More than one purpose

nature-sky-sunset-man

Really love this thinking from James Altucher. Another inspirational writer, Jeff Goins, calls it the “portfolio lifestyle”. What they mean is: don’t stress. You don’t need to settle for just one career. Keep growing and stay creative and things will happen.

Amen to that.

Everyone thinks they need to focus on one thing. To be good at “their purpose” and that’s it. This is a myth perpetrated by the beginning of the industrial age when factory owners wanted workers to just do one thing all day long, 12 hours a day. Hitting the same hammer against the same nail.

There is no one purpose. The average successful person has 14 different careers in their lifetime. If you stick with one thing, you never get a chance to have “idea sex” – to become the master of the intersection of two totally different areas.

This is how change is made; this is how innovation happens.

Sports as Inspiration for Attitude

nadalattitude
Rafael Nadal has tons of the right attitude to succeed.

I’ve been playing sports and competing in one form or other since I was a little boy. It’s tougher now to stay fit and keep a consistent training schedule with a full-time job and family. But I can take some of the things I’ve learned from sport into my daily life and career.

Playing sports teaches you many things. Sportsmanship, discipline, how to maintain your health, dealing with losses and wins, how to be a part of a team, giving feedback to team members, and much more. But one of the things I benefit most from is the attitude that sports teaches you. The give-it-your-best-always attitude.

One of the world’s best in this area is the man in the picture, Rafael Nadal. He works incredibly hard to always bring his best game and even when he’s not in good form or even injured, he fights, fights, fights. He makes the opponent hit another ball, and another ball, and another ball. Relentless is a good word to describe him on the tennis court.

To be able to bring his a-game to every single match, he has to work hard every day of his life. This means practice, practice, practice. But also: discipline. He can’t let up and eat chocolate croissants for the tournament breakfast or go out with his friends twice a week. He needs to sacrifice some things to achieve others. And he does that with great success.

Not everyone has the talent of Nadal. I play tennis every week, but I’m not even 10% of the player he is. But I learn from his attitude in the things I do. This can be adapted to pretty much anything, from exercise, to eating habits, to the dedication you put into the things you do. To making sure you’re always mentally a 100% there.

It’s too easy to procrastinate away your time, doing more or less meaningless things, but if you bring your sports mindset into your daily habits and make sure you always give it your all, you’ll have no regrets.

Bringing your best is all about changing your habits to the better. Here are some tips:

1. Wake up early and do something useful.

No matter how painful this might feel for some, it’s a powerful habit that brings a positive start and trend to your day. Examples of things to do: go for a walk, hit the gym, read a book, write something. Be productive.

2. Cut something bad out of your eating habits.

Exchange the daily candy bar when your energy is diminishing for a banana or some nuts. Eat porridge instead of white toast for breakfast. Have a lighter dinner. One habit change will make room for the next and soon you’ll feel healthier than ever.

3. Don’t watch so much TV.

TV can be relaxing, but it’s rarely intellectually nourishing. Why not cut down an hour of TV-watching for some quality time with your kids/spouse or doing something more productive? Reading a book is more stimulating than watching TV.

4. Don’t procrastinate (so much).

This is difficult and that’s why there are whole books devoted to this. I’m reading one right now called The Inner Game of Productivity that has some powerful advice for beating your inner procrastinator. One piece of sound advice is asking yourself what you are afraid of? Why are you not starting on that thing you know you ought to do. Write a sheet with two columns with all your fears for not starting to the left and all your answers to those to the right. Another powerful tool is to create a vision board of what the thing you need to do can bring you. It could be images of a new car, a shining new office space, or a trip around the world. Something that makes up for the hard work you’re about to put in.

5. Go to bed early/Sleep well.

Sleeping well reduces stress and improves general health. It’s personal but staying up late at night often means doing things that are non-productive such as TV, video games, etc. So if you can improve your sleeping, you can also improve your quality of life.

So get to work with your a-game. Wake-up early, go the gym, eat well, work hard, focus and you’ll reap the rewards.

Being in the now

I’ve previously written some posts on how easy it is to lose your focus when there are thousands of things trying to grab your attention: Adapting to the increasing speed of change and Rambling on patience, blogs and the meaning of life, but it seems like a topic I keep coming back to.

The reason is that people seem to have a hard time really being in the now these days. Cellphones, bills, computers, and general worries about a lot of the other things come in the way. Things move so fast these days it has become necessary to always be a step ahead (in your head!). This obviously makes us more stressed and less able to just be in the now and experience life.

This might require you not fiddling with your phone while you’re at that dinner party or waiting for the bus. And for you to realize that you would be better off not thinking about next month’s bills when you’re sunbathing in the park. And you might have to stop stressing over what your life work will be while you’re taking a shower or walking your dog.

The answer is just being.

It’s not as easy as it sounds (although for some people it might be, I can’t imagine the people living on my street in Sliema, Malta, a place called “lazy corner” having a hard time shutting off their brains), because if you’re like me, there’s always something whirring around the old brain.

I know I need to shut it off and just exist, but things keep coming in the way. Life comes in the way.

So how do you shut off your mind? Here are five super simple ideas:

1. Exercise. Take a walk or a jog or preferably some even more high-intense exercise or sport that makes it impossible to think about other things.
2. Kiss your loved one (corny – but if you think about other things then, you have a problem).
3. Talk to someone and really, really listen. Too many people have one eye on their phone during conversations these days.
4. Do something fun with your kid(s) (if you have kids, otherwise borrow one). Their endless energy should hopefully rub off on you.
5. Meditate.

Can you help me come up with more ideas on to shut off our brains and really just be in the now? Please comment.

Have a nice day.

Stuff vs Experiences

plaza-del-ayuntamiento_valencia_spain

There is nothing better to open up your senses and relax your mind than traveling. Thankfully, Lenah and I are aligned when it comes to where we spend our hard-earned money. We have decided not buy property (can’t really afford it) and lots of stuff. Instead we’re focusing on eating and drinking well, traveling and enjoying life to the max. Because what good is buying lots of stuff really? In fact, we don’t even own a car, we rent one when we need it. It’s cost- and environmentally friendly.

This might sound like we live some kind of extreme lifestyle – we don’t. We just want to make sure we live our lives and not get too bound down to stuff, houses, cars, which usually equals loans, which in turn equals stress and unhappiness. It’s about being able to control that initial desire you can get for a new car, a house, a new computer, etc. We still buy things, obviously. Things that matter to us. Clothes is one of them. Not lots and expensive, but enough to make sure you feel good about yourself. The same thing goes for health and beauty stuff (lotions, gym membership, medicine, massages, treatments, dentists, doctors – what you require to make sure your body is in good shape), if we can extend our lives – then that’s money well spent.

There’s nothing strange about this philosophy. We’ve done the journey (at least partly) around buying, buying, buying, owning, owning, owning – but when the buying and owning starts to interfere with the things you really appreciate, then you need to ask yourself a few questions.

So the main question we’re asking ourselves now is: do we/I really need that? A lot of the time the answer is no.

One step we’ve taken is to clear out a lot of stuff. Things we don’t use that other people might need or have better use for. That stuff we give to charity or sell (it’s damn hard to sell used things so we end up giving most of it away). And it feels really good to do it, not only the giving but also cleaning and clearing up. You not only clear the space around you, but also your mind and soul. You de-clutter your life.

After we made the decision to de-clutter and anti-hoard, we booked two well-needed vacations. First we’re going to Valencia in mid-April (only two nights, but still a nice getaway) and then we’re going back to one of our favorite places in the world, La città eterna, Rome. Because like I wrote in the first paragraph, there is nothing better than traveling to open up your senses and relax your mind. To really experience things and enjoy life.

And that’s what we need right now. Actually, that’s what all of us need more of, at least in my view. More than a new LCD TV, a new car, a bigger house or something else that we feel we need there and then, but lose interest in after only a few days, or maybe weeks.

To summarise, make sure you live your life. Don’t bind yourself to stuff that when you ask yourself, deep down, really doesn’t matter.

Life: Treat it with care.

My day started with stumbling upon this brilliant post on a life in advertising by the former Saatchi & Saatchi and BBDO art director Linds Redding, an article where he sounded disillusioned by all the energy he had wasted on the advertising life and put it into words that packed enough punch to spin you around on your office chair and see things from another angle. A new perspective.

It turns out I didn’t actually like my old life nearly as much as I thought I did. I know this now because I occasionally catch up with my old colleagues and work-mates. They fall over each other to enthusiastically show me the latest project they’re working on. Ask my opinion. Proudly show off their technical prowess (which is not inconsiderable.) I find myself glazing over but politely listen as they brag about who’s had the least sleep and the most takaway food. “I haven’t seen my wife since January, I can’t feel my legs any more and I think I have scurvy but another three weeks and we’ll be done. It’s got to be done by then The client’s going on holiday. What do I think?”

What do I think?

I think you’re all fucking mad. Deranged. So disengaged from reality it’s not even funny. It’s a fucking TV commercial. Nobody give a shit.

The words of a bitter man? Maybe. Or possibly an enlightened man. The sad twist to the tale was that Linds Redding had cancer. The bad kind. The one you die from.

Did it color his words? Yes, because how could it not. Did it color them in a bad way? No, quite the opposite.

Linds Redding’s blog is full of wisdom and insight and teaches us many valuable things. Not only about advertising, but about LIFE. Especially about life.

Tears came to my eyes when I read Redding’s heartbreaking post about when he got pretty much the worst news a man or woman could get. I will recite it here in full and end by saying (even though I never knew Redding personally): Thanks for the wisdom Linds, I hope you are well. Wherever you are.

Bad news travels fast
by the late Linds Redding.

I’m sitting here eying up a large paper parcel. My latest haul of drugs from the Island pharmacy. When I picked them up this morning the girl behind the counter quipped that I’ve just about cleaned them out. It certainly looks that way. I’m pretty sure I hold more inventory than they do right now.

For the first time, my personal pharmacy stash features “pain relief” of a more exotic nature than just plain old Paracetamol. Codeine. Morphine. Just the words send a chill through my bones, but I am beginning to feel the need for them.

This is no longer an invisible disease, as it was for the forst few months. The tells are starting to reveal themselves. People still greet me with rave reviews of how well I’m looking, which I accept gracefully, if with a tad of carefully concealed irritation. My cancer is starting to reveal itself in various ways, some subtle, others more obvious. Some the direct consequence of the disease itself, others the legacy of the various treatments I have undertaken.

I have numbness in my feet and toes, a permanent side-effect of the chemotherapy, as is the intermittent tinitus in both ears. My voice is croaky and unreliable as a result of an enlarged cancerous lymph node on my upper chest paralysing the nerve which controls one of my vocal chords. (There’s a good story attached to how they managed to give me most of my voice back – I was almost totally mute for some weeks – but that will have to wait for another day.) I also have a persistent and unrelenting cough, probably related to the vocal chord business, but exacerbated by the recent course of radiation therapy.

More recently, I have developed deep, nagging pains in my back, chest, and belly. A minor irritation at first, they are now constantly present reminder of my slowly deteriorating condition, and keep me awake at night. It’s getting to the point where Paracetamol just isn’t cutting it any more. I went to the doctor this morning to get something a bit more shall we say, industrial.

I should mention, that I went for a long scheduled CT scan yesterday afternoon – the first since finishing chemo several months ago – mainly to monitor the tumour, and to see what positive effect the radiation therapy has had on the errant lymph nodes in my chest. We have a meeting set with The Prof. next week to get the results. The wait for scan results is for us, the most stressful part of the whole exercise, and we have been hunkering down for a long anxious wait until next Wednesday’s showdown.

So I was totally unprepared when I skipped into the island surgery this morning to pick up a few scripts and have a routine kick-of-the-tyres “take two of these and call me in the morning” session with Doctor Dave, when he brandishes a sheaf of papers in his bony, freckled fist and announces, ‘I have your scan report. Have you seen it yet?’

‘You can’t,’ I said, shocked. ‘I only had the scan at four o’clock yesterday. That must be an old one, these things usually take a few days to processes.’

‘Not in the private sector they don’t. That’s what you’re paying for. This just came through. Do you want the news now, or do you want to wait?”

“Wait.” a little voice said in my head. The coward’s voice.

“Um. Yeah. I guess…” I heard myself saying quietly, without conviction.

“Well, there’s chapter and verse here,” he says, leafing through the document, but I’ll just give you the Summery.” He pulls his chair alongside mine and leans into me as if reading a bedtime story.

“Since the last CT scan, there are new and enlarged supraclavicular and mediastinal and nodal metastases, new uper abdominal and retroperitneal nodal metastases, and new liver and pulminary metastases.”

I feel the hot burn of adrenalin wash through me. “Shit, that doesn’t sound good.” I finally announced, with what in retrospect was admirable understatement.

“No it doesn’t” says Doctor Dave.

“So it’s in my liver and my lungs?” I ask redundantly and helplessly.

“Looks that way.”

Dr. Dave does what all doctors do in these awkward, uncomfortable situations. He snaps into a flurry of pointless but smehow essential activity – making notes, dashing off prescriptions, listening to random parts of my body with his stethoscope, basically anything to fill the uncomfortable void where the dead guy is sitting.

I stumble out into the winter sunshine and go home to break the news to Jo.

She cries.

I cry.

We cry together.”

Teachings by Dalai Lama – 20 ways to get good karma

Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
Follow the three R’s:
– Respect for self,
– Respect for others and
– Responsibility for all your actions.
Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.
When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
Spend some time alone every day.
Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and
think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.
Be gentle with the earth.
Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

Adapting to the increasing speed of change

Man, life moves fast these days. Swish, swish and it’s over.

Okay, let’s not get too negative, because I want this to be an upbeat post. What I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the pace of our lives. Slap, boom, bang and we’re retired.

Oh, shit. I got negative again. Think positive, positive, positive.

Yes, life is fast because communication is instant and the Internet has really changed the world into a global playing field, which in turn has given us so many more options to network, work from home, relocate, but also added an extra pressure, because time has suddenly become even more valuable and we need to be even more efficient, productive, and on the right track, in our careers, relationships and lives.

Working with computers, you can easily lose a day in social media or lazily browsing about. After all, procrastination and being laziness is in most of our DNA. And computers are huge, potential time-wasters, but they can also make us do things we could never dream about before. It’s up to us to decide what we do with them and our time in general.

Not only have computers and the Internet changed the game completely, but we have changed with it too. We expect more from our lives these days, we want success, a great relationship, and loving kids. We want travel the world and realize our dreams. We want to constantly evolve and develop.

All good things, but they tend to put a lot of extra stress on us. The quest to make the most of our time becomes a health hazard as we’re trying to squeeze in our jobs, external projects, volunteer work, kids’ activities, vacations, social media commitments, friends and family into our calendars.

What becomes important in this ever-faster spinning treadmill of life is setting your priorities straight and being flexible enough to change them and your plans if needed. Today it seems like we need to be constantly ready for change, big change, small change, fundamental change. Markets go up and down, jobs are created and lost, businesses start-up, shine, then die. Things move FAST and if we’re not ready to move with them, we’ll get lost. Where we are today, might not be where we are tomorrow and we need to accept that.

What do you need to be able to deal with this increasing speed of change? You need a solid foundation within yourself, meaning you need to feel good about who you are and your abilities.

That’s it? You say, incredulously.

Yeah, I know it’s easy to write a line like that and not explain it. But what I mean is that you need to think of the things you do, the people you hang out with, the relationships you are in, and ask yourself if they add value to you and your life. You need to create that strong core, a good feeling about yourself, a belief in your abilities and possibly a good group of friends or a strong family situation to support you. A good idea would be to state clearly for yourself what your strengths and weaknesses are. Are you lacking something vital in your life? Is there a glaring hole on your CV for the kind of jobs you want? What holds you back for achieving what you want?

The answer to the last question is very often only you.

So ask yourself the tough questions. Questions you might not want to hear. Questions that might net unpleasant answers.

If you answer those questions truthfully and make sure you prioritise and deal with what is lacking in your career, relationship, life, then you will build a strong yet flexible foundation that can kick ass in this time of increasing speed of change.

Wowza. That was a long post. Not sure it said anything. But in this day and age I can go back and rewrite it anytime and it will update instantly.

Note: Above picture is taken from Discovery series, Speed of Life.

 

The Inner Game Philosophy

I’ve been reading this excellent book on tennis called The Inner Game of Tennis and I think it could apply to many things and not only different sports. It’s about reaching what many sports enthusiast call “the zone” through finding a term that author Timothy Galway call relaxed concentration.

So how do you reach that stage where every stroke or movement comes natural to you? A lot of the book deals with being less judgmental of yourself, you know how you want to scream “Idiot” or something even worse every time you mishit a shot or do something stupid on the court? What happens when you start belittling yourself and force yourself to improve your technique or rotate that wrist, throw the ball higher on the serve, and move your feet better is that your muscles tense up and you end up not improving at all, but getting more and more negative and starting a downward spiral which might end up with you breaking a racquet (this has happened to me at least, several times).

What you need to do instead is more of a zen approach, to look at the situation and the performance more objectively, and analyze where your racquet head is through the swing, how you’re feet are moving before the shot, and if something isn’t working not to scream at yourself, but to say to yourself with some distance: “Aha, I think I was hitting it a bit behind me or, I didn’t come through properly on my forehand. I need to pay attention to where my feet are or how the racquet head travels through the swing.”

This kind of thinking will help your muscles and mind to stay relaxed (relaxed concentration!) and identify what is wrong in your game. If you don’t know you should probably ask a coach or a tennis pro to help understand what you lack in your technique. The key is definitely to quiet your negative thoughts and to evaluate your play in a more balanced and objective way.

The Inner Game philosophy has a lot going for it and can be applied not only to tennis but to other sports and areas of life as well. I can very much recommend this and other books in the series.

Go improve your Inner Game now, / J.

 

The Secret of Success

success-comic-copy

…is hard work. Were you expecting something else? I can understand if you did, we all want shortcuts or secrets or easy ways to transform our life into something bigger and better. That’s why we read self-help books right?

I’m not saying you read self-help books (but you read this blog, which is a good start!), but I do, not always expecting life-changing advice as I’m generally quite happy with my life, but to see if there’s some little tidbit or gem of information to sift out. Some of the books contain a lot of good stuff and some are better off as toilet paper. Actually, they’re not good for that either, you might get a rash.

I’m lucky that Lenah is also into these things, sometimes more than me, because it helps to bounce ideas with someone. Just thinking long and hard alone never gets you anywhere with anything, you just go bananas and bananas are for monkeys and monkeys live in the jungle which is not where you want to end up because you might be eaten by wild animals.

Right now I’m reading Money and the Law of Attraction, a book on how we through positive thinking can affect the laws of the world to work for us instead of against us. I’m of course simplifying because:

1. This is a blog post, not a thesis.
2. I haven’t finished it yet and don’t want to get it wrong and mislead you dear reader.
3. You need to break things down into small parts to understand them better.
4. I like keeping things simple.

Thinking positively is of course not life-changing advice worth 20 bucks, it’s common sense, but it’s surprising how often we need to remind ourselves of the most basic stuff. I guess it’s why we need books.

It’s funny how you notice the Law of Attraction in every day life. When you randomly think about a person or something, they sometimes randomly pop up just in front of you. It’s happened a lot lately in eerie ways, like a ghost in the machine. Not like I believe in ghosts, but maybe our minds are much stronger than we think?

I like the thought that the mind is just another tool at our disposal, something we can control as much as an arm or a leg if we practice it. But we need to practice it then and it’s a shame that so few people see their minds as something they can and should improve. It’s not something that just sits there, feels and thinks random stuff – we can steer it more than we think and being generally positive is a solid first step. And by taking loads of small steps, you’ll come a long way.

Going back to the title of this post, which I think will be successful for SEO purposes, The Secret of Success is a lot about hard work, but not hard work as going every day to the same office/factory/whatever, but working hard on yourself, trying to improve every little piece of yourself and be more in control of the things which happen within you. Another book I read recently, The Slight Edge, takes a similar view, but focuses on incremental work. This is also far from rocket science: try to improve ever so slightly every day in every thing. Eating healthy, working out, reading books, keeping up positive routines, etc. I think positive habits and thoughts are the way to go for everyone, but the tough part is obviously staying clear-headed and positive even in stressful or sad situations. And this is where we need it the most.

But I’m sure there are books with good training exercises or thinking techniques for that as well. Simply put, books are where it’s happening and if you don’t read books, you’re missing out on a lot of good things in life.

Pretty corny post this, but like in all good American TV series, there is a moral to be learned:

1. Think positively and great things will happen.
2. Get into positive routines and great things will happen.
3. Read books and great things will happen.
4. Try to improve yourself a little bit everyday and great things will happen.
5. Follow this blog and great things will happen.

The Wake-Up Call: the print cover!

The previous e-book cover wonderfully executed by Joakim Wiborn didn’t have enough high-res components and that’s why I abused another designer friend of mine, Daniel Jacobsson, into creating the current cover and the one that’s going to print for The Wake-Up Call

I hope you like it!

Big thanks to both Joakim and Daniel for the excellent work!