NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL – MAY 2020 – On Dealing With Depression, A Tribute To A Boy I Never Knew, How To Cultivate A Growth Mindset and More…

Hello fine readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter! 

Included is a round up of what I’ve been writing and reading, plus a collection of thoughts from yours truly.

I hope you enjoy!


WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING:

How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free.

A personal post that looks back at some of my difficulties dealing with depression and anxiety – specifically about how they could be attributed to having had a fixed mindset. I go on to explain how a growth mindset helped to change my life. I wrote this following my reading of Carol S. Dweck‘s brilliant book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Through her research Dweck demonstrates just how limiting a fixed mindset can be in stalling motivation and progress, especially following failure or when facing challenges. Conversely she demonstrates that those with a growth mindset see failure not as a confirmation of being unable or unintelligent, but as something from which they can learn and improve. (Highly highly recommended reading).

In Honour Of A Boy I Never Knew

Another personal post I wrote shortly after hearing some extremely tragic news about a young boy who committed suicide close to where we live. As I wrote:

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

At the bottom of the post I left links to a number of mental health support lines and websites.

9 Golden Rules For Cultivating A Growth Mindset

Following on from the above post: How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free, I decided to put together this list of 9 Golden Rules for Cultivating a Growth Mindset, that I compiled from my notes of Carol S. Dweck‘s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Why A Basic Understanding Of The Mind Helps To Let Go

A short post on some thoughts about why a basic understanding of how the mind works can help to let go of difficult thoughts (or any thought for that matter).

Happy Silly Mondays

A new weekly newsletter I’ve started putting together in an attempt to rewrite the narrative that Mondays are the most depressing day of the week. It contains 3 thoughts from me, 3 quotes from others and 3 things I’ve been reading, watching and/or listening to during the week. It finishes with something silly to hopefully make you lovely readers smile. 

Happy Silly Mondays – 25/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 18/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 11/05/20


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury

Great book that dishes out indispensable parenting advice on dealing with difficult toddler behaviours while fostering a respectful relationship at the same time. It argues that respectful, calm and confident parenting that acknowledges and accepts children’s emotions and experiences, empowers them to come to terms with own development.

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

Peace is Every Step is a beautifully written book on the power of living mindfully, being fully engaged with the present moment. Whether sitting at traffic lights, eating, sitting, or washing the dishes, Nhat Hanh demonstrates that peace and happiness is available to us at any time. He provides exercises to increase our awareness of our own body and mind through conscious breathing, which can bring immediate joy and peace. It’s the second time I’ve read this book. I’m currently in the process of turning my notes into the subject of a future favourite toilet book post. Stay tuned!


RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM MY JOURNAL:

Every moment is an opportunity to put yourself back on track. Every moment! This is an amazing thing to think about when you start to notice yourself drifting from the present. Simply take a breath and then smile as you exhale. Coming back to the present is coming back to life.

Strength of character is simply the ability to remain true to yourself when things are going against you.

The most important resource that you’re giving away and that gets stolen from you every day = attention. 

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. If you truly do, the other stuff won’t matter. 

Seeing your reality as it really is, is a skill you have to practise. 

Having a routine = A commitment to improvement everyday.

Praise is the enemy of progress if handed out thoughtlessly. Praise should be earned through hard work. Not because someone is naturally good at something. That will prevent them for working towards greatness.

Often our feelings – especially those based on insecurity – want nothing more than to simply be acknowledged.

In not addressing our own suffering we cause it in others

You can never be perfect but you can always be better

If you live in the present moment you realise the problem you have in your head is either something you can do about or it’s something you can’t. In either case continuing to worry about it achieves nothing. Act or let go. 

Don’t make the mistake in thinking what others want from you is what you want to give. 

You might 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. Keep having the conversation

I would argue that the single biggest problem in the world has nothing to do with politics or religion, the environment or disease. I would ascertain that the single biggest problem we have, a problem we need to solve if we are to overcome all the other ones, is one of the mind. Specifically the dangerous condition we have to fix our beliefs. 

The best thing you can do to honour life is pay attention to it 

If you keep increasing demands on yourself you’re going to stall. You need to find the optimum amount of lift in your life without adding too much weight. 

Why A Basic Understanding Of The Mind Helps To Let Go

A basic understanding of the mind helps.

To understand our mind is a tool we can use – it isn’t who we are – we are not our thoughts.

The mind is simply a vessel that continuously delivers thoughts based on everything that it’s been fed.

That doesn’t mean your thoughts are accurate – it means the exact opposite.

The vast majority of stuff we are fed and told, the concepts, constructs and expectations of society are largely bullshit – they’re just ideas. Your mind is always going to project that stuff to some degree or another and that’s perfectly ok – you should understand and accept that!

But! BUT BUT!!

You should not accept such thoughts as accurate – you should treat them and the beliefs you have with a HUGE amount of scepticism – remain open to the possibility that what you think and believe – that what most people think and believe – is largely bullshit! Because, and I’ve got news for you, it is.

That doesn’t mean you should create an inner dialogue about what you are thinking or currently believe – that only serves to strengthen the thought you are having anyway! What I’m getting at is because of this understanding, you should let go of the VAST majority of your thoughts.

Let them pass.

Your mind is simply generating ideas continuously – by letting them pass and not fixating on anyone of them – they lose their power of being able to define you! This also allows you to see those thoughts more clearly – for what they are.

It’s from looking at them this way that we can gain greater insight that helps to shatter the illusions our clever minds love to make up!

FYI These are just some thoughts from my mind – feel free to let them go/treat it as largely bullshit (probably just echoing something I fed it anyway).

Happy Silly Mondays – 25/05/20

Hello fine readers and welcome to my Happy Silly Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week.

Following the rule of 3, it contains 3 thoughts from me, 3 quotes from others and 3 things I’ve been reading, watching and/or listening to this week. 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one something very silly to hopefully make you smile. 

Hope you enjoy.


3 x Thoughts I’ve Been Thinking:

The moment you fix your beliefs you imprison your mind.

In not addressing our own suffering we cause it in others. 

Focus has far more to do with eliminating distraction than it does with effort. 

3 x Quotes I’ve been Pondering:

Ask yourself what’s not wrong?Thich Nhat Hanh

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was duty. I worked — and behold, duty was joy.Indian poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore 

Blame is always a limiting, contracting, fault-finding energy. It’s always rooted in the need to be right.” – Jim Dethmer

3 x Things I’ve Been Listening/Reading/Watching this week:

1 – This brilliant Against the Rules podcast episode, ‘Don’t Be Good – Be Great’ by Michael Lewis who tells the story of Billy Fitzgerald, a baseball coach who changed his life.

3 Quotes from the pod:

Why privilege corrupts: “You’re always doing what money can buy, instead of what duty demands.” – Michael Lewis

‘What is to give light must endure burning’ – Viktor Frankl

Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be. – Billy Fitzgerald

2. This Freakonomics Radio podcast episode, ’68 Ways to Be Better at Life’ – with Kevin Kelly explaining the reasoning behind his advice as given in his blog that he posted on his 68th birthday titled, ’68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice.’ I read the article last week and loved so many of his quotes. I jumped on the episode when I saw his name pop up and was pleased to find they discussed a number of my favourite ones (which I’ve listed below). Both the article and podcast are well worth your time.

Some of my favourite bits of unsolicited advice:

Gratitude will unlock all other virtues and is something you can get better at.”

Being enthusiastic is worth 25 IQ points.”

Friends are better than money. Almost anything money can do, friends can do better. In so many ways a friend with a boat is better than owning a boat.”

Optimize your generosity. No one on their deathbed has ever regretted giving too much away.”

To make mistakes is human. To own your mistakes is divine. Nothing elevates a person higher than quickly admitting and taking personal responsibility for the mistakes you make and then fixing them fairly. If you mess up, fess up. It’s astounding how powerful this ownership is.”

Separate the processes of creation from improving. You can’t write and edit, or sculpt and polish, or make and analyze at the same time. If you do, the editor stops the creator. While you invent, don’t select. While you sketch, don’t inspect. While you write the first draft, don’t reflect. At the start, the creator mind must be unleashed from judgement.”

3. This insightful WorkLife with Adam Grant episode on ‘The Real Reason You Procrastinate.’ In it Adam explores the reasons behind procrastination and some strategies you can use for avoiding it. I believe understanding why you’re doing something is often the best way to change it. This is a great example of that.

3 Quotes From The Pod:

Procastination isn’t caused by laziness. We don’t postpone tasks to avoid work. We do it to avoid negative emotions that a task stirs up– like anxiety, frustration, confusion, and boredom.’

You can change some of those emotions by showing yourself compassion. We procrastinate less when we remind ourselves that it’s part of the human condition. We’re not the only one suffering from it.’

The task you’re avoiding isn’t always the one you hate. Sometimes it’s the one you fear. The one that’s most worth pursuing. 

1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

When thinking of a new tagline to describe myself for the blog what I wanted to write was,

‘from a silly father, loving husband, perennial thinker and anxious pilot…’

What I actually wrote was,

‘from a silly father, loving husband, perineal thinker and anxious pilot…’

I thought to myself, ‘that doesn’t look right.’ Better double check the meaning.

From the dictionary:

perineum | ˌpɛrɪˈniːəm | noun (plural perinea) Anatomy the area between the anus and the scrotum or vulva. DERIVATIVES perineal | ˌpɛrɪˈniːəl | adjective

Well, that definitely got me thinking!!!


Till next time,

From the writer who doesn’t know how to spell…

Happy Silly Mondays Everybody!

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

One Bonus question for you all:

What kind of thinker are you?


Additional Sources:

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

Poet and Philosopher David Whyte’s Gorgeous Letter to Children About Reading, Amazement, and the Exhilaration of Discovering the Undiscovered by Maria Popova

The Tim Ferris Show podcast episode #434: Jim Dethmer — How to Shift from Victim Consciousness, Reduce Drama, Practice Candor, Be Fully Alive, and More

WorkLife with Adam Grant podcast highlights from episode: The Real Reason You Procrastinate

9 Golden Rules For Cultivating A Growth Mindset.

“There is no such thing as a natural-born pilot. Whatever my aptitude of talents, becoming a proficient pilot was hard work, really a lifetimes learning experience… The best pilots fly more than others; that’s why they’re the best.” CHUCK YEAGER

Following on from a previous post: How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free, I decided to put together this list of 9 Golden Rules for Cultivating a Growth Mindset, that I compiled from my notes of Carol S. Dweck‘s brilliant book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Here they are:


1 – Make A Concrete Plan.

To do this think about the goals you want to achieve most -ones that align you closest with your values – then write out a detailed plan by asking yourself where, when and how. The more detailed the plan the better. Finally review & modify as necessary everyday.

2 – Show Up Everyday.

It’s important you form the habit by showing up every single day. Remember you’re telling yourself something important when you show up on the bad days as well as the good. Even if all you can manage is 10 minutes, 5 pushups or 1 paragraph – whatever it is you’re working towards – make sure to show up!

Dweck advises the “next time you feel depressed, think about effort as a positive, constructive force, not a drag – try it out.”

3 – Don’t Let Any Failure Define You.

Remember you’re not your failures. Remember you only ever really fail when you decide to give up. Remember to keep the idea of a growth mindset in the forefront of your mind.

As Dweck points out, “When people believe their base qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them. When depressed it is only more of a reason to hang on and do what’s necessary to keep your life on track.

If you keep going, keep learning, keep growing – you will prevail.

Don’t. Give. Up.

4 – Study To Learn Not Simply Pass.

“Those with a growth mindset take charge of their learning and motivation. Instead of plunging into unthinking memorisations of course material, they said, “I looked for themes and underlying principles across the lectures… I went over mistakes until I was certain I understood them.” – CAROL S. DWECK

Loving the process is key. Find your passion by defining the values that mean most to you, then build your life around them. If you can do that, you will have a natural hunger to learn. Success will then come about naturally as a by-product of simply doing what you love. You’ll also realise that ‘success’, as defined by society, is something completely different.

5 – Seek feedback/Ask for help

“The person who asks is a fool for five minutes, but the person who does not ask remains a fool forever.” – Ancient proverb.

True self confidence is the courage to be open – to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source. Real self confidence is reflected in your mindset: your readiness to grow.” – CAROL S. DWECK.

Seek constructive criticism, not praise. You can always improve. You can always grow. Forget about feeling stupid or disengaged and think about learning and how to improve instead. Challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to put up your hand.

6 – Praise effort not talent.

 “Admiring our children may temporarily lift our self-esteem by signaling to those around us what fantastic parents we are and what terrific kids we have — but it isn’t doing much for a child’s sense of self. In trying so hard to be different from our parents, we’re actually doing much the same thing — doling out empty praise the way an earlier generation doled out thoughtless criticism. If we do it to avoid thinking about our child and her world, and about what our child feels, then praise, just like criticism, is ultimately expressing our indifference.” STEPHEN GROSZ 

Make sure to praise effort for trying to achieve something difficult, even in failure. Never praise natural ability or talent, especially when they complete something easily.

One of the worst parenting compliments to give, is telling children how clever they are. Far better to apologise for something being too easy and then challenging them to do something more difficult. Following that, praising their effort even, or perhaps especially, if they fall short. Then encouraging them to think about how they could have done things differently. Finally encouraging them to keep going.

7 – Be honest but be constructive.

When criticising it’s important we give our honest assessment but equally important we offer advice on how to improve. Don’t simply judge, teach. Think of helping that person to grow by giving them the tools with which to improve.

Be sure to tell them how you really feel. It’s not always easy but honesty is ultimately the kinder thing to do.

8 –Find the time to reflect.

Look back at bad experiences and understand that it doesn’t define your intelligence or personality. Instead ask what can I learn from it? Do this every day if you can. Ask how could I have done better? What are the lessons I need to learn? How can I grow from here? Show up the next day with those lessons fresh in the mind.

Don’t settle for good enough when you can be great. Don’t settle for great when you’re capable of being extraordinary. Keep going and form the habits of champions.

9. Take Ownership Of Your Mistakes.

“Unfortunately people like things that work against growth. People like to use their strengths to achieve quick, dramatic results – they don’t take their weaknesses as seriously as they might”Morgan Mccall

Dweck says, ‘you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them.’ Blaming and complaining get you nowhere. If you stand up and take responsibility for your mistakes, you’ll gain the respect and admiration of others. You’ll also put yourself in the mindset of wanting to learn and grow. This is what it means to be a true leader.

Dweck notes, “Leaders are made, not born, and made more by themselves than by external needs.” That means taking full responsibility for your life and your mistakes.


SOURCES/ARTICLES:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Presence, Not Praise: How To Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Achievement by Maria Popova

Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives by Maria Popova

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz

Happy Silly Mondays – 18/05/20

Hello fine readers and welcome to my Happy Silly Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week.

Following the rule of 3, it contains 3 thoughts from me, 3 quotes from others and 3 things I’ve been reading, watching and/or listening to this week. 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one something very silly to hopefully make you smile. 

Hope you enjoy.


3 x Thoughts From Me:

You can never be perfect. You can always be better.

Today is the most important day of your life. This moment is the most precious moment of your life, because it is the only moment you ever have. Come back to it then live life accordingly. 

Never do I feel more like a man when I’m giving someone a hug. 

3 x Quotes From Others:

“It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem.” – Byron Katie

“The most important thing a creative per­son can learn professionally is where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do, and what you are not. Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly.” – Hugh MacLeod

“People ask me, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is of no use.’ There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron… If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.” – George Mallory

3 x Things I’ve Been Listening/Reading/Watching this week:

1 – Alain de Botton’s brilliant TED talk about why we suffer from career anxiety more than we ever have before. In it he outlines the need to define ourselves what it means to be successful:

Quotes from the transcript:

Here’s an insight that I’ve had about success: You can’t be successful at everything. We hear a lot of talk about work-life balance. Nonsense. You can’t have it all. You can’t. So any vision of success has to admit what it’s losing out on, where the element of loss is. And I think any wise life will accept, as I say, that there is going to be an element where we’re not succeeding.

One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. A lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people. And we also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising to marketing, etcetera. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves.

What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.

2 – This Stanford study that found walking improves creativity.

I found it interesting given I regularly go for a walk through our neighbourhood park and, in the process, note down any creative ideas I have. I didn’t realise this method of generating creativity had been backed by science!

3 – If I were to recommend just one podcast to listen to this week, it would this Tim Ferris episode with Elizabeth Gilbert on Saying No, Trusting Your Intuition, Integrity Checks, Grief, Awe, and Much More. I took a huge amount from it!

SOME TAKEAWAYS:

The truth has legs – it’s the only thing that will left standing at the end of the day. 

Grief is not something you master, it’s something you survive. It has something beautiful and it has great lessons for you but you have to surrender to it.

They say great art has to have two features. It has to be both surprising and inevitable. 

Why being honest with those you love is the most difficult – because those are the ones you want to hurt the least.

Universal human compassion that doesn’t include the self isn’t universal. 

You’re never going to meet anybody who causes you more trouble or pain than you.

When you see someone acting out I’ve got a great name for you to call them: ‘Me on a different day.

1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

While trying to teach my son a few more three syllable words this week I asked,

“Can you say, butterfly? But… Ter… Fly?”

Silence…

“Can you try for dada please? But… Ter… Fly…”

Still silence…

“Ok let’s break it down. Can you finish the word But… Ter…?”

“Fly,” he replied.

“Good. Can you finish the word, But…?

‘Ter-fly”, he replied again.

Great. Now can you say the whole word for me? Can you say But-Ter-Fly?

He pauses before responding with a beaming smile,

“BUT… FLY!!!”

Even if you don’t achieve the result you were hoping for, if you give it your best you’ll always be a champ in my book!


Happy Silly Mondays Everyone!

Thanks for reading.

Till next time – don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle!

How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free.

“A few modern philosophers assert that individual intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protect & react against this brutal pessimism… With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgement and literally to become more intelligent than we were before.”ALFRED BINET (early 1900s)

I’d lived with a fixed mindset for years.

It was a mindset driven by a deep seated belief of not being good enough. Not being smart enough.

Simply not being enough.

I told myself all sorts of lies based off this. Lies that sounded so strongly I became crippled with depression and anxiety.

My mind tortured my heart until it shut off completely.

I’m happy to say I’m in a much better place now.

I’m more productive than I’ve ever been. I’m calmer, more confident. My thinking is clearer. I trust in my heart again.

I’m beginning to wake up to who I truly am.

One of the reasons, I believe, is an understanding that nothing is fixed. Nothing is permanent.

Through true insight gained from asking for help, I’ve been able to gradually change the harmful narrative I’d spent over a decade strengthening.

I didn’t realise it then, not in these terms at least, but one of the major reasons I managed to overcome depression was because I started to cultivate a growth mindset.


For those who’ve never heard the termonolgy before, Maria Popova from her blog post: Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives explains it well:

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.

A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behaviour, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.[1]

Much of our understanding on the idea stems from the work of Stanford psychologist Carol S. Dweck as outlined in her brilliant book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Through her research Dweck demonstrates just how limiting a fixed mindset can be in stalling motivation and progress, especially following failure or when facing challenges. Conversely she demonstrates that those with a growth mindset see failure not as a confirmation of being unable or unintelligent, but as something from which they can learn and improve.

At the crux of her argument is the idea that those with a growth mindset understand just how valuable effort is over any sort of innate talent.

They understand effort = intelligence, and so fall in love with the process of improvement. On the other hand those with a fixed mindset are so worried about what failure might say about them, they come to dread doing what they have to in order to succeed. In extreme cases they avoid doing all together so as to avoid the pain of failure.

“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

When I began to think back over my own life in these terms, I began to see how damaging a fixed mindset had been throughout my life.

Failure to me was confirmation I was one.

I hated doing certain work from a young age. Languages, in particular, were difficult for me. I was led to believe, by many teachers nonetheless, I wasn’t good at English and/or Languages.

The result?

I didn’t bother putting any effort into those subjects. I remember thinking what’s the point. I’m not any good so might as well concentrate on what I am.

The trouble is it worked in reversed too!

I was regularly told how good I was at math – that it was something I should pursue because it will open many doors. This was drilled home to me.

The result?

I completely lost interest in a subject I once loved. I still managed to scrape an A during my GCSE’s, but much to my father’s disappointment, I decided not to pursue it as an A level. I didn’t want people to find out, that if I put in the effort and failed, I might not be that good after all.

My parents, who I know believed were doing the right thing, didn’t realise how harmful praising my natural abilities were. It turns out that praising a child’s natural ability, or telling them how clever they are, is extremely damaging because it fixes a child’s mindset.

As Dweck notes,

“The ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset, and they showed all the signs of it, too: When we gave them a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from. They didn’t want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent… In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from.”

I’ll tell you a story of another teacher who never made mention of my abilities in English. She had me moved into her English class for the top peers in our age group (even though I belonged in the bottom). She made sure I sat at the front and paid keen attention (she was somewhat terrifying which helped). Despite not putting much effort into my coursework during those years, because of her, because of what I learnt through the effort I was forced to put in, I achieved B’s in both English Language and Literature.

You might think so what?

Well given my coursework material, which counted for a large percentage of the final grade, averaged between a C and a D, I must have aced the final examinations. I would also point out, before I joined her class, I was far, far behind the rest of the pack. On top of which I was going through some very difficult times in my life (I’ll get to that shortly). To this day they’re my proudest grades from secondary school.

Forgetting the grade, however, what she proved was far more important, even if it didn’t fully register till years later. She proved that if I chose to apply myself I was more than capable. She helped plant the seed for developing a growth mindset that would bear fruit many years later.


Image Source: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/

Prolonged bullying can instil a fixed mindset. Especially if others stand by and do nothing… Victims say that when they’re tortured and demeaned and none comes to their defence, they start to believe they deserve it. They start to judge themselves and to think they’re inferior.

I would love to say from this point everything got better. That I understood and moved forward with a newfound belief and started to grow.

But it didn’t.

I didn’t.

It got worse. Much worse.

My problems stemmed from many variables, but bullying played the biggest role. Those years of secondary school were brutal for me. I was bullied every day at school for years.

This was compounded by the fact my parents couldn’t see what was happening. I was at boarding school halfway across the world. They didn’t know.

They couldn’t.

The trauma of being bullied repeatedly hardwired my response to withdraw from everyone and everything. I shut down as a way to repress the overwhelming emotions I didn’t know how to process. It was depression in the making.

Ultimately this was a major problem because it prevented me for doing what I needed the most.

Ask for help.

What followed makes perfect sense to me now.

When my first love of two years broke up with me during University, I fell apart. I had no confidence I was capable of being on my own. No belief I was lovable, or that I’d be capable of finding it again.

Similarly, when I messed up a landing so badly during my early Junior First Officer training as a pilot (that the Captain had to take over and go around), it felt like my whole world had fallen apart. I put on a brave face but when I got home I broke down. The feelings of inadequacy came flooding up. It was too much for me.

(For those who don’t know in aviation, a go-around is an aborted landing of an aircraft that is on final approach.)

Carrying on afterwards, whenever I faced failure of some kind, was extremely, extremely difficult. Difficulties would often trigger a bout of depression that could last for weeks if not months at a time.

What my fixed mindset always wanted was to give up. To retreat into my shell. To shut down rather than fail and confirm what years of bullying had led me to believe.

It took everything I had to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To understand these were just lessons on the road of life which all of us go through.

Still, something in my heart kept my head above water.

The small voices of a growth mindset, planted there by various people including my parents, my high-school English teacher and my wife, to name a few, who all understood I really was capable, were enough in the end to pull me through. To all of them I am, and always will be, extremely grateful.

Yet it was all much harder than it needed to be. The major problem wasn’t my fixed mindset, but that the depression and paralysing anxiety it caused, prevented me from reaching out for help. I knew I needed it but for years I simply couldn’t find the strength.

It wasn’t until after my son was born, when I came home from work one day consumed by a regular bout of depression. As I sat with him and looked into his eyes, I realised I didn’t want to be around him.

I didn’t want to father him.

The familiar feeling of wanting to runaway and hide, to withdraw into my shell, to shirk all my responsibilities – including that as a father – broke me. The remorse and guilt was too much to bear. I left the room and the tears fell.

I let the sadness consume me.

I cried and cried. I cried until nothing was left but a strange peace. Something inside me changed. Something that said this time I couldn’t let depression win. I won’t. I didn’t think about what to do next. I simply picked up the phone.

I reached out.

I asked for help.


“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives”

I rate it as both the most courageous and important decision I’ve ever made. Since then the changes have far exceeded what I thought possible.

Am I out of the woods yet?

No, not a chance.

But I can honestly say after I sought help, after over a decade of suffering from what was eventually diagnosed as long-term depression, I’ve not had an episode since.

I still struggle with anxiety and other emotions that surface, especially in the face of adversity. However the difference is they don’t consume me like they used to.

I’m acutely aware of where those emotions and the false narrative are coming from. This has helped me to gradually let them go.

I also realised through the flooding of my subconscious with positive thinking and reading (the same way bullying can flood your subconscious with negative thinking), you can change the narrative in your head. You can literally grow out of a fixed mindset. You can literally grow out of depression!

Of course I don’t want to underplay how difficult this all was or, indeed, still is. To this day being bullied remains one of the most difficult topics for me to talk about personally, let alone publicly, but I now understand the need to do so.

In not facing your demons, you only give them strength. You only strengthen your fixed mindset. By not asking for help you only make it harder to do later on.

Ultimately if there was just one message I could convey to those struggling with depression – to those who suffer from an all consuming self-doubt – it would be to ask for help.

To somehow find the courage within you and reach out.

I know how hard it is.

Trust me!

But please remember, asking for help is simply asking someone else to help you grow. We all need help from one another – from the day we’re born till the day we die. The last thing it shows is that you’ve failed or that you’re incapable.

It shows the exact opposite.

It shows that despite everything you’re still willing to show up. It shows you’re not willing to let past demons fix in you any false belief. It shows that you understand that within you is another voice. Another mindset that knows you have so much more to give. A mindset we all have.

It is only you who can set it free.

It starts by asking for help.


SOURCES:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives by Maria Popova


Dear readers, thank you so much for listening to what I have to say! In the interest of growth, I’d love to hear any comments, suggestions, questions or criticisms you may have in the comments sections below. Thanks again. Yours, AP2.

Happy Silly Mondays – 11/05/20

Hello Fine Readers and welcome to my Happy Silly Mondays Newsletter!

In an attempt to rewrite the narrative that Mondays are the most depressing day, I’ve decided to compile a weekly newsletter for a happier, sillier start to the week!

Following the rule of 3, it contains 3 thoughts from me, 3 positive quotes from others and 3 things I’ve been reading, watching and/or listening to this week.

As a bonus I’ve finished with one something very silly that will hopefully make you smile.

Hope you enjoy.

3 x Thoughtful Quotes From Me:

Trees – they take what we don’t need and give us what we do. We should show them the same love and respect in return.

Make your journey about the journey itself. Not about getting somewhere.  

Learning to look at everything through the eyes of your children is perhaps the greatest gift of parenthood. Everything is new and beautiful and amazing, because of course it is! We adults just forgot.

3 x Positive Quotes From Others:

  1. The physician and writer, Oliver Sacks, on the value of gardens:

“As a writer, I find gardens essential to the creative process; as a physician, I take my patients to gardens whenever possible. All of us have had the experience of wandering through a lush garden or a timeless desert, walking by a river or an ocean, or climbing a mountain and finding ourselves simultaneously calmed and reinvigorated, engaged in mind, refreshed in body and spirit. The importance of these physiological states on individual and community health is fundamental and wide-ranging. In forty years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical “therapy” to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens.”

  1. An excerpt from the poem “Youth” by Samuel Ullman, a Jewish poet:

“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust. Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living.”

  1. Bill Watterson, the cartoonist and creator of Calvin and Hobbes, on the difference between ambition and happiness:

“…having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another. Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth. You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them. To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”

3 x Positive Things I’ve Been Listening/Reading/Watching this week:

  1. An insightful Ted Talk by Manoush Zomorodi on How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas:

One Quotes From The Transcript:

“The next time you go to check your phone, remember that if you don’t decide how you’re going to use the technology, the platforms will decide for you. And ask yourself: What am I really looking for? Because if it’s to check email, that’s fine — do it and be done. But if it’s to distract yourself from doing the hard work that comes with deeper thinking, take a break, stare out the window and know that by doing nothing you are actually being your most productive and creative self. It might feel weird and uncomfortable at first, but boredom truly can lead to brilliance.”

  1. Article: Via Negativa: Adding to Your Life By Subtracting: On how less can really mean more. 

Some Key Take Aways:

“Don’t ask yourself “What am I going to do to be a better man?” or “What kind of man do I want to be?” Invert those questions and ask “What am I NOT going to do to be a better man?” and “What kind of man do I NOT want to be?”

Eliminating obvious downsides like bad habits and debt will provide a good life; eliminating good things so you can focus on the very best will lead to a truly flourishing life.

  1. Freakonimcs podcast on Reasons to be cheerful: Why we all have a built-in Negativity bias and why the Covid-19 crisis might be an opportune time to reverse this tendency. 

One Great Rule Of Thumb I Took Away: It takes 4 good things to make up for 1 bad thing. (Something to think about when you’re mindlessly scrolling social media or news articles online)

1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

I was relaying something to my wife the other day that I had been writing, and she said, “you’re turning into such a sage.” 

I contemplated this before replying, “I’ve never thought of myself as a herb before?… how silly.”

I told her that she must be a rosemary and that our son, he must be a basil because that’s the silliest herb.


Happy Mondays everyone and thanks for reading! Hope this helped and be sure to exercise your silly muscle this week!  

1 Bonus question for you’ll to ponder:

What kind of herb are you and why?

NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL – APRIL 2020 – On COVID-19, Fear setting, practising Compassion, Gratitude, cultivating Mindfulness and more…

Hello fine readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter – a series of my thoughts and feelings from my journal.

Included is a round up of what I’ve been reading and writing, plus a collection of my favourite bits and pieces from around the web, and finally a collection of thoughts and ideas from yours truly. I hope you enjoy!


WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING:

12 Personal Commandments for a Happier Life

As inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s wonderful Happiness Project, I decided to put together a list of my own 12 commandments for living a happier, healthier and more purposeful life.

5 Mindfulness Hacks to Help Bring You Back to the Present Moment

5 Mindfulness Hacks that I like to use informally throughout the day to help bring me back to and fully engage with the present moment.

How to Gain Enlightenment While Taking a Dump. – Favourite Books for Moments of Profound Pooing

A fun post about creating the habit of reading books while on the loo!

Am I doing this because of Fear or Love? – a question for motivation and guidance

A post based on the question; “Am I doing this because of love of fear?” that I heard from the following Tim Ferris podcast: Dr. Vivek Murthy — Former Surgeon General on Combatting COVID-19, Loneliness, and More  

Now is the time – What will you do with yours?

A piece to inspire action from isolation as inspired by the following Kitty O’Meara poem:

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

The Nature of my Child

A short post inspired by my son/this quote:

“Every child has a god in him. Our attempts to mould the child will turn the god into a devil – A. S. Neill


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING

BOOKS:

2 books have dominated my reading and re-reading for the past two months – both of which I can highly highly recommend reading, especially during this time of great uncertainty.

The first is RADICAL ACCEPTANCE by Tara Brach

From Amazon: “Writing with great warmth and clarity, Tara Brach brings her teachings alive through personal stories and case histories, fresh interpretations of Buddhist tales, and guided meditations. Step by step, she leads us to trust our innate goodness, showing how we can develop the balance of clear-sightedness and compassion that is the essence of Radical Acceptance.” 

The second is AWARENESS by SJ Anthony de Mello

Although written some time ago now – this book is the best I’ve read that translated to me what spirituality means and why cultivating greater awareness is something we all need.

Another book I can highly highly recommend is the beautifully illustrated ‘THE BOY, THE MOLE, THE FOX AND THE HORSE’  by Charlie Mackesy. 

It’s not only deeply moving and thought provoking, it’s a beautiful piece of art in its own right. I could pick any quote and it would be worth sharing, but I’ll leave you with just one that hit home for me on a personal level.

“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy… 

“Help”, said the horse.


OTHER BITS AND PIECES FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Fear setting – who Tim Ferris described as the most valuable exercise he does every month – is an exercise in defining some of your fears about a difficult decision you are considering making, versus the longer term costs of doing nothing. I used it this month to consider what might happen if I lost my job and found it a very reassuring exercise.

This inspirational video of a speech by Orator Jonathan Roberts addressing graduating seniors at Harvard’s Senior Class Day ceremony on May 24, 2017 at Tercentenary Theatre.

THOUGHTS & IDEAS FROM MY JOURNAL:

ON COVID-19, DEALING WITH FEAR, PRACTISING COMPASSION AND BEING GRATEFUL:

Gratitude, with rare exception, gives you a more accurate interpretation of reality.

Do not try to change people, that’s the wrong approach. Instead try only to help people.

The inability to forgive each other and people’s unwillingness to admit they’re wrong go hand in hand.

The Chinese character for crisis translates as danger + opportunity. I think this is brilliant. Danger meaning a need to be careful and vigilant – a need to act. But as with any crisis there is also opportunity for growth and to learn – to profit from setback.

Make your mission about helping others, not validating the ego. Make your mission about inspiring hope, not criticising others for acting out of fear. After all, are we not all irrational when acting from fear? Have compassion for those who are scared and forgive those who acted rashly and misled the public based on limited, information. We are all fools in this together. Don’t attack. Be kind.

ON DEVELOPING THE MIND AND MINDFULLNESS:

As a rule: Clarity first. Action second.

The great thing about momentum: eventually is becomes easy.

It matters less what you choose to do, but that you give that thing your undivided attention.

Everybody’s mind is filled with bullshit. Wisdom comes from shifting through that bullshit and picking out what you know to be true in your heart. 

The egos need for validation will never be satisfied! When you feed it, its appetite over time only grows. You have to let it go!

Your insecurities prevent you from showing your true self.

The desire for others to say something positive about me is a reflection of my own insecurities. 

Your resistance to other people only serves to strengthen their position in your mind.

The mind is a tool – something to be used. If you fail to remain aware, the mind will take over and use you.

Learning to continuously question your beliefs, to unlearn everything you’ve been taught, to treat what you know with a very large amount of skepticism, is one of the most important skills one can cultivate.

ON PURSING YOUR DREAMS/DOING THE THINGS YOU LOVE:

Doing the things you love gives you the energy to the do the things you need but don’t. 

Better to be happy in failure than unhappy in success.

Ask yourself whether you are making this decision because of fear or love. A perceived need for more money is often driven by a fear of losing out, a fear of not having, or losing the things you already have. Of course thats not always the case. If you’re doing it for your family, for a better education for your children, a better neighbourhood for them to grow up, for certain their security, then those decisions clearly stem from a place of love. However that’s often not the case. What I want to stress is to the need be clear of the reasons for choosing to pursue a certain career or path. If the decision is about finding purpose – follow your heart.

ON PARENTING

I think in our efforts to make something of our children, we often do a disservice to that which is already there. I don’t need to make him into anything. I simply need to encourage what is already there, for him to flourish and realise his full potential. 

There is no need to force parenting, just be present and you’ll understand what you should do.

ON HONESTY, EXPECTATIONS & FORGIVENESS

Being honest with someone is important, but unless you do it compassionately you’re probably wasting your time. People aren’t willing to receive rocks if you hurl them – they’re either going to duck and hide, or throw them back. 

The truth hurts because we are breaking down that persons reality – pointing something out they didn’t want to hear. That’s why it’s important to be kind, but to be kind while being courageous enough to tell them the truth.

People often expect an apology before they’re willing to forgive. Forgiveness should come first without any expectations. Ones apology will often be returned with far more sincerity if you do. 

The Nature of my Child

“Every child has a god in him. Our attempts to mould the child will turn the god into a devil – A. S. Neill

I’ve been thinking today about the nature of my child. What I see is a boundless love and tenderness. Such a pure gentleness.

This is his nature.

I mean to imprint that in my mind.

A gorgeous boy full of smiles and laughter. But also not afraid to cry and express himself. He might not have full control of how he responds to his emotions yet, but there is no doubt about how in touch he is with them. He’s not one bit consumed by them either. He lets them go as soon as they’ve passed.

There is a lot we adults can learn from that.

I think in our efforts to make something of our children, we often do a disservice to that which is already there. I don’t need to make him into anything. I simply need to encourage what already is, for him to flourish and realise his full potential…

Now is the time – What will you do with yours?

Now is the time.

Now is the time to pause and slow down. To revaluate your priorities. To consider what is working and what hasn’t been. 

Now is time to practise gratitude for everything you have, such a roof over your head, access to food and clean running water, for living in a remarkable age technologically speaking, that helps keep us entertained, informed and, crucially, connected to all those we love despite our physical isolation. If nothing else to be grateful for life itself, despite all its hardships and heartache.

Now is the time to practise compassion for each other and ourselves. To be kind. To send that energy inwards and from there, outwards to the wider universe of which we are all part. 

Now is the time to heal. To use our shared pain as a gateway to shared compassion. 

Now is the time to contemplate time. Time is an illusion isn’t it? A trap that makes us think we have to keep on-top of things. To always do things. To strive for some perfect version of ourselves. A compete fantasy. Look at our reality now. Completely turned on its head. No time but to sit. Nothing to do but look inward, if we dare.

I strongly encourage you to do so. Sit with those emotions. Let them surface. The fear, the anxiety, the depression. Accept them as they are. Allow them into your heart. If you do you might learn something that will fundamentally change you. Something that no amount of striving, or trying to get, will ever be able to take away from you. Genuine peace. Peace with yourself and with the world as it is, at this moment.

Now is the time to practise acceptance. Learning to accept – to be at peace with yourself, gives you the clarity of mind to know how you should act – from the heart. Acceptance isn’t resignation. Acceptance is life’s biggest lesson.

Now is the time to practise awareness. To observe quietly. Meditation isn’t an act of doing nothing. It’s an act of curiosity. It’s a profoundly beautiful act of self compassion. Of being aware. Awakened. It is perhaps the most underrated act one can undertake. The act of being. Of dropping our attachment to our thinking minds. Of letting go. 

Now is the time to create. It’s often from constraint that creativity springs. Some of histories greatest minds understood and achieved true freedom in isolation. Others created some of their best work. Nelson Mandela and William Shakespeare readily spring to mind.

Now is the time to play. Now is the time to laugh. Now is the time to grieve. Now is the time to feel. To drop your guard. Now is the time to be vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to be courageous. 

Now is the time to look those who you love in the eye and tell them so. Death is never far away. Death is life. Death is a continuation. Part of the journey. That journey continues. It continues in your children and your grandchildren. In all the people you have touched. In all things. Death is beautiful. Death is necessary. It gives way.

Now is the time to meet your shadows in the darkness and understand they were made from light.

Now, is the time. The time to be. If you do, you might just realise that what you‘ve been looking for, has been with you the entire time. 

Now, is always the time.

The only question to ask is,

What will you do with yours?

How To Gain Enlightenment While Taking A Dump & What Makes A Good Toilet Book?

Hello and welcome to the first in a series of blog posts surrounding the topic of my favourite toilet books for moments of profound pooing.

OR.

How to gain enlightenment while taking a dump. #toiletbooks #profoundpooing (I’m hoping to start a trend).

I’ll get to the first book I recommend shortly and what it is, specifically, that makes it such a great book to have by your toilet at home. Plus some other hygiene related suggestions. (Very important at the moment of course #coronavirus.)

First though, there is a more serious point I’d like to make. One about designing your environment to help cultivate better habits. In this case, putting a book to read next to your toilet, instead of mindlessly scrolling on your phone (come on, I know you do), when you go for a number two.

James Clear talks about the power of designing your environment to help promote and stick to better habits (or break bad ones) at length in his brilliant book Atomic Habits.

He notes,

“Environment design is powerful not only because it influences how we engage with the world but also because we rarely do it. Most people live in a world others have created for them. But you can alter the spaces where you live and work to increase your exposure to positive cues and reduce your exposure to negative ones.

Some examples of environment design include:

– Placing a glass of water by your bed to drink first thing in the morning.

– Leaving your phone in a different room when you go to sleep so its neither the last thing you look at before sleeping, nor the first thing you look upon waking (FYI there’s this great invention I heard of in a different life called an alarm clock).

– Placing a fruit bowl on your living room table to encourage better eating habits. Similarly placing bottles of water around your house to keep you hydrated.

– And, if you want to promote better reading habits while also reducing harmful mindless smartphone scrolling – placing a book by the side of your toilet for when you sit down to do a poo.

So what kind of books should one be reading while taking a poo? And what is it that makes a book, a great toilet book in particular?

When picking a good toilet book to read, as and when nature calls, I think the topic of the book is less important than the type.

Novels tend not to work well because they are designed to be read over a matter of hours at a time. Unless you had Indian for dinner the night before, I don’t think any heavy duty book which requires a great deal of reading at any one time is best.

Instead I suggest books designed to be read in short occasional bursts.

Generally you want lightweight books, although, if you have the space in your bathroom, larger coffee table style books could work too.

It can be fictional or humorous, depending on what your preference is, but for me, I find that spiritual books help to keep my grounded, while I’m giving back to the earth (see what I did there).

Some other benefits & toilet book hygiene etiquette:

The great thing about toilet books, especially spiritual ones with many thought provoking quotes, is you can really sit on them (Ah the puns are endless). Read a quote, put the book down and then ponder the meaning of life.

You’ll also be surprised by how much reading you can get done as the weeks and months pass by. I only started this habit recently but have already finished several books.

An added bonus – its a great reminder to leave your phone outside the bathroom (or in your pocket) – so you’re not making the very unhygienic and unhealthy habit of scrolling and wiping.

Of course while it might see like obvious etiquette to put the book (or your phone down) before wiping – should one accidentally mistake the order of things, something which, incidentally, is much more likely to happen when scrolling on your phone, at the very least the toilet book stays in the toilet. Should you make such a mistake – unlike your phone – its not coming out of the bathroom with you.

So what have I been reading?

Well I’ve already finished a few, but to get started I want to recommend just one that resonated with me deeply. A beautifully illustrated book called ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy.

It’s not only deeply moving and thought provoking, it’s a beautiful piece of art in its own right. I could pick any quote from the book and it would be worth sharing, but I’ll leave you with just one, that hit home for me on a personal level.

“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy…

“Help”, said the horse.


(I intend to share more of my favourite toilet books with you going forward. Hopefully to inspire some you to do the same and have your own moment of profound pooing. Should you already be in the habit of doing so – and all the power to you – I’d love to hear of any suggestions for toilet books you might have in the comments section below. Thanks in advance and happy pooing.)

The Power of Routine in Cementing Habits, Lifting Mood and Increasing Productivity.

“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”

― W. H. Auden

I’ve worked hard on perfecting my day to day routines over the last half year – in the process cementing a number of positive habits that has had a profound effect on my general mood, motivation and productivity.

Not only have I been far more consistent in going through my morning routine, the implementation of an evening routine (as recommended by my therapist) has, among a number of other benefits, helped improve my relationship to sleep tremendously.

For those interested readers I have listed a breakdown of my current morning and evening routines in detail below. Hopefully it will serve as inspiration should you be looking to build upon your own morning and evening routines.

My Morning routine:

#1 Wake up – Drink a glass of water and make my bed first thing! (This sets the tone). 

#2 Go to the bathroom – brush my teeth and weigh myself. 

#3 Change into workout clothes – then meditate for 10 – 20 mins without fail!

#4 Exercise for 5mins (if nothing else) to 1 hour (usually 30-40mins of HIT or Weights/Strength trainingFor those interested in doing similar I can highly recommend checking out fitness blender online or via YouTube. They have hundreds of brilliant at-home workouts for all levels, that require nothing more than a yoga mat).

#5 Shower and get changed into my best clothes for the day! 

#6 Make Brunch – low carb/high protein – and take my vitamins (I usually skip breakfast as part of my fasting window in which I only eat during a block of 8 hours a day) with coffee or tea. 

#7 Go to Office –review my day plan/goals and write in my journal. (I keep my journalling very simple – tip hat to Tim Ferris for the inspiration – by asking myself a few questions. Those are: What am I grateful for? What is worrying you most today (and what can i do about it)? What would make today great (how would you spend it if it were your last)?)

#8 Write or work for 1 hour. (Sometimes in the chaos of playing with my boy or doing other things I’ll ear-mark a period in the afternoon- usually when my son has his nap – for work and/or writing ✍️). 

My Evening routine:

#1 Have dinner as a family at the table – mention one thing you’re grateful for today and one thing you could have done better (works well as a conversation starter).

#2 After dinner – run through Liam’s bed time routine and put him to bed. 

#3 Go to the office immediately after and write tomorrow’s plan/goals and also in my journal. (Again I ask myself a few simple questions. Those are: 3 amazing things that happened today? What did you do well? How could i have made today better? What did i learn?)

#4 Shower and change into pyjamas. 

#5 Make a cup of tea to enjoy on the couch – watch some TV/play games (Limit to 1 hour or 1 movie) and/or read. 

#6 Stretch – 30 mins of gentle Yoga (I usually do this while watching TV)

#7 Brush teeth/get ready for bed then TALK TO HOLLY EVERY NIGHT WITHOUT FAIL! (How have you been doing today? Are you OK? What are some things you have been thinking about or are bothering you?)

#8 Reading

#9 Evening meditation (visualisation) then sleep. 

Routine is massively underrated and something I now believe to be so so important.

Some key takeaways… 

Start small and do what you can. On a near perfect day I’ll tick every item off the list but I rarely do. Thats ok. I don’t imagine many would ever be able to run through their routines perfectly, so if you can’t do, for example, 20 mins Meditation then do 10. If you can’t do 10, do 5. If you can’t do 5 (really?) do 1. If all you have time for is 1 push up then just do that. Tick it off and improve the next day. The important thing is to show up. 

Change it to suit your needs on the day. I often have to change the order if I don’t have the time for something like getting in a proper session of exercise. In this case I’ll try reschedule it for the afternoon or count it as my weekly rest day. If it doesn’t get done don’t beat yourself up – simply get on the horse the next day. 

That said I have found that if I do just 3 or 4 out of 8/9 on each list, I’ll have a much better day than having done nothing. For that reason I have a few NON NEGOTIABLE ITEMS.

In the morning these are making the bed and meditating first thing. I also make sure to write in my journal (I’ll do it over breakfast if I’m really pushed for time as it only takes 5 minutes. This is about the same amount of time it takes to brush my teeth, so I feel there are no excuses).

In the evening my non negotiable items are making my plan for the following day and again writing in my journal. Also talking to my wife at the end of the day, if only for 5 minutes. I like to think of these non-negotiable items as my abbreviated MRs and ERs.

If all else about my day fails and turns to complete dog shite, I can at least to go to bed knowing that I’ve done these simple things. I showed up even on a bad day.

With the world in isolation because of the COVID-19 I might add that now is the perfect time to start implementing your own morning and evening routines. Ones that help to build healthier long-term habits to hopefully last far longer than this crisis does.

Notes from my journal – March 2020

Hello fine readers and welcome to my Monthly review! Every day I ask myself the question – What did I learn? – and write some thoughts in response. The following is a collection of my favourites.

I should say most of these thoughts and/or ideas are heavily influenced by what I’ve been reading and the people I’ve been talking to. In some cases they are simply quotes by others. I hope you enjoy.


Setting your intention matters a great deal. An intention to be mindful in all that you do. ‘Unitasking’ is key. Concentrate on the one thing you are doing and give it your undivided attention! You will derive much more pleasure in life when acting like this.

Mindfulness is only one part of the puzzle. Compassion is the other. Being compassionate has to start with yourself. Forgiving yourself for feeling tired and disconnected – Recovery from depression and anxiety takes time. You’re doing really well. Look what you managed to achieve today.  Be proud of yourself. 

Scrolling is the new smoking. You need to significantly reduce it. Otherwise it leads to cognitive fatigue. Idea – should aim to have a phone free day every week and keep my phone in another room to the one I’m in while at home (That way I’ll be going to it for a very deliberate reason – not just to mindlessly scroll)!

A good nights sleep starts the minute you wake up. Starting your day is just as important as how you finish it. Don’t look at you phone until out of the bathroom – ie Don’t make it the first thing you look at in the morning! Use it only to log your weight and write in your journal before meditation. Otherwise leave it in the bedroom till you’ve finished exercising and had something to eat.  

It matters that you care. It really matters. Pay attention. Small acts with great love everyday. 

The essence of bravery is refusing to give up on anyone or anything

Forgiveness in this world is really lacking. For me forgiving myself and also other people in this world I believe to be doing very bad things is something to pay more attention to. Every act I make has a positive ripple effect. No matter how small, if done with love and compassion, it will effect the world in a positive way. Keep going. Keep smiling. Remain hopeful. Love yourself and by extension the whole world and everything in it. 

Forgiveness is a natural process. It does not matter if you are able to forgive someone or yourself yet, what matters is the intention to forgive that other person or yourself. That way the door is open for the process – however long – to take place. 

Everything I need and want, I already have. The most important thing for me is to learn how to enjoy it. 

The path of awakening is simply a process of wakeful, profound relaxing. We see what is here right now and we let go into life exactly as it is” – Tara Brach 

Reaching out to friends and family and checking in on them is so important. Especially now during this difficult time. It’s important to let them know we are here and also that we are safe. Family and friends are everything. We are nothing without each other. 

I was wrong about the coronavirus. It’s not been an overreaction – people are dying and medical staff are stretched thin. We must all do our part to help protect the most vulnerable in society. COVID 19 is an opportunity to spend time at home with our family and practise mindfulness. It’s an opportunity to send love out to all our friends and family. To really connect from isolation. We live in an extraordinary time in which we are incredibly lucky to be able to do so. To know so much. To prepare and mobilise behind a common cause so quickly as a result. There is still so much to be grateful for. 

Life is one big lesson in acceptance. Now is the perfect time to practise that. There is so much out of our control but what we can control has the ability to empower us. 

If you see through yourself you will see through everyone. Then you will love them. – Anthony De Mello 

What we react to is self generated and has nothing to do with the outside world. A negative feeling comes from YOU – nothing else. It’s all part of our conditioning – illusions created by our minds – from attachments that we have been conditioned to believe are important despite reality. By remaining truly aware and questioning the tricks of our conditioned mind with both compassion and curiosity, we can began to see the illusions for what they truly are and break down the false identities we all cling to. This will bring you back to life. To the here and now which is, of course, the only reality. 

My emotions are a direct result of my thinking mind – nothing else. To stop negative emotions it’s me who has to change. Not the world. Not anyone else.

Think in terms of others. Helping your self is not selfish. It’s the opposite of selfish. Helping yourself helps others. Fixing your back means you’re no longer distracted by it – which means you can focus your attention on more important matters. Looking after your finances helps build security for your family. 

Good parenting starts with being compassionate towards yourself!

Show up to your children’s emotions with compassion. It’s ok to feel sadness or anger. Ask them what it is that they need?

Life is a long beautiful melody. You have to let it play out. Don’t cling. There will be long low sad bits and high happy ecstatic peaks. Don’t cling to them. Don’t think those parts of the melody define you. If you replay one part of it over and over it’s no longer a melody. It’s ruined. Let it play out. 

Taking to yourself in the third person is an awesome mindfulness hack.eg David is feeling stressed. David is thinking lots. David is looking at his phone. It helps to unidentify with your thoughts, feelings and emotions. You become the observer of your thoughts without falling into the trap of thinking you are your thoughts. It’s another reminder to wake up!

Everything is a process. All I have to do is observe. Observe with curiosity and compassion. Look at yourself with curiosity and compassion. Remain present and your natural wisdom will guide you. Have faith.

Everything is always now. It can’t be any other way. The past and the future come from the mind only. They are illusions that distract awareness of the present moment. Everything you need is available to you in the present. Stay there. 

Showing up on the bad days matters more so than on the good days. Remember your’e saying something to yourself every time you show up about who you are and who you want to become. The same is true when you don’t.

Am I making this decision because of love or fear? – Dr Vivek Murthy  – Such an insightful way of asking yourself why or why not you should do something.

Mission ImBACKible – How do you fix chronic back pain and what if you can’t?

My mother has suffered with chronic back pain and sciatica for many years now. Sadly she still does.  

Her story is very similar to countless others. A story of multiple misdiagnoses and scans which showed little, if nothing, out of the ordinary. 

Ultimately the frustration over many years led her down the path of trusting a surgeon to remove one of her discs and then fuse two vertebra together.

It didn’t work.

In fact, it made matters worse. 

Forgetting the fat cheque that private surgeon took home, or the many painful and frustrating nights that followed, the happy ending to the story is this. 

My mum can do more or less everything she wants. She can stand. She can sit (although not for too long). She can walk. Her overall range of motion is good. She can pick up and hold her grandson. She can play with and read to him while sat in her lap. And she can do all of this without too much pain.

BUT.

She still suffers from chronic back pain.

She manages her pain by doing a number of daily mobility exercises, walking often and sitting less. When she does sit she uses a pillow for support (to watch tv or have dinner) and stands regularly to stretch. On top of this she occasionally goes swimming or attends a pilates class. She also takes pain killers to help her sleep through at night. All of this means she can still have a decent quality of life.

The main point is this though:

SHE MANAGES HER PAIN. Her pain has not been cured, but SHE HAS MADE PEACE WITH IT. She doesn’t complain about it or let it detract from her day. She simply gets on with life. 

Her acceptance, despite many years of fighting this frustrating, heart-breaking battle, is truly inspirational.

It’s an important lesson I mean to take with me as I attempt to solve/manage my own issues with back pain. 


A WORD OF WARNING ⚠️ 

(I should say, for those who are considering back surgery as an option to help cure their own back pain, proceed with caution!! Surgery should be the absolute last call of action and even then, you better be damn sure you have an accurate diagnosis. 

Peter Ullrich, an orthopaedic surgeon, has this to say,

“The number one determining factor whether or not a fusion surgery will deliver the desired reduction in pain is an accurate preoperative diagnosis, meaning a diagnosis that clearly identifies the underlying cause of the patient’s pain.

Identifying degeneration of other changes in the spine is not sufficient—the diagnosis needs to identify that those changes in the spine are actually causing the patient’s pain. Many people have a bulging disc, herniated disc, stenosis, and other issues with their spine, but no pain.

I can’t stress this point enough.”

If you’d like to know more please have a read of this article).


So what’s wrong with me?

A lot of things but let’s stick to the topic of my back for now. 

I injured my back early on while training for the London marathon in 2014. Instead of backing off though, I ran through it, repeatedly… Stupid, I know. 

Following that I attempted to run a half marathon in new shoes, a month out from the main event, during which something in the back of my right knee gave way… Stupid, I know.

I limped home and didn’t train again till I ran the actual thing. 

On race day I wore a compression top for my back and had both knees strapped. Despite feeling pain in both, I felt committed (having asked so many people to sponsor my brother and I), so I ran the London marathon anyway… Stupid, I know. 

(Side note: I should write a piece on how not to run a marathon). 

I finished in what was probably a record slow time for my age, but I finished! It was an unforgettable day and one that I cherish.

BUT.

It came at a price. 

The long term result is, I’ve suffered on and off with a variety of different issues related to the back and neck ever since. While it’s clearly been nothing serious, as multiple MRI scans have shown, my back has never truly healed either. 

More recently (a few weeks back to be exact), I managed to put my back out lifting weights, bringing on a fresh wave of lower back pain and sciatica that has, quite frankly, scared the shit out of me. 

What if it’s something serious? 

What if I never can never lift weights again? 

What if I have chronic back pain for life? 

What if, what if…. I, I, I… Me, me, me….

STOP!

Take a breath. 

Observe. 

Proceed.

After a long period of catastrophizing and feeling sorry for myself, its clear I’m in a dangerous position of falling down the rabbit hole again.

I need a plan.

So, here it is…

1) Start treatment with my PHYSIO. (I know a lot of people who swear physio off as inconsequential, but I think it has its place. I can’t say it’s ever been a cure to my problems but I have responded positively to it, feeling better after – if only for a day or two. Nonetheless I believe it’s better than not having it, so I plan to continue)

2) Start treatment with an OSTEOPATH. I’ve had success with Osteopathy before, so I’m going to start here before considering other forms of treatment. (Those that I want to have look at include Acupuncture &/or Acupressure, Active Release Technique (ART), Biopuncture and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilisation (DNS) should the physio and osteopath not prove affective).  

3) In the interim I’m going to get an MRI SCAN to help see exactly what is or isn’t going on in my lower back – hopefully ruling out some more nasty possibilities as a result. 

4) Following that I’m going to take MRI results to an ORTHOPAEDIC specialist for advice on the problem.

5) Research/test out the best WAYS TO MANAGE MY BACK PAIN AT HOME AND AT WORK including the BEST STRETCHING AND STRENGTH EXERCISES plus HOW TO SIT, STAND AND WALK properly. Also what not to do and what other things or tools (shoes etc.) one can use to help (A pilots guide to managing back pain – my next blog post will be a result of this particular research). 

6) Follow up with my results later this year, looking into HOW I CAN PREVENT SIMILAR INJURIES GOING FORWARD and to make sure I have a healthy back well into my old age. I also want to look at HOW TO IDENTIFY AND CORRECT IMBALANCES WITHIN THE BODY (One thing I want to look into is Functional Movement Screening (FMS)). 

7) Regardless of whether I find myself back to full back health or not, I want to look into the IMPLICATIONS OF PERMANENT CHRONIC BACK PAIN. How to manage that going forward? What are the best coping mechanisms people who are in this situation use? (Aside from what pain killers one might use I really want to explore the best PSYCHOLOGICAL TREATMENTS for coping with chronic pain including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)).

My 2020 GOALS & PLEDGES

Following on from my 4 part 2019 review, below are my pledges and goals for the coming year. I intend to do a monthly review of these goals as a way of holding myself on accountable as the year progresses. I hope you enjoy!

MY 2020 PLEDGES

By the end of 2020 my wife and I will have begun trying for a second child (or be pregnant with the second (and last!) on the way). 

With regards to work I will be “command ready” having worked to further my operation and confidence to its highest ever level. I will have attended a performance based course to help in this regard. I will have taken an extended period of 3 months off work from May till July. 

Health wise, I will be far more consistent with regards to my exercise and healthy living habits, sticking to my morning and evening routines that incorporates yoga and/or some other form of physical exercise. I will have completed one alcohol free week every month plus one alcohol free month during the year. My eating habits will much improved following a ‘slow carb diet’ 5 days a week. I’ll also have found a new activity based hobby that I enjoy outside of the home. As a result I’ll be as fit as ever having achieved my desired body fat percentage of 14%. My back injury will have completely healed.

My mental health will be vastly improved due to a more consistent practice of meditation, reading and writing that I’ll have better incorporated into both my morning and evening routines. I will have attended at least one silent retreat and a transcendental course to further my practise. I will have opened up to my parents about my previous difficulties and become much closer to them as a result. I will talk to my wife every single night when at home before bed.

In my spare time I will continue to write everyday. My first goal will be to write and publish a children’s book for wiggles. I will also start a new blog that explores the question of how to live a healthier and happier life at home and at work, as well as being a better father, husband and all round human being. I will have taken the time to volunteer and start annual donations to two new charities. 

At home I will be far more environmentally conscious having done a large amount of research into how I can live more sustainably. This will act as a model for Wiggles as he grows up.

Financially we’ll be in very good shape having organised a better tracking/savings system as we look to the future. We will have made a significant investment into my brother’s hedge fund and also a third property. I will have also invested in renewable technologies and/or an environmental project aimed at helping save the planet. Insurance wise we will have reviewed and updated all our policies and plans as necessary and have set up a will. 

MY 2020 GOALS

HEALTH

MENTAL

  • Meditate 365 days/year
  • Attend a silent retreat
  • Complete a course in transcendental meditation 

PHYSICAL

  • 5 x Exercise days/week
  • 4 x Alcohol free days/week
  • 1 x Alcohol free week/month 
  • 1 x Alcohol free month/year
  • 5 x low carb/high protein days/week (during intermittent fasting window 12 till 8)
  • 4 x long fast/year (24hr-76hr)
  • 14% body-fat goal 
  • Stretch/Yoga daily

OTHER

  • Perform LASIK
  • Heal back injury
  • Find new activity based hobby to commit weekly
  • Oxfam Trail Walker 2020?

CAREER

AVIATION

  • Be ‘Command Ready’ by 2021
  • Complete Performance course through work
  • Logbook journal after every flight – write 1 thing I did well and 1 thing I could do better
  • Take an extended period off work (3 months following LASIK? – May – July)

WRITING

  • Publish first children’s book
  • Start new blog (with a particular focus on health this year)
  • Post 1 new article/week
  • Write daily (As a minimum in my 5MJ)
  • Read 2 books/month
  • Read daily

FAMILY/HOME/TRAVEL

FAMILY

  • Set Liam goals to help his achieve throughout the year
  • Date night x 1/week
  • Talk to my wife every night when at home
  • Open up to Mum and Dad

HOME

  • Environmental research/piece on blog about how to live more sustainably/responsibly at home for the family to centre around 
  • Set goals and make changes based on this research

TRAVEL 

  • Skiing Japan Trip (February)
  • April/May getaway with Holly
  • Silent retreat (May in Bhutan?)
  • UK Trip (June)
  • Croatia and Serbia – Villa plus Ogi and Mia wedding (September/October)
  • UK (Christmas)

FINANCE/INSURANCE 

FINANCE

  • File/pay UK Taxes
  • File/pay HK Taxes
  • Research new mortgage for London apartment
  • Invest in my brother’s fund
  • Invest in third property
  • Sort better tracking/savings system with longer term goals in mind

INSURANCE

  • Write a will
  • Set up loss of income insurance through Union

CHARITY

  • Set up annual donation to 2 x new charities
  • Volunteer locally

My 2019 Review – FINANCES, INSURANCE AND CHARITY💰

FINANCES

I think there’s a great deal of work left to do in this department. We are in a decent position financially, but I have been less than proactive with that money. Doing the research and making some smart investments will be a priority for 2020. 

That said I’ve had similar goals in the past that have amounted to little in the way of new investments. I think the problem is my financial goals have been too vague. What am I working towards? What is the kind of financial freedom I’m looking for and what does that look like? Perhaps a more important question to ask myself is, what does investment mean to me? Why am I doing it? It can’t just be to make money. I’m investing in the future. In a better world for my son to grow up in. So what are the kinds of things I need to invest in to help make that happen? 

I absolutely want to invest in renewable technologies and projects. I believe the biggest problem of my son’s lifetime, if not ours right now, is how are we going to save this planet. I also believe rates of depression are on the rise, in no small part, because of difficulties learning to adapt to an ever increasing rate of change. Helping those who are helping others through problems such as depression and anxiety is close to my heart and absolutely something I want to support as well. How can I do this? Who and/or what are the companies doing this right now?

While these are good goal setting questions for 2020, one other important point I want to make is this. Be grateful. 🙏 You already have everything you need to be happy and content right now! There is nothing wrong with seeking to improve your financial position but you should do so while acknowledging what you already have. It is enough. A roof over my family’s head. Clean water. Money to put food on the table many, many times over. A healthy son. A healthy wife. A healthy me. It is enough. 

INSURANCE

Insurance wise we are well set up, but I have two major things I want to look at as a priority in 2020. The first being writing a will (for Liam’s sake), which we still haven’t put together!! The other being looking into loss of licence/income insurance through my union, should I find myself unable to work due injury or illness. The first I’ve no excuses for putting off. The second I put off for a long time because a) it’s a very expensive insurance plan and b) with just me to support I wasn’t too worried about losing my job/income. My wife would be able to support us if needed and pre child it never seemed sensible to spend that amount of money especially considering we are well covered with over insurance policies/plans. Recently however I’ve had something of a scare and also know of a few fellow pilots who have found themselves unable to work and needed to use such an insurance plan. With a little more to lose nowadays I think it’s time to give myself this extra safety net. 

CHARITY

Charity. Do any of us really do enough? I certainly don’t which, quite frankly, isn’t good enough. I live a privileged life well above the global average. While my wealth might not make me anywhere near the top 1% in my own country, for the rest of the world I am the 1%. So where to start? 

It makes sense to start giving to causes that mean something to me. So what are those causes? Two spring to mind readily. The first being mental health and the second being the environment. I think it’s important to choose the right charities, ones that will use my money effectively in their efforts to help people and the world at large. But how do I know who I should give my money to? Do your research seems an obvious answer so that’s exactly what I’ll do as my first priority.

My 2019 Review – FAMILY, HOME and TRAVEL🏡

FAMILY

To be brutally honest I think there is plenty of room left for me to grow as both a father and husband. I don’t, by any means, think I’m a bad family man, but I’m acutely aware I have made the latter part of the year very much about me. About becoming better. That has meant making a few sacrifices re time spent with the family, as I’ve prioritised my routines around sleep, meditation and exercise. While some might view it as selfish, I know in my heart I had to do this. To put myself first, at least for a while, so that I may ultimately be much better in my roles as both father and husband. Finding and scheduling proper time with my family will be a priority next year – as well as finding more activities with whom to do together. At this stage the afternoon appears to work well – after my son has woken from his nap – as time to block off just for my boy. Saying to myself this is time for Wiggles and blocking out everything else means I can be truly engaged with him. 

Before getting help I felt so guilty when spending time with him but not really being there as I struggled with bouts of depression. It was like seeing everything through a thick fog. The truth is I didn’t really want to be there and I didn’t know why. It broke my heart but I understand now, it was a process I had to go through to get where I am today. This was the biggest motivator for seeking help. I realise that more important than the amount of time spent, is the quality of time spent. Ultimately I believe this is why being selfish and looking after myself first was necessary. It still is. You can’t help others without first helping yourself. 

HOME

Home is where the heart is, so they say. But are we really using our hearts at home? I often feel we take our homes for granted, largely oblivious to the damage our home and more specifically, our habits at home, are having on the environment and to ourselves. So what improvements can we make to change this and really bring our hearts back into it? I can think of several changes – taking shorter showers, using the air-con less, cooking more and with less (no) meat, less tv (less screen time altogether for that matter), recycling more, etc – all of which would help our family live a healthier, happier and more sustainable life. With this in mind, I think a really good project to undertake going forward would be to make our home as environmentally friendly as possible, concentrating on sustainable living habits. To make this our collective mission as a family. To have a real emphasis on sustainable living, working as a family to become better, changing our more harmful ways. To raise Wiggles in this way, so that he can learn to live the way his generation must. For now I’ll set the simple goal of writing a post about how we might go about this in greater detail, and use that as a spring board toward a more sustainable way of living.

TRAVEL

Travel, as always, is non stop for me. New destinations with work this year have included Seattle, Frankfurt, Toronto and Cape Town. Visiting the Boeing factory in Seattle, hiking along the coast near Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland and cage diving with sharks in Cape Town are highlights. Outside of work and with the family we have done a fair bit too. Vietnam, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Japan and Thailand including two weddings and a Rugby World Cup. Not a bad first year of life! Shame my son won’t remember any of it! We, however, most certainly will. 

Highlights are many but one which really stands out would have to be, my boy taking his first steps in Tokyo with the whole family present! Flying him and mummy to the UK, then bringing him into the cockpit after landing, was pretty cool too! Other than that, the opportunity to simply spend so much quality time with the family during our travels this year has been very special. 

It’s fair to say adding a child has made traveling very different. As you’d expect, everything revolves around them, their nap times, schedule etc. Although it has limited us in many ways, ‘employing the grandparents’ to help out has made things significantly easier than it otherwise would have been. We’ve shared  many special memories as a result. I’m incredibly grateful for the time we as a family, and especially Liam, has had with them. 

So what have I taken away from my travels this year, and how can I make them more special going forward? As anyone who knows me understands, I’m a strong believer in travel. It’s one of the best ways to challenge the bullshit stereotypes running around in your head. I also believe it’s one of the best ways to break free from your everyday distractions and simply be present. Travelling continues to teach me lessons all the time. Not only about the wider world but myself too. It’s such a cliche to say travel is means for self discovery, but I’ve definitely found it rings true. 

That said I’ve recently found my travels to be lacking a certain something. A greater purpose perhaps. It’s not something I thought about too much before, always content exploring neighbourhoods, finding great local eateries far removed from the tourist drags or going on adventures, trying something completely new. I think I will always find happiness doing these things, but I now feel something’s missing. More than ever I desire to add greater meaning. To not only experience local cultures, but give back to them. To not stay at the luxury resort, but the eco lodge instead. Support those who are trying to live responsibly or indeed support those who need it most. Whether finding projects to get involved in or going on a silent retreat for a period of prolonged introspection. This will be something to think about going forward. For my son I hope to demonstrate that meaningful purpose can be applied to anything he chooses to do. That by doing so his travels, and life, will be far far richer.

2020 will see us travel less often but for longer trips as a result of trying to limit the damage of changing Wiggles’s routine. Those trips will be similar to 2019 in that we will look to spend as much time as possible with the family but with a greater emphasis on travelling sustainability and/or with some kind of purpose. Ultimately in order to teach Wiggles something valuable. If nothing else to teach him to look for the value in travel.

My 2019 Review – CAREER, WORK and WRITING✍️

Hi there and welcome to part 2 of my 2019 review! Today I’m looking at work, specifically my career in aviation and as a writer. As before two major questions are driving my thoughts. Those are, ‘What went well?’ and What could I do better?’. I hope you enjoy.

AVIATION

In terms of my job (the one that pays the bills), I’m flying less often as a result of requesting a long haul roster, which means I get more days off. Given how young my boy is, family time is simply a much bigger priority for me at the moment. I don’t feel guilty about this however, the result is, quite naturally, a less proficient operation. Approaching my command I will look to focus more on my operation again, but for now and looking forward to 2020, given it’s still a way off, my focus will remain on improving my own health and well-being on top of becoming a better father to Liam and husband to Holly. 

With that said I would at least say I have achieved a much healthier relationship towards work, especially with regards to flying through the night, which previously occupied a much greater and more negative space in my head. Working with my therapist has paid dividends in this regard.

I also have a better handle on my anxiety toward flying with certain, shall we say, personality types. Although rare, previous experiences had left me feeling nervous almost every time I showed up to work. Outside of my family it was perhaps the biggest driver for me to seek help. I used to take work home with me all the time – worrying about my performance, lack of drive, who I might have to fly with, the havoc night flying must be having on my health – basically A LOT OF NEGATIVE SHIT. Without getting into too much detail about my therapy, we worked out a great deal of these thoughts stemmed from an underlying belief of inadequacy that I had been carrying around with me for a very long time.

I can happily say my perspective has changed significantly. The boundaries between work and home are much clearer – more or less forgetting about work when at home and feeling more excited and motivated when back at it. I’m less hard on myself when I don’t have the best day and far better at taking the positives.

Next year will very much be about bringing this improved perspective toward work consistently. I still have demons to fight, but unlike before I now look forward to the battle. I now want to put myself in the uncomfortable situations – take the more challenging sectors with the more difficult captains – knowing that I’m more than capable of dealing with them, but that I still have things to learn and room to grow. We always do. 

I think it’s fair to say I haven’t really felt like a captain yet up to this point in my career – settling and becoming too comfortable with my role as First Officer and Second Officer before that. However far off it may be, I want to feel that I am truly ‘Command ready’ by the end of 2020, so that the course may be less of a shock to the system than previous upgrades have proved. This will be my ultimate work goal for next year.

To achieve that I will look at perfecting my routines around work as well as at it. I will never turn down a sector offered and I will challenge myself at every opportunity to put myself in the captains shoes. I will seek to attend a command performance course. I will ask the question, “What could I have done better/differently?” Beyond that I will remember, It is a privilege to be an aviator and I owe it to the profession to give it my all. 

WRITING

Consistently writing every day has to be a major goal for 2020. Setting myself the goal of one post a week, or however many a month, has not proven the best way to get me writing. If anything I find it demotivating when I inevitably miss the deadlines set for myself. I think much more important is the process or routine of writing. Making it a daily habit. If I simply do, then I know I’ll be more productive regardless of how many articles/posts/books I actually end up producing.

Like a lot of things, I’ve had too much of an on and off relationship with writing, as has been the case this year. Happily I’ve seen a major improvement, in the latter part of this year. I have been writing almost everyday. In the past month. I’ve written my family Christmas newsletter, finished my first draft of my children’s book, which I hope to get published next year, written in my 5MJ every day and started this blog. Let see what I can get done in a year by committing to the simple goal of writing just one lousy paragraph a day. 

My 2019 Review – MENTAL & PHYSICAL HEALTH 💪

Hello fine reader(s) (Hi mum) and welcome to my brand new blog, Clear-air Turbulence. If you’re wondering what it’s all about, please review my about page. Otherwise I sincerely hope you enjoy my very his first series of posts – a very personal review of my 2019. 

The first post will look at my health, both mental and physical. Following that I’ll review my career, writing and other work related projects, then family, home and travel, and finally finances, insurance and charity. A follow up post will outline my goals and pledges for the coming year. 

I should add that two simple questions drive my thoughts in these posts. These are:

What went well?

What could I do better?


MENTAL & PHYSICAL HEALTH 💪 

MENTAL HEALTH

I can say without a shadow of doubt, the greatest personal victory for me has been getting a handle on my personal struggles with depression and anxiety. It’s something I’ve been reluctant to share with most anyone for a long time. Honestly I’m apprehensive about bringing it up now, but I believe the time has come – as part of this journey – to put those demons to bed. To talk about it publicly is testament to that. I’m not afraid, or perhaps better said, I’m no longer afraid to be afraid. To be openly vulnerable is a strength not a weakness. I understand this now. 

One day I hope to share my story in depth and with a greater audience, but for now I’ll just open up by saying, I had a problem. One that has set me back for a long time. As anyone who has suffered with the same knows, it feels like you’re drowning silently. I should stress, I was never at the extreme end of the spectrum – always fit to fly if you, the reader, are in any way concerned – but that I definitely needed help. And it was help that I put off getting for a very, very long time. The personal victory that I’m most proud of this year is as simple as that (although I can assure for anyone who suffers, it is far from a simple act) – asking for and getting help. 

In doing so and working with my therapist, and on my own, I’ve come far further in four short months than I ever dreamed possible. The knock on effects have been significant influencing almost every aspect of my life. That’s not to say the journey is over – I guess it never will be – but I’ve certainly turned a corner. For the first time in a long while I’m genuinely excited about what the future has in store.

So, how exactly has this breakthrough changed my day to day life? Let’s break it down. 

ROUTINE and SLEEP

I’ve worked hard on perfecting my day to day routines over the last half year – in the process cementing a number of positive habits that has had a profound effect on my general mood, motivation and productivity. Not only have I been far more consistent in going through my morning routine, the implementation of an evening routine (as recommended by my therapist) has, among a number of other benefits, helped improve my relationship to sleep tremendously. Listed below is a breakdown of my current morning and evening routines in detail for any interested readers. (Side note: I am always looking to improve, tinker and expand upon it). 

Morning routine:

#1 Wake up – Drink a glass of water and make my bed first thing! (This sets the tone). 

#2 Go to the bathroom – brush my teeth and weigh myself. 

#3 Change into workout clothes – then Meditate for 10 – 20 mins without fail!

#4 Exercise for 5mins (if nothing else) to 1 hour (usually 30-40mins of HIT or Weights/Strength training)

#5 Shower, groom and get changed into my best clothes. 

#6 Make lunch – low carb/high protein -(I usually skip breakfast as part of my fasting window in which I only eat during a block of 8 hours a day) with coffee or tea. 

#7 Go to Office -review my day plan/goals and write in my 5 minute journal (5MJ for short).  

#8 Write or work for 1 hour. (Sometimes in the chaos of playing with my boy or doing other things I’ll ear-mark a period in the afternoon- usually when my son has his nap – for work and/or writing ✍️). 

Evening routine:

#1 Have dinner as a family at the table – mention one thing you’re grateful for today and one thing you could have done better (works well as a conversation starter).

#2 After dinner – run through Liam’s bed time routine and put him to bed. 

#3 Go to the office immediately after and write tomorrow’s plan/goals and also in my 5MJ. 

#4 Shower and change into pyjamas. 

#5 Make a cup of tea to enjoy on the couch – watch some TV/play games (Limit to 1 hour or 1 movie) and/or read. 

#6 Stretch (while watching TV) or 30 mins of Yoga. 

#7 Brush teeth then go to bed with Holly – TALK TO EACH OTHER EVERY NIGHT WITHOUT FAIL! (How have you been doing today? Are you OK? What are some things you have been thinking about or are bothering you?)

#8 Reading. 

#9 Evening meditation (visualisation) then sleep. 

MEDITATION🧘‍♂️ 

Meditation has been an enormously helpful tool for me. I’ve been meditating on and off for years, but have always struggled with consistency. I now rate it as the most important thing to do and prioritise as such making it the first thing I do in the morning. Finding that consistency has been crucial in dealing with my issues of depression and anxiety. It is because of this that meditation is a non negotiable item on my morning routine. No matter how rushed I will, at the very least, make time to meditate, even for as litttle as 5 mins. As we approach the end of the year I’m currently on a 100 plus day run streak. I fully intend to meditate every single morning of every single day in 2020. That is one of my pledges for next year. On top of which I want to look into doing a transcendental meditation course as well as attending a silent retreat to further my practise. 

EXERCISE and DIET

Continuing with the topic of health, I’ve been far more consistent with exercise as well, doing so almost every morning. I vary my exercise routines between High Intensity training (HIT), weights or strengthen training and core/mobility work throughout the week. I aim to exercise at least 5 days a week, if not 6, depending on how I feel physically, mindful of my body’s need to rest and recover. 

On top of this I’ve started a routine of intermittent fasting during the week, although I’m less consistent with this. On a perfect day I won’t eat till 12 noon and make sure I don’t eat anything after 8 pm, giving me an 8 hour block in which to eat (16 hour fast). This has proved tricky at times given my job, having to fly at odd hours while constantly managing a shifting body clock, but I’m trying hard to keep this schedule and stay on Hong Kong (home) time. It seems to be working, recovering from trips quicker and feeling less lethargic. This year I’ll try to schedule a few longer fasts from 1 to 3 days every 3 months. I’ve only just begun to learn about the health benefits of fasting but it’s clear they are significant. I will do more research before deciding on the length of my longer fasts for next year. 

In terms of diet I’ve been trying to eat a high protein/low carb diet 6 days a week (Got to have me a cheat day 😋). I’ve also cut down significantly on the amount of alcohol I drink in recent months – mainly as means to improve sleep but also because hangovers and children don’t mix! I now make sure I have one alcohol free week per month on top of at least 4 alcohol free days per week outside of that (unless on holiday of course 😎). As a result of everything I’ve lost a few kilos (from approx 80kg to 77kg) reducing my body fat percentage by 2-3% (from 21% to 18%) while looking leaner and meaner, but most importantly feeling immeasurably better. 

INJURIES and ACTIVITIES

Looking a little closer at what I could do better with regards to improving my overall physical and mental health next year I can think of a few things. Firstly my back continues to bother me as it has done for a number of years now since I injured it 🤕 training for a Marathon in 2014! I think it’s important I keep trying to manage it better. Not to let it get me down as it has in the past! I can, after all, still do all the things I want to physically. That said, I still need to think long term and understand that if I want to remain mobile as I age, I absolutely need to take better care of it. Finding more time to stretch it out – not only after exercise and in the evening as part of my daily routines – but when I’m sitting for any length of time (when writing or at work). GET THE F*** UP AND MOVE even if you’re tired. You’ll regret it if you don’t. Continuing treatment with the physio when I feel it’s necessary and looking to seek treatment with other specialists to see if I can actually mend this pesky problem once and for all are additional plans. 

The other thing I want to look at in 2020 is becoming involved in some kind of activity based hobby such as a martial art🥋, rock climbing or even dancing, that I can carry forward indefinitely. Something that I truly love doing. I’m not sure what this is yet, so goal number 1 in this department will be finding it. To that end, I’ll look to trial a number of activities until one sticks. Perhaps a different thing every week? A good way to do this might be scheduling a new activity before dinner every date night with Holly (seen as we have one, or at least try to, every week).