Why I Write

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 hearing problem. They believed this stunted my development. Later they had me tested for dyslexia.

I’m not, of course. It just happened to be one of my weaknesses. And I just happened to be different. I’ve always been a daydreamer, a wanderer by nature.

Languages, the English language – spelling, grammar – has never come naturally to me. But that has never been the problem. The problem was I didn’t believe, and because I didn’t believe, I didn’t try. I internalised that belief and thought, “What’s the point?”

“I’m no good, so why bother?”

Unfortunately, that belief took root at a much deeper level than my English proficiency.

Problems really started in adolescence – at the age of 13 – when I was first offered drugs. I didn’t say yes because I was curious. I didn’t say yes because I thought it was cool. I didn’t say yes as a form of rebellion. I said yes because I was afraid.

I took drugs because I was too scared to say no.

So began some of the most challenging years of my life. At first, it was fun, but I soon felt trapped. At one point, I was smoking pot every single day. I suffered from intense bouts of anxiety that I hid from everyone. Depression soon followed. 

I sank deep into my shell.

I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know how to ask for it. I was too afraid to speak up. So I drowned silently. It came to a head when a friend of mine was caught in possession of my drugs.

I was made to make a choice that day. When the deputy headmaster sat us down in his office, he asked me if I had also been using. He said I can’t help you if you’re not honest.

I was so scared at that moment. I wanted to tell the truth, but I was afraid of the repercussions. The thought of breaking my parent’s hearts broke my own. Yet, I also feared what would happen if I didn’t tell the truth.

While fighting back the tears, I admitted the truth.

It proved to be one of the most pivotal moments of my life. I was suspended, but the deputy headmaster held true to his word. No permanent record was kept. He honoured my honesty by protecting my future. How different my life would look now had I lied.

Honesty hurts to begin with, but in the long run it will set you free.

During those years, I sat my GCSEs. I didn’t care about my grades. I didn’t care about what future I had. I simply wanted to escape the hell I found myself in. As a result, I didn’t put much effort in. 

My results came as a surprise.

I landed 4 A’s, 6 B’s and an E (in German). I was far more competent than I gave myself credit. English language and English literature were the biggest surprises. Had it not been for one teacher, in particular, my grades would have been very different.

She taught the class with the top peers in our age group. Except she did something a little different. She took several students who were really struggling from the lowest level and placed us in hers. She had me sit in the front row.

She was petrifying, which helped. I was made to apply myself. I remember she believed I had a voice. She pushed me to do a lot of public speaking – which also scared the bejesus out of me!

My coursework marks steadily improved over the two years she taught me. Still, my coursework barely averaged a C. This made the final results even more surprising. Following our final examinations, I ended up with B’s in English language and English literature. I must have aced those exams to achieve those grades.

They’re my proudest grades from secondary school.

What she proved was more important, even if it didn’t fully register until years later. She showed that if I chose to apply myself, I was more than capable. She planted the seeds of self-belief that would bear fruit many years later.

To my English teacher, wherever you are, thank you.

I didn’t pursue English for A levels. It wasn’t for me. I also lacked clarity. As a result, I took a random collection of subjects. Art (the one subject I truly loved), Biology, History, and Geography.

I dropped Art halfway through my A levels despite getting an A. I dropped it for the wrong reasons – because no one else took it seriously. It would be an entire decade before I started drawing again. 

Somewhere along the way, I forgot.

Doing something simply because you love it is enough. More than enough.

History was the subject I went on to take at University. I took it because my parents were adamant that I should go to University and get a degree. I took it out of preference, not because I truly loved it. The truth is I only enjoyed aspects of it.

I later realised that what I really enjoyed was applying lessons from what history has to teach us about living life. What I was really interested in was philosophy.

During University, I fell in love with a French lady. In the second year, she asked me to edit much of her coursework. She studied media and communications. I didn’t just edit her work; I rewrote large chunks of it.

I loved it. 

I found I had a knack for drawing conclusions. I loved finishing with the right words. I realised there was an art to it. Between her coursework and my own, these skills developed.

Then she broke my heart. I finished my degree and forgot about this.

After University, I was clear about one thing. One thing I had always been clear about. A deep longing in my heart to travel the world.

So I applied for a cadetship offered by the airline I now work for. For the airline my father used to work for. He was keen, provided I was serious about it. So he took me flying. I didn’t look back.

And so followed the last 12 years of my life. 

There was a big break where I didn’t write. Several years passed while learning to fly and traveling the world before I decided to pick up a pen again.

One of my hobbies is traveling through cuisine. Anthony Bourdain has long been a personal hero of mine. Inspired by him, I put together a blog documenting my travels. 

I enjoyed it for a while, but that passion started to wane as depression and anxiety took a firmer grip.

This came to a head during another pivotal moment of my life. I froze up while trying to land during my Junior First Officer training. The training captain had to take control and go around as a result.

That scarred me deeply.

Added to the list of depression and anxiety, I had PTSD to contend with too. I remember flying approaches for years afterwards where my heart would beat so hard, it felt like it was going to break through my chest.

So many times, I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw in the towel. Those demons screamed at me. “GET OUT! YOU CAN’T! YOU’RE A FRAUD! YOU’RE NOT CAPABLE!”

I kept going.

Part of me refused to give in. I was so sick of those voices. Overcoming and passing my Junior First Officer upgrade was something I felt I had to do. So, I worked harder than I ever have in my entire life.

My demons started to drive me.

9 months on from that day, I was upgraded to First Officer. It meant everything to me at the time. I thought that was it. I thought that would be enough to finally put those voices to bed.

I was wrong.

It wasn’t until the birth of my first child 3 years ago that I finally sought professional help. At a low moment, I broke down. Once again, my demons were screaming at me. Telling me I couldn’t parent. That my boy deserved better. The guilt overwhelmed me, and I cried and cried.

Afterward, I felt a deep peace I’d not known in years. I knew exactly what I had to do. I picked up the phone and called for help.

This time I was ready. 

The following 4 months of therapy were difficult, emotional, and liberating all at the same time, but I didn’t hold back. In doing so, I finally gained the clarity I needed. In seeing my demons in the light, they lost their power.

The fog of depression finally started to lift.

Shortly afterwards, the pandemic hit, and I was left grounded. I used the time to do something I’d not done since I dropped Art during my A levels.

I started drawing.

And because I was feeling particularly creative – BECAUSE THAT’S WHO I AM – I started writing again. I put together a children’s book. I went to a publisher who loved it. Last summer, I became a published author. 

How do you like them apples?

At the same time, I started blogging. This time I had a different motivation. I spoke from my core. It felt like a spark had ignited something inside. I felt possessed. My intuition kept telling me to keep going. It’s leading somewhere. I don’t where yet, but it is.

It has.

My writing has given me clarity about what I want to do next. I will be starting an online degree in psychology next year with a long-term view of changing careers. I also have an idea for a number of books I plan to write.

Once again, I hear my demons screaming. Telling me not to do it. That I can’t. That I’m making a big mistake.

There’s a difference this time. 

My relationship has changed. I know those voices will be with me till the day I die. It that doesn’t phase me anymore. Honestly, I smile. I realise I don’t want those voices to go away. You see, they’re a guide. A powerful one telling me which direction to go in. What obstacles I must take on.  

Those voices also remind me of all the pain and suffering I’ve gone through. They keep it close to my heart. That’s want I want. To use that to help others who are suffering as I have. To give meaning to my pain by helping others with theirs. 

And so, as I sit at another crossroads in my life – as I build towards my second career – I keep writing. This time I won’t ever stop. Even though it continues to scare me – every single time I hit that publish button. 

I see it now.

I now know why it has to be this way. I was meant to write my way out. It’s poetry in motion.

You see the seeds of doubt that were planted at such a young age. The demons that have plagued me my whole life. They all stemmed from a lack of faith in my ability to overcome one of my biggest weaknesses.

That’s why I write.

For the boy inside who was lead to doubt himself. Who was told he couldn’t. Who was told he would struggle.

I write for every child who suffered under the weight of their fears, for everyone whose fears have been used against them in the cruelest possible way.

I write because I can. I write because I know that you can too.

I write to call myself a writer and be called a writer, because that means more to me than words could ever convey. 

The question I have is, why do you? 

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

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.

Let’s begin!


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.” 

– Seneca

“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.”


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 30/08/21


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Finding Life Balance Using the Four Forces of Flight

Do you feel like the weight of responsibility is keeping you grounded? Or the sheer drag of life is forcing on the brakes?

Do you find it hard to muster the requisite lift and thrust to overcome these forces in life?

Of course, we’ve all been there. We’ve all had those days where everything has felt like one big drag, where the simple act of getting out of bed has felt like this herculean task.

To be honest, that’s how I’ve been feeling recently. It got me thinking about this idea of life balance and how, exactly, one is supposed to find it?

Then something struck me. I thought, “Of course! Balance isn’t something you find. It is something you have to maintain – like a tightrope walker!”

Three ideas immediately sprung to mind:

  1. Don’t carry too much weight.
  2. Go at a steady pace.
  3. Don’t stop moving.

Then, as soon as I wrote these thoughts down, I had another brain wave.

It occurred to me that the same laws govern an aeroplane in flight. Then it occurred to me that the laws of aerodynamics might be able to teach us how to maintain balance in our own lives. 

So I came up with this post.

Anyway dear readers, please sit back and relax with your seat belts securely fasten, because I’m about to teach you how to fly…

The Four Forces of Flight

To give you a quick lesson in aerodynamicsthe four forces of flight are thrust, lift, drag, and weight. 

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.

  1. 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.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Have a proper evening routine to help you wind down in the evening and a kick-ass morning routine to get you pumped after you wake up. 

Other things worth considering include limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption. Also, limiting blue light exposure in the evenings and increasing it in the mornings. (Hello sunlight!) 

For more about sleep, I can highly recommend checking out this site: thesleepdoctor.com.

A book I can also highly recommend is Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.

  1. Change your diet.

The food you eat is the fuel you put into your aeroplane. If you feed it garbage, you’re going to get shit performance. A balanced diet is so essential for generating thrust. 

Of course, I could prattle on about getting your five a day, but I don’t want to bore you. I can, however, recommend you take a look at Dr. Mark Hyman’s blog

His book, What The Heck Should I Eat, is worth your time.

  1. Get regular exercise.

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. 

You can find tons of free workout videos here at: fitnessblender.com

  1. Look after your mental health. 

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. 

Moving on. 

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

  1. Remain Grounded

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

  1. 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).

(For all things habit related, I suggest reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. You can find his blog here.)

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.

  1. Change Your Perspective

Turn your demons into angels by giving meaning to your pain. 

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?

  1. 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.

This is no easy battle, of course, but a great place to start is by getting a handle on your smartphone addiction. Disconnect and have a digital sabbath one day a week. This should help you gain some much-needed clarity.

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.

  1. 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: 

https://pointlessoverthinking.com

https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Also on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot


3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that believes balance can only be found in outer space…

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. 

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) If you ignore what you have to do, you’ll feel bad about doing the things you enjoy. If you don’t do the things you enjoy, you will find it hard to muster the energy needed to do what you have to. Prioritise both. Don’t neglect either. Lift is needed to counteract weight.

(click to tweet)

2) Balance isn’t something you find, it is something you maintain, like a tight rope walker. 3 things with that in mind: 

  1. Don’t carry too much weight.
  2. Go at a steady pace.
  3. Don’t stop moving.

(click to tweet)

3) Getting things off your chest means getting thoughts out of your head. That means communicating your feelings. If you want peace of mind – whether you’re right or wrong – you gotta speak up. You gotta speak your truth. That’s how you get things off your chest. This allows you to breathe easier. 

(click to tweet)


2 x Quotes:

Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.”

– John Gardner

“The main thing is the YOU beneath the clothes and skin—the ability to do, the will to conquer, the determination to understand and know this great, wonderful, curious world. Don’t shrink from new experiences and custom. Take the cold bath bravely. Enter into the spirit of your big bedroom. Enjoy what is and not pine for what is not. Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.

W. E. B. Du Bois (Source: James Clear Newsletter)

1 x Thing:

This Seth Godin blog post on the difference between making a point and a making a difference:

“There are countless ways to make a point. You can clearly demonstrate that you are angry, smart, concerned, stronger, faster or more prepared than the person you’re engaging with. But making a point isn’t the same thing as making a difference. To make a difference, we need the practical empathy to realize that the other person doesn’t know what you know, doesn’t believe what you believe and might not want what you want. We have to move from where we are and momentarily understand where they are. When we make a point, we reject all of this. When we make a point, we establish our power in one way or another, but we probably don’t change very much. Change comes about when the story the other person tells themselves begins to change. If all you do is make a point, you’ve handed them a story about yourself. When you make a change, you’ve helped them embrace a new story about themselves. And even though it’s more fun (and feels safe, in some way) to make a point, if we really care, we’ll do the hard work to make a difference instead.”


1 x Joke:

Another far side comic for you all this week – I hope you enjoy!


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. As always I welcome ALL thoughts on this blog. Let us know in the comments below.


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 09/08/21

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that posts every other week…

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.

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) Life is meaningless by design. It’s a blank canvas that you’re suppose paint meaning onto. Keep doing that and you might just create a masterpiece. 

(click to tweet)

2) An idea for reviewing goals: Everyday, review your weekly goals. Every week, review your monthly goals. Every month, review your 1 year goals. Every year, review your 5 year goals. Repeat.

(click to tweet)

3) Don’t worry about success or fame or “making it.” The moment you do, you fail to see what success really is. I find it works the same way as happiness. The more you try to chase it, the less likely you are to find it. Live by your principles first and foremost. Concentrate on being a better person and serving a greater cause. Do that and you might just find some of this stuff people call “success.” 

(click to tweet)


2 x Quotes:

When people prattle on about needing to find their “purpose,” what they really mean is that it’s no longer clear what feels important. The question of purpose is really just a question of values.”

– Mark Manson (@IAmMarkManson)

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche


1 x Thing:

This Tim Ferris podcast with Dr. Andrew Huberman – A Neurobiologist on Optimizing Sleep, Enhancing Performance, Reducing Anxiety, Increasing Testosterone, and Using the Body to Control the Mind.

If you have the time this podcast is well worth a listen. I found Huberman’s knowledge about using your vision to reduce stress to be particular insightful. There’s a good reason why looking out at a vista feels calming.

If you look straight ahead into the distance while trying to expand your vision (try to notice what’s going on in your periphery), it “releases a mechanism in the brain stem involved in vigilance and arousal… You can actually turn off the stress response by changing the way that you are viewing our environment.”

For more about this practise have a read of this article: Broaden Your Vision at Music, Mind & Movement.


1 x Joke:

Another 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 on this blog. Let us know in the comments below.


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 12/07/21

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that encourages you to work when it’s least practical…

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.

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) Your future dreams don’t negate your present day responsibilities. (click to tweet)

2) There’s a big difference between trying something and experiencing it. The former is usually done from a fear of missing out. The latter is usually done with an open mind – from a place of genuine curiosity. (click to tweet)

3) Admitting you were wrong simply demonstrates you’ve grown as a person, not that there’s anything wrong with you. It’s important to keep reminding yourself that being wrong is the most ordinary thing in the world. (click to tweet)


2 x Quotes:

“The facts tell us what to do and how to do it, but it is our humanity which tells us that we must do something and why we must do it.”

– SULLY SULLENBURGER

“Flourishing depends on active participation in the real world: creating, connecting, and contributing.”

– ADAM GRANT

1 x Thing:

This hilarious Ted Talk with Tim Urban in which he discusses the issue with procrastination and why setting deadlines might be more important than you realise. Well worth a watch!


1 x Joke:

Another 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.


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 14/06/21

The Pursuit Of Unhappiness

Apparently, most of us have a default level of happiness. No matter what our station is in life, we are all slightly dissatisfied. Slightly. Life is just never quite good enough, even when it really is.

This default happiness level readjusts depending on your circumstances. Even if something significant happens to you, like winning the lottery, you soon get over it and return to that base level of slight dissatisfaction.

Luckily this works in reverse too!

If you have a divorce, for example, or end up in an accident that leaves you paralysed — studies have shown that although your life on paper becomes worse, you readjust. Shit feels awful for a while, but then get used to this new normal. You accept it — sort of — and move back to your default level of happiness.

“I can’t use my legs anymore, but I can still binge-watch NETFLIX every evening like I used to!” Or, “I don’t have a smoking hot wife anymore but, you know, there are other less attractive fish in the sea. Ones that won’t steal my stuff. I’ll settle for one of those!”

That’s the spirit!

The reason for this is simple: survival.

It’s not the best strategy to be content with life. Otherwise, we’d stop chasing after that next promotion or that bigger house. We’d stop securing a safer existence for ourselves and our family — even if we already live on a luxury yacht!

It’s for this reason that our egos keep tricking us. It tells us, if you get that next promotion, or have sex with that smoking hot chick, or save enough money for that fast car, then you’ll be happy. Then you’ll achieve the kind of bliss that everyone else on Instagram clearly has.

And so you go after those things like your life depends on it.

But what happens when you actually get those things? When your hopes are realised? Of course, you’re happy for a time. That’s for the memory bank to remind you that more is better. But then what? That’s right, you get used to it! You get accustomed to your new sports car. You get over the fact that you had mind-blowing sex with that hot chick. You get used to the fact that your new house has 8 bedrooms, 2 tennis courts, and an infinity pool.

Once you do, you’ll find yourself back in that familiar default setting of life is okay-ish. Not bad, but it could be better. “I mean, It’s not like I have the fastest sports car in the market, right? And if I’m honest, she was only an 8 out of 10. Plus, I’d quite like a bigger fucking boat!”

The obvious problem, for those canny enough to recognise this ego trick, is that it’s never enough. 

Happiness — the lasting kind at least — can’t be found through the pursuit of happiness. It’s like looking for gold at the end of the rainbow. You’ll never find it. There is no mountain high enough, no river wide enough, no luxury yacht big enough.

The other, less obvious problem, for those canny enough to see the bigger trap here, is your default setting has been adjusted to this more manageable level of existence. And this, I’m afraid to say, makes you weaker. It makes you softer because your default level of happiness is set against this higher standard of living. As a result, minor things start to bother you a lot more. You say, “Unless that waiter brings me the finest quality champagne, I’m gonna lose my shit!” Suddenly it becomes much harder to maintain that baseline of moderate happiness (or unhappiness as the case may be).

In gaining the world, you start to hate it.

As a pilot, I have the added perk of traveling in business class at a fraction of the price that most people pay, provided spare seats are going on a given flight. Is it a great thing? I enjoy business class, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think about it much anymore. That’s because I’m used to it. Instead, I find myself thinking about how great first class looks. I think, “If only my company would let me fly in first. Of course, business class isn’t bad, but, you know, it could be better.”

There I am, back to that default setting. (Spoilt brat, I know…)

But here’s the real kicker. When business is full and the only seats going are in economy class, well, then woe is fucking me! (Please don’t fuck me woe, not again!) What is normal and ok-ish for the vast majority of people has become a kind of hell because of my privilege. My privilege has made me weaker. It’s like that saying, once you go… (You know what? I’m not going to finish that sentence.)

This is the paradox that comes from making life easier for ourselves. We actually make it harder. Similarly, by chasing happiness, we end up finding less of it.

Now I’m going to ask you a question. I use this example only because it makes sense to me personally. Here it is: Why did you have kids? Why do you want to have kids?

To make you happy?

Ha!

Sorry, that one slipped out. But seriously, if your reason is/was to make you happy, you need to sit down and have a rethink.

Kids make everything more complicated. Everything.

There’s a lot of research that suggests couples end up unhappier after having kids. I can vouch for that. Having kids was a rude awakening. It was a shock to my admittedly delicate system. And it didn’t make me happier having them. At least not initially. (There’s a fat dose of honesty for you.)

Changing nappies 8 times a day, being pissed on, rocking them for a goddam hour at 4 am, only for them to wake up the moment you place them in their cots…! Finding any which way to settle the little bastards. (I love them, really.)

If you haven’t felt an overwhelming urge to throw your baby out of the window at some point as a new parent, well, you’re not honest. That’s why, if you want to have kids, you have to really really want them. You also have to be very clear about why you have children.

Because if your why is in the pursuit of happiness, they will make you miserable — they will drive you insane. Then you might actually throw your children out the window. Of course, that would be bad. Very very bad. (I have to keep telling myself that.)

So why would you have kids then?

Well, the same reason you might decide to climb Everest or chose any challenging endeavor. For a sense of fulfillment, to help the world raise a more virtuous and responsible generation, to help you grow as an individual…

You have children because it gives your life more meaning. You do it for love, as cliche as that sounds. You don’t do it for your happiness. Don’t do anything for your happiness. Fuck your happiness. I mean it. 

Ok, no, I don’t. What I mean is fuck looking for your happiness. The only thing that’s guaranteed in this life is pain. Happiness is never guaranteed. Never. You should write that on a billboard and hang it on your living room wall.

My first child forced me to reconcile with some dark inner demons. The moment I was candid with myself and realised that his wellbeing depended on me sorting my own shit, well, everything changed. Seriously. Everything. I sought therapy for his benefit. I did it for his happiness, and in the process, ended up finding my own.

Right there is the trick. What’s your why? That’s always a great question to ask yourself. If your why is happiness, you can expect unhappiness. If your why is to serve something bigger than yourself, well, then you’re actually on to something. Because the genuine pursuit of happiness is found in the pursuit of meaning through pain.

If you pursue meaning through pain, you’ll find the small stuff stops pissing you off. You’ll also find the everyday stuff that everyone takes for granted becomes a kind of paradise.

Suddenly you’ll look down after a long day in which your kids pressed every button — a day in which your nerves were utterly shredded. Despite that, you kept them alive. Not only that, you helped them grow. You also realise that you didn’t completely lose your shit this time. You notice that you also grew as a person. You realise that all that pain you suffered through gave you something no amount of money ever can. And as you look down at your kids, who are fast asleep, in a seemingly mundane moment, you suddenly feel something akin to happiness, but it’s not. It’s something more significant than that.

What you’ve found is peace.

***

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

9 Pieces Of Indispensable Life Advice From Your Future Self

A couple of weeks ago I asked the readers at Pointless Overthinking what advice they would give their former selves if they could go back in time. The reason is I’m at something of a crossroads in my own life. I have a difficult decision to make and I’m not sure what my next step should be. It got me thinking, if only my future self could come back and tell me what to do.

That’s what gave me the idea. I wanted to see what everyone had to say and see if I could spot any patterns – to see if I could gain some more clarity. Thankfully loads of you responded, so I had plenty to chew on. There were some obvious patterns, but also a few pieces of seemingly contradictory advice that forced me to do a bit of deeper thinking. 

From everyone’s responses, I pieced together this list of indispensable life advice. I’ll get back to the topic of my personal crossroads another day. For now, I want to share this list with all of you here on Clear Air Turbulence. Listen carefully because this one is from your future selves!

I hope you enjoy.

1. Start looking after your finances

This was one of the most obvious bits of advice that stuck out. Take care of your finances. Pay off all your debt as soon as you can. Don’t spend beyond your means. Start saving for your retirement now! Take the time to educate yourself about boring things like investing and mortgages. Like or loath it, the hard reality is financial freedom is freedom. I believe if you’re sensible – if you put a little bit aside each month and diversify your investments – you should (hopefully) be pleasantly surprised by the time you retire.

2. Take better care of your health 

Looking after your health is the physical equivalent of saving for retirement. Start paying more attention to your diet today. Get outside and move today. Don’t neglect your mental health. Talk to someone if you need to. I would add, an often overlooked aspect regarding health is making sure you have some insurance because, well, shit happens! I believe the best way to prepare for life is to prepare for the worst. That means considering the implications of your own death as well. Prepare for your own funeral while making every effort to delay it.

3. Prioritise time with your family 

A number of you expressed regret about not having spent more time with your children, while others expressed regret about not having made the effort to form a closer bond with their parents… My take, reading between the lines, was not to put off that difficult conversation. Don’t wait till your loved ones are on their death beds (or indeed you are) to tell them how you really feel. Make time for them, todayThe other side of that awkward conversation is a closer relationship.

4. Learn to love yourself

This one came up a lot in various forms. “Stop caring what other people think”, “learn to love who you are”, “practise self-acceptance”, etc. I think this might be one of life’s most important yet difficult lessons. I believe many of us feel we’re somehow lacking as individuals. Our inability to accept causes us to metaphorically whip ourselves. Of course this doesn’t work, at least, not without killing who you really are. 

We also seem to forget the curious paradox that, as Carl Rogers once said, “When I accept myself as I am, then I can change.” If you ask me, the biggest secret when it comes to self-improvement is self-acceptance. This helps you work with your emotions instead of against them. This is also what I believe it means to love yourself. You’re not trying to become something more because you feel inadequate, you’re trying to become something more because you love yourself and want to reward that person. 

5. Follow your heart but don’t be reckless

This was the first piece of advice that had me scratching my head. Some of you said you wished you hadn’t been so reckless, that you’d been more pragmatic about your decision making, whereas others wished they hadn’t played it so safe – that they’d taken more chances. After giving it some thought I came to the conclusion that there’s a big difference between taking a calculated risk based on what you know your heart wants, versus simply caving into impulsivity and doing what feels good all the time. Life isn’t about simply doing what feels good, it’s about doing what you believe is right. That’s what it really means to follow your heart. 

6. Sort out your career before you have kids 

A few of you raised the point that it’s best to understand your place in the world before you bring kids into it.  The younger you are, the more risks you should be taking. Don’t hesitate to change your degree or career path if you’re not enjoying the one you’re on. Better to experiment and make those changes earlier rather than later. Part of problem is this idea that one must go straight from school into the best possible university with a career plan for life already mapped out. Many of us then get “locked in” to these careers because of the debt we’ve taken on doing a degree we weren’t entirely sure about. 

I often look back and wonder what the big rush was? (I’m a pilot with a history degree who is now considering a second career in psychology FYI!) Why not go out and experience the world first? Why not try travelling on a shoe string? Why not volunteer for a cause you believe in, or see what supporting yourself on a minimum wage is like (that will give you some added motivation) – and then ask yourself what you want your life to be about? 

7. Don’t wait but have patience

It seems to me people either give up way too soon, or they never get started in the first place because they’re always waiting for the “perfect time.” This was reflected in what many of you said. Some of you said to get started right away, while others said to have patience – not to be be so naive and understand that is takes time to build the life you want. It reminded me of this Oprah Winfrey quote: “Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.” The way I see it, there are two ways to go about it. Build a business or hold a job that earns you enough money, that also gives you enough time to chase/do what you love on the side, or learn to earn enough money doing what you love. Either way, don’t wait to chase your dreams, but understand there’s a mountain you have to climb first. 

8. Believe in yourself

This brings me nicely to the next piece of advice that so many of you gave. Believe in yourself. Back yourself to stand up for what you believe is right. Believe in your capacity to persevere in face of adversity. It’s important to remember that hope is for you, for your ability to deal with reality – not for reality itself. To quote my childhood hero Bruce Lee, “Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” Prepare for the worst while believing in your capacity to deal with it.

9. Lighten up

Now that I’ve relayed you with a very serious list of life lessons that you’ve all undoubtably failed to follow, let me finish this final piece of advice you gave – lighten up! Life is serious enough without us adding to it. You could spend your whole life planning for the perfect retirement only to get hit by a bus crossing the road. It’s important to prepare for the future, but not at the complete expense of today. Remember to laugh and be silly. Remain curious and let your inner child have a say. Certainly don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re still standing aren’t you? That, at least, is something worth smiling about.

***

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


3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that believes you have to earn self-acceptance…

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.

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) Something better than hoping your children have a happy life, is hoping they have the strength to deal with a difficult one. 

2) Don’t give yourself the satisfaction of complaining. It’s like scratching a mosquito bite. It feels good initially, but only makes things worse. Think in terms of taking action, or practising acceptance instead.

3) You aren’t meant to deny your emotions, you’re meant to negotiate with them. You say, “I understand you don’t want to go for a run, I understand you feel tired, but think about how great you’ll feel afterwards – think about the sense of accomplishment you’ll get once you’re done!” If you ask me, the biggest secret when it comes to self-improvement is self-acceptance. This allows you to work with your emotions, instead of against them. This is also what it means to love yourself. You don’t try to become something more because you feel inadequate, you try to become something more because you love who you are and want to look after that person to the best of your ability.


2 x Quotes:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

John Wooden (Source: https://mindfulnessbits.wordpress.com)

“If you want to soar in life, you must learn to F.L.Y ( First Love Yourself )”

Mark Sterling (Source: https://philosophyvia.photos)

1 x Thing:

This brilliant Ted Talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action from the author of Start with Why, Simon Sinek. In this episode Simon explains the difference between leaders and those who lead using a simple but powerful model – starting with a golden circle and the question: “Why?” His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright brothers. My favourite quote, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” I believe his model could just as easily be applied to the world of blogging. Well worth the watch!


1 x Joke:

Another 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.

One bonus question: What is your WHY? 


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 24/05/21

6 Counter-Intuitive Tips For Finding Your Life’s Purpose

Let’s be clear about something right off the bat.

Our purpose changes day to day, moment to moment. Right now my purpose is to write this blog post. Later it will be to make the world’s best sandwich. After that, well, who knows?

Seriously!

For the vast majority of our existence on this rock we didn’t have the luxury to ask such questions. We we’re lucky if we found some nuts to eat. That was our life’s purpose – to survive!

The fact that we do have the luxury goes to show how lucky we really are. Even during a global pandemic the opportunities available to pursue from the comfort of our sofas is mind boggling.

The problem we have, if you want to call it that, is we have too much choice. For that reason we’re sacred to death of making the wrong one. We’re petrified of the idea that we might not making the very best of this one life we have. 

So here’s my first idea. 

1. Drop Your Expectations 

Drop your expectation that that’s even possible. Drop your expectation that there’s a perfect choice to make. There isn’t and there never will be. If it helps I can tell you right now that you’re definitely not making the very best of the one life you have.

Why? 

Because it’s impossible. 

The problem with the belief that there must be one “true calling” is it stops us in our tracks. Many of us start thinking there must be something seriously wrong because we’re not “living the dream.” It’s a form of chasing perfection.

It’s not dissimilar to believing in “the one.” And what happens once you think you’ve found that perfect life partner? The moment they demonstrate they’re fallible human beings, just like you, your unrealistic expectations are going to be shattered. And then you’re gonna have a big blow out, or worse!

Instead of having an honest and open conversation where you both understand that any healthy relationship, just like any life purpose worth pursuing, requires constant struggle. 

2. Ask Yourself What You’re Willing To Suffer For

Now here’s the thing. 

The chances are there’s a better choice you could be making. In fact that’s a certainty. Equally you have the potential to make things a lot worse (Really?).

Unfortunately you’re not going to find out by binge watching NETFLIX. Which is also a choice. One that you will eventually hate yourself for.

We need a purpose. We need a cause to serve. That’s what gives our life meaning. And it’s that meaning that gives us the longer term peace and happiness we crave.

But we need to be clear about something.

It’s in the service of something bigger than ourselves that the happiness and peace we crave really starts to stick. You have to give yourself up to that cause.

That’s the big secret. Taking the focus off the self. If you ask me we shouldn’t even have a self-help section in the book store, we should direct everyone to a how-to-help-others section instead.

If you want to find motivation with a capital M then I suggest you pick a cause that is close to your own heart. Either way, stop thinking in terms of what’s best for you. Stop thinking what’s your life’s purpose.

A better question to ask is what can I do that will help people the most? What can I do with my time that’s important? What’s something I can do that adds value to other people’s lives that doesn’t want to make me gouge my eyes out? What is something I’m willing to suffer for?

3. Don’t Do What You Don’t Want To

If you’re still stumped then I suggest you use the process of elimination to get you there.

What are you doing that you hate with a passion? Stop doing that. Take away the shitty job and replace it with a slightly less shitty job.

Go down the road of trial and error. 

The same way if you want to get fit and healthy, but hate running, don’t spend an hour on the goddamn treadmill everyday – do something else! Dance, or box, or climb some rocks if that floats your boat. Do what ever it is you think you might like. 

Ultimately you don’t have to like those things either, but I guarantee if you keep searching, if you keep cutting out the shit you don’t want to, you’ll eventually find the thing that you’re willing to stick at. That you’re willing to suffer for. 

It’s important to remember there are always ways to make things you don’t want to do, like exercise, into things you actually do like dancing or boxing or surfing. Your job is no different. 

Don’t settle for the treadmill. Don’t settle for the dead end job you hate. Find the shit that gets you excited by saying no to the shit that doesn’t.

4. Imagine The Worst Case Scenario Then Do It Anyway. 

If it’s the fear of the unknown that’s stopping you from acting, then I suggest you imagine the worst case scenario, accept it as though it’s already happened and then go ahead and do it anyway. 

“Are you fucking crazy?!” Yes, but hear me out.

By worst case scenario I mean in a realistic sense – not if I go surfing a shark might attack me as a tsunami strikes while I get simultaneously hit by lightening from a freak storm that forms over head.

No. I mean more like you could drown…

I joke, of course. 

What I mean to say is that maybe the water will be freezing cold and you could end up shallowing sea water while everyone laughs at you, i.e. you have a shitty time. 

Did anyone die? Will anyone die if you leave that shitty job you hate? 

The point of doing this is to understand that what we’re afraid of isn’t really that scary. Further, what we’re most afraid of isn’t very likely. 

The chances are you might have loads of fun if you go surfing.

With that in mind, here’s an exercise you can try called Fear Setting.

This is what you do: 

  1. First, write out the major life change you’re considering. For example you might write, What if I… quit (or lost) my dead end office job? 
  2. Second, define the worst case scenario in detail. Ask yourself if it would be the end of your life (probably not)? Ask yourself how permanent it would be? It’s not like you won’t able to find another shitty job you hate right? 
  3. Third, ask yourself what the benefits of a more probable scenario are? What are the definite positive outcomes (including for your self-esteem, mental and physical health etc) 
  4. Forth, ask yourself what the cost will be if you do nothing? What will it cost you financially, emotionally & physically if you postpone that difficult choice? This is such a great question because if you zoom out ten years and you know you’ll still be miserable then you’ll see that the cost of inaction is often far greater. 
  5. Finally, ask yourself what you’re so afraid of?

5. Understand That Any Dream Is Always Served As Part Of A Shit Sandwich

Overtime, if you’re prepared to put yourself out there, I do believe you can narrow down your purpose to one that feels like it was meant for you, but even then you need to keep your expectations in check.

You need to realise that “the dream” is always served as part of a shit sandwich. That’s always the deal.

In fact life is a series of shit sandwiches served one after the other. It’s our willingness (or unwillingness) to eat those shit sandwiches that makes us who we are.

To take my profession as an example.

Constantly flying through the night puts our bodies through the wringer. The environment is also highly stressful (especially during a global pandemic). Every six month we have the proverbial kitchen sink thrown at us in the simulator. Fail that and our licence is invalidated. We also have random spot checks, recency requirements, annual line checks, medicals… the list goes on. 

Of course I get to hand fly a commercial jet worth millions of dollars. I get to travel the world – both on the job and during my spare time. And I do have lots of time off to pursue other interests (especially now).

Of course it’s important to be grateful for these things however, being a pilot is still very much served as part of a shit sandwich. Make no mistake about it. This “dream” is one almighty struggle to maintain.

It is a dream who have to really really really want.

6. Focus On Today First

Let me finish with this final thought. 

Something that’s more important than finding your life’s purpose is making sure you have one today. Even if that’s to hold your children as if for the last time, or telling your wife how much you love her. Or farting and laughing about it. 

Ask yourself what you can do today to make the world a better place? Ask yourself what you’d do if this were your last on earth?

Because often that’s all we need to do. 

Stop zooming the lens way out all the time and zoom it right in instead. To the point where your purpose is to simply express gratitude for the fact that you’re breathing. Because that really is our ultimate purpose in life, loving our life as it stands, right now, in this moment.

Lest we miss it altogether. 


Thanks for reading Ladies and Gentleman. I hope you find some of this terrible life advice of use. Let us know if you have any thoughts. As always I welcome ALL opinions on this blog. Love to all X

Regaining Lift

Most of us experience stalling at some stage in our lives. In our attempts to be all we can. In our attempts to climb as high as we can, as fast as we can.

The problem is, like an aeroplane, we can only climb so fast. If we pitch the nose up too high, or carry too much weight, we run the risk of stalling. And if we do, then we’re only left with one choice. 

Just like an aeroplane, the only way to recover – the only way – is to point the nose back towards the ground. You have to sacrifice height in order to regain lift. 

For many of us this is the last thing we want. 

When we’ve had our eyes on that optimum crushing level – that perfect enviable position we wish we were at in life – we find it hard to let go. We become so fixated on that place we lose all sense of what’s actually going on, what actually needs to be done in the here and now. 

Of course if you keep pitching up in desperation – if you refuse to accept your situation – well, then, the results can be catastrophic. 

Towards the end of 2019 I found myself in such a stall. I was mentally and physically exhausted. The relentlessly busy rosters and regular night flying had taken its toll. I also needed help navigating depression. 

I’d known for some time I needed help, I just didn’t want to admit it. So in desperation I kept trying to pitch the nose up. Of course it only made things worse. I only found myself in a deeper stall. 

Eventually I conceded. I acknowledged the stall and pointed the nose down. I asked for the professional help I’d ignored getting for years. 

It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Shortly afterwards the pandemic gripped the world and I suddenly found myself with an abundance of time at home. All of which gave me the perfect opportunity to keep the nose down. To utilise my support systems. As a result I spent the first half of 2020 at home, resting, writing, reading and being with the people I love.

It was exactly what I needed to regain lift. 

By June, when I finally went back to work I felt ready, like the heavy fog that had shrouded my mind had lifted and I could fly once more. It’s just that, this time, the whole world had stalled. Little did I know just how long that stall would last. A year on I still don’t. 

What followed were a series of professional setbacks. The biggest of which came when my company consigned our sister airline to the history books. A fifth of our workforce went jobless overnight. Those of us lucky enough to still cling to our jobs in aviation, were forced onto a new contract in very friendly sign-or-be-sacked kinda manner.

Fast forward to the present day and my coworkers are still fearing for their livelihoods. Many of them have family who live abroad they haven’t seen for well over a year. I’m one of the lucky ones with my family here in Hong Kong. On top this the lack of flying means many of us are rusty. The added stress isn’t helped by quarantine or the ever changing medical/testing requirements. I haven’t even mentioned the fear of contracting the virus itself.

This week I actually got to fly. To give you an idea of the times, the Captain and I flew an empty passenger jet to Hanoi and back. We carried nothing but a bit of cargo in the belly. On arrival into Hong Kong we were made to test for COVID, then wait 3 hours for the results before they let us go home. We were the lucky ones. Many of our other colleagues flying to higher risk destinations and/or with passengers on board are made to quarantine for 3 weeks in a hotel room before being allowed home. 

All the above has made the job more demanding that it has ever been. 

Yet, despite this, flying to Hanoi and back was some of the most fun I’ve had in an aeroplane for a number of years. I believe that’s because this pandemic has given me something from being forced to point the nose down for the past year and a half. What I believe it really takes to recover from any stall in life: perspective

I became a pilot to fly aeroplanes and travel the world, but that’s not why I get in an aeroplane anymore. I’ve come to realise those motives alone aren’t enough anymore. They don’t generate enough lift. 

Now I fly, above all else, to help the world. To make sure the few passengers who need to travel get home to their families safely. To help transport critical cargo where it needs to go. To keep my company afloat. I fly not just for me and my family, but for the man or women sitting next to me and their families. I fly for all those who lost their jobs. I fly as part of a rich and proud aviation heritage during what is arguably its most difficult hour. 

It’s like that story about three bricklayers who were asked: “What are you doing?” The first says, “I am laying bricks.” The second says, “I am building a church.” And the third says, “I am building the house of God.” The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.

I’ve transitioned from the second bricklayer to the third. I fly with a far greater passion derived from a deeper meaning that’s been given to this profession – to all things – during this time. Ultimately that’s what I believe pointing the nose down allows you to see. It reminds you what it’s all about. Why you even get up in the morning. 

And call me crazy, but for the first time in a while I feel a glimmer of hope. Now that I’m fully vaccinated, with a slight uptick in the amount of flying rostered this month, with genuine talks of opening up travel bubbles… 

Of course I’m aware you have to be very careful with hope. Often the light at the end of the tunnel is simply another train coming at you. And if it is, so be it. I’m ready.

Still, I do believe this time we might actually be at the bottom of this stall. That we might finally have the energy – the perspective – to start the slow ascent towards bluer skies. Back towards a new, more sustainable, cruising level. I, for one, can’t wait for the day I look back down the cabin and see the plane full of happy travellers once more.

I, for one, am more than ready to do my part, to help make that happen.  


(Thanks for reading everyone. I’m curious to know what stories you have of stalling in life? How did you deal with it? What helped you recover? Let us know below. Wishing you well.)

***

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

The Only Thing The World Needs From You

“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 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.’

Breathe…

‘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…

Ahhh shiiiiiiit!

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. 

No! 

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.

Seriously!

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.

***

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

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that believes you should become a minimalist by giving it all your stuff…

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.

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) It’s funny how giving away everything for nothing in return gives you everything you want.

2) Mental and physical health are intrinsically linked. Looking after both for the sake of each other should be your first priority every day. (Try meditation, exercise, journalling…)

3) The more shit you have, the more shit you have to worry about. Don’t aim to have lots in life. Aim to have the few things you desire the most. Then learn to get as much joy and love out of those things as you possibly can. Cut out the rest. Less really is more.


2 x Quotes:

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

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

  • Bill Watterson, the cartoonist and creator of Calvin and Hobbes

  • 1 x Thing:

    This brilliant art of manliness article: Via Negativa: Adding to Your Life By Subtracting. The article argues that the path to becoming a better person is often found by subtracting the negative from our lives. Well worth the quick read. A couple of quotes listed below:

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

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


    1 x Joke:

    Have another far side comic for this week folks. 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.

    One bonus question to finish: What can you subtract from your life to make it better?


    PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

    Mindset Mondays – 15/03/21

    Why Everything Scares You To Death

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

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

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

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

    The Biology Of Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Link To Death

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

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

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

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

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

    Well, consider this.

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

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

    This is worth stressing.

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

    How To Conquer Your Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    ***

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

    4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

    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.

    Let’s begin!

    (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.)


    4 x Thoughts:

    1) Knowledge is power but imagination is freedom.

    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.


    3 x Quotes:

    “The meaning of life is whatever you’re doing that prevents you from killing yourself”

    – ALBERT CAMUS

    “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.”

    – JORDAN B. PETERSON (From his book: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos)

    “If you change the MEANING of your life, it’s going to change the FEELINGS…Then, your life is really going to CHANGE.”

    RASHEDUR RYAN RAHMAN


    2 x Things:

    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:

    1. Experiencing reality by interacting authentically with the environment and with others.
    2. Giving something back to the world through creativity and self-expression, and,
    3. 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?


    PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

    Mindset Mondays – 11/01/21

    The Meaning Of Your Life

    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. 

    However.

    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 🙏)

    ***

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

    Tuesday’s Top Tip

    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.

    However!

    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. That’s how we stop from falling into the abyss.

    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.

    Previous Top Tip

    Sh*t. Just. Got. Personal.

    You cancelled weddings. You cancelled birthdays, festivals, celebrations of all kinds. You cancelled good times.

    And I said, ok. 

    You took away my holidays. You prevented me from seeing my friends. You prevented me from seeing my family. 

    And I said, ok. 

    You forced me to quarantine in hotels rooms. You cost me days of my life. You sucked the joy from a job I love.

    And I said, ok. 

    You cost me significantly. You made me take unpaid leave. You forced me to sign a contract that will permanently hinder my long term prospects. That will hurt the quality of life I can provide for my family. 

    And I said, ok. 

    You grounded aeroplanes. You brought my industry to its knees. You fired my friends. You destroyed livelihoods. 

    And I I said, ok. 

    You allowed fear to consume. You allowed evil to thrive. An evil that has placed a stranglehold on my home here in Hong Kong.

    And I said, ok. 

    You killed millions. You hurt so many more. 

    And I still said, ok. 

    You blackened both my eyes. You broke my nose, and my arm. Then you shot me in the leg and continued to kick me while I bled out. 

    And still, I said, ok. 

    But now. 

    Now!

    Now you permanently close down my local pub! 

    Shit. Just. Got. Personal. 

    So I stand back up. I dust myself off and I say,

    “Now it’s my turn mother fucker!”

    As a pilot (who likes to think of himself as Santa), I sincerely look forward to helping transport vaccines around the world in the new year.

    Because let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, that mother fucker is going down.

    And 2021 is going to show what the human spirit can muster with its back against the wall.  

    There is light. There is hope. But we must endure a little longer. We must keep fighting. We must dig that little bit deeper.

    But I’ve no doubt that together we will get through this. 

    Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and an infinitely brighter 2021!

    With love,

    AP2 x

    Motivational Mondays – 24/08/20

    Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post – The only newsletter to start your week with a snap, crackle and pop!

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

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

    Love to all X


    4 x Thoughts From Me:

    Don’t pay much attention to your past. The lessons you’ve learnt will be applied at the appropriate moments provided you remain present. If you spend your time looking backward you’re in danger of missing those moments. Then you’ll find history repeating itself. Stay present with one eye on the future. Leave the past where it is.

    If you complain you suffer twice. If you blame you deny yourself the opportunity to learn. If you give up both of those habits you’ll go far. 

    I do believe if you can find the thing you love – if it happens to pay the bills as well – then you’ve landed a winning lottery ticket. This is the advice that everyone pedals as a possible reality but the truth is many of our passions simply don’t pay the bills. Writing for me is about the why – not about trying to get clickbait or make money. If I tried turning it into a profession I think I’d give it up fairly quickly. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with a half decent job while spending your spare time doing the things that you love instead. This is a more realistic and achievable goal. So long as you make the time to pursue your passion, it doesn’t have to be the thing that pays the bills!

    It’s difficult to love other people if you don’t love yourself. It’s difficult to love yourself if you don’t love other people. It works both ways. Ask yourself which you have most trouble with and work on it.


    3 x Quotes From Others:

    “Good luck is when opportunity meets preparation. While bad luck is when lack of preparation meets reality.”– Eliyahu Goldratt

    “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot… Grief is just love with no place to go.” Jamie Anderson

    “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour.”- Truman Capote


    2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

    1 – This fascinating Intelligence Squared podcast episode about The Hidden Power of Caste, with Isabel Wilkerson and Yassmin Abdel-Magied. “Race, class, gender. These are the categories that are commonly thought to define our lives. But Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson argues that ultimately the determining factor in societies is a more powerful, unspoken system of divisions: caste.”

    MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

    • What is caste?An arbitrary graded ranking of human value in a society – where a person’s characteristics determines standing, respect, access to resources, assumptions of beauty and intelligence, whether benefit of the doubt is given etc. – In the United States the metric born out of the slave trade for our caste system is/has been race. We live under the shadow of this metric to this day. 
    • Teacher in Iowa experimented with children in her class by assigning caste system based on the colour of their eyes. Anyone with brown eyes was deemed inferior and not allowed the same privileges. They were not allowed to interact with others. Brown eyed children were bullied immediately. They would say oh that’s because he/she is “a brown eyed” if they made a mistake or performed poorly. They actually ended up scoring lower in tests because they believed they were inferior. Something that was undeniably a neutral trait was instantaneously taken to mean something else by these children, simply because that’s what they were told!
    • Hitler spoke of his admiration for ‘America’s knack for maintaining an air of robust innocence in the wake of mass deaths.’ The Nazis admired the Americans for their caste system – they sent researchers to the United States to understand how they were able to subjugate and subordinate African Americans. Helped to form the Nuremberg laws. 
    • The tragedy of caste systems: We make assumptions based on what we can see. Yet you might know nothing about a person but because of the caste system under which you’ve been raised, your assumptions are automatic.
    • (In response to receiving racial prejudice) “I don’t take offence. I believe this is simply a problem of the coding we have received as humans from an arbitrary caste system based on race.” 
    • The beauty of focusing on the system and structures is you can remove the emotions that get in the way of seeing things clearly. You can understand it’s not necessarily the persons fault for the assumptions she or he has made. 
    • The coding is so deeply imbedded that it operates despite all evidence to the contrary. 
    • One of the things modern Germany has done so well in is educating its own population. They have turned all the places of previous horror into memorials and centres of education. 
    • “Whatever is there won’t go away just because you won’t look at it. Actually it’ll only get worse.”
    • If you don’t know you can’t act. Nothing can be expected of you if you do not know. The question is what do you do when you do become aware? You have to be able to see a problem to solve a problem.

    2 – This excellent BBC article The ‘Batman Effect’: How having an alter ego empowers you by David Robson (author of The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things). We’ve all heard the mantra ‘fake it till you make it’ – well this article explores how adopting an alter ego – such as batman – can help you overcome your anxieties and achieve your goals. Well worth the read! 3 quotes from the article below.

    “Although the embodiment of a fictional persona may seem like a gimmick for pop stars, new research suggests there may be some real psychological benefits to the strategy. Adopting an alter ego is an extreme form of ‘self-distancing’, which involves taking a step back from our immediate feelings to allow us to view a situation more dispassionately.”

    “In one study, participants were asked to think about a challenging event in the future, such as an important exam, in one of two different ways. The group in the “immersed” condition were told to picture it from the inside, as if they were in the middle of the situation, whereas those in the “distanced” condition were asked to picture it from afar – as if they were a fly on the wall. The differences were striking, with those taking the distanced viewpoint feeling much less anxious about the event, compared to the immersed group. The self-distancing also encouraged greater feelings of self-efficacy – the sense that they could pro-actively cope with the situation and achieve their goal.”

    “The researchers had suspected that the alter ego would be a more extreme form of self-distancing, and the results showed exactly that. While the children thinking in the third person spent about 10% more of the total available time on the task that those thinking in the first person, it was the children inhabiting their alter egos who stuck it out for the longest of all. Overall, they spent 13% more of the total available time on the task than those thinking in the third person (and 23% more than those thinking about their behaviour in the first person).”


    1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

    My son came up to me today while I was meditating exclaiming, “Mama’s brushing her tit.”

    I shot up!

    “Excuse me?,” I said, thinking I must have misheard him.

    “Mama’s brushing her tit,” he repeated.

    Oh my, I thought. He shouldn’t be looking at that.

    “Where is she?,” I asked.

    “Mama in bathroom,” he replied.

    I poked my head through the open door. Sure enough there was mummy, brushing her teeth!

    I was both disappointed and relieved at the same time.


    Till next week…

    Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

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

    One bonus question for you all:

    What have you been brushing this week? 

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


    PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

    Motivational Mondays – 17/08/20

    Motivational Mondays – 10/08/20

    Motivational Mondays – 03/08/20

    Motivational Mondays – 27/07/20

    Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

    Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

    Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

    Motivational Mondays – 10/08/20

    Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post! The only newsletter to give you a nice warm hug and a much needed kick up the backside at the same time.

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

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

    Love to all X


    4 x Thoughts From Me:

    There isn’t an inverse correlation between success and failure. The more you fail in life, the more you succeed. If you’re not failing it simply means you’re not trying as hard as you should be. If you ask me, the only real failure in life is not trying. You need to put yourself in positions where you have to fail in order to succeed.

    Creativity has nothing to do with being the best but everything to do with expressing your individuality. It’s about doing something in a way that only you can. This is what makes the creative process so beautiful. It’s also what makes imitation such a terrible waste of your talents. There will always be someone who can do it better than you but no-one, who can do it the same.

    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 to tell fuck off!

    Why we feel the need to map out our entire lives from the age of thirteen is beyond me. Life is meant to be a melody. Yet so many of us get stuck on one note. That’s not a beautiful song. That’s just noise. Or put another way, a really shitty way to live. You have to allow the melody to play out through both the high notes and the low. That’s what creates a beautiful life.


    3 x Quotes From Others:

    “Your passion is for you. Your purpose is for others. Your passion makes you happy. But when you use your passion to make a difference in someone else’s life, that’s a purpose.” – Jay Shetty

    There are so many people who don’t know what they want. And I think that, in this world, that’s the only thing you have to know — exactly what you want.Agnes Martin

    “No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” – Carl Jung


    2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

    1 – This insightful Tim Ferris podcast episode with Brad Feld on The Art of Unplugging, Carving Your Own Path, and Riding the Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster. I was particularly interested in Brad’s advice on dealing with depression and how to find the right therapist. Quotes and notes below.

    MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

    • “Do your words match your actions?”
    • “Brad, they can’t kill you and they can’t eat you. Suit up.” — Len Fassler
    • “The first day of therapy with a new therapist is worse than the first day of school.” 
    • I was able to break down my shame around depression gradually by talking about it. The more I did the more comfortable I became with having had it. 
    • Having honest conversations with other people who told me that this was the first real conversation they’d ever been able to have about their struggles with depression made me feel like what I had to say had value. This created a positive feedback loop that obliterated my shame. Not lessen it, obliterate it completely! My narrative shifted. I just started to think ok it’s depression – not gonna hide from it. We’re human. We can either deal with it or not. 
    • To be willing to go deep on yourself. To keep recognising we are all flawed. The more we can do this without shame the better. Ask yourself, How are you complicit in creating the conditions you say you don’t want? What it is not being said? What is being said that you’re not listening to? 
    • It’s true for most people. We are in complete denial about the ways in which we create our own unhappiness. 
    • HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT THERAPIST – GET A REFERRAL FOR A REFERRAL. I recommend finding someone – a friend or colleague who has done therapy and get their recommendation (or if you have a GP you’re comfortable with – most of them will have a network of therapists for referral). Go to their therapist for a referral. Get them to spend an hour with you so they can refer to someone that in their professional opinion believe is appropriate for you.

    2 – This interesting BBC article – The mindset you need to succeed at every goal by David Robson. The article explores what it means to have a strategic mindset and how you can use that to achieve your goals more easily. Well worth reading! As quoted,

    “The construct – called the “strategic mindset” – describes the tendency to question and refine your current approach in the face of setbacks and challenges. While others diligently follow the same convoluted path, people with the strategic mindset are constantly looking for a more efficient route forwards. “It helps them figure out how to direct their efforts more effectively,” says Patricia Chen at the National University of Singapore. And Chen’s new research shows that it may just spell the difference between success or failure.” 


    1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

    This week I get to spend it enjoying the confines of a hotel room in San Francisco! Such are the joys of layover travel during the COVID era.

    Anyway, to make me feel slightly less homesick I thought I’d share this short story of when I was learning the ropes as a brand new father nearly two years now. May it serve as a waring for all new parents everywhere…

    So I was happily going about the task of wiping my son’s bottom by gently lifting his legs up by his ankles and pushing them into his body (so his knees were pressed into his chest), before he happily let rip!

    It seems the pressure applied plus the liquid consistency of his stool created the perfect conditions for something called projectile shitting.

    That’s right!

    Shit flew all across our windowsill – upon which we had positioned him and his changing table – travelling at least 4 feet from his anus before completely covering our favourite framed wedding picture.

    I’m guessing there’s a cruel metaphor somewhere about what his plans were for our marriage. Best to ignore that.


    Till next week…

    Have a Happy F***ing Monday Everybody!

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

    One bonus question for you all:

    What’s your best (or worst) projectile story?


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

    PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

    Motivational Mondays – 03/08/20

    Motivational Mondays – 27/07/20

    Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

    Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

    Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

    Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

    Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

    Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

    Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20