“Shy bairns get nowt.”

Creativity, Miscellaneous thoughts, Motivation, Uncategorized

I love this saying from the North East of England. I’d never heard it before today. It essentially means: “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”

That’s rock-solid advice. On reading it, I thought about my own life. Has there ever been a time when I’ve been nervous about making an ask, and my fears came true?

I couldn’t think of one occasion that happened. Just consider that. In 23 years, there hasn’t been one time in my life making the ask has had the negative consequences I’d imagined. It was all fear. Worse, I’d been pouring the fuel on that fire myself.

“What’s on the other side of fear? Nothing.”

To get anywhere in this world you have to be willing to put yourself out there, to make those asks, to say yes even if you’re scared. You have to push past the uncomfortable feeling that you’re inadequate, that you’re somehow unworthy of this opportunity. Don’t be happy sitting there meekly, dreaming about the type of life you’d like to be leading. 

Don’t be a shy bairn. Go out there and live it.


Other thoughts:

I had a bad day yesterday. I felt lazy, depressed, tired, unmotivated: in a word, I was down. But I didn’t let the feeling propagate. You can’t let moods like that settle in for the long haul. Don’t give them it a moment’s respite, or it’ll start to lay foundations. You have to uproot it while the cement is still wet. Maybe you can get a sense of my mindset from this gloomy drawing I did:

Sunday sketches. This is a cheery one.

A post shared by Joe Hart (@joehart.one) on

So, this morning I set the alarm, got up early, and ran to the seafront. Nothing like some interval training to shake up the negative vibes. Today’s been excellent. And it’s a reminder – mood follows action, not the other way around. Laying around on your phone is not the way to get motivated.

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In other news, I’m fast approaching 1000 views on the ink. What’s more, over half of them came this month. I can almost physically feel this thing picking up speed as the momentum builds. It’s incredibly exciting to feel every piece of writing, every drawing, contributing to this larger body of work. I’ve loved the process of creating. My writing and drawing is tightening up every day. I’m just so appreciative to everyone who’s taking the time to read along. I hope you’re getting as much from taking these posts in, as I am from creating them.

Here are my top 5 most read posts so far if you’ve missed any. By the way, isn’t it interesting that sometimes the posts you didn’t think would strike a chord seem to really take off?

  1. How (and why) tidying your room will improve your life.
  2. Nobody’s listening. Here’s three reasons why that’s a good thing.
  3. Getting back on the horse.
  4. A mass of habits.
  5. Always be closing.

 

 

The flu, creative destruction and the importance of rest

Art, Creativity, economics, productivity

Today’s drawing:

I’ve been feeling awful for two days now. This cold that’s been doing the rounds finally caught me. I hate the feeling of sickness hampering productivity. Every part of me wants to just power through it and refuse to accept the illness, but that’s counterproductive. I have to force myself to allow my body the chance to heal. I slept for 11 hours last night…

But things are looking up. Here’s one of Joseph Alois Schumpeter, an economist who coined the term ‘creative destruction’ – a phenomena which explains a lot of the rapid technological transformation we see in the world around us today. He’s been on my mind, as I had an essay due in on the effectiveness of barriers to entry – the Schumpeterian entrepreneur has been mucking around in my subconscious a lot. So I guess that’s why this drawing appeared.

Had some more success this week. A drawing of my favourite coffee shop, Home Coffee, was noticed by them… I think they’re going to display it in store! It’s just a reminder that consistently doing good work and sharing it does pay dividends.

Here’s to the weekend everyone.

 

 

Getting back on the horse

Creativity, Motivation, Philosophy, productivity

You know the story. It’s all going brilliantly: the diet, the study schedule, the workouts, the commitment to practice learning a new language. Then something comes along and messes it all up.

Before you know it you’re in a downward spiral. You ate that donut, so the rest of the diet can go out the window. You missed a workout so you may as well wait until next week to start the new routine again.

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In my case, I missed a few days of writing and drawing over the weekend. I prioritised other things. It doesn’t feel good to know I’m never, ever going to get those hours back. But there’s nothing to do about it now other than to get going.

Think of a strongman dragging a lorry (or truck for any of my American readers). They push off, straining, every tendon taut. It’s hard at first, but they start making progress, inch by painful inch. As soon as they start to slow down, even slightly, it’s essentially impossible to get going again.

So keep the momentum up for as long as you can. When you mess up (which you will, and I will), leave as little time as possible before getting back to work. Don’t give yourself a chance to breathe. Don’t let the thing you’re hammering at stiffen and set – get right back to pounding at it until it’s red hot again.

Today, I got back on the horse. And that’s good enough for now.

Always be closing

Creativity, Fitness, Motivation, productivity

Juggling commitments is hard. I’ve got coursework due, projects to work on, gym sessions to hit and goals to achieve. So do we all.

Sometimes we get worn down. It’s impossible to go full throttle all the time. But let’s remember one thing: always be closing. Don’t lose sight of what you’re working towards.

If you need to, take a breather, reload – and get back to work.

Dead time

Creativity, Miscellaneous thoughts, Philosophy

I took the coach back home for the Christmas holidays yesterday. Portsmouth to Southport – 300 or so miles, with plenty of stop offs on the way. It takes longer, but it’s way cheaper than the train. My student budget accommodates it a lot more readily.

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I love people watching. In the dark of the M6, 8 hours in, bored faces all around me were illuminated by their phones. It seems whenever we have long journeys ahead of us, people absolutely love to moan about it, to feel frustrated, like they can’t wait to get to their destination (“12 hours on the coach? Wow, how awful.”). This is ‘dead time’ (I think Ryan Holiday coined that term, but I’m not sure… I definitely didn’t come up with it). Of course I was excited to see my family, but there’s no point wishing for the journey to be shorter. It’s a waste.

I refused to let it be dead time. I’ve written before about Victor Frankl, and Stoicism – the gap between stimulus and response, your freedom to choose how outside events circumstances impact you. So, I could choose to frame this 12 hour slog into something completely different. How did I want to spend your time? Obviously, I had some constraints in a confined space. But, applying constraints of some kind is an incredibly effective way to get creative. It’s actually the only way to stop planning, and start doing (letting go of perfection).

I took 5 minutes the night before I left to plan how I’d spend my time roughly:

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If you can’t see the photo for whatever reason, it’s a loose list. Here’s what I actually did:

  • Finish reading The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)
  • Start The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • Listen to Sam Harris/Joe Rogan podcast
  • Listen to Rich Roll/Ryan Holiday podcast
  • Draw (observation)
  • Write (review fitness goals for the new year)
  • Write – ideas for blog
  • Meditate (headspace)
  • Curate Spotify playlists – listen to music

That’s all stuff I’d like to do on an ideal day! The only thing missing is being active, busting out some pullups or sprinting up hills. Even then, being stuck in a seat unable to move makes me appreciate even simple things like getting up and walking way more.

And I had the opportunity to go down rabbit holes I never usually get the chance to in the hurly burly of life…

I went on a bit of a Joe Rogan binge, listening to an early episode with Joey Diaz and Doug Stanhope from about 8 years ago. Joe spoke about the massive impact of Opie and Athony’s radio show on him and his podcasting style. The conversational, freeform format was the absolute the antithesis of phonie, talking head shows in the US at the time. Doing shows like that became less of a chore for people, and something more akin to a meaningful conversation with a friend. It’s so interesting seeing him before his current, insane popularity, before podcasting blew up. The format is decidedly unchanged, but I also liked seeing how much more open minded and mature Joe’s become in the intervening years.

That was a whole chain of thought I wouldn’t have had if I’d just been listening to the podcast in the background like I usually do.

I think my recent consistency in a meditative practice has helped me see the opportunity for tranquillity and satisfaction in the seemingly mundane. Rather than getting frustrated at a delayed connecting coach in Victoria, annoyed at people barging in the queue and encroaching in my personal space, I was absolutely sanguine, content in observing the world around me. When the coach pulled into Southport, 12 hours after I got on it at the Hard interchange in Portsmouth, I jumped in a cab at the station. The cabbie was an old, dyed in the wool Labour type, with an incredibly rich Liverpool accent. He was fascinating, and I had this engaging, intense conversation with him. When I finally walked through the door and saw my family I was ecstatic. Spending the day moaning, unsatisfied, longing for it to be over would in no way have made the reunion more satisfying. Being present, engaged and doing the things I love seemed a much better use of my day.

Have a think about all the time in your life you’re allowing to slip through your fingers. Stuck in traffic? Doing your grocery shopping? If you added up the hours, I think you’d be horrified. I know I was.

So get out there and reclaim your dead time. It’s your call.


Notes/drawings:

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!


Notes:

You can buy the aforementioned books here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daily-Stoic-Journal-Writing-Reflection/dp/1788160231/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1513116102&sr=1-1&keywords=the+daily+stoic

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tipping-Point-Little-Things-Difference/dp/0349113467/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1513116128&sr=1-1&keywords=the+tipping+point

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.


Notes:

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

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Slippage

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.


Notes

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).