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!

Live like a relay

A mental hack to ensure that I dodge the regret reminder conveyor belt is to think of my life like a relay race. In a relay everyone does there part for their given distance. You’re not responsible for what happens before you recieve the Baton and you’re not responsible for what happens after. Your only mission is to run your distance as effeciently as possible, setting up the next guy as well as you can.

Regrets, we all have them. If your totally honest how often does a past mistake pop in to your mind and send you shivering with embarasment?

These regrets are often from years ago, even childhood and are usually mistakes you would never be unwise enough to repeat, yet for some reason they still appear in our consciousness.

Why do we spend so much time on regret?

We can spend excessive time dwelling on these regrets, letting them knock our confidence and blowing way out of proportion when compared to all the times you didn’t mess up the same thing. We are programmed to remember regrets much more vividly as a survival mechanism, its important not to step on snakes, but like so many instincts that saved the human race for thousands of years they no longer serve us in todays environment.

If we can detach ourselves from the ongoing “you” narrative these regrets become much easier to deal with. If you wake up every day thinking about the mistake “you” made when you were 8 years old your going to waste your time right now. If we can realise your 8 year old self is not really “you” at all. There is the old addage that all the cells in your body replace themselves every 7 years, this means in the most literal sense you can’t possibly be that same person as all those years ago.

Living life like a Relay

A mental hack to ensure that I dodge the regret reminder conveyor belt is to think of my life like a relay race. In a relay everyone does there part for their given distance. You’re not responsible for what happens before you recieve the Baton and you’re not responsible for what happens after. Your only mission is to run your distance as effeciently as possible, setting up the next guy as well as you can.

If we can wake up and realise “you” are not the same guy as 8 years ago, 8 months ago, 8 days ago or even yesterday it absolves you from the responsbility to relive those regrets. You don’t need feel the need to loop anyone elses regrets over in your head. This leaves you free to concentrate on running your distance (today) and setting up future you in the best possible position.

If you can play this trick on yourself everyday it allows you to be productive right now. In the War of Art by Steven Pressfield he drives home the point that just showing up gets you a huge percentage of the way there in the long run. By concentrating purely on today we can show up for the things we need to do without being hamstrung by guilt about the past.

Future “you” will be proud

Once you are seperated from the need to question and doubt yourself you are free to that work you know you need to do. If you show up and do that work your future self will have less regret, its a self reinforcing cycle!

Whilst we can never totally purge ourselves of past regrets we can find ways to put them in context and ensure that these survival mechanisms don’t hamper our ability to thrive in the present.

Live life like a relay, pass on todays productivity to your future self.

How to Retire in Your 30s

A video based on my mission to retire in my 30s, how I intend to do it and how I will share my story going forward

To start with this video was insipired by the Guardian article “Can anyone retire in their 30s? Meet the people who say yes” by Stephen Moss.

Stephen interviews several of the better known FIRE (financial independence retire early) advocates including some the US based Mr Money Mustache and the UK based Barney Whiter of The Escape Artist.

Get Better with Stoicism (part 1)

“but why?”

“it’ll toughen you up”

It was February, the sand beneath my feet was freezing and the wind howled down the beach. I’d taken my shoes off to stop them getting full of water whilst we walked when my Grandad suggested I should take a dip in the sea.

“it’ll be freezing!” I protested

“go on don’t be a Jessy”

I didn’t realise it at the time (and neither did he) but what my Grandad was trying to teach me this day in Whitby was a central tenant of Stoic philosophy. I have heard it referred to as getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Stoic philosophy is used by all manners of business and fitness gurus from Jocko Willink to Dan Pena. Their essential message is that you can do more than you realise if only you would push yourself harder to find out.

Going forward I am likely to have a lot of content related to the many lessons and benefits of embodying some version of Stoic philosophy in your life. It is something I have an insatiable desire to read about and one of the few principles I think can be applied regardless of your age or level of success in any field.

Being a stoic does not mean you avoid pleasure, nor does it mean you must subject yourself to unhappiness. What it does mean is that you can find the opportunities to make yourself uncomfortable in ways that have a net positive effect on your life.

The Millennial generation often gets referred to as “snowflakes” particularly by baby boomers who like to remind us just how tough they had it whilst living off their defined benefit pensions in their fully paid off houses which cost 1/10th of their current value.

(I’m from Yorkshire)

I’m going to keep this post short and snappy as I want to address the individual teachings and lessons of stoicism in separate posts. Sufficed to say that if you have never heard of Stoicism or have never read much on the subject, the below is readable, witty and applicable.

 

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.