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

Hello lovely readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter! 

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

I hope you enjoy!


WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING:

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

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

The Ultimate Form Of Taking Responsibility

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

Move Like A Turtle, Move Like A Winner

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

An Apology To My Heart

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

People As Mirrors

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

What Does It Take To Find Inner Peace?

Another short ramble from yours truly.

Happy F***ing Mondays

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

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:

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

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

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

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


RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM MY JOURNAL:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dearest Son,

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

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

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

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

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

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


BE HONEST WITH THOSE YOU CARE ABOUT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


HONESTY HELPS YOURSELF AND THOSE YOU LOVE

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

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

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

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

The Ultimate Form Of Taking Responsibility

I read a quote the other day that said, “Enthusiasm is worth 25 IQ points.”

It got me thinking about my attitude towards work in the past. 

It’s easy to see how limiting the story in my head has been when I’ve shown up to work and told myself things like, I’m not going to enjoy this. 

How I dragged my heels when wishing, I didn’t have to fly with that particular captain. 

How I made everything so much harder than it needed to be because the narrative I repeated was so heavily rooted in what was happening to me

How I had to fly through the night again. 

How I had to fly with the difficult captain. 

How I got the crappy rest…

What happens when you complain about having to do something?

You suffer twice.

Once in imagination and then again when you have do it.

What’s the tendency of someone who complains about something beforehand?

They point the finger and blame others. 

This makes things worse because it puts yourself in a position of not wanting to learn. It closes your mind. It puts you in a fixed mindset.

One golden rule for life that forces you to take responsibility:

GIVE UP BLAMING AND GIVE UP COMPLAINING!

(FYI constructive criticism isn’t the same as complaining. One offers a solution the other is simply a judgment.)

Easier said than done of course…

So what if we looked at this from the angle of adopting an attitude rather than giving one up?

What if, instead of trying to give up blaming and complaining, we said to ourselves, this week I’m going to show up with as much enthusiasm as I can muster?

Instead of trying to catch yourself out for being negative, instead of beating yourself up for acting like a child, you simply set the intention to go about whatever it is you have to do (whether that’s work, doing taxes or washing the dishes) with an attitude of ‘fuck yes.’

After all, if it’s something you have to do, why wouldn’t you make the most of it? Why wouldn’t you try to see how much you can squeeze from that bastard lemon!

Let me go back to the quote I mentioned at the beginning.

Enthusiasm is worth 25 IQ points. 

Of course the idea of gaining 25 IQ points, which is a lot, isn’t meant to taken literally, but it gets the point across succinctly.

If you show up with enthusiasm. If you turn a reluctant yes into a fuck yes the benefits can’t be understated.

Just this week I had a simulator that signed on at 11pm and finished at 3am followed by a flight that signed on at 6am just two days later. Not exactly the roster I would have chosen for myself but you know what – I didn’t let myself complain about it – I just got on with it.

In fact I told myself I was gonna be the keenest motherfucker on the flight deck.

I reminded myself of my loving motives for doing what I do – that I was there to help others and to be part of something bigger than me.

I reminded myself that enthusiasm is worth 25 IQ points.

How do you think I performed?

I can tell you I’ve done much worse.

I’m sure you can relate.

Think about a time when you’ve arrived somewhere you really wanted to be – in which you really wanted to learn something.

How did it go?

I’m guessing pretty fucking well.

Conversely remember those times when you wanted to be somewhere else – when you simply wanted to be at home although you couldn’t.

Did that attitude help?

I’m guessing not.

We don’t alway get to do what we want to or, indeed, choose what life has in store for us. But if we make out that these things are what we wanted. That the struggle we find ourself in is what was meant for us, so we can learn and grow into the resilient mother fucker we were meant to be. Well, I suspect that such an attitude might just be the ultimate form of taking responsibility for your life.


SOURCES:

The quote is from Kevin Kelly‘s viral post ‘68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice‘ that he wrote on his 68th birthday. Can highly recommend reading!

9 Golden Rules For Cultivating A Growth Mindset.

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

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

Here they are:


1 – Make A Concrete Plan.

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

2 – Show Up Everyday.

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

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

3 – Don’t Let Any Failure Define You.

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

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

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

Don’t. Give. Up.

4 – Study To Learn Not Simply Pass.

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

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

5 – Seek feedback/Ask for help

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

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

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

6 – Praise effort not talent.

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

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

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

7 – Be honest but be constructive.

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

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

8 –Find the time to reflect.

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

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

9. Take Ownership Of Your Mistakes.

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

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

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


SOURCES/ARTICLES:

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

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

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

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