Stalling: The Aerodynamics of Life

The Four Forces of Flight

The reason an aeroplane flies is because of something known as the four forces of flight. Those are thrust, lift, weight and drag. Thrust counteracts drag, whereas lift counteracts weight. 

If the forces of lift and and thrust are greater than the forces of weight and drag your aeroplane will climb, if they are less you will descend. When they are balanced, well, then, Bob’s your uncle. 

That means your flying straight and level – sitting pretty while cruising at your optimum altitude. Thanks Bob. 

Here’s a nice picture:

Now, let’s imagine you’re sat fat, dumb and happy, at your optimum cruising level, with all four forces in perfect harmony, when, all of a sudden, for reasons that Bob can’t understand, you bring the thrust back to idle. 

Now, let’s pretend, for reasons that Bob really can’t understand, you decide you want to stay at your cruisy cruising level, despite the fact you brought the thrust back to idle. 

How do you do that? 

Well, the only thing you can do is pitch up. You must increasingly pitch up to counteract the loss of energy so that the sum of the four forces remain equal. 

The problem with this is, by pitching up, although you increase lift, you also increase drag. Unless you come to your senses and increase thrust, you will continue to lose energy. 

If you keep pitching up in desperation, eventually you will reach a critical angle of attack (the direction of the aerofoil relative to the airflow) where the air starts to separate from the top of the wing resulting in a substantial loss of lift.

This is what’s known as the stall. 

When this happens Bob is no longer your uncle. In fact, Bob is fucking furious. (It’s possible he may be the Captain.) The only way to make Bob happy again is to do the one thing you don’t want to. Unless you have enough thrust to blast off into space (and you don’t), you must pitch the nose down. 

You must bring the angle of attack down in order to regain lift. You must come back to earth – you must sacrifice height for energy. It’s the only way to recover from a stall. 

As you might have guessed, this isn’t just a crucial lesson for aviators but all of us. Which leads us to the first critical life lesson and the central thesis of my (soon to be) high-flying book: 

When we stall in life the only way to regain lift is to let go. We must let go so we can find our feet again in the present. So we may accept and face our reality as it stands. This is what grounds us. We let go of what we can’t control in order to regain control of what we can. 

Now, hold on to your pilots hat because I’m about to take this analogy to new heights! 

The Four Forces of Life

As it happens there are – broadly speaking – four forces that act on you at anyone time. These are known (by Bob at least) as the four forces of life. 

They work, of course, just like the four forces of flight. Those are your health (which is equal to thrust), purpose or meaning (which is equal to lift), responsibility (which is equal to weight) and life itself (which is equal to drag). 

Just like an aeroplane, when the forces of health and meaning are greater than the forces of responsibility and life, the human aeroplane that is you, will climb. If it is less, you will descend. 

If they are balanced, well, then you’ve found the sweet spot. You have full health and enough meaning to carry the weight of your responsibilities. You’ve achieved that tricky thing known as life balance. 

Here’s another pretty picture:

Now, let’s imagine you suddenly lose your health. Maybe you get ill or suffer a depilating disease or break you leg. What ever it is, suddenly you don’t have the capacity to carry on to destination. Does that mean you’ve stalled? No, although it can lead there if you try to soldier on. What it does mean is you need to come back to earth pronto! 

It’s like when Captain Sullenberg ingested birds in both his engines. Did he stall? No, but he suddenly became a big-ass heavy-weight glider. That meant he had to come back to earth, and fast. 

He understood how crucial it was to let go of everything that wasn’t absolutely pertinent to the emergency at hand. Had he not had that clarity of purpose – had he not been able to accept what had happened – well, the end result may well have been much worse. 

Stalling in Life

So, what do I mean, exactly, when I use the term stalling in life. What causes us to stall? 

Well, meaning. Fundamentally, the reason we stall in life is because we’ve lost meaning. Meaning in what, you say? Well, the present. Your current circumstances. Life as it stands. 

The reason we lose meaning is because we’re clinging to something. Ironically it’s often an outdated belief that we’re unable (or refuse) to let go of. A belief that clashes with our current reality. This prevents us from instilling or finding new meaning in what currently is. 

When I ended my 12 year career in aviation and left the city I’d called home for most of my life, that resulted in a substantial loss of lift. Did I stall? You bet your bottom dollar I did! Letting go of that was one of the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But, of course, I had to. I had to let it go in order to find meaning in my current circumstances. My present reality.

As it happens, this is why I’m writing this book. It’s part of my stall recovery. I’m not only letting go of my past in the process – I’m subsuming that past and including it as part of my present day narrative. It’s the whole idea for this (soon to be) high-flying book. It’s so fucking meaningful to me, so fucking poetic, I could cry.

Not only is this important, as I will attempt to argue, it’s absolutely necessary. We must continually replace meaning in our lives. We must let go of old limiting beliefs and update them with new, slightly less limiting, ones. We must keep doing this. We must keep dying to ourselves over and over and over again. 

But, and this is a big but, there’s a deadly important caveat. Not only do we need to instil meaning in our lives, ultimately we need to learn to transcend meaning altogether. We need to see through meaning itself.

We need to let go and take control – we need to transcend and give meaning – at the same time.

Now, I’m going to circle back to this particular paradox and the question of how, but first it’s important to understand why. Why it is we all find it so damn hard to let go. What it is at our core we’re unable to come to terms with.

I suggest you buckle up boys and girls. Turbulence is forecast.


This is part one of a series of posts on the subject of stalling in life.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://wiseandshinezine.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

Piecing Together My Thanks

I realise that writing a book is like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle. Except you have to make the pieces first. You make the pieces and then work out where they go. You move them around until everything just sort of clicks into place. Then you flesh out the spaces in between. 

The hardest part for me is discarding the pieces that don’t fit. That’s probably why I hate/am so bad at editing. You’ve got to murder your darlings. You’ve got to be ruthless about which make the final cut and which don’t. Instead of trying to cram everything in because you’re unable to let go. 

I’ve already run into this problem with my introduction. I’ve got a good idea of how it’s going to go and I’m keeping the foot down. Just writing and writing and writing, as so many of you advised last week. I’ve gotten off to a flying start! But I can already see whole sections I’ve worked on being sent to bin. 

Still, I’m trying not to think about killing my darlings just yet. I’m simply placing them in a maybe folder for the time being while I continue to write. (This helps me let them go without having to actually let them go.)

In the coming weeks and months I’ll be posting various pieces of this massive jigsaw puzzle. Some will make the cut. Others, undoubtably, will not. And you probably won’t get them in the correct order. I’m still in the constructing the pieces stage (as opposed to piecing them together stage). So, you’ll have to bare with me. 

My process is a little bit messy but I realised, following all the excellent advice given last week, that I need to trust that process. I’m a free-flow pilot. When my muse goes on a tangent it’s important I let it. Even if it runs out of steam and comes to nothing. That often happens. 

But I know it can connect the dots in a way my conscious mind can’t. I know that every now and then it leads me to a destination I never expected. Somewhere way better. This has already started to happen. 

That, for me, is what makes the process of writing such as joy. It’s a rollercoaster. When the muse gets going, boy oh boy is it a blast. Honestly, I can’t wait to take you all along for the ride. 

For now though, I just want to say thank you all for your advice and many many words of encouragement. It means a lot. 

Stay tuned. This one is for all of you. 

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://wiseandshinezine.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

A Radical Idea. (I’m Going To Write a Book.)

Just imagine, you’re sat fat, dumb and happy when BAM! Your engine shits itself. (And so do you.) Suddenly you’re forced to divert. You need to get on the ground pronto!

Before you know it, there you are. Grounded with a bum engine – a million miles from the original destination you had in mind. 

So, you find yourself sat around in your underpants on a Thursday afternoon scratching your whatsit wondering what to do with the rest of your life. (Probably not scratch your whatsit.) 

After twiddling your thumbs you decide, at exactly 3:34 pm, you’re going to grab the day by the horns. So, you make a cuppa and sit down at your desk. After checking facebook, twitter, instagram, youtube and then facebook and twitter again, you begin typing.

All that thumb twiddling has given you a radical idea. (Actually, it’s given you many, but not all of them are suitable from younger readers.) 

You decide that the time is now or never. After all, your wife is bringing home the bacon. You have no excuses. “No more thumb twiddling!” you say. 

It’s down to business. 

So, ladies and gentlemen, here I am. This time I’m really doing it. I’m committing. I’m going all in. I’m going to start by stating it out loud.

But first let me check facebook one more time. Oh look! Someone liked the photo of the coffee I made. (Yesterday’s main accomplishment.) Yay! 

Anyway, back to this radical idea, this pet project of mine. 

A book, damn it! 

There, I said it. No backsies. I’m going to take my thumb out and write one. By announcing it out loud it I figure that 

  • a) you dear readers can hold me accountable and,
  • b) give me some much needed feedback as I progress and, crucially,
  • c) tell me how to actually write a book. 

Because I don’t have the first clue!

Anyway, I guess I should start by telling you what my radical idea for this book is. 

This tremendous book (title to be decided) will combine lessons in aviation (and life) with modern psychology (and a bit of ancient philosophy) in an attempt to help people hit the metaphorical reset button and rebuild their lives from the ground up. 

The idea is to provide a roadmap for those who feel their lives have stalled – who feel lost and unsure about what direction to take – who feel overwhelmed and burnout out. (So yes, me.) It’s going to talk them through the stall recovery. The need to come back to earth in order to gain some much needed clarity and perspective. But also to regain the energy and lift needed to maintain a sustainable climb over the long haul. (Of course all of this will play to my strengths: long extended aviation metaphors.)

It will be broken down, roughly, into four parts. 

  • Section 1 will be entitled Grounded
  • Section 2 will be entitled Lift. 
  • Section 3 will be entitled Turbulence. 
  • Section 4 will be entitled Moral Compass. 

Sections 3 and 4 will expand upon 1 and 2 respectively. A kind of beginners section and command section. This will possibly be spilt into two books (or a series of mini books). Anyway, this is just me spitballing – the basic idea I have in mind – all to be expanded upon in due time dear readers. 

For now I just want to throw it out there and get your feedback on 

  • a) the idea itself and 
  • b) where the hell I should start? (From the ground up I suppose.)

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://wiseandshinezine.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

A Singapore Fling

It occurs to me that I’ve gone through something of a divorce over the past year or so. Only, it’s not been to a person but a place.

Of course, there have been others. York for one. We had a few difficult years together. Then there was Oxford where I went to university. That was a nonstop party.

And I’ve certainly sowed my wild oats. I’ve traveled the world and experienced more cities I can count.

But, ultimately, Hong Kong was the girl I always came back to. There is no city in the world I know more intimately. We’ve been in a long term relationship – on and off – since I was 6 years old.

This has made the changes she’s undergone over the past few years especially painful. After we got married and had kids together everything changed. 

She became controlling. She tried to stop me from having an opinion. She even tried to stop me from seeing other people! 

In the end it was too much. I decided she wasn’t the right lady to spend the rest of my life with. So, as painful as it was, I filed for divorce.

But what are you supposed to do after such a long relationship? How are you supposed to cope? Should you jump in bed with the next city you find? Should you return to a former lover? Or, should you take some time to have a bit of fun and clear your mind?

I’ve really enjoyed my short time in Singapore so far. I think part of the reason is because I’ve come in with few expectations. Because I’ve taken a no-strings-attached approach. 

First impression are good. I’ve very much enjoyed exploring her green leafy back streets in my spare time. 

This is, incidentally, one of my favourite pastimes. Usually, before a layover, I would do an inordinate amount of research into places I want to eat. 

I would star many of these obscure eateries (often in the middle of nowhere) on google maps. Then I would create a kind of walking foodie tour by connecting the dots.

I would walk far and I would eat well.

It’s something I’ve sorely missed during the past few years of endless quarantine. So, to make up for lost time, that’s what I’ve been doing since I arrived in Singapore. 

I’m ecstatic to report that she’s an exceptional chef. 

Honestly, the relationship wouldn’t last long if she wasn’t. When it comes to cities, the best way to my heart is through my stomach!

Still, nowhere is perfect and Singapore is no exception. Her parents – namely the government – are known to be particularly heavy handed when punishing certain offenders. That may well be a flag longer term. 

With that said, the people here feel looked after for the most part. They have access to cheap affordable housing, excellent medical care and world class education.

Of course, they rinse the expats to make that possible. She ain’t a cheap lady to please! The cost of a beer is enough to make any man cry themselves to sleep. Mainly because he can’t afford to have a beer.

But back to the positive. She’s feels far more relaxed – far more family friendly – in comparison to Hong Kong. That’s certainly something I’m looking for at this stage of my life.

Although it occurs to me that maybe Singapore feels more relaxed because I am? Now that I’ve settled down, not that I’m together with my family again – after a very busy, stressful divorce.

Perhaps I’m simply projecting my feelings onto the place? 

At any rate, I don’t care. I’m enjoying myself. The last thing I want to think about is whether or not I will (or should) be here in 5 to 10 years time. We can save that particular conversation for a later date.

For now, I just want sit back, relax and enjoy this fine Singapore fling.

I’ll finish by asking you one of my all time favourite questions: what is your favourite city in the world and why? 

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://wiseandshinezine.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

The Elephant in the Cockpit

I’m going to stick my neck out today. I’m going to talk about something I’ve been avoiding for certain political and professional reasons for some time now. A topic that is close to my heart.

As it turns out, aircrew are extremely reluctant to talk about mental health. On the rare occasions I’ve brought it up, I’ve seen Captains visibly squirm in their seats. They will find any excuse to talk about something else.

Anything but the elephant in the cockpit.

Unfortunately, the problem isn’t simply an inability (or unwillingness) to talk about it. Aircrew are also more unlikely to get the help they need because of the stigma attached – because of what it might mean for their careers.

I recall talking to one Captain who was clearly distressed. It was evident that the last few years had taken its toll.

I asked him if he’d talked to a company doctor to get some time off. I told him I’d done so and was afforded 3 months stress leave. 

But he refused. He said that no airline would hire him if they found that on his record. He said it would be career suicide.

The hard reality is, if certain airlines get whiff that you have suffered from any kind of mental health issue in the past (regardless as to the whether that issue remains in the past) they will bring the shutters down hard. It seems only super humans will do. Preferably robots, in fact.

But here’s the thing that really gets me.

Many of these airlines appear to turn a blind eye within their own organisations. It’s as if they don’t want to know about it. As if they would rather their aircrew suffered in silence. Despite asking them, in some cases, to work under extremely demanding conditions. 

To give you a glaring example, I’m sure many of you will have read about the draconian covid measures the Hong Kong government has imposed over the past couple of years. In the story of animal farm, you can think of the aircrew as the rats. We were seen as the least equal of all the animals. Consequently our lives were placed on the frontline in government’s war to maintain zero covid.

What that has meant is hard to put into words. It’s been soul destroying. Collectively we have endured not years, but hundreds of years of quarantine. I’ve had more swabs shoved down my throat than I can count. Funnily enough one captain I flew with did. He was on PCR test number 234 and counting!

Yet, that wouldn’t have been as bad were it not for the severe punishment the government (and company) threatened if we failed to comply. The simple act of leavening our hotel room could mean 6 months in prison. We weren’t even allowed outside to get some exercise (a right, I might add, even prisoners are extended).

Needless to say these measures placed the company between a rock and an impossible place. The only way to keep the show on the road was to enact something known as closed loop patterns. This meant that crew who “signed up” would sometimes spend upwards of 8 weeks locked in a hotel room between flights. This was before doing their mandatory 2-3 weeks of quarantine.

Only then were they allowed to feel sunlight again.

What made this particular sinister was the new productivity based contract our company forced us to sign towards the end of 2020. It meant if we didn’t fly above a certain threshold each month our pay was significantly reduced. Of course, we don’t have any control over productivity. We can only fly the flights that are rostered. 

I was pregnant with my second child when I was forced onto this new contract. Part of the decision to have a second was based on the money I used to make. At any rate, spending anywhere between 5 to 10 weeks away from my family was out of the question. Thankfully we had money in the bank. We could and did take the finical hit.

But they were many who couldn’t. And what do you do when your choices are to sacrifice your own mental and physical wellbeing or provide for your family?

Of course, you sacrifice yourself.

That’s what the entire aircrew body have done to help maintain the government’s zero covid policy over the past two years. To provide for their families. To keep life going in Hong Kong.

I’m proud to say we did. We gave Hong Kong – effectively – a zero covid existence for over a year. But, eventually, the inevitable happened. A number of crew members broke their quarantine order and caught covid. On investigation it was found they had left their hotel room on a layover.

They were sacked, fined, prosecuted… Instead of simply punishing the offenders, they clamped down on whole crew body. At a time we’d desperately hoped our restrictions would ease. Not only that, we were vilified by many corners of the media. There were even reports of members of the public spitting on aircrew.

Many people have asked me why I left my job. Many people were surprised by the decision I made. Despite everything, despite all of the above, it was, without a doubt, the single hardest decision I’ve ever made. 

The job is deeply meaningful to me. I’m proud to say I’ve been part of a rich aviation heritage. To have flown for the same company my father flew for over 20 years. I’m more proud to say I flew as his first officer a number of times, including his last flight before retirement.

I desperately wanted to go the distance – to become a captain for the same airline. To come so close but turn away at the last minute is no small thing. Even after the decision was made, after months of torturing myself, I continued to have crippling doubts. I would get this feeling in the pit of my stomach like I’d been shot. It was awful.

But then, a few weeks ago, those doubts were shattered.

I learned a college of mine had committed suicide. He leapt from the balcony of his high rise apartment. A young British man, aged just 31 years. I didn’t know him well – I flew with him, I think, only a handful of times – but it hit me hard.

I felt angry, sad and ashamed.

Angry that it had got to this point. That the authorities and the media so shamelessly ignored the elephant in the cockpit. But also ashamed that maybe in my own silence – in my own avoidance of the elephant over the years – I had contributed to a culture that may have factored in his death.

In the days and weeks following I couldn’t help but wonder, could that have been me?

Just before the pandemic I sought help for own my long term issues with depression. I regard it as one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made. I believe it gave my the strength to get through the last couple years – even if I didn’t get through unscathed.

But what if I hadn’t?

Of course, there are different types and severities of depression. You can’t judge it with the stroke of one brush. But depression can spiral. I’ve never had suicidal thoughts but I appreciate, at least, how the mind could get there. How it could dig a torturous hole within itself. One it finds impossible to escape from.

This is why I believe the issue of asking for and getting help is so important. Making people feel they can – without judgement or repercussion – speak up and do so. Although most airlines offer programs that allow aircrew to seek help anonymously, so long crew as believe that getting help is a career ender, the industry has a significant problem.

While Hong Kong may be an extreme example, its illustrative of how far certain airlines/governing bodies are willing to neglect their duty of care.

The truth is aviators are some of the keenest people I know. They have a passion that most people only ever dream of finding. But that passion has been highjacked. It’s been used by the industry to move the goalposts repeatedly. Because they know that pilots will do just about anything to get their hands on the controls of a jet. 

To live the so-called dream.

We often joke about living that dream having been up all night. Once upon time that was mine. But I’ve come to realise there is only so much loss of sleep –  only so much soul crushing isolation – you can put up with before you lose the ability to dream altogether. 

If you ignore the elephant for too long, eventually it will crush you. 

It’s why I left the cockpit altogether.

I’m Back

When Micheal Jordan returned from the NBA after an extended hiatus his publicity manager was unsure how they should announce the news. So, he wrote a number of press releases for Micheal to choose from. 

But Jordan didn’t like any of them. He said, “I’ll do it myself.” before picking up a pen and writing down the following message,

“I’m back.”

That was it. The entire press release consisted of just those two words. Yet, everyone who was anyone knew exactly who and what. 

Of course, when you’re a legend like MJ you don’t need to say very much. In many respects, the less you say the better. You should let your actions do the talking.

Unfortunately most of us aren’t legends. Our actions usually don’t do the talking. That’s why we write! 

As much as I like to think of myself as the Micheal Jordan of the blogging world, I feel my press realise needs to be a wee bit longer. Mainly because my actions haven’t been talking at all.

Honestly, the last couple of months have been difficult for me. It’s felt like I’ve been stuck in the past. Desperately wishing to catch up with my family – my present – who had been waiting for me in Singapore while I saw out the remaining months of my contract in Hong Kong. 

Aside from failing to process some very difficult emotions, I’ve had a million and one things to do. I’m sure you can appreciate what a massive undertaking moving to a new country is.

For all of the above my motivation to write has gone begging. Instead, my muse has spent the last several weeks eating his emotions. I hesitate to point out he’s on a bit of weight..

This morning is the first time in a long time that I’ve sat down to really write and reflect. I quickly released how much I missed it. I released just how much I needed it. Even if my muse did struggle to get up from the couch!

I forget that writing helps me process my emotions. When I lose the motivation it may well be because I’m avoiding them. At any rate, I haven’t been. 

All things not said and not done, all I have are excuses. It comes back to actions versus words. There’s nothing wrong with having words, but they must align with action. That’s what makes them true.

As a writer, well, that means creating some words. 

I feel particularly guilty because I know how hard the rest of the team here at the new and vastly improved Wise and Shine have been working in my absence. 

Let me take this opportunity to say how extremely grateful I am to all of you for your efforts. Your actions do speak louder than words. They haven’t gone unnoticed. 

The good news is, I’m starting to feel like the seas are calming. Like I’ve finally caught up with my present self. 

I actually moved to Singapore last week. I managed to negotiate leaving a week early so I could arrive in time for my eldest son’s 4 year birthday. He’d been asking where daddy is for several weeks.

So, when I walked through the front door with suitcases in hand, his eyes lit up. He shouted “Daddy!’ before running across the living room and giving me a huge hug. As I struggle to hold back the tears, I said nothing. 

Not even the words, “I’m back.”

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://wiseandshinezine.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

The Ghosts of My Past

My emotions come at me in waves. Often I’m strong enough to withstand them – to hold the ship steady – but every now and then they catch me with my shields down. I’m swept away. 

That happened the other day when the movers came in to pack everything up. Seeing my whole life packed into boxes. That was difficult. 

But the hardest moment came after they had gone. When I was left all alone in an empty apartment, the place we’d called home for the past four years. 

And I could see it all at once. I could see the first time we brought my eldest son home from the hospital. I could picture my youngest taking his first steps across the living room floor. All the heart to hearts with my wife, sat exhausted on the sofa after a long day. 

The ghosts of my past were everywhere to be seen.

Yet, my present had already packed up and left. Waiting for me in Singapore while I see out the remaining 3 months of my contract here in Hong Kong.

It was then that the sheer enormity of the decision we’d made hit me. It was then that the real ghosts of my past started screaming. Telling me I’ve made a huge mistake, that I don’t what I’m doing, that I’m weak for not having put up with everything.

Here we go again, I thought. The voices in my head that never let up. The voices that have haunted me for so long.

Part of me worried that maybe, underneath it all – behind the politics, the toxic work culture, the endless days of quarantine – the real reason for leaving is a futile attempt to try and outrun these ghosts. Hoping I would somehow be able to leave them behind when I leave myself.

For the longest time I thought the voices telling me to leave were those ghosts. So, I figured the path to salvation was staying put. I figured I had to stay the course.

But I know that’s not true. I know it was my ghosts that kept me frozen in fear for so long.

The funny thing is, now that the decision is made, it seems, in some strange sense, the louder they scream the surer I am. Yet, they still scream, they still kick. 

Thankfully I know my ghosts well. l know, more often than not, they appear in a desperate attempt to mask some deeper pain beneath the surface. I also know that trying to outrun them is a mistake.

So, I believe, a better question isn’t how to stop your ghosts from appearing, but how to see through them when they do. To do that, you have to hold them in your heart. 

To see through the ghosts of your past you have to accept them as they are.

After torturing myself for a while that day I sat down in middle of that empty apartment and took some time to let my ghosts be. Slowly but surely the voices started to quell. 

Slowly but surely the real pain my ghosts were masking began to surface: Grief. 

Of course, the only way to process grief is to let your shields downs. The only way to process grief is to let your emotions sweep you away. So, that’s what I did.

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

The Hand We’ve Been Dealt

I want to finish this series of posts on personality I’ve put together over the past couple of months by giving you an analogy.

To first recap, there are five major personality traits: extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, openness and agreeableness.

Wherever you lie on the spectrum of each trait – whatever the circumstances that shaped you – this is the hand you’ve been dealt in this game we call life. 

If you’re lucky you may have a couple of aces up your sleeve. Maybe, if you’re not so fortunate, you have a couple of 2’s and 3’s to contend with. 

Maybe, just maybe, you have a royal flush!

However lucky you may or may not be, what matters is less the hand you’ve been dealt but how well you play it.

So I want you to take a long objective look at that hand and think about two things. The first is what game you should be playing. What game is your personality hand best suited to? 

A royal flush may be helpful in a poker game, but different games suit different hands. You might not want a royal flush.

If you’re high in extraversion you’ll feel energised working with lots of people. However, if you’re highly introverted it will exhaust you. You’ll be far better off working alone or with a small group of people.

If you’re high in agreeableness you’ll want to work for people – you’ll gain a huge amount from looking after others. If you’re low in agreeableness you’ll want to channel that competitive nature. 

If you’re highly open you’ll be well suited to entrepreneurship or creative endeavours. If you’re high in conscientiousness you’ll be well suited to managerial or administrative positions. 

Wherever your strengths lie, you want to think long and hard about your intrinsic motivations. If your personality hand doesn’t match your job you will be miserable – if not unsuccessful.

This applies to life partners as well. 

Except for those who are highly neurotic, you want someone with a similar temperament. Opposites may attract but they make for terrible life partners. Major personality differences are flash points in any relationship. 

But life isn’t perfect. Finding a job or life partner that matches your hand perfectly is impossible. There will inevitably be differences. There will be parts of your nature that you will have to shift to make things work. 

So the second thing I want you to do is to take a long hard look at the aspects of your personality that are holding you back. What cards in your hand need strengthening?

For someone high in agreeableness the danger is an inability to stand up for oneself and say no. Learning to be more assertive is an excellent way to combat this.

Those low in agreeableness would do well to work on their listening skills. Someone who is highly introverted should consciously work on their social skills.

Those high in neuroticism should think about the things they are avoiding that they ought to be doing, then practise facing them. 

If you’re low in conscientiousness it’s worth making a detailed plan and then breaking it down. If you’re low in openness you should make reading and writing a habit. 

If you’re extremely high in openness, think about the most essential things in your life and then ruthlessly commit to them. 

Wherever you weakness lie, what you want to do is push yourself outside of your personality comfort zone. That’s how you build character.

The strange paradox here is that by practising what you aren’t, you become more comfortable with who you are.

This is because your identity is self-regulating. Much like the thermostat on you’re air conditioner.

To change the setting of your personality thermostat you have to challenge your identity. The primary benefit comes not from shifting the setting but from expanding the zone – the temperature range – around your innate setting. 

What you’re doing is broadening your personality by breaking down the limiting parts of yourself, the narrative about who you are (or aren’t) that keeps you tightly bound within a narrow temperature range. 

By expanding the limits of that temperature range the real you has the space to breathe and shine through. Because you know you can be who you need to be when the occasion calls for it.

That’s the real trick. When you can change the cards in your hand to suit the game at play, there’s no telling what you can achieve. 

I believe it’s the difference between winning and losing in this game we call life.


Thank you for taking the time to read my series on personality. You can find a link to the other posts below. At some point I’ll attempt to package everything into a small ebook to give away. For now, I wouldn’t mind some feedback if you have any? Did you enjoy this series on personality? Would you like me to do more of the same? Let us know in the comments below.

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You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

Agreeableness: The Sacrifice of Self

Agreeableness breaks down into Compassion and Politeness. 

Compassionate people are the caring, loving types. They are sympathetic towards other people’s feelings and take an active interest in their friends and families lives. 

Polite people are very careful with their words. They have a deep respect for authority and hate to seem pushy or impose their will on others. 

On the surface agreeableness appears to be largely good, but we need to be alert to the costs that exist at any end of any personality trait spectrum. 

In this case the word costs can be taken literally. There’s a reason why assholes make more money…

Let’s start by talking about what drives agreeableness, before examining those costs and why it is you might want to practise being less agreeable. 

The Maternal Link

One of the biggest differences between men and women among the Big Five personality traits is in agreeableness. Women are a fair bit higher, on average, than men.

For fear of being lynched by the social constructionists, my feeling is biology is the overwhelming factor here.

Pregnancy has, especially historically, placed women in a far more vulnerable position. Even after childbirth, an infant didn’t have access to things like formula. The baby was firmly tied to the mother.

If you hadn’t noticed, infants are quite disagreeable little bastards. What’s particularly annoying is they have every right to be. They are completely and hopelessly dependant.

As a parent you must sacrifice yourself completely.

In the modern age the man can take on that role more and more, but as a tribal hunter-gatherer there really was only one woman for the job. 

But someone had to be the one to go and hunt for dinner. Someone had to to go out and negotiate on behalf of the tribe. 

Disposable Men

I believe these self-evident biological underpinnings manifest themselves in perhaps the biggest difference personality psychologists have found between men and women. The interest in things versus people. 

Male dominated industries include engineering and aviation. Female dominated industries (of which there are many) include teaching, nursing and childcare. 

Now, none of this is to say that social conditioning has nothing to do with the difference, but to deny the role of biology seems to me to be at the other end of ideological extreme. 

It’s worth noting that sex differences in personality have been shown to be larger in more gender equal countries.

Still, it would be remiss not to point that there is far more commonality – far more overlap – between men’s and women’s personalities than differences. I have quite an effeminate set of personality traits, on paper at least. That’s not uncommon. 

If you picked a man and woman off the street at random 4 times out of 10 the women would less agreeable than the man. That’s not insignificant either. 

But these slight trends play out prominently at the extreme ends of the spectrum. 

The vast majority of extremely disagreeable people are men. Extremely low agreeableness is a high predictor of incarceration. There are 15 times as many men in prison as women. 

We tend to look up at those who hold all the power and wealth, of course, but men also dominate the lowest positions in society. 

Disagreeableness cuts both ways.

One theory for this – called the greater male variability hypothesis – argues men are more disposable as they are less likely to reproduce successfully. 

This theory also makes sense when you consider why women are more neurotic on average. Sensitivity to negative emotion is what keeps you alive, even if it does kill your quality of life.

And that’s what an infant needs from its mother most of all: to survive.

The Sacrifice of Self

Placing the gender debate aside, collectively we are much more agreeable than our ancestors among the primatesOne assumes that as we evolved we realised there was far more to be gained from sacrificing on behalf of the tribe.

Of course, the more agreeable you are the more friends you’re likely to have, the more likely those friends will repay your kindness in turn. 

In this sense compassion can be thought of as a negotiating strategy. I’ll share my spoils today so that you’ll share yours tomorrow. That way none of us have to go hungry.

The benefits here are obvious. 

So a far more interesting question is to ask whether you can be too compassionate or too polite? Often it depends towards whom that compassion/politeness is directed, but the answer is most definatey yes!

One pathology associated with high agreeableness is dependant personality disorder – when someone develops a child-like dependance on authority figures because their unable to establish any autonomy of their own. 

In any relationship you want a partner who is similar in temperament when it comes to agreeableness, otherwise it may be a very one-sided affair. 

However, two highly agreeable people need to watch out! If you avoid conflict at all costs, you end up stewing in your own resentment. It builds over time. 

Ultimately a relationship without conflict is doomed. 

Then there’s the tricky issue of determining how much you should sacrifice for your kids. At some point the bird has to leave the nest. The only way a kid can learn to fly is by going solo

If you over-coddle them, or over-structure their lives, they may fail to develop the necessary autonomy to stand on their own two feet. 

This is a story that’s as old as time. Like the child who fights his or her nature to please the parents.

To some extent this is a struggle we all have. Our need to meet the approval of others at the expense of our own identity. 

A Competitive Edge

Disagreeableness correlates strongly with competitiveness.

One way to foster mediocracy among kids is to hand out participation medals at sporting events so no-one has to feel bad.

It defeats the point. So you ask, what’s the point of competition? Well, to get what’s best. Fundamentally, we compete so that we can eat. (When you consider that most games involve hitting some kind of target, it’s quite possible that sport derived from hunting. )

But competition works in reverse. It gets the best (and worst) out of us. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. 

Competition does drive better results but so does working as a team. So, you might conclude, the very best results come from competing as groups. 

This is why I believe sports is so important, especially for children/adolescents. It teaches you to both work as a team and how to negotiate on your group’s behalf. 

If it’s in your nature to sacrifice yourself for others, finding a cause or a group that you’re willing to stand and fight for is a good way to teach you to be more disagreeable.

There’s always a way to stack the personality cards in your favour. 

The other thing sport teaches you is how to lose, how to “take it on the chin.” We undermine that process by doing things like handing out participation medals. But we also undermine that process by instilling a cutthroat win-at-all-costs mentality. 

The most important thing isn’t winning, it’s being allowed to compete again next time. In the game of life that’s what gives you the best chance of success.

The Dark Knight

Let’s finish this post by talking about those who don’t play fair. The so-called assholes who end up ruling the world. Many of them are, of course, but to lie the blame squarely at their feet is to miss the lesson. 

One of the main reasons disagreeable people make more money is because they don’t take things so personally. Of course they might not have many friends, but who cares when you live on a luxury yacht!

Jokes aside, just because someone isn’t personable doesn’t mean they’re bad. And just because someone is nice doesn’t mean they’re good. 

Perhaps it’s us agreeable types that need to develop a bit more backbone?

If you ask me, the world’s isn’t short of nice people. We don’t need more fake niceness in the world. What need are more good people willing to act like assholes. 

What I mean by that is a willingness to upset/be disliked by other people. (Not actually be an asshole.)

The reason we avoid that difficult conversation is because we fear upsetting the other person. That’s what we tell ourselves, at least.

But the brutal and honest truth is – the real reason we don’t want to make other people feel bad – is because that would make us feel bad.

Yet, by avoiding that difficult conversation we become less resilient. We all feel worse (and are worse off) in the long run. 

And none of us are awake.

As a society it seems we’ve forgotten that being offended is actually a choice. It’s not one that should be taken lightly. 

Sticks and stones remember? 

Being offended has little to do with the horrible things someone else has said, but what you believe. It has to do with the expectations you’ve placed on others.

I’ll finish with this thought.

I once heard the remark that success can be measured by the number of difficult conversations one has had. In an increasingly polarised world I believe the success or failure of democracy will be measured by the same yard stick. 

The way to fight the forces of evil – both within and out – is through understanding. To do that we must be willing to have the difficult conversations.

Ultimately this is what the freedom of speech was designed to both protect and promote. It’s the one thing we should all agree on. 

The complete freedom to disagree. 


This is part of a series of posts on the Big Five Personality Traits. Please find previous post below:

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

Openness: The Gates of Mind

“Openness is seen in the breadth, depth and permeability of consciousness, and in the recurrent need to enlarge and examine experience.”

McCrae & Costa, 1997, p. 826

Openness (which is actually Openness to experience) breaks down into Intellect and Openness. 

Intellects like grappling with ideas. They love to solve complex problems and debate philosophical matters. They have a rich vocabulary and can formulate ideas clearly.

Those high in Openness enjoy the beauty found in nature and art. They see patterns that others don’t. They tend to be very reflective – the so-called daydreamers who always have their heads stuck in the clouds.

Open types love to experience new things, of course. Having a creative outlet isn’t so much a hobby as it is a need. Like oxygen!

In simple terms, we can say that straight Openness is associated with creativity, imaginativeness, and interest in aesthetics, whereas Intellect is related to an interest in ideas.

Both are strongly correlated with IQ. 

Let’s start with creativity and Openness before moving on to Intellect, and the link both have to intelligence.

What Is Creativity?

To quote the dictionary, “creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something.” Inventiveness is a good word. What’s going to help facilitate a creative mind is exposure to many different things, movies, experiences, books, art, theatre, etc, etc.

One way researchers have measured creativity is through divergent thinking tests. These require individuals to come up with as many ideas or solutions to a simple problem.

For example, how many uses can you think up for a brick? 

Less open people typically generate fewer and more obvious answers to this question, like building a wall or a house. Whereas an open person will think weapon, paperweight, doorstop, or putting it on the gas pedal of a car in case you want to drive it off a cliff without anyone in it. (Naturally.)

You can measure creativity by the sheer number of ideas or in terms of originality.

What differentiates an open person’s brain has something to do with latent inhibition, a process also known as learned irrelevance. 

Of course, it’s impossible to take in every detail the world throws our way. Learning what to ignore is critical, otherwise we would become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data presented.

So what our clever little minds do is cull irrelevant information. The cost here is this information may be helpful later on. When later on arrives, we may fail to recognise its significance, to unlearn its irrelevance. 

Researchers have tested latent inhibition by “exposing participants to seemingly unimportant stimuli that later form the basis of a learning task.”

For the average person, this information – having been rendered irrelevant – gets filtered out. So it fails to penetrate awareness. Open people, on the other hand, are far more likely to bring that information to mind.

This is what, in part, makes Open people great problem solvers. The ability to connect seemingly unrelated dots, to see things that others don’t. 

The Costs of Openness

So, you can think of latent inhibition as the brain’s filter. Open-minded people have a leakier consciousness that lets more information in.

You might think that’s great because you notice more. That must be an advantage. This is true, but it also means you’re more likely to struggle with distraction. Focusing on the task at hand can be tough if you’re always off in the clouds. 

That’s the price you pay for a creative mind, of course. A wandering mind is a creative one. But it’s also one prone to overthinking and anxiety.

Those who are excessively high in Openness and low in Conscientiousness (in particular) may be so drawn by new ideas/beliefs – so susceptible to changing winds – that they struggle to form a coherent life structure.

Put another way, they have trouble defining themselves. 

It can be a curse for someone high in neuroticism too. 

Openness is, in some sense, a drive to explore the unknown. To buck conventions and take a step out into chaos. It’s a risker mode of existence. That nature can be hard to reconcile if you’re highly neurotic. 

The danger for a closed-minded individual is ignoring what is pertinent. The warning signs that what you are doing or thinking is wrong.

We shouldn’t always follow the standard operating procedures (as we say in aviation). Often we need to think laterally to overcome a problem. To adapt to an ever-changing world.

If you have a belief – if you only ever look for/accept what confirms that belief – your idea of the world may crash violently with reality. This can be hard to reconcile if you don’t learn to open your mind – if not for you, then for those on who you enforce your particular worldview. 

The Link to Intelligence.

It’s difficult to talk about Openness without mentioning intelligence.

I should say, a straight IQ test is still the best way to measure intelligence, although you’re unlikely to be low in IQ if you score high in either Intellect or Openness. However, it’s not uncommon to be low in Intellect but high in IQ. 

This is because Intellect is a measure of interest in abstract ideas, essentially, whereas an IQ test is a measure of processing speed, verbal ability, working memory, and problem-solving capacity.

You can, broadly speaking, break general intelligence into Fluid intelligence and Crystallised intelligence.

Fluid intelligence is like your brain’s processing speed. Provided you are given the proper nutrition in childhood, it’s pretty much set from birth. It slowly declines with age.

Crystallised intelligence is a measure of what you know. It’s the knowledge you’ve accumulated from prior learning and past experiences. It increases with age.

There’s an interesting split here.

Straight Openness is more closely linked to verbal or Crystallised intelligence, whereas Intellect is more closely related to non-verbal/general or Fluid intelligence. 

How to Broaden Your Mind

Now, one question that often arises – something that has created a lot of heated debate – is whether or not one’s intelligence can be increased. The answer is both yes and no.

For the most part your Fluid intelligence is fixed but you can increase your Crystallised intelligence. But here’s the thing. Crystallised intelligence and Fluid intelligence are intertwined.

You increase Crystallised intelligence by using your Fluid intelligence to reason and think about abstract problems.

So here’s a suggestion. 

Find an idea that really grabs you. Something that is difficult to wrap your head around, that you can grapple with. Then read as much as you can about it. Listen to all sides of the argument.

Really seek to understand. 

Finally, consolidate your learning by writing about it in your own words. It is one of the best ways to do so.

Trying to learn something new is a habit that’s worth developing for life. It turns out that increased Crystallised intelligence actually compensates for the decline in other cognitive abilities as you age.

It’s like an old chessplayer competing against a younger apprentice. The younger kid may be able to think quicker, but the more senior player has a considerable breadth of knowledge to draw on. 

Some Closing Thoughts

I want to finish this post by bringing up a final point about intelligence. 

Sometimes, something of a superiority complex is found in naturally intelligent people. If you have an IQ of 115 or greater, that puts you in the top 15 % of the population. What’s more, most people you know are probably just as smart as you are. 

You’re not seeing the whole picture. 

There are just as many people at the other end of the IQ spectrum. Those who score less than 83 are not eligible to be inducted into the United States army. They really struggle to look after themselves in a modern complex industrial society. 

What that means is (I’m taking an educated guess here that I’m talking to the top 15%) you’re really fucking lucky. If you have a high IQ that is something to be extremely grateful for. 

Not to belittle any hard work for whatever successes you may have accomplished, but IQ is the most significant determinant of success. Nothing else comes close.  

You’re not better than someone just because you’re smarter than them. And there’s a reason why researchers have often found an inverse correlation between intelligence and conscientiousness. 

Those who struggled more at school often had to work much harder to pass the bar. In the process of learning to work hard, many of these kids often end up outpacing everyone else later in life. 

There is something significant to be said about that. Of course there are many things that make up one’s character. Intelligence is but one.

I want to stress that all of us are closed-minded to a large degree. Nature didn’t intend for everyone to open natured for good reason. It is a rare trait to be highly open in nature.

If we didn’t compartmentalise the world – if we didn’t attach labels, draw lines or make assumptions – we wouldn’t have a psychological grounding to stand on.

We have to close our minds to a large extent in this world. If you remain open to absolutely everything, you will never become anything. 

That means make some tough choices. That means coming to terms with the world we have closed ourselves off from and the one we have locked ourselves into. 

I believe that not only is that ok, it’s necessary.

Because we don’t, can’t, and never will be able to see the whole picture. But that idea, paradoxically, is the one we must always remain open to.

This is part of a series of posts on the Big Five Personality Traits. Please find previous post below:

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

Conscientiousness: The Ruthless Pursuit of Order.

Of all the interplay between character traits, I find the relationship between conscientiousness and openness the most interesting.

The lines are blurred, of course, especially when you break these traits down into their respective aspects, but it appears there is an inverse correlation.

This makes sense when you consider that lateral thinking requires taking an idea from one domain and applying it to another. It involves exposure to lots of different things.

The jack-of-all-trade types.

When you ruthlessly chase a goal, you have to compartmentalise the world. You’re less concerned with out-of-the-box thinking. Dedication to the task at hand means excluding everything else.

This is what it takes to be a very successful master of one.

The Benefits of Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness can be broken down into the following two aspects: Industriousness and Orderliness. 

Those who score high in Industriousness are driven, focused and determined. They finish what they start. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the buzzword known as Grit? 

Well, it’s the same thing.

Those high is Orderliness want everything to be in its place, every detail taken care of. They hate mess (and messy people). They believe in following the rules and dislike having their routine disrupted. 

So, to summarise, conscientious people may be described as careful, reliable, well organised, self-disciplined, and persevering.

Well sign me up batman! 

No wonder our results-obsessed society makes a song and dance about this character trait. It’s easy to see why you would want to be more conscientious. 

What’s less easy to see are the costs associated with higher conscientiousness.

And let’s be clear, conscientious is the highest predictor of success after IQ. 

To quote this paper from the American Psychological Association, “It is one of the most reliable predictors of work outcomes, including job performance, leadership, income, and occupational attainment. 

It also predicts marital stability and, conversely, a tendency not to experience divorce. Finally, conscientiousness is an independent predictor of major depression above and beyond other personality traits, such as neuroticism

It seems that if one is interested in either living or promoting the possibility of a long, healthy, successful, and happy life, one should be interested in conscientiousness.”

Wowza! Like I said…

But this begs the question, since the benefits are so obvious, what are the costs of being highly conscientious? What are the benefits of being unconscientious?

The Ruthless Pursuit of Order

Now, here’s where shit gets really interesting.

It turns out that orderliness is one of the strongest predictors of conservatism. Of course, conservatism is part of the process by which we establish borders and barriers between things. 

It’s resistance to change. Why? Because change often brings a certain amount of chaos along with it. And too much chaos can be a dangerous thing.

I find this infinitely fascinating because guess what the highest predictor of liberal beliefs in character traits are? That’s right, openness.

Open people like to think laterally. They want information and ideas to flow freely because it opens up new possibilities. They want to flatten borders and tear down walls. Open people hate being boxed in.

What is the definition of creativity if not to think outside the box?

But those who aren’t creative couldn’t care less. They crave order to a much higher degree. They want to remain dutifully within the damn box.

Of course, there are pros and cons at either end of the liberal/conservative divide here. Boxes are both good and bad. They provide protection but also restrict the free flow of information and ideas. 

Now, one of the biggest killers historically has been pathogens. You’re probably wondering what that has to do with anything?

Well, high orderliness is linked to heightened disgust sensitivity. One prominent example of this, sitting at the extreme end of the spectrum, is obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Another theory (called the parasite stress hypothesis) found a very high correlation between the prevalence of pathogens in authoritarian regimes

The reason for this, in part, is because diseases historically weren’t well understood, if at all. Its control often depended on the adherence to ritualised behavioural practises. 

But of course, people didn’t know which ritualised behavioural practices reduced the risk of infection. So, to be sure, best to conform across the board.

It was foreigners, non-conformers, dissenters, and other “dirty liberals” who often posed the most significant health threat. 

Herein lies the biggest danger of being too conscientious. I think the word tolerance fits the bill very nicely – or rather, intolerance

Most authoritarian regimes are driven by their need for order at the expense of everything else. It takes over. 

To use an extreme example, Hitler was one conscientious motherfucker. The man went from failed artist (perhaps, unsurprisingly, now that I think about it) to commandeering the most powerful military in the world in the matter of two decades. 

He was incredibly focused and determined in the pursuit of his goals. Do we think that was a good thing? No. Why? Because his values were fucked, and so, as a result, was the rest of Europe. 

Here is where the idea of pathogens will raise hairs on the back of your neck. Hitler often used the metaphor that the Aryan race was a body threatened by pathogens. 

Of course, the Nazi party enacted many twisted policies in the name of “racial hygiene.” And how do you deal with pathogens? You sterilise them, of course. You destroy them. 

You set fire to them.

This brings up a point I want to make about “success.” The ability to implement an idea isn’t nearly as important as the idea itself. If you’re driven by terrible values, we may all suffer the consequences. 

How to Become More Conscientious

On the flip side – to come back to the benefits of conscientiousness – a good idea isn’t worth a damn if you’re unable or unwilling to implement it. 

This is where open types can struggle. They come up with a myriad of excellent ideas that they often fail to put into practice. 

Part of the problem is their nature. They shrug their shoulders at mess. They are the laid-back, happy-go-lucky, Big Lebowski types. 

Unconscientious people are much more interested in seeing where the wind takes them.

This makes them more adaptable, of course. It means they are more accepting of change, but it can come at a significant longer-term cost if they never commit to anything. 

I think it’s crucial for those sitting on the lower side of the spectrum to recognise this. 

Contrary to many a liberal’s belief, success isn’t all down to dumb luck or natural talent (unless you believe that free will is an illusion). Hard work most definitely does pay off. Talent is wasted without it. 

The question is, then, how do we become more conscientious? 

To take a leaf out of the conservative’s book, I think the idea of setting clearly defined boundaries is a good one. Learn to set and follow a schedule. (Punctuality is heavily linked to conscientiousness.) 

When you commit to working, learn to block out the outside world. Focus has much more to do with eliminating distractions than it does to do with applying effort. 

Literally put up a wall by locking yourself in a room. Don’t allowing yourself to check your phone till you’ve finished writing that goddamn blog post about conscientiousness, you open-headed dope!

You know all this, of course. So you also know it’s much easier said than done. A significant part of the problem is not knowing what we want our lives to be about. What we want to make of ourselves. 

So, you want to create a vision for yourself – to have a clearly defined philosophy that helps you to stay on track. 

Warren Buffet recommends the following 3-step process: 

  1. Write down a list of 25 career and/or life goals. 
  2. Circle the five highest. Just five.
  3. Take a hard look at the other 20 and avoid them at all costs. 

It’s also worth asking to what extent these five goals serve a common purpose? The more they’re part of the same value hierarchy, the more focused your passion, the better. 

Ironically, it’s when we define the parameters this way our creativity starts to flourish.

To finish with an analogy, music follows a specific set of rules. They are a limited number of notes one can play. But within those rules, the possible number of melodies are almost infinite. 

Open people need not look at a box as limiting. Defining your own limitations might just be the very thing that sets you free.


This is part of a series of posts on the Big Five Personality Traits. Please find previous post below:

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

Neuroticism: The Cost of Consciousness

Neuroticism is the trait associated with negative emotions. Of course, it’s probably the one trait you don’t want to score high on because it sucks to feel bad.

Naturally, I score moderately high in neuroticism…

It’s worth pointing out that all of us are more sensitive to negative emotions. Human beings are neurotic creatures. 

This is often illustrated by the fact people will hurt more by a loss of a given magnitude than feel rewarded by a gain of the same amount.

What this means is that someone who’s described as a neurotic will be particularly risk-averse

What’s the long-term cost of never taking risks? Of always being afraid of negative consequences? Well, you retreat from life itself. You spend your days never venturing out of the bat cave.

Of course, those high in neuroticism are far more likely to suffer from mental illnesses such as depression. I can painfully attest to this.

The Cost of Consciousness

Neuroticism can be broken down into the following two aspects: Volatility and Withdrawal. 

I think it’s helpful to liken them to the fight or flight or freeze response system, where volatility represents fight (think anger, irritability, unstable etc.), and withdrawal represents flight or freeze (think anxiety, fear, depression etc.).

I score moderately high in withdrawal but lower in volatility. This has something to do with past trauma. As a result, I tend to shrink into my shell. 

Interestingly enough, high withdrawal is associated with self-consciousness. I say that’s interesting because self-consciousness is often touted as a cardinal human trait. 

We see it as a good thing!

Remember what I said about our weaknesses being attached to our strengths? Self-consciousness is perhaps the best example of that. 

Becoming self-aware was one of the most significant milestones in our evolution. It has allowed us to do extraordinary things. 

Yet it’s also meant living in the shadow of our own mortality. Knowing that death is coming to each and every one of us. That has proved a high cost to bear. Arguably it’s this uncomfortable truth that drives most of our actions.

Another high cost to consciousness is shame. Having to come to terms with our very real limitations. Knowing that we will always fall short of what we could be. 

Shame is very different from guilt. One could argue that guilt is good, whereas shame isn’t. 

To highlight the difference, someone who feels guilty might say, “I messed that up,” whereas someone who who feels shame might say, “I messed that up.” 

Shame places the focus on the self as opposed to the behaviour. More to the point, the mistake is seen as a reflection that the self is fundamentally flawed. 

So, “Instead of a desire to confess, apologies and repair, shame causes a desire to vanish, escape or strike back.” 

The Surprising Benefits of High Neuroticism

Now, you might be wondering what the upshot is for those higher in neuroticism. After all, the trait wouldn’t exist if it didn’t come with benefits. 

To answer this question, it helps to ask why we all tend to feel negative emotions more intensely in the first place. Why do we all have an inbuilt negativity bias, for example?

The answer is survival.

Anxiety is a horrible emotion, but better that than being badly hurt in an accident or being outcast by the Alpha of your tribe. It’s best to tread carefully rather than be dead as the dodo.

The truth is feeling bad has done more to ensure the survival of our species than feeling good ever has, yet fear is dragged through the mud. 

Do you see a problem here?

We demonise fear. We make it out to mean that something must be wrong with us. We say there is nothing to fear but fear itself. But do you really want to live without fear? Do you want the pilots in front of your aeroplane to be fearless? 

Nothing would scare me more.

There are only two kinds of people who don’t feel fear: psychopaths and the dead. If you’re wondering what the costs at either end of the neuroticism scale are, this is an excellent way to think about it. Too high, and it kills your quality of life. Too low, and it kills you.

Something we could all do well to work on is changing our relationship to fear. Fear is our friend – our ally. 

Really!

He’s just not a terribly intelligent one. He was made during a very different time in a very different environment. So you have to remain kind but objective.

But you can reframe your relationship to fear. You can befriend it. Often it is a powerful indicator – telling us exactly what we should do. 

Something you can do is zoom the lens out and imagine how much worse your life will become if you continue to let fear dictate all your decisions. 

Now that really is frightening! 

If you can paint a very vivid picture then that fear becomes greater than your stage fright or that awkward conversation you’re putting off. 

What you’ve done is put that fear behind you. It’s no longer a headwind. It’s a fucking tailwind. 

Now here’s something interesting. 

Neurotic types who work hard on becoming more conscientious have a surprising health advantage. The self-discipline of being conscientious counteracts unhealthy neurotic behaviour. 

A survey of 1,054 adults found that those who were both neurotic and conscientious had lower levels of inflammation. Of course, inflammation is heavily linked to depression

Dr. Nicholes A. Turman, the study’s first author, speculated that this is because conscientious or “healthy” neurotics may be hyper-vigilant about their lifestyle.

I come bearing more good news for the overly neurotic. 

Higher levels of neuroticism are often linked with higher levels of creativity “because the brain which is linked to creativity also has the tendency to overthink and worry.”

Remember what I said? 

The gifts that God gave you often come with the devil attached. What matters is how you relate to the devil. 

How to Lower Neuroticism

So, you soothe a baby by picking it up and holding it. Babies may die without human touch, even if given enough food, water, and shelter. Those who receive minimal human contact growing up are significantly compromised in their future development.

This is because human touch is palliative. When we feel down it’s imperatvie that we talk to someone. If your friend or family member is grieving, you should hug them – IT HELPS!

You can tell if a child is well adjusted by how willingly they play. If your household is well structured, your child will be comfortable knowing that all their needs are taken care of. 

The reason a child may not be comfortable is because of some perceived threat. Anxiety disrupts a child’s willingness to play. 

An American psychologist named Jerome Kagan studied temperament in toddlers and found that the more reactive children took longer to warm up to new individuals. He found those same toddlers were equally high in neuroticism years later.

The good news is, he also found that voluntarily active exploration normalised anxious children’s behaviour.​ To the greatest extent possible, a parent should encourage this in a child. You want to set boundaries but you want to let them explore and push the edges of those boundaries. That’s a healthy thing.

An adult is no different.

With that in mind, I’ll finish this post with a three-step plan for those who suffer from anxiety. 

First: Make a plan. 

Not having a plan is another primary source of anxiety – of course, it is! We need a why otherwise, why get out of bed? 

Having and implementing a plan reduces the anxiety that something terrible might happen. But we need a plan that has a reasonable probability of success. So you should make it simple.

Baby steps are essential. 

It’s worth asking yourself what task you are willing to do? Even if it’s something as small as tidying your room or putting on a load of laundry. Just start with that.

Taking action is no small thing for someone in the throes of depression. In fact, I would argue, it is everything. 

When you move toward a goal, the positive emotion system in your brain releases dopamine – the feel-good hormone. This encourages you to do more of the same. The same emotion causes you to binge-watch NETFLIX or obsessively check your social media feed. You want to use this feedback mechanism to chase positive rewards instead of negative ones.

Something as seemingly minor as tidying your room is an excellent mental health exercise. It can have cascading effects leading to improvements in other areas of your life.

Second: Build a routine. 

A critical aspect of implementing a plan is having a routine. Concentrating less on the outcome so much as showing up and doing something – anything – pushes you toward positive change. 

I suggest you start with sleep. Go to bed and wake up at the same time. Try to meditate, exercise, and eat at the same time too. Make it so small you can’t fail to begin with. 5 minutes of meditation – 5 pushups, etc.

You want to place some scaffolding into your day – some predictability – from which to build and explore. 

Third: Confront the dragon.

You want to voluntarily seek out the dragon and take it on. You want to push yourself into uncomfortable situations willingly.

This part should come last. Build towards it slowly – simply sharpen your sword, to begin with. Don’t tell yourself to take on the whole dragon in one go. 

You must negotiate with your anxiety – find the task that scares you but that you are willing to do – and encourage yourself to do it. Then really praise yourself for having done it.

Only by exposing yourself to a threat or obstacle will you break down the belief that you can’t overcome it. By facing the thing and approaching it – however minor the step – you start to indicate to your anxiety system that you’re more competent than the thing is dangerous.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a wrap. Next up: Conscientiousness.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that never gives up – even when all hope is lost!

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) We’re taught to do things to please our parents for survival. When we eventually grow up we realise we don’t have to do things to please others anymore. Only what we know is right in our hearts. Often that means saving yourself because we’re the only ones that can.

2) It’s important to maintain both a sense of control and a sense of change in our lives. Too much predictability the more meaningless our existence begins to feel. But too much change can throw us into chaos. We start to feel out of control. We need to pursue meaningful but manageable change over time. To do that we need to imagine the person we want to become and then take baby steps through steady, controlled self-discipline.

3) When a pilot flies an aeroplane the last thing they aim at is the obstacle they don’t want to hit. If a plane is on fire the pilots only have one goal: The nearest piece of tarmac. They will think of nothing else. They sure as hell won’t give up, even if the odds are truly stacked against them. How could they? Why would they? And why would you?


2 x Quotes:

“My conclusion as a clinical psychologist has been that as paralyzing and terrible as our propensity for negative emotion is, and as grounded in reality as that propensity might be, it’s more the case that our ability to overcome it is actually stronger than it’s grip on us.

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson 

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Charles Darwin

1 x Joke:

It’s been raining a lot here recently. When we went outside yesterday I asked my wife is she wanted to hear a joke about umbrellas.

She said, “No, it’ll probably go straight over my head.”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 20/05/22

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Extraversion: The Price of Now

What Is Extraversion?

Extraversion breaks down into the following two fundamental aspects: assertiveness and enthusiasm. 

Those high in assertiveness are the take-charge types. The so-called natural-born leaders. The game-changing alphas. (A valuable trait for a pilot, I might add.)

Those high in enthusiasm are talkative and charismatic. They’re the life of the party. The ones who make friends with enviable ease. (Don’t you just love to hate them?)

What drives extroversion is one’s propensity toward feeling positive emotions. In that sense it’s great to be an extrovert. It feels good to feel good.

And it does feel good to take charge. It does feel good to be enthusiastic about stuff. It does feel good to have lots of friends and sex. (So I’m told.)

I am not extroverted by nature, but I try my utmost to wear that hat when I enter the cockpit of an aeroplane. That feeling when you take the autopilot out and really back yourself. There’s nothing like it. (If only I backed myself!)

For the same reason, I try to be more extroverted when I sit down to write. I like to think of AP2 as my alter ego. He pushes the envelope of who it is I think I am.

But there are costs to extraversion.

How Much Should We Value the Present?

Perhaps the biggest danger comes from placing too much emphasis on the present. Sacrificing the future for the sake of a good time. 

Researchers tested this by offering participants a small sum of money now or a larger one later. They found a clear correlation between extraverts placing a higher value on the present.

And this is a good question to ask: how much should we value the present? After all, we may get hit by a bus tomorrow. Or we might live till we’re 101. We simply don’t know.

At any rate, this is an excellent way to think about those who score high in extraversion: Capitalising on the present moment to the maximum extent possible, even if that means sacrificing the future.

To give you an example, I have a friend (Who’d have guessed it!) who is very extraverted. He is well-liked and has many friends as a result. But he is fairly impulsive.

He lost his job once. To clear his head he decided to go on a skiing holiday. Fair enough, you say, but then he went on another skiing holiday just a few weeks later!

Ok, you say, so maybe he can afford it? Perhaps he has a plan? Maybe he has saved well for such an event? (He hadn’t.) So you give him the benefit of the doubt.

But then – I kid you not – as soon as he got back he jumped on another aeroplane and went on another skiing holiday! Of course, it was ski season, and he had many “friends” egging him on.

So he went on three separate skiing holidays within two months of losing his job. Naturally, he rinsed through his savings which put him in a spot of bother.

This is why it pays to be mindful of your nature. Extroversion may feel good, but there are times when one should reign it in. Sometimes you should feel bad.

The optimal state of being is not to feel good all the time but to feel appropriately good or bad given your current circumstances. 

If you feel good all the time, you’re more likely to take risks that you shouldn’t. (There’s a reason you’re given free alcohol at casinos.)

This is something those who suffer from manic episodes do. They feel invincible and go on spending sprees only to wake up the next day with a psychological hang-over realising they’ve spent every dim they had.

You think, “Hey, things are awesome right now, let’s place everything on black!” or, “Things aren’t so bad – one more skiing holiday won’t hurt…”

Evidence has shown that extraverts are more likely to struggle with addiction too. All those jokes about alcoholic pilots. Well, there is some truth to it…

Is Better To Be Introverted or Extroverted?

Now, the lines are blurred, but higher neuroticism correlates more strongly with introversion, which makes sense.

What’s important to stress is that lower neuroticism correlates most heavily with greater subjective well-being, not extraversion. There’s an essential difference between not being happy and feeling bad. 

Most of us are motivated by the avoidance of sufferingnot the pursuit of happinessIt’s just that extraversion is more “positively related to brain processes that associate contexts with reward.”

What I’m trying to say is that introverts are wired differently. So the things that make an introvert content and the strengths they bring to the table are different.

A good question to ask yourself is this: should I try to be more extroverted, or should I play to my introverted strengths?

Of course, it depends.

Introverts are more reserved by nature. They aren’t particularly excitable. They like to wait till all the cards have been dealt before placing any bets. They tend to be better listeners, more thoughtful, and more observant.

They get a lot more from spending time in nature and partaking in reflective activities. They love to sit quietly and read a good book with a nice warm cuppa joe. They value close intimate relationships as opposed to having lots of them.

Working by their lonesome doesn’t bother them so much. On the other hand, they might find a job that requires working with lots of people exhausting. An introvert probably shouldn’t marry an extrovert either. (Just imagine the horror!)

I would also argue that introverts should consciously work on their social skills. They should say yes to drinks on a Friday night every now and then. They should try striking up a conversation with a stranger. They should put their hand up and lend their thoughts.

People actually talk more when they’re happy. Like many things, it works in reverse. Opening up and talking to others will make you happier. It will increase confidence and decrease anxiety.

At the end of the day, we are social creatures living in a social world. This is where extroverts win big. Some of the best human rewards are social in nature.

As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who.

This is the major downside to being introverted: missed connections. Constantly putting off a good time for the sake of the future.

But the future isn’t a given. Sometimes a bird in the hand really is worth more than two in the bush.

Just ask my friend, he’ll tell you about this crazy time when he went on three skiing holidays within two months of losing his job.

You really can’t fault the guy for living… can you?

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

The Big Five Personality Model: An Empirical Tool for Understanding Yourself

The Story of Personality Theory

Some 80-plus years ago, researchers embarked on one of the longest (and most boring) projects in human psychology. It started with the idea that people are born with different character traits that remain relatively stable throughout one’s lifetime. 

Welcome to the idea of personality. 

To test its validity one researcher – let’s call him researcher number 1 – began by picking up a dictionary and highlighting any word he could find related to human behaviour.

After putting this list together, another researcher – let’s call him researcher number 2 (presumably because number 1 killed himself out of boredom) – took that list and started to categorise these words into, well, categories.

Unfortunately he also killed himself, so another bunch of researchers took over and began the painstaking job of measuring these categories, or traits, on a large number of people over a very long period of time. 

The researchers who managed not to kill themselves (God bless) started narrowing this list down by binning any trait that fluctuated too much – failing to show any signs of stability over time.

Eventually, the list got smaller and smaller until, by the 1960s, they were left with just 5. (Traits, that is, not researchers.) Those were:

  • Openness 
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness 
  • Neuroticism

At this point, researcher number 648 – I believe it was – confidently declared that these five traits can be used to explain all human behaviour. It took another 20 years or so before researchers had the data to back up this bold claim, but it turned out that number 648 was right!

The Big Five, as they are now referred to, “have been found to contain and subsume most personality traits.” They are considered to represent the basic structure of what we call personality.

The data has shown the Big Five are relatively stable over time and that there is a genetic component to it.Where you land on the spectrum of each trait goes a long way to determining who you are, the choices you make, and how well you do in life.

But listen, don’t kill yourself just yet!

An Overview Of The Big Five Personality Traits

The main thing to take from this sad story is that the Big Five traits represent one of the most established and empirically driven measurements in human psychology.

Of course there is some disagreement with the model. Some believe there should a sixth trait while others disagree with the semantics, but, in the main, psychologists agree that the Big Five model captures the human experience well.

In a grossly simplified nutshell, those who are highly extroverted tend to feel more positive emotions and have lots of friends. Highly neurotic people tend to feel more negative emotions. They are more likely to get divorced, lose their job, and be depressed. 

Those high in conscientiousness like to do things to the very best of their ability. They enjoy following schedules and the predictability of routines. Whereas those high in openness are very creative. They love to travel and experience new things.

Finally, those high in agreeableness are kind and compassionate in nature. They love helping and caring for others.

It’s worth reiterating that each trait represents a range between two extremes. So low extraversion would mean you’re introverted. Low neuroticism would mean you’re a zen Buddhist monk. Low agreeableness would mean you’re a bit of ass. 

You get it!

Where you lie on the range of each trait makes up your personality’s basic – underlying – structure. Of course, the variations are vast. And, of course, our personalities are complicated. They do change day to day depending on our mood, environment etc.

This leads the argument that such models are too simplistic – that they will always be prone to error because they can’t capture someone’s personality in its entirety.

Why Should You Use The Big Five Personality Model

To give you an analogy, if I call a tree a tree, it paints a very blurry picture in your mind’s eye. But no two trees are the same. Your idea of a tree is going to be very different from mine. 

So, it’s worth you giving a few details to hang your hat on. Telling you what kind of tree it is, what environment it is best suited to, etc. 

But If I take that too far – if I start describing the detail of every leaf, well, you might want to kill yourself. This is the equivalent of breaking it down to the level of the individual. It’s actually impossible to do for one thing. 

What you want is to slice up the pie to the extent that it provides a practical framework to work with, but not to the point that the details take you away from the bigger – more important – picture.

Now, where that happy medium lies has been the subject of much (painfully dull) debate over the years, with different personality models proposed ranging from over 4000 traits to just 3. 

The big five emerged as the leader from the pack following extensive literature. It is seen as the preferred model by many in psychology today.

What makes it a particularly great tool are the revisions it’s undergone since its inception in the 1990’s breaking it down into a series of correlated facets and sub-facets.

A good way to visualise this is to imagine the big five as the major branches of a tree, with the facets and sub-facets representing the smaller branches and leaves. 

This gives you both a lower and higher resolution picture to work with. Here’s a pretty picture:

Understanding Yourself Using The Big Five Personality Model

Over the following weeks I will write a post about each of the big five traits and the two correlated aspects they break down into. 

I will propose several theories for why they exist and what the personality strengths and weaknesses are (broadly speaking) depending on which side of the spectrum you tilt towards. 

I will offer up some practical advice for helping you work with and strengthen your particular personality hand.

But before I do, it’s worth understanding the particular personalty hand we’ve been dealt in greater detail. So here’s some homework to do before next week’s enthralling lesson.

You can head over to understandmyself.com and take a test that will give you a detailed breakdown of your particular personality make-up based on the Big Five model. 

(You can also do this as a couple and get an additional report that points out your blind spots. Something I can highly recommend.)

I believe it costs 10 USD. (There are free versions of this test available, of course. The only reason I recommend this one is because of the detailed report it gives telling you where you lie on the spectrum of both the Big Five and their correlated aspects, also what that means for you.)

I should say, if you tend to be hyper self-critical, it’s going to skew the results. It’s important to be honest but try to take it when you feel normal. 

Anyway folks, that’s it from me this week.

The main points are:

  • The Big Five represents one of the most established and empirically driven models in human psychology. 
  • It’s considered one of the most reliable personality models in modern psychology. 
  • The Big Five represent the basic underlying structure of one’s personality. Each trait breaks down into correlated aspects that give you a higher resolution picture.
  • You can take a test at understandmyself.com to find out where you land on the spectrum of each trait and what that means for you.
  • It’s best not to kill yourself.

Stay tuned and stay alive – I swear it gets a lot more interesting! 

Next week I will be discussing extraversion. 

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

Why Understanding Personality Is Key to Increasing Potential

I recently completed a course on personality theory that I found infinitely fascinating. Today I want to share some thoughts about how this understanding can help us better navigate in the world.

You can think of personality as the lens through which we view the world. It functions by filtering the world so we only pay attention to certain things. This then influences the way we think, feel, and act.

Part of what colours our lens has to do with the environment in which we have been raised. But another significant part has to do with the innate personality traits that we were born with.

Science has shown that much of personality is inborn and relatively stable over time. Who we are runs deep. Indeed, most parents can get a good sense of who their children are by the time they’re toddlers.

This understanding is critically important. 

Not only for knowing who we should become but for helping us understand that other people are fundamentally different. They will never be able to look at the world like you do – neither will you they. It’s this understanding that helps foster greater compassion and tolerance for “the other side.” 

This is also why we should pick things like our profession based on our personality. Some are of us are naturally creative while others look at art and simply don’t get it. Conversely, some of us are highly conscientious while others couldn’t care less if they put odd socks on in the morning.

Most organisations need a combination of both vertical (in-the-box) type thinkers and lateral (out-of-the-box) type thinkers. Indeed, the world needs various personality types because there isn’t a single answer to all of the world’s problems.

Does this mean we can’t adjust the colour of our lens? Does it mean we can’t become something we’re not? No, not entirely. Our personalities change naturally as we age. They are malleable. And we should try to expand the limits of our own personality.

That said, there are limits. After a certain point, you get diminishing rates of return. We all have a proclivity to learn specific skills more quickly than others. We all struggle to understand certain things more than others too.

This is because all of us have limited cognitive abilities. We’re simply incapable of processing all of the objective facts in the unknowable universe. Different personalities are nature’s way of covering all bases.

This is important for understanding different political persuasions, which is heavily influenced by personality. Sometimes liberals have the answer; at other times conservatives do. But, at the end of the day, to quote some Indian dude, “the left-wing and right-wing are part of the same bird.” 

We need diversity of thought. And we desperately need to work together despite our differences. This is how we cover each other’s blind spots.

There’s something else to be aware of too. 

Many of us berate ourselves for our weaknesses while failing to see how they’re intimately linked to our strengths. This is because there are pros and cons at the end of each personality trait spectrum.

Ultimately this understanding can help us find that goldilocks position in life we’re all looking for. The one that suits us best (and this, I firmly believe, best suits the world too). But it also helps to adjust the parts of ourselves that on occasion need adjusting to fit the circumstances.

Ideally, you want to wear the hat most suited to who you are as much as possible. But you also want the ability to put on a different hat when the circumstances require it. Because life is unpredictable so we must be adaptable. 

The trick is to specialise at what you are but practise what you aren’t. 

But to do that, we must first become clear about who we really are at our core. We must first understand the hand we have been dealt before we try to play it – before we match the game to our particular set of cards.

This is something I want to talk to you about next week by introducing you to something known as the Big Five Personality model

In the following weeks I mean to break these five traits down while placing my own personality under the microscope. In the process I hope to shine a brighter light on who you are too, so we may all deepen our understanding about ourselves and the world we live in. 

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that has a personality disorder…

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) A great way to unburden your mind is to write your worries down on paper. Then, ask yourself some objective questions about those thoughts and write those answers down. Then, keep going – keep asking questions about your answers and writing those thoughts down. Eventually, as if by magic, you’ll come to a surprising insight.

2) What you want is a different hat to wear for every occasion. But you also want to wear the hat most suited to who you are as much as you possibly can. To put it another way: you should specialise at what you are but practise what you aren’t.

3) Your personality is the lens through which you view the world. Part of what colours this lens has do with the social context under which we have been raised. But another major part has to do with the innate personality traits that we were born with. Who we are – who we really are – runs deep. This understanding is important. Not only for knowing who we should become, but for helping us understand that other people are fundamentally different. It’s this understanding that helps foster greater compassion and tolerance for “the other side.” It also encourages us to engage with the other side so they can help point out our blind spots.


2 x Quotes:

“To be human means to be constantly in the grip of opposing emotions, to daily reconcile apparently conflicting tensions. I want this, but I need that. I cherish this, but I adore its opposite, too.”

— Stephen Fry

“What frightens us or gives us anxiety is not when bad things happen—it’s when we’re not sure whether a bad thing will happen or not.

— Mark Manson 

1 x Thing:

This Mark Manson article: The 3 Paradoxes of Life in which he answers the question of finding contentment by wrestling with the 3 paradoxes of life. The paradox of choice struck a chord with me in particular. As he writes, “Freedom is only meaningful when it is given up. And we give up freedom by making commitments.” Well worth a read!


1 x Joke:

Did you hear the tragic news about the Italian chef who died?

He pasta-way!


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 13/05/22

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Where We Are Meant To Be

We’re all looking for that Goldilocks position in life. That ultimate purpose specifically suited to our own unique talents and values.

Of course, we want to maximise our potential to do the most possible good. This is why many of us have this gnawing sense that the job we’re in isn’t quite right.

We feel like we are meant for something else, something more.

I didn’t pay much attention to my nature during adolescence, that critical life period when we are supposed to decide what we want to do forever and always. I simply did what I was told I should. Which was anything but the creative subjects I truly loved.

So I took a random collection of other subjects that left me increasingly confused about my future. Then I studied history for reasons I honestly couldn’t tell you, and then I decided to become an airline pilot.

Becoming a pilot was, at least, based on something I was passionate about. Traveling the world. Nothing satisfies my soul more. Still – and this is important – I didn’t become a pilot to fly aeroplanes.

Since the pandemic hit, that’s all I’ve been left with. Ironically, the profession I took up to travel the world is the reason I find myself cut off from it.

I can fly, but my wings have been clipped.

In a sense, this has been a blessing. It’s placed a spotlight on the person I am

And the person I’m not.

I believe this is why so many of us have joined the great resignation. And why many others feel incredibly burnt out. 

We settle into a job. We get comfortable with it – we know we can do it and do it well – so we preserve with it even though we know it isn’t quite right. We keep pushing the boulder uphill.

But you can only fight your nature for so long before it catches up with you. At some point, you have to make a choice: You can either take a chance on the person you are or kill the person you are. 

If you let that inner spark go out it can be very difficult to find the strength to fly again.

As I embark on the next chapter of my life, I mean to take a chance on the person I am. I mean to honour my inner child in the hope that I may do the most possible good with the gifts I have been given.

To inspire others through creativity.

As I embark on this journey, I want to take you along for the ride. I want to show you how to increase your self-understanding. I want to help you specialise in who you are so you don’t feel out of place anymore.

So that together, we may fly free in the knowledge we are exactly where we are meant to be.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that takes an extended break without telling anyone… (I missed you all too!)

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) If you think of a task in its entirety it can often feel overwhelming. Like staring up at a dragon. If that’s the case, don’t tell yourself you have to take down the whole dragon today. Just see if you can take a step closer to the cave that it’s residing in. Simply sharpen your sword. Get your armour ready. Whatever it is – reduce your ambition till you find the task you are willing to do and then move towards it.

2) A low energy life is a dangerous one. To live optimally you need look after your energy levels. You need to match the amount you’re carrying to the amount of drive you have available depending on the time or day. That might mean letting something go, which can be hard. But if you don’t – if you carry too much weight – you run the risk of stalling. This makes things much harder.

3) Often the reason we don’t gain energy from/motivation for an activity is to do with our relationship towards it, not the activity itself.


2 x Quotes:

“Show me a man who isn’t a slave; one who is a slave to sex, another to money, another to ambition; all are slaves to hope or fear.”

Seneca

“Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakes.

Carl Jung 

1 x Thing:

This Psyche article: How to take things less personally by Joel Minden. I particuarly liked the advice about distinguishing thoughts from feelings. Quote:

A good way to distinguish feelings from thoughts is to remember that feelings can often be summarised in one word – nervous, happy, surprised, scared – and thoughts are the ideas that drive or follow the feelings… practise labelling them whenever you have the opportunity. For example, if during a dinner, your guest suddenly got quiet and you thought: ‘He doesn’t like talking with me,’ acknowledge that you’re working with a thought that may or may not be true, and then consider the feeling that came with that thought. An example of a more accurate way to describe what happened is: ‘When he got silent during dinner, I felt sad because I thought he didn’t like talking with me.’ Remember that feelings are not debatable – you just feel how you feel, even when you wish you didn’t. Your thoughts, on the other hand, can be challenged, revised or replaced with more realistic and useful ones.


1 x Joke:

We took our kids to beach yesterday.

I turned to my eldest and said, “How does the sea say hi to the beach?”

“It waves, of course!”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 25/03/22

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You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @anxiouspilot

A Creative Leave of Absence

So my muse decided to take a holiday recently. He packed his bags and went to Hawaii or somewhere. And I know he’s been sitting in the sun drinking Pina Coladas the whole time.

That smug bastard.

Now, I should say I told him to take a break. The problem is, I’ve found it hard to get back into the flow of things. It turns out my muse enjoyed his holiday a little too much!

1I figured the break would do me good. I thought I would be raring to go by the time “I was ready” to write again. But that’s not been the case.

This is odd given my firm belief that you should take a break if you find the muse begging. In my experience you only end up creating more work for yourself if you try to force it.

If you feel overly stressed or burnt-out, I suggest you walk away and grab a beer. Catch up with some friends. Play with your children. Whatever it is, sometimes the muse just needs a little time to connect the dots. 

I swear it works wonders.

That said, I’ve realised that there is such a thing as too much time off. So much so that muse forgets the dots altogether. You still need to show up most days.

If you want to increase your creativity, you need some perseverance. Of course, you have to be around to catch the muse when that smug bastard actually bothers to show up. 

Consistency and creativity go hand in hand. 

The trick, I think, is to make sure you show up almost every day. But make sure, when you sit down to write, you do so without any expectations. Don’t pressure yourself to create something you must publish. Just aim to have some fun. Horse around a little.

Speak your mind. 

Then review it in the light of the next day. It doesn’t matter whether you wrote complete garbage. Ruthlessly murder all of your darlings if you have to. 

What matters is that you showed up. This is how you learn. This is how you improve. The more you do this, the more willing your muse will ultimately be.

With that said – and this is perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned during my recent creative leave of absence – what matters most of all is that you show up for life first and foremost. Your muse isn’t going to play ball if you have bigger fish to fry.

To quote Steven King, “Life is not a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” 

The real reason I took an extended leave of absence is because my wife got a job offer in Singapore. Provided the visa gets approved, I will be tendering my resignation and leaving behind a job and a life here in Hong Kong I’ve spent the last decade building.

Of course we needed some time to prepare ourselves for this potential move. I also needed some time to process my emotions which, as you can imagine, have been a little over the place.  

Between this, my full-time job and parenting two frenetic boys, I decided to put blogging on the back burner for a while.

Honestly, I’m glad I did. It’s been a bit of a struggle to get back into it, but here I am. I feel ten times lighter for it.

The good news is my muse – that smug bastard – is starting to come round. And guess what?

He’s rocking a sweet tan. 

He’s telling me, it’s time to get down to business.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot