“Cause when it’s sink or swim
You got to think to win”
– Ice Cube
4 Things I Learnt As I Turned 29
Stealing this idea from Ryan Holiday – who does a yearly blog like this.
I’ve learnt a lot in the void between 28 and 29, here are the 4 things that stick out the most:
1. Selective Approval
When you’re a kid adults tell you to ‘not care what other people think’. I think it’s true… to an extent.
There are times in life where you should care – e.g. job interviews, first dates, sales pitches, etc.
But there are other times when you shouldn’t.
I was in the supermarket and I was having a nightmare with the self service machine. There were all sorts of unexpected items in the bagging area and a queue was gradually beginning to form behind me. An impatient one, at that.
(Note: Isn’t it about time they started making psychic self service machines that don’t have a meltdown every time the unexpected happens?)
My card wouldn’t work – so I had to fish around in my wallet for another. Tuts rang out from behind me. Sweat mopped my brow. Then a satsuma fell out of my hand and rolled across the floor.
I could feel dozens of hateful eyes burning down on me.
Luckily I persevered, managed to fit it all in my bag and hurried out.
Do you know how many of those people in that queue I’ve seen since that incident? 0.
And do you know how many times they’ve thought about it since then? 0.
I didn’t need their approval, their opinions didn’t matter. Yet I made myself uncomfortable by seeking it. After this realisation I’ve started to live freely.
Look for the people whose approval does matter. Ignore anyone else. Plus, according to social studies, it’s noted that those who don’t look for approval are often seen as more influential.
2. Fitter body. Fitter mind.
I was never in good shape at school. I was never anywhere near fit until I was in my early 20s and playing football several times a week. A habit that ended due to a snapped ankle.
The weight didn’t pile on right, though. Not until I was 25. It got to a point where I didn’t like my photo being taken and couldn’t bring myself to wear a t-shirt in public. When I look back now it makes me sad as I have very few photos to look back on from that period of my life – my body image was terrible, every mirror told me a different story. I didn’t know what to believe.
But that’s a story for another day, a whole blog in itself.
In November last year a gym opened nearly opposite my flat and I signed up. I trained hard. With the help of my friend I stuck to it and now, nearly a year later, I’m still going. Stronger and happier.
It’s helped with creativity too – positive endorphins from a morning workout set me up for a better day at work. Mind and body in tune.
3. Buy Expensive Jeans
Seriously. If you’re anything like me and you wear jeans a lot, it’s worth paying more for a good brand (if you can).
Very contrary I know, as everyone out there tells you not to be materialistic.
But they fit better, feel better and usually last longer – which helps in the long run, as we know the fast fashion industry isn’t good for the planet.
Also, nice clothes make you feel more confident. There I’ve said it. But, deep down, you know it’s true.
4. Phil Collins is a very good musician
I can’t believe it took me 29 years to realise. Great dry sense of humour, too.
Stefani Germanotta, you’ll never be famous
Lady Gaga has become the first person to win an Oscar, a Grammy, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe in the same year.
Not a bad year, right?
What gets me most about this is that, back when she was at University, there was a mean-spirited Facebook group entitled “Stefani Germanotta, you’ll never be famous”.
A closed group where the 12 members all made fun of her.
I wonder where they are now?
Demons won’t eat your legs if they escape your duvet cover…
Most mornings I wake up between 6 and 6 30 AM for the gym.
It’s winter at the moment, and my bed is warm and loving… so, as you can imagine, getting up in the cold to walk to the gym isn’t the most appetising prospect.
In fact, between you and I, there have been a few mornings where I’ve decided to get an extra hour’s sleep.
But 9 times out of 10 I get my arse up and go.
Because the end result – looking and feeling good – is much better in the long-term than the short-term allure of an extra bit of shut eye.
I’ve found that, if I can just muster up the energy to flick the duvet off my legs, I’ll get up.
A split-second of willpower is enough to force me up and out of my apartment.
When it comes to other struggles in life that one push can make all the difference.
It’s like with writing. Writing 1000 words can seem like such a chore. But writing a sentence doesn’t.
So… why not aim to write that sentence?
Once you’ve actually opened your document and written it, the rest of your words will probably flow and before you know it you’ll have a 1000 more words than you thought.
Let’s see if I’m wrong…
Do you sound like yourself?
From time to time, those who I know in real life happen to stumble across some of my writing.
Surprisingly the most common thing I hear isn’t that ‘your writing is rubbish’ – it’s actually ‘this sounds like you – you write exactly like you talk’.
I’m happy with that.
It makes my writing genuine, and for the reader it feels as if I’m talking directly to them.
Which is really important for holding someone’s attention.
Sadly, a lot of people don’t write as they’d talk. Even through private Whatsapp messages or emails.
Friends who I’ve known for years and seen in numerous stages of undress and drunkenness write to me as if they’re my solicitor.
And no, it’s not because they’re usually filing lawsuits against me…
It seems to me that a lot of us completely lose our voice and our character when we’re on the other end of a screen, fingers tapping over a keyboard. We feel as if nothing has changed since the 18th century – so our writing has to sound like we’re using a quill and parchment.
Which is sad, because all our voices are unique. The only thing that should ever change is our tone, depending on what the conversation is about and who we’re talking to.
For example, you’d talk differently to your best friend than you would the kindly old dear next door. I hope…
Next time you’re writing something – be it an email or a ‘which pub and what time?‘ text – write it exactly how you’d say it aloud.
Some months ago I read Rod Stewart’s autobiography. Which, as a side note, I really enjoyed.
From the book I learnt many things, and one of them was that, when worn correctly, tartan trousers can actually look all right.
Fast forward to Boxing Day and I spot a pair in the sale for £10. Stocks were low but, fate intervened and one of the last remaining pairs was in my size.
So I bought them.
And, feeling somewhat daring, I wore them to work last Friday. Reception was good.
Oh… and no, I didn’t use my best Rod Stewart impression when I asked people what they thought:
“Do ya think I’m sexy??”
Anyway, as I walked home I passed a pub and a drunken patron lumbered i front of me. Luckily I had the dexterity necessary to navigate my around him but, due to his high levels of intoxication, he seemingly took offence to me being on the pavement at the same time as him.
A terrible crime, I know.
“Nice trousers” he bellowed, “you off to play a fuckin’ gig or something?”
With that he kind of jiggled and danced on the spot in the limp way that uber-drunk people often do – I can only surmise that, from somewhere far above, an invisible puppeteer was having a hand spasm while trying to control him.
“Yep,” I smiled, “I’m headlining”
This was met with a grunt of disapproval. He clearly wanted me to bite. Wanted a reaction. I could see in his eyes that he was gearing up for some Friday night confrontation.
But I walked on.
Perspective is an important tool. I could have looked at his comment two ways:
A) How dare he insult my trousers!
B) He said I looked like a rock star… which, for many 28 year old guys, is a pretty desirable thing to be/look.
I took it as the latter.
Perspective is a powerful weapon to have in your day-to-day arsenal. It’s a mindset.
When presented with a comment or a piece of information look at it from both ways before deciding how you should feel about it.
I’ll be wearing those trousers again.
Have you ever had an opinion on something?
In the last four weeks, I bet you’ve done at least one of these four things:
– Visited a restaurant
– Visited a tourist attraction
– Watched a film/TV series
– Read a book
(Unless you’ve been finding out what it would be like to live in a nuclear fallout shelter I hope I’m right.)
Okay, now answer this… in the last four weeks have you ever wanted to write but not found the time nor the inspiration?
If you’re reading this blog, I’ll hedge my bets that your answer is ‘yes’.
My apologies if you just said ‘yes’ aloud for no reason in a room full of people. Although maybe your fault for reading a blog at work…
A few years ago, before I started this website, I would frequently do all of the four things above and would also find myself wanting to write, but lacking the inspiration or ‘the time’.
Take one glance at a site like Twitter or the comments page on a newspaper’s website and you’ll be forcibly reminded of the fact that we all have an opinion. And everyone likes to share their opinion when they get the chance.
Just like everyone else, whenever I visit a museum, watch a film, read a book or go out for a meal I have an opinion on what I’ve just experienced.
So I decided to write about it.
Trip Advisor, Goodreads, Imdb, etc. There are so many platforms out there where your reviews can actually help people, as well as give you a chance to flex some words out onto a page.
I found myself writing a metric shit ton of reviews. Trying to make them as funny, interesting and entertaining as possible.
I found that the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write.
It brought back my creativity.
It brought back my inspiration.
And, in doing so, I realised that I actually did have time to write. More time that I knew. If I could find time in my day to write a 300 word review, I had time to write whatever I wanted to.
Try it. It’s the springboard that helped get me focused and writing again.
A Vampire on the London Underground
It all started with an early evening trip on the tube.
I was bleary-eyed from a long day and the overhead lights seemed a touch brighter than usual.
My temples were slowly starting to pulsate, hinting at the headache that was to come.
Suddenly my attention was snapped away from feeling sorry for myself…
… there was something of interest on the seat next to me.
And no, it wasn’t a copy of the Metro, City AM or the Evening Standard.
It was a battered, creased and yellowed copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
After a quick check to see if it belonged to anyone I snapped it up and read the first page.
Fast forward a couple days and I’m three quarters of the way through.
Even though it was written many moons ago it still grabbed me and kept me up until the wee hours reading… as I’m sure it has done for many readers well before my time.
You could stop almost anyone in the street and ask them about Dracula. I bet they could roughly recite the plot.
But what they maybe couldn’t tell you is what actually happens, and how it unfolds.
Told in snippets of journal entries, diary entries and newspaper extracts it’s a truly gripping tale.
That’s why it’s a classic.
And that’s also why, over 100 years later in a world of much shorter attention spans, it still holds up.
When you set down to write do you think of it as a future classic or do you just set down to write without a thought of a glorious future?
If you’re interested in what makes a classic piece of work a classic piece of work, this book by Ryan Holiday is a decent read.
The 2 Minute Rule
I’m sorry I’ve not written for a while.
It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve been busy, life moved fast and I nearly forgot about you.
But here I am… back.
Tonight I’m going to share a tip that’s made my life a bit easier.
Time management is tricky.
Because it doesn’t technically exist.
No one alive can actually manage time (apart from the speaking clock) – but we can all manage ourselves AROUND time.
One of the things I hate the most is when loads of little things (e.g cleaning, life admin) all build up and you have to spend a big chunk of your precious free time sorting them out.
So I follow this magic rule… if something takes less than 2 minutes (and if I’m not insanely busy) I’ll do it there and then.
Washing up a glass, hanging up a jacket, updating a card for Netflix, sending a boring email… BAM.
I don’t let ’em build up.
I rattle them off like a human task-smashing machine gun and then when leisure time comes a-knockin’ I can fully enjoy it with no menial tasks circling round my head.
It sounds simple. Too simple. But so many people I know and speak to let things build up because they can’t be arsed and it ends up being a vicious circle that eats away their time.
Like an invisible Pacman slowly chomping away hours and hours of their lives.
Give it a go and see if I’m onto something here…
P.S bonus hack… when you’re parking your car just pull into the first decent (and vacant!) space you can see. Life is too precious to waste circling round and round a square of tarmac hoping to find ‘the perfect spot’.
I’m a film buff.
That’s a fact.
From arthouse to zombie horror to rom-com – I’ve seen a lot.
But, when someone asks me about my favourite there’s only one title that comes to mind. Which, as you’ve probably guessed by the title of this post, is Die Hard.
I’ve seen it more times than any other film. VHS, TV, DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix, Now TV etc…
The other night however, I saw it in a new light. I managed to acquire some tickets to watch it at a pop-up cinema.
And there, in the darkness and with no distractions, I found that I enjoyed it a whole lot more. As did the friends I was with.
The jokes were funnier. The action was more thrilling. Characters more defined. I could go on.
It taught me a lesson about being more in the moment and how, even your favourite thing, can be better if you give it your full attention.
Perhaps the only way I could enjoy it more would be if I wiped my memory of Die Hard (like ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’) and watched it like it was the first time.
I’ve also found that conversations with people I like are even better when you give them your full attention. It seems obvious, but it’s so easy to find your eye drawn to flashing phone notifications.