The Value of Experimenting on Yourself

I don’t know why I didn’t do this a long time ago.

I’m only in the middle of my second day of not having any caffeine, and already I can tell that this was a good idea. Other than a mild headache – which started a couple of hours ago and is getting worse – I feel better than I have in years. My mind might not have shut the fuck up, but it’s speaking at a reasonable volume, and about things I have an interest in. That’s not been my experience for a very long time.

You can get used to anything. And just like how a fish doesn’t know it’s in water, I don’t think I quite appreciated how normal stress and anxiety have become for me, how much I have been relying on cortisol and adrenaline to get anything done. But that was normal, so I just kept going. And now I’m not caffeinated, I sort of feel like I’ve been away for a long time and come home. Like I’m waking up from a very deep sleep.

Of course, this could all be a fluke, and that’s what time will tell, but it is slowly dawning on me just how much of what I’ve thought, said, and done for over a decade might have been different had I not had so much coffee in me the whole time.

But I want to make something crystal clear – I am not telling you this as some kind of preach against caffeine. I don’t think that you or everybody you know should suddenly stop consuming it just because for a day and a half I have felt more relaxed without it. Jesus. I have more respect for you than that.

No, it’s not about caffeine at all. It’s about having the courage to experiment. Because you can Google all day long about whether this is good for you or that is bad for you, or if you should always do such-and-such in a particular way… and never actually find out. Or you can do a little (reversible) experiment and find out first-hand. And if life was better before you changed whatever you changed, then it’s a no-brainer – go back to how things were.

The inside-out is superior to the outside-in. It is impossible to know what something will be like until you try it

For example, I gave up alcohol for Lent last year. I wanted to see what it would be like. And honestly, the change was minimal. I slept unusually well for the first two or three nights, and after that I really didn’t notice much of a change in my life. And so when that experiment was over, I went back to drinking. Why not? I like drinking.

The point is that I wondered if there was something better on the other side, and I found my answer.

What’s something you’ve been wondering about? I say go for it. Remember, you can always reverse course if things go really tits up.

What you must ask yourself is this: Is my experience of life right now SO INCREDIBLE that it’s not worth a little experimentation to see if it could be better?

You have far more to gain than you have to lose.

Toss It

“It is a hard thing to leave any deeply routined life, even if you hate it.”

John Steinbeck – “East of Eden”

All day long, for years and years and years, you have been making choices. This way, or that.

Your “past” is really nothing more than the total sum of the choices you have made. And you can choose to see your past in one of two ways.

As a prison sentence – you see yourself as obligated to stay forever consistent to your past choices, even if you feel you now know better.

Or as a gift – you see the past as something offered to you by your former self, something you are free to accept if it still feels right, or to turn down, if you feel you now know better than you once did.

Your past certainly informs your present – and the longer you do something, the easier it gets to continue – but it does not dictate your present. You are always free to change direction. If something your past self has gifted to you doesn’t feel right any more, toss it. Say thank you for the offer, and go in the direction that feels right today.

I’m Giving Up Coffee For Lent

Last year I gave up alcohol for Lent. Why? Because I wasn’t sure if I could. That was reason enough. And it actually turned out to be easier than I thought, and to make less of a difference to my life than I thought it would.

What I didn’t tell anyone at the time, though, was that what I really wanted to do was see if I could give up coffee, but I chickened out at the last second because I was too scared and chose alcohol instead. I was scared both of the first few inevitable days of headaches and irritability, and also of the possibility that I would quit halfway through and down an espresso.

Well, I don’t know what’s different this year, but I’m giving it a go. And just because quitting alcohol for a few weeks wasn’t as hard as I thought it’d be, I am under no illusions about this one. I know it’s going to be horrible at first.

If I were someone who just had a weak cup in the morning this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but with two exceptions – four weeks in 2010 and one week in 2016, I’ve drank several cups a day for the last 13 years. And I like it strong. I get a headache if I so much as get to the middle of the afternoon and I haven’t had one.

And that’s just one of the reasons why for about the last 12 years I have suspected my permanently high caffeine consumption was doing me more harm than good, but that’s the frustrating thing about coffee – it’s essentially impossible to look to the outside world for confirmation on whether or not you should be drinking it. For every study that finds definitive proof you should never have another sip, another one finds ten reasons you’re not having enough of the stuff. You can’t go down the objective route. You can’t ask the world if you personally “should” drink coffee, or your search will have you running round in circles for years, like me.

Ultimately, the only way to know if it is good, bad, or neutral – for you – is to have direct experience of both modes of living. I have experienced the full-of-coffee mode for over a decade. I know INTIMATELY what that shit is all about.

I think I owe it to myself to do this measly six weeks. Wish me luck. And if in my next few days worth of writings I sound like I’m down in the dumps, it’s because – chemically, at least – I am.

La Petite Mort Musicale

“Beauty needs a witness.”

Zan Perrion

I’ll let you in on a secret: certain parts of certain songs make me cry every time I hear them. It doesn’t matter if I’m in my bedroom, or if I’m driving, or if I’m walking down the street.

Case in point: I went for a rainy walk this evening, and – amongst a couple of other songs – the third verse of Castles Made of Sand by Jimi Hendrix did it to me. (There was a young girl, whose heart was a frown, ’cause she was crippled for life, and she couldn’t speak a sound…”)

I am powerless to Jimi every time he sings those lines.

But I’m not crying tears of sadness. Far from it. It’s much more like some kind of musical orgasm. I feel this rising tension inside me, and I know what’s about to happen, and then the dam bursts, and my eyes well up and I feel elation and euphoria for a few seconds, and then I come back down to Earth.

For those brief few seconds, I am free. There is no time. There is just beauty. I know exactly who I am and what I came here to do. And then it’s gone and I just have a happy memory of how it felt.

If I could bottle this experience and sell it like a drug, I would. Except that I don’t think that would work out because they do say it’s very bad business for a dealer to get high on his own supply, and I know for a fact I wouldn’t be able to help myself.

Is this something you experience too? I’d love to know.

Don’t Waste Your Life in Worry

From time to time, I like to do nothing but sit and think.

I can’t do it very often. And that’s not because I don’t have the time to – I most certainly do – but because my mind generally spends every moment from morning to night sprinting from one place to the next to the next to the next and “doing something” helps slow it down.

Well, I have no idea how much wine I drank last night – it was my birthday party – but it was enough to ensure that I felt pretty slow this morning, even after my ADHD medication and a couple of espressos. I managed to write my morning pages in the loft, humming along to Station to Station, and when I was done with that, I wanted to do nothing but sit and think. It was very pleasant.

And I don’t know why, but what I kept returning to was what a chronic worrier I have been, basically forever – as well as I might hide it. I thought about all the different things I have spent days and weeks and months and sometimes years dreading, anticipating their coming true in a state of absolute terror. I thought about all the cool things – both big and tiny – that I have stopped myself from doing because “what if…?”

And then a realisation came that made me both smile and frown at the same time: None of the things that I can vividly remember spending a lot of time worrying about have ever actually come true.

That made me sit up. “Nah,” I thought. “That can’t be. Surely… oh… actually, maybe… Jesus, it’s true.”

Every second I have ever spent worrying about anything has been a complete fucking waste of my time. Every. Single. Second.

I felt ashamed. I was given this gift of life. I don’t know how many Gods my soul had to sleep with to get me here, and then what do I go and spend a load of it doing? Smelling the flowers? Savouring my time? No. I was busy obsessing over how woe-is-me it would be if something “bad” were to happen in a future moment, over which I have no control.

Well, I don’t know how to break this nasty habit, and I suspect it is something I will be working on until the day I die, but I’m committed to the effort.

Because – and maybe I’m wrong – I very much doubt that when I am about to kick it, and I’m laying there on my death-bed, wearing old-timey pyjamas replete with one of those floppy hats, that I’ll be thinking “Oh, man, I wish I’d spent more of my life worrying about all that stuff that didn’t end up happening anyway…”

“It’s ruinous for the soul to be anxious about the future and miserable in advance of misery, engulfed by anxiety that the things it desires might remain its own until the very end. For such a soul will never be at rest – by longing for things to come it will lose the ability to enjoy present things.”

Seneca – Moral Letters

A Quick One, by Way of Henry Miller

It’s my birthday. I have a party to get ready for. So whilst I have no intention of shirking today’s writing all together, I’m afraid I do not have the luxury of being able to sit here indefinitely, listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, and hoping for the Muse to whisper into my ear.

And so with time being of the essence, I decided to rifle through my Ralph Lauren shoebox of notecards for something pertinent and meaningful to share on my birthday. On each notecard is a quote or passage that meant enough to me at the time I came across it to go to the effort of copying it out by hand.

I rifled through, thinking that what would be most meaningful would be something I had copied down so long ago as to have forgotten it completely. But that’s not what happened.

The very first card on the pile – something I copied out at the start of this week after reading it in an article on the amazing brainpickings website – summed up perfectly what I wanted to say to you.

“If at eighty you’re not a cripple or an invalid, if you have your health, if you still enjoy a good walk, a good meal (with all the trimmings), if you can sleep without first taking a pill, if birds and flowers, mountains and sea still inspire you, you are a most fortunate individual and you should get down on your knees morning and night and thank the good lord for his savin’ and keepin’ power…

“If you are young in years but already weary in spirit, already on the way to becoming an automaton, it may do you good to say to your boss – under your breath, of course – “Fuck you, Jack! You don’t own me!”…

“If you can fall in love again and again, if you can forgive your parents for the crime of bringing you into the world, if you are content to get nowhere, just take each day as it comes, if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter, and cynical, man you’ve it half licked.”

Henry Miller – “On Turning Eighty”

Goodbye, Twenty-Eight

It’s my birthday tomorrow. I will be twenty-nine years old.

When I hear myself say that, my mind offers one of two responses. If my spirits are high, I’ll think “Gee, is that all? How’d you fit all that in? Are you remembering it right? Did you really do that…?” And if they are low, I’ll wonder “Where the hell did that go? You were just tying your laces…”

All this to say who cares? Age is just a number.

We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it…

Life is long if you know how to use it.

Seneca – “On the Shortness of Life”

The best things, the most interesting things, the things that I remember the clearest and the most often, were never the things the things that went right, never the things I set out to do, never the things that seemed like the next logical step…

Instead, they were the things I would, as it were, wake up and find myself in the middle of doing, with no idea how any of it had come to pass.

They were the distractions, the diversions, the sub-plots, the tangents. These were life itself and the only tragedy was that you couldn’t deliberately make any more of them than you were given. To do so would be like trying to grab hold of water.

The best you could do was to notice when a big wave was approaching and then ride it ’til the sun went down.

So if I have learnt anything – and the jury’s still out on that one – it is that it’s wise to have a plan, to follow a routine, to structure your days… and then to throw that shit out of the window like a hot potato the second something shiny comes along.

Because that’s life.

Be Kind… to Yourself

The kindest thing I did today was give up.

I drank the water. I swallowed the pills. I even did a breathing exercise I found online designed to stimulate my vagus nerve…

And none of it could even remotely shake whatever voodoo funk I’d woken up with. You know the kind I mean – you feel like you can remember the words for “sunshine”, and “smile”, and “lolly-pop”, but you don’t remember what they mean…

I rallied round for a few hours, desperately doing things to try to make myself feel better. And then I got sick of it. And I gave up. And the moment I got sick of it and gave up and just accepted how I awful I felt, I felt better. Not “better” in the sense that the black fog had suddenly left me, but “better” in the sense that I didn’t feel as bad as before. Hey, I’ll take that.

I’m not going anywhere in particular with this, other than to say that sometimes you’re going to wake up feeling like you’ll never be happy again. You need to remember two things.

One, that it’s not true – you will be happy again.

But two, if all you do is tell yourself thing number one, and try to push the feeling down, you’ll wake up the same way tomorrow.

I know it doesn’t seem right that accepting horrible feelings that you don’t want to feel is the path to ultimately feeling better, but it is. Feelings – even the horrible ones – want to be felt. The more you run from them, the more damage they will do in the long run.

So next time you wake up feeling like death, be kind to yourself. Drink the water. Swallow the pills. And as soon as you possibly can, give up.

The Time I Woke up in a Police-Car

You know,” I say. “Women resist at first, but they always succumb in the end…” Lucy looks at me like I am on crack. Robyn? She just cracks up.

Allow me to explain…

I’m 21 years old and it’s a Monday evening in March. Sitting on my bed at my parent’s house after dinner, watching Two and a Half Men, I drink a whole bottle of Australian white wine – a 21st birthday present a couple of weeks ago.

Then I’m on the bus to town, Cat Stevens is in my ears, and I’m blissing out to the feeling of warm alcohol running making its way through my veins. I’m at that sweet-spot where your anxiety has disappeared but it hasn’t yet been replaced by stupidity. If I only I could feel this way all the time, I’m thinking.

At the Green Room, I buy myself some more white wine and sign up to the open mic. It’s my turn to play. I’m still conscious enough to put in a decent set, if somewhat growly and aggressive. It’s busy tonight and so the applause feels like twice as much as usual and it makes me feel like superman.

I’m having the time of my life. I drink a few more glasses of wine.

The trouble begins when I hear a voice ask “Does anybody play drums?” Before I know what’s going on, I’m sitting behind the drum kit. Later, I would learn that no sooner had the question been asked, than I had exclaimed “Me!” and run faster than a speeding bullet toward the stage, as though paranoid somebody else might get there first.

It’s Steve who needs a drummer. Steve plays soft, , sensitive acoustic material. There’s a bass player too. They talk amongst themselves, presumably about what songs we’re about to rock out to.

I pick up the drum sticks. This is fine, I think. I know what I’m doing. I can drum. I’ll just test them. I whack the snare drum. “BAM!” I find it hilarious. I do it again. The second one makes me laugh even more than the first. I look up. Steve and the bass player – and most of the people in Green Room – are looking at me.

I’ll give you something to look at, I think to myself. I do an ill-executed drum-roll, and end it with a crash cymbal. Though I hear no cheers, I am delighted with myself, and start hitting the drums almost at random. What’s everybody’s problem? Get off the stage? I’m drumming! I’m a drummer! BAM! BA-BAM! Alright, alright, I’ll wait.

Steve starts a song. I sit quietly. I nod my head. Yep. I got this. I arch my back, steeling myself for my big moment. Here it is… BA-BAM-BA-BA-BAM… oh, fuck.

I have dropped both drum-sticks on the floor, which is a shame, because the fill I was playing was dynamite, but having heard only half of it people are going to make the dangerous assumption that I’m just some drunk who can’t play the drums. I’ll show them.

I find the sticks, and I attempt to rejoin the song. But they’re playing it all wrong. Sure, Steve might have written the song, but I know how it should go – I’m a musician, remember. This is dragging, the way he’s doing it. It needs someone to light a fire under it. And if that someone has to be me, then so be it. I start drumming a little bit faster and a little bit louder. And whilst my intentions were to make the song sound better, if anything, I have made things much worse.

They stop playing, in the middle of the song, and ask me politely to stop playing the drums. I can’t argue with them. Not only because they’re right, but because I’m slowly losing the ability to string sentences together. I go back to the audience. Someone offers me a glass of water. I down it.

It was around this time that Robyn’s friend Lucy arrived. She is very beautiful. I stroll up to her, go to whisper into her ear, and realise far too late that I have forgotten how to whisper. “You know,” I said. “Women resist at first, but they always succumb in the end…” Lucy looks at me like I am on crack. Robyn? She just cracks up.

I feel like my work at the Green Room is done. I bid Robyn and Lucy farewell – “I’m going home, girls!” – and I tear off my orange cardigan and I throw it at a stranger. I leg it towards the door and I continue legging it down Fitzwilliam Street.

The next thing I know, I’m laying down on the pavement.

“Are you alright, mate?” I pick my head up to see who’s talking to me. It’s a police lady in a police car. “Where do you live, mate?”

So now I’m in the back of a police car, with two female police officers, driving down Abbeydale Road. I start humming a little bit. Dum-dum-dum-duuuuhm-duuuuhm. Then mumbling. Morning has broooo-ken. I get louder.

“Come on, girls, let’s have a sing along!” They don’t take me up on it, and their lack of enthusiasm infects me – I give up myself after a line or two more. Now I’m bored. And I start to feel uneasy.

“Excuse me,” I said.

“Yes?”

“How do you open the window?”

“Why do you want to open the window?”

“I want to be sick.”

SCREECH. “No! No! NO!” The car stops. I wonder if I’ll have whiplash in the morning. We’re outside ALDI, on Archer Road.

“This isn’t where I live,” I said. The police lady who is in the passenger seat gets out and opens my door for me.

“You can get home from here, can’t you, mate?”

I walk up the hill, throwing up in the woods along the way, and then I’m home. It’s not even midnight yet but everybody is in bed. I wonder aloud if there are any crisps.


If you can’t share your humiliation publicly, you haven’t gotten over it yet. And if you’re not over it yet, you’ve still got this gaping wound in your heart, and it will always keep you from being 100% authentic.

Being authentic — or transparent — isn’t just about being honest. It’s about having nothing to hide.

Concealing the truth from others creates a wall between you and them. Tear down that wall by sharing what you thought you could never share, and you’ll experience a much deeper level of connection with everyone you meet.

Steve Pavlina – “Share Your Shame”

PS

For you mega-fans out there, this story is where the lines from my song, Don Draper, “I woke up in a police-car, they didn’t want to sing along…” came from.

Tattoo You

I don’t have any tattoos.

You know, I wish I had a better reason for this, like perhaps being in possession of some sort of rare ink allergy – I’d feel forty flavours of special. The truth is far less glamorous: as of yet, I’ve simply never got round to getting one.

When I was a teenager, people had this theory about tattoos. And when I say people, I mean teachers, the gobby kids at school, characters off Eastenders… To tattoos, these people ascribed a magical power, and one I never quite understood – that of making you 100% completely and utterly unemployable.

The way they told it ’round the campfire, if you were ever to be foolish enough to let a tattoist have his or her wicked way with just one square inch of your skin, well… you might as well sign up for the homeless shelter now, because buddy, ain’t nobody giving you a job. Not in this lifetime.

I smelt bullshit, if I can be frank.

The evidence for their theory was incredibly scant. And evidence for its contrary was everywhere, especially in places like KFC and McDonalds, but even once in HSBC I saw an employee burst through a door marked “STAFF ONLY” wearing a white tank-top which showed off some kind of fire-breathing dragon wrapped around his tricep.

What’s more, whenever you asked these spouters if they actually knew somebody who had been turned down for a job for being tattooed, it was always “my Dad’s mate”, or “someone my sister knows” – ah yes, the brave hero of every apocryphal tale.

But who knows… maybe their theory wasn’t completely unfounded. I was willing to accept that there were certain situations where, depending on the tattoo, and depending on the job, your prospects of landing the job might be lower than with no tattoos.

But what I wasn’t willing to accept was the unchallenged notion beneath it all that in life there might be things you want to do but for no good reason you shouldn’t do them because… what might happen??? Their model of the world seemed flawed to me, that you could either express yourself or support yourself. But not both.

Nah. Didn’t buy it then. Don’t buy it now.

Henry Ford was right: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Because of course you can have a tattoo and a job – loads of people do. Or you can have a tattoo and no job. Or no tattoo and a job. Or no tattoo and no job. All of these combinations are 100% objectively possible. But your mind will only show you what it believes to be possible.

If you walk around thinking that it’s impossible to have a tattoo and a job, and you live your life as though this were gospel, then… it will be gospel. Reality will show you what you want to see, just like how when you’re thinking about buying a red car, you suddenly see red cars everywhere. The red cars were there, you just weren’t looking for them.

It should go without saying that this piece is about more than just tattoos and jobs. It’s about everything you think to be true about the world.

What you believe matters. When you believe something, you are choosing for it to be true. You are choosing for the world to look like that. You don’t like it? Choose something different.

Beauty Is Just a Choice Away

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.”

Marcus Aurelius – “Meditations” Book 5

If you want to, you can choose to see everything that happens to you as a coincidence, as some kind of cosmic accident. You can choose to see the Universe as completely indifferent to you, like a government or a corporation. You can choose to see yourself as completely separate to the almost 8 billion other people wandering around on this blue rock circling the sun.

Equally, if you want to, you can choose to see everything that happens to you as somehow fated to happen, as part of some grand plan with you at the centre. You can choose to see the Universe as unconditionally on your side. You can choose to see yourself as intimately connected to everybody else in the world, as one part of a whole, where you cannot harm another without harming yourself, and where your joy is the joy of the whole planet.

Neither is “right”. Neither is “wrong”. They’re all just choices. No more, no less.

And yet do you not think – as I do – that if you were to walk around with the first set of beliefs in your head, your experience of life would be drastically different to if it were the second set?

You might not get to choose everything that goes on in your world, but you do get to choose how you look at it, how you frame it. Why not do so it in a way that gives you joy, that makes you feel empowered, that makes you feel rich with life?

The time is going to pass anyway, why not choose to make it beautiful?

PS:

Given how often I liberate quotes from it to reinforce my ideas here, I can understand why you might think that, like Jeremy from Peep Show, I have only ever managed to get through one book in my entire life.

Of course, this is not true. I have read several books – one of them, incidentally, being “Mr Nice”, Jez’s favourite. But until something sucker punches me like Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations”, I hope you can live with my incessant referencing of his work.

A Crisp, Green Apple

You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.

Marcus Aurelius – “Meditations” Book 1

I have a crisp, green apple here with your name on it.

Tell me, if you would, what would make my crisp, green apple taste its sweetest?

Should I hand it to you immediately after forcing you to finish a hearty five-course meal, whilst you lay on my sofa in a food coma with not only your belt unclasped but also your trouser button undone, to ease the pressure from your expanded belly?

Or should I hand it to you after you’ve spent three days walking in the hot sun with nothing to eat, not even a lonesome blueberry?

Call me crazy, but I have a sneaking suspicion you’d appreciate the crisp, green apple more after the three days of hunger than the five-course meal.

Let me come clean: I don’t really have a crisp, green apple, and if I did, I’d eat it myself. I’m just trying to make the point that when you have an abundance of something, it’s difficult to appreciate it. The path of least resistance is to take it for granted, whatever it is.

But go without it, become intimate with its lack, and the moment you get some, you’ll effortlessly appreciate the hell out of it. Because you’ve experienced the contrast.

It works with crisp, green apples. And it works with life and death, too.

If you want more from life, don’t waste your time trying to appreciate it more. You might manage it for an afternoon, here and there. But the path of least resistance is to take it for granted. Do you think a fish appreciates the water it swims in? Of course not. It doesn’t even notice it.

No. If you want more from life, then remind yourself as often as possible that one day it will end. That’s a good start. But if you want to get even more for your money, then remind yourself that not only will it end one day, that day could well be today.

Get as intimate as you can with your death. And watch your appreciation for life go through the roof.

What If This Were All Just a Dream?

If this were all just a dream, would you choose to spend it feeling afraid of the other human beings in the dream, and what they might do to you?

If this were all just a dream, would you choose to do something day after day in which you took no joy, no pleasure, no meaning, no nothing?

If this were all just a dream, would you choose to get upset every time you made a mistake, or somebody didn’t do exactly what you wanted them to do, or an obstacle of some sort got put in your way?

I’m not saying this is all just a dream. But is there any harm in pretending?

For me, no, because I know that when I live the answers I gave to those questions, my life is much sweeter, dream or no dream.

Show Your Love Every Day

“I hate Valentines Day. You should show your love every day.”

My Uber driver, last night, at the bottom of Carterknowle Road

It may have been four in the morning, and he may have been taxiing people around since eight in the evening, but that driver was not wrong.

If something’s good enough to do one day a year, it’s good enough to do every day of the year.

Nobody Has a Gun to Your Head

“Baby, that’s grammar school. Any damn fool can beg up some kind of job; it takes a wise man to make it without working. Out here we call it ‘hustling’. I’d like to be a good hustler.”

Charles Bukowski “Post Office”

I didn’t come up with it myself. I stole it from award-winning writers Ryan Holiday and Robert Greene. It’s called “The Notecard Strategy.”

As I read a book, I underline the sentences that leap out from the page at me. Sometimes I scribble my own commentry in the margins too. And then a week or two after I finish reading it, I go back through the book, and I see what still feels relevant – the passing of time helps separate the wheat from the chaff. I then copy out those bits long-hand onto notecards, putting some kind of theme or category in the corner of the notecard, and then I keep all the cards in the shoebox that my burnt-umber Adidas trainers came in.

The Bukowski quote above was something I scribbled down a couple of weeks ago, and as usual, I wasn’t quite sure in the moment why it spoke to me. But speak to me it did, and so I wrote it down.

Well, now that a little more time has passed, I think I know why.

Because Hank (Hank Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter ego in the book) is so, so, so right. And not just about jobs. About everything.

The way that most people go about doing something is not necessarily the best way. It’s not even necessarily a good way. It’s just the way the majority unquestioningly happen to do it.

But who has it has to be your way? You don’t like the normal way? Fuck it. Do it your way.

I’m admittedly the world’s worst at this, but in my rare moments of clarity even I realise that doing something begrudgingly because “that’s what people do” – and having literally no reason beyond that – is a great way to waste a life.

So stop pretending there’s a gun to your head. If there is, it’s only because you’re holding it there. You get one life. Live it your way.

Trust Is Truth

I’m running on two hours sleep, so I doubt that what follows will be any kind of novel. But as I was doing my morning pages at about five o’clock today, I noticed myself writing something that I wanted to share. It went something like this:

You want to know the truth – at least you say you do. You say you want to know the truth because once you know the truth, you will be able to “live” risk-free. You fear that if you were to truly “live” now, with an incomplete picture of the truth, that you will come to harm. That you are in danger of causing irreparable damage, either to yourself or to the ones you love. So you want to wait.

Seek the truth. Please. Go after it with every scrap of curiosity you can muster. But listen carefully: there will never be a moment where you have finished finding the truth. In fact, the more earnestly you seek it, the more you will find you still have to learn. There will be always be further to go, deeper to delve, more layers to discover.

And since you will never finish finding the truth, you cannot afford to put off “living” until you are done, because that moment will never come. No, the truth will come precisely from living. Now. If what you want to do feels important, then be honest with yourself. Do it now, and throw yourself into it body and soul, or don’t do it now. But don’t claim you are going to do it, only later. There is no later.

Look out into the world at what attracts you – whether you understand why or not. What is it that you are moved to inspect more closely? Do it. Inspect it. Engage with it. Go down the rabbit-hole. Be brave enough to follow the breadcrumbs.

Trust reality to keep you safe on your voyage into the curiosity of you soul. Trust is truth.


It was longer than I thought it would be. Sorry about that. Anyway…

Thank you for the emails you’ve been sending me. They have kept me writing – this is my 131st piece pusblished since the 5th of October, and I have no plans to stop.

I write an awful lot about what is and what isn’t under our control. And as with anything I write about, that’s because it has been the single most epic struggle of my life. Perhaps this is what I enjoy so much about having a daily writing practice – instead of allowing all the things I can’t control in my life (99.99999%) to get me down, I have devoted time each day to something well and truly under my control.

I am earning my keep on the planet, one day at a time. Thank you for being a part of that.

You Have More Than Enough

Enough of what?

Whatever it is you actually need, rather than what you have merely convinced yourself you need.

In order to do what?

Whatever it is your soul demands of you.

Yes, there are all kinds of things you cannot do with what you currently have at your disposal. But those things needn’t concern you.

Do what you can with what you have right now, because you have more enough with which to get started, and getting started is all you need to bother with.

“For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”

Matthew 13:12 (King James Bible)

Why What You Do Matters

You know, it’s heartbreakingly easy to fall into the trap of thinking that whatever you do, none of it really matters. That nothing in the world changes much either way whether you do one thing or another thing or no thing at all. That, cosmically speaking, your choices are not worth shit.

And maybe you’re right – who am I to tell you any different? Maybe nothing you do does matter. You can believe what you like. Nobody’s going to stop you.

But I’ll tell you this: whilst there might be no objective right or wrong thing for you to believe, there are choices are more empowering than others. As Wayne Dyer says, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

“No man is an island.”

John Donne

Have you ever heard the phrase “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with?” It’s true. We humans are largely a herd animal. Most of the things we do every day aren’t done consciously. We don’t spend time deliberating them with our rationality. We just do them. Based on what? On copying what the other people around us seem to be doing.

There is no sense in cursing this lemming-like aspect of human nature – it simply is. It’s happening whether we’re aware of it or not, whether we want it to or not. It is reality. So what you must do is find a way to adapt yourself to it, like – in the words of Robert Greene – a spider to its web. Make this law of human nature work for you rather than against you.

And one uncommon way to look at this is to flip it on its head.

Instead of only seeing the passive side of it – feeling powerless when you realise how much what everybody else does is influencing what you do – you can choose instead to look at the active side – feeling powerful when you realise how the things you do are influencing what everybody else does.

Because you are influencing others, whether you’re aware of it or not. You must be. There’s no way round it. If everybody else can rub off on you, you must be equally able to rub off on everybody else.

That’s why what you do matters.

You won’t be able to remould the universe in your image overnight. But choices add up. A smile here, a kind word there, going the extra mile when there’s no urgent need to…

The things you do matter. They matter because we’re watching you. We’re looking for cues. We want to know how to live.

Teach us, by your example.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

Mohandas Gandhi, in a 1913 piece about snakebites (not the drink, of course.)

Who Wins?

Who wins when you insist on pretending like you’re smaller than you really are?

Who wins when you refuse to share your gifts with the world, all because you cannot control how they will be treated once they are out of your hands?

Who wins when you repeat, day after day, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow…”?

Nobody wins. That’s who.

Consequences Be Damned

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”

Charles Bukowski – “Factotum”

I’m not saying there won’t be consequences for resisting, for refusing to be who and what “the system” finds most convenient at this time in history. There most certainly will be.

But they will be worth it, in comparison to the inevitable consequence of giving in – having, rather than a life, a miserable, empty husk of an existence.

You weren’t born to be a drone, or a cog, or a puppet. You were meant for something higher, something which is yours and yours alone.

You only get one life. Call me crazy, but I think it’s more than worth the risk to make it your own.

Be “You”

Nobody’s asking you to cure cancer, or to find a way to get children off turkey twizzlers and onto a nice three-bean salad.

Nobody’s asking you to fix the economy, or to write the great American novel.

And nobody’s asking you to do this all without ever breaking a sweat and withot ever needing a day off and without ever accidentally pissing yourself when something gives you cause to belly-laugh.

We’re asking one thing of you, and one thing only. For you to be as “you” as you possibly can. That’s all. It’s the only thing we want and it’s the only thing you can really do anyway.

And if by some coincidence you do any of that other stuff too… let’s just call it a bonus.

If it’s imposed by nature, accept it gladly and stop fighting it. And if not, work out what your own nature requires, and aim at that, even if it brings you no glory. None of us is forbidden to pursue our own good.

Marcus Aurelius – “Meditations – Book 11”

Fear Means “Go Further”

How can you tell when you’re not actually being courageous, but just plain dumb? How can you know when the time is right to proceed with boldness and audacity, and when it’d be better for you to tone it down and be a little more “realistic.”

There are of course as many answers to this as there are people in the world, but here’s one way to gauge it: If, as you contemplate something important to you, there is no part of you trying to talk you out of it, or make you feel like an idiot, or convince you you’re playing with fire this time…

… then don’t worry – you haven’t gone far enough yet. The answer is to proceed with boldness and audacity.

How can I know this? Because fear will only ever rear its ugly head in response to your recognising something important to your soul. It’s the recognising something important to your soul that comes first. The fear is a primitive response. So long as you stay in the lower leagues, it will leave you alone.

You see, something inside you knows exactly what you’re capable of, and in every moment, it is trying to whisper this in your ear. The only hiccup is that at the exact same time, a different part of you hears what the first part is telling you, freaks out at the thought of you going along with it, and whispers an equal and opposite instruction in your other ear. What’s more, it scales perfectly – the more important to your soul the thing the first part of you whispers, the more the other part will try to stop you.

All the misery in the world comes from crossing these two wires – from seeing that voice that knows just what you’re truly mad of, how capable you really are, as some rogue imposter, whilst seeing the voice that fears everything and everyone as the real us.

The truth is the exact opposite.

Fear doesn’t mean “hold back.” Fear means “go further.”

You Don’t Want It? Then Forget About It

I want you to imagine that you are single (if you are not) and that you were looking for someone to get together with. Somebody to – in the biblical sense – know.

Now, you might not always go for it hell for leather, but deep down you’re a person who knows what they want. You’re looking for somebody you are attracted to. Somebody you are willing to open up to. Somebody who makes you feel better when you are around them than when you are not.

Then would it anger you if – as you walked down the street, as you shopped for fruit at the market, as you took a swim in the local baths – all you encountered were people in whom you had zero interest? Would you wave your fists at the sky, cursing the lack of benevolence the Gods chose to show you?

Why? Would that bring Mr or Mrs Right any closer?

Or would you simply brush it off and keep looking for somebody you did want?

The world is filled with things – some of them you want, some of them you don’t.

Go for the things you want, forget about the things you don’t.

The cucumber is bitter? Then throw it out.

There are brambles in the path? Then go around them.

That’s all you need to know. Nothing more.

Marcus Aurelius

When You Find a Way to Love Fate, Fate Finds a Way to Love You

You could be forgiven for believing – what with billions spent every year conditioning you to believe it – that the point of life is to be happy all the time, and that if you’re not, then something “out there” is wrong.

You might also believe that the only way to attain this elusive happiness is by making sure that as many “good” things happen to you as possible, and as few “bad” things happen to you as possible.

I would forgive you, but I would still point out that you have got it all wrong.

For so long as you need things to go a certain way in order for you to be happy, you won’t be.

To truly give happiness a chance of creeping up on you, you need to develop the ability to be fine whatever happens. This might sound like I am advocating indifference, or apathy – a sort of passive, powerless posture. I’m not. This is something much more beautiful.

It’s called AMOR FATI. A love of fate.

When you practice amor fati, you make the active decision to look for the good in everything… because if you look hard enough, you will find it. You love fate – you decide to love something not because it was what you wanted to happen, but because it is what actually did happen.

Now, when something “bad” happens to you, it won’t have the same power it once did to rob you of your inner peace. You will be untouchable. Because whilst everybody else is freaking out, you are too busy looking for what is good about it.

Life becomes a joy, and happiness can finally come find you, because you have stopped putting so many conditions on it.

Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Well, here’s my take: when you find a way to love fate, fate finds a way to love you.

“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it… but love it.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

You Must Leap

All day, every day, whether you’re listening to it or not, your heart is trying to talk to you. And you are not listening.

What’s more – to paraphrase something George Washingston probably didn’t actually say – your heart cannot tell a lie. Everything it says is 100% true. If you were going to rely on a single source of information, this is the only one you’d ever need.

If you listen to your heart, and you actively do what it tells you to, you will find that it will never steer you wrong – it can’t. But to actually do it? Well, that’s much easier said than done. It takes a huge leap of faith, because between your heart and reality sits your mind. And your mind really doesn’t like your heart.

When you were young, was there someone who your parents tried to get you to stay away from, because they thought they were a bad influence on you? That’s sort of your head’s role in this whole scenario – to poison you against your heart. It is utterly convinced that without its vigilance and intervention, your heart will lead you astray, and put you in danger.

So when your head hears what your heart is trying to tell you, it will go to the ends of the Earth to make you believe that what your heart is saying is ridiculous, impractical, unrealistic, impossible, even immoral… anything to get you to ignore your heart.

And it isn’t playing some kind of game – like your parents were, it is genuinely just trying to protect you from the harm it fears you coming to. Like your parents, it fully believes it is doing the right thing.

But just as you if you want to grow up you have to learn to see through what your parents think about things, if you want to live any kind of life, you have to learn to see through what your head says.

Your heart always knows what is best for you. Your head is just shit-scared. You have to let your heart win. You will never regret it.

This is not something to think about. This is something to do. The only way is through. You must recognise the leap of faith, and then you must take it. Right now. You cannot put this on your to-do list. You cannot make a plan out of it.

You must leap.

The Ballad of the Stolen Big Muff Pi

My old band – Viper Jungle – had a gig at The Boardwalk. I would estimate the year to be 2006.

Back then, I was a big effects-pedal nut. You might not know what an effects pedal is. Well, you’ve seen somebody play electric guitar, constantly looking at their feet, stamping aggressively on something every now and then…? They’re stamping on effects pedals – little metal boxes that do weird and wonderful things to the sound of your guitar.

Me, I had my heart set on an Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi, which was a fuzz pedal – I wanted that creamy, squishy, Santana-on-steroids sound for my guitar solos. A few weeks before our gig, I won one on eBay, and oh, how I looked forward to the moment when I would plug it in and turn it up to eleven (and then quickly back down again before my dad could remind me that we lived in a semi-detached house.)

Day after day I came in from school and asked my mum if I’d had any parcels. The gig was getting nearer. I was getting more and more antsy with each passing day.

Then finally, it came – on the day of the gig, no less! And I used it in our set and I it was everything I dreamed of and more. I had died and gone to guitar-tone heaven. Then somebody nicked it from out of my rucksack whilst I wasn’t looking and that was that.

Oh, well.

Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Alfred Lord Tennyson