What’s the least you can do?

I’m not ashamed to admit it, since it’s the honest-to-God truth: I give up really easily. On most everything. Usually without realising I’m doing it.

I’ll be all into an idea, how cool it will be when it’s finished, how fun it’ll be to sink my teeth into, and then at the very first thought of resistance – the slightest hint that everything might not turn out perfectly from the get-go – I abandon ship.

Of course, I rationalise it by saying I’m being strategic, or that I need more time to explore the idea-space, or whatever creative, nurtuting, bullshit phrase I’m into that week… but really, I got scared. And I bailed. I couldn’t handle the heat so I got out of the kitchen.

Most hilariously – keeping this culinary analogy going – I often haven’t even set foot in the kitchen yet when I give up. Just the thought of the kitchen can be enough to derail me.

Over weeks and months, the cycle goes on and on. Occasionally I do finish something that stretches over more than a few days because I, despite myself, managed to somehow break on through to the other side, past the resistance. But more often than not, the flame is extinguished a brief moment after it was lit.

A weird thing I’ve noticed about life – a dirty secret, if you will – is that when you break things down small enough, nothing is really that difficult. It’s the chunking together that makes it seem so. When people talk about “hard work,” what they’re actually talking is relatively easy work, sustained over time.

When you look back on things you’ve achieved, you’ll find that – with the odd exception – the individual actions that got you there weren’t generally very difficult at all. What was hard was commiting to a direction, and then seeing that commitment through in the face of resistance – not the actual actions themselves.

The things worth having in life require consistent action over the long-term – they require perseverance. You could almost say that the only thing they require is… not giving up.

So if not giving up is all that it takes, and you’re someone – like me – who gives up incredibly easily, what to do? One question I find really helpful to combat this baked-in tendency of mine to is:

“What’s the least I can do?”

The problem, you see, is that most of the things we want to do cannot be done in one fell swoop. And yet we tend to think of them as one big thing that we must accomplish. No wonder we feel stress, pressure, and a sense of futility. No wonder we buckle at the first hint of resistance. No wonder we give up.

But the truth is that no matter how large the goal, it will only ever be accomplished by performing a series of small and doable actions, consistently, over time. As Lao Tzu said “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

If you know which direction you would like to go in, then all you need to do is think of some incredibly small and mundane action, and then do it.

That’s what I’m working on, anyway.

Do it yourself

Last night, I switched off all the lights in the living room, and spent about fifteen minutes scouring Netflix for a film to watch.

There were some contenders for sure, but nothing that really grabbed me – not enough to commit a couple of hours of hardcore attention to, anyway.

After about fifteen minutes of this scrolling, I snapped out of it. I realised that I was searching for something that doesn’t exist: the perfect film for me. And do you know why it doesn’t exist? Because it’s up to me to make it.

Not specifically a film. That’s not the point.

The point is that – and maybe you feel this too – I’ve come to a place where I am getting very little joy from being a consumer. It’s unnatural to consume in the quantities that we do in 2019 – our brains are still very much designed for life on the Savannah.

The consequence of over-consumption for me is that, like tolerance to a narcotic, nothing is quite hitting the spot, consumption-wise. But I know the solution.

To go into creator mode.

We all need to be entertained. But when you can entertain yourself, when you don’t have to rely on passive, mindless, external forms of entertainment, you’ve got something you can always rely on.

Do it yourself.

Above all, trust in yourself

Do you trust your own judgement, or do you look to “the world” to tell you what’s what?

If you’re anything like me, you feel best when doing the former, but find yourself doing the latter all too often.

If it’s permission you’re waiting for, have it. I, Oliver Stewart Manning, hereby give you total and utter permission to trust in your own judgement. On any matter. Whatsoever.

You might think that it’s more responsible to look to “the world” for guidance. You might expect to develop a deeper and more holistic perspective on things. You might even think it’s a bit selfish and solipsistic to trust your own judgements on things above the wise consensus of the crowd.

You’d be dead wrong on both counts.

You see, although we’re collectively inhabiting this planet and hurtling through time and space “together,” we each have a unique perspective. And the uniqueness of your perspective is valuable.

The beauty of life – what causes the universe to expand – is when unique perspectives come together. Sometimes they do so harmoniously, sometimes with a crash like a piano falling down a stairwell. Either way, we are not meant to do the same things, want the same things, be the same things, value the same things…

This is why you must stop looking to “the world” for answers to questions like “What should I do?” “What is right?” What is wrong?” “Who am I?”

The world cannot answer these questions. Only you can.

Fortunately, you were made with the necessary equipment fitted as standard – you posess within yourself a perfectly tuned spiritual GPS. You might call it a soul. Ask it what’s right for you, and it will tell you. The more you use it, the more reliable it will become.

The answer it gives you might be different to the answer mine gives me, or Auntie Sheila’s gives Auntie Sheila, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. There is enough room on this planet for seven billion truths, and yours is no less valuable than anyone else’s.

At the end of the day, the only thing you need here is courage. You don’t need practice. You don’t need any more intelligence. You need only courage, because the world is and has always been a more hazardous place for those unwilling to swallow whatever they’re fed.

It’s a scarier place at first – when you decide that you and you alone are going to decide what’s what – but after that first step, you might as well as have taken the red pill in The Matrix. Your world will never be the same again.

Music is enough

When was the last time you laid on the sofa and just listened to a great album?

Music doesn’t need a video accompaniment, or for you to be on your way somewhere, or to be paired with scrolling an infinite feed on your phone.

Music is enough all by itself, and when you digest it all by itself, guess what? It gets way better.

Turn it on. Turn it up. And let it thump you in the soul.

An anvil to the head

I shouldn’t tell you this – lest it come back to haunt me – but if you really want to piss me off one day, talk to me all about how Leonard Cohen is “music to slit your wrists by.”

It’s exactly the same kind of pissed off I got about five years ago when I’d been hired to play my songs at an indoor market in town.

A gaggle of middle-aged women wearing far too much make-up kept asking me to play something more cheerful. One even came right up to me and said to my face that I was bringing the mood down.

I was far too nice to her. I should have thrown my guitar in her whorish face and stormed off shouting “BUY A FUCKING RADIO THEN” but like a sap I smiled and said “Alright, I’ll see what I can do.”

I was even more disgusted with myself than I was with her.

Anyway, it’s not just that Leonard Cohen had more substance hiding in the shit under his fingernails than anybody Radio 1 has played in the last decade – but he definitely did – it’s everything that “music to slit your wrists by” line stands for. Namely, that music should have to justify its existence. Piss off.

Music doesn’t have to justify its existence to anybody – least of all somebody too simple to enjoy Leonard Cohen. If you’re so unfortunate that you need your music to be cheerful, lively, and upbeat… fine, but you don’t get to spoil the fun for the rest of us.

People who don’t appreciate Leonard Cohen don’t deserve to go through life bitching about him and getting away with it. They deserve to have an anvil dropped on them from a height.

The lasagne phone-call conundrum

Conor phoned me today whilst I was in Aldi, in the middle of making a big decision.

Emma wanted to have lasagna for dinner. Aldi sell it in two different varieties – a slightly smaller one with a creamier sauce, and a bigger one with a red wine ragu. The decision was whether to get two smaller ones or one bigger one.

Yes, that’s the kind of decision I sometimes find myself labouring over. And yes, I know that’s ridiculous. Let’s move on.

Conor phoned me right in the thick of it. I told him I’d have to ring him when I got home.

And I did. I threw the lasagna in the oven (I bought the bigger one) and went upstairs and phoned him.

We chatted until the lasagna was ready and bid one another farewell.

What is the point of all this? Well, nothing really, except that I’m glad I waited until I was home to talk to Conor.

The people who are important to us deserve our attention. Our full attention. The problem is that I don’t think we realise when we’re not all there. We think we’re there because our bodies are there, or our voices are there. But we’re not there. We’re cut in two. Or three. Or four.

If I’d have had the conversation in Aldi, I would have half been focusing on my Conor, half picking random things off the shelf and forgetting what I went to Aldi for, and not accomplishing much in either direction.

So whatever you’re doing, no matter how tiny – and no matter how great you think you are at multitasking – try giving that one thing all your attention. That’s what humans were designed to do.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Wayne Dyer said that.

If one person…

Almost every time I sit down to write one of my posts, there’s a voice in my head telling me there’s no point. It doesn’t make a difference.

And maybe that’s true.

But recently, another voice replied.

“If one person…”

The rest of the sentence is irrelevant.

The point is that actions – no matter how small – have effects. If one person reads something I wrote and has a better day because of it, then oh my god I’m glad I did it.

Stop measuring the worthiness of your actions with the bullshit metrics of publicly traded Silicon Valley corporations.

Measure it in terms of whether or not you tried to make one person’s day better, and see the whole endeavour as a success if you even bother to try.

Say “Yes” to life

Saying “Yes” to life does not mean bending over and letting it do you up the arse.

Nor does it mean pretending to be okay with the things you are truly not okay with.

It means that whenever something crosses your path, whether you’d have chosen it or not, you don’t waste a second of your time resisting it, or wishing it hadn’t crossed your path. It did cross your path.

In denial, you are powerless. But when you accept it, you regain your power. Now you get to decide what to do with it.

It’s not a “Yes, fine, I give up, nothing ever goes my away anyway.”

It’s a “Yes, thit thing happened. Maybe I wouldn’t have planned it like that, but now that it’s happened, I get to write the script on what I do about it.”


Thoughts that feel good

The idea that we can choose our own thoughts is an interesting one. The idea that those thoughts help shape our realities, even more interesting.

I believe the second part, definitely. In fact, I believe the first part, I just find it incredibly difficult – if the average person’s mind is a mere monkey, mine’s one that just ate a suitcase of blue smarties and then chased it with a plant-pot of espresso.

But I have an approach.

I don’t try not to think bad thoughts. That’s like trying not to picture an elephant – you just picture one even more. Instead, I just try to pay attention to what I’m thinking about when I feel good, and then when I don’t feel good, I try to remember what those things were. It works. Not immediately. But gently, subtly, I feel better.

I imagine a fretboard in my mind and play imaginary guitar solos (this is how I often get to sleep.)

I imagine Emma smiling about something.

I see myself running really, really fast.

What thoughts make you feel good? Think them more often.

We all make the flowers grow

“Cowards and heroes listen my friends,
If you have money or nothing to spend,
It’ll make no difference in a hundred years or so,
Sooner or later we’ll all make the little flowers grow.”

The odds of you being born were around 1 in 400 trillion. You might as well enjoy it.

Have a great week.

Love from Oliver. And Lee Hazlewood (the lyrics at the top.)

You are more important than capitalism

Every day, assuming you do more than sit in a windowless room until bed-time rolls around, you get a veritable shit-ton of propaganda thrown at you.

It might not look like stereotypical propaganda – there are very few hammers or sickles – but that’s because the disguises get more and more cunning every year. Everywhere you go, somebody is paying good money to control the way you see the world.

And you can boil basically all of this propaganda down to two sentences:


Just as a fish does not notice the water it swims in, I don’t think you realise quite how many times per day you are being told you are not good enough. And quite how much you’re letting yourself believe it.

Well, I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret “they” don’t want you to know: YES, YOU FUCKING ARE.

There is nothing about you that needs to change in order to make you “good enough.” Nothing you need to buy. Nothing you need to tweeze. Nothing you need to shave. Nothing you need to spray. Nothing you need to cover up. You are whole right now, just as you are. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m not saying don’t grow, or don’t change, or don’t try to better yourself. But do it on your own terms. Do it because it’ll make your life richer. Do it because you’re a real human being with flesh and bones and guts and dreams and life flowing through your veins.

Not because capitalism told you to. That’s a shitty reason to do anything.

It’s how you do it

I used to think that it mattered what I did. I don’t now.

I thought that there were right and wrong activities, and that so long as my body was busy doing the right ones, I was getting life right. I don’t think this way more.

I know that it doesn’t matter one jot what I do. All that matters is how I do it – whatever it is.

With what spirit are you giving the task at hand? Are you doing it reluctantly? Joyfully? Apathetically?

How you do anything is how you do everything.

What’s your problem?

Right now, in this very moment, wherever your happen to find yourself… do you have any problems?

Think about that question carefully.

I’m not talking about when your rent is due in a couple of weeks. I’m not talking about when you finally pluck up the courage to have that awkward conversation you know is coming. And I’m not talking about tomorrow morning when your alarm wakes you up earlier than you’d like it to.

I’m talking about now.

This precise moment.

Do you have any problems RIGHT NOW?

I walk around thinking I’ve got tons of problems. An embarrassing amount. And yet whenever I ask myself if anything’s wrong RIGHT NOW, I can honestly never answer with a straight-faced “yes.” Because it’d be a lie.

I don’t have problems. Sure, I have unresolved situations that worry me. Desperately, some of them. And I have loads of things in my life that have the potential to go “wrong” and cause me pain. And I’m certain that many of them will throughout my life.

But RIGHT NOW, none of that stuff is actually happening. Right now, I’m fine, thanks for asking.

We all have an incredible capacity to paint the the future – not to mention the past and the present – in the most negative light we can. It can feel more responsible than being positive – you might think you are being more “realistic” …

… you’re not.

How was your day?

How was your day?

I always panic a bit when people ask me questions like this. Like… “What have you been up to?” … “How’s the wife?” … “How was your weekend?”

I go blank, to be honest. Because I know they’re not necessarily looking for the ultimate truth from me. They’re just making conversation. They’re being good, decent, sociable human beings.

But I think the real reason these questions fry me so is because they make me start thinking “Well, how was my day, come to think of it?” Unless prompted, I don’t tend to think about how my day was – I’m too busy being stuck in the moment.

Think about your day. How was it? What was good about it? Make a list.

I ask you to do this because what you focus on gathers momentum. Have you noticed that good things rarely seem to happen to people who are miserable and sour-faced all the time? It’s not delusional to acknowledge the fact that your thoughts help shape your reality – for better or for worse.

No, thinking about a new car isn’t going to magic it onto your drive. Denying the bad shape you’re in isn’t going to make you thin. And thinking positively is not going to act as some kind of charm against unpleasant things ever happening to you.

But as I said, what you focus on gathers momentum. Focus on what makes you feel good, and you will find more things that make you feel good. Focus on what makes you feel bad (which, by default, we tend to) and you will find more things to make you feel bad.

Writing when you have ADHD

Somebody asked me how I decide what to write about each day.

The truth is that… I don’t. I don’t decide what to write about. Because I can’t.

I’m not being falsely modest here – I am genuinely incapable of deciding to write about something and then following through, sticking with that initial thing until completion. Believe me – I’ve tried. Hundreds of times. The experience is hellish, and even if somehow manage to finish something this way, it’s shit.

It’s definitely an ADHD thing. My brain struggles to stay on task with anything it isn’t grabbed by. In every area of life. And what I’ve noticed is that when I try to come up with ideas to write about, none of them grab me. They mean nothing to me. And if I somehow force myself to work on those ideas, it’s like trying to chop down a tree with a butter knife. It’s just a waste of my short, short life.

I was stuck here for years.

But I’ve found – and then forgotten, many times – that if I just let myself start writing, and pay attention to what shows up on the page, before long something always emerges – something that grabs me. It’s almost as though a part of my brain was closed off until I actually started writing. Now I can stay on task quite easily, because of all of a sudden I care. I’m grabbed. All I have to do is try to ride that wave until I have a finished piece of writing.

And that’s… how I decide what to write. I just write, and I see what comes out of me. Sometimes I think it’d be nice to be able to control it a bit more, but that’s just not in the cards for me. All I can do is get over it and write something!

If I could offer one piece of advice today it’s that whatever you want to do, try not to give a shit about how other people are doing it. You have to find a way to do it that works for you, one that you enjoy whilst you’re doing it. It might look conventional, it might look bat-shit crazy… who cares? Because if you love doing it, you’ll keep doing it, and then you get both the journey and the destination.

Try to avoid Google. The only exception is once you’ve done your work for the day, and you fancy a laugh – Google how to do something. Anything. WHATEVER the activity, I GUARANTEE you will find tons of opinionated Americans, each one shouting louder than the last how their way is the only way that works and everybody else is wrong and ‘MURICA. SPORTS. ONE NATION UNDER GOD, WHICH IS FUNNY BECAUSE WE HAVE A CONSTITUTION SEPARATING CHURCH AND STATE.

I only joke about America because it hurts to even think about Britain these days.

You don’t know the whole story

Did you ever see that movie ‘Crash’?

Not the 1996 erotic psychological thriller directed by David Cronenburg, but the 2004 one, directed by Paul Haggis, about racial issues in Los Angeles?

It’s a clever film. It even won the Oscar that year. Personally, I hated its guts.

The film features lots and lots of intertwining plots, like Love Actually. And its one, solitary trick – which it milks over and over and over and over – is this: It makes you feel a certain way about a character in one scene, before showing you something in the next scene that makes you completely reassess your judgment of them.

It got old fast. It actually felt like one of those films they show you at school to hammer into your head not to smoke or bully or murder. I just don’t enjoy films (or songs, or books) that I feel are trying to teach me something specific, or trying to show off how clever and brilliant the writer is – and being lumbering obvious about it.

I much prefered the other Crash, which is set in a dystopian future where people get really turned on by car crashes. I have no idea what that was trying to teach me, and yet I feel it taught me far more.

But as much as the Oscar-winning Crash grated on me, it had one thing going for it – a great message. A very important message. A message even more crucial to humanity now than in 2004.

You don’t know the whole story, especially when it comes to why people do things.

I’ll repeat that. You don’t know the whole story, especially when it comes to why people do things.

How many times recently have you got annoyed at someone and decided – based on that one thing they did – that you know what’s in their heart, and it’s a lump of coal?

I did it earlier today, when I nearly hit somebody on the motorway because they didn’t indicate.

But guess what? I have no real evidence that they were a bad person. I don’t know what’s going on with them. Perhaps they’re going through a hard time. Perhaps they’re absoultely fine and they just forgot to indicate. Or maybe they are a bad person.

The point is that I have no idea, and to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. The only thing under my control is whether I let it ruin my day or not.

I’m not saying you should suspend judgment indefinitely and let people get away with doing shitty things. I’m just saying that the first story you tell yourself about stuff might not tell the whole story.

Remember: you are responsible for the story inside your head, and really, that’s all these things are – stories. There are no actual problems in life. There are just events, and the stories we tell ourselves about them. And though it’s difficult when people do really annoying shit, we always have the power to change the story.

Paying attention

I’m trying very hard these days to just do whatever I’m doing.

If I’m watching a film, then my eyes ought to be on the screen.

If I’m cooking some eggs, my thoughts ought to be on the eggs.

If I’m speaking to you, the only thing in my consciousness at that moment time should be you.

It’s near impossible. But not quite.

And when I do it, it’s more than a thousand times better than diluted attention.

Do you allow yourself to enjoy life?

Do you allow yourself to enjoy life?

That might sound like a weird question. But hear me out.

We tend to presume that, left to our own devices, we will do the things that we enjoy doing. That without any outside pressure to pay the bills, or go to work, or clean the house… that we would be free to simply do what we enjoy. And that with that freedom, that is exactly what we would find ourselves doing.

But I think that’s a lie. It is for me anyway.

My experiment

I did an experiment this morning. After I had woken up, and took my pills, and had my scrambled eggs, I felt terrible.

I felt the weight of all the things I “need” to do on my shoulders. Some were obvious, everyday things: the bills, the laundry, the hoovering… but mixed in were bigger, more abstract things: What am I doing with my life? Should I do “x” today? No, I’ll do “y”. Oooh, no, actually “z” makes the most sense…


I saw that my bass and amp were still set up in the living room from when I taught Sam the other day, and I had an idea for an experiment. I turned my phone onto “Do Not Disturb.” I set a timer for 1 hour, and put my phone’s metronome app on 30 beats per minute. And I just… played bass. Until the timer went off.

The purpose of my experiment was simple: “What will happen if I deliberately enjoy myself for an hour? If I allow myself to put my worries and anxieties and obligations on hold, just for an hour?” I picked playing bass because it was low-hanging fruit – I love playing bass. I wasn’t practicing, or playing anything specific. I just let my fingers do what they wanted. For an hour.

What happened was that about five minutes in, I felt fantastic. I had a great hour. And afterwards, I felt differently about the things I had been worrying about. Did they go away? Well, some of them did actually – the more abstract, existential things, at least. But even the ones that didn’t… well, they just didn’t seem so terrifying any more.

What is your priority?

Now, obviously I’m not telling you to go play bass for an hour. But what I do want you to do is to examine the role of enjoyment in your life.

Do you see it as a priority, or as a luxury? Because, personally, I am a real sucker for seeing it as a luxury. As something that would be nice to do “once the more important things are taken care of.” And I’ve come to see this as a very dangerous habit.

Why is it dangerous? Because whatever you decide is most important tends to stay most important. What you make a priority tends to remain a priority. What you put first, stays first.

If you think you need to get your finances in order before you can enjoy yourself, they’ll never be quite in order enough.

If you think you need to meet that special someone before you can enjoy yourself, nobody will ever be special enough.

If you think you need to learn more before you enjoy yourself… you get it – the goal-post just keeps shifting and shifting and shifting.

If you put enjoyment second, it will stay second. Forever.

What about the bills?

Now, you might be thinking that this all sounds very nice, Oliver, but we can’t all be spending every second of every day doing fun, pleasurable things. And you’d be 100% right. But you’d also be missing my point.

There is a huge difference between denying the unpleasant parts of life and making them far more important than they need to be.

We have to make a living. We have to pay taxes. We sometimes have to deal with very unpleasant situations that we couldn’t possibly have predicted. Obviously. That’s just life. But just because those things are true, we don’t have to put them first.

If the consequences of putting your worries and anxieties first meant that they actually got dealt with, I’d say fair enough. Equally, if the consequences of putting enjoyment first meant that your life fell apart and you became a reckless, irresponsible monster, I’d say fair enough.

In truth, I have found the EXACT opposite to be true.

When I make my problems and my worries a priority, they tend to stick around. They get bigger and bigger, harder and harder to deal with, and take up more and more of my energy. And they never, ever get sorted. Forget about enjoying life in this state – there are just far too many more important things to think about first!

But when I make doing what I enjoy a priority, well, suddenly all those unpleasant facts of life lose their power over me. There don’t seem to be as many problems to begin with, and the ones that there are don’t seem too difficult to solve. Life itself seems lighter and more beautiful. I’m not in denial of the darker parts, they just don’t cripple me like they once did.

To put it another way, problems beget more problems; enjoyment begets more enjoyment.

Try it out

Please don’t take my word for this, or on anything I tell you. Try it out for yourself. Rack your brains – what’s something you enjoy doing, not for the results it gives you, but in and of itself? Set aside an hour today and just do that thing.

Put things in their proper place. Stop pretending that the bills, the obligations, the things that need sorting out, are more important than they really are. Stop using them as an excuse not to enjoy life.

It’s not irresponsible. It’s not reckless. It’s the right way to live.

When in doubt, create something

If you feel anxious, nervous, or tense a lot of the time, this is for you. It’s for me, too.

I feel tense. Incredibly so. A great deal of the time. I’m restless. Pulled in a multitude of directions all at once. I want to paint the town red, but I also want to pull the covers over my head and stay there all week.

I’m functional, though. Just about. And I’m sociable. So I put on a brave face. And yet in any given moment, the chances are that I don’t feel I’m doing the right thing.

There’s just one exception: when I’m creating.

When I’m creating, all that bullshit goes way.

I don’t mean “creating” as in “the creative arts.” No. I’m talking FAR more broadly than that. I mean “creating” as in “doing something to move the world in a slightly more positive direction.” And when you define it that way, almost anything can be creative.

Call me crazy, but I believe that the feeling of tension – a chronic existential anxiety – is a good thing. When we feel tense, it’s because – in the moment of tension – we are not doing what we are meant to be doing. We are not creating. And whoever’s in charge is letting us know. Thank you.

Every single moment of every single day, we are given the opportunity to make the world slightly more beautiful, or slightly more ugly. There is no neutral – you can’t get out of this by standing still.

When you feel tense and you face it head-on – by creating – you are rewarded. You feel a wonderful sense of expansion and oneness. You want to go do more stuff like that.

But when you run from the tension – by pulling out your phone, by watching a series you’ve seen before, by drinking a bottle of rum – you get no real reward, just neuorogically empty calories. The tension pretends to have gone away, only to come back worse tomorrow.

I don’t know what you should be doing. All I know is that creating is the only thing I have ever found that actually cures me of my chronic tension. And again… ANYTHING CAN BE CREATIVE.

When in doubt, create.


Does what you do with your days have any effect on the world?

How much? And in what way?

I watched “mother!” again tonight.

And I don’t know what you want from your work.

But I want mine to assault people the way “mother!” assaults me.

I feel pleasantly violated. And I think to aim for anything less is to be cowardly.

But I’ll probably have changed my mind by morning.

Do things for their own sake

I re-read The War of Art a few times a year.

Each time, it’s a completely different book. And that’s because I’m a completely different Oliver.

Lines I never noticed much before suddenly leap out of the page at me. Lines I thought I understood previously are now imbued with new meaning.

But some of the lines leapt out the very first time I read it, and they continue to leap out. One of them is from the Baghavad Gita, an ancient Hindu text.

It says: “We have a right to our labour, but not to the fruits of our labour.”

Looking back on the highs and lows of my 28 years on the planet, I can discern an undeniable pattern.

When I feel good about life, it is because I am doing things for their own sake – I am labouring for labour’s sake.

When I feel shitty about life, it is because I am doing things only for what I imagine they might bring me in the future – I am labouring merely to get to the fruits.

Sometimes I’ll go for months before I realise I’m getting it all wrong. But when I find a way to get back on track, oh boy, suddenly life is worth living again.

Another thing I’ve noticed time and time again is that when I labour just for the fruits, the fruits actually dry up. They are repelled by my desperate stench. So I get neither the joy of the labour nor the joy of the fruits! Or, sometimes, I do get the fruits, just like I wanted, only they taste bitter and I don’t want them any more.

When I find myself labouring for labour’s sake, on the other hand, there never seems to be any shortage of fruit. Furthermore, I don’t have to go and pick it – the fruit seems to just come to me, sometimes through unusual and unexpected channels.

What’s needed? A calm, cursory glance towards the future every now and then, just to check we’re not heading towards disaster, and then back to the present. Back to trying to do a good job for its own sake. That’s all.

Almost nothing matters

Things feel different on a Sunday, don’t they?

Everything that mattered so fucking much all week… well, on a Sunday, the slate is wiped clean.

Suddenly I can see the truth: almost nothing matters.

And that’s not apathy. That’s not pessimism. That’s practical wisdom.

But note the word “almost.”

The beauty of being human is that you alone get to choose what matters to you.

If you choose nothing, your life will have no meaning. And if you choose many things indiscriminately, your life will have no meaning.

Choose carefully, and go in all in on whatever you choose.

Happy Sunday.