that’s just me,” she replied at the same time.

I think she knew that wasn’t true before she finished typing it.

How many people do you know who have figured out “what to do” with their lives?

I know a few who seem like they might have a good idea. But a lot of people don’t have a clear picture of what they want to do with their lives. We have ideas about the things we want, sure.

We mostly sort of trundle along waiting for something great to happen to us. I did for years.

I remember in school, it never seemed there were very many career options. As kids, you only really think of the obvious professions; doctor, lawyer, teacher, dentist, vet, fireman, policeman, postman…

Some of us head down those paths.

Most of us end up ejected off the conveyor belt education system with a stack of debt and zero clue about what to do next.

My current job wasn’t on the careers list at school. Neither are most of my friends. But we’ve all got bills to pay.

How to Figure Out What the Fuck to Do with Your Life

It took me about thirty years to commit to what I wanted to do, and I’d known all along. Finding your “dream job” is probably something we’ll do several times in our lives. Here’s a step-by-step guide to figuring out what the fuck to do with your life.

1. Don’t look for your fucking passion

In the knowledge that we have to do something, we bounce around on a rough career trajectory, often in a field only generally related to the things we actually have a passion for.

I probably shouldn’t use ‘passion’. It’s a little misleading. It’s more just something you actually care about.

The point is, the pressures and demands of modern life lead most of us into jobs, rather than vocations.

And everyone knows what they want to do with their lives.

We usually just haven’t given it the thought. Or we’ve made so many excuses over the years why we can’t do it, that we’ve forgotten what it was in the first place.

Or, maybe you’re scared that doing something exciting or fun or beautiful, something that you actually give a fuck about, will never work for you.

So, we just give up and do something easy or comfortable that pays the bills and gets you the things you want to buy.

“Yh it’s quite a depressing thought tbh” my sister said.

“It could be,” I replied, ever argumentative 😉

“Gotta use it as motivation I suppose” she countered. She was right, of course.

2. Give yourself space to figure out what the fuck you want

Everyone knows what they want to do with their lives. If you’re not sure, you’ve got to give yourself the chance and the space to figure it out.

What did you want to be when you were a little kid?

What did you enjoy?

Who did you pretend to be when you were playing games?

This might seems like a childish exercise but the trauma of adolescence tends to squash many of the things we enjoyed as children, as we try to fit in or be cool at school.

If you’re like most people, there are maybe a few things you love doing. The things you can talk for hours about. Or things you always wanted to explore.

But even if you still don’t know, and you’re not sure, you can always figure it out. That’s kinda the point.

“But it’s hard, coz I actually don’t know,” said my sister.

“Look at that sentence,” I said.

3. Stop trying to choose something to do for the rest of your fucking life.

You don’t have to choose something to do with your life forever.

You just need to give yourself the chance to do something you enjoy for a few years, a hierarchy of skills that you can climb that will support the things you need in life.

Passions can be flakey. You might think you should be doing it and find you don’t actually like doing it. That’s fine. Try something else you like the look of. Life is long.

It doesn’t even have to be a career.  Think of it as a side hustle. But you have to give yourself the chance to be happy. You have to give yourself the chance to work it out, in your head. Spend the time thinking about what’s important to you and what you enjoy doing, and you’ll be further along the path of figuring out what you want from life than many people.

Instead of saying, “I don’t know”, try, “I’m figuring it out.”

Or, “I don’t know, yet.”

Or, “I’m working on it.”

I promise you this is not some wishy-washy bullshit. Words are powerful things.

It’s an old saying that your thoughts become your words, become, become your actions, becomes you. Like many old sayings, it’s true.

As soon as you tell yourself something, you’re making it real.

Your brain starts looking for ways to make it a reality, and your body follows. It’s just what your body is supposed to do.

It’s the same mechanism as when someone tells you about something and you start to see it everywhere.

Figuring Out What the Fuck You Want to Do in Life

So, step 1 is to stop telling yourself you don’t know. Instead, start telling yourself that you’re going to figure it out.

Step 2 is to stop asking ‘how’ and actually start figuring out.

Start asking yourself the key questions;

‘What do/did I like doing?’

‘What am/was I good at?’

‘What do/did I want to know more about?’

Think about the things you loved doing as a child. If you’re not sure, ask your friends and family what they think you’re good at. What questions do they ask you?

Whatever you do DON’T LISTEN to the voice in your head telling you that you’re being silly even thinking about it, that it’s impossible, that it’ll never work.

They’re wrong. They don’t know. They’re not even you.

Keep asking yourself every day. You’ll get an answer.

And if you’re still not sure, let me know and we’ll figure it out together.

You probably already have an idea, you just don’t believe you can do it. But I do.


Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash