Sisyphus and Storytelling

Art, Creativity, Motivation

Have you heard of ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’? Albert Camus captured this ancient Greek tale in his incredible essay. In it, a man is confined by the Gods to carry a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll all the way to the bottom again – for eternity.

Scan 12.03.2018 _2.jpg

In the essay, Camus managed to encapsulate that feeling we’ve all come across. That we’re struggling in vain. That, for all our efforts, we are tiny and insignificant, up against an uncaring world. And we are. But we can find meaning in that daily grind – our own personal boulder.

“The struggle itself is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

-Albert Camus

Jocko Willink is a retired Navy SEAL and best-selling author. His podcast is one to remember. One of the (many) highlights is captured in the video below: it’s his method for dealing with every setback, tiny or gargantuan. It boils down to one word: good.

Failed an exam? Good. You weren’t ready. More time to study and become a better student.

Didn’t get the promotion? Good. Learn why, and you have the opportunity to shore up weaknesses.

Relationship fails? Good. You’ll fix it and make it work, or it wasn’t meant to be.

We all have burdens to bear. Moaning or despairing about it won’t help. You’ll still have to get the damn boulder up the hill somehow. So, you may as well enjoy the journey. Find meaning in your toil.

Shoulder your load – then run with it.

The Young Pros

Let’s kick Monday off with a bang. One of my closest friends has started a blog. I think the premise is great, and I’m impressed at how quickly it’s gone from a phone call to a gorgeous website.

The Young Pros is a platform for driven people in the early stages of their careers, from all walks of life. The idea is we can all can share our experiences on a level playing field. We all have so much to learn from one another. One of my greatest joys is extracting valuable lessons from places you wouldn’t expect them. What could I, heading into a career in consulting, learn from a salesperson? What about a lawyer, or forensic accountant?

I’m honoured he let me write a guest post for him (the first of what I’m sure will be many) entitled: ‘Derivatives, Scandals and the Power of Storytelling’.  Head over and check it out (and more besides) if you’re interested.

Weekend doodles: the whistling scythe

Creativity, Daily drawing, Motivation

Someone asked me (after noticing my daily Instagram uploads): “Joe – where do you find the time for all this stuff?”

The simple answer is I can’t fathom not constantly working, learning and creating. But why is that?

Austin Kleon calls obituaries “near death experiences for cowards”. Reminding yourself of how little time you have is the source of limitless motivation and energy. Better than a cup of coffee and a cold shower, anyway (although I like those too). If you really face that fear, present yourself with the hard reality that we’re all running down a timer, you’ll find the time to do the stuff you want to do. Either that, or you’ll run from it. I choose the former.

This afternoon I went for a run. I wandered about the house, doing bits and bobs, finding every excuse not to go first – but I went. First I ran down the road, then into town. Then to the seafront. The kilometres piled up. I started feeling better, looser. I began enjoying it. When I got home, I looked in the mirror. I was glad. I’d done the work.

That feeling of satisfaction and contentment… It’s not like I don’t know it’s there. It’s a constant reward, forever waiting at the end of any kind of hard graft. And yet I still put off the work I know I need to do, whether physical or creative.

A way I remind myself to just do the damn thing is to be aware of the whistling scythe.

Recommended reading: 12/12/17

books, Creativity

I love books. Over the years, they’ve been my friend, ally, counsel, entertainer and teacher. I had the fantastic fortune to be raised in a household surrounded by books and reading. Nearly every weekend, I’d go to the local library, max out my library card and immerse myself. I’d say it’s up there with exercise in the most important activities in my life… But then again, I first got inspired to start working out reading Arnold Scharwzenegger’s autobiography, Total Recall. Books can encapsulate a human being’s life work – the opportunity to learn from that, to be effectively transported into their brain, is enormous.

Here are three I’ve either read or revisited recently:

  1. Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon

This book was one of the biggest influences in finally starting the ink. It demystifies the creative process, reminding the reader that no work exists in a vacuum. Everything follows what’s come before – you are part of an evergrowing story in your chosen discipline.

“Nothing is original.”

Austin Kleon

It’s short, actionable and extremely powerful. You’ll feel fired up to stop consuming, get your hands dirty and make something.

“It is better to take what does not long belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.”

Mark Twain

  1. The Daily Stoic, by Ryan Holiday and Steve Hanselman

I’m familiar with Holiday’s previous work – The Obstacle is the Way was a particular favourite, my introduction to Stoicism. He’s an unusual bloke. Apprenticing under Robert Greene (of Mastery fame), and working with Tim Ferriss, he was appointed Director of Marketing at American Apparel by the age of 22.

He loves reading and writing, and has shifted his career in this direction in recent years (while maintaining strategic consulting work). The mixture of anecdotal evidence from his own vibrant career, historical examples and clearly stated Stoic principles make for excellent reading. I also love how he shares his process, like here, in this exhaustive blog post on how his book, Perennial Seller, was written. He’s not scared about revealing ‘the secret’ – because it’s doesn’t exist. It’s hard work and consistency. Ryan knows there’s no risk of anyone stealing the method. It still takes countless hours of research, synthesis and concerted effort to create something of value.

“If you find something very difficult to achieve yourself, don’t imagine it impossible – for anything possible and proper for another person can be achieved as easily by you.”

Marcus Aurelius

The Daily Stoic has become my bible. You may recognise some of the pages featured in the notes section of various essays on this blog. The book is split into four sections, reflecting the core principles of Stoicism. There’s a different meditation to consider every single day of the year from Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus or another Stoic thinker, complete with Ryan’s riff on the topic. It’s an incredibly powerful way to reset every morning, remember these critical lessons and put them into practice.

  1. The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell

One of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever come across. Gladwell has become synonymous with popular science, a field rife with copycats, sensationalists and those who pack out 300 pages with nonsense and fluff around one half decent idea. That is categorically not Gladwell. His work is inventive, creative and meticulously researched. I find it incredible the way he frames concepts, connects dots and constructs a narrative from the seemingly chaotic world around us. If I had one criticism, it’d be the feeling of worthlessness and idiocy that sets in when I compare my writing to his. But I don’t despair. I can only try and emulate Gladwell, learn from him, and focus on incremental improvement.

What are you waiting for? Get reading!


You can buy the aforementioned books here:

The idea for recommending books came when sketching my desk (don’t ask me how or why that happened)… so here’s the ‘note-taking’ process for this post:


Pride before a fall

Fitness, Motivation, Philosophy

My neck aches.

I lift weights on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and in between I do mobility work, runs, yoga, HIIT or otherwise. That’s what works for me.

At the end of my most recent yoga practice, I got the idea to try doing a headstand. My balance isn’t great, and I’ve never been able to do them. More importantly, I’ve never put any consistent practice into trying to do one either. But, I thought ‘I’m feeling pretty good, pretty flexible. Let’s do it.’

You may have deduced where this is going. Cockiness got the better of me. I came crashing down, landing hard on my neck at a funny angle. As I lay there on my mat collecting my thoughts, I felt ashamed and humiliated. Not because anyone had seen me fall, but because I knew I’d forgotten a critical lesson.

Seth Godin, in his excellent blog, wrote recently about trying to ‘win a yoga race’:


It makes no sense, of course.  

The question this prompts is: Are there places you feel like you’re falling behind where there’s actually no race?

Seth Godin


Do you remember that feeling of elation after receiving a good exam result, a promotion, or hitting a new bench press PR? That feeling is ephemeral. Living your life in expectation of these fleeting moments is a misguided waste. You’ll spend 99% of your time in the process, the grind, the journey.

This dull ache in my neck is a reminder:

A steady, incremental climb towards a worthy goal is infinitely more meaningful than short term gratification.


I’d definitely recommend subscribing to Seth’s blog. He’s incredibly insightful. Most importantly, his advice and wisdom is actionable.



Fitness, Motivation, Philosophy, Uncategorized

Last night I stayed up far too late watching an awful movie I’d seen before. I didn’t want to do that. But I was tired, and lazy, and travelling had taken it out of me. It seemed easier than brushing my teeth and walking up the stairs to get into bed at that point.

I eventually turned in at half past midnight. I had a gym session planned mere hours later… 5 and a half hours is definitely not a healthy amount of sleep, whatever bravado you want to throw at me. Given that, there were so many ways I could have rationalised the decision to shift my plans about, move the workout to later in the day… But later far too often becomes never.

So, I gritted my teeth, got my head down, set my alarm (and several backups)… and got up on time. On the 4th alarm. I stumbled downstairs, made a cup of strong coffee and cycled to the gym, as planned.

I always train legs first thing on a Monday morning. Why? Heavy squats will beat you down, punish you and put everything else into perspective. It’s easy to focus on completing a piece of coursework, crunching numbers, writing emails or whatever else it is you have to do when you’ve already willingly put yourself under a heavy, crushing weight and willed yourself up, over and over again. It’s building that resistance to procrastination, getting the week started with a bang.

Stephen King writes about a concept called ‘slippage’ in his collaboration with Peter Straub, ‘Dark House’. It’s a feeling of a kind of inevitable, sometimes hard to detect degradation into darkness. Everything is in a state of entropy. So, you’re either working to improve or letting things degrade and break up.

Forcing yourself to do the hard, worthwhile things you know you should, even if you’ve not put yourself in the best decision to do them, is the best way to combat this ‘slippage’. That holds true both in your own life and the way your actions impact the world around you.

Don’t let yourself slip.


I almost slipped writing this article. It’s late now, but I’m getting it done. Too many ideas vanish into the ether and this is an important one.

So I got it done.

The nugget of this idea came while cycling back from the aforementioned leg workout, so quickly jotted it down on one of these pads. After a long day of econometrics lectures and work on my dissertation, I wrote it in one sitting (with the help of a cup of coffee – pictured).