Win the day

In these unprecedented times, a message that strikes a chord with me is to win the day. As a self confessed home body, being at home for long stretches of time is nothing new to me. However, I am well aware of how easy it is to fall prey to unhelpful habits that drain rather than energise you.

Now, more than ever, it is important to feed your mind, body and your spirit. It is the only way to take the day by the horns and turn this very difficult time into an opportunity.

Read those books you have always wanted to read, do that exercise program that you have always wanted to do, spend time learning a language or how to code, work on that side hustle etc etc. Use the extra free time and turn it into opportunity time. Come out of this stronger than you did before.

“A plan relieves you of the torment of choice” – Saul Bellow

Do not lose your structure. If you want to get bored quickly, sit around and fall in to ‘leisurely’ habits. You will soon be climbing up the wall. Create a plan of how are you going to spend each day and execute. Make time for the things that you really enjoy doing. Look back at each day and win it.

Carpe Diem.

You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have

“Do as I say, but not as I do”

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”

For a long time, I have had this huge desire to help people to live their best lives. To change the world for the better. To make a difference.

Before my son was born, I continuously would sing Sia’s song “Little man”. One of the lines in that song is to “Do as I say, but not as I do. Trust me, you’ll see. All I want is what is best for you”.

I began to think deeply about those words. What use is advising my son to do as I say, but not as I do. A child learns a lot more from what you do than from what you say. It’s common sense, but sometimes you are aware of something intellectually, but not in practice. This was one of those moments for me.

It also reminds me of when I would speak in schools advising young people to go for their dreams and that anything is possible. Then one day a child asked me “Is this your dream?”. I came up with some sort of response, but that question hit me hard! It caused me to rethink what I was doing with my life and begin to ask myself some serious questions.

The best guidance that you can give another is to walk your walk. Furthermore, the best advice comes from those who have lived it, not those who have thought about it.

“I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them, so I got rich and gave back to me that’s the win-win” – Jay-Z

It is due to the fact that you cannot give what you do not have that I am completely obsessed with being the best version of myself. The better I become, the more that I can give. That is a mission that never ends and one that I will continuously strive for.

All time is quality time

Recently I read a post by Ryan Holiday entitled “There is no such thing as quality time”.

As someone that is determined to fulfil as much of my potential as possible, I often have to sacrifice some of my “quality time” with loved ones.

This challenge connects with my previous blog post about the myth of a work life balance. It is easy to beat yourself up about not spending “quality time” with loved ones. However, the reality is that all time is quality time.

It is all about perspective. For example, during the week, the majority of my time spent with my son is putting him to sleep. This is due to the time that I end up finishing and getting home from work. Although I spend more time with him on the weekends, I questioned whether I should cut the time spent on work so that I could spend more “quality time” with him in the evenings.

However, after reflecting on Ryan Holiday’s post, I realised that I am spending quality time with him during that period. Now, I have since made sure that I am maximizing that time by reading to him again before he goes to sleep. But, even if I didn’t do that, it would still be “quality time”.

It is all about cherishing the moments between the moments. Each moment can be a perfect moment. Whether that is time passively spent watching a film with a loved one or time actively spent playing sports or speaking.

There is a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, that says there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. This also can be applied to the idea of “quality time”.

Life is a series of moments and each moment is special.

The Myth of a Work/Life Balance

I have been a bit quiet over the last couple of months. During that period I was completely focused on work. We had a big annual conference coming up with over 3,000 people attending and I had some important responsibilities for the event.

It was my first time taking up these responsibilities and it meant that I had to really zone in. I was determined to deliver.

Last year I made a decision to step up and focus on my corporate career. Those that have followed my blog posts, will know that my focus had been split in the past. Whether that was focusing on building my music career or my short stint working on a merch business. However, over the past year that focus has changed and I have begun to see the rewards for it.

In preparation for the upcoming conference, I put in some serious hours.  Working full days and weekends for over a month, the rest of my life was pretty much on hold. When I reflect on it, it brings me towards the myth of work/life balance. Working full days and weekends is purely called working however, what is a work/life balance? Is work not a part of life? Does life only begin when work stops?

Without going overtime on work, many of us spend the majority of our time working. If that time is dead time, then what life are you really living? When you are in school, do you say that you need more of a school/life balance? It sounds a bit silly right? We have to choose what to prioritise in life. Different periods will require different applications of focus. We are continuously juggling.

But to detach work from life, creates a sad existence where you are clinging on to very short moments of time.

On my work laptop, I have a wallpaper that says “Do what you love, love what you do”. 1) If you are doing what you love, surely that is living? 2) Sometimes we are too preoccupied with the idea of doing what we love. There are times when you need to focus on loving what you do. No one starts in their dream position, they get their through hard work and effort. This includes doing some things that aren’t on your bucket list.

It is all about creating a life. In this age we have so much choice. There are uber drivers who work in the evenings so they can spend time with their family during the day. It’s not about a work/life balance. It is just about a life balance and how you choose to live it. Whether that is spending a lot of time on work, family, socialising etc, it is all life. You can even mix it all up and work with your family and friends if you want to. Using our imagination and application we have the opportunity to design our lives.

Work should not be the enemy to life. And if you think it is and feel it always will be, maybe you need to change your work or change your perspective. There are people who are bored out of their wits when they retire and they go back to work? Why is that? Because being active is an important part of life. They needed to work to live.

Washing the dishes can be seen as work to some, but when my son sees me washing the dishes and copies me, he thinks it is play.

Perspective………

We need to be active. The question is not about a work/life balance, it is about what activities you choose to fill your life with.

Guard your energy

As my life has got busier and I work even harder to become the person that I want to be, the importance of guarding my energy has risen exponentially.

I have written in the past about how music has been an important aspect of this or how I work hard to manage what I feed my mind, but this spans so many areas.

Core to this is sleep. There have been periods in my life where I have tried to limit the amount of sleep that I have in order to do more. There are cases where I do this out of necessity, but to do it on a consistent basis is not something that I can maintain. I believe that different people can function on varying amounts of sleep, but the average seems to be around 7 to 8 hours. Some people can do less, but you have to know your body and know what works for you.

The other aspect of guarding my energy is the food that I eat. I follow a vegan and gluten free diet. These are quite strict dietary guidelines, but the main reason I do it is because of health. Based on the things that I have read, things I have noticed in my own body and the things that I see happening to those around me, I made a choice to change my diet. I have been vegan for over 3 years and gluten free for about 2 months.

I won’t go into detail on the particular research and arguments on why, but you can check my reading list for some books to start you off if you are interested. What you eat affects your energy and it also affects your health in the years to come. We are continuously around toxicity, but I believe we should try to  manage what we can control to stay healthy. Anything can happen of course, that is a fact of life, but it shouldn’t be an excuse.

Lastly, there is people. Who do you spend the most time with? Where are they in their life? What are their habits of thinking? Do they bring positivity or negativity in your life? Too many times we keep people around us who are drainers. You have to be super careful with who you allow to impact your energy. It is a question of what will you accept, what will you let go and what will you change about yourself.

How I see it, is that we have this pot of energy each day, and this pot is affected by multiple things. If I can give myself the best starting point with good sleep, healthy food habits and mental thoughts, then that is great! Throughout the day, I then have to be selective and mindful about how I spend my time.

How we allocate our life energy in each moment, is how we choose to use the life that we have been given and that is not something that I think we should waste.

My initial fear of sharing music more regularly

Over the past year, I have released a new song every month. When I first made the decision to share music more regularly I was apprehensive. In fact, I was fearful.

But why was I fearful? There were many different reasons. Will the music be good enough? This was not just judging my vocal performance and writing, but will it be mixed and mastered right so that it gives a professional enough sound? I’m recording these songs at home, shouldn’t I record them in a professional studio? No one else with a trained ear is listening to the songs before I release them, shouldn’t I get them checked first?

I decided to say, so what.

Then the next concern was, will people even care? Will it be too much music? Will people get bored of seeing me release another song? Will I be able to drum up enough attention for each release?

I then decided to say, who cares. Just do it anyway.

For many years when I have reviewed how my year has gone, I have said that I did not release enough music. I think I’m pretty good when it comes to my craft. There are of course areas for improvement, but I feel like I rap at a reasonably high level.

That’s how I feel because of what I hear when I write, but if i don’t share that, why will anyone else feel the same?

There is not one artist that I can think of where I have been in to every one of their songs. But that hasn’t stopped me from being a big fan of that artist. So why hold myself back in fear that people won’t like every song?

Continuously releasing music has been a breath of fresh air for me. When I started doing it I was upset by the numbers. What?!? Only 5 plays?!?! But I put a lot in to this song!!

Now it doesn’t really bother me as much. Yes I would like more people to notice. But I no longer fret over each song reaching a killer amount of views. I am now able to move on to the next one with much more ease.

Will that change if I experience a larger increase in attention? Maybe. But I now have a habit of being persistent. And if I have learned anything in life, it is that persistence is key. No one who achieved anything substantial, stopped every time that they fell down.

Discovering and embracing my inner introvert

I have never been a loud character. I have always been slightly reserved, but quietly confident.

I can recall many periods in my life where people thought that I was shy. One moment in secondary school stands out in particular. Me and the boys and a group of girls from a neighboring school were walking and talking (except I wasn’t talking). Then on a later occasion I ended up speaking quite a lot to one of the girls and she commented on how she thought that I was shy. This was because I wasn’t one of the loud young boys trying to impress the girls. The reality however, was that I only spoke if I felt it was necessary and preferred one to one conversations.

I was lucky enough not be daunted by this aspect of my character and sports and music gave me a way to express myself in large crowds. The topic of expressing myself in large crowds, actually reminds me of another secondary school moment that was enlightening for me.

One of my close friends at school was a bit of a chatterbox. He was very popular and was also very outspoken. In a special assembly at the end of the school year, I performed a song that I had written in front of my year group and the year above. My outspoken friend was completely amazed by my confidence and said that he could never do something like that. Hearing that from him was really a shock for me, he was this loud character, but speaking in front of so many people was nerve wracking for him. It gave me an insight into one of my special powers.

My introverted tendencies have shaped a lot of my life experience and it also impacts how I like to spend my time. It is probably of no surprise that I absolutely love reading and writing. Both activities provide with me great opportunities to lose myself by myself.

As an introvert, my energy charges during that alone time and it is typically drained when I am in social environments. Social environments can boost me in certain circumstances, but mostly in small doses. Too much of it and I am often gasping for air. The size of the group and the closeness to that group also matters. Small groups that I am very close with is always preferred.

I recall a past manager saying that I was aloof. I took slight offence to it, but I also thought ‘hey, you’re probably right’. I am quite private for the most part and very selective with what I share with others. This can create a distance between me and people. However, I am still able to have great relationships when the vibe is right.

There have been moments in my life where I questioned this issue. Why couldn’t I be like everyone else? Why couldn’t I just socialise without having to be cautious? But no matter how much I tried, it just never felt natural to me and I ended up feeling drained by the end of it.

A few years ago, I read Daniel Pink’s book called ‘To Sell Is Human’ where he speaks about ambiverts. Ambiverts are people on the fine line between introversion and extroversion. Here are 9 signs that you are an ambivert (taken from this Forbes article):

  1. I can perform tasks alone or in a group. I don’t have much preference either way.
  2. Social settings don’t make me uncomfortable, but I tire of being around people too much.
  3. Being the center of attention is fun for me, but I don’t like it to last.
  4. Some people think I’m quiet, while others think I’m highly social.
  5. I don’t always need to be moving, but too much down time leaves me feeling bored.
  6. I can get lost in my own thoughts just as easily as I can lose myself in a conversation.
  7. Small talk doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but it does get boring.
  8. When it comes to trusting other people, sometimes I’m skeptical, and other times, I dive right in.
  9. If I spend too much time alone, I get bored, yet too much time around other people leaves me feeling drained

    One of the key discussion points in Daniel Pink’s book, is that ambiverts are more successful than extroverts and introverts at selling (see image below).  This is despite the preconception that extroverts are the best sellers. This is because ambiverts can be great listeners (the introvert side) while also being highly persuasive (the extrovert side). 

Following on from Daniel Pink’s book I also read ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain. Bill Gates named Susan Cain’s Ted Talk on the ‘Power of Introverts’ as one of his all time favourite Ted Talks.

Reading Susan Cain’s book and many other introvert books helped me to embrace my inner introvert. Furthermore, one of my colleagues at work is from Finland. Generally, it is said that many people from Finland are introverts. My colleague seemed to be so comfortable with not conforming and seeing how they conducted themselves at work, helped me to feel more empowered to be my introverted self.

It took me a while to be comfortable with being openly introverted and lose the pressure to do things that I didn’t want to do (like going out every week). However, as I have got older and learned to embrace the strengths in my introversion, it has allowed me to come to terms with it.

I am now very grateful for my inner introvert and the perspective that it gives me. Some may continue to mistake it for shyness and a lack of confidence, but I know the real truth and I will blow them away with my special powers when required ?

Reread life changing books

“Repetition is the mother of skill.”

Someone I know once said that everyone has read Rich Dad Poor Dad, but they are still poor. It was an interesting statement and it was one that stuck with me. We often proudly state that we have read a book, but the real question is, have you learnt the key lessons?

I sometimes have discussions with people on topics that they have read about. But at times, when I make a suggestion from those books, they say “I know that already”. This is even when they are not using any of that “knowledge” at all!

There is a good reason for this, it is the difference between being aware of information and truly knowing it. When you truly know something, you do it.

You could describe it in this way, true knowledge is information plus action. This description is one of the reasons why I find it important to read/reread life changing books. I want to learn about that topic and implement it until it is second nature.

“Knowledge is only potential power”

In most cases, there is always more to learn. A master of tennis like Frederer still has more to learn despite his success. Therefore, he has to keep working on the fundamentals of the sport and improving his craft.

The same goes for reading a life changing book. It is often not enough to read it once, we have to review those fundamentals over and over again. With each review we can learn something new or reinforce the mindset/habit/skills that we want to develop.

 

The aim is to become not to have

If you wanted to run a marathon, you wouldn’t order a taxi to get you to the finish line – Derek Sivers

Most of us have heard the saying that it is all about the journey and not the destination, this is something that I truly agree with. Sometimes we get preoccupied with having things and reaching a destination, but then we miss out on what is right in front of us.We say, if this happens, I will be able to do this or feel like this. Life would be so much better! Is it any wonder why people become rich, famous or highly successful and breakdown? The destination did not live up to their expectations. They were waiting for a future state of having in order to feel and be a particular way.

I am not saying that there is something wrong with wanting things. In fact, by stretching our imagination to want and have extraordinary things, it challenges us to become more. The true joy however, is in the becoming, the journey, the good times and the bad times.

A great example of this is in Derek Sivers’ book, Anything You Want. Derek Sivers is the founder of CD Baby, the largest online distributor of independent music in the world. When the business was starting to really grow, Derek’s employees felt that he should stop writing the code to CD baby and hire people to do it. The employees said that by doing so, CD Baby could grow faster and make more money!

Derek however, was completely uninterested in letting it go. He enjoyed doing it and he was not concerned about growing faster and making more money. This sounds extreme and it is, it is an extreme example of someone being more concerned with doing the things that make them happy than having more stuff. Derek compared the idea of having someone else write the code to a song writer hiring a ghost writer. It would have taken away the joy of the process.

Some of us focus on having, then doing, then being. Really we should be focusing on being, doing and then having. Having is the cherry on the top.

This is not to say that we should not have goals that focus on having, I have quite a few, but my main focus is on who I will become along the way. I want to stretch myself to become more and to be the best version of myself. I know that by becoming more, I will have all of the things that I want. This is because I will be able to give more value to the world.

I often write big goals that drive me and force me to think of myself as more than I do today. It enables me to ask the key question, how do I become the person that can do this or have that? That is the question that excites me. These goals force me to keep asking that question day by day.

Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value – Albert Einstein

Success is the shiny object that you obtain, value is what you give in the process of becoming. Become a person of value!

Pushing past your moods

Pushing past your moods is such an important topic for me. It is an area that I continuously challenge myself on.

“Mastering other is strength. Mastering yourself is true power” – Lao Tzu

Willpower is only so strong and different people have spikes of energy at different times.  For example, I am a morning person, but in the night I begin to lose my will. I get tired and that alters my motivation and my will drastically. The same happens if I have had a bad nights sleep.

There are moments when you just don’t feel like doing things. It’s normal, but when you constantly become a slave to moods, it can hold you back severely. 

“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” – Muhammad Ali

I was reading recently about a footballer called Freddy Adu. He was supposed to become the next Pele, the great footballing hope from America, but it never happened. In the article there was some commentary from one of his early coaches. The coach talked about Freddy’s lack of work ethic. He had huge talent, which made things easy at the beginning, but talent is not enough. Freddy soon lost out to those who kept going and worked hard.

Freddy couldn’t push past his mood. He thought he was too good, and he was, until he wasn’t. The laziness caught up with him and because of that he never reached his potential.

This is one of the reasons why I think it is so important to build good habits, automatic responses that supersede moods. I’m not perfect at it, I have a lot of fine tuning to do, but your daily habits make a huge difference over time.

The other thing is understanding how you can inspire or maintain discipline to do things when you don’t feel like it. Maybe when you are tired you want junk food. A solution could be, not buying junk food as part of your grocery shopping. This is the act of making a bad habit less accessible.

For inspiration, maybe you can listen to a particular song or playlist that gets you fired up and ready.

Whatever it is, you need to pay attention to how you react to things. What keeps you going? Where do you slip up? What can you learn from it? How can you change things so that you respond better the next time?

I love thinking about my day and asking, Am i happy with how I spent my time? Am I happy with what I gave to the day? If not, why? What can I do better tomorrow? How can I push past my bad moods and be better next time around?

There is always room to grow and learn. But ultimately you either become a victim to your moods or are working towards becoming a master of them, you decide.