NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL – JULY 2020 – The Importance Of Crying, The Dangers Of Hoping, My Worst Landing As A Pilot and More…

Hello lovely readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter. Included is a round up of what I’ve been writing and reading, plus some closing thoughts from this month. I hope you enjoy!


WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING:

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

This post challenges the narrative that only girls should cry and why we need to stop telling our young boys that men don’t. It goes further to talk about the harmful narratives partially responsible for the statistic that men are 3 to 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women, despite being nearly half as likely to develop depression. I’m particularly proud of this one. I hope you can join the debate and be part of the change in narrative we need.

How Parents Can Promote The Evolution Of Feminism Mindfully

This follows on from the above post. It gives a few of my thoughts about why we need to be careful with what we tell ALL our children and how we, as parents, can manage the evolution of feminism more mindfully. As I stated,

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

How My Worst Landing As A Pilot Came To Define Me As A Person

The following is a personal 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. If anyone has suffered from depression, anxiety or PTSD, it also tells the story of how I overcame some of these personal struggles.

The Hopeless Nature Of Hoping

A rather one sided piece designed to challenge our perception of hope as an emotion. I believe that if hope doesn’t inspire action it can actually do more harm than good. Of course you have to take this one with a pinch of salt, but much of what I have to say is about challenging ideas and beliefs – not changing them. Even if I don’t completely agree with the argument, I still want to write ideas in such a way they start a dialogue/debate. I hope (ha) you enjoy.

The Secret Ingredient Missing From Every Conversation

Can you guess what that is? This post gives my thoughts on how one might better approach a conversation. This was actually my most popular post of the month. Hope you enjoy it too!

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

The CLEAR model is an easy-to-use, structured approach designed for problem solving on the flight deck of an aeroplane. Thought I’d share it with you lovely readers and apply it to problem solving – specifically dealing with depression and anxiety – in everyday life. Had a lot of fun writing this one.

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

I’m not sure whether I want my blog to be overtly political or not, but with everything going on I decided to vent some frustrations. I mean for most of my words to come from the heart but this one is very much from the gut. I remember feeling angry as I wrote this and decided to go with it. I actually wrote it back in early June following the death of George Floyd but was hesitant to post it then. In the end I decided it’s that very awkwardness we all need to be confronting more regularly. At any rate, I think it brings up a very good point about the need to look for honesty in our leaders.

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

A fun little post to finish. This one’s a doozy. Hope you enjoy.

Motivational Mondays

My weekly newsletter designed to rewrite the narrative that Mondays are the most depressing day of the week and to get you in the mood for the week ahead. 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 in the week that have helped me grow. It finishes with 1 something silly to designed to make you lovely readers smile. The link above was this weeks post. Below are from the rest of the month. Enjoy!

Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:

So I decided to purchase this e-course called Blogging Bootcamp from the genius behind The Art Of Blogging. To say this was money well spent is a massive understatement. If you want to further your blog, be a better writer and grow as an all round human being, Cristian’s blogging bootcamp has it all and then some. I highly recommend anyone remotely interested in being a better blogging to sign up. I promise you won’t regret it.


WHAT I’VE LEARNT:

Do you want to know why I’m so excited about the time we’re living in? Why I’m so optimistic? It’s because change is happening. Change that is necessary to ensure we don’t go back to what normal was because normal has stopped working. I believe we are about to embark on the great global revolution of our time.

COVID has been one almighty wakeup call but this is just the beginning. Look at how united and politically involved the younger generations are! The change that is coming is inevitable. It’s no longer a debate. We ALL need to change our ways and the way we think about each other. We need to stop thinking as individuals and start thinking as a collective.

As sure as shit one person can eat a bat in a wet market and bring the world to its knees, you best believe that every single thing you do matters. Every single moment, every single action you take has a ripple effect that extents far beyond your immediate self. We are more interconnected than ever before. This isn’t a bad thing provided we can see how hurting another ultimately hurts ourselves. Provided we can see how important and precious each moment on this earth is.

I believe we are nothing if not the people before us and we will be for nothing if we don’t fight for those who come after us. There’s still an almighty storm to weather but together I strongly believe we can get through it. If you don’t want to sink you need to be on the ship.

Thank you for reading guys and gals. As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. I’m very interested in having my beliefs and thoughts challenged so I can grow as a person. If you want to stroke my ego I won’t object either of course… Love to all. X

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

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

Hannah Arendt from her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism.

Let’s not blame each other.

Let’s not point the finger.

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

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

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

When did we stop valuing the truth?

Why did being right become so important?

How did being wrong become so unbearable? 

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

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

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

Let me be more blunt.

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

What the fuck has happened to our values?

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

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

Great fucking idea.

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

What the fuck are we teaching our children?

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

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

To ask difficult questions means to confront some difficult truths.

Here are a few.

Democracy isn’t failing. 

We have. 

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

It’s our fault. 

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

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

In that moment we all lost.

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

We. All. Are.   

None of our hands are clean.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will make ALL OF US STRONGER. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

THATS A GOOD THING EVEN IF IM WRONG.

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

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

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

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

NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL – JUNE 2020 – On The Value Of Honesty, How To Move Like A Winner, The Ultimate Form Of Taking Responsibility and More…

Hello lovely 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 my journal. 

I hope you enjoy!


WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING:

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

A letter I wrote to my son, 2 years ago now, before he was born. It shares a difficult life story demonstrating why I believe honesty to be such an important value. I posted it as a reminder after finding out my gorgeous wife is pregnant with our second. Although it’s addressed to the first this letter is for both of them. I also hope the rest of you lovely readers might gain something from what was one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn…

The Ultimate Form Of Taking Responsibility

Inspired by the following quote: “Enthusiasm is worth 25 IQ points” from Kevin Kelly‘s viral post ‘68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice.’ As I wrote, “We don’t alway get to do what we want to or, indeed, choose what life has in store for us. But if we make out that these things are what we wanted. That the struggle we find ourself in is what was meant for us, so we can learn and grow into the resilient mother fucker we were meant to be. Well, I suspect that such an attitude might just be the ultimate form of taking responsibility for your life.”

Move Like A Turtle, Move Like A Winner

Been experimenting a little on the blog this month. This is one example of a short post I had a bit of fun with.

An Apology To My Heart

Another short/experimental post inspired by my struggle with depression in the past.

People As Mirrors

A post inspired by my reading of Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh. In it I explore the idea of viewing people as mirrors and how that can help us reflect the best in each other.

What Does It Take To Find Inner Peace?

Another short ramble from yours truly.

Happy F***ing 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 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


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:

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!

This BBC article: A letter to our newborn American daughter.

Written by a foreign correspondent living in New York for his newborn daughter in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. It resonated with me for a number of reasons, in particular when thinking about the future our children will inherit from us. As he summarised, “It’s not your job to fix the world’s problems for us, it’s our urgent responsibility to fix them for you.” I hope we can all heed this message.


RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM MY JOURNAL:

Why parenting is good for you: You become comfortable covered in piss and shit. 

Every human mind should come with a warning label: Easily Infected With Bullshit 

When thinking in terms of being right you’ve lost. When thinking in terms of trying to be better you’re a winner. This is true regardless of the outcome. 

Forcing your views on others doesn’t make them right. 

Let’s not say we don’t believe in god because of science and then only choose to acknowledge the science that suits us. The truth is what matters, not your beliefs.

People reflect the world that surrounds them. They often act like mirrors. If the world stops paying attention to them they lose interest in it. If it treats them harshly they act out in anger. Pay attention to all those you encounter. They deserve it. Treat all with love and compassion. They need it. We all do.

Forget to-do lists. Make a get to-do list instead. 

The change the world needs from you is for you to change. Not for you to change the world. 

What if instead of asking our children, ‘What do you want to do when you’re older?’, we asked, ‘How do you want to help the world when you’re older?’.

The arguments you have in your head are pointless if you only have them with yourself. Speak up or let go.

There is a lesson for us in acceptance every time it rains. 

Sometimes you can stand in the rain, and be bathed in sunlight all the same. 

Laughing at someone else shows your own insecurity. Conversely laughing at yourself demonstrates confidence. 

Isn’t it funny how the most judgemental people are also the ones least capable of laughing at themselves?

One of the best ways to honour life is to love your own. 

A good time is worth far more than any material possession. 

What happened in the past no longer matters because it’s already done. What matters is that we make amends for our past in the present moment for the future world. 

Don’t allow the world to make you “normal.” You’re better than that. Trying to be “normal” like everyone else requires far too much effort anyway. Your natural self is far more interesting. Let him/her free instead.

If you want to be an expert at something it’s best never to consider yourself one. That way you’ll always be open to learning and growing. 

Why we need to give ourselves real problems – if you don’t have any real problems your mind will create them. Those problems – the ones created by the mind. They’re the hardest to solve. Give yourself real problems – to help others and the world at large – and your mind won’t be concerned with creating problems for itself. 

A good person implies something black or white. You either are or you aren’t. This fixes your mindset. You belief you’re a good person and go at lengths to avoid being proven otherwise. You also become defensive about that belief. You feel threatened whenever this comes into question and so avoid any sort of discussion or activity that might call that into question. You avoid the very conversations you need to hear so you may become a better person.

There’s always light at the end of a tunnel. Remember that when it’s at its darkest. 

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Hello fine readers and welcome to my Happy F***ing Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the shittiest day of the week. (Or at least start it off in a slightly less shit fashion.)

This week it contains 4 thoughts from me, 4 quotes from others and 3 things I’ve been reading, watching and/or listening to this week. 

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

Love to all X


4 x Thoughts I’ve Been Thinking:

If you want to be an expert at something it’s best never to consider yourself one. That way you’ll always be open to learning and growing. 

Why we need to give ourselves real problems: If you don’t have any real problems your mind will create them. Those problems – the ones created by the mind – are the hardest to solve. Give yourself real problems that are larger than you – such as helping others and the world at large – and your mind won’t be so concerned with creating problems for itself. 

Acting from a place of simply wanting to be better vs a place of feeling inadequate. There’s a big difference! In both cases you want to be better but if you’re trying to make up for something you feel you’re not, it’s much harder to actually do so.

A Better You = A Better World. 


4 x Quotes I’ve been Pondering:

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain.” Dolly Parton

“Reading is the nourishment that lets you do interesting work.” – Novelist Jennifer Egan

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin 

“Enlightenment is an accident – but meditation makes us accident-prone.” – American Zen Teacher Baker Roshi


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

1 – This Mark Hyman Podcast episode about How To Live In Flow-Motion. In this mini episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy Mark Hyman talks with Reverend Michael Beckwith and Dr. Andrea Pennington, about how we can connect to our highest selves. (I loved Rev. Michael Beckwith’s description of what he sees as the 4 stages of spiritual growth: ‘The first is the victim stage where everything happens to us. We are constantly looking to blame others for our lives – we cannot grow in this stage. The second stage is when we apply learned laws of the mind to the real world (we are accepting and taking responsibility for our reality by asking empowering questions). The third stage is the flow state (‘being in the zone’) – where our higher purpose acts through us. The forth stage is the being stage where we are act as one (with the wider world).’) The video version of this episode is posted below:

2 – This No Stupid Questions Podcast: Is Incompetence a Form of Dishonesty? In this episode Stephen J. Dubner and Angela Duckworth debate two questions: Question #1: Is it immoral to slack off at work when others are depending on you to do a good job? and Question #2: How valuable is it to have a personal mission statement? I found the debate on the latter particularly interesting. My notes and quotes from the show are below.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Often people have too much emotion around failing so avoid trying in the first place (instead of simply acknowledging mistakes without emotion and then seeking to understand/correct them). 
  • What do competence and honesty have in common? There is a standard and there is integrity. It matters if you reach it or fall short. 
  • There is a psychological phenomena where if you feel you have credit, morally speaking, in one area people feel they can slack off in another. (You ordered a Diet Coke so you can order super sized fries). This accounts to both incompetence and dishonesty. You’re telling yourself it’s good enough when it’s not. 
  • The problem is satisfising is not a great way to look at morality. You have a standard which is good enough as opposed to continually reflecting on how you can be better
  • Better is a better goal than perfect 
  • Perfect puts us off because we tell ourselves we can never attain that and so give up on simply being better in the first place. 

On having Top level goals (a personal mission statement): 

  • What is it? It’s a mission statement. It’s the why behind everything you do. What is the why behind everything you do? 
  • It’s important to be clear about your core principles and values. 
  • ‘Improve human kind’ is too abstract – A good mission statement should be a specific statement about the mission. 
  • There’s a trade off between abstraction and specificity. Too specific and there is no flexibility.
  • It can be very useful way to point your moral compass in the right direction.
  • A good top level goal helps better direct and prioritise low level goals (such as your todo list – which are more specific) 
  • “Use psychological science to help children thrive” – Angela’s Top Level Goal
  • “Everyday try to suck a little less” – Stephen’s Top Level Goal
  • In psychology we distinguish between Approach Motivation vs Avoidance Motivation. One you want to get better. The other is you want to fail less. 
  • Trying to eliminate mistakes is more motivational than trying to be better because the latter leads you to compare yourself with others. 
  • Top level goals are not necessarily needed for everyone especially if you have your priorities in order. However if you’re stuck or unsure of what direction to take in life it can help. 
  • Trying to say what you’re all about (10 words or less) can be a very valuable exercise. Particularly useful for leaders. 
  • If a top line goal or mission statement is well written in can help. But too vague and it’s lost. 

3 – This Intelligence Squared podcast episode: The Reckoning: Kwame Kwei-Armah and Idris Elba on the Arts and Black Lives Matter. Two leading voices from the arts, Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of the Young Vic, and Idris Elba, star of The Wire and Luther, discuss what should happen and is likely to happen in the world of culture as we move forward in the wake of the brutal killing fo George Flyod. My notes and quotes from the show are below.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • When you take away art you take away people’s voice. This becomes a pressure cooker for disaster. 
  • People need their voices. They need healthy ways to express their thoughts and feelings. It’s going to be an explosive time when people are allowed to express themselves again. 
  • When my 15 year old son asks if I can join the march despite the threat of covid I ask why. When he replies that a white knee on his neck and structural inequality are a bigger threat than covid what can I say? 
  • History often forgets what has comes before
  • It’s up to the older generation to be both inside and outside the house. To be encouraging the noise outside the house but also listen on the inside and make the changes needed to fix this. 
  • We must lead by example. Don’t wait for others to put their hands up. If you know the answer then speak. 
  • Knowing the answer is getting on with it.
  • Its easy to fixate on how bad the past was – to talk about our history. To look and marvel at how far we’ve come. But this can be self defeating for our future. 
  • We should always be thinking about where we are going 
  • Diversity of thought is so important. To have people who think completely different to you around you. To get you to think differently. 
  • How do we change the ratio of ethnicity in the work place? By diversity of thought. 
  • Art and artists. Everything is born of our imagination.  Everything. Look forward with your eyes open. 
  • If you want to make it in this world as a black mane you have to be twice as good as a white man. 
  • This intention is feeding a generation.
  • Telling our children to be twice as good has become a huge advantage because we have become multifaceted. We are no longer simply hustling on one front but multiple fronts. 
  • Our progress is coming home to roost. 
  • While our burden has become our strength and made us better it has come at a cost. We don’t want our children to keep growing up worrying about having to be twice as good and fight racial inequality. 
  • Change is coming but it isn’t going to happen over night. The mistake we’ve made is thinking the storm has passed. The storm is still here.
  • The future is alive and well in our children. Look – it’s already here! They are out and fighting. They already see themselves as a joint generation. We didn’t and they do. This is progress. Stay positive and believe in the change. Get on board. It’s happening. Get on board. If you don’t you’ll end up drowning. 

1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

We were talking to my parents over video call the other day when my mother apologised for arriving a little late. She explained she had been busy baking buns. Something she’d been doing a lot of recently. #covidlife

I said, “It sounds like you’re on a bit of a roll.”

I got the usual sarcastic moan. 

I continued, “It’s ok, I can see how it must be a lot of bun!”

The laughter was deafening…


Till next weeks terrible joke,

Happy Fucking Mondays Everybody!

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

One Bonus question for you all:

What ‘bun’ things have you been doing lately?


PREVIOUS HAPPY MONDAY POSTS:

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

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


Dearest Son,

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

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

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

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

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

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


BE HONEST WITH THOSE YOU CARE ABOUT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


HONESTY HELPS YOURSELF AND THOSE YOU LOVE

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

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

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

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

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.