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. 

Move Like A Turtle, Move Like A Winner

My message today is simple: Try to be a little better.

I feel our generation has been raised in absolutes. Everything is either black or white. You are either right or wrong.

The truth is never that simple.

There is no black or white, only different shades of grey. No one is right – people are just different levels of wrong.

Instead of trying to become an enlighten Buddhist monk overnight, maybe just try to change one small thing – move ever so gradually in the direction of positive change.

The long term sum of continuously inching forward will surprise you.

The rabbit might win the sprint, but it will burn out in a marathon.

Forget the 100m sprint.

Move like a turtle and win at the game of life instead.

5 Mindfulness Hacks to Help Bring You Back to the Present Moment.

“Mindfulness isn’t about goals or ticking a box – mindfulness is a way of life – something to cultivate over time.”

Below I’ve written out 5 Mindfulness Hacks that I like to use informally throughout the day to help bring me back to and fully engage with the present moment.

1. WHEN YOU NOTICE YOUR MIND WANDERING – SMILE. 

“A tiny bud of a smile on your lips nourishes awareness and calms you miraculously … your smile will bring happiness to you and to those around you.”Thich Nhat Hanh

“The power of a smile to open and relax us is confirmed by modern science. The muscles used to make a smile actually send a biochemical message to our nervous system that it is safe to relax the flight, fight or freeze response.”Tara Brach 

Smile to yourself as you gently redirect your attention and return to the task at hand – whatever that may be. Smile as a way of congratulating yourself. You’ve just experienced a moment of mindfulness and that’s a great thing. This is not a moment to beat yourself up for having drifted off or getting caught up in your thoughts. That’s like beating yourself up for having flatulence. It’s a perfectly normal thing for the mind to do (and the body in the case of farting). Its important you remain kind to yourself. (PS – I hope that made you smile 😃!)

2. USE S.T.O.P. AS A WAY TO PRACTICE PAUSING INFORMALLY THROUGHOUT THE DAY. 

“The sacred pause helps us reconnect with the present moment. Especially when we are caught up in striving and obsessing and leaning into the future, pausing enables us to reenter the mystery and vitality only found here and now.”Tara Brach

STOP is an easy to remember acronym you can use at any time to help bring you back to the present moment. Its stands for:

S.top to pause for a moment – discontinuing what you are doing. Make yourself comfortable and close your eyes if it helps.

T.ake a breath. – Next take a few deep breaths. Let go as you exhale. Let go of any worries or thoughts, of any tightness in the body.

O.bserve – Now pay attention to what you are feeling as you fully inhabit the moment. What do you feel? Do you feel anxious – some resistance to stopping whatever it is you told yourself you have to do? Do you accept this moment exactly as it is?

P.roceed with whatever it is you were doing mindfully, taking that awareness with you

(There are plenty of other mantras or acronyms you could use. The important thing is to find one that you like and works for you – to help bring you back to the present moment. As another example, I also like to use the mantra, ’Smile, Breathe… Focus, Believe…’ whenever I catch myself getting caught up with my emotions or a negative train of thought.)

3. TALKING TO YOURSELF IN THE THIRD PERSON AS A WAY TO UNIDENTIFY WITH THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS. 

David is feeling stressed. David is thinking lots. David is looking at his phone. Talking in this manner is a great way to help unidentify with your thoughts, feelings and emotions. To really become the observer. To see your thoughts and feelings for what they are -just thoughts and feelings – without falling into the trap of thinking you are your thoughts or feelings. 

I am depressed is very different to saying I am feeling depressed or having feelings of depression. Replacing ‘I’ with your name takes this a step further. eg. David is having feelings of depression. Its a subtle but powerful shift in terminology that fundamentally changes how you relate to your feelings and thoughts. 

Mark Reinecke, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine says, “When we put something in first person there’s a heavier [emotional] load that makes it more difficult to reason about a problem clearly. If you put the problem into the third person, it allows you to keep perspective on it and have a calmer response.”

https://www.today.com/series/one-small-thing/talking-yourself-third-person-can-calm-emotions-t114420

4. Practise the engagement of flow

Give 100% attention to whatever you are doing, whenever you remember.

How do you do that?

To give you an example: Try for a few seconds, closing your eyes and imagine you have been blind your whole life – that you’ve never seen a single object in its flesh – don’t know what colour is, etc. Once you’ve spent a minute of two imaging this, open your eyes again and really look as if you’re seeing everything for the very first time.

Did you have any thoughts or was everything you looked at, if only for a second or two, completely and utterly amazing? Thats what I imagine, at least, how an enlightened person sees the world. Bringing that level of attention and awareness to absolutely everything, as if for the very first. 

5. Use R.A.I.N. to deal with difficult emotions.

The acronym RAIN is an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness and compassion during difficult moments using the following four steps:

R.ecognise what is happening and label it.

A.ccept the emotion or feeling to be there as it is.

I.nvestigate it – become curious and really observe it. Ask yourself why/what triggered it? Be compassionate as you do so.

N.urture with self compassion – Remember you are not your thoughts, you are not your feelings. They are simply things you are experiencing. They will pass! Remember too that every person in the world suffers. That is part of the living experience. You are not alone. 

https://www.tarabrach.com/rain/

“The business of a wise man is to be happy in whatever condition life happens to offer”

12 Personal Commandments for a Happier Life

As inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s wonderful Happiness Project, I decided to put together a list of my own 12 commandments for living a happier, healthier and more purposeful life.

As Gretchen says, ‘these aren’t meant to be specific resolutions but overarching principles by which to live’. At any rate, it’s a fun and creative way to help outline some core values should you have the time.

I should say the quotes are not mine, but ones that stuck in my mind from various readings over the years. Anyway here they are:

  1. “Live in day-tight compartments” – Live in the moment. There’s no point in living with regret about yesterday or worry for tomorrow. 
  1. “Don’t cry over spilt milk”You can’t change what’s happened. Only pick up the pieces and move forward. Forgive and forget. 
  1. “Pay Rapt Attention” – Meditate daily and show a keen interest in your daily activities and conversations. Stay in the moment and participate fully. 
  1. “Act and think the way you wish to feel – be fearless” – Smile and be happy. Stand up tall and be confident. We live in the mind whether we know it or not. The wisest among us use our actions to influence our emotions and not the other way around. 
  1. “Count your blessings – Not your troubles” – First – aim to get what you want and then Second – Enjoy it! Be grateful everyday. You’re exceptionally lucky. 
  1. “Be Yourself” – Imitation is suicide. Be your best self and embrace your uniqueness. 
  1. “Have malice toward none and charity for all” – Don’t waste a second thinking about those that have wronged you. It serves no purpose. We must harbour no bitterness. Instead find time to give and serve those in greater need. 
  1. “Order is Heaven’s First Law” – Clearing clutter will help create peace of mind. Set specific measurable goals, visualise them complete, then act on them. 
  1. “Lose yourself in action – Just do it” – Secret to being miserable is to have the time to wonder whether you are happy or not. Keep yourself busy. Work daily, Exercise daily and Play daily. The time is now so go!
  1. “Do what’s right, not what’s easy” – The easiest is rarely the best option. Strive toward a higher purpose and think before every word and action. 
  1. “Remember life comes from you not at you” – Give up blaming and complaining. Only YOU are responsible for YOU. Be honest with yourself and understand that belief is a choice so choose to believe!
  1. “Look to the stars” – Have faith you can turn around any situation. To profit from your losses is far more important than capitalising on your gains. Take the time to reflect everyday. 

I might add I wrote this some time ago after I first read Gretchen’s book. After going through my old notes I thought it might be a great time to refine and update this old list. I’ll be sure to post it when its finished. In the mean time, if you have any personal commandments of your own please let me know in the comments section below. I’d be thankful for the inspiration.

January Review

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

Anne Frank 

STATS:

Meditated  – 31/31 days (currently 144 days in a row)

Exercise – 17/31 days (Injured back lifting weights)

Writing – 20/31 days – Published 1 post/week on blog (5 total)

Reading – 24/31 days – Finished 3 books (The 4 Hour Body – Timothy Ferris. Tools of Titans – Timothy Ferris. How To Self-Publish A Children’s Book – Eevi Jones).

Alcohol free days – 20/31 days – 1 x alcohol free week (1st – 7th)

10k + Steps – 21/31 days

WHAT WENT WELL?

Meditated every single morning. 

Got plenty of reading and writing done – resulted in reading a total of three books plus publishing a post on the new blog every week (5 total)! 

Diet has been consistent, keeping to largely protein rich/low carb meals during my fasting window of 12-8pm. 

Completed alcohol free week (1st – 7th). 

Body weight = 75.2kg and body fat = 17.1% as of Jan 31st. Although my body fat loss has plateaued in recent weeks I’m mindful of the fact I’ve not been lifting weights or doing HIT because of my back (see below). (Also I’ve been having a few more cheat days as Mum and Dad have been in town to celebrate a belated Christmas and Chinese New Year!) At any rate I’ve not gained weight which is a plus. 

Injury setback through weight training. Despite this I managed to modify my exercise regime – replacing planned weight and hit workouts with lots of swimming (FYI swimming is awesome!). It has also given me a few ideas for upcoming blog posts. 

In terms of admin got plenty done – filling my UK tax return and paying my HK ones. Also organised new mortgage for UK property. 

WHAT DIDN’T GO WELL?

Work – haven’t performed as well as I would have liked although, in my defence, I’ve not done much flying this month. At any rate, still plenty of room for improvement. Lack of motivation still an issue too. How might I resolve this and find my former enthusiasm for flying? Honestly I think I’m suffering a little burn out following nearly ten years of long haul flying. A longer break this year is planned for exactly this reason. As a way of resting, resetting and coming back stronger. 

Injury set back. Managed to hurt my back during weights training. This stopped me from working the second half of the month due to lower back pain associated with sciatica. The warning signs were there – a small twinge but definitely felt something before stupidly going ahead with weights training when I should have backed off. MISSING ONE WORKOUT TO PREVENT INJURY IS ALWAYS WORTH IT! Listen to your body!

At home I’ve not prioritised writing a will which I keep putting off – mainly because I’m lazy which is no excuse. Get it done!  

WHAT DID I LEARN?

Mentally it’s been a tough month with this back injury. I have felt angry and frustrated, failing to see the bigger picture – ie. it will pass and NOTHING IS PERMANENT. I think finding the time to BE MORE PLAYFUL and HAVE MORE LAUGHS with friends and family should be a priority for February. Mercifully I have some leave this month and plans to go to skiing in Japan (back permitting) with the family. I must make the most of it regardless of how much skiing I can actually manage. 

TALK TO YOUR WIFE more (insert expletive) head. She’s your partner and wants to help you (just like the rest of your family!). Communication clearly still a weakness for me. My idea of talking every night before bed is a good one but I must MAKE A POINT OF REALLY ENGAGING. Asking more questions and listening intently. Just as importantly TELL HER WHAT’S REALLY ON YOUR MIND

Two things I can think of implementing straight away: 

MEDITATE MORE OFTEN, not just in the morning. Meditation really helps but I think I’m simply going through the motions a bit with my morning practice. My plan is to experiment more with different times during the day when I have a quiet moment and to meditate in the evening just before I go to sleep! 

When talking to my wife in the evening come prepared with THE SINGLE GREATEST CONCERN you have had during the day and TELL IT TO HER. Don’t keep it to yourself.

There is always an opportunity with any set back and it’s important to look for it. Following my injury I told myself NO EXCUSES, that THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY TO MODIFY even if you have to scale way back! Adopting swimming has been a great way to do this given the circumstances and is something I’m particularly proud of implementing. It turns out SWIMMING IS AWESOME and I believe is what’s responsible for a marked improvement in my cardiovascular system. My resting heart rate dropped from the mid to low fifties into the mid to high forties for the first time in a long time! Not to mention it’s been brilliant for my back pain. 

Another silver lining regarding my back injury is I’ve had more time to read and write. TAKING NOTES OF THE BOOKS I READ is something relatively new I’ve been doing but has proven a GREAY WAY TO CONSOLIDATE MY LEARNING. One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m spending more time on writing blog posts then continuing with my children’s book. I must revisit notes from how to self publish a children’s book and WRITE A TIMELINE TO FOLLOW. Approaching an editor will be a close second objective. 

My 2019 Review – CAREER, WORK and WRITING✍️

Hi there and welcome to part 2 of my 2019 review! Today I’m looking at work, specifically my career in aviation and as a writer. As before two major questions are driving my thoughts. Those are, ‘What went well?’ and What could I do better?’. I hope you enjoy.

AVIATION

In terms of my job (the one that pays the bills), I’m flying less often as a result of requesting a long haul roster, which means I get more days off. Given how young my boy is, family time is simply a much bigger priority for me at the moment. I don’t feel guilty about this however, the result is, quite naturally, a less proficient operation. Approaching my command I will look to focus more on my operation again, but for now and looking forward to 2020, given it’s still a way off, my focus will remain on improving my own health and well-being on top of becoming a better father to Liam and husband to Holly. 

With that said I would at least say I have achieved a much healthier relationship towards work, especially with regards to flying through the night, which previously occupied a much greater and more negative space in my head. Working with my therapist has paid dividends in this regard.

I also have a better handle on my anxiety toward flying with certain, shall we say, personality types. Although rare, previous experiences had left me feeling nervous almost every time I showed up to work. Outside of my family it was perhaps the biggest driver for me to seek help. I used to take work home with me all the time – worrying about my performance, lack of drive, who I might have to fly with, the havoc night flying must be having on my health – basically A LOT OF NEGATIVE SHIT. Without getting into too much detail about my therapy, we worked out a great deal of these thoughts stemmed from an underlying belief of inadequacy that I had been carrying around with me for a very long time.

I can happily say my perspective has changed significantly. The boundaries between work and home are much clearer – more or less forgetting about work when at home and feeling more excited and motivated when back at it. I’m less hard on myself when I don’t have the best day and far better at taking the positives.

Next year will very much be about bringing this improved perspective toward work consistently. I still have demons to fight, but unlike before I now look forward to the battle. I now want to put myself in the uncomfortable situations – take the more challenging sectors with the more difficult captains – knowing that I’m more than capable of dealing with them, but that I still have things to learn and room to grow. We always do. 

I think it’s fair to say I haven’t really felt like a captain yet up to this point in my career – settling and becoming too comfortable with my role as First Officer and Second Officer before that. However far off it may be, I want to feel that I am truly ‘Command ready’ by the end of 2020, so that the course may be less of a shock to the system than previous upgrades have proved. This will be my ultimate work goal for next year.

To achieve that I will look at perfecting my routines around work as well as at it. I will never turn down a sector offered and I will challenge myself at every opportunity to put myself in the captains shoes. I will seek to attend a command performance course. I will ask the question, “What could I have done better/differently?” Beyond that I will remember, It is a privilege to be an aviator and I owe it to the profession to give it my all. 

WRITING

Consistently writing every day has to be a major goal for 2020. Setting myself the goal of one post a week, or however many a month, has not proven the best way to get me writing. If anything I find it demotivating when I inevitably miss the deadlines set for myself. I think much more important is the process or routine of writing. Making it a daily habit. If I simply do, then I know I’ll be more productive regardless of how many articles/posts/books I actually end up producing.

Like a lot of things, I’ve had too much of an on and off relationship with writing, as has been the case this year. Happily I’ve seen a major improvement, in the latter part of this year. I have been writing almost everyday. In the past month. I’ve written my family Christmas newsletter, finished my first draft of my children’s book, which I hope to get published next year, written in my 5MJ every day and started this blog. Let see what I can get done in a year by committing to the simple goal of writing just one lousy paragraph a day.