Tuesday’s Top Tip

Why should you make your bed in the morning? Why should you shave? Why should you wear your best clothes? Why should you exercise? Why should you find 5 minutes to meditate?

Because all little these things are saying something. They are saying whether or not you think today is more or less important than others.

I always advocate wearing your best clothes (practically speaking of course). I always advocate going through your morning routine – especially if you don’t feel like it.

By doing so you are telling yourself to show up for today.

You are telling yourself that today is what matters the most.

That this moment is the most precious one.

This is always true.

Why wouldn’t you show up for what is always the most important day of your life? 

Previous Top Tip

Tuesday’s Top Tip

There are no good people.

There are no bad people.

There are only those who are trying to be better and those who are not.

Trying to be a “good person” or aiming for some idea of perfection is exactly what society wants you to do. This makes you feel like you’re always less than, like you’re not a good person, that you’re not capable…

For lack of putting it a better way, this is complete horse sh*t.

Forget good.

Forget perfect.

You are neither of those things. Well, maybe you’re occasionally capable of being good as defined by society, but never perfect. That is a fantasy.

No no no.

Banish good and perfect from your vocabulary and concentrate on one word alone.

That is better.

Make it your only aim in life. Your only aim everyday in whatever it is you decided to do. Simply try to be a better person.

This, you always can be.

This is enough.

Previous Top Tip

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my Mindset Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that claims election fraud to save face…

Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should probably ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should definitely 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 terrible joke that’s so bad, you won’t be able to help but laugh…

Let’s begin!


4 x Thoughts From Me:

Emotion is a writer’s best friend. 

You’ve all heard the saying that what you resist you give strength. Sage advice. What I would add though is what you resist you give strength – unless you seek to destroy it altogether. When people seek to destroy what they dislike we enter a very dangerous situation. I’ll use emotions as a perfect example. If you resist emotions you dislike you give them strength. What meditation and therapy seek to do, among other things, is accept them for what they are at any one time. This isn’t easy but it’s undeniably the right approach. The other way to deal with them is destroy them. Numb through the use of drugs or other addictions. This will end up hurting you much more. 

Success isn’t achieving something. Success is enjoying achieving something. Win or lose. Success is about enjoyment. Not money. Not titles. Not prestige. Not being right. Not fame. It’s enjoyment. It’s loving what you’re doing. If you truly do, the other stuff won’t matter. 

Perhaps the biggest mental block people have is acceptance. They can’t accept who they are right now. They can’t accept that they suffer from depression or anxiety. They cant accept they are flawed. People will argue it’s this that pushes them forward. That this is what drives them to become better. That it’s important we don’t accept ourselves as we are right now. I couldn’t disagree more. When you accept yourself for who you are right now you are still aware that you can become something more. That you can be better. You still understand the benefits of becoming. The difference is you don’t attribute a threat level survival response to your actions. You don’t feel you have to do anything (because you don’t have to do anything). You do it simply because you want to. Because you want to become better. Because you want to help others. You end up enjoying the process without any worry of failure because you’re coming from a place of acceptance. This is a far healthier place from which to act. 


3 x Quotes From Others:

“A healthy relationship will never require you to sacrifice your friends, your dreams, or your dignity.” Dinkar Kalotra (Source: https://mindfulnessbits.wordpress.com/2020/11/09/its-your-job-to-make-me-happy/)

You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or who says it.” – Malcolm X (Source: https://www.forbes.com/quotes/6438/)

“We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs … and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.” –  Audre Lorde (Source: https://jamesclear.com/3-2-1/refer?rh_ref=36174ee4)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This inspiring Ted Talk How we can face the future without fear, together with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. ‘It’s a fateful moment in history. We’ve seen divisive elections, divided societies and the growth of extremism — all fueled by anxiety and uncertainty. “Is there something we can do, each of us, to be able to face the future without fear?” asks Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. In this electrifying talk, the spiritual leader gives us three specific ways we can move from the politics of “me” to the politics of “all of us, together.’ I highly recommend taking the 10 mins or so to give this speech a watch. I guarantee it will move you. You can find my favourite quote from the speech below.

“When we move from the politics of me to the politics of all of us together, we rediscover those beautiful, counterintuitive truths: that a nation is strong when it cares for the weak, that it becomes rich when it cares for the poor, it becomes invulnerable when it cares about the vulnerable. That is what makes great nations.”

2 – This fascinating BBC article: Lockdown has affected your memory – here’s why. The article explains the science behind why living in isolation may be harming our memories and what you can do about it. Well worth the quick read.


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

Struggling for a good (terrible) joke this week folks so thought I’d leave you with another Far Side comic that made me chuckle. Hope you enjoy.


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. Till next time… Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

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

One bonus question for you all: What is worrying you and what can you do it about? What can’t you do about it?

(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 POST:

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays – 09/11/20

Mental Mondays – 12/10/20

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my new and improved Mental Mondays newsletter – the only weekly newsletter to make a pass at your spouse before apologising profusely.

For those who don’t know, each week I try my best to give your Mondays a much needed kick up the proverbial by sharing 3 x thoughts from me (that you should probably ignore), 2 x quotes from others (that you probably shouldn’t), and 1 x thing I’ve been reading or listening to that has helped me grow (in a non-sexual manner).

As always I finish with a joke that’s either so good or so bad, you won’t be able to help it but laugh.

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts From Me:

Success is what we alone define – it’s extremely personal and completely different to what society tells us. Which is why you must take the time to define it for yourself – otherwise you’ll end up chasing someone else’s version of it.

The mind is hardwired to keep you alive. It’s far more interested in your survival than achieving any sort of lasting happiness. That’s why it keeps tricking you into thinking that more money, a better job, or a bigger house is what you need. It’s trying to safeguard your future self – to give you the best possible chance. If you found lasting happiness once you attained everything you actually needed then you would have stopped striving a long time ago. It’s so important to understand this. To understand why – after having great sex, getting a big promotion or buying a fancy new car – your happiness is so short lived. This is by design. You need to stop looking to your mind for lasting happiness because you won’t find it there. You need to let it go. You need to look beyond it and see what is right in front of you.

One reason you shouldn’t have children: that moment when you realise that one day you will have you let them go. One reason you should have children: that moment when you realise that one day you will have you let them go.  (Let that sink in for a second)


2 x Quotes From Others:

Lack of confidence kills more dreams than lack of ability. Talent matters—especially at elite levels—but people talk themselves out of giving their best effort long before talent becomes the limiting factor. You’re capable of more than you know. Don’t be your own bottleneck.” – James Clear (Source: James Clear Newsletter)

“You don’t build self esteem by patting people on the back and telling them they’re wonderful. Confidence is a much more complex phenomenon that comes from experiencing one’s strengths in action.” – Rosabeth Moss Kanter (Source: vrundachauk.wordpress.com/oh-i-didnt-knew-this-quotes)


1 x Thing That Has Helped Me Grow

This brilliant Intelligence Squared podcast episode with Thomas Friedman and Robert Peston on the Final Days of the Presidential Race. For those who don’t know the name, Thomas Friedman has won the Pulitzer Prize three times and has been called ‘the most influential columnist in America.’ In this conversation with ITV’s political editor Robert Peston, one of Britain’s leading journalists, Friedman talks about what is possibly the most consequential Presidential elections of our times. Honestly, if this doesn’t persuade you to vote for Biden then nothing will. It’s well worth a listen. I’ll leave you with this quote:

What we have now is a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, supported by a network without integrity – and that trifecta is extremely dangerous.” 


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

Sorry to bother you with another moon joke for the third week running but I felt I had to share this one.

As we were relaying the story to my parents about our son’s strange phobia of the moon my father paused before commenting,

“Maybe he’s a Luna-tic!?”

Genius.


My dad is here all week ladies and gentlemen.! 

Till next time…

Have a very happy Monday!

One bonus question for you all:

What does success mean to you?

(As my regular readers might have noticed I’ve changed the title this week. I’ve don’t this for a couple of reasons. The first is because I never really liked the trite title Motivational Mondays. The second is part of an effort to give my blog a little more direction with a particular focus on building emotional resilience. Mental being short for mental health. Of course mental on its own sounds better – plus I’m a little bit f***ed up so that fits too… In an effort to streamline this post and to give you more bang for you buck (and to save me some time), I’ve moved it to 3:2:1 format. Please let me know what you think of these radical changes in comments section below. Love to all, AP2 x)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Motivational Mondays – 04/10/20

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

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 women, or a black women…

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.


As always I welcome ALL opinions on this blog. And as always, my writing requires a large pinch of salt! That said I’m curious as to what you think about the argument that following your heart is better for the world than trying to meet society’s expectations? Thoughts and comments very welcome below. Thanks again for 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

Happy Silly Mondays – 18/05/20

Hello fine readers and welcome to my Happy Silly Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week.

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

As a bonus I’ve finished with one something very silly to hopefully make you smile. 

Hope you enjoy.


3 x Thoughts From Me:

You can never be perfect. You can always be better.

Today is the most important day of your life. This moment is the most precious moment of your life, because it is the only moment you ever have. Come back to it then live life accordingly. 

Never do I feel more like a man when I’m giving someone a hug. 

3 x Quotes From Others:

“It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem.” – Byron Katie

“The most important thing a creative per­son can learn professionally is where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do, and what you are not. Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly.” – Hugh MacLeod

“People ask me, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is of no use.’ There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron… If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.” – George Mallory

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

1 – Alain de Botton’s brilliant TED talk about why we suffer from career anxiety more than we ever have before. In it he outlines the need to define ourselves what it means to be successful:

Quotes from the transcript:

Here’s an insight that I’ve had about success: You can’t be successful at everything. We hear a lot of talk about work-life balance. Nonsense. You can’t have it all. You can’t. So any vision of success has to admit what it’s losing out on, where the element of loss is. And I think any wise life will accept, as I say, that there is going to be an element where we’re not succeeding.

One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. A lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people. And we also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising to marketing, etcetera. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves.

What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.

2 – This Stanford study that found walking improves creativity.

I found it interesting given I regularly go for a walk through our neighbourhood park and, in the process, note down any creative ideas I have. I didn’t realise this method of generating creativity had been backed by science!

3 – If I were to recommend just one podcast to listen to this week, it would this Tim Ferris episode with Elizabeth Gilbert on Saying No, Trusting Your Intuition, Integrity Checks, Grief, Awe, and Much More. I took a huge amount from it!

SOME TAKEAWAYS:

The truth has legs – it’s the only thing that will left standing at the end of the day. 

Grief is not something you master, it’s something you survive. It has something beautiful and it has great lessons for you but you have to surrender to it.

They say great art has to have two features. It has to be both surprising and inevitable. 

Why being honest with those you love is the most difficult – because those are the ones you want to hurt the least.

Universal human compassion that doesn’t include the self isn’t universal. 

You’re never going to meet anybody who causes you more trouble or pain than you.

When you see someone acting out I’ve got a great name for you to call them: ‘Me on a different day.

1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

While trying to teach my son a few more three syllable words this week I asked,

“Can you say, butterfly? But… Ter… Fly?”

Silence…

“Can you try for dada please? But… Ter… Fly…”

Still silence…

“Ok let’s break it down. Can you finish the word But… Ter…?”

“Fly,” he replied.

“Good. Can you finish the word, But…?

‘Ter-fly”, he replied again.

Great. Now can you say the whole word for me? Can you say But-Ter-Fly?

He pauses before responding with a beaming smile,

“BUT… FLY!!!”

Even if you don’t achieve the result you were hoping for, if you give it your best you’ll always be a champ in my book!


Happy Silly Mondays Everyone!

Thanks for reading.

Till next time – don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle!

How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free.

“A few modern philosophers assert that individual intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protect & react against this brutal pessimism… With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgement and literally to become more intelligent than we were before.”ALFRED BINET (early 1900s)

I’d lived with a fixed mindset for years.

It was a mindset driven by a deep seated belief of not being good enough. Not being smart enough.

Simply not being enough.

I told myself all sorts of lies based off this. Lies that sounded so strongly I became crippled with depression and anxiety.

My mind tortured my heart until it shut off completely.

I’m happy to say I’m in a much better place now.

I’m more productive than I’ve ever been. I’m calmer, more confident. My thinking is clearer. I trust in my heart again.

I’m beginning to wake up to who I truly am.

One of the reasons, I believe, is an understanding that nothing is fixed. Nothing is permanent.

Through true insight gained from asking for help, I’ve been able to gradually change the harmful narrative I’d spent over a decade strengthening.

I didn’t realise it then, not in these terms at least, but one of the major reasons I managed to overcome depression was because I started to cultivate a growth mindset.


For those who’ve never heard the termonolgy before, Maria Popova from her blog post: Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives explains it well:

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.

A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behaviour, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.[1]

Much of our understanding on the idea stems from the work of Stanford psychologist Carol S. Dweck as outlined in her brilliant book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Through her research Dweck demonstrates just how limiting a fixed mindset can be in stalling motivation and progress, especially following failure or when facing challenges. Conversely she demonstrates that those with a growth mindset see failure not as a confirmation of being unable or unintelligent, but as something from which they can learn and improve.

At the crux of her argument is the idea that those with a growth mindset understand just how valuable effort is over any sort of innate talent.

They understand effort = intelligence, and so fall in love with the process of improvement. On the other hand those with a fixed mindset are so worried about what failure might say about them, they come to dread doing what they have to in order to succeed. In extreme cases they avoid doing all together so as to avoid the pain of failure.

“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

When I began to think back over my own life in these terms, I began to see how damaging a fixed mindset had been throughout my life.

Failure to me was confirmation I was one.

I hated doing certain work from a young age. Languages, in particular, were difficult for me. I was led to believe, by many teachers nonetheless, I wasn’t good at English and/or Languages.

The result?

I didn’t bother putting any effort into those subjects. I remember thinking what’s the point. I’m not any good so might as well concentrate on what I am.

The trouble is it worked in reversed too!

I was regularly told how good I was at math – that it was something I should pursue because it will open many doors. This was drilled home to me.

The result?

I completely lost interest in a subject I once loved. I still managed to scrape an A during my GCSE’s, but much to my father’s disappointment, I decided not to pursue it as an A level. I didn’t want people to find out, that if I put in the effort and failed, I might not be that good after all.

My parents, who I know believed were doing the right thing, didn’t realise how harmful praising my natural abilities were. It turns out that praising a child’s natural ability, or telling them how clever they are, is extremely damaging because it fixes a child’s mindset.

As Dweck notes,

“The ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset, and they showed all the signs of it, too: When we gave them a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from. They didn’t want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent… In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from.”

I’ll tell you a story of another teacher who never made mention of my abilities in English. She had me moved into her English class for the top peers in our age group (even though I belonged in the bottom). She made sure I sat at the front and paid keen attention (she was somewhat terrifying which helped). Despite not putting much effort into my coursework during those years, because of her, because of what I learnt through the effort I was forced to put in, I achieved B’s in both English Language and Literature.

You might think so what?

Well given my coursework material, which counted for a large percentage of the final grade, averaged between a C and a D, I must have aced the final examinations. I would also point out, before I joined her class, I was far, far behind the rest of the pack. On top of which I was going through some very difficult times in my life (I’ll get to that shortly). To this day they’re my proudest grades from secondary school.

Forgetting the grade, however, what she proved was far more important, even if it didn’t fully register till years later. She proved that if I chose to apply myself I was more than capable. She helped plant the seed for developing a growth mindset that would bear fruit many years later.


Image Source: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/

Prolonged bullying can instil a fixed mindset. Especially if others stand by and do nothing… Victims say that when they’re tortured and demeaned and none comes to their defence, they start to believe they deserve it. They start to judge themselves and to think they’re inferior.

I would love to say from this point everything got better. That I understood and moved forward with a newfound belief and started to grow.

But it didn’t.

I didn’t.

It got worse. Much worse.

My problems stemmed from many variables, but bullying played the biggest role. Those years of secondary school were brutal for me. I was bullied every day at school for years.

This was compounded by the fact my parents couldn’t see what was happening. I was at boarding school halfway across the world. They didn’t know.

They couldn’t.

The trauma of being bullied repeatedly hardwired my response to withdraw from everyone and everything. I shut down as a way to repress the overwhelming emotions I didn’t know how to process. It was depression in the making.

Ultimately this was a major problem because it prevented me for doing what I needed the most.

Ask for help.

What followed makes perfect sense to me now.

When my first love of two years broke up with me during University, I fell apart. I had no confidence I was capable of being on my own. No belief I was lovable, or that I’d be capable of finding it again.

Similarly, when I messed up a landing so badly during my early Junior First Officer training as a pilot (that the Captain had to take over and go around), it felt like my whole world had fallen apart. I put on a brave face but when I got home I broke down. The feelings of inadequacy came flooding up. It was too much for me.

(For those who don’t know in aviation, a go-around is an aborted landing of an aircraft that is on final approach.)

Carrying on afterwards, whenever I faced failure of some kind, was extremely, extremely difficult. Difficulties would often trigger a bout of depression that could last for weeks if not months at a time.

What my fixed mindset always wanted was to give up. To retreat into my shell. To shut down rather than fail and confirm what years of bullying had led me to believe.

It took everything I had to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To understand these were just lessons on the road of life which all of us go through.

Still, something in my heart kept my head above water.

The small voices of a growth mindset, planted there by various people including my parents, my high-school English teacher and my wife, to name a few, who all understood I really was capable, were enough in the end to pull me through. To all of them I am, and always will be, extremely grateful.

Yet it was all much harder than it needed to be. The major problem wasn’t my fixed mindset, but that the depression and paralysing anxiety it caused, prevented me from reaching out for help. I knew I needed it but for years I simply couldn’t find the strength.

It wasn’t until after my son was born, when I came home from work one day consumed by a regular bout of depression. As I sat with him and looked into his eyes, I realised I didn’t want to be around him.

I didn’t want to father him.

The familiar feeling of wanting to runaway and hide, to withdraw into my shell, to shirk all my responsibilities – including that as a father – broke me. The remorse and guilt was too much to bear. I left the room and the tears fell.

I let the sadness consume me.

I cried and cried. I cried until nothing was left but a strange peace. Something inside me changed. Something that said this time I couldn’t let depression win. I won’t. I didn’t think about what to do next. I simply picked up the phone.

I reached out.

I asked for help.


“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives”

I rate it as both the most courageous and important decision I’ve ever made. Since then the changes have far exceeded what I thought possible.

Am I out of the woods yet?

No, not a chance.

But I can honestly say after I sought help, after over a decade of suffering from what was eventually diagnosed as long-term depression, I’ve not had an episode since.

I still struggle with anxiety and other emotions that surface, especially in the face of adversity. However the difference is they don’t consume me like they used to.

I’m acutely aware of where those emotions and the false narrative are coming from. This has helped me to gradually let them go.

I also realised through the flooding of my subconscious with positive thinking and reading (the same way bullying can flood your subconscious with negative thinking), you can change the narrative in your head. You can literally grow out of a fixed mindset. You can literally grow out of depression!

Of course I don’t want to underplay how difficult this all was or, indeed, still is. To this day being bullied remains one of the most difficult topics for me to talk about personally, let alone publicly, but I now understand the need to do so.

In not facing your demons, you only give them strength. You only strengthen your fixed mindset. By not asking for help you only make it harder to do later on.

Ultimately if there was just one message I could convey to those struggling with depression – to those who suffer from an all consuming self-doubt – it would be to ask for help.

To somehow find the courage within you and reach out.

I know how hard it is.

Trust me!

But please remember, asking for help is simply asking someone else to help you grow. We all need help from one another – from the day we’re born till the day we die. The last thing it shows is that you’ve failed or that you’re incapable.

It shows the exact opposite.

It shows that despite everything you’re still willing to show up. It shows you’re not willing to let past demons fix in you any false belief. It shows that you understand that within you is another voice. Another mindset that knows you have so much more to give. A mindset we all have.

It is only you who can set it free.

It starts by asking for help.


SOURCES:

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

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


Dear readers, thank you so much for listening to what I have to say! In the interest of growth, I’d love to hear any comments, suggestions, questions or criticisms you may have in the comments sections below. Thanks again. Yours, AP2.