Most Things Are a Waste of Your Time

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

Greg McKeown – “Essentialism”

All things are not created equal, and most things are a waste of your time.

But what do the things that are worth engaging with have in common? I have boiled this question down to two simple sentences for you. A good thing satisfies one of these. A great thing, both.

  1. It is enjoyable whilst you are doing it.
  2. It is enjoyable to look back on having done it.

If whatever you’re doing, or contemplating doing, doesn’t serve either of these purposes – and there isn’t a gun to your head – just say “no.”

A Hot Girl Asked Me Out

Valentines Day. Year 8. Eight days before my 13th birthday. After lunch. A maths lesson. The second floor of the South building of Meadowhead School. I was sitting with Daisy, which is of course not her real name.

Let me tell you about Daisy. Daisy was beautiful. She had tresses of Scandi-blonde hair, a figure far beyond her years, and most impressively to me, she actually looked good in the forest-green Meadowhead uniform we all wore, which was a rare skill.

Now, it wasn’t that I wasn’t attracted to Daisy. It was that I found her so attractive I had mentally placed myself out of her league. As far as I was concerned, there was no point in even entertaining the possibility that she’d be into me. And so I found myself just… being myself. No pressure to be anything I wasn’t. And I had a great time getting to know her every time we had Maths.

You see, back then, if I wasn’t thinking about the Chili Peppers, I was thinking about some girl or another. At this point in time it just happened to be Rachel (again, not her real name.) But whoever it was – it shifted a lot – the more I thought about her, the more mixed up I got inside, and the more awkward and uncomfortable I would act whenever she was near. My desperation for the girl to like me was trumped only by my lack of any idea how to make it happen.

It was different with Daisy. Believing I’d never had a chance to begin with, I was incredibly relaxed around her. In fact I was so relaxed that when she turned to me that Valentine’s Day and said

“Hey, Ol, you know since you’re single and I’m single, I was wondering if you wanted to do something for Valentine’s Day?”

… I didn’t skip a beat. I answered “Oh, thanks, but actually I really like Rachel so I’m going to ask her to do something.”

“Oh, okay.” She didn’t seem heartbroken, but she did get quiet.

And then about five minutes later I realised what had just happened.

You idiot.

Daisy, as it turned out, did like me – my friend told me later that day, confirming at length that, yes, I was a complete idiot to say “no.” And shortly after this she started going out with someone else. C’est la vie.

Now, this happened sixteen years ago – almost to the day – but it still stings like it was yesterday. Not in the way you might think, though. It doesn’t sting because I wish I had said yes and gone out with Daisy and ended up married to her and having babies with her. No, I don’t care about that.

What stings is how wrong I was. I wasn’t out of her league at all – I was just so convinced of it that I couldn’t even take her asking me out seriously.

Ever since that day, sixteen years ago, I have tried to remind myself that no matter how convinced I am that something is too good for me, too big for me, or too difficult for me, I was very wrong once and I’m just as likely to be wrong this time too.

Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t pre-reject yourself. Don’t let your doubts and fears and insecurities win by stopping you from even taking part.

You have no idea what’s actually possible for you. So go for what you really want. Not because you’ll definitely get it if you want it enough or if you try hard enough. No. I don’t believe that. There are no guarantees.

Except that if you talk yourself out of even trying, then you lose by default. Go for what you want because it might happen.

Give reality the chance to say “no.” Because you never know when it’s going to say “yes.”

Adults? They’re Just Old Kids

“Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age.”

Seneca – On the Shortness of Life

I was five…

Do you remember being five years old? I do. And I remember being altogether quite happy with everything being five entailed. There was just one blemish, one thing I couldn’t stand, and that was being treated like a baby.

This didn’t happen too often – my family didn’t baby me, nor did most family friends. I was used to being treated, if not as an equal, then at least as a valid contributor to whatever social situation I was in. And maybe that’s why it felt so patronising – it was rare and acute.

I don’t know if all kids go around feeling this way – I’ve never really asked any – but I can distinctly remember being at birthday parties and thinking “Why are you talking to me like I’m an idiot? I’m a person, just like you. Speak properly.” Like I say, I didn’t need to be treated like an equal, but I couldn’t for the life of me understand the adults’ compulsion to go so far the other way – to put on this strange high-pitched baby voice, and maintain sub-psycopathic levels of eye contact with me. It made me feel as though they were trying to pull the wool over my eyes in some way. It made me feel lied to.

My inner reponse as a child was just to roll my eyes and fight fire with fire – to take the adult before me just as seriously as I felt they were taking me. I didn’t let it bother me too much.

But it did set something into motion that has continued until this day – a keen sense of “What are you trying to hide from me?”

I was sixteen…

The suspicion that I was being cheated of the whole truth by the adults in my life continued all the way through my time at school. At every step, I felt as though there was this animosity between myself and whoever was in charge of me. Every authority figure seemed hell-bent on selling me some different but equally narrow and uninspiring worldview, and for my part I was hell-bent on not believing a single word of it.

But it reached fever pitch towards the end of secondary school, when the teachers began to collectively do the hard-sell on “The Real World.”

The Real World was this weirdly schizophrenic and dystopian vision of what awaited us after leaving school, and they were desperate for us to believe in it. In The Real World, they said, you could technically be, do, and have anything you wanted. Only you probably wouldn’t, because The Real World is a scary, vicious, competitive place, where there are only a certain amount of resources and a certain amount of good jobs and it’s every man for himself and everybody is out to get you all the time…

“… but you’ll be okay if you just do what we say. We’re on your side.”

I looked around in disbelief. People seemed to be nodding their heads, buying it hook, line, and sinker. Jesus, I thought. Oh, hell, let them. Me? I don’t like the sound of this. I’ve struggled to believe a word of what they’ve said for the last eleven years, why the hell would I start believing it now?

What I had known intuitively at five was clearer than ever at sixteen: The adults are up to something. They’re not giving you the whole truth. It’s up to you to figure that out for yourself.

I am almost twenty-nine…

And I was right.

I don’t mean to say that I left school full of confidence in myself and proceeded to go out there and kick the world’s ass and prove my teachers wrong. That would be an incredibly generous reimagining of the last thirteen years of my life. It’s not how it happened at all. But if I’m proud of anything I’ve done, it’s that I did at least make a point to try and figure things out for myself.

And what I figured out was that I was right all along. At least partly.

Because there is no “real world.” There’s just a bunch of adults running around, each one as scared and clueless as the kids, all trying to make the best of whatever shit sandwich the adults in their lives gave them. For most of them, it’s enough just to get through the day.

What I was right about was the fact that the adults hadn’t been giving me the whole the truth, and never had been. But my youthful narcissism led me to believe this was borne of some kind of Machiavellian conspiracy on the adults’ part.

I doubt that very much now, and I suppose the moment my mind changed was the moment I realised that I was an adult.

It happened about six years ago. I met up with my friend one Tuesday night. She was training to be a teacher; I was still training to be a person. We went to the Lescar for a few drinks, and then we went back to hers for a few more drinks. We were laughing and being loud and being idiots, and eventually she said she really needed to go to bed because she had to be up for school at half six. It was about one-thirty. I bid her farewell.

As I walked home, it dawned on me that without any warning, adulthood had crept up on me. I thought about my friend teaching a class full of kids in the morning, and then about the teachers I had had when I was young. I smiled when I realised that it was just as I had suspected all along…

Behind all the bluster and the authority and the suits and the detentions, they didn’t know much more about the way the world worked than I did. They, like me, were making it up as they went along.

I smiled and forgave them for babying me. And for trying to warn me about the evils of the world. They weren’t out to get me. They weren’t trying to deceive me. They weren’t up to something.

They were just trying to get through the day.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Although it can certainly feel like it when you’re in the thick of it, you were not put here to suffer indefinitely. Whatever you’re facing, Abe Lincoln was right – “This too shall pass.”

You were put here to live a life. But whether you’re happy about it or not, life – a real life – contains a certain amount of sorrow.

Like me, your first response to this news might be to spend the next few years thinking “Okay, so I’ll just figure out how to avoid sorrow at all costs, then. To be “out” whenever he knocks on the door. To forever be one step ahead. How do I do that?”

Well, I won’t stop you from trying, and I couldn’t even if I wanted to. But what I can do is nudge you gently towards an alternative way of seeing things.

I remember the first time I ever read the following passage. It was over eleven years ago in a piece by Steve Pavlina titled Follow Your Heartbreak, and it has haunted me since. I took the hint there and then that maybe there was more to lose by trying to avoid my sorrow at all costs than there was to gain.

Eleven years on, and several experiences on both sides of the coin later, I can confirm this to be true: joy and sorrow are two sides of the same coin and you cannot have one without the other.

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Kahlil Gibran – “The Prophet”

There Are Three Kinds of People

Some create…

They hear that still, small voice inside, and decide to honour and immortalise it, putting it into some kind of tangible form. A song. A restaurant. A seduction.

Some consume…

They sit with their mouths and their minds wide open, passively waiting for somebody to shovel something – anything – into it. A cheeseburger. A reality show. A terrorist attack.

And some exploit…

They have nothing of any substance inside whatsoever. They know how to do but one thing – leach.

Firstly, they leach off the ideas of those in the first group, step one being to strip those ideas of anything beautiful, original, or soulful. They commodify. They corporatise it. They homogenise it.

And then they leach off the attention and mental real estate of the second group. They exploit the fact that these peoples’ lives are completely empty of meaning – an emptiness they helped create – and they convince them that for a low, low price they can be, do, and have everything they ever dreamed of.

Somehow it never happens, and somehow they always get away with it. So they line their pockets with the consumers’ disposable income and they laugh all the way to the bank and they pat each other on the back as they erode which is good and true about humanity.

We are living through a time where more than ever the world explicitly venerates the exploiters, whilst it implicitly encourages us to be mindless consumers.

Don’t fall for it.

You know, perhaps the most dangerously cunning thing the exploiters ever did was to convince us that without them, this whole thing would fall apart. Believe me, it wouldn’t. We don’t need them. They offer nothing.

And we don’t need the consumers either. The passive, faceless, interchangeable masses, so beloved by the exploiters for the fact that they can see no further than their own noses. All they do is use up oxygen.

There is only one group actually necessary to the continuation of humanity – the creators. Only the creators are actually doing anything, are actually taking energy from one place and putting it somewhere better for humanity. If the consumers and exploiters suddenly died out, the creators would just have a party and keep creating. If the creators died, however, it wouldn’t be long before the others did too.

What does it take to be a creator? It doesn’t take skill. It doesn’t take privilege. It doesn’t take belonging to any particular race, creed, or ethnicity.

It takes a decision. That’s all. A decision to be of use to humanity, in the way that only you can. You could paint a picture. You could run a business. You could raise a child. You could be a true friend. There is no limit to what you can do with the creative spirit fueling your every move.

Just don’t expect the world to encourage you down this path. Expect it to put obstacles in your path. Expect it to be always encouraging you to be a consumer or an exploiter. Unless you make a concerted effort to be one, you won’t find yourself accidently a part of the creator group.

So make that decision now. Create. Direct the least of your actions towards being of use to humanity. Even if the only reward is being able to sleep at night, it’s worth it.


To err is human, to forgive, divine.

Alexander Pope

Forgiveness comes easily to nobody.

Reluctantly, begrudgingly uttering the words “I forgive you…”? Anyone can do that. But a genuine acceptance and letting go of the resentment someone else has caused you to bear? God, no.

Perhaps it’s down to a simple fact of biology – we are if nothing else wired to value immediate gratification. We want to feel good now, and we want to think about what it costs later – if ever. Freud’s “pleasure principle.”

That’s the thing – resentment feels good now. Why don’t we just admit it? Thinking about all the ways you have been wronged, all the different people you would love to see suffer for it, that delicious feeling of self-righteousness you anticipate when those responsible are are inevitably brought to justice… I know it’s not just me that takes a kind of sick pleasure in this.

But like any nasty habit, the damage shows itself over time. Because there is no such thing as a free lunch. Resentment gets you high and it gets you hooked, and then after the first time you can never quite get there again. Now, every slight you hold on to, every injustice you refuse to let go of, every resentment you cling to, costs you. You carry them like a boulder around your neck. And with every day that goes by, the load gets heavier and heavier.

The price you ultimately pay for holding onto resentment is your life.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, is no fun at first. In fact it’s downright painful. Because unlike resentment, which lures you in with a hit of pleasure before condemning you to chronic misery, forgiveness asks for payment up-front, without so much as hinting at what you are going to get for your money.

The initial price forgiveness demands, which nobody in their right mind wants to pay, is that you swallow your pride. The big surprise? Once you do it, you are free.

Forgive. Not for their sake. For yours.

Forgive. Not because they deserve it. But because you deserve it.


If It Moves You, It Is You

When he hears that fire-bell chime,
Fireman Sam is there on time.
Putting on his coat and hat,
In less than seven seconds flat.

He’s always on the scene.
Fireman Sam!
And his engine’s bright and clean.
Fireman Sam!
You can not ignore,
Sam is the hero next door.

Maldwyn Pope

I’m not afraid to admit it. I get goosebumps when I so much as think about the theme tune to the original Fireman Sam series.

I have no idea why it moves me like it does – it wasn’t even my favourite TV program when I was little. But there is something in that combination of notes and chords and 1980s timbres that touches me.

If something moves you, that’s not a coincidence. There is a part of you that is resonating with the object of your attention, and the resonance is what is making you feel so wonderful, like you’ve come home after a long journey. It is moving you because in a sense, it is you.

Life’s too short to waste time on what doesn’t move you. If it leaves you cold – whatever “it” is – move on. Make room for what resonates, what hits, what touches.

And be proud of it. Even if it is the Fireman Sam theme tune.

The Guts to Ask

If I have led you to believe, by the words I have written, and the times we have shared together, that I am someone who has anything – let alone everything – figured out, then it is high time I apologised for this deception.

The truth is that I am just a ravenous child, hungry to know what it all means. Desperate to try and make sense of the world around me, because I can’t stop finding things that fascinate me, but frustrated because every new thing seems to throw what I learnt yesterday out of the window. I am cross-legged on the floor of the universe trying to assemble the jigsaw pieces of life at the same time as new ones keep showing up in the box.

It is this paradox that keeps me going. As Albert Einstein said “The more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know.”

Never think less of yourself because you don’t know the answers. Think highly of yourself for having the guts to ask the questions.

“The Way Things Are…”

Reality is negotiable. Outside of science and law, all rules can be bent or broken.

Tim Ferriss

People just love to say “I’m sorry, but that’s just the way things are…”

I don’t think they are sorry. I think they’re grateful. Grateful that so long as things are the way they are, they’re off the hook. Now they don’t have to feel guilty about selling themselves short. They can just hide behind “the way things are.” It’s the perfect excuse for the person too afraid to live.

It’s a lot braver, however – and a lot more fun – to try and prove them wrong.

Because reality is far more flexible than we realise. It just sometimes it feels very rigid. It feels as though there is a set of rules, that things are indeed “the way they are”, that what the people in charge say is correct whether you agree with them or not, and that there is depressingly little room to manuever inside all this.

This is not the truth. It’s just one very limiting perspective.

The truth is that whether you’re aware of it or not, you are an active participant in the creation of the world, not a passive spectator. Every action you take is a fresh brushstroke on the canvas of the future, and splash by splash, together we create the world we share.

The world asks “What kind of world do you want to live in?” and then it listens for your response. And your response is communicated through your actions.

Do something you feel lousy about for the money, or the fame, or the prestige, or the attention, or because you’re afraid to leave your comfort zone, and you have done nothing objectively wrong. But you have helped to create a world where those things are the most important things.

You could just as easily do something for joy, or for beauty, or for compassion, or for honour… and if you did, you’d be helping create a world where those things are the most important things.

It is entirely up to you.

Risk: It’s Safer Than Comfort

If you want to get it right, you must first be willing to get it wrong. There is no life without risk, only existence.

But what you find on the other side of risk is that it is actually much far more enjoyable to make a mistake in the pursuit of something – and then work out how to fix it – than it is to give into inertia, and to be so afraid of getting anything wrong that you refuse to act unless you can foresee and prevent in advance every little thing that might go awry. Not only is this approach futile – only Gods are blessed with such omniscience – it is exhausting.

When you calmly accept that a good life involves risk, and that you can never be 100% certain on anything, and that literally the only thing you can do is just make your best guess in every moment, then day by day, scene by scene, you may well appear to be taking two steps forward and one step back.

Perfect. You’re still moving foward. And you’re doing it a lot quicker than if the only time you ever take forward steps is when you are completely certain that you can rule out backward steps.

If this is you – and I can say this because I admit that more often than not, it’s me – then I hate to be the one to tell you, but there are snails making more out of their lives than you are.

Err on the side of taking risks. Firstly, because you never know – it might work out. Secondly, because if it doesn’t work out, you will handle it. And then you’ll be stronger and wiser than if you’d never took the risk in first place. You cannot lose.

Taking risks is, ironically, the least risky way to live.

In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with.

But I would rather have it bent and dull and know I had to put it on the grindstone and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.

Ernest Hemingway – Preface to “The First Forty-Nine”

The Forgettable Unforgettable

Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules. Rebellious, unschooled writers break rules. Artists master the form.

Robert McKee – Story

Emma and I watched a film last night. It was called – with more than a hint of irony – Unforgettable. It starred Rosario Dawson and Katherine Heigl. And it really did not need to be made.

It wasn’t a bad film – great acting, some nice panoramic views of southern California, costume and set designers who knew what they were doing – but it was without a doubt a pointless film. It followed an excruciatingly clear formula to its logical conclusion. It was a product, no different than a Big Mac or a Sharpie pen.

I do feel bad singling out Unforgettable though, because it’s really just one example of a mucher bigger issue that plagues every art-form, and in fact, every facet of society and culture:

Most people are shit-scared of taking a risk.

Most art, as Oscar Wilde reminded us in the preface to The Portrait of Dorian Gray, is quite useless. And this is why – the people making it are too timid. They search for a formula and when they find it they use it as a shield they can hide behind. Conservatism has become the most dangerous vice of the 21st century.

But it doesn’t need to be this way. The missing ingredient is courage. The courage to learn the timeless principles of what you are doing, and then the courage to bend and twist those principles into something you find uniquely beautiful. And remember, courage is not something bestowed by a deity. Courage is a muscle, and it gets stronger every time you exercise it.

Better to fail trying to make something courageously unique than succeed making something soulless.

Your Path With a Heart

It’s possible that what I am about to say contradicts what you were taught growing up, but I don’t care. I am not here to toe any party lines. Consider me nothing more than an independent whisper on the wind. Here goes:

Not only is there nothing wrong with putting yourself first, it is of vital importance that you do.

There is no honour in blind self-sacrifice. No dishonour in blind self-interest. There is nothing inherently good about acting selflessly. Nothing inherently bad about acting selfishly.

The thing about your life is that… it’s yours. Every step you take is a step on a path unique to you. Nobody but you can walk this path, and nothing but your own heart can tell you whether or not you are on it. It is yours and yours alone to discover and walk anew every day.

On your path, of course, you can certainly try to enrich the lives of others as they walk their own paths. You can become incredibly charitable and altruistic. The irony though is that unless you know yourself, listen to your own heart, and put yourself first, you will have very little to give anybody else.

The state does not care about your path with a heart. The masses do not care about your path with a heart. And sadly, there are probably plenty of people in your life who do not care about your path with a heart.

All the more reason for you to care about it.

Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.

Carlos Castaneda – The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge

Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien

If you were to make a point to smile at ten strangers today, it might be the case that at the end of the day none of them had yet decided to leave you their life savings.

And if you were to make a point to perform seven sit-ups as the sun rose, it might be the case that as it set a chiseled six-pack continued to elude you.

And if you were to make a point to dust one of the cobwebs from one of the corners of one of the ceilings in your home, it might be the case as your head hit your pillow that you felt you hadn’t quite achieved a state of domestic nirvana.

Perhaps not. But you would have been that little bit closer than you were previous. And that alone would have made the effort a worthy one.

Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien
Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.

(In his writings, a wise Italian
says that the best is the enemy of the good)

Voltaire – La Bégueule

If You Don’t Clean Your Frying Pan…

A dirty frying pan makes for a dirty omelette.

It doesn’t matter how free-range the eggs are. It doesn’t matter how grass-fed the butter is. It doesn’t matter how many five-star reviews the recipe book got on Amazon…

… your first step is to make sure your frying pan is clean. Everything else comes second.

Do Tiny Things Well

The smaller the acts you set out to perform, the higher the chances you will be victorious. The more your confidence will grow as an able human being, and the more you will be ready to tackle ever-larger problems.

This is how you change the world. Not by trying – and inevitably failing – to do large things, but by consistently succeeding at tiny things.

It doesn’t matter how noble your aims are, or how brave and tireless your efforts are. If your energy is being poured at things that are not open to your influence, you are pissing your energy away. You are running head-first into a heavy door, not realising there is a key in your pocket.

Far better to try to shift reality a quarter of an inch in your direction, and actually shift it, than to try to move it a foot, a yard, or a mile, and find that it won’t budge, or worse, that it shifts even further away from you.

Make Yourself Immune to Bad Days

Deep down, we all know it’s true: If you took a snap-shot of even the happiest person in the world’s life at any given moment, there would be all kinds of shit they didn’t want in it. Awkward and embarrassing moments. Things they mean to say “no” to but can’t stop blurting out “yes” to (or vice versa.) Addictions of all shapes and sizes. Irrational fears.

And I suppose that short of isolating yourself in a bunker, Hitler-style, there’s very little you can do about this stuff. It’s just a fact – no matter how great your life becomes, it will always contain some quantity of undesirable matter.

Some realise this and become apathetic. They see trying as futile – what’s the point, if my life is never going to be perfect anyway? Well, that’s just it. It’s never going to be perfect, no. But wouldn’t it be a fascinating experiment – and completely worth it – to see how close you could get?

Imagine the shitty things in your life as magnets, pulling you away from your joyful centre. Now, instead of paying too much attention to them, and trying to resist their magnetic pull, you could instead provide a counter-balance by deliberately inserting as many of the things you do want as possible. The things that light you up. The things that get you off. The things that make life a beautiful adventure.

These additions will help return you to your centre, and not get so swamped and overwhelmed by the negative elements in your life. You are not seeking perfection, but helping to create an ever-more favourable ratio of desirable to undesirable elements.

I’ve been doing an experiment with this over the last week. I made a list in my red notebook of ten very small and easy things I want to do every day, and I’m trying my hardest to tick them all off every day. There are things like picking up a novel, picking up my guitar, doing at least one pull-up, spending at least half an hour outside…

I’ve managed two days with all ten little habits ticked off, and I’ve hit at least seven every other day. And on the outside, my life is of course just the same as it was last week. But on the inside, I do feel a little bit different. I feel a tiny bit more in control of myself. I feel a little bit more indifferent to the negativity. I feel a smidge lighter.

Mostly, I feel ever so slightly more immune to having a bad day.

You Already Won

Whoever it is that the twists and turns of fate have helped you to become, your story actually started exactly the same way everybody’s did.

All those years ago, you were nothing more than a tiny sperm cell swimming around inside your Dad. You measured just one-twentieth of a milimetre in length.

But you weren’t just any old sperm cell. You were actually… the best one. You must have been, or else don’t you think one of the others would have beaten you to your mother’s egg? That’s right – you beat every last one of them. You were number one.

And by the way, there weren’t just a few others competing with you – the average human male releases between 40 million and 1.2 billion sperm cells each time he… well, you know. If that’s not fierce competition, I don’t know what it is.

I only bring this to your attention to give you something to contemplate on your darker days. When you feel like a pretty rotten example of a human being, or you feel as though you just can’t measure up to what’s expected of you, or you feel inadequate in every conceivable way, or you feel like you’re nothing because you can’t afford this or you don’t deserve that…

…if you’re even breathing, if you even made it to the womb, you are a fucking champion!

So think about that next time you’re being uptight, next time the stakes feel too high, next time it seems reality is putting you in a corner…

You already won. Years ago. Being a sperm was the struggle. Life is the prize. What are you going to do with it?

It’s just a ride.

But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride.

And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love.

The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off.

The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.

Bill Hicks

Staying True to Yourself

The left path or the right path?

Every now and then, you reach a fork in the road, and a decision is required of you.

To go right would be to honour your true self – to do what you really want to do – but would involve risk. To go left would be to betray yourself, but maybe avoid a temporarily uncomfortable situation.

You are free to make either choice, but you must realise that whichever path you choose, you are making a habit. Next time you’re in a similar situation, you will be slightly more likely to take that same path again.

Of course, that’s not what you’ll tell yourself when you take the left path. You’ll tell yourself that this time it’s different, it’s a temporary excursion – you genuinely don’t have a choice. And after all, it’s just this once – next time you’ll definitely take the right path, you promise…

No, you won’t. If you don’t practice taking the right path, it will get harder and harder to ever do so.


I turned down a couple of gigs recently. They were both for the same band – a band I quit last summer. One was in Great Yarmouth, the other was in Camden. I knew straight away that I didn’t want to do the gigs. I knew that the right thing to do was to say “no.” But man alive, it was torture trying to get myself to do it.

There were plenty of reasons for the conflict. I’m a musician – why wouldn’t I want a gig? There would have been a little bit of money – that never hurts. I’ve stepped in on previous gigs since I quit the band – what’s different this time?

I knew that “no” was my honest answer – to myself and to them.

And it might seem child-like to admit it, but saying “no” – and then sticking to it when the other party tried to negotiate my “no” – was a big step for me. Because I am – shamefully – a veteran of the left path. I’m practically a black belt at ignoring my inner voice when it’s the slightest bit inconvenient to hear it.

But I’m trying to be better.

Redefining honesty

When you think of whether someone is being honest with you or not, do you ever go further than just their words? I know I tend not to. But I’ve been thinking differently about honesty. Words are cheap. But actions mean something. They have weight.

So if I say “yes” to doing something I don’t want to do because it’s easier to in the moment, I might think I’m being polite, or kind, or going along to get along. Really, I’m really just lying. There’s nothing more to it.

Real honesty is shown through how you act – whether you go left or right at the fork in the road – not with your words.

You get what you practice

The more you do anything, the easier it becomes to do the next time. This is no less true with doing what you believe to be right than it is with baking a cake or painting a bowl of fruit.

I know, I know. Sometimes you will find yourself in a genuinely tight squeeze, where it will feel impossible to stay true to yourself. But I contend that most of the time when you feel like you have no choice, it’s a lie. You do have a choice. You’re just out of shape.

The only way to make it easier to live your truth is… to live your truth. Start with the things that feel easiest. Let your momentum build. This isn’t a pipe dream. This isn’t false optimism.

This is a tool available to you right now at this very second.

“Courage is grace under pressure.”

Ernest Hemingway

“Keep Going, Ol…”

Last night I got an email from my friend Ben telling me to keep writing my pieces.

I don’t need to tell you that it meant a lot. Obviously it meant a lot. But it meant more for arriving at a particularly ripe moment – I felt like shit last night and I had no idea why. I don’t know about you, but I can handle the feeling shit. It’s the not knowing why that really winds me up.

Anyway, to try and get out of this funk, I got into bed and put my headphones on and listened to the 50th anniversary remix edition of Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones at full blast. A bit later I checked my email and saw what Ben had sent me. Well, I don’t know if it was You Got The Silver, or Ben’s email, but I welled up, and all was right again, for a while. But Ben’s email made me think of a similar message my friend Miles sent me about five years ago.

That morning in 2015 I awoke possessed by a Dæmon that visits every now and then. It fills me with nervous energy and drives me to spill my guts onto a page and share it with the world. It had been building for a few weeks – it doesn’t start off as a Dæmon, but as a niggling feeling of ennui – and I was paying the price for ignoring it.

I cancelled my band’s rehearsal – I don’t remember what my excuse was – and walked to Starbucks on Ecclesall Road with my laptop in my brown hunting bag and typed furiously. When it was done, I shared it to Facebook. It was about 1000 words long, but the general theme was “Death is coming. Follow your bliss.” I don’t change. Five minutes later, I got a text from Miles saying something along the lines of “Ol, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” And I welled up just like I welled up last night, just like I well up any time somebody tells me to keep going.

Because the most encouraging thing you can hear as a creator is not how great you are, or how you’re going to be huge one day… it’s to be told to keep going. To keep doing what you do.

When somebody tells me I’m a good writer, I don’t know what to do with it. I appreciate it, but I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean when I say that it makes me feel the same way I feel when I’m standing in front of a birthday cake and everybody is singing Happy Birthday to me – I’m flattered, but I don’t know where to look.

But when somebody tells me to keep going, that’s all they need to say. In those two words – KEEP GOING – they have communicated far more than any other praise or feedback would have. They might not even think very much of what I’ve done so far – I don’t either, most of the time – but they are praising the mere fact that I keep showing up. Praising the effort, rather than the results. Praising the part that I had something to do with.

The main thing I’ve gained after the past few months of posting something every day is an ever-increasing detachment to the quality and the ultimate reception of each individual day’s work. The longer I go, the less each piece I publish matters to me. Of course, I want each one to say something, and I want each one to feel as right as possible the moment I click “publish”, but the truth is that I really have only one ambition – to stay in the game.

You see, I’m figuring this shit out in front of a live audience. So to me, not being booed off the stage is a good day. But to be explicitly instructed to keep going? That, my friend, is the ultimate compliment.

Thank you for lending me your eyes.

Permission to Be Yourself

“The first and most important thing an individual can do is to become an individual again, decontrol himself, train himself as to what is going on and win back as much independent ground for himself as possible.”

William S Burroughs (1914-1997)

From day one, they’re grooming you to be something you’re not.

They want you to fit in. They want you to be predictable. They want you to consume.

And like any good wife-beater, they know how to spin it – in the most benevolent terms they can. They are on your side. They are thinking of you. They are trying to keep you safe. They are doing it all for your benefit.

Most people suffer from Stockholm syndrome. And given the chance, they’ll prove it – they’ll tell you you’re crazy, that there’s no conspiracy, that nobody’s trying to keep you down, that you shouldn’t be so dramatic…

They’ve fallen for the villain’s lies. That doesn’t mean you have to.

Because the truth is that they do want to keep you down. In fact, they need to keep you down. Because if you knew how much power was available to you simply by learning to trust yourself and do things the way you believed to be right, you would be impossible to control. And they know that.

And they can’t have that.

You might not realise it, but you are so much more than they would ever grant you the permission to be. So fuck ’em – give yourself permission. Permission to be yourself.

That is your gift to the world. Not your slavish obedience to whoever’s in charge – teachers and parents and queens and corporations. Any moron could do that. I suppose that’s why almost every moron does.

Only that which has contrast is interesting, and worth paying attention to. I don’t want to know the ways in which you are the same as everybody else. I want to find out what’s inside you that belongs to you and you alone. That’s what makes life living – for both parties.

Do not live one more day believing the lie that it is selfish to be as fully yourself as possible, and to unapologetically live your own unique truth – however uncomfortable it might make authority figures.

It is the most generous way you could possibly spend your life.

Love What You Do

It is not doing what you love that will make you happy, but loving what you do.

Doing what you love is a dream, and for that dream to come true, a whole lot of things you have no control over have to go your way. No matter how badly you might want it, no matter how happy it will make you if it comes to be, you are leaving an awful lot to chance.

Loving what you do, on the other hand, is a decision – one that you can actively choose in every moment. When you find something to love about everything you do, and you practice this as often as you can, and in the most dire circumstances you can imagine, you hold your happiness in your own hands.

Nothing can touch you.

You’ll Wish You’d Started Today

Tomorrow, you’ll wish you’d started today.

Next week, you’ll wish you’d started today.

In a year’s time, you’ll wish you’d started today.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Lao Tzu

The only thing standing between you and taking that single beginning step is… you.

If it feels too difficult, make it easier. If it feels too big, make it smaller.

Determine which way you ought to face, and then do whatever you must to ensure that a step is taken in that direction, no matter how small or insignificant.

Eventually, Whether It Wants to or Not…

I’m sitting between a lady in a turquoise cardigan and bald Steve Jobs at Billund airport. We’re coming back to England today, after three weeks in Viborg, Denmark.

I don’t have much time – we’ll be boarding soon and on the plane I’ve decided that I’m going to either read East of Eden or listen to the Chili Peppers but definitely not both. So here is a passage that has meant a lot to me since I first came across it in a Robert Greene book eight years ago:

It’s like chopping down a huge tree of immense girth. You won’t accomplish it with one swing of your axe. If you keep chopping away at it, though, and do not let up, eventually, whether it wants to or not, it will suddenly topple down.

When that time comes, you could round up everyone you could find and pay them to hold the tree up, but they wouldn’t be able to do it. It would still come crashing to the ground…

But if the woodcutter stopped after one or two strokes of his axe to ask the third son of Mr. Chang, ‘Why doesn’t this tree fall?’ And after three or four more strokes stopped again to ask the fourth son of Mr. Li, ‘Why doesn’t this tree fall?’ he would never succeed in felling the tree.

It is no different for someone practicing the Way.

Zen Master Hakuin (1686 – 1769)

Be Kind to Yourself

“I can resist anything except temptation.”

Oscar Wilde

You and me both, mate. But there’s something else I would add to Wilde’s quote.

I can resist anything except temptation… but I wildly over-estimate my ability to do so.”

Just as difficult as resisting temptation is admitting that you maybe you aren’t as mentally bullet-proof as you wish you were. This doesn’t make you weak, or crap. It makes you human.

So what’s to be done? Well, as Robert Plant sang, there are two paths you can go down. And as always, one is a path of denial, the other a path of acceptance.

On the first path, you resolve to stay strong at all costs – in the moment. You believe that you can resist any temptation if you just try hard enough – in the moment. You strain to remain virtuous – in the moment – and you believe that if you can stay ahead of your temptations today, it will be easier tomorrow.

Don’t. It never works. And even when it does, it’s miserable.

The thing about “the moment” is that it’s too late. If you’re having to make yourself miserable just to stop yourself doing something “in the moment”, the damage is already done.

You need the second path. This one has a different flavour, but it has the dual advantage of being more enjoyable, and… actually working. Here it is:

Make it easier to do the right thing.

Trying to resist temptation is excruciating. And even if you somehow succeeded 100% of the time – which nobody does – it’s a magnificent waste of your energy. Every unit of energy you spend on resisting temptation is a unit that now cannot be used towards something better.

So instead of trying in vain to be stronger, why not make the weights lighter instead? Stack the deck in your favour. Tweak your environment to rid it of as much temptation as you can?

If you want to stop checking your phone so much, turn it off and put it in another room.

If you want to spend less money when you go out, get some cash out in the afternoon and leave your cards at home when you meet your friends.

If you want to go for a run after work tonight, arrange to go with a friend so that it’ll harder to get out of when you can’t be arsed later on.

Don’t wait until “the moment” to try and stay strong. Be kind to yourself – do the work in advance. Remove the temptation from your environment – in any way you can – and see how much freer you feel.

Most Things Should Be Left to Chance

I did something shameful yesterday morning that led to the creation of a new personal rule.

It was 11:31. I had already laced up my running shoes and threaded my earphones up through my t-shirt ready to go in my ears, and I was sitting on the floor by the front door, scrolling through my Spotify library for an album to listen to on my run.

Now, I have a handful of go-to albums for running. By The Way. Revolver. Warren Zevon. Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg. Rage Against the Machine. For whatever reason, none of these seemed appetising yesterday morning. And yet neither did any of the other albums I have saved.

This is tricky. I kept getting ever so close to picking one, but then I would remember that actually I’m not that into the guitar solo on track 6 of that one, or that that one’s a hair too Californian for a day like today, or that maybe today would be a good day for something instrumental…

My legs started to ache, and I looked at the time. 11:49. I’d been there eighteen minutes and was still no closer to a decision. Something inside me snapped. For fuck’s sake, Ol, you’re a joke. That’s it. It’s going on shuffle. Go. Run. You knob.

And you know what? It was great! Love Hurts by Nazareth. Apache by The Shadows. The End by The Beatles. I Can’t Wait by Stevie Nicks. As each track ended I couldn’t wait to hear what was coming next. Best of all, it was completely out of my hands.

My new rule? Unless you already have a better idea, leave it to chance.

I know this is a stupid little story. And I doubt you’re as pathetic and incapable of making a simple decision as I am.

But the point I want to make is that there are good ways to spend time and there are bad ways to spend time, and agonising over inconsequential decisions like what album to listen to on a run is… well, I don’t even need to finish my sentence, do I?

It’s a waste of life.

There are, of course, decisions that matter, ones that ought to be agonised over. But these are rare. Most things really do not matter. So don’t waste your energy on them. Leave most things to chance.

Don’t Be a Bully

Not because it’s a shitty way to live – though it certainly is. Don’t be a bully because it doesn’t actually work.

It never has. And it never will. But I can’t deny that there are times when it genuinely feels like not only the best way to get what I want, but maybe even even the only option.

This is always a lie. And if being a bully ever does appear to be working, know that the day will come – sooner than you think – when it will abruptly stop working. We each reap what we sow, and when you’re a bully, you are reaping resentment and bitterness. Even if they take a while, they will catch up with you.

What works better than being a bully – and helps you sleep at night – is figuring out how to not need to be a bully. There is not one thing you could possibly want in this world where bullying is the best way to get it.

Think about it this way – if bullying was was going to solve your problems, don’t you think it would have solved some of them by now?

Try something else. Anything else.

It’s Your Life, so Live It Your Way

“Madness is something rare in individuals — but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages, it is the rule.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

In one of the all-time best episodes of Seinfeld, Elaine gets fired from her job at the J. Peterman Company because she cannot hide any longer just how much she hates the interminable movie “The English Patient”, which everybody in her life will not shut up about.

Do you ever catch yourself doing the same thing? Hating something, but keeping it to yourself, feeling you’d be violating some kind of unwritten code if you admitted the truth?

Or perhaps it’s the other way round – you actually like something, but you fear what people might think if they found out and so you pretend not to like it?

I doubt there’s anybody who could truthfully answer “No, never…” to both of those questions all of the time – if there is, I’d sure like to meet them. And call them a liar. I digress… this kind of white-lying is just part of living in a society. A certain amount of it is both inevitable and healthy. We’re all doing it.

But are you doing it from strength, or from weakness? Are you keeping your true feelings to yourself because, well… they’re your business and nobody else’s? Or is it simply because you’re afraid of being found out?

There’s a very big difference. I have no problem with people consciously being private or modest. But what I do have a problem with is when we unconsciously invalidate our own thoughts and feelings, when we see them as unimportant, as somehow mattering less than those of “other people.”

It’s such a great way to waste the one life we’ve each been given.

When you prioritise what “other people” might think about you, over how you yourself perceive things, you are making a grave error.

Firstly, because to quote Olin Miller, “You wouldn’t worry about what people may think of you if you could know how seldom they do.”

But secondly and more importantly, even if they were thinking about you, you could never actually know what they were thinking. You can guess and you can presume, and that’s about it.

And so you put a fantasy – what you imagine might be in their head – ahead of reality – what actually is inside your head. As a human being living a subjective experience, your feelings are a primary source of information to help you navigate the world. What you imagine other people might think, on the other hand? That’s not information. To give it more consideration than what’s going on inside you… well, that’s just dumb.

If you are lucky enough to find something you enjoy, I’m happy for you. Own it. Don’t be embarrassed. What right does anybody else have to decide what you are allowed to enjoy? And if you don’t like something, own that too. Who cares? You don’t have to shout it from the roof-tops, but don’t awkwardly hide your disgust. Just go focus on something you do like instead.

You have to realise that your thoughts and feelings are just as valid as anybody else’s. In fact, a good way of weeding toxic people out of your life is to see how they respond to you simply being honest about what you do and don’t enjoy. If they try to belittle you or invalidate you, fuck ’em. You can let them down gently, but definitely do let them down. You’ll both be happier without each other.

What I really want to get at here is that it you were not mass produced. There was only one of you ever made. You are incredibly rare. And the most valuable thing about you is your unique perspective. How dare you waste it by acting like it’s less valid than everybody else’s.

I leave you with a piece of Marcus Aurelius:

It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own. If a god appeared to us — or a wise human being, even — and prohibited us from concealing our thoughts or imagining anything without immediately shouting it out, we wouldn’t make it through a single day. That’s how much we value other people’s opinions — instead of our own.

Marcus Aurelius – Meditations: Book 12

The Benefit of the Doubt

I started wearing glasses every day three years ago.

When I was living in Rome, it started to dawn on me that other people could see things I could not. I don’t mean metaphorically, or in some abstract sense – I mean literally seeing things in front of me with my eyes.

I remember telling my parents when they came to visit me to look out for a particular number of bus, but not to feel bad if they missed it because the displays on the front of the buses were almost impossible to read, even up close. With perfect timing, a bus drove slowly past us and my parents laughed and asked me what I was talking about because they could both read it absolutely fine. I looked. It was all fuzzy to me.

So when I moved back to Sheffield, I had my first eye test in seven years and was told I needed glasses, especially if I was going to be driving. I didn’t tell them that until about a year before I’d been driving all kinds of places and that really it was a wonder I was still alive. I tried contact lenses, but they were fiddly. I also considered being one of those people that only wears their glasses some of the time, but that sounded like a lot of work and I saw myself losing pair after pair, and so I just resigned myself to wearing them all the time.

I don’t mind it at all. But the reason I bring this up is because the year after finding out I was short-sighted, I was diagnosed with ADHD. Now, in some ways, they are similar. They are both a hard fact of your biology. You can’t outrun them. You can’t “try harder” to see – you can just wear glasses that compensate. And you can’t “try harder” to regulate your attention, or your emotions, or your sensory overload, or however your particular form ADHD manifests in you – you can just find ways to work around the difficulties it causes.

But the two conditions are very different in one key way: everyone else can see your glasses. They can’t see your mind.

Psychological issues are difficult socially, mainly because they are invisible. Because whilst you’re going round with a brain that functions differently than it’s meant to – through absolutely no fault of your own – you still look “normal.” And so through no fault of their own, people expect you to act “normal.” And if and when you don’t – because you can’t – they don’t understand why. How could they?

And so you have not only to live with the condition, but also to sort of be aware that unless you really spell it out for other people what’s going on in your head, they’re going to look at what you say and what you do and just assume that you’re rude, or anti-social, or you don’t give a shit, or you’re lazy, or you’re unreliable… and when they believe all these things, you have to think “Yeah, I’d probably think that if I were them…”

The whole journey has obviously taught me a lot about myself, but more importantly it has taught me how to deal better with other people. I’m a hell of a lot slower now to form judgments about people. I rarely just assume that I have any idea what somebody is going through. And when they do or say something, I might have my theories as to why they did, but I try not to let them settle into an opinion. Because I know I’m probably wrong.

Perhaps this is also why I bang on so much about what you can and can’t control – that does seem to be the message of at least half my pieces of writing – because I know what it’s like to feel you have no control over yourself, let alone over the rest of the world.

I want to give everybody the benefit of the doubt because I’ve had to struggle my whole life to give it to myself.

Every Action Is a Vote

I’m still in Denmark, by the way.

And I didn’t write anything yesterday because we went to Emma’s grandfather’s birthday meal and not many other people were helping themselves to the carafe of red wine that kept being refilled and so by the time we got home I was drunk as hell and as soon as the Real Madrid game was over I pretty much went to sleep.

But rules is rules, and so today I must write two pieces. This is the first. I’m starting writing in the afternoon and so if you caught my piece last week about finding the right time to work you’ll know that by this time of day I’m pretty much toast.

I have nothing to say to you and yet here I am typing away. But perhaps that’s the lesson, after all.

You don’t get stronger by lifting the easy weights. And whilst I am fairly certain that the piece I am writing right now will not be one I remember or think of as a great piece… I am at least writing it.

I could be watching the second season of ‘You.’ I could be playing backgammon – a game I had never played until about two hours ago. Or I could be scrolling through some feed on Instagram, chuckling every now and then at something that tickled me… but I’m writing this.

I went for a run earlier and whilst I was running I listened to The Beatles but once I had had enough of running and wanted to walk I listened to a podcast with James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits. He said that every action you take is like a vote for the person you are becoming. Who you are is the sum of all those votes. I liked that. Because it is entirely focused on the part that I can control – the action. The results take care of themselves if they feel like it. It’s not my business.

So I am voting right now to be a writer, but I suppose it’s one step more than that. I’m voting not to just write, but to publish work I know full well is far from perfect. Good for me.

Well, I just read through that and it wasn’t as interminable as I had expected it to be. Let’s see if my second piece of the day is any better…

“he talked a big game” : a poem by oliver manning

he talked a big game

he told me don’t sweat it

he told me chill out

he told me go with the flow

he bought each of his hawai’ian shirts

from the right vintage shop

and his girlfriend never wore

a bra

his words sounded good to your ears

if you were looking

for something other than yourself

to blame for the sorry state

of your life.

and so when he said them

the people believed them

and the people believed him

and the people never suspected

that on the inside

he was ninety-eight percent sawdust.

The flow exists. And you do have to go with it. To the degree that you do, you will have peace. To the degree that you do not, misery.

But go not blindly, friend. For if you “go with the flow” without first understanding what it is and what it isn’t, you are a matador without his sword, and the flow will gore you with its horns.

What is “The Flow?”

Firstly, what it is not.

It is not avoiding confrontation. It is not living apathetically or apologetically. It is not refusing to ever try at anything. It is not bending over and allowing yourself to be sodomising with whatever “the world” wants to sodomise you with. It is not painting yourself as a victim. It is not affecting a cool pose. It is not claiming to be a child of God. It is not being meek in a vain attempt to inherit the Earth.

Are you ready to hear what the flow is?

The flow is everything outside your control.

Going with the flow starts by acknowledging the utter indifference with which almost every single molecule in the universe views you. And then seeing what’s left. Which of the molecules remain open to your influence. What is left we will call “your corner.”

Work your corner. That’s it. And leave the rest of it for “the flow.” Push it from your mind, as far as you can. There is nothing you can do anything about any of it. Why bother entertaining it for one second?

Accept that you don’t have any control over most of reality. You could be King, Queen, Empress… most of the molecules in the universe would still resist you. So free your shoulders of the weight of the world. And then put every ounce of energy you can muster into that tiny bit you can do something about.

And if you do that, something magical happens – your corner gets a little bit bigger. You find a few more molecules to influence. And so on. And so on.

That is what it means to go with the flow. It is not just some bullshit California wisdom espoused by beautiful people to whom the flow has already been more than benevolent.

It is open to everyone.

Most of all, it is open for you.

The Longest Way Round Is the Shortest Way Home

In a previous life, I wrote exclusively in block capital letters.

I don’t remember the exact date I started this habit – nor the reason why – but it lasted for about eight years. If you wanted me to write anything by hand, YOU GOT SOMETHING THAT LOOKED LIKE THIS. One time I wrote a very tender and heartfelt letter to a girl whose heart had captured mine and her response to it was “Why are you so angry with me?

And then one day on a sofa in Rome in 2016, I went back to writing the way I was taught to at school. Lower-case. Joined-up. Scruffy. Again, I don’t recall what prompted the change.

On a lark, I decided this morning to do my morning pages – three stream-of-consciousness A4 pages – in block capital letters. For old times’ sake. Just to see what it’d be like. It was quite a trip.

As early as the first paragraph, I could sense something different happening in my brain, and soon my reflections on the process ended up on the page, in a kind of movie-within-a-movie way. It was something like this:

I can type much faster than I can scribble long-hand, and I can scribble long-hand much faster than I can print in block capital letters. But other than the speed at which I got words onto the page, I didn’t expect there to be any difference between approaches. I, Oliver Manning, am the unchanging variable in all three situations – I’m the writer.

Well it turns out I was wrong. Dead wrong!

When I type, my fingers fly across the keyboard. I’m incredibly fast. I also don’t hit a lot of wrong keys like some people who type fast. And yet when typing I rarely feel as though “I” have anything much to do with the words that end up on the screen. I might get a lot of them on there very quickly, but they don’t mean anything to me, and they always need a hell of a lot of editing to make sense or to be remotely publishable.

Most of all, it’s very hard for me to figure out what I’m trying to say if I try to figure it on the keyboard.

There’s a big step-up when I write long-hand. Now I feel much more as though “I” am writing. The words end up on the page more slowly – a lot more slowly – than when I type, but the experience is so much more pleasurable, and when I read my work back it means something to me.

What I am trying to say presents itself to me much earlier than when I type, and so I don’t waste as many words. And whilst continual editing and rewriting would keep making what I came up with stronger and stronger, it doesn’t need it so desperately.

But boy, this morning made me wonder why I ever stopped writing in block capitals. I felt like I was one with the page. Now, that’s always what I’m chasing when I write, like an addict who can’t get enough, but I never actually get there. Today there was this sense as I printed and printed that what I was saying was true. And my mind was quiet, save for the writerly part of it telling me what to put next. It was a real joy.

What all this made me reflect upon was how the longest way round probably is in fact the shortest way home. The slower I go, the quicker I seem to get what I actually want. The faster I go, the longer it seems to take, if it gets done at all. And the more I’ve thought about it since this morning, the more I keep finding that it applies to just about everything I try my hand at.

Everybody is different – what works for me might not work for you – but have a think. Are you trying to blast through everything you do because it seems wasteful or extravagant not to, or to value something other than speed, like joy? How is it working out for you?

Remember: if it doesn’t actually get you home, then the shortest way round is no way at all. Find the way that works… for you.

Who Are You?

You are not the name you were given.

You are not the country whose borders you happened to be born within.

You are not the colour of your hair.

You are not the job you work.

You are not the words you speak.

You are not the thoughts you think.

You are one thing and one thing only: the choices you make.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Victor Frankl – “Man’s Search for Meaning”

Believing a lie doesn’t make it true. And refusing to exercise your power to choose doesn’t let you off the hook. It doesn’t strip you of this power. It just wastes it.

No matter how cornered you feel by circumstances, or by the other people in your life, or even by the voices in your own head… at any moment you are free to remember the truth: that you always have the power to choose, to go with what is right and what is true for you.

Nobody can bestow you this power upon you – it lies within you, itching to be used – nor can anybody ever take it away from you.

I decided a long time ago that whatever years I had remaining here would be spent living this lesson as fully as I could. Exercising my power to choose, and in doing so discovering who I am more deeply every day.

I’m not telling you this because I find it easy to put into practice. There is nothing about this that is easy. No, I’m telling you this because whilst it might be excruciatingly difficult to act upon, it’s worth every penny and more. There is not a more worthy way to live than to consciously commit to doing what you believe is right.

I invite you to join me.