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You can’t think your way to clarity

You know this deep down.

There are only two effective ways to get to clarity:

  1. Talk/write – verbalising your problem out loud/on paper.
  2. Taking physical action – actually walking down a path into the unknown

Try one. You’ll be surprised.

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Does this event change anything?

On the train yesterday, due to some passengers being noisy, I missed the driver’s announcement as to why we had made an unscheduled stop in the middle of nowhere.

I felt my blood starting to boil. Right up until I realised that – even if I heard what the driver had said – it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

If the train had to sit there for an hour, then so be it. There’s nothing I could have done about it. Getting angry wasn’t going to fix anything. So, there was absolutely no point letting it get to me.

“It isn’t events themselves that disturb people, but only their judgements about them,” Epictetus said. Stoicism wins again.

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Which type of attention?

You’re getting lots of attention, but what to make of it?

Negative attention from people not enrolled on your journey: Highly possible you could be doing something right that’s just not for these people.

Negative attention from people enrolled on your journey: Alarm bells should be ringing.

Positive attention from people not enrolled on your journey. You should consider a pivot. You might be in the wrong industry/serving the wrong audience.

Positive attention from people enrolled on your journey. For fuck sake keep going. Double down, in fact.

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The really hard-to-measure metrics

“If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it”.

This maxim – along with its variations – has been floating around in the business world for a while.

And it’s a load of bollocks.

Its biggest proponents are those who like to parade strange, meaningless vanity metrics around in front of would-be and existing investors to make it seem as though something is actually happening.

But what about attributes like trust, empathy and compassion?

How do you precisely measure those? Can the analytics team plot it on a graph?

You’ll never see these included on a pitch deck. You rarely see these values adopted as an integral part of a company’s culture – whether between employees, with clients or customers.

Trying to increase these metrics is not only unglamorous – it’s incredibly hard work. But the joke is that working on these metrics will increase all the others.

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Apply perspective

This post is going to make me sound like a grumpy, 90-year old curmudgeon, but I don’t care.

I was reading an article on Vogue.com and I came across the following sentence: “Burned out from her own career in technology and the results of the 2016 election…”

I’m sorry… burned out from a career in technology and the results of an election that – as a single individual – you can do nothing to control or change? Please, give me a fucking break. Is this what we’ve become?

I think us privileged, entitled, first-world millennials could do with putting things into perspective.

Things that you can be burned out from:

  • Walking from Syria to Europe with your wife and children, with all your worldly possessions in a wheelbarrow because ISIS tried to kill you, rape your wife, and burned your house to the ground, only to get to Europe and be put into a detention centre
  • Trekking 18 miles every day through the African desert and hoping you don’t get malaria just in order to get some dirty drinking water
  • Being in a relationship where your significant other not only mentally abuses you, but actually kicks the living shit out of you when you return home from your second job because you need to support three kids
  • Laying your life on the line for months at a time as a member of the Armed Forces, deep behind enemy lines with rationed food, no beds, 50kg+ on your back and under constant threat of being killed by the enemy
  • Living with an advanced form of cancer knowing that at any moment you could be leaving your loved ones behind forever
  • Etc, etc

I often think about scenarios like this whenever I think that things are getting on top of me. It’s a reality check. Am I really in a bad situation or am I just whining?

More importantly: is this situation something that I can control or something that is out of my control? This is what stoicism has taught me and I’m thankful for it every single day.

You can’t control it: then let it go. Forget about it entirely. What’s the point otherwise?

You can control it: make a detailed and realistic plan of action that will get you out of said situation, then execute on it immediately.

Doing these two simple steps will eradicate huge, whopping great swathes of the stress that you built up and that you think is ending your life as you know it.

Y’all motherfuckers need stoicism.

Rant over.

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You have more than you think

“How could any sensible person be upset by being in exile? Exile certainly does not deprive us of water, earth, air, or the sun and the other stars.”

Musonius Rufus

So you’ve lost everything. Really?

Can you still breathe the air? Does your heart still pump blood? Is your mind functioning?

Then you have way more than you think and everything is still to play for. Onwards.

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Choose your story

“A podium and a prison is each a place, one high and the other low, but in either place your freedom of choice can be maintained if you so wish.”

Epictetus, Discourses, 2.6.25

What story are you telling yourself?

Are you telling yourself that you’re too poor? Too old? Too tired? Not clever enough? Not lucky enough? Victimised?

The story we tell ourselves is a choice. We’re free to tell ourselves a more useful one any time we choose.

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You are not the things you have

You are not:

  • Your millions in the bank
  • Your degree
  • Your job title
  • Your possessions

And this is a good thing because it means you’re also not:

  • Your ego
  • Your debt
  • Your failures
  • Your lack of success (so far)
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Clean your room

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

Matthew 25:29

From experience I don’t think a truer statement has ever been written.

But what do you do if you find yourself in the downward spiral part of it? How do you interrupt the pattern?

I honestly think you have to start by cleaning your room. You have to start with the absolute basics. Personal responsibility. If you don’t do the little, foundational things well, you’ll never do anything well.

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Rich dickheads in Ferraris

I came out of the train station the other day to be greeted by a Ferrari in a disabled bay. “Dickhead,” I said, under my breath.

This surprised me for two reasons.

Firstly, I have no problem with people earning a shit-tonne of money and buying fast cars. I also love Ferraris.

Secondly, before uttering complete nonsense, did I even bother to check if there was a blue badge on the dash? Nope.

There was a blue badge on the dash.

We live in a warp-speed world, with warp-speed news and tweets. Opinions divulged before neurones are even aware. Insults hurled whilst facts remain unsought.

It’d pay for all of us to slow right down. To take a few moments – or even more than that – before acting. The world would be better off for it.