4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my Mindset Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that provides you with 90% protection from COVID19…

Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should probably ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should definitely read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always, I’ve finished with 1 terrible joke that’s so bad, you won’t be able to help but laugh…

Let’s begin!


4 x Thoughts From Me:

The problem with regret is that it takes you away from the present moment. Yet that’s exactly where all the opportunities lie to put things right.

We are not the labels we place on ourselves. For example no one is successful. It’s simply something you enjoy for a moment before it‘s gone. Learning to simply be is one of life’s most important skills for this reason. It allows us to see what we truly are.

In a world where people are so afraid of what others think of them, honesty will take you far.

I believe we all instinctively know what is right and when we have failed to live up to our own values. We just need to be brave enough to feel our ‘own’ shame when we’ve fallen short. We need to process it and then move on a better person. But there has to be a willingness from the individual to feel that shame. When that shame is placed on us by society it twists us. So we resist it – we repress it. Individuals ultimately act in accordance with how others do, not in accordance with what they are told. We are a society that loves to say the right thing without doing it. We need be one that does the right thing, with no need to say it.


3 x Quotes From Others:

Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” C.S. Lewis

“No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself.” – Seneca

“I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” – Booker T. Washington


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This interesting video: How Trump Has Divided America by cognitive neuroscientist Bobby Azarian who explains why using something called Terror Management Theory. He goes onto explain how we can begin to bring people together using a scientific and spiritual world view called The Cosmic Perspective. It’s well worth a watch!

2 – This fun No Stupid Questions podcast episode: How You Should Ask For Forgiveness with Steven Dubner and Angela Duckworth. Notes below.

  • How to increase gratitude? Write a gratitude letter for someone. It’s deeper than a thank you note. You are thanking someone important in your life for helping you or for being an important role model.
  • Another thing to create greater happiness is to write in a gratitude journal. Both have benefits but the longer term habit of a gratitude journal will have more enduring benefits.
  • How to apologise to someone? If you want it to be accepted you have be sincere. You have to acknowledge your wrong doing. (ie. not saying – I’m sorry you feel that way or I’m sorry you got offended). There needs to be a commitment to improve. From economic perspective it has to be costly for the apologiser. You make a commitment of some kind. If I do this again I will. Or I will do this to make up.
  • The value of an apology is not just to cleanse you conscious or to make the other person feel better. The idea is more to repair and then grow the relationship. From an economic perspective then an apology is a great thing because it creates a future benefit.
  • Why people fail to apologise? 3 main reasons. You have a low concern about the victim of the relationship. You don’t care. You have a perceived threat to your own self image. That you are going to look bad. You have a perception that the apology won’t be effective. You think it’s too late.
  • If you can think of 3 things to be grateful for every day perhaps it is also worth thinking about one thing you can take responsibility for? Have a forgiveness or apology section and add that to your gratitude journal – something to say you’re sorry for and what you are going to do to make amends.

1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

Struggling for a good (terrible) joke this week folks so thought I’d leave you with another comic that made me chuckle. Hope you enjoy.


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. Till next time… Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

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

A couple of bonus questions for you all: What is something you can apologise for today? What is something you can forgive?

(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom.)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays – 16/11/20

The Shameless Nature Of Pride

As the dust settles on the US election my feeling is not jubilation. I’m not happy that 70 million people still find Trump an acceptable leader. I’m not happy that a man whose flagrant disregard for the safety of his fellow Americans has cost hundreds of thousands their lives. I’m not happy that in death, the Trump campaign still has the audacity to attack the freedoms that millions have died for. I knew it was coming, but it still hurts. It hurts enormously.

I broke down and cried when Biden won. A cocktail of difficult emotions coming to a head following weeks of anxiety, depression, anger, shame, hatred… I’ve felt them all this year but not as acutely as I had in the 2 weeks preceding. In the end it was too much. 

The question I have is where do we go from here? Biden is a gift during a year that’s been desperately short of them, but it doesn’t detract from my feeling that we are nowhere near where we need to be. We cannot continue on our path of wilful ignorance. We cannot continue to turn our attention away from one another or from the marginalised of society. We cannot continue to let our fear get in the way of doing what is right. We must bring greater integrity back into our lives. We must live for our values, not our pride

We must also start finding common ground and working together. For me that common ground has to be the freedoms for which democracy stands. However we have a massive problem if we can’t agree on what reality is anymore. Perhaps this is the larger consequence of our vote 4 years ago? Where we have become so desensitised to lying that we are willing to accept it as fact. Where we are willing to believe whatever we want because it’s easier or because it’s more interesting – because the “facts” exist to support any cockamamy conspiracy theory out there. 

We’re clearly addicted to the drama. It feels like we want life to one big conspiracy. In the process we have isolated ourselves from our own reality. In much the same way we refuse to accept the parts of ourselves we dislike, we have pushed the other side away. But in doing so we have only given them strength. We have only deepened the divide. Eventually we will reach a breaking point where we can no longer avoid the other side – those parts of ourselves. In that moment we have choice. We can let pride seal our hearts or let shame break down our egos. 

As I write this tears are rolling down my face. I look at my 2-year-old boy and my wife who is pregnant with our second. I think about what I want my children to understand as they grow up. I desperately want them to understand that decency and character matter. That the truth and honesty matter. That morals and integrity matter. That responsibility matters. But I also want them to understand just how much forgiveness matters. This is where I have been failing. 

The truth is I find it difficult to forgive those who still support Trump. And I get it. I understand why it’s the right thing to do. However it’s far easier to say the right thing than to do it. And let’s be honest, would you be able to forgive those who voted for Trump had he actually won? If you’re a Trump supporter do you forgive me? It’s much easier to forgive someone when you don’t have to sacrifice your pride. I recall that I wasn’t in a very forgiving mood four years ago. Maybe this is why so many of us refuse to accept the outcome? Not because we can’t accept reality but because we can’t forgive? It occurs to me that pride holds way more value in our society than honesty. It also occurs to me that I must swallow mine if I’m to forgive those I disagree. So let me do it. Let me say how truly sorry I am. Let me admit my shame publicly. 

4 years ago I didn’t vote. I’m not talking about the US election. I’m not American FYI. I’m talking about the Brexit referendum in the UK. I didn’t pay attention living here in Hong Kong. I naively assumed we would never leave the EU. I assumed I didn’t need to go through the trouble of voting. Then I watched in disbelief as we voted to leave. And then, as if to teach me the cruelest kind of lesson, I watched on as the rest of the world seemed to follow. A series of backwards political movements that followed me home, culminating in the loss of autonomy here in Hong Kong. A loss that has meant a genuine fear of what I can say publicly. A fear that now has me writing under a pseudonym. And now I watch on in horror as the very legitimacy of voting comes under attack in what might be one of most treacherous acts from a sitting president in the history of American democracy. All for the sake of fucking pride.

And it is pride that Trump has successfully used against me. He understood that pride can be used to stoke the fires of rage and hatred in my heart. In all our hearts. And he has. He’s made me angrier than any other politician, or indeed few other people, ever have. I believe this is the main reason I cried when I found out Biden won. There was a part of me that needed to be broken down. There still is. That needs to mourn the passing of a previous self. The part that thinks it’s somehow better than others. The part of me who is unwilling to forgive those for the same mistakes I’ve made in my own past. For being human. So for my arrogance, for my wilful ignorance, for ignoring the other side, for avoiding the difficult conversations and for my pride, I am deeply sorry. I will do better.

Let me finish by telling you about the shame I’ve felt since that period in my life 4 years ago. What I’ve learnt from it and why I’m owning it now. Shame is demonised in our society yet pride is glorified. I call bullshit. Pride is a means of avoiding shame. Often the very shame we need to feel in order to change – to become a better person. Shame isn’t the bugbear that everyone makes out. Of course you shouldn’t cling to it. You need to forgive yourself, but I believe you do need to feel it. You need to process it. Shame allowed me to really see the error of my ways. It allowed me to see why I must never take my freedom for granted ever again. Why I must protect it for my children. Shame has undeniably made me a better person. 

Of course I understand that pride has its place and that shame for the wrong reasons is very damaging, but if you asked me to swallow one and accept the other – if pride came in form of a red pill and shame in the form of a blue one (you’ll have to excuse my choice of colours) – I would swallow my pride. I would choose to feel shame. It’s by far the harder choice. It’s not hopeful or inspiring like pride is. It’s difficult. It’s brutal in fact, but it hurts because it’s meant to. That’s what makes you change. That’s what makes you a better person. Right now, if you care about freedom and democracy, at the very least, I believe you need to swallow the red pill as well. 

Thanks for reading everyone. I might have given you a bit too much to chew on there! I also appreciate many of you might have had your fill of politics recently… Still I’m curious to get your thoughts on the relationship between pride and shame. Do we use pride as a shield – as a way of avoiding shame? As a means to avoid reality even? What do you think? As always I welcome ALL opinions and thoughts. And please don’t worry – all is forgiven.

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

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my Mindset Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that forces you to accept the reality on your situation…

Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should probably ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should definitely read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always, I’ve finished with 1 terrible joke that’s so bad, you won’t be able to help but laugh…

Let’s begin!


4 x Thoughts From Me:

What follows a generation who got things wrong is one that understands why they must not make the same mistakes. 

Don’t waste your life trying to punish those who wronged you. Don’t spend your life trying to prove yourself to those who doubted you. Instead spend your life proving yourself to those who always believed in you. Reward those who’ve always loved you. Those who were wrong about you don’t need to be told. They’ll know only too well when the time comes. 

3 simple rules to help you take full responsibility for your life. 1) Give up blaming (yourself or others). 2) Give up complaining (about life circumstances- esp that which is out of your control). 3) Give up excuses (apologise without condition. Make amends where you can and do better next time. Most importantly forgive yourself once you have.)

An exercise in critical thought: Write down your opinions on a subject exactly as you think them. However outlandish, just put it down on paper and argue your side. Then go about proving it wrong in every conceivable way. Do the research, find the facts and consider the opinions that contradict your argument. If that doesn’t change your mind to some degree then you, my friend, have your head stuck in the sand (or somewhere much worse).


3 x Quotes From Others:

“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 (Source: THE ORIGINS OF TOTALITARIANISM.)

“Let’s point our curiosity at the people who anger us, even when ignoring them feels easier…let’s regrow our collective empathy and mend the tears in our social fabric.” – Jamil Zaki (Source: https://mindfulnessbits.wordpress.com/2020/10/26/inspirational-quotes-and-blogs-monthly-4/)

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”Anne Frank (Source: https://purplerays.wordpress.com/2020/10/26/how-wonderful-it-is/)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This brilliant Happiness Lab Podcast with Dr. Laurie SantosA Happier Election. In this episode ‘Dr. Laurie Santos talks to Niala Boodhoo from the news podcast Axios Today about the simple steps we can take to increase our well-being during stressful and uncertain times.’ Notes and quotes below.

  • Elections are historically fear provoking. The lymphatic nervous system is only meant to be active for a short while. ie. when you see a snake. It’s not designed to keep going over days or weeks at a time because of a pandemic, or this past week because of the election. It wasn’t built for the 24/7 news cycle.
  • How do we look after ourselves? Simple answer is to shut off the lymphatic nervous system. One way to do that is through your breath. Actually taking a really big belly breath signals to the opposite system – the rest and digest system – to kick in.
  • The second thing is remembering what you have control over. What you do have a say in, is how you react. You have a say as to whether you are doom scrolling all the time.
  • Go do the things that bring you joy. There is evidence that you will be able to think much more clearly – that you can problem solve better/more creatively if you are in a joyful state. It’s almost a civic duty to put yourself in a good frame of mind. That means going back to basics. Getting some sleep. Going for some exercise. Eating well. Those basics become much more important during a tough time. 
  • It’s very easy to get into the blame cycle at the moment. To blame others for their actions. For not being more considerate. It’s well proven that blaming others does not feel good. 
  • What feels good? Human connection. Feeling like you’re doing something nice for other people. . You can act empathic towards others. You can try to understand them. This is something you can control. It probably won’t change your political views but it can increase your compassion. 
  • How can we use technology to increase empathy? Empathy is very difficult to communicate using social media and the internet. It’s very difficult to read facial expressions and get a deep connection with people. We are short when we talk using social media. It takes time and effort and intention to convey what our hearts are saying.
  • If you see a post or political opinion from a friend or family member that you disagree instead of ignoring it or scrolling past, you could call them up and have a proper conversation. Narrative dialogue – sharing personal stories is a far more effective way to change minds. Or at least understand them. 
  • Another tip is something called psychological distancing. Where you think about how you will feel in a few months time. The likely hood is you will be much calmer about it all. It’s a great trick for reducing stress. Putting yourself in your future selves shoes. 
  • The danger we have now is we’ve gotten to the point where we don’t like the other side to the point that we are willing to hurt on them.We need to bring empathy and personal connections back to online interactions otherwise we will continue on this dangerous path. 

2 – This Mark Manson article: 5 Common Beliefs that Can Subtly Screw You Over. The article explores the critical subject of questioning your own beliefs. Make Manson singles out five common categories of belief errors that most of us fall victim to some degree or another. It’s well worth taking the 10 mins or so to read. I’ve left a few quotes from the article below.

“The antidote to this ego is simply accepting the fact that you might not know what you’re doing. There’s an old saying that the difference between an expert and an amateur is that the expert is aware of what they don’t know.

“In order to find meaning and purpose in our lives, we almost always have to do the opposite. We have to focus on simplifying. We have to cut out what’s not necessary, to end the addictive cycle of more consumption and more experiences. To pick a handful of pursuits and people and commit to them passionately.

“The point of goals is not necessarily to accomplish them. Most of the value in them is that they give you direction. They give you something to work towards and ways to improve yourself. The exact quantity of that improvement is less important.

“It’s important to develop an interest and capacity for self-improvement. But it’s also important to develop an interest and capacity in non-improvement. Ironically, every once in a while, the most useful thing you can do is not useful. It’s to just sit and play a video game, drink a beer, laugh with a friend, talk to your kid, read a book, fart and laugh about it. Then sleep a little too late and do it again.


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

My son refused to get out of the bath tub before we put him to bed last night. Eventually we had to put our foot down. Unfortunately this resulted in an almighty tantrum. I’m talking screaming, kicking – the works!

After a prolonged battle my wife and I sat down with a glass of wine to calm our frazzled nerves.

I looked at her and said, “Unbelievable.”

She asked, “What?!”

I said, “That was just like trying to get Donald Trump out of the White House.”


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! 

Till next time… Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

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

One bonus question for you all: What beliefs are you holding onto that are no longer serving you?

(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom.)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays – 09/11/20

In Honour Of A Boy I Never Knew

I found out today what you did.

I never knew you and yet you were so close.

Just four floors above and yet you might as well have lived on the other side of the world.

We must have passed many times, side by side in the elevator and yet, I never noticed.

Did I smile?

Did I show you kindness?

Or did my preoccupations blind me from seeing you?

I’m sorry if you thought the world didn’t care. If the world didn’t pay attention.

I shed a tear for you today.

I never knew you, but I’ll never forget you. I’ll never forget how you must have suffered.

I want you to know your life was not in vain.

In your honour, I will be better.

In your honour, I will strive to keep my eyes and my heart open.

To really see the people I pass. To see the people I don’t know but are every bit a part of this shared world.

In your honour, I will be kinder.

In your honour, I will strive to be the best version of myself.

In your honour, I will love my life to fullest extent possible.

In your honour, the boy I never knew.

May you rest now in peace.


Those who have never experienced the darkest corners of their mind, will never be able to understand why someone would contemplate suicide. 

I myself can’t, but from experience I believe I can, at least, appreciate how it might lead there. 

To those who might label them as selfish – who are quick to judge – I would ask you to think for a second and consider this. 

If a man were burning alive and you handed him a loaded gun, would you judge him for shooting himself?

Living with a depression that drives people to take their own lives is something very few of us will ever be able to comprehend.

What I can say with some degree of certainty, however, is judgement won’t help those in the battle to save their own lives.  

They need our love, compassion and understanding. 

They need our help.

Be kind and if you think someone might be suffering, reach out. 

Something as seemingly simple as asking for help is anything but easy when you’re drowning. 

You never know just how powerful a lifeline you might be offering.

To those who are suffering, who don’t know how to ask, who can’t seem to find the strength, please know there are people waiting to embrace you when you do.

There are people who still love you and know you have what it takes to come back from the brink. 

If you can find the courage, I’ve left a list of links below where 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.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/international/global-mental-health

(FYI I wrote this back in May after finding out that a young boy, just 16 years old, committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of his apartment in the high rise above where we live. I wanted to share it again in an effort to spread awareness and remind myself why mental health is such an important issue – especially this year. We need to make sure we are looking after ourselves and each other now more than ever. Wishing you all peace and love on this years World Mental Health Day. AP2 X)

Motivational Mondays – 04/10/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that makes you take a freezing cold shower before wrapping you in a warm towel.

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 lighten your Monday blues… 


4 x Thoughts From Me:

When you cling to something you lose the ability to see clearly. It’s only by letting go that you give yourself the space that true love requires. 

When our leaders continue to lie and treat us like children – when they fail to protect us in ways we know they never should have… At times like these I take solace in the words that Obama said when he left office – that progress is never a straight line – but the over all trend is upward. The world is far safer and more equitable than it was 100 years ago. We will always have these wobbles in history as those in power try hard to resist changes that are both necessary and inevitable. Of course we can’t be complacent and we need to keep fighting for those changes. It’s important to stress, in the same way that high can’t exist without low, hate cannot exist without love. Now is the time for the voices of love, peace and compassion to rise to the table and tame the cauldron that is 2020.

The best way to look after the world is to look after yourself. 

How much of the time that you spend on your phone is intentional versus mindless? Let me be clear about intentional time. I’m not just talking about work. Connecting with family and friends or using social media to champion a cause you believe in. This is intentional time. Watching cat videos or playing candy crush – maybe not. If your intention is to unwind with a game that’s fine of course, but make sure you use your phone with intention. Have a point when you pick it up. Make sure it’s not simply about trying to get a dopamine hit because that, my friend, is an addiction. 


3 x Quotes From Others:

“The moral thing I should wish to say… is very simple. I should say: love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way and if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn the kind of charity and the kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.” – Bertrand Russell (Source: brain pickings.org – The Love of Truth and the Truth of Love: Bertrand Russell on the Two Pillars of Human Flourishing)

“Rabbi Alfred Bettleheim once said: “Prejudice saves us a painful trouble, the trouble of thinking.” ― Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Source: tablet mag.com – Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Teenage Essay on the Holocaust)

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs (Source: cristianmihai.net – Don’t Try. Be)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This brilliant Tim Ferris podcast episode with Jamie Foxx on Workout Routines, Success Habits, and Untold Hollywood Stories… For sheer entertainment value this might be one of the best Tim Ferris episodes I’ve listened to. Jamie Foxx’s impersonations are incredible. What. A. Talent. This is well worth taking the time to listen. I guarantee you’ll love it! You can find a few of quotes and notes I took from the pod below.

NOTES & QUOTES:

  • ‘You are the bow and your children are the arrows. You’re just trying your best to aim them in the right direction. And hopefully your aim isn’t too off.’
  • “The notes are right underneath your fingers baby. You just gotta take the time to play the right ones. That’s life.” – Ray Charles
  • “What’s on the other side of fear? Nothing.”
  • If you can stay motivated and not be jaded or feel entitled or be spoiled then you can do anything. 
  • “The hardest part to achieving something great is afterwards because now you have to top that.
  • One of the most amazing things about America is the evolution of freedom. We are on the right path. Be who you want to be. Love who you want to love. We are evolving. 
  • I asked my daughter what she thinks about gay rights. She replied we don’t. We don’t think about. We don’t give a shit. That’s you guys. – Thank god for the youth. 
  • You better start laughing because you’re gonna be dead in a minute. 
  • What do you do when you get writers block? I write about things that get me angry. 
  • The best kind of interaction is in person because it requires discretion to deal with all types. On the internet people interact without discretion and you can get dragged down by it. 
  • Your hustle muscle is the most important thing to exercise. When you want something and you go make it happen as opposed to leaving it up to chance. If you hustle you’re not spending your time worrying. Put the hard work in and it takes 70 percent of your worrying away. 

2 – This very interesting BBC article by David RobsonWhy Arrogance Is Dangerously Contagious. From the article: “Now, fascinating new research by Joey Cheng, an assistant professor of psychology at York University, shows that overconfidence can be contagious. “If you have been exposed to an overconfident person, then you become more likely to overestimate your own relative standing,” she says. It’s a tendency that could cause dangerously deluded thinking to spread through a team.” This is well worth the quick read!


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

So we took our son for a little staycation this weekend to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival!

As I was pointing it out the full moon to him, he quickly buried his head into my shoulder while saying, “I’m scared.”

I asked him, “Of the moon?”

He replied, “Yes.”

I looked over to my wife who said, “Why on Earth would he be scared of the moon?”

I was quick to reply, “Why on Moon wouldn’t he be?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Wait wait, I can come up with something better…”

I continued, “Maybe he’s afraid that it’s going to sit on him!”

Get it!?

Because it’s the Moon


I’m here all week ladies and gentlemen.! 

Till next time…

Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

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

One bonus question for you all:

How can you make sure that the time spent on your phone is intentional?

(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about anything I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom!)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Motivational Mondays – 28/09/20

A Story For My Children About The Value Of Honesty, Love And Forgiveness

The following is a letter I wrote to my son two years ago, shortly before he was born. I thought I’d share the story this Father’s Day in the hope others might also gain something from what was one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn. For a number a reasons I also wanted to remind myself of the importance being honest has in holding all of us accountable. To remind myself to be honest, not only with myself, but my family too. The major reason is my most gorgeous wife is pregnant with our second child. This letter is for both of them. Before I continue I’d also like to acknowledge my own father whose love and forgiveness has helped save me from the brink on more than one occasion, including this example. To him and everybody else, have a very Happy Father’s Day! I hope you all enjoy reading. This one is truly from the heart…


Dearest Son,

I am writing this letter with the purest joy in my heart as we anticipate your arrival into the world. Your mother and I can’t wait. We love you and will continue to do so indefinitely…

I’ve decided to write this letter in an attempt to work out exactly what kind of role model I want to be for you going forward. Of course much of I what I’m saying won’t make any sense for a long time. And in truth I’ve written this for my own benefit as much as yours, so that I may better become the father I want to be for you. The father I need to be. That said I hope that one day you’ll find some strength in these words – that by defining some clear values to follow they can serve as a moral compass for when life becomes more difficult. If nothing else when you do come to read this perhaps you’ll understand that your mother and I have only ever wanted the very best for you.

I should say much of what I’ve written is a critical analysis of my life. A reflection on the mistakes I’ve made in the hope that by highlighting some of them, you may avoid the same pitfalls. Of course struggle is a necessary part of life. We often have to make the mistakes in order to learn from them and my hope is not that you avoid the same ones. That is unrealistic. I only wish that you work things out a little quicker than I did and that you never allow your problems to consume you as I have. Hopefully these words will help.

Given the colossal number of mistakes your father has made, I have a great deal I want to share. For that reason I’m going to split this into a series of letters covering twelve values that I hold close to my heart. Twelve values that I wish to honour you by and help raise you with.

For this first letter I felt it appropriate to start with my feelings about honesty and why I believe it’s so important. Honesty, like all the values I plan to cover, is still very much a work in progress for me because the truth is, I still have a great deal to work through. For now, at least, I hope by opening up, it will help hold myself accountable to the very values I say I believe in. The values I wish to teach you. I have shirked responsibility for far too long during my privileged lifetime. It’s no longer good enough for me to simply say the right things. I have to act on them as well. I have to be the best father I can be. It’s my responsibility to you. To honour you through my values. That starts with being honest. Here I go.

(I might add that I’m not sure exactly how my words are going to be taken and to my family and friends who read these letters, I’m sorry if what I say offends you. I only mean to be honest but that means saying the things I haven’t. It means being honest with you as well. I’m only trying confront my own demons here but if they help you too then great. That’s all I mean to do. I’ve refrained from using names in my stories but I think a number of people will be able to work out who I’m talking about. A number of family members including my mum and dad I have referenced directly as such.)


BE HONEST WITH THOSE YOU CARE ABOUT

I believe that honesty forms the basis of any meaningful relationship. It’s what builds trust. Without trust relationships break down and lose their meaning. I’m sure you’ll have heard of a story called the boy who cried wolf. It’s a classic example about how a boy’s deceitfulness cost him the trust of the very people he depended on. What I want to stress to you is to the importance of being open and honest with those you care about. Especially to your family. We’re here to help but It’s difficult for us to do so if you’re not honest.

Allow me to tell you a little story about four adolescent boys.

Once upon a time four adolescent boys were caught smoking at boarding school late one evening before their bedtime. The teacher who found them confiscated their possessions including a small tin that one of the boys had used to store his tobacco for rolling cigarettes. Unfortunately for that particular boy, he also used this tin to store cannabis where he still had left a tiny amount.

The next day the four boys were called to the principal’s office where they were confronted about what the teacher had found. “I’m going to give you a chance to be honest with me”, the principal said calmly. “In this box belonging to you we found some cannabis. Now we can’t prove the rest of you have also been smoking but if you have, I want you to tell me now. If you have, I will respect your honesty and try my best to help you. I promise you your punishment will be far less severe if you’re honest with me. If you really haven’t been smoking drugs, you will be free to leave. I’ll give you a moment to have a think.”

After a while the principal turned to each boy and asked them one by one if they had ever smoked drugs. Of course the first boy who owned the tin had no choice but admit. He had been caught red handed. The second boy however was conflicted. He felt guilty for he had helped pay for the drugs in his friend’s tin. He also wanted help. Help he hadn’t known how to ask for but that was now being offered. The problem was he was sacred. He was scared of the repercussions. More than that though he was scared of what his parents would think. The thought that he would be a disappointment to them broke his heart. He looked up at the principal while struggling to fight back the tears and admitted the truth.

A little later on the second boy was left to sit in front of the the principal while he called his parents to inform them what had happened. Afterward the principal handed him the phone. The boy was petrified. He had expected his father to yell. To be angry and tell him what a disappoint he was. He trembled as he answered the phone. What followed however took the boy by surprise. His dad wasn’t angry or disappointed. He didn’t shout and tell him he was a disappointment. Instead his father simply expressed concern. Concern for the well being of his son who he loved so dearly. His message to the boy was one of love and understanding. He had even expressed pride about the boy’s courageous decision to be honest. What the boys father gave him was reassurance and love when he needed it most. It took everything in that moment for the boy not to break down in front of the principal. I remember it well. You see I was that boy.

My honesty in that moment got me out a hole I’m not sure I would have escaped. My father’s love in that moment was the hand that helped pull me out. A helping hand that couldn’t have existed without my being honest. It took the extremely difficult decision to be honest to get the help I so desperately needed. It was one of the most courageous decisions I ever made. I also believe it was one of the most important.

I often look back at that moment in my life and wonder how different it would have been had I lied. What the repercussions would have been. I’ve no doubt I would have been caught eventually and expelled.  In fact that’s exactly what happened to one of the other boys in the story who had denied taking drugs. He was later caught purchasing them in full view of another teacher outside the front of the school and then expelled. As for the rest of us we were suspended. The principal made sure there was no permanent record after we left. He rewarded our honesty by protecting out future. By giving us a second chance.

Of course my problems didn’t go away overnight. They’ve taken much longer to overcome. However I believe it was that moment that ultimately set me on the right course. It was that moment that taught me the importance of being honest with those you love as a means to help yourself, even if I didn’t see it right away. Of course that’s not to say I wouldn’t have figured this out eventually but I can assure you I wouldn’t be where I am now had I lied in that moment. The courage to be honest, especially when you need help, is one of the most important lessons I could ever teach you.


HONESTY HELPS YOURSELF AND THOSE YOU LOVE

One of biggest obstacles to being honest is that it often requires having difficult, uncomfortable conversations. Whether being honest with ourselves, our loved ones or someone we just met. It is for this reason we often shy away from it. Most of us politely agree with someone we disagree with, or deny our own problems or wrongdoings out of fear of the social ramifications. We’re often afraid of upsetting someone or confronting a difficult truth about ourselves and then having to deal with our own emotions. However you’ll help no one, least of all yourself, by being dishonest with those you love. We might not like to hear what you have to say, but your honesty is ultimately the kinder thing to do, whether you’re opening up about your own mistakes or wrongdoings, or whether you’re confronting someone about theirs.

When you’re honest with someone you let them know why you believe they were wrong (or you were). Whether you’re right or wrong, what follows is an honest conversation where both of you are forced to think about something differently. Right or wrong, you will learn something and, if nothing else, you will have gained further trust from the person you’re confiding. If, for example, you avoid being honest for fear of upsetting another person or worse, for fear of being wrong, one of two things will happen. Either you won’t learn what you need to, or the person you’re talking to won’t learn something he or she needs to. You, or they, will continue to think you, or they, are right, potentially reinforcing damaging beliefs whereby neither of you learn anything. I’ve seen this so many times during my life (in fact I’ve been guilty of this on countless occasions while I’m being honest…), where avoiding difficult conversations because ‘it’s easier’ has only led to the reinforcement of negative behaviour over the years. By avoiding that difficult conversation it becomes increasingly difficult to have that often necessary conversation the later you leave it. Believe me!

I was dishonest with my family about my own problems for years. I was afraid of what they would think, so instead of turning to them I shut down and turned inward (and if you’re reading this Mum and Dad, I’m truly sorry). I think in some stupid way I thought I was protecting them by not burdening them with my problems. Ultimately it hurt them more. I made things worse for myself too.

I hope as a family, we will always be able to say what needs to be said to one another so that together we can grow. I promise that we will aim to be as open and as honest with you as we possibly can be. We will always be here to help you no matter what. But the hard truth is we can only do so, so long as you remain honest and open with us. It is the pain of honest confrontation that generates trust and respect in those you love. It’s also what’s needed for those you love to help you. It’s what’s needed for you to help them.

An Apology To My Heart

I’m sorry I’ve been fighting you for so long. 

I’m sorry I repressed you. 

I was taught stupid things. Stupid ways. 

I could hear you screaming and yet I pretended not to. 

I’m so sorry.

I hope you can forgive me.

I love you. I’m here for you now. 

Let me feel what you have to say. 

Let me hear you. 

Let me embrace your screams with the tenderness you seek. 

I want you to teach me what words cannot. 

What you were trying to tell me all along.

My mind was lost. 

Somewhere along the way it was misled by the noises outside.

Fear drove it into isolation.  

It thought ignoring you was best. It didn’t understand.

It couldn’t stop thinking. 

It didn’t understand that thinking was the problem. 

Please forgive us. And please be patient. We are still learning to unlearn.

Still learning to let go.

To give back the power we so foolishly stole from you. 

The habits of a lifetime might take another to break them down. But I see clearly now that this I what I must do. 

I understand now that it is you I should have trusted all along.