Aaaand I'm blogging again...
I want to improve my writing, and I figure a blog is the best way to do it. I apologise in advance if it's not great. Let me know in the comments anything you think I can improve.
I thought I would start today, on my thirtieth birthday, by reflecting back on 30 of my favourite or most beneficial things I've done in the last 30 years (in no particular order). Cheesy I know, but it's my birthday so, whatever.
1. Skydive with my father and brother.
This was a huge deal for me. Not only because I got to jump out of a plane, but also because I got to do it alongside my father and brother. My dad is ex-military and after he left the army got a job test-jumping parachutes. He has done ~5,000 jumps in his career but stopped shortly after I was born and so hadn’t jumped for nearly 30 years. It was a childhood dream of mine to skydive with them both, and one I feared we would never have the chance to achieve.
2. Quit a job I hated with no backup plan.
I’ve left almost every job under good terms, but there are a notable few where I wasn’t happy or felt like I wasn’t being treated fairly and just had to get out of there ASAP. Handing over a resignation letter with no new job to move into is stupid and irresponsible (particularly when there’s rent due), but it also focuses your attention and gives you breathing space to reassess your priorities.
3. Take out a bank loan and buy a motorcycle.
I did this just after quitting a job I particularly didn’t enjoy. My girlfriend at the time was supportive but also thought I was having a mid-life crisis. She might’ve been right. That said, taking that bank loan and getting my licence and a motorcycle was one of the best decisions I ever made, bar none. Riding my motorbike is guaranteed to put me in a good mood.
4. Write lists.
I write lists obsessively (much like the one you're reading now) and always carry a little notebook with me. I write several lists, each with a different focus. I have short-term lists of things to do over the next day or two. I have weekly lists for things like grocery shopping, etc. I have longer-term lists (over the coming months) for things like blog posts or business plans. And finally, I have a list of goals I want to achieve over the coming year or two. Lists lists lists. I recently read that Richard Branson is infamous for writing lots of lists too. List writing helps keep me focussed on my priorities and driven to do more.
Journalling is a habit I've dipped in and out of over the last few years, typically only when I experience a catalysing event such as a breakup or a change of job. Which makes re-reading the early entries interesting as there’s often a lot of emotion and a flurry of productivity, then it quickly drops off again until the next big event. More recently I’ve made a conscious effort to journal every day. Primarily to get myself into the habit of writing again for this blog and keep a record of any ideas I could refer back to. But also because I keep reading about the benefits of journaling. The act of dumping out one’s thoughts onto a (digital) page help to clear the mind and work through nagging thoughts. It’s reassuring when you read back over the previous months entries and find things that were such a big problem at the time and are now nothing at all.
Much like journaling, meditation is something I’ve dipped in and out of over the last several years, and I’m ashamed to say mainly out. I hesitated to put it on this list but did so because I’ve always found a benefit from it. I enjoy the process, and it’s taught me a lot about myself. Everyone could do with a bit of introspection every now and again. All I need now is the discipline to make it a daily practice.
7. Fall completely in love.
I had dated people before and thought I knew what love was, but until it hit me, I had no idea. Being in love gives you superpowers. It makes you feel invincible. It takes away insecurities. It gives you the power to see the future. It removes ego and puts other people's priorities ahead of your own.
8. Break up.
Relationships ending is the worst, especially if you were truly in love. Lots of things you presumed to be true aren’t, all your superpowers are stripped from you, you become mortal again. Complete physical and mental collapse. You spend months drinking too much and drifting aimlessly through life. Then you realise that it can be a catalyst to drive you to do more. To work every day to make yourself a better person. I’m still working.
9. Move out of Home.
I distinctly remember when I was 15-16 years old thinking that this whole adult thing was going to be a bit too intimidating and that I just wouldn't do it. Thanks but no thanks. I'd stay at home with mum and not deal with it. Then my opinion changed and a couple of days after my 18th birthday I moved in with some friends. I still sometimes think that this whole being-an-adult thing sucks, but I'm glad I took that step as early as I did.
10. Live abroad.
I've had the fantastic opportunity to live in France twice, when I was 17, and then again when I was 21. Exposing yourself long-term to a different culture is an amazing experience. Speaking the language, eating the food and interacting with the people. What I love most are the tiny differences that don't translate well (which are rare as linguistically French and English are about 70% the same), but define the subtleties of the culture. I love France, the people and the way of life suit me very well. I could see myself living there again.
11. Learn to speak a foreign language.
I scraped by at school with a very generous D grade GCSE and resigned myself to the fact that that would be it. The first time I lived in France, I didn't speak very much French and depended on family whenever interacting with the world. When I lived there the second time, I made a concerted effort to be able to communicate. I had a French girlfriend and a French boss and by the time I left my speaking abilities were good enough that I could get by with mostly anyone on nearly any topic. My reading and writing still have some way to go, but now I know I can crack it I'm no longer intimidated by languages and enjoy the challenge.
12. Live with less.
When I moved back from France, I did so rather unexpectedly. I came to the UK for a brief holiday and never left. For the first few months, the only possessions I had were the ones I'd carried with me, and it was incredible. It makes you realise how few things one needs to live. But once I settled back into the routine of a job and a flat I started to accumulate stuff again. A lot of stuff. Then about 18 months ago I began to make an effort to reduce my possessions. I still have a long way to go, but I am always striving to live a more minimal life.
13. Work at Apple.
I loved working at Apple. Not because I’m a fanboy (I am). Not because Steve Jobs and Jony Ive are two of my career heroes (such a fanboy). Not because of how well Apple treat their retail staff compared to other high-street jobs. Not even because of all the things I learned that I never expected from a retail job, which has enhanced both my creative career and my self-confidence.
The real joy of working at Apple is the people you get to work alongside. Never have I worked with so many interesting, friendly, creative, fun, happy, inspiring people. You guys are the best!
14. Work for myself.
Without question the hardest and yet most rewarding task I've undertaken. This was a huge learning curve. It taught me things about myself and my relationship towards work. It taught me responsibility and to not take things for granted. It also taught me that if I need to work a 28-hour day to get the job done, then here comes a 28-hour day. Sleep comes later.
15. Organise a photo shoot.
This was one of the most fun days I've ever worked. And I was the client, me! (There's a lesson here). The shoot consisted of a combination of friends and incredibly talented colleagues, coming together to help me execute on my vision. The end results were far better than I could have hoped for (photos) (video), and I'm so grateful to you all!
16. Push my career forward.
I like to think I'm a pretty mellow guy, but when it comes to my work, I am always striving for more. I'm ambitious in my undertakings. When working in a studio environment, I always want the big project with the intricate design. I always want to improve processes and learn new tricks. I never settle. If a thing can be done better, then I'm going to do it better.
18. Find mentors to look up to.
There are a couple of public figures that I admire and draw motivation from. The kind of people that when you discover them you read a book or watch some of their YouTube videos and you just *click*. Everything they're saying resonates with you, and before you know it you've read 4 of their books or watched 600 YouTube videos. There are a couple of people like this for me; Tim Ferriss, Casey Neistat, Gary Vaynerchuk, Chase Jarvis, Kevin Rose and Peter McKinnon to name a few.
19. Suffer from anxiety.
I struggled with this silently for years and now talk about it openly. I started getting anxiety when I travelled when I was about 22. I didn't know what it was at first and it wasn't always there. But it got worse and worse (and much, much worse) to the point where I couldn't walk out of the front door. Walking to the end of my road felt like a tremendous achievement. I had horrible anxiety dreams where I'd be running down the road, and it felt like my legs couldn't move. Dreams so vivid I'd have to remind myself they weren't real. The anxiety has certainly cost me jobs, relationships, friendships and countless other opportunities. But it's also affected me in constructive ways too. It's made me tougher. It's given me the mental fortitude I didn't have before. I can endure much more. If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety or something similar, I encourage you to talk about it, burying it only gives it more power.
I don’t enjoy travel. That’s not true. I like going to new places, and the experiences travel brings, but I avoid it because of anxiety attacks. The times when I have travelled I always love it. I’ve fished in Canada with my father. I’ve road tripped to a wedding in France. Last year I spent nine days on a remote island in the Outer Hebrides. I love all those experiences and want more of them.
21. Wake up early.
Another thing on this list that affects my relationships. I've always woken up early. Really early. Currently, I get up – 7 days a week – at 4:40 am. The only exceptions to this are if I'm sick, hungover or didn't get any sleep the night before. The big reason for this is work. During the week, I like to get a head start on the day and exercise, drink coffee, do some yoga and either read or write before getting into the office. At the weekends I keep the same alarm time. But instead of getting ready for work I'll either do chores or freelance work or something else productive. I've found you can get loads done by 9 am on a Saturday and have a tremendous sense of achievement and then a *guilt-free lazy day playing video games.
*my lazy days are never guilt-free.
22. Start to look after my health.
I lived above a pub for a while in my early twenties. I enjoyed it but drank way, way too much and lived exclusively on junk food. I remember when I left and moved to France I was useless when it came to cooking even the most basic of meals. Now I’m much more confident in the kitchen and make a point of eating more healthily (at least most of the time). I also exercise regularly and as of last month have stopped drinking.
Again something I dip in and out of, but when I'm not doing it I miss it so much. Running is an excellent way for me to clear my head, pick up my mood and organise my thoughts. The link between physical health and mental clarity is so clear. As humans, we're designed to run and move about. Too much sitting at desks is as bad for the mind as it is for the body.
24. Work to better myself.
I love learning something new or improving an existing skill. I love speaking French, but my reading and writing have plenty of room for improvement. I'm a confident motorcyclist, but there's always more experience to gain. I know so much about the various tools in Illustrator and Photoshop, but I still watch tutorials on my lunch break. I read a lot too. My Amazon wish list for books is ridiculous. And my bookcase at home is equally ridiculous. At some point, I'm going to get a Kindle and minimise it all. I still can't juggle or play the guitar, but one day...
25. Practice martial arts.
I wish I'd started this when I was a child. I've not done a lot of martial arts and haven't practised any for a while. I've dipped in and out over the years. I got into it through some very awesome friends who work as stuntmen in the film industry. I started training with them and then over time sought out other teachers. And have dipped my toe in various styles including Wing Tsun, Shaolin and Escrima. I should say now that I don't think I'm particularly good at any of these and don't claim to be very handy in a fight. My big take away from martial arts is a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me, as well as an appreciation for how much I don't know.
26. Develop an interest in Buddhism.
What appeals to me about Buddhism is its philosophy. It's principles sit well with me. I like the analytical approach to meditation and introspection. Plus there's a close link between Buddhism and science. For example, Karma = Newton's 3rd law of motion. Samsara (the wheel of life) = First law of thermodynamics. If you're interested, I recommend starting here as I did and then watching either Samsara or Baraka (available on Netflix) which are two of the most mesmerising films I've ever seen.
27. Get my shit together.
I didn't want to go into my thirties with the same carefree, lackadaisical attitude I had at the end of my teens. If I get my attitude right now, then by forty I won't have to worry about anything. By taking care of the little things, like pairing socks, ironing, hoovering regularly, making my bed every morning, eating well, exercising, saving a bit of money every month. I used to know I should care about these things, but didn't. Now I make time for them and understand their importance. If you take care of the little things, the big things start to come together too.
28. Develop lasting friendships.
Once upon a time, I thought I needed to be everyone's friend and sought approval from all around me. Nowadays I have a small circle of friends I would consider close, and I'm super happy about that. Some I speak to regularly, some I speak to far less than I'd like to, but know I can count on them for anything, and vice versa.
29. Become comfortable with discomfort.
I think this ties into a lot of the points above. From skydiving and motorcycling to living abroad and quitting a job to work for myself. I've slowly adopted a mentality to avoid comfort too much as it can make you lazy, and laziness never leads to anything good.
30. Be happy with who I am.
The last decade, in particular, has been a tricky one. I imagine everyone's twenties are. But I've come out the other side with a renewed sense of self and confidence that it will only get better. I have a better understanding of who I am and what I want. I've made enough mistakes to hopefully not make them again and equally hopefully avoid any big ones in the future. I've got a plan now (which I definitely didn't have for most of the last decade) and am now set on making sure that my goals are realised.
And that's my list. It was a lot harder than I thought to come up with thirty things. Hopefully, you didn't think it was complete rubbish. If you liked it, please give it a like or a share on social media. My goal with this blog is to put out one piece of content a week for the next year, and then see where I get to. If there's anything in the thirty points you want me to expand upon, leave a note in the comments below. And until next time, peace.