Why It’s Wrong To Be Right

If you think back to the Middle Ages and compare what we know now to what we thought we knew then, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that we weren’t terribly smart. That most of what we thought we knew about the world was patently wrong. 

It seems obvious to us now that the earth revolves around the sun (and not the other way around), that sperm doesn’t contain tiny people inside them (I kid you not), and that cats aren’t doing the devil’s work (and that we don’t have to go around executing them). 

If you think back to when you were a kid or a teenager or the idiot you were one year ago – you’ll probably come to a similar conclusion. You’ll look back and laugh thinking, “I can’t believe I actually thought that!” 

Hopefully, as you’ve gotten a little older you’ve come to realise that you still don’t know very much. But crucially, you know you don’t know very much. You know that the more you know the more you know you don’t know.

You know?  

Hopefully you’ve come to see that we never gain a complete picture or arrive at an absolute truth for ourselves or the world around us – rather, we only ever become a little less wrong. We simply chip away at our rock-place beliefs and find slightly firmer ground to stand on over time.

And I’m fairly certain (although I could be wrong) that this is the right approach to life. 

Not to think in terms of being right, but in terms of trying to be a little less wrong than the person we were yesterday. That way it won’t bother you as much when you are. That way you’re more willing to challenge your beliefs in order to come to a greater understanding. 

I think it’s helpful to think of life like an experiment where:

  • Our beliefs are hypotheses.
  • Our actions and behaviours are experiments. 
  • Our emotions and thought patterns are data.

We can go about making experiments based on our new hypotheses and comparing that data to our original beliefs/previous experiments. Then we can integrate the results into our overall understanding about ourselves and the world we live in.

I believe this approach works well because you’re not starting with an old belief and trying to validate it. You’re starting with the experiment – being open to the experience – and then interpreting the results in order to gain a clearer picture. This allows your beliefs to evolve and grow over time. 

The problem with asserting that our original hypothesis must be right is you end up locking yourself into a career or marriage that isn’t. You don’t allow yourself the flexibility to adapt over time. Your need to be right prevents you from growing.

We often think the reason we don’t change our lives is because we’re afraid of failure, but it’s more than that. We’re afraid of confronting the fact we might be wrong. We’re afraid of confronting our beliefs. If I change careers I’ll be confronted with the false belief that I’m not capable of doing something else. So I refrain.

The problem with this is we end up sacrificing our longer term happiness for shorter term comfort. Over the long run this is extremely costly. Choosing comfort now leads to greater unhappiness later on. Choosing discomfort now, on the other hand, leads to a greater understanding of oneself later on.

That’s why I suggest you ask yourself what you were wrong about today? What have you always been wrong about? (It’s best to assume most things.) Then think up ways to experiment and test any new hypotheses you come up with the following day. 

I’m confident that if you do, you’ll find you definitely are wrong. I’m confident that you’ll find you’re wrong the following day too. In fact, I’m confident that you’ll find you’re wrong in some way, shape or form, everyday for the rest of your life.  

But that’s ok. Because I’m also confident you’ll see your life improve immeasurably. You’ll see it’s only by being wrong that our life does improve. You’ll see that life really is a series of trials and errors. 

Those who are brave enough to keep falling flat on their faces, who are brave enough to keep making a fool of themselves, will end up living the best of lives. At the end of it all – just like those who, several hundred years from now, will look back at the way we live our lives and laugh – you’ll look back and laugh about how stupid you were. 

But, you’ll also be proud of the fact that you were always willing to be wrong – that you were always willing to fall flat on your face. You’ll smile and realise that although you never arrived at any absolute truth for yourself or the world at large – you had a bloody good time trying.

You’ll realise that this was, at least, the right way to live.

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

The Two Paths to Wealth

I have two images of wealth in my mind. 

One looks like what most people envision. A lavish lifestyle, a big plastic mansion, a luxury yacht, 8 sports cars… You get it.

Then there is this second image. 

In this picture, there is a place called home. It’s quaint, rustic. Filled with messy, silly, somewhat annoying children. There are a lot of friends and family nearby. A wonderful community. Maybe some dogs. Actually, there are definitely some dogs.

Dogs are the best. 

But it isn’t without money. That image still appreciates its importance. The need to provide. To first survive before we thrive. But it also understands what enough is. It understands true contentment. It’s not clinging to anything. Or feeling like it has to have more. It’s ok with less, provided it feels fulfilled in the other areas.   

The areas that really matter. 

Of course, we aren’t human doers at the end of the day. We are human beings. But to be, we must first do. This is the paradox. We must first put food on the table before we can relax and savour and enjoy. 

However, provided you do enough – and you know what enough is – after you’re done doing, and you know how to let go, I believe you’ll see that being is the true embodiment of wealth

And I think we really need to ask ourselves what we are making money for. If you’re not content with your lot now, what makes you believe a bigger house or fancier car will solve that? If you’re incapable of being still and appreciating what is, what makes you think more money will allow that to happen? 

This is why I believe we need to ask ourselves what enough actually is.

And I mean strip it right back. What is just enough to be comfortable, for having a roof over your head and putting food on the table? Really, what is enough? How do you get it? And I’m just talking about having enough for your retirement or 10 years from now, but today.   

Now. 

Do you not have enough in this moment?    

Chasing monetary gain is one way to think about wealth. But another way is to think about it is in terms of time. Freedom from having to do so much all the time. Is anyone else tired of trying to be a goddamn hero 24/7?    

If you’ve defined enough in a modest way, if you reframe your perspective, you might find you’re already sitting on a mountain of gold. Although it is hard to change our conditioning, I believe this is the quickest and easiest path to wealth. 

And these are the two paths: You can keep earning money to buy more things – you can keep chasing the big orange carrot that’s always just out of reach – or you can teach yourself what enough is and then give yourself more time to be with those you love and to do the things you genuinely love. 

And who are those people? What are those things? Can you do them today? Can you see them now? Do you not already have it made? 

If you ask me, freedom is the real measure of wealth in this world. That’s freedom from feeling like you are racing against the clock. When we keep chasing and striving, the real problem isn’t our inability to see that we already have enough, but our inability to switch off.  

Someone incapable of being, who has spent so much time doing that they can’t switch off, even if they’re already sitting a mountain of gold, might just be the poorest of us all. 

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that enjoys having its head stuck in the clouds…

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

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

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) The problem isn’t negative thinking per se, but an inability to get off the train and determine the clouds from the sky. That’s why it’s essential to know how to get off the train. It’s in the space outside our thoughts that we can view them objectively. Just like a cloud, this is where the smooth air is. It’s from this space that we can see things clearly. We can then choose which thought clouds we wish to engage with and which/when we shouldn’t.

2) You may never change someone’s mind on the spot, but by having the conversation you can, at least, plant the seed. It often takes a long time for a seed to sprout let alone blossom. The lesson? Keep having the conversations that matter – however difficult or futile they may seem.

3) Success isn’t achieving something. Success is enjoying achieving something. Win or lose. Success is about enjoyment. Not money. Not titles. Not prestige. Not being right. Not fame. It’s enjoyment. It’s loving what you’re doing.


2 x Quotes:

“Enlightenment is an accident – but meditation makes us accident-prone.”

Baker Roshi

“When dealing with people remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”

– Dale Carnegie 

1 x Thing:

This BBC work-life article on Awe: The ‘little earthquake’ that could free your mind by David Robson. The article explores the myriad of benefits that come from seeking out moments of awe. Well worth the quick read!

Awe-inspiring experiences – with their sense of grandeur, wonder and amazement – may confound our expectations, creating a “little earthquake” in the mind that causes the brain to reassess its assumptions and to pay more attention to what is actually in front of it.

– Michelle Shiota, a professor of social psychology at Arizona State University

1 x Joke:

After cooking dinner the other night, as we sat down to eat, I turned to my wife and asked,

“What did one dinner plate say to the other dinner plate?”

“Dinner’s on me!”


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***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

A Few of My Favourite Things

I’m curious to know what some of your favourite things are? But also, why are they your favourite things?

For example, why is your favourite colour blue? Or why is your favourite band, say, the Beatles? Why is your favourite food strawberry ice cream? 

Is it just because, or is there a deeper meaning behind those things?

I started thinking about this because my eldest son’s favourite animal is, well, something rather wonderfully odd.

This summer, we took him to a place in Hong Kong called Ocean Park. It’s a theme park filled with all sorts of animal exhibits and aquariums. The main aquarium is spectacular. Filled with giant manta rays, sharks, octopuses, walruses, seals, and other giant fishy things.

But my son wasn’t interested in any of those. He only had eyes for one animal. And he searched for them inside every single tank. 

Never mind the sharks and giant manta rays. Forget the massive walrus and the seals. The whole time he kept asking, “Daddy, where are the starfish?”

He absolutely loves them! We’ve been back several times and he’s always so excited to see them. And if you ask what his favourite animal is, that’s what he’ll tell you.

And, well, why not? I mean, an animal that is shaped like a star is pretty cool. I never really thought about it before. 

My wife and I were a little perplexed at this strange fascination, to begin with, but after giving it some thought, I believe there’s a deeper connection.

He has a love for outer space. He can name all the planets and tell you some strange facts about them, like Venus is the hottest planet even though Mercury is closer to the sun. 

I believe this stemmed from when we took him outside to look at the night-sky during the Full Moon festival over a year ago, when he was just 2 years old.

That evening the moon was spectacular. I recall him looking upward with such awe. It even frightened him. I remember holding him while he buried his eyes in my shoulder, occasionally peeking up to look at it before covering his eyes again.

I explained that the moon is our friend – always looking down on us. Sometimes we can only see part of it, sometimes we can’t see the moon at all, but it’s always there keeping watch while the sun attends to the other side of the earth.

Since that day, his fascination with the moon and space expanded. We read him lots of books on the topic. He loves looking up at the stars. He always asks where the moon and the planets are. For Halloween this year, he dressed up as an astronaut.

Now, I could be wrong. Maybe my son simply loves starfishes. But I believe it has a lot to do with his love of the moon and all things space-related.

When I think about some of my favourite things, I realise there’s usually a deeper meaning hidden behind them. It’s just, I often forget the why. My favourite colour is blue. When I think about why that is, I realise it’s because I have light blue eyes. As a kid, my parents used to tell me how beautiful they were. Weirdly enough I love drawing eyes too.

My favourite animal is the cheetah. I remember seeing it vividly as a kid on safari in South Africa. It was the first animal we saw on that trip. Within 5 minutes of driving into the reserve, we spotted this majestic cat feasting on an Impala. I remember our guide explaining that it was the fastest land animal on earth. I just thought it was the coolest cat on the planet. 

I still do.

There were lots of other memories from that trip. We followed a pack of lions as they hunted and killed a mongoose one evening. Our guide surprised us with a treehouse brunch overlooking the reserve on the last day. My family and I agree it’s our favourite holiday. 

I believe both my love of animals and travelling (another one of my favourite things) has a lot to do with that vacation. 

Anyway, I bring all of this up because it’s fast approaching my favourite time of year. And I thought, if you’re struggling to think about what to get your loved ones for Christmas this year, perhaps, instead of thinking about what they like, maybe it’s worth thinking about why they love the things they do? 

It might just give you the inspiration you’re looking for. If nothing else, reminding yourself of the deeper meaning behind the things you love might just bring out the wonderfully unique child in you too. 

As it happens, that’s exactly why Christmas is my favourite time of the year.

***

You can find AP2’s personal blog here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

The Sweetie Draw

When I was about 8 years old, my family and I went over to our next-door neighbour’s house for dinner. After dinner, their daughter offered me a sweet for dessert. So, she led me into her room and opened up her “sweetie draw.” 

What she had done was save her sweets over months and months to fill up this draw with all of her favourite goodies. It was a big draw. Skittles, liquorice allsorts, gummy bears, gobstoppers… you name it, she had it.

The thought of it now makes me salivate. 

It made such an impression, I decided to build my own. So, while we were out shopping the next day, I pleaded with my mum to buy me some sweets. I remember getting a packet of chewy fruit mentos. I vowed not to eat it but to save it for my very own sweetie draw. 

On the way home, however, I couldn’t help myself. I bargained with myself, “It’s ok if I eat a few. I can save the rest of the packet for my sweetie draw!” By the car ride home, I’d eaten most of the packet.

After we got home, I placed this mostly eaten mentos packet in my bedside drawer. Of course, it didn’t last long. The thought of it continued to eat away at me. Eventually, I gave in and consumed the rest.

But do you know what? Do you know how I felt after this crushing defeat? Well, nothing really. I didn’t care. I simply moved on with my life. 

Now, I’m sure you’ve most of you have heard of the famous marshmallow experiment. For those who haven’t, it was a study conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel, where children were offered a choice between one marshmallow now or two marshmallows if they waited for a period of time.

Years later, researchers found that the children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards “tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures.”

I bring it up because every time I read about it, it always made me feel kinda bad. Because I know I would have been one of the kids who “failed” that experiment. Just like I failed to build that sweetie draw.

Still, I realize something is up because, by most of those metrics, I am “successful.” Not as successful as some, but I could have done worse. How much of this “success” has to do with my skin colour, sex, or other advantages I take for granted, is up for debate. I feel it would be remiss not to mention that. 

Either way, I know I’m still that kid inside. 

My wife has no problem eating in moderation. On the other hand, given half the chance, I will consume an entire box of Oreos in one sitting. This is why I ask my wife not to buy treaty things when she goes shopping. She once asked, “What if I hide them?” I told her in my best Liam Neeson impression, “That I will find them, and I will eat them.” 

None of this is to say I haven’t learned to delay gratification. I believe I have. My finances are in good order. I eat a balanced diet (at home). I’m fit and healthy. It’s just, none of this is really achieved through willpower. I’m not sitting on my hands, trying to distract myself from eating the marshmallow in front of me.

I’ve learned that designing my environment is a FAR more effective way to control my impulsivity. I’m better off with no marshmallows than I am trying to get two. And this, I’ve figured out, is my superpower. It’s not the ability to delay gratification so I can get what I want. It’s not wanting it in the first place. 

I can’t help but wonder, what if, many of those kids – the ones who weren’t “capable” of delaying gratification – were misunderstood. What if they were happy being who they were until society placed a spotlight on the “successful” people of this world and told them this is who you should be and what you should have? Until society showed them the sweetie draw and said, “look at this!”  

Of course, that same society also teaches us that our wants and desire “are the root of all evil.” That may well be true, but what happens when you hate on your own wants and desires? What happens when you hate yourself for being human? What happens when you resist or hate anything? Of course, you give those parts of yourself control. You give those things strength. (That applies to the political party and leader you hate too!)

But people don’t build sweetie draws because of their ability to delay gratification. They find the act of building a sweetie draw gratifying. They love collecting. They love saving up. Similarly, people don’t get up at 5 am to exercise because of their incredible willpower. People obsessed with health and fitness are simply obsessed with health and wellness. 

They have made those things part of their identity. It’s who they are.

Of course, we can learn to make those things part of our identity too. We can put the habits in place that reinforce the identity we wish to build. We can learn to visualise our goals and “surf the urge” whenever we find ourselves tempted to dig into the packet of mentos. 

These things are worth working on.

But if you’re going about it to make up for the fact that you don’t currently have a sweetie draw. If you’re trying to make up for feelings of inadequacy, it’s going to be hard, if not impossible. If you ask me, self-discipline is an illusion. The real secret to self-improvement is self-acceptance. It’s when you learn to understand, love and work with the person you are, that things become easier.

And you should take the time to ask yourself who you are and what it is you really want.. Maybe you want the second marshmallow, or, maybe you don’t one in the first place?

Personally, I love going with the flow. I don’t care so much for stuff. I tend to think that security is overrated. If I’m being brutally honest, I’ve found having three mortgages, keeping up with several different investment portfolios, etc., somewhat imprisoning. I’m looking to drastically simplify my finances over the next couple of years for that reason.

The older I get, the more I realise how much happier I am giving away my marshmallow than I am trying to save for a second. I realise there will never be a sweetie draw in my household and do you know what?

I don’t care.

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Are You Playing To Win or To Avoid Losing?

Let me ask you a question. When you play a game, when you embark on a project, when you go to work, when you get up in the morning, when you sit down to write, when you make a presentation, when you have to do anything,

Are you playing to win or to avoid losing?

If you’re wondering what the difference is, when you play to win you’re focused on it. When you play to win, you back yourself to achieve, you back yourself to perform, you back yourself to get shit done

When you’re playing to avoid losing, on the other hand, well, you’re not really playing. You’re simply trying to avoid making mistakes. Your focus is on the negative outcome. As a result, you’re always on guard for fear of failure or embarrassment.

Psychologists call this the difference between a performance approach and a performance avoidance mindsetStudy after study has concluded that those with a performance approach mindset have a much easier time immersing themselves in the game and entering a flow-like state.

I’ve experienced both multiple times. 

When I didn’t really want to be at work – when I had to fly through the night or with a Captain I didn’t get along with, I fretted. Not only did this spoil the game, it affected my performance. Even if I did make it through unscathed, the feeling wasn’t one of confidence but relief.

The truth was, on those occasions, I wasn’t in it to win it. I was merely trying to avoid failure for fear of being found out.

Conversely, when I did show up to work with a willing attitude. When I backed myself to do well in a sim or pull off a landing in tricky conditions, it was rarely as bad a day at the office. Not only would I perform better and gain more confidence as a result, if I did make a mistake I was able to look at it objectively.

Instead of viewing them as confirmation that I wasn’t capable, I was able to take the lessons onboard. That same attitude then gave me the impetuous to get back on the horse and have another go.

The question is, how do we adopt such an attitude consistently? How do we take a performance approach to work and life every time we show up to play?

For Adopting a Winning Mindset

One technique that’s used by many top athletes is visualisation. Psychology Today notes that mental practices “enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow.”

The idea is you mentally rehearse the performance ahead of time. Not only that, you visualise the future after you’ve achieved your goal. You picture it in vivid detail. Imagine the scene – the time and place, the people you’re with, how it feels, etc. The more detailed the meditation, the better. It helps to combine it with a positive affirmation. 

But before you do that, there’s an important question you should ask yourself. Especially if you find yourself repeatedly playing to avoid losing. That’s why you’re playing the game that you are, because the reason you’re playing – your why – has got to be bigger than winning.

Success alone isn’t enough. Winning isn’t enough. Why do you want more followers on Twitter, or Instagram, or WordPress? Why do you want to become a published author? Why do you want to get that promotion? Why do you want to be a captain, or a lawyer, or a doctor? 

What is the reason for playing the game that you are? 

It’s worth stating that no child plays to win. A child plays because it wants to play. That’s because playing is an expression of joy. Playing is an expression of freedom. Playing, in its purest form, is an expression of love. 

The reason for playing at anything is for the love of that thing. 

You play to play. Similarly, you write to write. You don’t write to become a published author or get thousands of followers. You don’t write to win. You write because you love the craft. You fly aeroplanes because getting airborne gives you a rush that few other things can.

One of the problems we have in today’s results-obsessed culture is that we forget those reasons for playing in the first place. That desire to win, to be successful, to say we have achieved this, that or what-the-fuck ever (by the way, no-one else cares except you) takes over. We end up thinking that winning is the point. 

This blinds us. 

If you’re not careful, ambition has a way of sucking the life out of everything in its wake. It has a way of sucking the fun out of play too. Which misses the point completely. 

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” That’s the point right there. To keep your spirit, to keep your love for the game going no matter how many times you get knocked down. So you get back up, over and over again. 

If you play enough times in this life, you will win eventually. The most important thing is to make sure that you’re playing the game you want to play when you do. 

Otherwise, you really have lost.

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

The Art of Thinking Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The other night I got into a pointless argument with someone after they decided to leave a comment on one of my older posts telling me that I should have my head examined. (A fair point in retrospect.)

She said that Trump is a true American unlike Biden who is a horrible person. Naturally, she went on to say the election had been rigged.

Now, I should have ignored it. I should have said, “I’m sorry you feel that way”, and left it at that. However, the ego couldn’t resist the bait.

Partly because it wants to understand the other side. Mainly because it wanted to stand up for the freedoms she, herself, enjoys.

And so, this was me: 

I love that comic.

Anyway, while I think it’s important to engage with people you disagree, you can’t teach a pig to sing. And you really shouldn’t bother. It’s the equivalent of beating your head against a brick wall. 

“Are you listening ego?”

“Yeah but, it just feels so fucking good to be right.”

“But all you’re doing is validating your own opinions while strengthening the oppositions. All you’re doing is deepening the divide. Can’t you see?!”

“Yeah but listen, I really was right!”

“I hear you ego, but your need to be right is part of the problem.”

“But…”

“No ego. Sit down.”

“But…”

“I said, SIT DOWN! That’s a bad ego!”

(Whimpers)

“There’s a good ego.” (Starts stroking it again.)

Of course the result of that pointless argument was as you’d expect. Despite my best attempts to engage her with some deep thinking she resorted to juvenile insults. So I stopped trying, realising that I might as well have been having a conversation with a rock.

A particularly mean rock!

Still, there was a lesson there for me. One that got me thinking about an analogy I read recently between the two different types of thinkers in this world. The rock place thinkers and the hard place thinkers.¹ I believe this idea might just help you separate the birds from the bees, or the pigs from, well, the non-pigs.

Let’s see what you think.

ROCK PLACE THINKING

“What luck for rulers that men do not think.”

– Adolf Hitler

Rock place thinking simplifies life.

It gives you a nice, simple, black and white world-view. There is no grey when it comes to rock place thinking. Things are either good or bad. It puts us into one box and others in another. It says a tree is a tree, that love is “all you need” and drugs are bad.

Most “isms” fall into rock place thinking. They are immovable (hence rock) beliefs such as Nationalism, Fascism, Communism, Fundamentalism, etc. 

Now you might think that rock place thinking is a bad thing, but not necessarily. All of us use rock place thinking to a certain degree. The reasons is, rock place thinking allows us to shore up self-esteem. It gives us a secure footing on which to stand. It helps us make sense of a nonsensical world.

If I didn’t call a tree a tree, I’d have to call it a tall, green, branchy, leafy thingy. Which would be closer to the truth, however, I think you can work out why our brains take certain shortcuts

Rock place thinking is also useful in certain situations and professions. As it happens rock place thinking is very useful for a pilot. If X happens, I will do Y. It helps provide us with a set of contingencies for dealing with specific normal and non normal scenarios.

So, rock place thinking certainly has a place. 

However, problems arise when people take their rock place thinking to be absolute. This, especially as it relates to one’s political, religious or cultural world views, often results in a tribal us versus them mentality.

Unfortunately for some, their entire life’s meaning is based on their rock place world views. And for them, those beliefs really are immovable. That’s because the alternative – considering the possibility that what they believe might not be true –  would be to feel the entire world give way beneath their feet.

That really is a hard place to be. 

HARD PLACE THINKING

“If you see through yourself you will see through everyone. Then you will love them.”

– Anthony De Mello

Hard place thinking is hard for a reason.

It takes the view that there is no black and white, only grey. It takes the view that what is good or bad is largely subjective. It looks at a tree and understands that “tree” is merely a label. It understands that drugs have a place and that love can blind you.

The good news is that hard place thinking is malleable. Hard place thinkers are willing to admit when they were wrong. The bad news is, hard place thinking hurts… A lot!

That’s because hard place thinking challenges our deeply held rock place beliefs.

You see, the beliefs that we hold dear are what give our lives meaning. That meaning is derived from upholding faith in those beliefs. By upholding the values we believe in, we gain psychological security. This is what builds self-esteem. If I start to question those beliefs, I start to question the very meaning of my life.

That is extremely anxiety provoking.

What we’re really doing by challenging our beliefs is challenging our ego. The problem is, the ego is a stubborn motherfucker that desperately wants to survive. It wants to survive because it believes that’s the best way to protect you.

However the ego also understands that it will have to die one day. So, in order to cope with this mortal terror, it clings to the beliefs that validate its existence.

It thinks along the lines of, “Even though I will die one day, that doesn’t mean my name has to!” Or, “If my name can’t live on in any meaningful way, then at least the country, religion, political party or football team can!”

It’s this coping mechanism that has led to the paradoxical situation we’ve seen repeat itself throughout history – where the very beliefs that people use to buffer ones mortal terror, become the very things they are willing to both die and kill for.²

Of course the only to way to see through one’s beliefs is to do some serious hard place thinking.

For example, a hard place thinker who has been brought up to believe in one particular God might eventually come to the conclusion, that because there are over 4000 different religions on this planet, that perhaps his or her religion isn’t the only true one. He or she might even conclude that all religions are wrong in detail, but that they all point to something important. 

This doesn’t mean one has to abandon his or her beliefs entirely (although it can lead there), just that they have allowed themselves to consider the possibility that they, themselves, might not posses the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This helps them to transcend their own beliefs which, in turn, fosters greater compassion and tolerance for those with different beliefs as well.

The problem with hard place thinking, as already stated, is more to do with self-esteem.

Hard place thinkers tend to be less sure of themselves. They tend to second guess themselves to the point that it paralyses them. So, often they don’t stand up for what is demonstratively right.

The other struggle comes from feeling they aren’t part of anything important. Many hard place thinkers have a hard time coming to terms with the idea that life, ultimately, holds no meaning at all. That it really doesn’t matter how they spend their life. 

In some cases they lose their footing altogether, and so they hit rock bottom.

THE SPACE IN BETWEEN

So, on the one hand we have the seductive, black and white rock place world views that make us feel good about ourselves and our place in the world. The problem being those rock place views are always crashing against reality. In the extreme, this can lead to a desire to smash other people over the head with those views in a desperate attempt to rid the world of “evil”.

On the other hand, we have the painful process of engaging in some hard place thinking that makes us feel like our entire existence is meaningless. Even though this leads to a softening of our own beliefs that, in turn, fosters a more compassionate world view.

So, how are we suppose to think between a rock and a hard place? How can we shore up our self-esteem while maintaining a world view that promotes greater tolerance for others and acceptance for impermanence?

Here’s what I think.

I say you pick up a chisel and start chipping away at those rocks. While this is extremely unsettling at first, I believe it gets easier over time. A bit like building muscles in the gym. At first we break down the fibres in our muscles. This hurts. In the short term it makes us weaker. But then the body fuses those fibres back together even stronger.

Regular hard place thinking is the equivalent of building some badass guns for your mind. Eventually, your mind becomes more resilient as you break the ego down and build it back up again – repeatedly. You build it back up upon a deeper truth. A deeper truth that not only understands more, but also comes to understand there is no absolute truth.

That truth – that there is no absolute truth – becomes a kind of rock place belief that makes you bullet proof. It allows your ego to take hit after hit. You become comfortable in the knowledge that you don’t know anything (and you really don’t). This allows you to sit in space between your thoughts. Suddenly you’re flying outside the clouds looking in, not trapped inside incapable of looking out.

I also have a theory that if you can spend enough time in this space, you might just find something that know no amount of thinking will ever take you: Paradise.  At the very least, I believe this realisation should prevent you from having a pointless argument with a complete stranger online.


Footnotes:

  1. The idea for the two different types of thinkers came from the book: The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life by Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg & Tom Pyszczynski.
  2. For more on this topic I suggest you look up something called Terror Management Theory. I can also highly recommend reading The Denial Of Death by Ernest Becker.

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You can find more of AP’s hard place thinking here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com. You can also find him sharing more of his non sensical world views on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Homesick

A couple of weeks ago, just past midnight on July 5th, I took off out of Hong Kong, flew across the Pacific Ocean, crossed the International date line and arrived in Los Angeles at 10pm on July 4th. 

There are few approaches during my ten year career I can think as memorable as that one. It was like descending into a war zone. Thousands upon thousands of fireworks going off as far as the eye could see. A lurid display, the likes of which I’ve never seen. We descended right over the city with fireworks going off either side as we came into land. What an entrance it was!

What you Americans were celebrating, of course, was your independence. You were celebrating what that independence stands for: freedom. As I reflected on this, while forced to quarantine in an airport hotel room for the next 48 hours, I started to feel homesick. It’s a feeling I’ve been having a great deal recently. Which is strange, given Hong Kong is the place I call home. Given “home” is the one place I’ve actually been able to spend time in. So what’s going on? Why, exactly, have I been feeling homesick? 

Part of the reason is I’ve felt imprisoned at home in Hong Kong. While I get to be with my wife and kids (something I’m extremely grateful for), I’ve never felt further from the rest of my family in the UK and elsewhere. This is because Hong Kong’s strict quarantine restrictions, although successful in keeping the place safe, have made it nigh-on impossible to see them. I’m also someone who has always felt “at home” while travelling. I like to think of the world as my home. I love nothing more than exploring it. The inability to do that has, well, hit home for me.

With that aside, the main reason I’ve been feeling so homesick is because I’m heartbroken. When I think about the changes that Hong Kong has undergone politically – this past year especially – the place that I have long called home simply isn’t the same. Freedom of speech has been stifled and many are living in fear. Many have fled as a result. Many others are planning to. You can feel it too. They have taken a stick to Hong Kong. Just like beating a child, its spirit has been crushed. 

One of the main reasons I write under a pseudonym is because of what’s going on here. Whether my paranoia is justified or not I don’t know, but the fear is real. Many people have been arrested for speaking out. Colleagues of mine have been let go because of comments made on social media. One of Hong Kong’s biggest Independent papers was shut down just a few weeks ago. The nails being hammered into the coffin keep coming. Make no mistake about it, 2047 has come early. Hong Kong’s special position as a bridge between East and West – a place that once reflected the best of both – has been broken. 

Sometimes I still feel like a local Hong Konger. I’ve spent most of my life here after all. There is no place on this planet I know more intimately. A place that has given me so much. Hong Kong will always hold a special place in my heart for that reason. Yet, nowadays, I feel increasingly removed from it. 

Of course I have always been, and remain, an expatriate. Never a “true-blue” local. The plus side to that is I have options. I don’t have to stay here in Hong Kong. I can leave if I want to. It’s this question in particular – whether or not I should – that has really been plaguing my mind. 

I liken it to being stuck in that hotel room on July 4th. There was nothing stopping me form walking out that door. The only reason I didn’t was because of what my head was telling me. That I could get fired or contract COVID… My head was telling me that it’s best to be safe. It’s best to stay put. My heart, on the other hand, wanted nothing more than to say, “fuck this”, and walk straight out of that hotel room door and join the celebrations. 

I’m homesick because I don’t feel at home in Hong Kong anymore. My values have diverged from the place. Yet my head is telling me to stay put. Not to leave the security of my job, my pay check, etc. However my heart is longing for somewhere (and something) else. They say that home is where the heart is. I get it now. Home is where your heart feels it belongs. My sense of belonging here has been eroded. I don’t believe it will be long before I gather my belongings and head straight out the door for good.

Freedom, is calling me home.


(Thanks for reading everyone. This post got me thinking about the meaning of home. Let me ask, what does home mean to you? For someone who has always felt “at home” on the road, the pandemic has, paradoxically, left me feeling homesick. I’m curious if many of you have felt the same way? As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.)


***

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

88 Insights About Life

Almost every week for the past year I’ve put 3 or 4 random thoughts together in a post called Mindset Mondays. Below is a highlight reel.

Whether you just read the first few, pick some at random, or grab a cuppa and dig deep – I hope you find some value here.

If any of them resonate then please drop us a line in comments section below. Equally, if you have some gems of your own please share – I’d love to hear them.

Happy Monday all! X


  1. You can never be perfect. You can always be better.
  2. The moment you fix your beliefs you imprison your mind.
  3. By not addressing our own suffering we cause it in others.
  4. Focus has more to do with eliminating distraction than it does with effort.
  5. If you don’t give yourself real problems to solve your mind will make some up.
  6. A good time is worth more than any material possession.
  7. The change the world needs from you is for you to change, not for you to change the world.
  8. Forget to-do lists, make a get to-do list instead.
  9. When thinking in terms of being right, you’ve lost. When thinking in terms of trying to learn something, you’ve won.
  10. Forcing your views on others doesn’t make you right.
  11. Strength of character is the ability to remain true to yourself when things are going against you.
  12. The most important resource that gets stolen from you = attention.
  13. Success isn’t achieving something, success is enjoying achieving something.
  14. Having a routine = A commitment to improvement.
  15. Praise is the enemy of progress if handed out thoughtlessly. Praise should be a reward that’s earned through hard work.
  16. Don’t make the mistake of thinking what others want from you is what you want to give.
  17. The best thing you can do to honour life is pay attention to it.
  18. Try not to simply think outside the box, but destroy it entirely.
  19. The need to be right is the ego equivalent of being on crack. It’s both extremely addictive and extremely damaging.
  20. The great thing about momentum is that it builds naturally, like a boulder rolling down the hill. The difficult part is getting it to move in the first place.
  21. Make it your mission to be an agent of calm in the midst of chaos. When the storm settles you will be well placed to pick up the pieces and put the world back together.
  22. The beauty of a moment comes from its impermanence. The moment you cling to it, it’s destroyed.
  23. You’re either trying to be a better person or you’re not. There is no such thing as a “good person.”
  24. A deliberately easy life makes us unhappy because it makes us weaker. Conversely a deliberately difficult life makes us happy because it builds resilience. It also helps us appreciate the everyday things that most people take for granted.
  25. The arguments you have in your head are pointless if you only have them with yourself. Speak up or let go.
  26. Laughing at someone else’s expense demonstrates your own insecurities. Conversely, the ability to laugh at yourself demonstrates resilience.
  27. What matters is that we make amends for our past in the present moment for the future world.
  28. If you can improve your life knowing you already have enough, then future failures will hurt less and future successes will bring more joy.
  29. For all wannabe bloggers: Forget the numbers and speak from your heart. Forget the numbers and concentrate on making connections. Forget the numbers and enjoy the journey.
  30. If you complain you suffer twice. If you blame you deny yourself the opportunity to learn. If you give up both of those habits you’ll go far.
  31. It’s difficult to love other people if you don’t love yourself. It’s difficult to love yourself if you don’t love other people. It works both ways.
  32. Freedom demands we choose our responsibilities. The same way that having a life demands we protect it. If you want freedom of choice then you have to choose to take responsibility for your life. If you don’t, someone else will choose your responsibilities for you. The danger is they will use that for their own profit and power by forming a narrative you refused to take responsibility for forming yourself. In doing so they will shut your mind from your heart. The moment that happens you’ve lost your freedom.
  33. It’s not a matter of quality over quantity. I believe that quantity produces quality amongst a sea of mediocrity. The greatest artists produce far more average work than they do masterpieces. The point is though, they produce far more work.
  34. It’s far easier to help those who actually ask for it.
  35. When you’ve only suffered enough to know what misery is, but not enough to know what for, then you must endure a while longer. Keep searching for the meaning and you will find your salvation.
  36. There isn’t an inverse correlation between success and failure. The more you fail in life, the more you succeed. If you’re not failing it simply means you’re not trying as hard as you should. If you ask me, the only real failure in life is not trying. You need to put yourself in positions where you have to fail in order to succeed.
  37. Creativity has nothing to do with being the best but expressing your individuality. This is what makes the creative process so beautiful. It’s also what makes imitation such a terrible waste of your talents. There will always be someone who can do it better, but no-one who can do it the same.
  38. What the world needs from you and what society expects are two very different things.
  39. What if the only thing that is wrong with you is that you think there is something wrong with you?
  40. Sit down every night and pat yourself on the back for the things you did well, then examine the ways in which you could have done things better. Bring both your sense of accomplishment and willingness to improve into your next day.
  41. Intelligent self-interest is understanding we are all part of the same world – that to hurt another is to hurt yourself. I would go so far as to say, how you treat others is how you treat yourself. Kindness expressed outwards extends inwards as well.
  42. The greater your understanding of how small you are, the bigger the person you become.
  43. People will always believe a confident lier over those who whimper the truth.
  44. The cost of convenience is your resilience.
  45. Competition is about pushing each other to improve. It’s about personal and collective growth. When we glorify it and make it about “winning at all costs” we turn people off. This defeats the purpose. Not only are those who compete weaker because they have less competition, those who don’t compete lose the ability to better themselves altogether. Don’t compete to win, compete to grow.
  46. Never forget that someone built the road you drive on.
  47. People won’t accept rocks that are hurled at them – they’ll either duck and hide, or throw them back.
  48. Courage is acting from a place of love, doing what you know to be right, not in the absence of fear, but because of it.
  49. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger if that’s your attitude, otherwise it will make you weaker.
  50. Ignorance is bliss… but only for you, for everyone else it’s miserable.
  51. Knowledge alone isn’t enough. What you need is insight. Insight is what will set you free.
  52. If you’re not talking to yourself as you would your own family then perhaps you’re not showing yourself the compassion you should? And if you are, perhaps you’re not being as honest with yourself as you should?
  53. Attachments/Wanting = Unhappiness. Letting go/Generosity = Happiness.
  54. The time to start is now and thing to do is the one that scares you the most.
  55. Success is what we alone define.
  56. The mind is hardwired to keep you alive. It’s far more interested in your survival than achieving any sort of lasting happiness. That’s why it keeps tricking you.
  57. There is always a silver lining. You just have to look for it.
  58. Expressing gratitude is the best way to interpret reality – for the fact that we are alive is an extraordinary miracle.
  59. 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.
  60. In a world where people are so afraid of what others think, honesty will take you far.
  61. We’re 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.
  62. Emotion is a writer’s best friend.
  63. When you accept yourself for who you are you’re still aware that you can become something more. You still understand the benefits of becoming. The difference is you don’t attribute a threat level response to your actions.
  64. What follows a generation who got things wrong is one that understands why they must not make the same mistakes.
  65. 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.
  66. Trying to create motivation is massively overrated. Trying to gain clarity is massively underrated.
  67. If you want to go up you have to overcome gravity.
  68. Original thought is often going ‘what if…’ and then thinking the exact opposite of what everybody else is.
  69. The art of conversation is about making the other person feel heard.
  70. Knowledge is power but imagination is freedom.
  71. When doing something that makes you anxious it’s important to tell yourself that you can. Not because this will ease the nerves, but because when you manage to pull off the task that you’ve been dreading, instead of feeling relief, you will gain confidence.
  72. You don’t always get to choose your problems in life, however, you always get to choose how you interpret and respond to those problems.
  73. Moving an inch forward prevents you falling a mile backward.
  74. If you miss the opportunity to appreciate the moment don’t stress, the next moment comes free of charge.
  75. You have to stop pouring water in your glass if you want to drink from it.
  76. Maybe we should imagine losing our loved ones in a car accident? Maybe we should take the time to imagine losing everything we hold dear? Maybe imagining the worst is exactly what brings what’s right in front of us, sharply into focus? Maybe meditating on our mortality – our own inevitable demise – is exactly what gives us freedom in the present? Maybe we will find more joy in everyday life by embracing these difficult emotions rather than chasing after a bigger pay check or slimmer waistline? What do you think?
  77. Learn to love yourself before you start searching for your knight in shining armour. That way you won’t need them to be your knight in shining armour. That way you’ll have realistic expectations going into your next relationship and the strength to deal with it should it fall apart.
  78. When you compare yourself to others you reject who you are.
  79. Kindness is not about avoiding conflict at all costs. Kindness is not about telling white lies so you don’t have to hurt someone else’s feeling. That’s not kindness, that’s cowardice.
  80. Contacting a friend a day keeps the demons at bay.
  81. I have two cycles for you. The first I like to call the Positive Cycle Of Hope. It looks like this: Hope inspires action that creates positive results that generates more hope (repeat). The second I like to call the Negative Cycle Of Hopelessness. It looks like this: Hope coupled with an inability (or unwillingness) to take action creates (99% of the time) negative results that generates feelings of despair and hopelessness (circle back to point 2 and repeat). The point I want to make? Hope must be tied to action otherwise it’s dangerous.
  82. Be careful what you say yes to in life. Often it’s the things we acquire for security that ends up imprisoning us.
  83. It’s funny how giving away everything for nothing in return gives you everything you want.
  84. The two most important things are your family and today. Connect the dots.
  85. If you only ever live in the moment, why would you rush it?
  86. In your attempts to avoid suffering you suffer more.
  87. Those who refuse to acknowledge their parent’s shortcomings are bound to repeat them.
  88. Both the best defence and the best weapon against the voices of hatred is to demonstrate they don’t generate any in your own heart.

***

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

Why Everything Scares You To Death

The other night, while I was trying to sleep, I started thinking about the post I wrote last week where I stated that hatred is driven – at its core – by a fear of death. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something fundamental. Naturally this started to make me feel a little anxious. Which then got me thinking, ‘why I am feeling so anxious? I’m just thinking.’ 

Anyway, I placed my mind on that fear and I asked, ‘what do you want me to figure out?’ Then something clicked. The penny dropped and I thought, ‘holy shit, all fear is a fear of death. That’s what you’re feeling. That’s why it’s so intense. It’s simply a trick. An illusion played by the mind to keep you, and those you love, alive.’ 

Immediately I started thinking about the implications this simplicity of thought might have. How we could use it to see through and conquer our fears. But also help those consumed by theirs. So I got up and started hashing out my argument. (No, I didn’t sleep well that night!) And well, this post was the result.

Anyway, buckle up boys and girls, because I’m about to take your mind down a rabbit hole that will blow it wide open. But first let me explain my thinking with a quick biology lesson. (I’ll try to make it fun.)

The Biology Of Fear

From a biological perspective the purpose of life is life itself. That all our emotions – the full kaleidoscope of experience – can be explained, broadly speaking, by two things. The first is survival (protecting our life and those we love.) Enter fear. The second is procreation and the raising/nurturing of offspring. Enter love. 

These two broad encompassing emotional forces drive everything. They represent the light and dark side of the force. Yin and Yang, Male and Female, Ross and Rachel, Bert and Ernie… you get the point. It’s a delicate tussle counter balancing one against the other. However we need both of them.

Now, to forget love for a second (Say what?), let’s talk amount the most important of these two emotional forces – fear (Oh no you didn’t!). 

Inside your brain are two little nuggets called your amygdalas. These naughty little nuggets are, biologically speaking, responsible for all of your emotional suffering. This is because they activate something called your fight, flight or freeze response system. And this has everything to do with your survival. (They love you really.)

Now, what happens when those naughty nuggets detect what they believe is a serious threat to your life, is they shut off access to the rational part of your brain (your frontal lobes). When this happens the only thing your brain becomes interested in is your survival. And it uses the fear of death to drive your actions. Telling you to either run for the hills (fear under flight), tread carefully (anxiety under freeze), or fight for your life (anger or hate under fight). That is what fear is, in essence. Fear is a fear of death. I say that because these responses are based on keeping you alive. 

This is why I believe fear, anxiety, anger and hate are such intense emotions. Why we have a million and one different addictions and mental illnesses in our attempts to deal with them. We are dealing with a fear of death under different guises. And that is no small thing. (Have I blown your mind yet?)

The Link To Death

One of the problems I believe we have is we don’t link our fear to death. We lack the awareness. This is partly because many of us live in denial and partly because our rational minds and ancient emotional response system aren’t of the same era (your naughty nuggets are part of the limbic system which comprises the oldest part of your brain); but mainly because the ego doesn’t want us to figure this out. It’s a deliberate illusion. After all it’s not terribly useful to psychoanalyse your fear when face to face with a sabre-toothed tiger!

But you’re not actually sacred of the tiger. No, you’re afraid of one thing and one thing alone: death. What your brain has done is attach the fear of death to that animal, thing or situation. That’s why everything scares us to death. Because we are. That’s what drives us at our core.

This is also why, in the pecking order of love and fear, fear comes first (why we have something called a negativity bias). Of course this sucks the big one, however the logic makes good sense. You must first survive before you can thrive. Before you can use your big one!

In the case of a sabre-toothed tiger the link is obvious, much like a fear of heights. However others things are much harder to link, like onomatophobia – a fear of names. (Yeah, for real Bob.). Most often they’re rooted in our unique childhood traumas as part of our attempt to win the love of our parents who weren’t forthcoming with it (which we needed for survival). Other things are less obvious on the surface but make good sense when you consider our ancestry basically roamed around as tribes for millions of years. 

For example, we understand that standing up on stage and making a public speech won’t kill us, (rationally we understand it won’t matter one iota), yet many of us are still scared to death at the thought. Why? Your surface level rationale is probably saying something along the line of, “if I mess this presentation up I’ll make a fool of myself and my coworkers will no longer respect me.” But so what? That rationale doesn’t justify the level of emotion it evokes.

Well, consider this.

Imagine you’re living as part of a tight-knit tribal community. A small group of hunter gathers where your survival depends on you getting along with everyone else. Suddenly social anxiety – fear of sticking your neck out – starts to make more sense. If you stand up and talk to the tribe and the tribe rejects you, it’s possible they’ll make you an outcast and now you really are fucked. So tread carefully (anxiety). You do not want to piss off the alpha! In today’s world, rationally, we understand the stakes aren’t so high, however your ancient emotional response system doesn’t.

This is also why we care so much what other people think. This is why we get so worked up over nothing. This is why we hold our beliefs as absolute and why we cannot stand to be challenged. (Please don’t disagree with me on this.) 

This is worth stressing.

When it comes to our emotions we are working with a Palaeolithic operating system. It’s millions of years in the making based on what the world was like for us for the vast majority of that time. It’s not well adapted to modern life. 

How To Conquer Your Fear

So now you’re thinking, “Ok Sherlock, now that you’ve made me aware that my crippling anxiety is actually a fear of death underneath, how is this suppose to help me?”

Because now you can ask yourself a couple of important questions. The first is obvious. Is your life really at risk? To use my previous example, is getting up on stage really going to end your life? No, of course not. Then are your feelings rational or irrational? We know the answer to this of course. But now we have awareness on our side. Suddenly it’s clear as day. Now you can look through it because you understand why the feeling is so intense. 

That is a good reason to show those feelings love and compassion. That is a good reason to tell yourself it’s ok. And now you can remind yourself what your higher purpose is. What your loving motives are for standing up on that stage. And suddenly that fear starts to loosen its grip. 

This allows your naughty little nuggets to calm the fuck down, which allows your frontal lobes to come back online. What you’re doing is placing your emotions back in the passenger seat of your car as opposed to the drivers seat. Which is exactly where you want them to be (except when your life really is threatened.) And so you go ahead and make most passionate speech of your life (maybe).

What you’ve done is used love for the purpose it was intended, to overcome your own fear of death. Not only that, you’ve just told yourself you conquered a fear of death, not simply a fear of public speaking, which is massive.

Now, here’s where I address the rather large Woolly Mammoth in the cave. If fear – a fear of dying – comes first in the order of our emotional makeup, then perhaps all of our emotions are related to a fear of death, including love? And if you think that’s a rather dark hypothesis to end, I would counter by saying how beautifully poetic I believe that is. 

Love was nature’s antidote to prevent our own fears from destroying ourselves. It was designed to give us the courage to overcome our fear of death to protect our offspring. To protect our tribe. To protect our larger self. In an increasingly interconnected world I believe we must use that love to cultivate and serve a higher purpose that includes all life on this planet. We must use that to overcome – quite literally- our own fear of death in order to do so. I fear if we don’t, that fear, will consume us all.


Thanks for reading everyone. So what do you think? Are our fears simply a fear of death underneath? And is love the antidote to those fears by design? Thoughts and opinions keenly anticipated. Warm regards, AP2 🙏

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You can see find more of AP2’s nonsensical world views and poor self-help advice here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

Captain Hindsight

There’s a character from the popular sitcom South Park called Captain Hindsight. For those who’ve not seen it, Captain Hindsight is a super hero (of sorts) who shows up to the scene of a disaster while it’s taking place. He then “helps” the people in need by making a stirring speech about all the ways everyone should have acted to prevent the tragedy from happening in the first place. Afterwards he flies away while everyone cheers hysterically, despite the fact he didn’t actually help anyone.

The reason I love this skit is because of how accurately it portrays our society at large. The way we all love to have such strong opinions after the fact. The way we complain about how our government has failed us or how incompetent our colleagues were, before declaring how they should have done this, that or what-the-fuck ever. All without doing diddly-squat except have an opinion (says the man sitting behind a keyboard).

Of course talking about lessons we sorely need to learn isn’t a problem, but I do believe the way we seek to attribute blame is. The way we like to sit on our high horse of righteousness and declare how superior we are. How we go on the offensive instead of looking to assume any kind of collective responsibility for our current state of affairs. 

I believe this kind of blame culture blinds us. 

For one, those who are responsible become less inclined to own that responsibility, to put up their hand when they’ve made a mistake. They also play the blame game in an attempt to deflect any shame placed on them by others. It also blinds those who point the finger from understanding how they might have been complicit. Like blaming those who voted for such and such instead of acknowledging the role they had avoiding difficult conversations in the past, or how looking down on others has only strengthened respective positions and deepened the divide…

Anyway this got me thinking, maybe part of our problem is the way we think about hindsight. The idea that hindsight is always 20/20. That maybe it would be better for all us to consider the possibility our hindsight isn’t nearly as clear sighted as we think. To think that maybe hindsight is rarely 20/20.

With that in mind I want to tell you a little story. 

Earlier this year while flying an approach my crew and I found ourselves in a spot of bother after a number of events left us high on final approach. As a result of then having to ‘capture the approach path from above,’ we ended up busting our stabilised approach criteria. To put it simply, we were too fast. 

In our attempt to configure the aircraft and “get the job done,” however, we became distracted and missed the check height at which we should have gone around (abandoned the approach). Instead we continued to landing. 

Now I should stress that the speed came back and we landed safely. We got everything done, just later than we should have. But that’s not the point. The right recourse was to go around and we didn’t. It was a honest mistake but, there’s no two ways about it, we fucked up. (And cue Captain Hindsight to tell us exactly what we should have done).

About a week later, back in Hong Kong, the rest of the crew and I were called into work to undergo an ‘operational learning review.’ The sole goal of which was to learn from a safety perspective, to understand what had happened and why. All in keeping with what is known as a “Just Culture.”

For those who’ve not heard of the term, “in a Just Culture both employees and company accept accountability for their actions and learning from events, and the intention is that no one will face punitive action for any unpremeditated or inadvertent error or mistake.”

Anyway one of the more valuable lessons came from comparing what we thought had happened to what had actually happened as demonstrated by the flight data. How all of us had a somewhat, shall we say, favourable recollection of events. But also how all of us had quite different recollections from each other. This is what really hit home for me. Our extraordinary propensity to misinterpret past events. It made me realise that hindsight is most definitely not 20/20.

But there was something else I took from this experience. Something for which I’m extremely grateful. That was the manner in which our company took responsibility for our mistakes. The way our Chief Pilot took responsibility by trying to understand exactly what had happened and why. The way our flight operations department took responsibility by trying to understand what holes might exist in our procedures. The way our training department took responsibility by trying to understand whether the way we’ve been trained needed changing. But also the way our Captain emailed the fleet office immediately after the flight and fessed up. It started with him assuming a position of complete responsibility. All of which encouraged me to do same.

When I look back I realise how easy it would have been for all of us to play the blame game. How easily I could have pointed at the finger at the Captain. Or how easily the company could have made scapegoats out of us. Instead learning in the interest of safety came first. Blame didn’t even enter into the equation. This is exactly what a Just Culture was designed to engineer – a sense of collective responsibility. I believe it works. I believe this is why Aviation has such an outstanding safety record.

I also believe it’s exactly this kind of culture we’d do well to implement more of in the real world. As the year draws to a close I’m hoping we might look back on 2020 as the year where we finally realised the need to come together. As the year we understood that when we take a position of collective responsibility, when all of us put our hands up and look at the ways in which we have failed – even if we weren’t the ones flying the aircraft – that we all stand to benefit. That it is only when we do, that we can say with any kind of certainty that hindsight is, in fact, 2020.


Thank you so much for reading everyone. I’m curious what you think. Is our certainty in retrospect granted or is it, perhaps, foolish? What about engineering a culture of collective responsibility? How might we do that? As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions. Wishing you all well, AP2 x

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

First Solo

There’s a term in aviation that all pilots know well called the first solo. It’s when a new pilot completes a takeoff, short flight and safe landing, all by him or herself, for the very first time. It’s basically the aviation equivalent of losing your virginity. You kinda line the aeroplane up with the strip, take your best aim and hope the landing doesn’t hurt too much. It’s something you never ever forget (no matter how much you might want to). For a pilot it is a very special, sacred even, moment.

I’d no idea I would be doing my first solo the day that I did. My instructor hadn’t given the slightest indication that he thought I was ready. He simply briefed me to taxi back to the same spot once I was done, then told me “Godspeed old chap,” and closed the cockpit door behind him – leaving me completely befuddled as I taxied gingerly to the runway threshold. Then, without thinking about it, I set maximum thrust and took off, all by myself.

It was, without a doubt, one of single most exhilarating moments of my aviation career. One of those rare moments of pure ecstasy, like you’re on top of the world. I felt invincible. That was, at least, until I was flying back when I looked down at the runway and it dawned on me, ‘shit I’ve got to land this thing!’ My exact thought at this point was, ‘Fuck,’ repeated several times in quick succession.

Anyway ladies and gentlemen, I bring this up because, right now, I feel like this very post is my blogging first solo. And to be brutally honest with you all – I’m petrified. I have the same feeling I did when I stared down at that runway just over eleven years ago now. The same dawning realisation that I have to do this all by myself. That same sinking feeling – like I’ve missed a crucial part of my training. 

I should say this isn’t the first post I’ve done for PO. Troy and Bogdan had the foresight to test run one of my pieces a short while back – Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do. (Which, incidentally, seems particularly pertinent given I feel like crying myself to sleep every night at the moment.) It’s just that this time they’ve given me the keys and closed the cockpit door behind them.

“Godspeed old chap,” they said.

Godspeed.

Yet I’ve only been playing with my own poky…  blog for half a year now. In that time I’ve amassed a meagre total of just over 300 followers. Now here I am, writing for a blog with nearly 16,000!

Is that right? 

Yep.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

And so I apologise dear readers if all this feels a bit awkward or if my delivery isn’t the smoothest. I’m sure that with time, I’ll be able to the hit the right spot. But you’ll have to bear with me – I am working with rather limited equipment, at least (ahem), linguistically speaking.

Anyway there’s no doubt that I want to be here. That I want to engage with as many wonderful, like-minded people who share in what is such a wonderful community here on WordPress. I believe this will undoubtedly help me grow as both a person and a writer. Which is why when I saw Troy’s ad to say they were looking for writers I was chomping at the bit. And before I circle back to my story, to bring this post home, let me take this moment to say how extremely grateful I am to him and the rest of the team here at PO for welcoming me on-board! 

However unlike the average person who feel pride and confidence when they achieve something, I feel nothing but relief that I didn’t fuck it up. A bit like when a captain tells me that was a nice landing (or not) after we’ve taxied off the runway, that’s the moment I realise it’s ok to exhale. 

So after my brief moment of joy the other day when I found out the news, my mind, just like it did all those years ago when staring down at the runway, expedited itself into the warm and cosy rabbit-hole of crippling self-doubt.

‘There’s no way I’m good enough to blog on PO. Everyone is going to realise that I don’t belong here. The writers here are all established – Linguistic PHD students, English professors and the like. They also seem to use this thing called discretion. I’m just a pilot with a shockingly poor grasp of the only language I know. I mean, what the fuck should I write about anyhow? What should I make my first post about? Should I make it about me and all my problems seen as no one cares or asked? Great idea!’

Then it occurred to me, I was pointlessly overthinking about what I should write for a blog called pointless overthinking. That at least made me chuckle. Then, just like I did following my mild panic attack all those years ago, I took several big breathes and thought to myself – maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel at home here after all. That maybe, just maybe, I can pull off this landing.

Thank you so much for reading everyone. I want to ask you what scary first time experiences you’ve had? How did it go? Was it unbearably awkward? Or was it, in fact, not nearly as bad as you thought it would be? Was it maybe even, rather pleasant? How did you deal with nerves? Also if you have any other feedback or remarks please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section below. Just be gentle – it’s my first time after all.

To my regular readers: This was my first ‘offcial’ post for pointless overthinking. I wanted to share it with you all here on my blog and to let you know I will be writing a weekly post for them going forward. For those who haven’t checked it out I highly recommend heading over there and taking a look (link at the bottom). It’s run by a team of wonderful writers, professionals, thinkers and the like that I am honoured to now be a part of.

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