“The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed. Proficiency and results come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity.” – Aldous Huxley “From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is … Read more Stalling: Why Letting Go is the Key to Regaining Lift
I have a love-hate relationship with thinking. Sometimes, I get in these kinds of flow states where I follow my train of thought – connecting the dots along the way – to an exciting, unexpected destination. When I follow my thoughts in this way, I find it euphoric. I often derive my best writing doing … Read more Stuck in the Clouds: An Aviator’s Guide to Pointless Overthinking
The seeds of doubt were planted at a young age. I can’t tell you exactly when, but I know it started in childhood. I was lead to believe I wasn’t capable, that I would struggle in this life. In particular, concerns surrounded my abilities in English. At first, my parents worried that I had a … Read more Why I Write
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman (Source: The Living Wisdom of Howard Thurman: A Visionary for Our Time) I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘what do you mean the ONLY … Read more The Only Thing The World Needs From You
So I hit a roadblock with my writing recently. I stalled. Ironically while writing a book about stalling and the need to let go to regain lift in life. Instead of doing that, I kept smacking my head against a brick wall.
I am the master of not following my own advice.
Eventually, I ceded defeat, downed tools, and went on the first holiday I’d been on in over 3 years. (No fucking joke!)
But as soon as I returned, I found myself in the same creative rut. I couldn’t let go of this question I’d been chewing on. And you’re going to laugh. Here it is: What’s the meaning of life?
Truth be told, it’s tortured me a great deal of late. It’s plagued me precisely because I’m struggling to answer that question for myself.
Of course, that’s why we ask it in the first place. Out of desperation – usually following some major life event or change – because we don’t believe our lives currently are.
But the moment we ask what it all means, we fall into a stupid trap. The goalposts only move further away. That’s because the question misses the point entirely. The purpose of meaning.
Meaning isn’t some cosmic truth destined to come to you in the middle of the night (you can go back to sleep now). That’s because meaning is a mental construct.
That means (ha) meaning is something we give to life. It’s something we instill. It’s something we have to cultivate. The meaning of life, therefore, is to cultivate meaning. The purpose of meaning is to give us purpose.
So that’s problem one solved.
Don’t ask what the meaning of life is; instead, think in terms of answering it. But how on earth are we supposed to do that? How do we even begin to determine what the right path for us might be?
The brutal truth is this: We don’t know. We can’t know.
The only way to find out is to make a plan and then take a bold step in that direction. Only then will you know if you’re at least heading in the right direction, generally speaking, or if you need to pick a different path altogether. Even then, you still need to course correct. It’s not just the mountain we choose to climb that matters, but the pathway up it.
The big issue with this is the time and effort required. The older you get, the more you feel you must get it right. You don’t want to spend another 10 years in a career that isn’t right for you. If you’re going to go through the arduous process of climbing another mountain, you better make sure it’s the right one.
Yet, the issue remains. We can only know if it’s the right mountain once we start climbing. Even then, it takes a while. Only after we’ve done most of the hard yards – after we’ve completed our degree and gotten a job or climbed up the corporate ladder – will we know for sure.
When I started climbing the aviation mountain, I gave it very little thought. It seemed obvious to me that that was the mountain I should climb. I wanted to travel the world, and being a pilot was a fantastic way to do it.
Now my motivations have changed. I want to pursue a path of deeper meaning. But I’m having the usual unrelenting doubts. Should I return to the safety of the mountain I’ve already climbed? I have two kids now. A mortgage to pay. The choice seems more complex than it once was. The risks seem more significant, the rewards less certain.
This is at the heart of my writer’s roadblock. I’m seeking answers to questions I can’t know until I put one foot in front of the other. Until I take that bold step into the unknown.
The alternative is to keep smacking my head against a brick wall. At the very least, I know that isn’t working.
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my high-flying newsletter! The only newsletter that tells you the meaning of life is up to you…
Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good!
“To suffer without meaning is the very definition of torture.”
“When we instil the present moment with meaning – when we see the deep meaning inherent in it – we fall into it. The past and the future melt away. Meaning in the present is our pathway to peace.”
“Meaning is the antidote to an inherently meaningless existence. We need meaning to give ourselves a psychological footing to stand on. We need meaning to make sense of an incomprehensible universe. We need it to feel that life is worthwhile despite the fact it all ends with our inevitable demise. Despite the crushing weight of existence. This is how we keep the existential worm at the core at bay. Meaning gives us the mental footing we need to prevent us from falling into the psychological abyss.”
“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.”
— Vladimir Nabokov
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
The reason an aeroplane flies is because of something known as the four forces of flight. Those are thrust, lift, weight and drag. Thrust counteracts drag, whereas lift counteracts weight.
If the forces of lift and and thrust are greater than the forces of weight and drag your aeroplane will climb, if they are less you will descend. When they are balanced, well, then, Bob’s your uncle.
That means your flying straight and level – sitting pretty while cruising at your optimum altitude. Thanks Bob.
Here’s a nice picture:
Now, let’s imagine you’re sat fat, dumb and happy, at your optimum cruising level, with all four forces in perfect harmony, when, all of a sudden, for reasons that Bob can’t understand, you bring the thrust back to idle.
Now, let’s pretend, for reasons that Bob really can’t understand, you decide you want to stay at your cruisy cruising level, despite the fact you brought the thrust back to idle.
How do you do that?
Well, the only thing you can do is pitch up. You must increasingly pitch up to counteract the loss of energy so that the sum of the four forces remain equal.
The problem with this is, by pitching up, although you increase lift, you also increase drag. Unless you come to your senses and increase thrust, you will continue to lose energy.
If you keep pitching up in desperation, eventually you will reach a critical angle of attack (the direction of the aerofoil relative to the airflow) where the air starts to separate from the top of the wing resulting in a substantial loss of lift.
This is what’s known as the stall.
When this happens Bob is no longer your uncle. In fact, Bob is fucking furious. (It’s possible he may be the Captain.) The only way to make Bob happy again is to do the one thing you don’t want to. Unless you have enough thrust to blast off into space (and you don’t), you must pitch the nose down.
You must bring the angle of attack down in order to regain lift. You must come back to earth – you must sacrifice height for energy. It’s the only way to recover from a stall.
As you might have guessed, this isn’t just a crucial lesson for aviators but all of us. Which leads us to the first critical life lesson and the central thesis of my (soon to be) high-flying book:
When we stall in life the only way to regain lift is to let go. We must let go so we can find our feet again in the present. So we may accept and face our reality as it stands. This is what grounds us. We let go of what we can’t control in order to regain control of what we can.
Now, hold on to your pilots hat because I’m about to take this analogy to new heights!
The Four Forces of Life
As it happens there are – broadly speaking – four forces that act on you at anyone time. These are known (by Bob at least) as the four forces of life.
They work, of course, just like the four forces of flight. Those are your health (which is equal to thrust), purpose or meaning (which is equal to lift), responsibility (which is equal to weight) and life itself (which is equal to drag).
Just like an aeroplane, when the forces of health and meaning are greater than the forces of responsibility and life, the human aeroplane that is you, will climb. If it is less, you will descend.
If they are balanced, well, then you’ve found the sweet spot. You have full health and enough meaning to carry the weight of your responsibilities. You’ve achieved that tricky thing known as life balance.
Here’s another pretty picture:
Now, let’s imagine you suddenly lose your health. Maybe you get ill or suffer a depilating disease or break you leg. What ever it is, suddenly you don’t have the capacity to carry on to destination. Does that mean you’ve stalled? No, although it can lead there if you try to soldier on. What it does mean is you need to come back to earth pronto!
It’s like when Captain Sullenberg ingested birds in both his engines. Did he stall? No, but he suddenly became a big-ass heavy-weight glider. That meant he had to come back to earth, and fast.
He understood how crucial it was to let go of everything that wasn’t absolutely pertinent to the emergency at hand. Had he not had that clarity of purpose – had he not been able to accept what had happened – well, the end result may well have been much worse.
Stalling in Life
So, what do I mean, exactly, when I use the term stalling in life. What causes us to stall?
Well, meaning. Fundamentally, the reason we stall in life is because we’ve lost meaning. Meaning in what, you say? Well, the present. Your current circumstances. Life as it stands.
The reason we lose meaning is because we’re clinging to something. Ironically it’s often an outdated belief that we’re unable (or refuse) to let go of. A belief that clashes with our current reality. This prevents us from instilling or finding new meaning in what currently is.
When I ended my 12 year career in aviation and left the city I’d called home for most of my life, that resulted in a substantial loss of lift. Did I stall? You bet your bottom dollar I did! Letting go of that was one of the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But, of course, I had to. I had to let it go in order to find meaning in my current circumstances. My present reality.
As it happens, this is why I’m writing this book. It’s part of my stall recovery. I’m not only letting go of my past in the process – I’m subsuming that past and including it as part of my present day narrative. It’s the whole idea for this (soon to be) high-flying book. It’s so fucking meaningful to me, so fucking poetic, I could cry.
Not only is this important, as I will attempt to argue, it’s absolutely necessary. We must continually replace meaning in our lives. We must let go of old limiting beliefs and update them with new, slightly less limiting, ones. We must keep doing this. We must keep dying to ourselves over and over and over again.
But, and this is a big but, there’s a deadly important caveat. Not only do we need to instil meaning in our lives, ultimately we need to learn to transcend meaning altogether. We need to see through meaning itself.
We need to let go and take control – we need to transcend and give meaning – at the same time.
Now, I’m going to circle back to this particular paradox and the question of how, but first it’s important to understand why. Why it is we all find it so damn hard to let go. What it is at our core we’re unable to come to terms with.
I suggest you buckle up boys and girls. Turbulence is forecast.
This is part one of a series of posts on the subject of stalling in life.
She became controlling. She tried to stop me from having an opinion. She even tried to stop me from seeing other people!
In the end it was too much. I decided she wasn’t the right lady to spend the rest of my life with. So, as painful as it was, I filed for divorce.
But what are you supposed to do after such a long relationship? How are you supposed to cope? Should you jump in bed with the next city you find? Should you return to a former lover? Or, should you take some time to have a bit of fun and clear your mind?
I’ve really enjoyed my short time in Singapore so far. I think part of the reason is because I’ve come in with few expectations. Because I’ve taken a no-strings-attached approach.
First impression are good. I’ve very much enjoyed exploring her green leafy back streets in my spare time.
This is, incidentally, one of my favourite pastimes. Usually, before a layover, I would do an inordinate amount of research into places I want to eat.
I would star many of these obscure eateries (often in the middle of nowhere) on google maps. Then I would create a kind of walking foodie tour by connecting the dots.
I would walk far and I would eat well.
It’s something I’ve sorely missed during the past few years of endless quarantine. So, to make up for lost time, that’s what I’ve been doing since I arrived in Singapore.
I’m ecstatic to report that she’s an exceptional chef.
Honestly, the relationship wouldn’t last long if she wasn’t. When it comes to cities, the best way to my heart is through my stomach!
Still, nowhere is perfect and Singapore is no exception. Her parents – namely the government – are known to be particularly heavy handed when punishing certain offenders. That may well be a flag longer term.
With that said, the people here feel looked after for the most part. They have access to cheap affordable housing, excellent medical care and world class education.
Of course, they rinse the expats to make that possible. She ain’t a cheap lady to please! The cost of a beer is enough to make any man cry themselves to sleep. Mainly because he can’t afford to have a beer.
But back to the positive. She’s feels far more relaxed – far more family friendly – in comparison to Hong Kong. That’s certainly something I’m looking for at this stage of my life.
Although it occurs to me that maybe Singapore feels more relaxed because I am? Now that I’ve settled down, not that I’m together with my family again – after a very busy, stressful divorce.
Perhaps I’m simply projecting my feelings onto the place?
At any rate, I don’t care. I’m enjoying myself. The last thing I want to think about is whether or not I will (or should) be here in 5 to 10 years time. We can save that particular conversation for a later date.
For now, I just want sit back, relax and enjoy this fine Singapore fling.
I’ll finish by asking you one of my all time favourite questions: what is your favourite city in the world and why?
We’re all looking for that Goldilocks position in life. That ultimate purpose specifically suited to our own unique talents and values.
Of course, we want to maximise our potential to do the most possible good. This is why many of us have this gnawing sense that the job we’re in isn’t quite right.
We feel like we are meant for something else, something more.
I didn’t pay much attention to my nature during adolescence, that critical life period when we are supposed to decide what we want to do forever and always. I simply did what I was told I should. Which was anything but the creative subjects I truly loved.
So I took a random collection of other subjects that left me increasingly confused about my future. Then I studied history for reasons I honestly couldn’t tell you, and then I decided to become an airline pilot.
Becoming a pilot was, at least, based on something I was passionate about. Traveling the world. Nothing satisfies my soul more. Still – and this is important – I didn’t become a pilot to fly aeroplanes.
In a sense, this has been a blessing. It’s placed a spotlight on the person I am.
And the person I’m not.
I believe this is why so many of us have joined the great resignation. And why many others feel incredibly burnt out.
We settle into a job. We get comfortable with it – we know we can do it and do it well – so we preserve with it even though we know it isn’t quite right. We keep pushing the boulder uphill.
But you can only fight your nature for so long before it catches up with you. At some point, you have to make a choice: You can either take a chance on the person you are or kill the person you are.
If you let that inner spark go out it can be very difficult to find the strength to fly again.
As I embark on the next chapter of my life, I mean to take a chance on the person I am. I mean to honour my inner child in the hope that I may do the most possible good with the gifts I have been given.
To inspire others through creativity.
As I embark on this journey, I want to take you along for the ride. I want to show you how to increase your self-understanding. I want to help you specialise in who you are so you don’t feel out of place anymore.
So that together, we may fly free in the knowledge we are exactly where we are meant to be.
If you think back to the Middle Ages and compare what we know now to what we thought we knew then, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that we weren’t terribly smart. That most of what we thought we knew about the world was patently wrong.
It seems obvious to us now that the earth revolves around the sun (and not the other way around), that sperm doesn’t contain tiny people inside them (I kid you not), and that cats aren’t doing the devil’s work (and that we don’t have to go around executing them).
If you think back to when you were a kid or a teenager or the idiot you were one year ago – you’ll probably come to a similar conclusion. You’ll look back and laugh thinking, “I can’t believe I actually thought that!”
Hopefully, as you’ve gotten a little older you’ve come to realise that you still don’t know very much. But crucially, you know you don’t know very much. You know that the more you know the more you know you don’t know.
Hopefully you’ve come to see that we never gain a complete picture or arrive at an absolute truth for ourselves or the world around us – rather, we only ever become a little less wrong. We simply chip away at our rock-place beliefs and find slightly firmer ground to stand on over time.
And I’m fairly certain (although I could be wrong) that this is the right approach to life.
Not to think in terms of being right, but in terms of trying to be a little less wrong than the person we were yesterday. That way it won’t bother you as much when you are. That way you’re more willing to challenge your beliefs in order to come to a greater understanding.
I think it’s helpful to think of life like an experiment where:
Our beliefs are hypotheses.
Our actions and behaviours are experiments.
Our emotions and thought patterns are data.
We can go about making experiments based on our new hypotheses and comparing that data to our original beliefs/previous experiments. Then we can integrate the results into our overall understanding about ourselves and the world we live in.
I believe this approach works well because you’re not starting with an old belief and trying to validate it. You’re starting with the experiment – being open to the experience – and then interpreting the results in order to gain a clearer picture. This allows your beliefs to evolve and grow over time.
The problem with asserting that our original hypothesis must be right is you end up locking yourself into a career or marriage that isn’t. You don’t allow yourself the flexibility to adapt over time. Your need to be right prevents you from growing.
We often think the reason we don’t change our lives is because we’re afraid of failure, but it’s more than that. We’re afraid of confronting the fact we might be wrong. We’re afraid of confronting our beliefs. If I change careers I’ll be confronted with the false belief that I’m not capable of doing something else. So I refrain.
The problem with this is we end up sacrificing our longer term happiness for shorter term comfort. Over the long run this is extremely costly. Choosing comfort now leads to greater unhappiness later on. Choosing discomfort now, on the other hand, leads to a greater understanding of oneself later on.
That’s why I suggest you ask yourself what you were wrong about today? What have you always been wrong about? (It’s best to assume most things.) Then think up ways to experiment and test any new hypotheses you come up with the following day.
I’m confident that if you do, you’ll find you definitely are wrong. I’m confident that you’ll find you’re wrong the following day too. In fact, I’m confident that you’ll find you’re wrong in some way, shape or form, everyday for the rest of your life.
But that’s ok. Because I’m also confident you’ll see your life improve immeasurably. You’ll see it’s only by being wrong that our life does improve. You’ll see that life really is a series of trials and errors.
Those who are brave enough to keep falling flat on their faces, who are brave enough to keep making a fool of themselves, will end up living the best of lives. At the end of it all – just like those who, several hundred years from now, will look back at the way we live our lives and laugh – you’ll look back and laugh about how stupid you were.
But, you’ll also be proud of the fact that you were always willing to be wrong – that you were always willing to fall flat on your face. You’ll smile and realise that although you never arrived at any absolute truth for yourself or the world at large – you had a bloody good time trying.
You’ll realise that this was, at least, the right way to live.
We don’t always end up where we intended in life. Sometimes, we are made to divert long before reaching our final destination. Other times we may complete the journey only to find the airport is closed on arrival, forcing us to divert at the last moment.
Whether it’s some kind of emergency or our own health that forces us to come back to earth, the reasons are often out of our control. Sometimes, however, we divert because we realise the flight we’re on isn’t taking us where we want to go. We admit the journey itself isn’t what we wanted after all.
This can be a difficult decision to make when you’re already cruising at a comfortable level. A level that you worked hard to reach. The thought of coming back to earth and climbing back up again can be off-putting. Any decision to divert – especially if the possibility of continuing exists – shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I’ve had thoughts about diverting from my profession for a while now. A decade of long-haul flying has taken its toll. I realise that another decade in this job might cost me significantly – if it hasn’t already. The risk to my health is something that plagues my mind.
I haven’t left yet because, well, I’m also scared of what might happen if I do. I’m scared about what a career change might mean for my children, for the quality of life I can provide for them. I’ve also been comfortable.
My job – pre-pandemic, at least – has been decent. It’s not only paid the bills but allowed me to have a wonderful lifestyle. I have traveled the world many times over. Outside of work, at least, it has given me everything I wanted. Although I despise flying through the night, I do enjoy flying aeroplanes.
For all of the above, I told myself to keep going. To grit it out and get my command first. Achieve that, collect my four bars, and then move on. That way, I’ll have achieved everything I wanted and still have time left on the clock to pursue something else.
I figured this would also allow me to work towards a second career in my spare time – to make for an easier transition before I close this chapter of my life.
That was the flight plan.
Unfortunately, things have changed. The journey has become much more turbulent. The ride is approaching unbearable. The forecast at destination is looking increasingly dicey too.
The truth is, there is no life here for aircrew at the moment. So long as this madness persists, there is no escaping it either. Getting home is an impossible task because of the quarantine restrictions coming back in.
We’re boxed in. The choice is to either stay and endure or leave for good – to divert sooner than intended. At the moment, I’m weighing the cost of security in the form of a pay cheque against my mental and physical health. Also, against the cost of not leaving a place I feel an increasing dissonance towards.
But what is the cost of one’s aliveness anyway? What is the price of feeling free? Must we not make enormous sacrifices for it? Do my children not need that more? Do they not need to see me make those sacrifices even? To understand if you value freedom, a pay cheque can often work against you.
The truth is – you know it – the decision in my heart has already been made. Right now, I’m in the process of formulating a plan before I execute my diversion – just short of the destination I had in mind.
I am scared.
I realise it’s ok to acknowledge that. But, like Winston Churchill once said, you have to be willing to leave the shore to explore new oceans. Of course, that’s going to leave you stranded at sea for a while.
But, that’s exactly what an adventure is. The human spirit can only be made in adventure. Provided I back myself to navigate the tricky waters ahead, I believe I can teach my children something that no amount of money ever will: what it really means to live.
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my weekly newsletter! The only newsletter that reminds which direction earth is whenever you’re up looking at the stars…
Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe).
3 x Thoughts:
1)Your values aren’t what you say they are. Your values are what you do. They’re what you embody.If you binge watch Netflix every night, that is something you value. Living and acting in accordance with our values is what gives our lives meaning and raises self-esteem. Saying what we believe is right but acting otherwise does the opposite.
2) There’s a big difference between treating people the same and forcing equal outcomes.
3) Sometimes doing what is right feels good as well, and that makes things easy. It’s also true that what is bad sometimes makes us feels bad too. More often than not, however, what feels good and what is right don’t align. Conversely what is wrong but feels good does. At least initially. The trick here is acknowledging and being kind to how we feel now, while reminding ourselves how things will feel/be in the future. Another trick is reminding yourself what will happen if you fail to act in accordance with your values. You want an idea to run away from as much as you want a goal to run towards.
2 x Quotes:
“Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.”
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays!
Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.
3 x Thoughts:
1) Growth for growth’s sake isn’t enough. Why do you want more money? Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want more followers on Twitter? You need to define your values first and foremost.
2) The truth hurts initially but makes you stronger in the long run. A lie feels good to begin with but ultimately hurts much more.
3) Prioritising the things you value the most means learning to let go of everything else. That means understanding that everything you don’t pay attention to will get messy. It means embracing chaos in certain areas of your life. A happy, loving, laughter-filled day with my children means a chaotic household – I can tell you that right now! The point here is about perfection. Perfection and balance don’t work together. Attempts at having a perfect life will ruin your chances at having a balanced one.
2 x Quotes:
““The things you run from are inside you.”
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
– Mark Twain
1 x Question:
This BBC work-life article:How workers are re-defining professional ambition. As someone who has been reevaluating his own career ambitions, I found this article to be particularly interesting. Quote, “We’re not necessarily becoming less professionally ambitious, experts say, but our collective understanding of ambition – as a concept in the context of work – is evolving into something less standardised, more subtle, increasingly personal and often quite complex for employers wedded to tradition to understand.”
When you throw a paper aeroplane you give it thrust. On a conventional aeroplane thrust is generated by a propeller or jet engine that pulls air in and pushes it out in the opposite direction.
The forward motion of the aeroplane causes air to pass over the wings. Because of the camber of the wing, this creates a pressure differential that sucks the wings upward. This force – namely lift – is what holds an aeroplane in the air.
Counter to these forces are drag and weight.
Drag is the resistance the aeroplane meets as it flies through the air. Weight is the force caused by gravity that pulls the aeroplane toward the earth. Thrust counteracts drag, whereas lift counteracts weight.
Now, if lift and thrust are greater than weight and drag, your aeroplane will climb. If they are less, it will descend. If they are balanced, your aeroplane will remain in level flight.
Here’s an awesome diagram:
The Four Forces of Living
To rename the four forces of flight, we can say that the four forces of living are Health, Purpose, Life & Responsibility.
Just like an aeroplane, these forces counteract one another. Health (Thrust) counteracts Life (Drag), whereas Purpose (Lift) counteracts Responsibility (Weight).
Instead of an aeroplane, of course, it’s you that’s stuck in the middle.
Here’s another awesome diagram:
Now, we can say that we’re out of balance when the forces of life and responsibility are much greater than the other two.
This usually happens for one of two reasons.
The first comes from trying to avoid drag and weight altogether, preventing you from getting airborne in the first place (or out of bed). At the other end of the balance scales are those who carry far more than they’re capable of, causing them to stall.
From experience, I believe the latter is a far better place to be. The way I see it, having too much on your plate is a good thing. It means your life is already filled with purpose and meaning.
That’s half the battle.
Once you’re off the ground (which is the hardest part) balance becomes a question of priorities. Understanding exactly what we should pay attention to and what we should let go of.
With that in mind, let’s tackle these issues from the ground up by looking at what it takes to get airborne in the first place.
Thrust vs Drag
Life is drag.
Getting out of bed in the morning is drag. Making your breakfast, brushing your teeth, taking your dog for a walk, Donald Trump… all of these things are drag.
What I mean is, anything and everything you do will always involve a certain amount of energy to overcome. It is unavoidable. No matter how streamlined your aeroplane is, you will always encounter resistance.
The problem with attempts to avoid drag is it makes us weaker. Of course, this makes everything much harder. We need to test ourselves – to actively meet the resistance of life – to gain strength from it.
Just like lifting weights in the gym causes us to gain muscle mass. By meeting the resistance of life, we gain strength from it. As we gain strength, over time, we’re able to climb higher. The higher we climb in life, the less resistance there is, the easier it becomes.
Badda bing badda boom.
So, how do we meet the resistance of life?
We meet the resistance of life by targeting the very thing that creates the most drag: your health.
The better your health is, the more energy you will have, the greater your ability to face and overcome life’s obstacles.
Thrust is more critical than lift.
Theoretically, with enough thrust, you can climb without generating any lift – like a rocketship. It’s impossible to get off the ground without it. That isn’t true of lift. Lift needs thrust to get off the ground. That’s why, as everyone likes to say, there is nothing more important than your health.
Health is thrust.
This is where we must start if we want to maintain balance.
How to Increase Thrust
The four pillars of health are rest (sleep), fuel (diet), movement (exercise) and mental health.
Let me break each of those down for you.
Prioritise your sleep.
The most productive thing you can do is prioritise your sleep and then build your life around it. Here are a few top tips from yours truly.
An aeroplane needs to fly the same way a car needs to be driven. If you leave your car in the garage for too long, it’s going to create problems. We are designed to move. I suggest a mixture of weight lifting, core exercises, cardio, and yoga.
Of course, if you hate going to the gym, then don’t. Find something you enjoy. I love to swim and play tennis. I also love to go for long walks in my local park. I find few things calm my mind as well.
The most important thing is that you make exercise a habit.
If you really find yourself struggling for motivation, consider following along to an online exercise video from the comfort of your living room floor.
All of the above are intrinsically linked to your mental health; however, there are other tools worth implementing.
The main forms of personal therapy I use are meditation, yoga, and journaling. I also earmark a half-hour to talk to my wife about any concerns or feelings I have every evening without fail.
Having someone you can talk to who you can trust when shit gets serious is SO DAMN IMPORTANT.
Lift vs Weight
Responsibility is weight.
You cannot avoid it. You didn’t ask for this life, but here you are anyway. Now you have a fundamental responsibility to love, honour, and protect that one life.
So many struggle against their responsibilities – desperately wishing they didn’t have to deal with them. Yet, our responsibilities indirectly generate lift. The same way an aeroplane takes cargo and passengers onboard. That “weight” pays for the fuel which generates thrust and then, consequently, lift.
Now, you might think the fewer responsibilities you have, the lighter you will feel, the more able you’ll be to climb. To a certain extent, this is true. We need to be careful about how many responsibilities we choose to take on – depending on our capacity – for that reason.
It’s important to stress that if you make all of the world’s problems your own, you’ll never take off.
However, an absence of responsibility isn’t freedom. An absence of responsibility isn’t anything. It’s like an absence of weight. There’s no aeroplane in the first place. To avoid responsibility is to avoid life itself. To try to live in its absence will leave you feeling void.
The major difference between responsibility and purpose is perspective. You will always have responsibilities. Understanding how they serve your greater purpose helps you find the motivation to take them on. This is what turns your responsibilities into a source of lift.
Of course, purpose is the thing that gets you up and moving in the morning. It’s the things in your life that give you both joy and hope.
Purpose is lift.
How to Generate Lift
Wherever you are in life, it’s essential to remain grounded. The only place we live is here and now. To constantly wish you had arrived at your destination is to miss the part we call life – that would be a far greater tragedy than not making your destination. That’s why, as a mantra for life, one should always start with radical acceptance.
I like to think of radical acceptance in terms of three pillars:
The first is present moment awareness.
The second is universal compassion.
The third is gratitude.
Meditation is an excellent tool for all of the above. I also use several mindful hacks throughout the day to keep my monkey mind from getting lost in the clouds. Writing in a gratitude journal is another habit that’s worth implementing.
Without harping on for too long, I can highly recommend the following book: Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
Build a Moral Compass
This is something you should prioritise long before you start setting goals. I suggest you design your own moral compass by listing out a set of values that mean the most to you and then listing those in order of personal significance.
I then suggest you think about the identity you want to form based on your set of particular values. Following that, you want to build habits that reinforce this identity. (i.e., a loving father and husband who makes time for his family every day, a person who prioritises his own health by meditating and exercising every day, a person who writes every day).
Once you’ve done that, you can start thinking more about the destination by setting some short and long-term goals. Just keep in mind that it’s far more important to embody the person you wish to be today than it is to achieve anything in the long run.
After all, shit happens, and rarely if ever, in this life, we end up at the destination we had in mind.
If your battle is with mental health, then make that part of your purpose in your life. If you have suffered a major affliction, draw on that pain to help others who have suffered/are suffering similarly. I believe this is one of the most powerful ways to generate lift in life. You can apply this idea to almost all areas of your life.
Take having children as an example. They are a significant source of lift in my life, but they are also a considerable weight. I can either look at them as a weight or actively choose to take them on board – to make it my mission to help raise a generation of resilient, responsible, and virtuous children.
Need I say anymore?
Remove Unnecessary Baggage
Many of us carry baggage we really shouldn’t. Usually, that baggage is other people’s bullshit that has found its way into our minds. Once again, becoming clear about your values will help here. Know what is truly important to you and then not giving a fuck what anyone else thinks.
I also recommend living a simple life. Be happier with less. Spend the money on a few high-quality products/hobbies that give you a considerable amount of joy instead of mindlessly consuming things you don’t need because it’s a “good deal.”
This applies to people too. Form close relationships instead of lots of superficial ones. Find the people you love and trust. Cut out the toxic individuals that aren’t serving you.
Make time for the things and people you love.
Doing the things you have to do but don’t want to makes you feel less guilty about doing what you love. To turn that on its head, doing what you love gives you the energy to do the things you have to but don’t want to.
As part of harmonious life, you must make time for the things you love. Whether that’s reading, playing video games, or socialising… Don’t neglect fun. Don’t neglect joy. Don’t neglect being silly and spontaneous. Don’t neglect your sense of adventure. Try new restaurants, dance in the rain, fart and laugh about it.
Occasionally say fuck it to all of the above and just go with the flow.
You definitely need that.
Maintaining Straight and Level
Your day-to-day journey, just like life itself, should follow a similar pattern. At first, you should apply more thrust to overcome the forces of drag and weight. You should reduce the thrust and glide gently back to earth towards the end of the day.
As for maintaining straight and level flight, the rest of the time, I don’t believe it should feel like this almighty struggle – like everything has a threat level response attached to it.
When you encounter turbulence, you shouldn’t fight it. You should take a seat, ride it out, and then gently fly your bird back to your desired track and level.
If you really do feel like you’re stalling, there is only one thing for it. You must push the nose down to regain lift. Don’t, whatever you do, keep pitching up in desperation. Heed the warning signs and let go of the controls.
The truth is maintaining balance is a state of mind. One that is firmly grounded in the present moment. It is about going with the flow and dissolving the boundaries that separate work from play, life from death, purpose from responsibility…
It’s important to have a destination in mind, but it’s equally important we don’t get hung up on it. As cliche as it is to say, life is about the journey, not the destination.
Take care of yourself today. Tackle your most pressing responsibilities today. Get rid of any unnecessary baggage. After that, learn to go with the flow and enjoy the journey.
If you can, then you really will fly free.
You can find more of AP2’s writing at the following:
Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.
As a bonus I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good.
2) It’s one thing to learn from guilt – to use that to make you a better person. It is a whole other thing to let guilt tell you you’re not capable of being a better person. Failingto see that difference really is a crying shame.
“All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
– George Orwell
“Aging is the extraordinary process of becoming the person you were meant to be.”
1 x Thing:
This very interesting BBC article by David Robson: Why introverts didn’t actually ‘win’ lockdown. The article challenges the preconception that introverts would thrive in lockdown conditions. As it turns out, quite the opposite is true. Well worth the quick read! Quote below:
“Introverts tend to experience more intense emotions, and they find it harder to regulate those feelings and to adjust to new situations. This means they tend to have poorer emotional wellbeing. Such tendencies may have made them more vulnerable to the stress of the pandemic.”
1 x Joke:
Another aviation themed far side comic for you all this week. I hope you enjoy!
Thanks ladies and gentlemen, I’m here all week! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know in the comments section below.
Sorry! Sorry! That was a bit harsh. It sounded cooler in my head. Let me try again.
“Hasta la vista, baby”, “Yippie ki yay, motherfucker!”
Damn it! Sorry! I did it again. One more time.
“Prepare yourself for death… motherfucker!”
I’m sorry, I just… I can’t help myself. I have a problem.
Anyway, what Iactually want to say is, come to terms with your own mortality.
Imagine it. Embrace it even. Picture your loved ones dying. Picture yourself slowly turning into dust. Become acutely aware of the fact that you, and everything you hold dear, are going to die.
Now, you might think I’m one crazy motherfucker for suggesting something so morbid – you might think that contemplating death will make you unhappy, however, studies have shown the opposite to be true. Those who deliberately stare into the abyss actually foster a “non-conscious orientation toward happy thoughts.”
The Bhutansese, for example, considered to be some of the happiest people on earth, think about death, on average, five times a day. Five times! It turns out that death meditation is a very common Buddhist practise. You know those peaceful chaps with no hair and orange robes? Yeah, they even have a name for it called Maranasati.
Personally I’ve found it to be a very powerful tool. It’s something I practise every morning now. I find few things sober me up to my present reality more. Few things give me as much clarity for doing and saying what I should – for aligning my actions with my values. Few things make me feel so incredibly grateful for the fact that I’m still alive – for the things and the people in my life as it stands today.
Now, I should say there’s like 1 percent of the population who probably shouldn’t meditate on death (disclaimer/suggestion thingy), so if you have some sort of trauma or psychological instability then please consult a mental heath care professional first. For the rest of you, however, I suggest implementing the following 3 steps, like, now!
Here they are:
Meditate on the death of your loved ones.
Meditate on your own death.
Reflect on and revaluate your priorities, today!
Here’s the exercise in full:
While sitting up straight, bring your attention to your breathe for a few minutes. However long it takes to stop the monkey mind from dancing around, then bring to mind someone you love. Now, consider the reality that they will die. Imagine it happening. Imagining being by their side during their final moments. Allow yourself to feel any emotions that arise. Next, notice any thoughts you have – like what you would say to them.
Next, spend a few minutes coming back to your breathe before considering the reality that you yourself will die. Make it clear that you don’t know when or how it will happen. As you inhale you can say to yourself, “This could be my last inhale.” As you exhale you say to yourself, “This could be my last exhale.” Next, allow yourself to feel any emotions that arise. Notice any thoughts you have – like what you wish you would have done or said during your life.
Next, let your eyes open and stop meditating. Take a few minutes to reflect on your response to the reality of death. Did you feel scared? Did any regrets pop up? What seems important to you now? Consider how can you use this knowledge to inform your decisions today. Ask yourself whether your priorities are aligned. Finally, take out your journal and write down any thoughts you have. Make a list of the 3 most important values/things in your life, then ask yourself how you can prioritise them today. Finally, get on it!
You’re thinking, ‘what do you mean the ONLY THING the world needs from me?! The world demands EVERYTHING from me!!!’
‘It expects me to be a teetotaling, super-ripped, enlightened, buddhist monk who lives in a mansion with 5 cars yet gives everything to the poor, can speak 6 languages, hold 3 full-time jobs with an additional 8 hobbies on the side while also caring for the elderly with the abundance of spare time one must have available.’
‘On top of which I must also find a cure for cancer, prevent global warming, travel the entire world, read 8 books a day, find the time to study for a 4th profession, have the perfect life partner, raise straight A children who never fart in public, cook the recommended 12 meals a day, eat only the finest imported wagyu beef, be a vegan, own the latest model of smartphone while also find a suitable replacement for plastics.’
‘Should I go on?!!!’
You could but I think we get the point.
Yes, unfortunately, this is but a modicum of what our fucked up society expects. That said, this is exactly why we need to be very clear.
What the world needs from you and what society expects are two very different things.
One you need to trust in. The other you need tell fuck off!
Society’s ridiculous expectations have flooded our brains with too much information. We’re constantly being pulled in a million different directions that’s left us paralysed in one. We can’t see through the sea of bullshit to understand what we’re supposed to do. We’re lost wondering which way we should paddle with no land in sight.
The problem isn’t what society thinks, of course. The major problem we have is making society’s expectations our own. In doing so we play a game we can’t possibly win. As a result of not being able to meet these impossible expectations – because none of us can – many of us simply give up.
What we need to do is set ourselves free. We need to cut through the noise and focus on our major purpose in life. We need to follow our calling. Then say ‘fuck it’ to the rest. I truly believe this will benefit the world far more than trying to meet society’s expectations. That’s provided you can shift through all the bullshit and follow what your calling in life actually is. As in, not society’s. Not your parent’s. Not Barrack Obama’s. Certainly not Donald Trump’s. Yours! Your own unique calling.
This is the only thing the world needs from you.
I think that you know this of course, the question is how?! And also what the fuck?
I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers but I’ll give you a few more thoughts you should probably ignore.
Fuck what society has to say about who it thinks you should be.
You and only you get to decide what success looks like. Don’t let society do that for you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your life has to look good on paper, so some top level exec can commend you on your perfect CV to only then give the job to the slightly less qualified white man because you’re black, or a woman, or a black woman…
To be clear I’m not saying give up. To not be a better person. To not go after what you want despite any disadvantages you may or may not have.
What I’m saying is to be clear about what success actually means to you, to be clear about what you actually want. Don’t go chasing someone else’s goals. If you want to wander the seven seas as a pirate – if that’s what makes you feel alive – then who the fuck am I, or anyone else for that matter, to judge you? At least if you fail as a pirate (highly probable) you’ll have loved life.
We spend far too much time thinking about how our life choices will be viewed by others. We need to wake up and follow what we know in our hearts will make us happy.
A stressful life chasing other people’s version of success is what has turned us all into robots. We’re simply going through the motions so we can reach our end goal. We say to ourselves, it’ll all be worth it after I have secured financial independence for the last 10 good years of my life. After I have broken my body, sold my soul and lost all sense of aliveness in the mean time.
Is your retirement really worth that much? To slave away so that one day you might get to live in the knowledge that money is no longer a problem for you, for the last 10 years of your life?
Let me tell you something that society doesn’t want you to work out. Money is but one problem.
When Jay-Z rapped about 99 problems I suspect they were all related to having money. Bitches weren’t one of them admittedly, because of the money, but even so. The point is be careful what you chase after in life.
The world really doesn’t need you to be rich and famous. It doesn’t need you to solve all its problems. Society has made this an obsession of yours but it’s bullshit.
The only thing the world needs from you is to come alive. That comes from chasing the dreams that you alone have defined. It comes from following your heart.
I’ve got a new rap song. It goes, I’ve got 99 problems but the dream ain’t one. (How white am I?) If you can sing that you’re winning my friend because you’ll always have 99 problems. Don’t make not following your dreams one of them.
Thanks for reading everyone! I’m acutely aware that talking about chasing your dreams can come across as somewhat rich (pun intended) as a privileged middle class white man, especially when survival is the only thing that millions can ever consider, but I also wonder if, for the same reason, I don’t have a responsibility to chase my dreams? After all, my worst case scenario is far better than most. What do you think? Is the idea of following your dreams overrated? Is it not better to follow our heart if we have the choice? Thoughts and comments very welcome below.
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that doesn’t completely hate itself…
Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.
As a bonus I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good.
(As a way to give credit and to say thank you, I’ve linked back to any posts that have inspired my thoughts. I’ve linked back to any quotes I’ve found as well.)
3 x Thoughts:
1) One needs to accept life as it stands today. Radically. In all of its fucked-up glory. And then act in whatever capacity one can to better his or her circumstances. But even that shouldn’t come at the expense of appreciating what one currently has. As a rule for life, I suggest you practice gratitude long before you start hoping in the morning.
2) Maybe we should imagine losing our loved ones in a car accident tomorrow? Maybe we should take the time to imagine losing everything we hold dear? Maybe imagining the worst is exactly what brings what’s right in front of us, sharply into focus? Maybe meditating on our mortality, our own inevitable demise is exactly what gives us freedom in the present? Maybe it’s doing this which reminds us how good we actually have it right now? Maybe we will find more joy in everyday life by embracing these difficult emotions rather than chasing after a bigger pay check or slimmer waistline? What do you think?
3) The next time you get angry at your racist grandfather – or any elderly person who appears to be stuck in his or her ways – consider the possibility that their contempt has less to do with what they believe than it does their inability to come to terms with their own mortality. This knowledge might just give you the strength to return love for hate.
2 x Quotes:
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
– Mark Twain
“Even if you’re going to live three thousand more years, or ten times that, remember: you cannot lose another life than the one you’re living now, or live another one than the one you’re losing. The longest amounts to the same as the shortest. The present is the same for everyone; its loss is the same for everyone; and it should be clear that a brief instant is all that is lost. For you can’t lose either the past or the future; how could you lose what you don’t have?”
1) This Psychology Today article: Why We Fear Death and How to Overcome It. As the title suggest this article explores some surprising reasons behind why it is some of us fear death (and why others don’t). It also outlines 4 ways (listed below) to overcome your own fear of mortality.
Help to nurture and raise younger generations: “The term “generativity” refers to a concern for younger people and a desire to nurture and guide them. When older people have a greater sense of generativity, they tend to also look back on their life without regret or anguish. This, understandably, leads to having less fear of death.”
Talk about it: It turns out that avoidance (surprise surprise) causes it to loom larger in our minds. Like all fears its best to bring them into the light. Don’t avoid the topic – talk about. Imagine it. Prepare for its inevitably.
Have a (simulated) out of body or near death experience: Perhaps seeking out a near death experience isn’t the greatest advice but trying to have an out of body experience (via deep meditation for example) can yield similar results. The idea is that it gives us the sense that we live on even when separated from out bodies.
Cultivate greater meaning in your life: Studies show that those who feel they are living a meaningful life are less afraid of death. I suggest you start by defining your values and then looking to see how you can better build your life around them.
1 x Joke:
Struggling for a good joke this week so thought I’d leave you with another far side comic. Hope you enjoy!
Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know below.
One bonus question to ponder:
Is it death that you fear, or not having lived in the first place?
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that believes the meaning of life is irrelevant…
Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.
As always I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good.
(As a way to give credit and to say thank you, I’ve linked back to any posts that have inspired my thoughts. I’ve linked back to any quotes I’ve found as well.)
2) When doing something that makes you anxious it’s important to tell yourself that you can. Not because this will ease the nerves, but because when you do manage to pull off the task that you’ve been dreading, instead of feeling relief you will gain confidence.
3) I’m guessing we all struggle with the notion of what life means. I think the ego is always looking for more – hoping that it can somehow live on for eternity. Meaning or belief is a way of guarding against our irrefutable mortality. However I don’t believe that’s necessarily a bad thing. The truth is we are all part of something much bigger. We are all interconnected. I like to say we are nothing if not those who came before us, and we will be for nothing if we don’t serve those who will come after. Meaning is something we must instil – it’s necessary. It’s what eases our own suffering and that of others. It’s what gives us peace. I believe we are meant to serve a greater good. God or no God. Not because it will matter in thousands of years to come but because it matters now, today. Look at what is right in front of you. That’s where the meaning you need to find lies. That’s what matters most.
4) You’ll never stop having problems. That’s a something people often don’t realise. They think if they can achieve this or acquire that, then they’ll be rid of their problems and finally be happy. As if happiness is some eternal thing to be realised. It doesn’t work like that. Happiness isn’t permanent. Problems are. Paradoxically expectations of an endlessly happy life will only lead to unhappiness. It’s perfectly ok to be unhappy and normal that you’ll go through low periods during your lifetime. Equally it’s perfectly ok to have problems! Not that you’ll have much of a choice about that. What you might have some choice about is what problems you wish to have. What you’ll always have a choice about is how you interpret and respond to your problems. Go about solving those problems and you might just find some happiness in the process. Keep solving problems and that happiness might actually last.
“Meaning is the Way, the path of life more abundant, the place you live when you are guided by Love and speaking the Truth and when nothing you want or could possibly want takes any precedence over precisely that.”
1) This article on psychology today:What is the Meaning of Life? by Neel Burton M.D.Neel argues that the meaning of life is that which we choose to give it. Moreover he argues that we should choose to give it meaning – whether or not you believe in God or an afterlife. How to choose? Drawing from the lessons of Victor Frankl he outlines 3 ways in which we meaning can be found:
Experiencing reality by interacting authentically with the environment and with others.
Giving something back to the world through creativity and self-expression, and,
Changing our attitude when faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.
2) This New York Times article: The American Abyss by Timothy Snyder. It’s one of the best things I have read about the events of January 6th, and what it means/might mean for American democracy. Favourite quotes below.
“Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves.”
“We cannot be a democratic republic if we tell lies about race, big or small. Democracy is not about minimizing the vote nor ignoring it, neither a matter of gaming nor of breaking a system, but of accepting the equality of others, heeding their voices and counting their votes.”
1 x Joke:
Sorry folks I’m out of jokes this week so I’ll leave you with this far side comic instead. Hope you enjoy.
Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! I sincerely hope you all have a great week ahead. As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know below.
One bonus question to finish:
What can you do today that would give your life greater meaning tomorrow?
A life is infinitesimal in the grand scheme of things. When you zoom the lens out, when you consider the enormity of existence. A life is but a speck in the vastness of time and space. A life is nothing. It matters not a jot.
But when you zoom the lens in, past all of the galaxies and all of the solar systems, past all of the stars and the planets and the moons, and circle in on a single point in time and space. To the moment shortly after you were born, when I had you to myself. When the rest of universe melted away. When, for a moment, nothing else mattered.
Honestly if you could take everything else away. Every other moment in existence. Everything that has ever been. All the riches. All the mountains and all the oceans. All of nature. All of the stars and all of the planets in the unknowable universe. If you could take it all and give me just that moment, I would live in it for eternity.
Of course I will never be able to adequately convey what that moment felt like, as hard as your father might try. All I can say is that those few minutes when I first held you were among the most precious of my small and insignificant existence. What you managed to do was fill them with more love, more meaning, and more joy than I could ever reasonably express with words. It moved me immeasurably – permanently towards something more. Something greater. For that, to you, I will be eternally grateful.
You will, I hope, experience many such moments during your lifetime. Moments that move you beyond words. Beyond rhyme or reason. I pray your life will be filled with them. I believe it’s these moments that bring you alive in a way few others can. It’s these moments that remind you why, despite all the suffering life entails, it’s still worth it.
A problem that many of us experience is we forget. We forget, not the moments themselves, but the feeling. We forget what that true sense of aliveness really feels like. I believe this is partly because such moments are painfully rare during a life that’s painfully short. But mainly I believe it’s because people stop looking for them. They stop believing that there is any point to life. They start believing that their suffering is in vain. So they choose to live their lives in pursuit of immediate gratification. Nihilism consumes and they choose pleasure over purpose.
Here’s something I desperately want you to understand as you grow up. Something that took your old man a while to figure out.
Life is meaningless because meaning implies understanding. Whatever life means. Whatever the why may or may not be. What it is… is beyond our comprehension and always will be. It is therefore beyond meaning. Ergo, it is meaningless.
It’s preciously because life is meaningless that we must give it meaning. That’s how you guard against nihilism. That’s how you stop from falling down the rabbit hole. Life is chaotic which is why we must strive to give it order, no matter how trying the circumstances. To live is to suffer, it’s an unavoidable aspect of Being. Which is why we must suffer with purpose. It’s why we must seek to alleviate the suffering in others, however small, it whatever way we can. That’s how we find balance.
The truth is our lives hold as much meaning as we give them. Which is why you must give yours as much meaning as you possibly can. In your relationships. Your work. Your family. You must fill every corner of your precious existence with it.
If you do, you won’t be concerned with what the meaning of life is. You will understand that the question doesn’t matter. You will understand that your life does and that this is enough.
If you ask me the question of what it all means misses the point. The point is life itself. Why look beyond it? When you consider the extraordinary odds against which you found yourself here. It’s the equivalent of winning the lottery many billions of times over. A life, your life is invaluable son. You cannot put a price it.
Life may ultimately be meaningless but that doesn’t mean your life has to be. It doesn’t mean your life doesn’t matter. Because right now, today – so long as you’re alive – it matters immensely. Don’t let other people tell you otherwise. Don’t let them tell you that this life isn’t enough. That it’s not worth getting up for. Fighting for. Striving for. It’s your one and only life. It is nothing but everything to you. Everything.
I realise that your life, it’s everything to me too.
Happy Birthday Son
With love, for ever and always, from your Dad.
(Written on your actual birthday – January 6th 2021)
(Thanks for reading everyone. I started writing this in a highly emotional state after I left the hospital on the day that my son was born. I’m curious what your thoughts are on the meaning of life? Is it a futile existence? What’s the point? Do you agree that it’s us who give it meaning? As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions. I sincerely hope the rest of you have felt as much love as I have in the past few weeks or so. Wishing you well, AP2 🙏)
There are many people who believe that life is meaningless and argue, for that reason, what’s the point? Why bother?
I have two responses.
The first is why not?
If life is meaningless then you have no reason not to put yourself out there. No excuse not to be courageous. If it doesn’t matter then why wouldn’t you take risks? Why wouldn’t you want to see if you can achieve your dreams?
To simply say there is no point so why bother is a cop out. It’s a poor excuse and you know it.
Here’s the second more important thing I would say.
Life is meaningless because meaning implies understanding. Whatever life means. Whatever the why may or may not be. What it is… is beyond our comprehension. It is therefore beyond meaning. Ergo, it is meaningless.
It’s preciously because life is meaningless that we must give it meaning. That’s how you guard against nihilism. That’s how you stop from falling down the rabbit hole.
Life is chaotic which is why we must strive to give it order, no matter how trying the circumstances.
To live is to suffer, it’s an unavoidable aspect of Being. Which is why we must suffer with purpose. It’s why we must seek to alleviate the suffering in others, however small, it whatever way we can.
The truth is your life holds as much meaning as you give it. The answer to this dilemma – whether it’s true or not – is to give your life as much meaning as you possible can. To fill every corner of your precious existence with it.
If you do, you will no longer be concerned with what the meaning of life is. You will understand that the question doesn’t matter. You will understand that your life does and that this is enough.
Don’t try to get as much out of life as you possibly can.
This kind of thinking fucks you up.
Like trying to be the best person you possibly can.
Don’t do that either.
Because both are impossible goals that you’ll never achieve.
Also think about this.
When you get up and attack the day with as much gusto as you possible can. When you run around at a million miles an hour trying to do do do.
Ask yourself, “How much of the day am I actually enjoying?”
I’m guessing not as much as the days in which you deliberately slow down and observe. The ones in which you look and appreciate – in which you laugh, play and let go a little (or a lot).
Here’s something else you haven’t thought of.
In your pursuit to be endlessly productive – to make up for your feelings of being unworthy, you haven’t allowed yourself any time to rest.
And no I’m talking about sleep (at least not exclusively). What I’m really talking about has to do with activities that make you feel recharged.
This can be many things – exercise or having a long bath. Meditating or going for a mindful walk in nature. Reading a book or having for a w***. It’s different for everyone! Even staring out the window for 5 minutes can do wonders.
So what’s today’s top tip you ask?
Slow down and take lots of mini breaks throughout your day. I mean lots. Every time you feel stressed or scattered. Look up from your screens and take a break. Start with several slow deep breathes. Then go chat with a co-worker or grab a cuppa. And if you’re really struggling, move away from your office and go for a walk outside or hit the gym.
Not only will this bring you a greater sense of well being, it will give you much greater mental clarity. This in turn will actually make you more productive, not less. It will also mean you actually enjoy being productive.
If it helps, don’t think of rest as a reward to be had at the end of a busy day. Think of it as a tool you can use throughout the day to keep you focused, motivated and ready to rock the fucking world.
You shouldn’t have to! There should be, I believe, a certain flow to it. That comes from letting go a little (or a lot). It comes from letting the river carry you down stream.
That’s how you get the most enjoyment from life.
Sure there are occasions where you need to to give yourself a slap in the face, a freezing cold shower or a motivational speech in front of the mirror (What… You don’t do that?), but that should simply be to get things off the ground.
Afterwards things should come about somewhat naturally. I believe this comes from not giving a f*** so much. I believe it comes from trusting your gut. Following your intuition. Whatever it is you want to call it.
If you happen to find that everything is a massive struggle – that everything feels like one big drag, that’s probably a good sign that you’ve been forcing life. It’s a sign you’re burnt out (or depressed).
Let’s take writing as an example. If you find yourself in a spiral trying to rewrite a certain bastard post several hundred times, you need to walk away and do something else.
Meditate. Go for a walk. Go for a w… walk (yeah I already said that). Whatever it is. Laugh. Play. Enjoy. Then come back when you’re itching to do so.
We both know that the best stuff you and I write are rarely the blog posts we’ve slaved over but the ones that came about naturally. From the heart (and with a glass of red wine.)
Live and let go. There is always tomorrow. Or maybe there isn’t! Either way it’s probably best to enjoy today as your first order of business.
Is this good advice? No idea. Don’t really care. I’m winging it. I’m enjoying it. Along with this lovely glass of vino. That’s good enough for me.
“The principle of freedom must be our first commitment, for without this no one is immune against the virus of aggrandizement – the impulse to grab power, wealth, position, or reputation at the expense of others.”
True freedom is a commitment to experiencing the very real limitations of our choices.
We will always have to live with some sort of, ‘what if I had…’ We will always have to mourn the limitless possibilities we didn’t pursue. If we had no choice about our life we’d simply get on with it, but because we do, we live in constant fear of making the wrong one.
That’s the price we pay for the freedom of choice.
We have to live with the consequences of our actions. We have to live in the knowledge we could have done things differently. To know we could have done things better.
I wonder if many of us don’t actually want the level of responsibility that comes with having to choose our own fate? Perhaps this is why so many of us prefer to be told what to do? Perhaps this is why so many of us choose not to think for ourselves?
It’s too uncomfortable.
We don’t want to take responsibility for our life. We didn’t have to as children so why should we now?
Many recent decisions we’ve made in the “free” parts of this world demonstrate an unwillingness to take on this fundamental aspect of freedom. We follow the herd because it’s easier. We follow the herd because that’s what our parents taught us to do.
I imagine that living in a society where your thoughts and actions are decided for you is in some ways easier. You don’t have to think about what to do. When your survival depends on the actions that the state has demanded, you just do. So you become another brain washed cog in the totalitarian machine. Just as your dictator ordered. There’s a nice little cog.
The sad truth about such a life is you still have responsibilities. They’re just not your own.
You cannot escape responsibility.
Many of us falsely belief that freedom comes with the freedom not to have any responsibilities. How we love to have our cake and eat it too! We say, ‘if only I choose the right leader then I’ll be able to achieve financial independence free from having to try at anything.’
Delusion is a word.
Delusion is what’s sold to you by populists who promise the world free of charge. They promise you the things that only you can deliver for yourself.
There’s a huge price that comes with freedom, incalculable in fact – millions have died for it – but I believe the rewards justify it. Yes the possibility of failure is real, but so is the possibility of achieving greatness. We should remember that humans don’t flourish under the conditions of compulsion – we flourish under the conditions of free co-operation.
It’s hard to shift through the noise of course. It’s extremely hard in fact. To do the research required to figure out what your own opinions are on matters that affect us all. The rewards are not that you’ll have a leader you want or a country that reflects the values you hold either.
You probably won’t.
The reward is actually greater than that. The reward is that you get to know who you truly are. This is something your country and the world needs more than your vote. What we need is a diversity of unique voices speaking for themselves. What we don’t need is a tribe of mindless people echoing only the thoughts of one man.
Don’t be so quick to throw your freedom under the bus for someone else.
It’s important to remember that no two voices are the same. Freedom respects that fact. We should be extremely wary of those who seek to limit the voices of others. We should take the time to listen to what our own heart has to say. We should put in the effort to form our own opinions. We should honour them with the choices we get to make.
“Freedom is not about shedding your responsibilities, it’s about choosing them.”
I would go a step further and say that 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.
Thank you all for taking the time to read. As always I’m interested to get your thoughts. What do you think about the relationship between freedom and responsibility? Have we taken our freedoms for granted in the Western world? Is this why we find it under threat? Do you even believe it is under threat? Do you think that freedom has nothing to do with responsibility? As always I welcome ALL opinions and thoughts. This is very much a free state.