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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s easy to forget that nothing is real until we attach words to it, even feelings.
A coffee table is a coffee table. And a stubbed toe is just something that happens when you have toes. This much is obvious to anyone with a coffee table or a toe.
However, in the heat of the moment, that stubbed toe becomes domestic terrorism and that coffee table a vicious assailant in your home.
And we curse that ungrateful, dumb hunk of wood most righteously.
But it would be weird if, after stubbing our toe, we took an axe to that loathsome lumber, ground it to sawdust, and then went to the neighbour’s house to continue the table-cide.
Emotions are there to guide us, to warn us, and to heal us, but if we took them at face value, we’d live in a pretty barren and boring world.
We can stub a toe on pretty much anything, but only you get to decide how long it hurts.
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.
Often, it takes a lot less than we think.
We don’t need a million dollars to be rich.
We don’t need to run an ultra-marathon to be a runner.
Planting one tree is enough to start a forest.
And fifty words are enough to be a writer.
One big issue we must all battle is that we start so small.
The problem isn’t quite that we’re small.
The problem is that we expect the world to get smaller as we grow, to start to make more sense and show where it will bend to our will.
But unfortunately, as our limbs expand, so do our horizons.
The world turns out to be an even bigger and busier and scarier place than we thought. And we feel smaller and less important than ever.
Which is a good place to start.
We are small and unimportant, little more than a mote of sand in the sea or a mosquito in the marshes.
But put that dust mote into an oyster or that mosquito in a tent and you’ll quickly find out that nothing is ‘too small’ or ‘too big’ to make a difference.
Making a difference is about context and action.
Nothing else matters — least of all size.
Some blokes smell powerful.
It’s like they have so much mass that it leaks into the air around them.
Jocko Willink is one of those blokes.
He was a Navy SEAL officer for many years in the Middle East, and he told me this trick to flip the switch on adversity.
And when Jocko tells you something, you listen.
Anytime something bad happened, he would just say, “Good.”
Sand in your gun? Good. Now you can practice cleaning it.
Shot in the leg? Good. Now you can get some time off.
Lost your job? Good. Now you can find something better.
Didn’t get a date? Good. Now you can go out with your mates.
Gym closed? Good. It’s about time you got into running.
Stuck at home? Good. Maybe it’s time to write that book.
Didn’t get funded? Didn’t get a raise? Sprained your ankle? Got rejected? Got locked-in? Got locked-out?
Because when things go badly, some good will always come of it.
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!