​Dancing with the darkness

That’s where you need to go. Where you can’t see. Where you can’t hear. Where you don’t know where you are.

But you can feel it. You know it’s there, it’s always there.

The shadow. The pinch in your side, the twist in your gut the thought in the back of your mind.

It’s always there. The shadow.

The first thought avoid. Avoid avoid avoid. Stay away go towards the light that’s where I like it that’s where it’s safe that’s where I like it.

I must go. Avoid get out. No more.

Time with the shadow is hard. You figure out what you don’t know the shadow shows you where you’re weak.

We’ve all got it. We’ve all got the darkness. It’s bad you hear. It’s bad they say. It’s bad stay away from the negative. Stick to the positive they say. Avoid the bad. Avoid the shadow.

How?

It’s always there. Right there. Right here. You can’t I can’t. Always. In my side in my gut in my heart wanting to sing wanting to play wanting to be seen.

Avoid they say. Avoid the negative. Go for comfort. Ah that’s better. Sitting in the light. Staying in the known. Ahhh much better.

The shadow isn’t evil. It wants the best, knows what’s best, it’s seen what you can’t, its seen the unseen. It lives there.

You can see truth in the light but only by going through the darkness to get there.

You’ve heard it. It’s the stories you’ve always known. The fairy tales. The ordinary man battles the evil, battles the darkness and becomes the hero. The darkness becomes his greatest teacher.

Not through avoidance, by entering it. By dancing with it. By recognising the unseen. By letting go of the light by killing the old version of himself. Man no more. A hero forever.

The stories use the wrong word. Evil.

How could such a great teacher be evil?

Every man has the choice. Consume or be consumed. Join forces or forever be in battle. There’s nothing more exhausting than constant conflict. And no greater source of power than the shadow.

Battling the darkness is work.

Dancing with it is play.

Move your feet.

The mistake of reading too much

Learning is fun. It can seem like its the way to keep going. To read more, to learn more. To keep learning.

But knowledge is useless is it’s not applied. You can read all you want but until you use the knowledge you’ve been acquiring it’s not helpful to anyone.

Once you’ve made the decision to learn something, your next most important move is to use it.

A negative of continually reading and accumulating knowledge is it can hold you back. It’s counterintuitive. But eventually you become your own worst enemy. You know too much. Now you hold yourself back because you know all of the potential outcomes of your next venture. The good and the bad.

The good outcomes seem great. The stuff your dreams are made of. But they quickly get brought back to Earth by the potential bad outcomes.

Then there’s the other mistake. The mistake of doing without reading, doing without learning. When you push to far in one direction without educating yourself about the path ahead.

Knowing of the balance between learning and doing is dangerous too. Because you stop and wonder if you’re learning enough, or are you doing enough? Should you spend more time doing or more time learning?

You’re spinning in circles. Between reading between learning between doing between learning and doing. Each require each other to exist.

What’s the answer?

It’s easy to say find the right balance. Find the right balance can be said about anything.

What then?

You have to combine ignorance and arrogance.

Be aware but ignorant towards the potential pitfalls. To do this requires arrogance.

Why?

Because everyone (including you, mostly you) will be saying things trying to prevent you from ignoring the potential bad outcomes. Listening to them may prevent you from failing but it also prevents you from winning.

What’s the worst that can happen?

The thing you dreamed of trying to do didn’t work out? No worries. You just did both. You learned and you did.

Now you’ve got a story to share. And people will read about it.

Tell your people you love them

It's hard to imagine things 20-years from now. What will the world look like? What will we look like?

Will our family members still be here?

What will stay the same?

Humans are bad at planning for the long-term. It's no wonder, most of our history has required us to take things day by day. The times where food today was good but we might not have any tomorrow.

There's a photo in my Mum's room of a lady who used to live across the street. Margaret was a sweet lady, I remember talking to her when I was young. The photo is of Margaret in the hospital. I remember her family coming to visit several times whilst she was in the care unit. But even after living across the road from her for 10-years, I don't remember them ever making a single visit.

So why so much effort in the last moments of her life?

I'm not going to pretend to know but my best guess is, they were living their own lives.

Is this a bad thing? No. But what if the same amount of effort was sustained throughout the other years of their life?

It's because planning for the long-term is hard. It's only once things become a problem do we realise they're a problem.

A loved one falling ill seems so far away until it happens.

Life happens quick. Enjoy the short-term but don't forget the long-term.

Tell your people you love them.

I love you.

The room full of treadmills

When you’re born you get a treadmill. Everyone else does too. 

Now you’re in the world and everyone is on their own treadmill. 

Some are going faster than yours. Some are going slower.

Some are going up hill. Doing it tough. 

Others have theirs set on the nature walk. They’re enjoying the pace and taking it all in. 

What’s yours at? 

Too fast? 

Too slow? 

Too hard?

Not the same as someone else’s? That’s the rule. Everyone’s treadmill is the same brand but moving at different speeds. And you can’t adjust anyone else’s.

But the control for yours is right in front. If you need a change, reach out and touch it. 

Authenticity or affection?

The price of living your authentic life means you won’t have the affection of everyone.

Authenticity is the voice you have in your head telling you about the person you could be. Affection is what you gain from others by continuing to do the things they expect you to do.

Authenticity is the gut feeling you have on that big decision. Affection holds you back because making that decision might cause someone to feel differently about you.

Trading authenticity for affection seems attractive in the short term. But authenticity comes out in the end.

Authenticity comes out and affection comes too. Affection from the right people. Especially the most important one. You.

​The disciplined pursuit of less

I was talking to a friend last night about the pillars of physical health, sleep, movement and nutrition. I was telling him about my philosophy.

Sleep and nutrition are the top two. Movement and exercise are next. Exercise is great but movement first. If you have the option to get adequate sleep or wake up early and exercise, get adequate sleep.

Really?

Yeah. Sleep and nutrition are the force multipliers of life.

We kept talking a little longer. We started getting onto the topic of things we appreciate. Speaking old and wise. 25 and 29 knowing the lessons of life.

As you get older your circle starts to get smaller. If you’re doing it right the amount of things you care and appreciate get smaller. Relationships and health at the top, other things tiered below.

So where does less come in?

And why disciplined?

If you take care of the top two, relationships and health, you have the fill the rest of your time with something else. Life is short and there are many things. But if you want to do any of them well, they require time. Time and effort. This kind of skin in the game requires discipline. The ability to commit to something and deliver it.

Less?

That’s easy. And hard. Why? Because there’s always more things. But to master a few, you have to get rid of the rest. Less but better.

​A lot can change in a year

Days are short. You wake up, go the toilet, have breakfast, shower, brush teeth, go to work, have lunch, work some more, get on the train home, stare out the window, think about the thing, get home, have dinner, talk to loved ones, don’t talk to loved ones, brush teeth, sleep. Then tomorrow happens, go the toilet, breakfast, teeth, work, lunch, work, train, dinner, talk, teeth, sleep.

String a few days together and you’ve got a week. Weekends never seem to last long enough. Wednesday comes and it’s the middle. Then it’s Wednesday again.

A few weeks make a month. A month is good amount of time. You could start something at the start of the month, work on a little, today, tomorrow, the next day. By the end of the month it’s something worth showing. Something you’re proud of. But then you look back. You realise each hour you put in on those days was something to be proud of too. Each little bit. All things to be proud of.

One month, two months, three. A few more and you’ve got a year. Now all those months, all those days, all those weeks don’t seem like much. Has it really been a year? Yes. All those things happened in the past 365 days. Really? That fast? Yes. And as you get older, they get faster.

A year is a really long time for a 3 year old. It’s a third of their life. But a year for 20 year old is only 5%, get to 65 and it’s 1.5%.

This time last year, I was starting an internship as a machine learning engineer. The year before that I didn’t have a job and was studying every day in my bedroom.

Am I special? No. My talent is showing up every day. Most of my effort is dedicated to getting out my own way. We all hold ourselves back. Old thoughts. Old memories. Old ways of thinking. Old voices. But a ship isn’t guided by its wake. And the tail doesn’t wag the dog.

Where do you want to be next year? Don’t hold back. It can be that. It can be the thing you’ve been thinking about. Thinking about since you can remember. Got it?

Good. Write it down.

Now get out of your own way.

Activity vs. Progress

“Are you making progress or completing activities?” he said, “That’s what I ask myself at the end of each day.”

“I’m writing that down.”

We kept talking. Not much more worth writing down though.

“Let me know what you get up to.”

“Okay, I will.”

“Talk soon.”

“Have a good day mate. Goodbye.”

Too many activities can feel like progress. That’s what he was talking about. You could be working yourself to the bone but the list never gets any smaller.

Maybe it’s time to get a new list.

One which leads to progress instead of a whole bunch of activities being checked off at the end of the day.

I catch myself when I’m writing a list each morning. On the days where there are only two or three things, write, workout, read, I go to add more add more as a habit. But would more activities lead to progress?

If your goal is to progress, you must decide which activities lead to it and which don’t. It’s hard and you’ll never be able to do it for sure but you can make a decision to. A decision to step back a decision to think about what does add to progress and cut what doesn’t.

In my latest video, I share how I got Google Cloud Professional Data Engineer Certified. I passed the exam without meeting any of the prerequisites. How? A few activities which led to progress. But the certification isn’t the real progress. The real progress comes from doing something with the skills the certificate requires. More on that in the future.







Everyone fails

I saw Avengers: End Game tonight. Don’t worry I won’t spoil anything. Except for a quote I loved. And repeated it to myself many times during the movie so I wouldn’t forget it. I imagined it was on my whiteboard when I walked into my room, a memory house.

“Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be.”

“The measure of a person, a hero, is how they succeed at being who they are.”

The world, your friends, your mother, your sister, the person walking down the street, your boss, they all have an idea of who you’re supposed to be.

Try too hard to be that person and you’ll fail. Everyone does. It’s a tough lesson. But worth it.

The lucky realise the person they’re supposed to be isn’t who they are.

The highlight

If you look back on today, what would you want the highlight to be?

What could be your highlight for the week?

For the month?

The year?

When I was strength training ever day, most of my workouts had a heavy exercise right at the start. An exercise which if it was the only one I did the whole session, it would’ve been a great session.

The same principle can be applied to each day.

Write down what needs to be done. Chances are, one of them stands out more than the rest. That one comes first.

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All the way to the concrete

Right to the top of the hill.

The last bit is easier than the part before. You can see the finish line. 

It’s right there. Don’t stop.

On the run I do every other day the last part is the hill where my house is.

I have a rule, no walking before the driveway. I have to run all the way up the hill and I can stop when my feet hit the concrete. 

This part is easy compared to the road before. The part where I can’t see my driveway. The part where I know I’m close to the finish but not too close. 

On any project, handing it off is the easy part. The work has been done. 

What’s hard are the weeks before, the days before, the hours before the deadline. 

You know this.

What’s important is to finish as strong as you started. Even if it’s uphill.

It’s not a problem until it’s a problem

This is terrible attitude to have.

Do you take care of your health when you’re unwell or before?

Do you take care of your relationships when they break down or before?  

It’s hard to notice things before they appear (you can’t) but it can help to work towards being prepared.  You’ll never be fully prepared. That’s life. Things happen. Things out of your control.

The cure?

Focus on what you can control. 

 

Winners never quit

You might’ve heard the saying. Winners never quit.

It’s wrong. Partially wrong. Winners quit plenty of things. They quit the things which don’t matter.

Realising you can’t win at everything is the first step towards becoming a winner.

And if your goal is to win at something. The next steps is to start quitting the things you can’t win at.

What does winning mean?

It may mean a gold medal. It may mean being the best in the market. It may mean being able to work on the things you want to work on.

Knowing the thing you want to win at is as scary as it is exciting. Scary because it means to get there, you’ll have to quit all the other fun things in the way. Exciting because now you know where you want to get to.

The filter of quitting what doesn’t matter is what people first get stuck with. Spread your attention across too many things and you’ll fail to make significant progress in any of them.

The next filter is quitting when the thing that matters gets hard. It’s often not because you’re good enough, you could be. It’s because you haven’t been through this kind of challenge before. This point is when winners don’t quit. Instead, they seek out the uncomfortable situations. They know if they can get through them (and they can), they’ll be doing something others can’t.

Now you know this, the saying can be reworded.

In beginning, winners quit everything. Everything that doesn’t matter. Then when it gets hard, winners never quit.

[This blog post is a riff from the ideas Seth Godin talks about in The Dip. I’m listening to it at the moment. If you’re seeking to be a winner at what you do, I recommend you check it out.]