Positives of Negatives

Setbacks are a bitch.

As I sit here typing with one hand I’m fully aware of just how much a pain in the arse a setback can be to your life.

I’ve spent the last seven years building up a consistent gym routine never missing more than a couple days in a row. With the exception of holidays  I’ve stuck to this habit religiously,  for me fitness has been a keystone habit. When I saw the positive effects I can have on my own body it gave me the drive and confidence to start having affect on other areas of my life.

On the shoulders of fitness I build my financial habits, My finances gave me the ability to seek more beneficial work arrangements. My work arrangements give me the knowledge and time to pursue passion projects.

Unfortunately my hard won fitness routine has had to fall by the wayside this week. At the weekend I was out riding my mountain bike at a local jump track, When my ambition exceeded my ability. The result of this was a bad landing the bike throwing me off to one side and landing square on my shoulder. After an hour long trip to the hospital it was confirmed, a double clavicle break.

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The upsides of downsides

Don’t get me wrong I always knew mountain biking was reasonably dangerous and that broken collarbones are a common injury, I continued to ride knowing that the value I got from biking was enough to outweigh the relatively slight chance of a major injury

Broken bones resulted in me being in a sling for at least the next six weeks with a small possibility of surgery being required. Until I get confirmation of this I’m left with the dilemma -what now?

Finding a way to use The time I gain back from fitness in a positive way is going to be key to overcoming my setback.

Stoicism is your Toolkit

Setbacks are unavoidable for any of us, the reps are put in reading stoicism pay dividends exactly these kinds of times.  If you haven’t already, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus should be essential reading For every teenager.   If you’re new to stoicism I strongly recommend grabbing yourself a copy of Ryan Holiday’s “The Daily Stoic “.

New focus

Although many of my main areas of interest are now off the cards for the coming weeks there are several things I can still do. I can concentrate on my work, my side hustles and the exercise that I can still do.

By shifting my focus onto the things that are still within the range of possibility I can keep my momentum and snatch the positive from a negative.

Revise your goals, write it down

I’m in the process of writing down exactly how I’m going to use the next few weeks to push areas of my life but normally have restricted time allowance to new highs. By being totally clear on my goals, writing them down and systematically checking them off I can use my time wisely and stave off the inevitable negative mindset that arises from having your life restricted.

Let’s look at the positives:

  • I have more time – I can’t exercise because I can’t drive, I won’t need to commute.
  • I’m not missing out on all the more important activities by being At home.
  • It was not my dominant arm.
  • Chicks dig scars.

My intentions going forward to keep his blog updates more regularly, be intentional with my new time and journal my results.

Chin up

I realise in the grand scheme of things myself back is not devastating but by concentrating on the opportunities it presents rather than the restrictions it enforces I have the ability to play it to my advantage. The results of the inevitable setbacks in life are much to do about how we feel about them, the stories we tell ourselves. Ultimately all setbacks Fade and become part of the adversities you once faced on your journey to where you’re going.

In the immortal words of Winston Churchill:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Footnote: in case you’re wondering how long it took me to type this with one arm, I’ve become very familiar with Apple’s voice recognition. I will probably have never learned about its utility had I not ended up injured, Just one practical positive I’ll be pulling from this!

Progress doesn’t work how you think…

Much like the motivation you experience for any particular goal life seems to move in waves. A period of stagnation followed by a period of progress. Although it often appears to be the oppositve I firmly believe that the solid work done in the stagnation phase is the key to overall success. Like a hammer smashing through the window there is no measurable progress during the swing, but this is where you build momentum. All at once something will give and sudden progression occurs.

Constant effort to transcend your current level in all persuits is mandatory for a life well lived. We are self improvement machines and overcoming an obstacle can have unintentded side effects. Whatever stage you are at the people around you will tell you that the next level cannot be achieved. It’s too hard. It isn’t worth it. It’s too risky.

Do not listen. These people are wrong.

The truth is that the people around you are often stuck at the same level you are. They don’t want to see you progress because of what that means for them.

If nobody is telling you that your efforts are futile and a bridge too far you are not trying hard enough. Seek out new challenges constantly.

You must improve. This is a mantra for life.

Oportet Amplio.

Get Better with Keystone Habits

“I haven’t got time to exercise”

“I will get my finances in order when I earn more”

“I’d rather watch TV than read, I’m too tired by the time I get home”

Sound familiar?

Here are just a few phrases that I have heard hundreds of times from people who in many other ways have their life in order. You may meet a business executive making a massive salary that slurps fizzy drinks and orders pizza every night. You may meet the fitness freak that doesn’t pursue education. You may meet the professor that refuses to exercise. The most common of all is someone that eats like hell, doesn’t exercise, doesn’t read and whose debt is forever on the increase.

Now, everyone is given the same 24 hours in the day, so logically it would make sense that if someone has one area of their life in perfect order they probably wouldn’t have time to perfect the other areas? Right?

But generally that’s not we see – usually someone either has everything in good order or nothing at all. Why could this be?

What if, just like compound interest, having an area of your life in order made it exponentially easier to tidy up other areas? In my opinion this is exactly what happens.

There are a few things in life that give back you vastly more energy than you need to give to achieve them. These habits, if done well, can have knock-on positive effects in all other areas of your life, activities that give back many times what you have to put in are known as ‘keystone habits’. Today I want to discuss 3 keystone habits that once implemented gave me massive returns on my time and effort investments.

If you have not yet got a reasonable routine around any of these areas of life I can’t recommend enough that you make the change, the impact will always be more than you could have reasonably expected.

Health

Leading a healthy lifestyle is the ultimate keystone habit and is the one that you should start with if you aren’t already smashing it. Health has the advantage of having 0 barriers to entry. Everyone from the poorest to the richest, the bored to the time strapped, the Brainiac to the dummy can improve their health habits.

There are 2 main facets of health – diet and exercise, below are some basic ideas about what bad health habits tend to look like vs better versions.

 

Bad vs. Good

I walk up and down stairs, that’s exercise vs. I have a regular sport/hobby that leaves me out of breath and aching the next day

I don’t regularly wear exercise clothing vs. I have a bag filled with gym gear that I use regularly and for a variety of different activities

I consume more than one chocolate bar/fizzy drink per day vs. I do not consume anything obviously sugary on a regular basis

I eat salad occasionally vs. most of my meals are based on either fruit or veg

I buy fat free vs. I consume good fats in the form of avocados, Greek yoghurt, almonds etc as a staple of my diet

I don’t have time (to cook/exercise/do anything else positive) vs. I make the time to these things because at the end of the day my health is a huge priority and it’s my responsibility.

I do exercise sometimes vs. I have an activity that I do at least 3 times every single week

Shifting from the left to the right in these habits will leave you with more energy, clearer thought and higher self-esteem. Getting your health right can have unexpected effects on all other areas of life. Realising you can control and positively influence your body leads you to the realisation that you can control and positively influence other aspects of your life.

Finance

You can (and we will) go very deep on finances in futures posts but everyone should know the basics:

1. Earn more than you spend.

2. Control your spending with a budget that prioritises what’s important to you.

3. Get rid of as much consumer debt as possible. Do not take out more loans.

4. Invest the difference in a low fee index funds.

Having your finances in order and seeing your net worth grow month by month is extremely positive for your mental health. Knowing that one day your passive income will exceed your expenses is even better.

Education

Not in the sense that I think it’s wise for everyone to take out a huge loan, pack their bags and head off to University (I have been there it’s mostly drinking games). What I mean is committing to continual self-education through books, podcasts, documentaries, interpretive dance or whatever means you find most digestible. Seek out people who have what you want, learn from them. Even more seek out people who have had what you think you would want and turned their back on it, find out why.

By continuing your own education, you ensure that your skills, knowledge and the level at which you understand life will never peak. You ensure that every day you will be slightly more intelligent than you were the day before.

 

Get Better with More Sleep

I have suffered with insomnia on and off since my late teens. I’ve decided to compile a list of techniques I use now or have used in the past that has managed to take my insomnia from life debilitating to occasionally inconvenient.

First though a couple of caveats – my insomnia is probably hereditary as several other members of my family seem to have similar issues. If you are suffering from acute insomnia you should consult a doctor.

When I have spoken to medical professionals in the past they essentially only had one possible solution which is a course of very powerful antihistamines which send you artificially to sleep. Having tried this approach for a while I decided it wasn’t for me – although you do sleep you do not wake up properly during the day time. This means I still ended up spending my days feeling knackered!

Caffeine

I am assuming this is blatantly obvious to most people but caffeine keeps you awake. I am a member of the coffee lovers’ society and quite frankly can’t imagine not having several cups a day of my favourite life hack but I have my last sweet cup of magic juice around 4pm in the afternoon assuming I’m aiming to hit the sack around 10pm. If you can’t sleep and you’re having caffeine late in the day – start here. Cutting the caffeine may be all you need to restore your sleep.

Diet

Eating a healthy diet (more veggies, less refined carbohydrate) will help you sleep. It will also give you a myriad of other positive effects.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531712000632

Light

One of the major factors in increasing sleep quality is convincing your body that its actually night time. Modern technology allows us to keep daytime (heat and light) going long after the sun sets. I personally dim the lights or turn them off all together around 1-2 hours before I go to bed. If I watch TV I will do it in the dark and If I’m reading I do it under a dim lamp. This allows your body to adjust itself to the fact that night time is coming and it will soon need to sleep. If you are going to use a lamp I also recommend using a red bulb, the lack of blue light is another signal of the evening. This is possibly the one adjustment that has made the most difference to my sleep quality.

Once I get to the bedroom I have it lit only by a Himalayan salt lamp. These lamps have many claimed benefits, some scientifically grounded others less so. The primary reason I use it is because of the red hue of its light. It also looks pretty cool.

Heat

Another cue for your body that night is arrived is the temperature. Your body is expecting a temperature drop in the surrounding environment before it flips on the sleep switch, for this reason I like to keep my room icy cold. I have plenty of covers to keep me warm in the bed but find it’s much easier to drop off like this.

Mindfulness

It’s been shown that mindfulness practise may help sleep quality. More about this in future posts but if you don’t already know about mindfulness check out Andy Puddicombe’s TED Talk on youtube.

What to do if you haven’t slept

We’ve all been there, the alarm goes off just as you fall asleep. Theres no option to stay in bed too much longer because you have to be at work. In this situation I have a set routine:

  • Get up, make coffee.
  • Get back into bed and drink coffee.
  • Set alarm for 40 mins time
  • Get up again and have vitamin D and magnesium supplements

Hope this helps guys, comments welcomed.

Get Better with a Healthy Microbiome

A healthy microbiome can make the difference between you being on point or in a slump. Your vagus nerve connects your brain and your gut keeping your mindset hard wired in to the state of your digestive bacteria.

Recent studies are beginning to show that the brain and gut may be more entangled when than we previously thought. I know in my younger days I would eat like hell for days seemingly without consequence. I notice deviations from a healthy diet much more intensely these days.

After spending plenty of time listening to Rhonda Patrick (courtesy of the Joe Rogan podcast, see video below) I decided to take her advise and complete a course of VSL#3. VSL comes in pouches that require refridgeration. In the pouches is powder that can be poured into any cool drink and consumed.


The first day I didn’t notice much but by the second day I could already see a change in both my gut and my mood. I can highly recommend a course!

I now incorporate VSL into my diet for a couple of weeks once every 6 months and find my mood stays elevated for months after each course