Is This The Only Thing We Need Do To Save The Planet?

Before I get started there are a couple of things you should know. 

The first is I’m a pilot. (What? Didn’t you know!?)

My choice of profession means I’m responsible for pumping copious amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. (Seriously a fucking lot!) It should also be said I love to do this in my spare time. Travelling is a passion and if it weren’t for COVID that’s exactly what I’d be doing right now.

The second is that I eat meat, drink my tea with cows milk (because anything else ruins it) and fucking love cheese. Seriously, put some of that shit on a giant man-sized mouse trap and my last words would be, “this… mature cheddar… is… to die for… aaaaahhhhhhhh…”

This all begs the following question,

Why Should You Listen To Me Regarding The Environment?

Well, I’m not entirely sure you should, but I can, at least, think of a couple reasons why you might consider hearing me out. 

For one, I’m not here to give some fluffy account about how great I am or all the incredible things I’ve done/are doing to save this planet. 

“Hey everybody, look at me – I’ll show you exactly how you should live your life! All you have to do is be tee-totalling vegan buddhist monk just like me, yaaaay! 🤗”

No. That would be too easy.

I want to inspire change but you can’t do that without being honest. Without being clear where it is you are. For me that means admitting I still have an almighty mountain to climb if I am to become the change in this world that I wish to see. After all it’s not just changes in others I wish to inspire, but myself.

However I will admit my selfish intentions here – I want all of us to change for my children’s sake. 

With that said, I don’t subscribe to the belief that you need to be a vegan or some kind of die-hard environmentalist to save the planet either. At least not yet. At any rate, I believe telling others that they must does more harm than good.

Why?

Because beating your head against the wall trying to convince millions to become vegans overnight patiently doesn’t work. I actually think those who do turn more people off than they manage convincing – like telling people they must wear masks.

Look at how that worked out!

By the by, I don’t believe people are saying no to wearing masks per say – I don’t believe they are necessarily denying the science either – I believe they’re simply saying fuck you for demanding it of them.

Stupid as it might be, that’s America people. That’s the free world! People want to believe it was a choice they made for themselves, not because someone told them they had to. Like it or loath it, the culture of American exceptionalism is something we have to work with. In China they can demand change overnight. We can’t. Yet if we want to keep our freedoms, then we must take responsibility for them. That means doing what we know is right, not what we want simply because we are free to do so.

Can you not see why?

Our children are already striking – many becoming full-time climate activists – understanding that if things don’t change, and quickly, then becoming a doctor or a pilot (god forbid) will be luxuries they simply can’t afford to pursue. Instead we will have a generation of full-time environmentalists because we’ve left them little other choice.

If this scares you it should.

It’s a tragic irony that they’ve found themselves missing a lot more school this year as a result of our environmental exploitations.

This is precisely why we must ensure our choices are based on fact and not our feelings or fucked up entitled beliefs. If you didn’t know already, science gives zero fucks about what you feel you’re entitled to believe.

With all that said I won’t demanding you change your ways but instead ask compassionately that you please grow the fuck up and wear a mask (and make it a reusable one too). You do that and maybe, just maybe, I’ll consider putting oat milk in my cup of English breakfast tea (In other news the Queen just revoked my British passport).

I joke, of course.

Seriously though let me come back to the title of this post. The one you clicked on with a huge amount of scepticism.

Allow me to reframe it slightly and ask you this:

What’s One Thing You Can Do Today That Will Help Save The Planet?

And what if… (I’m dreaming big here.) What if all we had to do was ask and act on that one simple question?

What if we simply made the decision to be ever so slightly kinder to the environment today than they were yesterday?

And If we all did this, could it work? Could this be all that it takes?

Or am I away in the clouds again?

What do you think?

(Thanks for reading everyone. I appreciate the above might feel rich coming from a pilot but I genuinely believe in broader movements over absolute ideas of living in the woods with Bambi as my playmate. I also appreciate that the single biggest thing I could do to help the environment as a pilot is quit my job. Truthfully this is something I’m working on but now is not the right time (although it might well be out of my control soon enough).

Honestly the idea of making very small changes everyday has worked well for me – which is why I brought up this topic. For example I’m entirely plant based at home. This is a balance that works for me. It’s important to stress this didn’t happen overnight. This has been years in the making. It’s been a process. Of course I wouldn’t advocate you do the same, I’m merely pointing out a balance I’ve found in my life that works for me. It has been a long process of course, and I still have a long way to go but there is no question I’m moving in the right direction. And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be a tee-totalling vegan Buddhist monk but that definitely isn’t the goal! Anyway it’s getting late so I’ll stop here.

As always I’m keen to get your thoughts and opinions on the matter. I welcome ALL of them. Also if you know of any easy to implement changes at home that one could incorporate to help the environment, I’m all ears?! I’ve also left a few articles for any interested parties! Thanks again and love to all, AP2 X)


nationalgeographic.com – Why We Will Succeed In Saving The Planet From Climate Change

nationalgeographic.com – Your Actions Alone Can’t Save The Planet But These Habits Can Help

www.wwf.org.uk – 10 Things You Can Do To Save Our Planet

science.howstuffworks.com – 10 Things You Can Do to Help Save the Earth

twenti.com – How To Save The Planet: 10 Changes With The Biggest Impact

In Honour Of A Boy I Never Knew

I found out today what you did.

I never knew you and yet you were so close.

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

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

Did I smile?

Did I show you kindness?

Or did my preoccupations blind me from seeing you?

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

I shed a tear for you today.

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

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

In your honour, I will be better.

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

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

In your honour, I will be kinder.

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

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

In your honour, the boy I never knew.

May you rest now in peace.


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

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

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

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

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

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

They need our love, compassion and understanding. 

They need our help.

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

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

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

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

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

If you can find the courage, I’ve left a list of links below where you can seek help.


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

Local Websites And Emergency Contact Numbers

https://www.befrienders.org

https://www.samaritans.org

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

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

Motivational Mondays – 21/09/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my weekly Motivational Mondays Post!

The only newsletter to force feed you your recommended 5 a day before offering you a cupcake…

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

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to lighten your Monday blues… 

Much Love,

AP2 X


4 x Thoughts From Me:

The cost of convenience is your resilience.

The trick is not to think win or lose. The trick is not to think success or failure. The trick it is not to trick good or bad. The trick is to think about being better because every single one of us always can be. 

Anger as an emotion is intimately linked to our “fight, flight or freeze response.” It’s about survival. This is why reacting to it is inappropriate in most situations. When it comes to anger, thinking high emotions = low intelligence is a good rule of thumb. I wonder though, when it comes to the survival of our planet if it’s not entirely justified – if we’re not angry enough? After all, the power of action one can harness from such an emotion is enormous. It can drive us in a way that few other emotions can. Instead of ignoring our anger about climate change, maybe we need to consider how to use it instead? People forget that anger, if responded to mindfully, can be used constructively. Anger can be used to make positive changes. The caveat, of course, is that we need to allow ourselves to feel it. We need to accept it as a valid emotion.

Competition is meant to be about pushing each other to improve. It’s about personal and collective growth. When we glorify it and make it about ‘winning at all costs’ we turn many people away. This defeats the purpose. Not only are those who still compete weaker because they have less competition, those who don’t compete lose the ability to better themselves altogether. Don’t compete to win, compete to grow.


3 x Quotes From Others:

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching” ― Gerard Way

“Most people think they lack motivation when they really lack clarity.”James Clear

“Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.” ― Ruth Bader Ginsburg


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This Tim Ferris Podcast episode My Healing Journey After Childhood Abuse with Debbie Millman. This might be the most important Tim Ferris episode I’ve ever listened to. To come out and publicly share what happened to him takes an enormous amount of courage – more courage than I suspect most of us will ever know. I would implore anyone to give this episode a listen, but especially those who have previously experienced sexual abuse. The list of resources available – as he and Debbie talk about extensively – extend well beyond conventional therapy. Please look under the list of resources via the link above for more information on a number of potential tools and reading for help to deal with trauma.

2 QUOTES FROM THE POD:

Your path to the healing is very much your own in the same way that you have your own path to love or to family or to success.”

Debbie Millman

“There is only one question that matters and this is, what are you unwilling to feel?”

Tara Brach

2 – This brilliant Happiness Lab Podcast with Dr. Laurie SantosHappiness Lessons of The Ancients: Aristotle. In this episode Dr. Laurie Santos talks to Yale professor Tamar Gendler about “Aristotle’s wellbeing insights and how he recommended taking daily “baby steps” towards becoming the sort of happy, moderate person we aspire to be. A kind of ancient “fake it, ’til you make it” ethos.” Notes and quotes below.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Aristotle and other Greek philosophers were given free reign to pursue the question, what makes humans flourish, as their profession. As a result they were able to come to a greater understanding about it than many others have at different times during our history. 
  • Aristotle can be looked at as the father of modern positive psychology. – He was brought to Athens at the age of 17 to study. He liked school so much he stayed for another 20 years! 
  • He was one of the greatest polymath thinkers of any generation. He was the inverter of physics as a field. Biology as a field. He was a great theorist of poetry and theatre. 
  • 2 distinct notions of happiness. 1 hedonistic happiness. The indulgence of short lived happiness or pleasures. Eating or sex. This is an important of what it means to be human. To take pleasure in the physical world around you. 
  • 2 Aristotle was interested in a richer and more robust and lasting notion of what happiness is. 
  • He philosophised that in the same way a knife is designed to cut our primary function as humans was to express virtue and reason.  This is a lasting rather than short lived happiness. 
  • We are getting the same insights Aristotle did 2000 years ago from behavioural science and modern psychology about what it is that gives us lasting fufillment and happiness. 
  • Being clear that indulging in great food, having sex and watching NETFLIX isn’t what will make you happy long term is important. If anything an overindulgence in these kind of activities leaves people feeling empty. 
  • Theoretical wisdom vs practical wisdom. Theoretical wisdom comes from reading about something like the science of psychology to understand what makes us happy or not. This isn’t enough. 
  • Aristotle said we need something called practical wisdom – this is the skill that comes from practising the activity in which you want to make progress. 
  • The way we find this deeper level of thriving in Aristotle’s opinion comes from a strategy of practicing being the kind of person who is virtuous and takes pleasure in being virtuous. 
  • Self education project. You make yourself into the person you want to be. The soul you want to inhibit. You practise being the kind of person you want to become and then the act of practicing becomes pleasurable to you. 
  • The same way you want to learn the violin or raise good children you have to put the work the same applies to bumping up your happiness. You engage with it and build it up like a skill set from the ground up. 
  • We become just by doing just actions. We become temperate by acting so. Brave by doing brave actions. This is how we come to having practical wisdom. We practice the skills we want to inhibit until they become natural to us. 
  • Aristotle was interested in developing a moderate character in the right ways.  What does he mean? Taking braving as an example. One extreme is being a coward. Another is being reckless. In between is braver. The perfect moderate virtue. Humour. You can be a Baffoon or somber or someone with a good sense of humour. 
  • If you want to be a brave person, act the way a brave person acts and you will start to manifest bravery and you will be reinforced in your experience about how pleasurable and possible it is for you to act bravely. 
  • Virtuous life – life is not just a moral life but brings happiness and thriving – how to live well morally, happily and part of harmonious society.
  • The data suggests that if you want to live a happy life you want to live a moral life. For Aristotle pleasure is derived from seeing others around them doing well.
  • Friendship is incredibly important – the young need it to prevent them for error – the old need it for protection and companionship, to look after them – those in their prime need it to do fine actions.
  • 3 different kinds. 1 shallow utility based – we both gain something from one another – a service or product. 2 we enjoy each others company. 3 based on mutual deep appreciation of one another’s morals. The latter provides self reinforcing cycle. Aristotle calls this kind of friend “a second self.
  • Surrounding yourself with those who are committed to same things – the same values. Put yourself in a setting where others are trying to achieve the same kind of spiritual transcendence.
  • Acting as if you already have the virtues you wish to embody is incredibly powerful and liberating. Having a second self available makes you much more likely to stick to those values – to hold you accountable.

1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

Struggling for a story this week folks so thought I’d leave you with this rejected New Yorker cartoon that made me chuckle.


Till next week…

Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

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

One bonus question for you all:

What is one thing you can do for the environment today that will help it tomorrow?

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

The Question To Ask Yourself Before Every Decision

It was late the other night that my wife told me about her sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things she sets herself to do – of always feeling pushed to do things – of feeling “the need” to do things – that she sometimes feels driven by an underlying sense of ‘not good enough.’ 

I paused to take in what she was saying, before climbing into bed next to her. 

She’s certainly not alone, I thought. I knew those feelings well. I suspect those feelings are probably shared by the vast majority of young professionals driven by certain expectations of society, of their parents, of their conditioning to be the best version of themselves.

As I responded, in one of my rare moments of clarity, I remembered a question that I wrote down from a podcast I heard a few weeks ago. It’s something I’ve asked myself repeatedly since, as a way to guide my actions , especially when I’ve felt a strong resistance to them – like my perceived need to keep up with my own work. 

The question was this:

“Am I making this decision because of love or fear?”

 – Dr Vivek Murthy

I felt it was such an insightful way of asking yourself why or why not you should do something – whatever that may be – as you go about your day. The more I contemplated it over the following weeks, the more I realised how powerful it was as a guiding force in keeping the values I hold close to my heart, clear in my mind. After all, I believe all our feelings and actions are driven, on a basis level, by one of these two underlying emotions. This question is a great way of bringing to light, exactly which one of these two emotions is driving your actions at any particular moment.

Am I doing this because of love or fear?

As I climbed into bed I asked my wife what her motives are for doing (she’s a yoga teacher FYI) what she’s been doing? Is it because she believes strongly in the cause, to help others, or does she feel pushed to perform, to be better because of some perceived need to prove something to others or, indeed, herself? Is it from, on some level, a feeling of inadequacy, of not being good enough as she is right now?

I went on to explain something that dawned on me about why my own motivation towards work had stalled so many times in the past. 

I never felt good enough. I was scared what others thought. I was scared that I would underperform and not be seen as good enough in the eyes of my coworkers. I was so scared of ‘being found out’ for who I thought I was. Of confirming a long help belief – a false one – that I wasn’t good enough. The same has been true of my writing.

Thinking back it’s no wonder my motivation died. It’s no wonder when I sat down to do the work I needed that it was such an enormous struggle. It felt like walking through quick sand as I ploughed ahead while fighting the stress, anxiety and sometimes, full blown depression, that had consumed my heart. 

If only someone had shouted, “you are good enough you fool – you know this – you’re just doing it for the wrong reasons!!”

Alas, I know that wouldn’t have helped. True insight and understanding has to come from within and that takes time. It has taken years to grow in my heart. It still is.


LOVE AS MOTIVATION FOR WORK & LIFE


The last six months – since the world of aviation has been brought to its knees because of the coronavirus pandemic – have given me, like countless others, plenty of time to reflect.

With regards to work I have come to realise that framing my motivations, to be clear that they are coming from a genuine place of love, is what I need to do. Whipping myself into shape doesn’t work in the longer term. It’s too hard.

As I explained to my wife, when I sit down to prepare for work, for a flight or simulator check, whatever it may be, the question I have started asking is, am I preparing from a place of fear or love? And, if I am feeling fearful, what is it that I’m really afraid of? Why am I doing what I am? If it’s because I feel the need to prove something, then I know I’m coming from the wrong place.

Of course preparing so you don’t fuck up in such a way that the flight ends in catastrophe is one way to think about things. Ultimately that’s our goal – Safety absolutely, rightly, comes first. However there’s a big difference between preparing or working from a place of all consuming fear, versus love. Even if you still feel fearful, if you’re coming from a place of genuine love, that will give you strength to carry on. To stare down the eyes of the beast. 

I relayed some of those loving motives, as they applied to me in my work, to my wife.

To honour and protect my fellow crew members whom I owe it to perform at my best as I know they are. To do my best for every single passenger we transport – to make sure they arrive at their destinations –  that they make it home safely to their loved ones. To remember I am providing for my own family through this job – that gives us everything we need to live a happy, healthy and secure life. To remember I love myself – self preservation because I want to be alive – so I can be around for my family and friends. So my wife has a husband to love her. So my son has a father to lead him.

There’s something else at this moment in time too. 

Although there isn’t a huge amount of flying to go around at the moment – I realised the small amount there is, is an opportunity to be part of something, to help in a way most others around the world can’t. To help bring the few people who need to travel for very urgent reasons. To help bring critical supplies, medical or otherwise, to areas of the world who desperately need it. To help the world keep turning to some degree at a time when it has all but ground to a halt!  It’s a gift to be able to do something more than simply stay at home during this pandemic. I know millions of others would give a lot for the opportunity to do the same. It’s something to be extremely grateful for.

While these might seem like obvious motivations, I can tell you they are easily lost, or have been for me at least, in a profession so heavily driven by perfectionism – to prove your competency, and that you know everything there is to know. The pressure to prove yourself isn’t part of the the job I relish. 

Yet, when I allowed myself to think in these terms, I found myself itching to get back into the righthand seat for the first time in a long time. To be a larger part of this fight against the coronavirus pandemic – even if that means I only get to fly a single sector. I want to help in any way I can. Through my wiring and my profession. 

I now realise just how important it is to remind myself of my real motives when I feel anxious, especially when plagued by self-doubt, to help refocus the mind and bring me back to the present.

Am I doing this because of love or fear?

As I relayed these thoughts to my wife that night, it was interesting to hear that for the charity classes she had been organising, from which she earned not a penny, she had felt none of this resistance. She believed in the cause strongly, for a number of reasons including bringing people together from their homes at this difficult time globally. So they too could do something more than just sit at home – to contribute to charities in need, while showing love to themselves. A beautiful act of self-compassion extending outwards.

It’s obvious isn’t it? She had been acting from a place of love and the motivation for doing so was effortless.


SOURCES:

Motivational Mondays – 17/08/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post! The only newsletter to rub your belly and pat your head at the very same time.

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

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to lighten your Monday blues… 

Love to all X


4 x Thoughts From Me:

Freedom demands we choose our responsibilities. The same way that having a life demands we protect it. If you want freedom of choice then you have to choose to take responsibility for your life. If you don’t someone else will choose your responsibilities for you. The danger is they will use that for their own profit and power by forming a narrative you refused to take responsibility for forming yourself. In doing so they will shut your mind from your heart. The moment that happens you’ve lost your freedom.

It’s not a matter of quality over quantity. I believe that quantity produces quality amongst a sea of mediocrity. The greatest artists produce far more average work than they do masterpieces. The point is though, they produce far more work.

It’s far easier to help those who actually ask for it. Very rarely can we help those that don’t. Don’t be afraid to put your hand up and ask.

When you’ve only suffered enough to know what misery is, but not enough to know what for, then you must endure a while longer. Keep searching for the meaning and you will find your salvation.


3 x Quotes From Others:

“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.” – Thucydides (Source: MAYALAND – ABSTINENCE)

 “How noble and good everyone could be if, every evening before falling asleep, they were to recall to mind the events of the whole day and consider exactly what has been good and bad. Then, without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day; of course, you achieve quite a lot in the course of time.” – Anne Frank

“Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor Frankl (Source: Vrunda Chauk – Taking Responsibility)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This interesting No Stupid Questions podcast episode – Are You a Maximizer or a Satisficer? with Steven Dubner and Angela Duckworth. In this episode Steven and Angela discuss whether it is better to be a Maximizer or a Satisficer and what is the best interview question to ask. Notes and quotes below.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Question #1: Is it better to be a maximizer or a satisficer?
  • Maximiser – when it comes to work a maximiser is someone who tries to become better and better. Someone who tries make the best of every decision. You’re looking for the absolute best outcome everytime.
  • Satisficer – someone who is happy to settle for good enough.  You’re looking to save time and energy.
  • Often being a Maximiser in a professional sense is a good thing but maybe satisfising for others things Satisficing might be a better approach? ie. when going for lunch. What is the opportunity cost for spending so much time researching the perfect place to eat, when you could just grab a bite and get back to work?
  • If you’re talking about your vocation or life partner? Sure let’s maximise. Choosing lunch? Maybe best to satisfise. 
  • Useful terminology for thinking clearly about what you want to settle for, versus what you want the best out of in life.
  • Studies found that in general Satisficers are happier. They are willing to settle for less. Maximisers perhaps never happy enough because it’s not possibly to maximise every decision all the time?
  • We become more of a Satisfiser the older we get. Is it because we let our standards slip? No – has more to do with choosing what to care about. Deliberating not caring about the rest.
  • Often maximising doesn’t lead to happier outcomes. Think about choosing from 24 different types of jam at the supermarket versus 3 different types. Sometimes it’s simply not worth trying to maximise all your decisions.
  • Question #2: What is the best interview question?
  • What do you hope to have achieved in 5 years and 10 years time?
  • Fermi question? Is a question where one is asked to make a quick estimate for something that is very difficult to measure accurately. Tests the ability to quickly approximate difficult calculations. 
  • Unstructured – where you basically have an informal conversation with someone. Danger of harming the interview process. Basing decision on personality versus actual credentials for the job.
  • Work sample. Where you give them a problem to solve. Asking a potential editor to go away and edit a manuscript for example. This is better
  • Meta question – Tell me the question I should ask you that’s going to make me hire you? 
  • It’s important to remember the interviewer wants the interviewee to succeed. 

2 – This fascinating article – The Truth About Clickbait, by George J. Ziogas. In it George explores the science behind how it works and what we can learn from it. This is well worth clicking on! Quote from the article below.

“If you think you’re above clickbait, think again... If you believe in your content, if you believe in what you do, then you have a responsibility to create clever headlines that will encourage people to read that information.


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

My wife came into our office this morning and asked if I would like her to make me a cup of oolong tea.

I looked up at her with a stupid grin on my face.

I said nothing.

“Is that a yes? No? Would you like a different kind of tea..?,” she continued.

My grin widened. I remained silent.

“Are you going to answer me or not!?,” she pressed, clearly sensing that something was up.

“I’m thinking,” I finally replied breaking my silence.

“This is going to take oolong time…”

My wife rolled her eyes before leaving the room.

I maintain this was a brilliant joke.

I received no cup of tea…


Till next week…

Have a Happy F***ing Monday Everybody!

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

One bonus question for you all:

What’s your favourite kind of tea?

(Please take your time deciding)


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

PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

Motivational Mondays – 10/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 03/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 27/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20

Motivational Mondays – 27/07/20

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

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

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

Love to all X

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


4 x Thoughts From Me:

Try not to simply think outside the box, but destroy it entirely. 

The need to be right is the ego equivalent of being on crack. It’s both extremely addictive and extremely damaging. 

Consider thinking less about making money and more about making friends. They can help you in a way that money can’t. How do you make the very best kind of friends? By helping others as a matter of course. 

Maybe we’ve got the order wrong. After school we tell our kids to go straight into university and then straight into a career. At which point so many of us wake up and realise we should have done something else entirely. What if, after school, we sent our children out into the real world so they can experience what it’s really like. To spend a few years getting by on minimum wage or doing volunteer work. To understand what it is to truly struggle. What if we gave them that sort of education first and then asked them what they want their life to be about?


3 x Quotes From Others:

“An eye for an eye will only make the world blind” – Mahatma Gandhi

“The important thing is not what we write but how we write, and in my opinion the modern writer must be an adventurer above all, willing to take every risk, and be prepared to founder in his effort if need be. In other words we must write dangerously.” – James Joyce

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” – Søren Kierkegaard


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This fascinating intelligence squared podcast episode –Sex Robots & Vegan Meat, with Jenny Kleeman and Carl Miller. In this episode award-winning journalist Jenny Kleeman discuses the unintended consequences future technologies might have for us in our quest to have the perfect sex, the perfect food, the perfect birth and the perfect death.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Sex Robots – “One person’s bright future is another person’s dystopia.”
  • Abyss creations is a multi millions dollar business that makes hyper realistic silicone dolls to have sex with. The man behind it is now introducing animatronics to the dolls to make them as human as possible. Moving towards becoming a companion as much as just a sex robot. 
  • The implications? Claim to be doing this for the lonely – those who have no chance at a real relationship. On the flip side it’s those people who might really need real human contact. Will this really help them?
  • For me the much bigger problem is that people will be able to have relationships where only what they want matters. When you have this sort of relationship where only one side is ever satisfied – real relationships in the real world are going to feel a lot more like hard work. 
  • Vegan meat – “We shut our eyes when we open our mouth.”
  • We know animals often live horrible lives to become our meat. They cause cancer and heart disease. They are a massive contributor to green house gas emissions. Yet it’s still not enough to prevent most of us from eating it. However if we carry on like this we are going to cause our own extinction. Something has to give. 
  • 2 directions we can go. 1 is to eat less meat. The other is to eat the same amount of meat but in another way. 
  • Many tech giants are looking at the second option of growing meat in laboratories. This is different to plant based meats such as impossible burger or beyond meat. What they do is take a culture from a live animal without killing it and then replicate the cells to grow meat. 
  • It’s based on the premise that the ethical argument for eating meat has failed. (As it so often does). It’s better to tell people to eat certain kinds of meat that are better for the environment.
  • Birth – “It was far easier to find people to say on the record they would like to have sex with a robot than it was to find someone say they would like to gestate a baby in a bag.”
  • Using artificial wombs to gestate a baby. Referred to as ectogenesis. The motivation is to improve outcomes for premature babies whereby you can place them back into an artificial womb till they are ready to come out instead of trying to keep them alive in an incubator. 
  • The invention is called the bio bag. It’s like a zip lock bag which they fill with man made amniotic fluid and a cord that attaches to the umbilical cord to oxygenate blood and get rid of carbon dioxide (They had very successful results with lambs back in 2017).
  • The scarier implications are if governments start deciding whether a mother can be trusted to gestate her own baby. Although it could be looked at as a great equaliser. Both sexes just supply what’s needed and the women don’t have to suffer in their careers as a result. 
  • However I feel this “weakness” that we have is something that men unequivocally don’t have. To harbour and carry life. It’s also a source of strength. The essence of what it means to be a women. I think if we give this up it may actually be more beneficial to men than to women. Even in the most misogynistic societies women are respected for their ability to give life.
  • These inventions are going to exist either way. It is up to us as to whether we buy them or not. 
  • The question to ask is do we really need this technology or do we already have the answers?
  • I found it empowering to realise that we already have the power in our hands. It’s just that it’s going to be harder work than just buying for something. But isn’t that what will make us stronger? 

2 – This fantastic TEDxFolkestone Talk with Tim Box on the importance of having anxiety and how to stop feeling anxious about anxiety. “What would the world look like if no one had anxiety? The truth is that anxiety is a necessary emotion that helps steer us towards happiness. I would like to explore what a world without anxiety would look like, and why that isn’t necessarily a good thing. How there are only two types of people free from anxiety; psychopaths and the dead.” If you struggle with anxiety the following is well worth your time:


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

I’m struggling for a good story this week folks so instead I’m gonna leave you with the following meme that sums up my feelings about racism and prejudice.


Till next week…

Have a Happy Fucking Monday Everybody!

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

One bonus question for you all:

Is it better to live as a coward or die as a hero?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 25/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 18/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 11/05/20

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

Are you lacking direction in life?

Not sure which way you should turn?

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

Like whether you should quit the job you hate?

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get into it.

The CLEAR model stands for:

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

Simple yet elegant I think you’ll agree.

Wherever did you come up with such a brilliant formula?

A great question Bob, thank you for asking.

The answer is I stole it of course!

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 – Unconscious rejection of conflicting data.

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

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

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

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

Another great question Bob!

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

Why not?

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

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

THE CLEAR MODEL AS APPLIED TO DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY:

1 – CLARIFY

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

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

Already we can see the importance of clarifying the problem.

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

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

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

Let’s continue.

2 – LOOK

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

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

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

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

Don’t resist them bob! Trust me.

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

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

Next.

3 – EVALUTE

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

What triggered my emotional state today?

What was it that caused my reaction?

What false belief or narrative are driving these feelings?

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

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

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

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

Moving on.

4 – ACT

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

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

Are you a therapist bob? No?

Worth a shot.

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

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

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

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

As Carl Rogers once said,

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

Moving on.

5 – REVIEW

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

Some questions you might consider:

How did that work out?

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

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

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

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

That’s all from me today Bob.

I hope this helped.

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


SOURCES:

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

MENTAL HEALTH HOTLINES/WEBSITES:

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

https://www.befrienders.org

https://www.samaritans.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you find this helpful.

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

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


The Story Of My Most Traumatic Experience As A Pilot

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was crunch time. 

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

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

Then I froze. 

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

I didn’t know what to do.

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

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

The rest is a blur. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fly The Aircraft To The Ground” – Some Closing Thoughts

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

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

You have to fly the aircraft to the ground.

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

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

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


For Additional Information regarding PTSD please follow the links below:

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

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

Other Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.