A C.L.E.A.R. Model For Problem Solving In Everyday Life.

Are you lacking direction in life?

Not sure which way you should turn?

Do you have a big problem with no idea how to proceed?

Like whether you should quit the job you hate?

Or perhaps you’ve lost your job and have no idea what the hell you should do next?

Maybe you’re simply having a bit of trouble processing difficult emotions?

Whatever it is, my fine readers, fear not – for I have something that can help you formulate the ultimate solution (no promises)!

Introducing the CLEAR model! An outstanding structured approach for decision making and problem solving in everyday life!!!

(Is it just me or did that sound like a 90’s television commercial?)

Let’s get into it.

The CLEAR model stands for:

C – Clarify what the problem is.
L – Look for information and ideas.
E – Evaluate options.
A – Act on your decision.
R – Review how it is working.

Simple yet elegant I think you’ll agree.

Wherever did you come up with such a brilliant formula?

A great question Bob, thank you for asking.

The answer is I stole it of course!

As pilots we are taught it as a way to deal with problems we may encounter outside our normal day-to-day operations.

It achieves this by providing a series of defined steps that we can work through in order to (hopefully) achieve a safe outcome.

As the brain is a single channel processor that can only do one thing at a time (yes multi-tasking is a myth), this helps prevents it from being overloaded during periods of high stress and/or workload.

And I think we can all agree that it’s a time of high fucking stress Bob (if not workload)!

The problem with high levels of stress is it may overload your very simple single channel processor (I know it does mine), which can result in one or more of the following:

1 – Tunnel vision (or fixation) – focusing on one input to the exclusion of other vital data.

2 – Unconscious rejection of conflicting data.

3 – Slowing down of your decision making or, in the extreme, inability to make any decisions at all.

4- Impulsiveness – the desire to restore control makes you leap into action too early.

I think you’ll agree those aren’t very helpful responses Bob, especially for pilots.

But why exactly do you think a model designed for flight crew to problem solve on the flight deck of an aeroplane would be of any use to me in my normal day to day life?

Another great question Bob!

I asked myself the exact same one and let me tell you the answer I came up with:

Why not?

But don’t just take my word for it Bob, let’s examine a working example completely unrelated to the realm of aviation.

Let’s examine how we might apply the CLEAR model to someone who is dealing with depression and/or anxiety – hardly the sort of problem flight crew look at solving on a aeroplane I think you’ll agree Bob!

THE CLEAR MODEL AS APPLIED TO DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY:

1 – CLARIFY

People who are depressed will often state I am depressed or I am anxious. However no one is depression, no one is anxiety. These are merely things one experiences.

One of the big problems so many people with mental health issues have is this kind of identification. They believe it is part of who they are. But this isn’t true.

Already we can see the importance of clarifying the problem.

A much more accurate thing to say would be, ‘I am currently experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety.’ This is a very significant shift in terminology that can help you to step back from your emotions.

If you want to go a step further by introducing some deep Buddhist wisdom (and I know you do bob) you might say in third person, ‘James is experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety.’ So as to introduce the idea (and reality) that you are not your ego. The I is not me. (Wow, my simple single processor is on fire!)

Anyway we could go on about how to properly clarify the problem but I don’t want to bore you Bob. At any rate, I think you’ll agree, we’re off to a winning start!

Let’s continue.

2 – LOOK

Observe. Simply be with whatever it is that is arising. Obviously this will work best if you can find somewhere quiet to sit without distraction. (Yes Bob, that means you’ll need to put away your phone.)

Once you have, be sure to take a few deep breaths and settle yourself. Maybe run through a quick body scan – place your hand on your heart if that helps – and then simply sit and observe.

Remember you’re not trying to achieve anything at this stage. You’re simply trying to observe what is going on from moment to moment. Run through your five senses if that helps. Use this time to gather information about what your emotions really feel like within the body.

If a thought arises, simply note it then come back to feeling your bodily sensations. Ultimately you want to go toward your negative emotions so you can observe them in fine detail.

Don’t resist them bob! Trust me.

This won’t be easy of course, especially if you’re new to the game of meditation but I promise you the long term benefits of having such a practise whenever faced with difficult emotions will pay off handsomely.

Anyway I’m sure you don’t need me to run through a meditation routine with you on here. You get the point Bob. Sit and look.

Next.

3 – EVALUTE

This is the part of the session where we introduce some curiosity. Maybe you can ask some questions such as,

What triggered my emotional state today?

What was it that caused my reaction?

What false belief or narrative are driving these feelings?

Moreover what emotions am I trying to avoid that I need to feel?

What are those feelings trying to tell me that I don’t understand?

After asking these question sit back and see what arises. I find this kind of exercise extremely useful for deriving insight whenever I have a reaction to something I don’t fully comprehend.

There are of course many different kinds of meditation practises you could apply to dealing with such emotional states but once agin I don’t want to bore you Bob.

Moving on.

4 – ACT

Now this will depend on what responses you derived from part 3 of this exceptional CLEAR model and how bad you suffer from said emotional problems.

It goes without saying that the most obvious thing to do if suffering from any kind of depression or mental health issue is to seek professional help.

Are you a therapist bob? No?

Worth a shot.

Anyway the next best thing, if you can’t afford a therapist or don’t feel you’re ready to face your demons yet (I won’t judge – it took my simple single processor a long time to pluck up the courage and ask for the help I needed) is to talk to your loved ones.

You’re not burdening them by opening up. If they love you they’ll want to know. Trust me Bob. It burdens them more not knowing.

Aside from those very obvious actions the next thing you can do is practise self-compassion. Place your hand on your heart and tell yourself, it’s ok. I’m here for you. Let me feel you. Whatever kind language speaks or works for you.

It’s important to state that you don’t fight depression or anxiety (contrary to what so many toxic positivity blogs tell you). You’re meant to accept it.

As Carl Rogers once said,

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Moving on.

5 – REVIEW

This brings us to the final part of this most astonishing CLEAR model. Review or reflect.

Some questions you might consider:

How did that work out?

What can I add to the practise next time that might help me?

Maybe I can add journalling as a way to write down what arises during such a practise?

Am I still suffering from the same issues and thought patterns that I have for years on end?

If that last one is true then maybe it’s time to concede that you really do need professional help. I strongly encourage all with such issues to do exactly that. At the end of the day all these tools are helpful at managing your mental health but if you have some deeper issues it’s imperative you seek the professional help you need. There is absolutely no shame in this. Remember it is never too late to get the help you need. Never.

That’s all from me today Bob.

I hope this helped.

(Once again fine readers thank you so much for hearing me out. Applying tools from my professional life to other areas such as mental health and vice versa had been of enormous benefit to me which I why I wanted to share this idea with you today. I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments section below. Maybe give it a go and apply it to a different problem then let me know how you get on? Otherwise if you know of any other problem solving type acronyms I’d love to hear them as well. I’m a sucker for a good acronym! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog.)


SOURCES:

http://aviationknowledge.wikidot.com/aviation:clear

MENTAL HEALTH HOTLINES/WEBSITES:

HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

https://www.befrienders.org

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.who.int/mental_health/en/

Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

Hello fine readers and welcome to my Motivational Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week. (Or at least start it off in a slightly better fashion.)

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to hopefully make you all smile. 

Love to all X

(To my readers: you’ll notice I’ve been playing around with the title. If you have any other ideas about a better title for this weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom. Equally any thoughts, feelings or suggestions about anything at else is also very welcome! Thanks for reading.)


4 x Thoughts From Me:

Happiness comes from finding the right sized circle of problems for you to solve. If it’s too small the insignificant things annoy you because you don’t have anything better to worry about – more to the point, you haven’t given yourself big enough problems to worry about. Similarly if it’s too big you’ll end up worrying about the things you can’t control – like current global events. Pick problems that you can solve and that speak to your heart. Learn to accept what you cannot. 

The great thing about momentum is it builds naturally. Like a boulder rolling down the hill. The difficult part, of course, is getting it to move. 

Make it your mission to be an agent of calm in the midst of chaos. When the storm settles, which it will, you will be well placed to pick up the pieces and put the world back together.

Clinging to hope has the same effect as clinging to happiness. You end up feeling the opposite. It is often far better to live in the present than to live in hope. 


3 x Quotes From Others:

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee

“Sister, there are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich and white and black, but they will never wake again. Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards, and their blankets became their winding sheets. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this… So you watch yourself about complaining, Sister. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.” – Maya Angelou: Source: Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

“Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much your own unguarded thoughts.”- Gautam Buddha


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This engaging intelligence squared podcast episode – Angrynomics: Why The World is So Angry, with Mark Byth, Eric Lonergan and Linda Yueh. The episode explores the role anger has had to play in our current state of affairs – and how a long overdue change in economic policy could help the world to feel less angry.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Trump listened to what everybody else considered to be just noise. What he heard – the moral outrage. He gave that recognition. Then he went to the boarder and talked about Mexicans being rapists. He used that anger and weaponised it for his own agenda. He created his own tribe. 
  • What makes you angry tells you something about your character. 
  • One of angers important functions is for the recognition of injustice. It identifies ethical wrong doings. 
  • What would it say about our society if people weren’t protesting?
  • You’re suppose to get angry. It’s appropriate that people are affronted by these acts of injustice. 
  • Tribal rage. It’s an age old instinct for it to turn into violence. This where we need to be very careful with our anger. (Why many sports fans become violent). 
  • What we’re very concerned about is how politicians are exploiting this to motivate minorities in order to tactically win elections. 
  • By banding together as part of groups and giving ourselves a narrative it gives us back a sense of control we feel we’ve lost. These are groups very much based on the idea that everybody else is wrong. 
  • Tribalism versus ligiitmate anger or moral outrage. 
  • Why are we also seeing more moral anger? In many ways we understand what is happening – by demonstrating our moral outrage. This is a sign for optimism.
  • One of the reasons Tribalism is being exploited by the political elites is that we lack motivating ethical ideologies. 
  • The two overriding moral questions we are concerned about are climate change about the scale of inequality 
  • Whatever you sit on the political spectrum a situation where you have 90% of the wealth allocated to just 1% of the population is clearly not very functional. 
  • We have moral outrage about inequality and global sustainability. Add to that a recession – these are the 3 issues we need to solve as a top priority. 
  • The majority of lower income individuals in the most vulnerable positions are getting hardest hit. When they see companies like Boeing given 50billion at the drop of a hat. When they were told for years there is no money to sure up student debts or increase minimum wage yet suddenly they can magic up trillions in the afternoon for big business. Why wouldn’t they be morally outraged. That’s where we are. 
  • There is a lot of consensus about income inequality but very little consensus about what to do about it. 
  • 3 ways to do this? 1) A National Wealth Fund  2) A green new deal 3) Use dual interest rates
  • We all look at the climate crisis as this huge problem that requires a huge sacrifice. I view it completely the other way around. I say, ‘thank god we have this great opportunity for lots of investment spending because our economic situation is crying out for lots of investment spending.’ 
  • These changes will fundamentally change our economic system so that is more transparent and fairer. More importantly it will make people feel valued again and this will help counteract the huge rise in global anger. 

2 –This Starting Greatness podcast episodeLessons of Greatness: Why the world needs breakthrough builders; How it can be you. This episode explores backcasting as a tool for building a better future.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • “Everything that makes up this world that we call life was made by people no smarter than you. Once you learn this you’ll never be the same again.” – Steve Jobs
  • The future doesn’t happen to us. It happens because of us. 
  • Now is really the time to ask what you want your life to be about. This question is more important than ever because the present has stopped working. 
  • We need more people who unapologeticcally seek break throughs 
  • How can you do it? By backcasting.
  • Forecasting works best when you want to maintain a current path. When it comes to breakthroughs forecasting doesn’t work. Forecasting simply brings our current problems into the future with us. 
  • Backcasting assumes that previous models of forcasting won’t work. Which is the whole point because you want to change the future. You don’t want to play by the rules anymore. 
  • To do this first look for inflections. – An inflection is a time of significant change. (Technology/adoption/regulatory and belief – four major kinds of)
  • Inflection points provide leverage for entrepreneurs to wage war against the status quo. 
  • You need to work from the future backwards. Consider different and surprising futures then work backwards to the present. This is how you find surprising breakthroughs in the market. 
  • Imagine as a many as you can then look for and gather insights – An insight is an unrecognised truth that can lead to a breakthrough from the present. 
  • It forms a connection between inflections and the breakthrough product 
  • Think about futures that you are uniquely capable of building. Then ask about how you can build a team to make your insight a reality.
  • This is the moment to show who you are and what you want your life to stand for. The present has stopped working. We must create a better future. Bet on your ability to find a place to change the world. 

1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

My wife made these delectable carrot cup cakes the other day.

The first batch were regular sized but with the little bit of batter she had left she made a few smaller ones too.

When I got round to eating the smaller ones, I told her they were even more delicious than the big ones.

She asked why.

I told her because you can get a much higher icing to cupcake ratio with the smaller ones.

She laughed before commenting, “You’ve added more icing than cupcake!”

“Exactly,” I mumbled with one already stuffed into my happy face.

Exactly.


Till next week…

Have a Happy Fucking Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

How much icing do you like on your muffins?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 25/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 18/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 11/05/20

The Hopeless Nature Of Hoping

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.”

– Vietnam War. Admiral James Stockdale 

Do you want to know the one reason you’re not happy right now? 

It’s because you’re hoping for something different. 

It’s as simple as that. 

By wishing for something different your perception of what reality should be crashes against what is. This friction is the source of all your suffering. 

You cannot alter reality. Only your perception of it, your acceptance of it.

Reality is perfectly happy being the fucked up place it is because it can’t be anything else.

It was just as fucked before you were born as it will be the day after you die. 

Stop hoping for something different. 

Either Act Or Accept.

These are far better choices than hoping.

Do you want to know why you’re in the mess that you are?

It’s because you were sold a dummy by a society that has glorified hope. With the movies and TV shows you watch. The super hero who swoops in to save the day at the final hour. You cling to that, waiting for your knight in shining armour to save you.

It’s true to say hope can serve as temporary relief from your current pain, but that’s about all one can say. 

Do you know what else achieves the same? 

Taking drugs. Drinking alcohol. Binge watching NETFLIX. 

How have those things worked out for you in the past?

What has hope really done for you?

It’s another form of avoidance, of distraction. 

Where is your hope now that coronavirus has fucked up all your plans for this year and probably many more to come?

Is hope going to get us out of this mess?

No.

Fuck hope. 

You’re the super hero of your own reality. You control yourself, your thoughts and the way you look at the world. 

Fuck hope. 

Hope is an excuse not to do what you can.

Hope is an excuse to say these problems are beyond you, to say they are beyond all of us.

Hope is saying all will be ok when I die and go to heaven. 

Fuck hope. 

Hope is what led you to hopelessness when the world didn’t live up to your expectations. 

And let me tell you, living in hopelessness is an equally terrible place because that isn’t based in reality either. 

Act or Accept. 

Those are your choices.

I’ll say one more thing before I wrap up.

Giving up hope isn’t about being overly pessimistic – it’s about coming back to reality and seeing it for what it is. 

Hopelessness is being overly pessimistic.

If you have clothes on your back, food on the table and a roof over your head. If you can breathe…!

I’d say there is more right with you than not.

The best things in life haven’t changed because you lost your job or your wife left you.

Taking a shit or having a wank is just as wonderful with zero dollars in the bank as it is with billions (sorry, I meant feeling the cool breeze on your skin and listening to the birds chirping in the morning – yeah those things too).

Will this message inspire you in some way?

Who knows.

All I can do is my best to reinforce the narratives that help me and see if it helps others.

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.

Either way I’m not holding onto any hope.


(As always I welcome ALL comments and opinions on this blog. What are your thoughts about hope? I’d be keen to get your perspective in the comments sections below. Thank you for taking the time to read. I hope (ha) it helped.)

If Honesty Isn’t The Value We Look For In Our Leaders Then What Does That Say About Us?

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (ie the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (ie the standards of thought) no longer exist.”

Hannah Arendt from her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism.

Let’s not blame each other.

Let’s not point the finger.

Let us all for a moment drop the habits that prevent us from learning and accessing the truth.

But let’s pause for a second and consider the wake of our recent choices. 

As we all reel in the wake of yet another tragic black death. A pandemic for which we were woefully unprepared. As we sit on the precipice of an impending climatic catastrophe that we have all had the time in which to make the changes necessary to prevent (or at least significantly stem). We must ask ourselves, how we as a generation became so lost?

When did we stop valuing the truth?

Why did being right become so important?

How did being wrong become so unbearable? 

When we voted in men we know lied to obtain their positions, what were we really saying? 

Did we vote in the way we did because we refused to acknowledge our previous mistakes?

Will we vote the same way because we don’t have the balls to admit we were wrong?

Let me be more blunt.

What the shitting fuck has happened that we allow a man who almost only talks in complete bullshit to remain in office? Who is actively and openly preventing others from accessing the truth?

What the fuck has happened to our values?

When did freedom of speech become the freedom to lie your fucking ass off without repercussion? 

You know that boy who cried wolf – who caused the death of all those villagers? Shall we vote him into power?

Great fucking idea.

Should we protect freedom of speech? Yes, of course we should. We should even protect the right to lie. But to allow people – the president of the United States none the fucking less – to lie without consequence?

What the fuck are we teaching our children?

How can we as a democratic society be ok with a man who actively seeks to prevent people from accessing the truth? This is a heinous crime.

I’m sorry for my anger and I’m sorry if you’re offended, but the truth is far more important than your ego. Actually I’m not sorry, fuck your ego. (I say that with love. I really do.)

To ask difficult questions means to confront some difficult truths.

Here are a few.

Democracy isn’t failing. 

We have. 

It’s not the republicans or the democrats fault. It’s not the presidents fault. 

It’s our fault. 

We together are all responsible. Regardless of whether you voted for that man or not. 

Somewhere along the way we stopped trying to understand the other and it became a game of us against them.

In that moment we all lost.

That policeman who killed George Floyd. Who do you think is responsible for his death?

We. All. Are.   

None of our hands are clean.

So long as we continue on our path of accumulating wealth while others starve.

So long as we continue to rape the planet will while we sit eating imported steak dinners simultaneously discussing how bad it is for the environment then joking how delicious it is.

So long as we sit quietly while someone with strong opinions talks about how our Black/Hispanic/Chinese/Female coworkers are less able. You know, the type of person who opens a sentence by saying, “I’m not racist but… I’m about to say something very fucking racist.

So long as we continue to think in terms of us vs them instead of a collective we. So long as we keep looking at each other as the enemy. So long as we allow those who we hate to be people we hate. We’ve lost.

I’m ashamed to say I’m guilty of all theses things.  

You’re a hypocrite then?  Is that what you’re telling us?

Yes. Yes I am. Absolutely. Both hands in the air. 

I’m a pampered middle class white man who has enjoyed the privilege without even knowing it. My ignorance has been a disease. In no small way the colour of my skin has been an advantage that allowed me to succeed ahead of others who I’ve no doubt are more qualified, more intelligent and harder worker than I will ever be. All because I’m white and they’re not.

You know what. I don’t welcome it. It’s made me weak and I don’t welcome it. I honestly don’t welcome the easy life I’ve had. 

I want a level playing field. And on it I want to compete with all my brothers and sisters regardless of background, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference. I want to embrace them at the end. Win, lose or draw. I want them to challenge me – to be able to really challenge me, so I can grow.

Do you think the athletic world benefited from allowing black people to openly compete with white people? Of course it did. Why the fuck don’t we think that true equality wouldn’t benefit us all? Of course it fucking will.

It will make ALL OF US STRONGER. 

You see what we did when we marginalised and made groups of people unable to compete with us on the same level playing field? We made ourselves weaker. We made ourselves weaker because we made it easier for us by making it impossible for others.

Now we’re so fucking weak that equality feels like a burden. It feels like sharing wealth and opportunity is an affront to our being. 

I’m wrong. My way of living is wrong. I’m so far from what is right it hurts. But you know what. I’m willing to admit it. Are you? 

Are you willing to say I’m wrong or is your ego too fucking precious? We should all be encouraging each other everyday to openly say I am wrong and ask the question, how can I be less so?

Quite frankly if you don’t have the balls to admit you’re wrong, you’re a coward. 

Is this making you uncomfortable? I hope so. It’s making me uncomfortable. Which is why I know it’s where I must go. If you’re uncomfortable it’s because I’m challenging your beliefs.

THATS A GOOD THING EVEN IF IM WRONG.

Let’s have the discussion. Let’s have the conversation. Let’s try to understand each other. Let’s move closer together. 

And let’s stop giving power to those who aren’t willing to do the same.

Please, I bet of you, for our children’s sake. Let’s value our fucking values again. 

(As always I welcome ALL comments and opinions. This is just me venting. Please don’t think I would ever direct that at you. I’m simply trying to get myself to wake up to the ways I can be better.)

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Hello fine readers and welcome to my Motivational Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week. (Or at least start it off in a slightly better fashion.)

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me, 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to hopefully make you all smile. 

Love to all X

(To my 2 regular readers: you’ll notice I’ve been playing around with the title. Do you like Motivational Mondays? If not, do you have any other ideas about a good title for this weekly post? If so please do leave them in the comments at the bottom. I’d be grateful for your suggestions.)


4 x Thoughts From Me:

One question to check if you have grown as a person: “Do I still believe the same things I did a year ago?” If the answer is yes then you haven’t grown. Growth comes from challenging your own beliefs so you may come to a greater understanding. You can always come to a greater understanding. 

We would all do well to think of seeing a therapist in the same way we do a doctor. We rarely think twice about visiting the doctor when we have physical pain we don’t understand. Why do we hesitate asking for professional help when we can’t understand the reasons behind our emotional pain?

The beauty of a moment comes from its impermanence. The moment you cling to it, it’s destroyed. 

Crying does not mean you’re not capable of dealing with your emotion. It means you are dealing with your emotions. 


3 x Quotes From Others:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King

“It’s time to stop denying the dark side of our nature. We’re all sick twisted fucks to some extent. The denial of that fact only encourages more destruction. It’s only by accepting it that we can bring it into the light.” – Mark Manson 

“Whatever you’re doing, a sense of superiority will make you worse at it. Humility, on the other hand, will make you better. The moment you think you’ve got it all figured out, your progress stops. Instead, continue to advance and improve by reminding yourself how much more there will always be to discover. Confidence is positive and empowering, but arrogance is deadly. Be confident, but not at the expense of your respect for others. Don’t burn up all your energy proving how great you are. Invest your time and energy being thoughtful and helpful. See the victories not as proof of your supremacy, but as opportunities to offer more value to life. See the defeats not as personal affronts, but as chances to learn and grow stronger. Take care not to waste your time in delusions of grandeur. Embrace the power of confident humility, and live well.” – Writer Ralph Marston on Confident Humility


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This Tim Ferris podcast with Hugh Jackman on Best Decisions, Daily Routines, The 85% Rule, Favorite Exercises, Mind Training, and Much More. I particularly loved their discussion about trusting your intuition. My personal notes and quotes below.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Don’t settle. Find the thing that gives you the energy to go further. 
  • Your religion should be in your actions.
  • You cannot over invest in education – if you’re ever in doubt of what to do go and learn more. 
  • Everyone needs to be appreciated and to be seen for who they are and what they give. 
  • Always keep your word even if it doesn’t suit you!
  • It’s the most important thing to work out in your life – how to trust your intuition. When you have that gut feeling. Go with it. Even if it doesn’t make sense. 
  • I had much more fear of being on the wrong path than I did of any failure on the right one. 
  • You shower every day without complaining. Meditation and exercise need to be looked at the same way. 
  • The 85% Rule: Aim to workout or perform at 85%. Going at 100% doesn’t work. You actually perform better because you relax that little bit.
  • The art of living is being sensitive to the little things, to the detail.
  • The best of the best remain coached till the end of their careers. Why wouldn’t we employ that for (the art of) living.  

2 – This article from CEO Magazine titled: The everyday device in your home killing hundreds around the globe. Can you guess what that device is? This article will wake you up to the reality of how dangerous your mobile phone really is, especially for your mental health. We all need to be spending far less time on our phones and be far more cautious about putting them in the hands of our children. If you don’t have the time to read it, then have a read of these quotes:

The number of pedestrians killed on US roads has risen by a staggering 51% since 2009. In 2017, pedestrian fatalities in Australia jumped by 20% in a year, with police blaming the stupidity of smartphones.

The fact is, we are, as a species, becoming addicted to both the dopamine hits of satisfaction that our smartphones give us hundreds of times a day, while being simultaneously assaulted by the dangerous levels of cortisol they send coursing through our bodies.

Anyone over the age of 10 is already unable to imagine a world without smartphones, and as they grow into adolescence, they are likely to be gifted one of these dangerous yet vital devices by their own parents… This is “like giving them cocaine or heroin”, according to David Gillespie, the author of Teen Brain – Why Screens Are Making Your Teenager Depressed, Anxious And Prone to Lifelong Addictive Illnesses – And How to Stop it Now.

“Between 2007 and now, the rates of teenage pregnancy, and alcohol and cigarette use by teens all dropped – they’re all about half of what they were, it’s a huge achievement and I don’t know why we’re not talking more about it,” he says. “The rates of anxiety and depression for teenagers should also be halving but, instead, the rates of those things in teens have actually doubled over the same period. 

These devices were designed from day one, by Steve Jobs and company, to be “beautiful, easy to use and hard to give up”. And, knowing how addictive they would become, Jobs famously declared that he wouldn’t let his own children near them...


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

My son has been a little confused about the difference between pooing and farting recently.

So much so that every time he farts, he looks at us and says, “poo poo.”

The first time he did this, we got everything ready and changed his perfectly clean nappy. 

The second time we were fooled again so tried explaining to him what the difference between a fart and poo is. 

He thought this was hilarious.

The third time he said, “poo poo,” we had the foresight to check his nappy first.

Still nothing.

My wife looked at me and said, “He’s the boy who cried poo.”

Brilliant. 


Till next week…

Have a Happy Fucking Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

What do you cry about that isn’t true?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 25/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 18/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 11/05/20

How Parents Can Promote The Evolution Of Feminism Mindfully

Following on from my previous post – Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do – I want to talk a little more about how that relates to feminism.

I feel we need to be very careful about what we tell ALL children, including our young girls. To make sure the false narratives that have so visibly divided the sexes throughout history, doesn’t continue to be the narrative that writes our children’s future.  

It’s a well worn discussion that bears repeating, and for that reason I’ll keep my thoughts and this post short. That said I do want to raise a point that’s maybe been missed in our attempts to rewrite the story for our future girls. 

With regards to the feminist movement in particular, we need to be especially careful about how we manage its evolution. 

When I think about the way in which mainstream media has started to reflect this changing narrative, I wonder if we are unwittingly going down a dangerous path. 

Not because we are telling young girls to stand up for themselves more. 

Not because we are telling women they’re every bit as capable as men. 

Not because we are telling them to be their own heroines – not to expect that they will be saved by some bullshit knight in shining armour.

No!

These are undeniably good things to teach our young girls in order to find greater equality going forward. 

What I’m taking about is something more subtle.

The well worn narrative of what it means to be a man – macho and independent – to not need anybody’s help. Specifically that asking for help is a sign of weakness (Something I talked about at length in my previous post).

This is exactly the kind of narrative responsible for the statistic that men are 3 to 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women, despite being nearly half as likely to develop depression. For the undeniable fact that us ‘macho men’ are actually less emotionally resilient than women.

I think it’s this narrative that has put distance between many of today’s male leaders and their own hearts. It’s acting in the pretence of what society believes to be strong that is, in no small way, dividing nations and destroying our earth.

There’s nothing wrong with challenging the narrative women are less capable than men which, of course, is complete BS, but to teach our girls the same things we’ve been teaching our boys is not a smart move. 

The way we teach girls to have greater emotional intelligence. To pick them up and hold them when they cry. To let them understand the importance of knowing their emotions intimately. 

This is a great thing. 

We need to teach and show our boys more of this. Not women less. 

To teach them not to cry and be like a man, or grow a pair, so to speak, would be a disaster. 

A world in which neither sex is able to properly process or access their own emotions – where girls are told ‘not to cry’ – is a world we cannot allow. 

We must stop denying our children their true nature.

(As always I welcome ALL opinions and thoughts. I’m always keen for a dialogue and to be told where and in what ways I’m wrong so I may grow. Thank for taking the time to read.)


SOURCES:

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190313-why-more-men-kill-themselves-than-women

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035568/

Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do

Why is it always said, he cried like a little girl?

We never say, she cried like a little boy, do we? 

For that matter, we never say she cried like a little girl either.

Of course I’m forgetting that’s because it’s acceptable for girls to cry! Silly me. It’s just boys who don’t cry!

Except that’s not true, is it?

Last I checked, little boys cry too. 

In fact I know it’s not true, because my two year old boy cries every single day.

And let me tell you something, he’s the happiest person I know.

The. Happiest. Person. I. Know. 

It’s odd don’t you think?

How happy and peaceful children can be, yet we adults have such a hard time accessing those same emotions?

It got me thinking as to why that might be. I wondered, ‘it couldn’t be related… could it?’

Could crying, as one example of allowing ourselves to feel and process negative emotions, be exactly what we need to do in order to access positive emotions like peace and joy?

I decided to do a little research.

My first findings confirmed what I suspected – that crying from time to time, contrary to popular chauvinistic belief, is actually a pretty fucking good thing for you to do.

This article from Medical News Today on the benefits of crying noted,

Research has found that in addition to being self-soothing, shedding emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins. These chemicals make people feel good and may also ease both physical and emotional pain. In this way, crying can help reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being.”

In addition the article also noted that crying reduces stress, boosts your mood, aids sleep, fights bacteria and even improves your vision (remind me to tell some of my older pilot co-workers of this fact).

Jebus!

I figured it must help, but I had no idea it helped this much.

I wonder then, does this account for why we adults (and men in particular) have a much harder time accessing feelings of peace and happiness?

Do we not allow ourselves to cry enough?

Thinking about my own life it certainly makes sense.

Years of depression was a result of not allowing myself to feel exactly what I needed. After uncovering some hard truths and facing those demons head on, following months of therapy, I finally allowed myself to break down (or ‘break open’ as my therapist referred to it, which I much prefer).

It was such an enormous relief to finally let go of what I’d been fighting for so many years. Afterwards I’d felt an inner peace I’d not felt for years. I remember sleeping like a baby that night.

Now I understand the science behind why that was.

More importantly though the harmful narrative I’d clung onto for years finally began to shift. My life has been immeasurably better ever since.

Of course this wasn’t purely because I allowed myself to cry, but I do believe I’d never have been able to properly process and let go of those difficult emotions without doing so.

Recently I’ve been allowing myself to cry more often. I can tell you that’s not easy for a man who has been conditioned by society to keep him emotions under lock and key. Yet in doing so, my life is now filled with far more beauty and meaning.

I cried the other day when holding my son simply because I became aware of how precious it was while he hugged me during a quiet moment. I let myself cry in front of him. I wanted him to know that this is both a normal and healthy thing to do.

I wonder if any of you thinks this make me less of a man?

Did crying when my son was born make me less of a man? When I first held him in my arms?

Did crying on my wedding day make me less of a man? When I stood in front of all my friends and family as I read out my vows to my wife?

These were some of the happiest, most meaningful days and moments of my life.

If the answer is yes then I formally request to be a female because allowing yourself to cry, allowing yourself to feel your emotions, is what makes life beautiful. It’s what allows your difficult emotions to pass. It’s what allows you to find greater peace.

Luckily I don’t have to go through a sex change operation to allow myself to cry.

As it turns out – newsflash everyone – men can cry after all!

Not only can men cry, I found out that it doesn’t result in your life falling apart or your penis falling off.

Unbelievable news I know but completely true! I can confirm this, you see, because last I checked it’s still there.

In fact, I’ll double check now for you… Yep, still there.

Phew!

Do you want to know why men cry?

Because it’s not a female thing to cry. Shock, horror… It’s actually a human thing to cry. It’s in our nature to cry.

I mean of course it is! Evolution wouldn’t have up with crying pointlessly. Think about it.

Why are we the only species on the planet to deny our nature?

This is exactly what makes us all a bunch of lunatics.

Anyway I’ve gotten away from the research that backs all these opinions up, so let me get back to it.

When I dug a little deeper for this post an extremely bizarre statistic stuck out for me like a sore thumb.

I assumed that men, being more prone to bottle up their emotions and ‘do it alone,’ would almost certainly have higher rates of depression.

WRONG.

Women have been found to have higher rates of depression by a factor of nearly two.

There are a number of reasons for this including gender inequality but studies suggest biological factors to be the major determinant.

At any rate, without getting sidetracked into another very important debate, that wasn’t the bit I found weird.

What I found particularly bizarre was the finding that men are three to four times more likely to take their own life than women.

Why would men be three to four times as likely to die from suicide if they are half as likely to become depressed in the first place?

Assuming my very rough maths is correct and assuming that those who commit suicide have first developed depression, then a man with depression is actually 6 to 8 times more likely to kill himself than a women who develops depression does.

Of course you have to take that with a huge amount of salt, but even so…

Wow!

Talk about being a man hey? Or ‘manning the fuck up’ as some my friends might say.

Talk about the strong emotionally resilient men we have built as a society.

Clearly we’ve done a great job at giving men the tools they need to process their own emotions right?

Or maybe not.

Maybe, instead, we ought to rethink our narrative.

Maybe, just maybe, telling our boys not to cry isn’t such a smart move.

Maybe, just maybe, telling our young boys to ‘man up,’ or ‘grow a pair,’ or ‘stop being such a pussy,’ actually hurts both sexes, especially men.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to redefine what it means to be a man in the first instance.

What do you think?

I’ll tell you why I decided to bring this subject up.

I overheard someone we had hired to babysit our son tell him not to cry. It was a women, by the way, it case you were thinking it must be a man. She clearly didn’t mean any harm but I had to say something.

I asked her if she’d have said the same thing to a girl, or whether she would, in fact, have picked her up and comforted her?

(FYI Research shows that mothers talk more on average with their girl children, including sharing and identifying emotions, as opposed to their boy children.)

I let her know how damaging I believe telling children not to cry is.

I told her that I hope my son always allows himself to cry if he feels the need and that I will never allow him to be shamed for doing so in my household.

Never.

After going away and giving it some more thought, I realised something else.

A deeper problem that many of us might have with other people crying. And how this problem can likely be attributed to telling our boys not to cry.

I suspect many of our distraction techniques aren’t about helping the child so much as a strategy by adults to avoid issues they themselves have about how crying makes them feel.

I believe it’s the adult who often has the problem, whether they are conscious of it or not.

I know whenever my child cried, early on in the weeks shortly after he was born, it brought up intense feelings for me. I felt like a failure every time I was unable to settle him. I would say, “why doesn’t he like my breastmilk as much as my wife’s?”

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself with that joke.

Seriously though, on occasions he’d cry for long periods, without successfully calming him down, I would get very angry with him (not historically an emotion I’ve had a lot of trouble with). I would get so angry that I had to leave the room. Now I was never going to hurt him, but that anger was new to me.

It felt very intense.

What quickly followed, whenever I gave up by leaving him in another room, was intense feelings of remorse.

How could I treat him like that?

How could I just abandon him in his cot when he’s crying?

Why am I taking an infant crying so personally?

What the fuck is wrong with me?

Clearly I had some serious shit to work through. Yet in a typically male way, I didn’t seek any help, didn’t talk about it, nor did I let myself cry.

I just beat myself up.

(FYIAll of these can be explained as reasons why men have a harder time dealing with depression and why they are more likely to commit suicide – see this article for more details)

It wasn’t until one day when I got home from work that I saw my son playing on the living room floor. In that moment I felt nothing but an overwhelming repulsion to get away from him. I didn’t want to be with him. I didn’t want to father my son. My gorgeous boy.

This time the remorse that came flooding up was too much. I went to the bedroom closed the door and started to cry.

I cried like a little girl.

No.

I cried like a man.

I let myself really cry. When I was finished I remember seeing with such clarity, there was no doubt about what it was I needed to do next. I reached for the phone and spoke to someone. I finally asked for the professional help I knew I’d needed for a long time.

Crying was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

It gave me the clarity to see what I needed.

It gave me the courage to ask for help.

I can’t emphasise that last statement enough.

Crying gave me courage.


CLOSING WORDS

To all men who feel conflicted about their need to cry, it’s important to understand that crying doesn’t mean you’re not capable of dealing with your emotion. It means you are dealing with your emotions. Please understand it’s perfectly ok to do so.

Equally don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There is no shame in this. There is nothing unmanly about asking for help or showing emotions. We all need help from time to time. That’s part of the human experience.

Don’t think you need to ‘man the fuck up,’ or stop ‘crying like a little girl.’

If it helps consider the phrase, ‘man the fuck up and cry.’

In doing so you might just shatter the bullshit stereotype of what it actually means to be a man.

In doing so you might just have a greater understanding of what it is to be human.

In doing so you might give this world something it needs more than another macho man incapable of accessing his own emotions.

(Thank you to all for taking the time to read. I’m very curious to know your thoughts and get a proper debate going. To challenge my views so I can grow. Please help me cry by leaving your comments below. I welcome ALL opinions.)


ADDITIONAL SOURCES/FURTHER READING

BBC Article: Why more men than women die by suicide

Medical News Today Article: Eight benefits of crying: Why it’s good to shed a few tears

Happiness is here blog post: 10 things for parents to say instead of ‘stop crying.’

Janet Lansbury’s blog post: No Bad Kids – Toddler Discipline Without Shame (9 Guidelines)

This study examined gender differences in emotion word use during mother–child and father–child conversations.

This study explores why depression is more prevalent in women

For those who might be dealing with depression and/or struggling with thoughts of suicide it goes without saying I hope you can find the strength to reach out and talk to someone. Coming back from the brink isn’t easy, but it’s never too late. Never. Below is a list of various hotlines and websites in which you can seek help.

HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Local Websites And Emergency Contact Numbers

https://www.befrienders.org

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.who.int/mental_health/en/

https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/international/global-mental-health

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

Hello fine readers and welcome to my Motivational Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week. (Or at least start it off in a slightly better fashion.)

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 brilliant thoughts from me, 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have made me grow

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to hopefully make you all smile. 

Love to all X

(To my 2 regular readers: you’ll notice I’m playing around with the title to see what works best to attract more readers. If you have any ideas about a good title for this weekly post please do leave them in the comments at the bottom. I’d be grateful for your suggestions.)


4 x Brilliant Thoughts From Me:

Why it’s helpful to think you’re not a good person: A good person implies something black or white. You either are or you aren’t. This fixes your mindset. You believe you’re a good person and go at lengths to avoid being proven otherwise. You also become defensive about that belief. You feel threatened whenever this comes into question and so avoid the very conversations you need to hear so you may become a better person. We should drop the notion of what we think it means to be a good person. The way I look there is no such thing. You’re either trying to be a better person or you’re not. Don’t try to be a “good person.” Just try to be better one.

We are nothing if not all those who came before us. We will be nothing if we don’t act for those who come after. A better tomorrow has to be the spirit by which we all live.

Just remember when you think you hold the moral high ground, that even Hitler thought he was doing the right thing. 

A deliberately easy life makes us unhappy because it makes us bad at dealing with life’s inevitable difficulties, however small. Conversely a deliberately difficult life makes us happy because it builds emotional resilience. It also teaches us appreciate and enjoy the everyday most take for granted. 


3 x Admittedly Better Quotes From Others:

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” – C.S. Lewis 

“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” ― C.G. Jung

“The fact that we are connected through space and time shows that life is a unitary phenomenon, no matter how we express that fact.” – the great evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis


2 x Things I’ve Been Listening to &/Or Reading This Week:

1 – This brilliant Happiness Lab podcast episode: How to Be a Better Ally with Dr. Laurie Santos. In this final episode of season 2, Dr Laurie Santos examines why we are often so reluctant to act against the bigotry and injustice we claim to be against, and ‘how we can match our moral beliefs with concrete action.’ (Featuring James Barr and Dan Hudson, co-hosts of the podcast ‘A Gay and a Non-Gay.’)

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Why do well intentioned people who believe in the good often do nothing? How can we deal with these parts of psychology so we can overcome our insecurities over acting? 
  • Any comment however awkward is better than silence. 
  • Beliefs do nothing by themselves. 
  • You’re meant to feel awkward – if you’re standing up for marginalised groups of people and you’re afraid of getting for saying the wrong things. Maybe feeling awkward- putting yourselves in those awkward positions and having those awkward conversations means you’re doing the right thing. 
  • We need to accept we are not good people yet. We need to aim for being slightly better (slightly less horrible) human beings. 
  • It’s actually a higher standard. By never assuming you are good you are always looking for how you can be better. By admitting you’re not a good person you can understand where your blind spots are and work on fixing them.
  • When you’re in a fixed mindset and you make a mistake research shows we actually shut down and withdraw from the mistake. It’s a state of non learning. This is because we don’t believe we can change or get better. We are who we are so why bother trying to learn and change. 
  • To become better allies we need to switch to having a growth mindset
  • Simple three letter word for developing growth mindset:  YET 
  • I’m not a good person yet but I can be if I put in some work. 
  • Reminding ourselves of our capacity for growth can have a profound effect on our willingness to engage in difficult social situations. To own up to our mistakes and our motivation to become better people. It helps us break through the discomforts that come with trying to be an ally. 
  • It’s morally wrong to leave the burden to speak out with only the marginalised groups. Science shows that it’s more effective when some one whose not from the marginalised group points out bigotry. 
  • We have far more influence than we realise. A study found that a white person speaking out against racism was looked at more positively than a black persons using the exact same words. The recipient also showed more willingness to apologise and make amends if it was a white person who had spoken out against them. 
  • We need to use our white privilege to end white privilege.
  • If I’ve learnt one thing from BLM movement its that silence means death.
  • Not everyone has to or can be on the front line but everyone needs to get off the sidelines. 
  • If Nelson Mandela -A political prisoner of one of the most racist regimes of the second half of the 20th century – can become its leader, than anything and everything is possible. 

2 – This New York Times Article titled, ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ Is Really a Thing about how children’s behaviour may suffer from lack of access to outdoor space, a problem heightened by the pandemic. The following quotes are taken from the article:

“Ironically, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, as tragic as it is, has dramatically increased public awareness of the deep human need for nature connection, and is adding a greater sense of urgency to the movement to connect children, families and communities to nature,” – Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”

Ming Kuo, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Illinois who studies urban greening, said parents, like Shore, have described how their children are “completely different” when they have access to green space. Dr. Kuo’s research has shown that access to green space decreases aggression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms, and boosts the immune system. But she also was quick to point out an unequal access to green spaces across socioeconomic and racial lines.


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

I went to see a Physio this week about a recurring back problem I’ve been having.

He asked me to take my top off and stand directly opposite him so he could examine any imbalances.

Comparing my triceps he commented, “You’re seriously right handed.”

We were in ear shot of a couple of good looking ladies working out in their gym.

I tried to think of something witty to say.

“Let’s not jump to any conclusions about why that is,” I replied.

While smirking I continued, “I hold my boy with that arm.”

The physio laughed.

The girls did not…


Till next week,

Have a Happy Fucking Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One Bonus question for you all:

What do you like to hold in your arm?


PREVIOUS HAPPY MONDAY POSTS:

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 25/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 18/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 11/05/20

The Simplest, Most Effective Way To Overcome Writer’s Block

Are you struggling for words? 

Stuck in a loop? 

Don’t know how to proceed? 

Do you feel like everything you’re writing is a pile of s***? That you’re making everything ten times worse than what you’d originally put down on paper?

Well fear not my friends, for I have the answer and boy oh boy is it a doozy!

I hope you’re ready because this will surely blow your mind.

Here it is…

The simplest, most effective way to overcome writer’s block is to…

KEEP WRITING

Yep, it’s that simple. 

Keep going. 

Keep plugging away and never give up. 

You have what it takes but you have to keep going.

You have to have the faith you’ll figure it out. That the words will come. Sometimes it takes revisiting and editing a damn post so many times you’ll wanna throw your laptop (and yourself) off the top of the highest skyscraper you can climb. 

Don’t do that.

Keep going. The struggle will pay off in the end I promise. Trust. 

I’ll add a couple more bonus tip for you.

You don’t have to write anything you don’t want to. Make sure you enjoy it.

Make sure you’re doing it because you love and believe in what you have to say

Forget the number of likes. That’s your ego’s need for attention. Listen to your heart. Your mind is meant to be its servant not the master. 

And if it really is too much. If you have been writing incessantly but only seem to be digging yourself an even messier hole to write yourself out of. 

Get outside and go for a walk. Or spend half an hour punching a bag. Whatever it is get out and do some exercise then come back to what you where stuck on. 

This always works wonders for me. In fact some of my greatest creative inspirations and solutions come from walking in my local park everyday. 

It really is be the best antidote. But once  you’ve had a healthy amount of time away don’t forget to come back and tackle that beast of a post you were stuck on. 

You will defeat it, if you simply keep writing…

(Sorry I ran out of words to say at this point so went outside to listen to the birds chirping in my local park. If you have any suggestions please do leave them in the comments section below.)

How My Worst Landing As A Pilot Came To Define Me As A Person (Plus Some Advice On Dealing With Anxiety, Depression and PTSD)

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to land a commercial jet?

As you’ve travelled somewhere excitedly looking out of the passenger window and thought what the view is like from the front as you come into land?

Well I can tell you, on a good day, it’s truly exhilarating.

To safely bring one of those big birds back to earth. Gliding onto the tarmac with some 300 passengers behind you. It’s one of the most rewarding feelings in the world. 

On a bad day, however, it can be more of a poo-your-pants kinda feeling. Or, to put it another way, it can be shit scary!

The following is a story about a particularly bad day ‘at the office’ for me. A story of my most traumatic experience as a young pilot. One that took me some time to recover from.

That said, it is one I now look back on as a defining moment in my career. One that led me to seek the help I needed and shape me into the man I am today. I’m not only a better pilot because of it, I’m a better person.

Before I continue I want to first say, I don’t mean to scare anyone with the following account – especially those who might already have a fear of flying (maybe stop reading now if you do) – but only to talk openly and honestly about what was a fairly traumatic experience for me in the interest of raising awareness around PTSD.

I also want to talk about how I coped afterwards in the interest of helping others who might have suffered similarly and might be looking for some guidance. 

I hope you find this helpful.

Anyway, allow me to start with the story. Deep breathes everyone, here we go…

(I’m going to try to avoid using too much aviation jargon but will leave links attached for certain phrases in case any of you are unsure of the meaning)


The Story Of My Most Traumatic Experience As A Pilot

As we flew back to Hong Kong over the South China Sea I reflected on how the day had gone. I was pleased. We had flown to Kuala Lumpur without incident during which I managed a challenging approach followed by a decent landing. It was still early days during my Junior First Officer training and my landings had been less than consistent, so this was something of a relief for me. Still, I couldn’t help but doubt myself when thinking about our approach into Hong Kong. I tired to shake it off as we set up for the arrival.

I should say the idea of safely landing a passenger plane based on my skill alone was somewhat daunting for me at the time, especially given it was only my sixth sector ever as the pilot flying a jet (an Airbus A330 for any interested parties) with passengers aboard. I’d also spent the 3 years previous watching on as a Second Officer – without doing any hand flying except occasionally in the simulator – wondering if I was capable. Looking back I realise that I didn’t really believe it. What I’d done by constantly asking the question was reinforce the idea that I wasn’t. As so often comes up in the story about my past the big issue for me had nothing to do with capability, but self-belief.

The weather into Hong Kong was benign except for the wind that was coming from the south (which can mean the possibility of mechanical turbulence from the winds passing over the hills and buildings to the south of the runway, especially near the threshold of 25R – our arrival runway that day).

After briefing the arrival we started our descent. ATC told us to take up the hold while they dealt with the many arrivals typical that time of the day. I began to feel the butterflies build.

As we slowly descended in the hold, the Captain mentioned noticing how I was frequently wiping my hands on my trousers. He told me how Captains tend to notice these kinds of nervous ticks. I didn’t know what to say. I thought about how such a comment was suppose to help?! I knew I was nervous. I wasn’t trying to hide it. Anyway, was it not normal given I was still learning how to fly the damn thing?! I kept quiet and tried to focus on the task at hand.

When we finally joined final approach, my nerves worsened. I tired my best to ignore them but the butterflies were in overdrive. I began to wipe my increasingly sweaty hands with greater frequency – now acutely aware every time I did so! I told myself to breathe. We took the gear down followed by our final flaps. I then asked for the landing check list. Shortly afterwards we were cleared to land. 

It was crunch time. 

As I took the autopilot out, I felt the mechanical turbulence rock the plane. I tried my best to keep my scan going but had a habit of looking down at my PFD (Primary Flight Display) instead of outside. (As part of our scan we should be alternating between both, slowly increasing the amount of time looking outside as we get closer to the runway. Eventually you should be completely ‘heads up’ – only looking outside while the other pilot (the pilot monitoring) continues to monitor the instruments. I had a habit of fixating on the screen (PFD) a little too much instead of looking outside (Not uncommon for trainee pilots)).

When we passed over the threshold a positive wind change caused the aircraft to ballon slightly. At this stage I was looking up but had left it too late to get an adequate picture of what was going on. Instead of counteracting the ballooning effect by pushing the nose down, I did the opposite. In my nervous haste, with the runway growing bigger, I pitched the nose up, flaring way too early.

Then I froze. 

Everything within my field of vision seemed to fade away and all I could feel was an overwhelming sinking feeling. Like my whole being was collapsing in on itself at the pit of my stomach. 

I didn’t know what to do.

We floated and floated, for what felt like an eternity, well beyond our desired touchdown zone, as we hovered above the runway. 

The next thing I remember hearing was the captain announcing, “I have control.” He placed his hands on the thrust levers driving them fully forward to select maximum (TOGA) thrust. It took a while for the jet engines to spool up before we got the proverbial ‘kick up the ass’ and climbed away. When we eventually did the captain then announced, “Go-around, flaps.” 

The rest is a blur. 

I remember cleaning up the aircraft – retracting the flaps and gear as per our standard operating procedures during a go-around (an aborted approach to landing) – but little else except for how I felt. 

What it felt like was the whole world had fallen apart. That my worst fears had been confirmed – that I wasn’t capable and didn’t belong in an aeroplane, let alone one with 300 passengers – and that my lack of ability was responsible for nearly having an accident. (To give you an idea of the dramatisation going on inside my head – the Training Captain was always in control of the situation.)

To reassure you lovely readers, while It is rare for a go-around to happen because of a botched landing, it does happen. It’s nothing to be alarmed about. It would be more alarming had we tired to continue with the landing. To explain, for those who don’t know, a go-around (an aborted approach) is a standard and very safe option available to us at any time during the approach should we elect discontinuing to be the safest course of action. In this case, as we had floated so far down the runway, flying away instead of landing and trying to stop on the limited amount of runway length left available was the safest option. (That didn’t stop it from shattering my ego of course.) I would also stress that this was during my training. Like any skill it takes a while to get the hang of it. Flying is no different. It’s also not uncommon for Training Captains to take control or help via a dual input (the Captain acts on the controls from his seat on the lefthand side of the cockpit at the same time as the pilot flying in the righthand seat does) when teaching inexperienced pilots to fly on a new aircraft type.

As we flew back around for a second approach, the captain asked if I was ok. I shook it off as best I could given the circumstances and declared confidently that I was. I can tell you now, I was not!

The second approach to landing happened quickly as ATC gave us priority to join final approach. I don’t remember much else except for the landing that was long as once again I flared too early. This time the Captain helped to bring the plane down safely by adding a dual input before we plonked onto the runway. A graceful landing, it was not!

As we taxied off the runway and to our parking bay I felt like the smallest person in the world.

The debrief afterwards was hard to take. The Captain tried his best to reassure me and get me to see the bigger picture – what a valuable learning experience this was, etc. – but all I wanted to do was go into hiding. To runaway, crawl under a rock and never come back out.

When I made my way from work on the train home, I remember reliving it over and over again in my head. I kept wondering what the hell had happened? How had it come to this? I couldn’t make sense of it. My initial base training (where trainees fly circuits at a remote airfield without passengers boarded before flying commercially) had gone so well. I had felt so confident but now it felt like I’d fallen into the abyss. I knew it was going to take everything to climb back up. It was everything I didn’t believe I had. .


Dealing With The Aftermath And How I Eventually Overcame My Inner Demons

That evening I’d made plans to have dinner with my parents. When I arrived at their apartment I explained to them what had happened. I didn’t realise at the time just how important it was to simply talk. How getting those words out in the open immediately lessened the power they’d had over me, trapped inside my head. Had I gone home that evening my natural inclination would have been to lock myself away. I know this would have definitely made things worse.

One big problem I’ve always had is talking openly about my problems. Instead my defence has long been to withdraw inward – something I picked up from years of being bullied as an adolescent.

Instead my parents were there to pick me up when I needed it most. They helped me to see how it was something from which I would learn and grow. Something for which I would one day look back on be truly grateful. It was difficult to see at the time but they were, of course, right.

It’s for this reason I strongly believe having people in your life that you can talk to openly and honestly is something we all need.

Still this was only the beginning of a long road to recovery for me. To give you a little more background, my problems extended well beyond the event itself. I had deeper issues to do with low self esteem yet to work through – inner demons that undoubtedly contributed to what happened that day. Although I did eventually seek the help I needed, it took a long time to find the courage to do so. I dreaded going to work. I worried incessantly during my spare time. When I was at work I became especially nervous about performing landings. I remember feeling my heart beat so hard I thought it was going to come out of my chest! I regularly thought about throwing in the towel and giving up. Yet I didn’t. I kept going, against all the will in my being, something inside me wasn’t prepared to let this event define me like that. That this time I wouldn’t let it end in failure.

(Again I want to reassure you lovely readers that I did seek help for PTSD following what happened – however the help I’m referring to above relates to the larger issues I had with both anxiety and depression that long preceded this event. In both cases when I did seek professional help, it was never their opinion that I needed any form medication or that I was a danger to myself or others or that I should stop flying. Had they thought so, they had the power to ground me. Before you jump on my back for continuing to fly despite suffered from mental illness, I want you to know I never believed my issues were so bad I couldn’t perform my duties. I’m confiding in you all now partly because I believe there is still a very unhealthy stigma surrounding mental illness – especially in aviation – where such topics are still strictly taboo despite the crucial need to talk about them!)

Ultimately it was getting back in the seat and facing my demons head on that allowed me to overcome them.

I managed to overcome my fears by proving to myself I was more than capable. Little by little, flight by flight, landing by landing, the anxiety that gripped my heart began to loosen. I went on to complete my Junior First Officer training and then First Officer upgrade the first time of asking and to a very good standard, with no other hiccups along the way. Following that I flew for years around the region with so much exposure that landing the plane became second nature.

Still, there was a feeling that wouldn’t go away. A feeling that continued to plague me. A feeling that I knew if I didn’t face, it would continue to plague me for the rest of my life. I put it off, out of fear, for as long as I could. Eventually I couldn’t take it any longer. I reached out and finally got the help I knew in my heart I’d needed all along.

When I did everything changed for me. I can honestly say I don’t suffer from depression or PTSD anymore. I’m still working through some issues regarding anxiety but even that has lost its hold over me.

It’s for this reason I will always be a voice for encouraging others, especially for anyone who is reading and has suffered from any sort of trauma or mental illness, to ask for the help they need.

I can tell you from experience that that later you leave it the harder it is to solve.

That said, it’s never too late to get the help you need. Never. And solve it you can.

I really hope I can inspire others who may have difficulty getting the help they need, to find the courage to do so. To come out and talk about their problems openly and to know that there is no shame in this whatsoever. Whether talking to a professional, friends and family or simply leaving a comment here – we all need to be having far more of these awkward discussions. We are all human and part of being human is to know we can’t do it alone. Together we are stronger and together we can help one another change. However difficult the road might be for you, please know that change is always possible. It starts with talking.


Fly The Aircraft To The Ground” – Some Closing Thoughts

The day after the landing that wasn’t, I remember getting a call from work. Another senior Captain called to ask how I was and discuss a recurring problem he’d noticed when teaching Junior First Officers to fly. He said he’d noticed how many of them stopped flying after the flare. If you can nail the flare exactly this isn’t such a big issue, but if you flare early, or wind conditions cause you to land long, he’d noticed a tendency to let go even if the aircraft hadn’t landed yet. He said “you have to fly the aircraft to the ground.” 

I never forgot that advice. Not only because it was a very practical tip that summed up exactly what I hadn’t done. But it resonated with me on a deeper level.

You have to fly the aircraft to the ground.

Don’t think because you’re on final approach you can relax. Don’t think because you’re almost home you can let your guard down. You have to keep flying. You have to keep going. Keep taking responsibility for your life and your problems. Life isn’t just one big problem to solve and then you’re set. It’s a series of never ending problems for which you have to take responsibility right till the end. You have strive to stay in control. You have to believe you can deal with it. Should you get it wrong, then you need to let go of you ego and go around.

You can always go around if you don’t get it right.

There is no shame in this. Don’t be afraid to go around and try again. But try again you must. It’s up to all of us to manage our own journeys in life and to make sure we come home safely. I, for one, have ever faith that you can.


For Additional Information regarding PTSD please follow the links below:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/about-ptsd/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

Other Sources:

https://www.psycom.net/aerophobia-fear-of-flying/

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Pilot_Flying_(PF)and_Pilot_Monitoring(PM)

https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/passenger-aircraft/a330-family.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_simulator

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_officer_(aviation)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Turbulence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runway

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Holding_Pattern

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_approach_(aeronautics)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Primary_Flight_Display_(PFD)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Pilot_Flying_(PF)and_Pilot_Monitoring(PM)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takeoff/Go-around_switch

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go-around

https://captainong.com/what-is-base-training-base-check-line-training-and-line-ch/