Monthly Archives: February 2012

30 Things I’ve learnt – Part XXX

I’ve only gone and done it! A blog a day for thirty days in a row! I rule! (Humorous aside – the WordPress app on my phone doesn’t recognise the word ‘blog’! Ha!)

So, in keeping with the time-honoured tradition of ‘saving the best until last’, that is what I’ve tried to do. Today’s is a motto, if you like. One by which I try to live my life. It’s simple, straightforward, and easy to remember:

Enjoy the journey

When all else fails, remember that you should be having fun.

As nice as having goals is, if you’re only ever happy when you achieve a goal, you’re never going to be truly happy. There will always be bigger goals, more ambitious dreams.

Konstantinos Kavafis wrote a poem (which, to be fair, probably sounds better in its native Greek as it’s not the most catchy in English) about Ulysses’ return to Ithaca, his Odyssey. Telling him to remember his goal, but to realise that the journey he takes to reach it will teach him so much, and could perhaps even reward him more than the final destination will.

Here are a couple of examples:

Don’t lose sight of Ithaca,
for that’s your destination.
But take your time;
better that the journey lasts many a year
and that your boat only drops anchor on the island
when you have grown rich
with what you learned on the way.

If in the end you think that Ithaca is poor,
don’t think that she has cheated you.
Because you have grown wise and lived an intense life,
and that’s the meaning of Ithaca.

This is true for actual journeys as well as the metaphorical journey of life. If you achieve your life’s ambition at the age of 50, but have not enjoyed the journey you have taken to get there, was it truly worth it? Or, to look at it another way, should you never attain your life’s goal, but have enjoyed every minute of trying to achieve it, does that make the time spent a failure?

As for turning thirty? Well, tonight it will be like getting off the train at Cardiff Central with a free ticket to anywhere I like. I can choose in which direction I go, but I can’t guarantee how the journey will pan out. All I can do, is ensure I enjoy it.

And boy, do I intend to.

30 Things I’ve learnt – Part XXIX

I don’t like to stereotype the sexes. There are some similarities between women and between men, obviously. There are also similarities between men and women. However, one ‘fact’ generally gets bandied about and I don’t know from where it came. So I’m going to debunk the myth:

Men do not think about sex every 6 seconds

We can’t possibly. How could we possibly think about it every 6 seconds, while also fitting in thoughts about sport, sandwiches, Star Wars, cars, beer and snacks, amongst other things? It just isn’t possible. We’re not as complicated as that.

For example, right now I’m thinking:

‘Hmm, writing my blog. That’s short for weblog isn’t it. I wonder if that’s short for anything else. Danny DeVito, he’s also short. Will he ever reach the heady heights of Twins again? Is he jealous of Arnie and his political ‘career’? Does Short Man Aggression actually exist, or are short men just really annoyed that people automatically assume they do have it? Ha! I remember when that midget shouted ‘Cunt!’ At me in the street. Brilliant. He definitely had it. I should’ve picked him up and given him a hug. Shown him some love. Courtney Love, she’s a bit crazy, isn’t she? Poor thing. Must’ve been a massive headfuck when Kurt killed himself. Does the baby on the Nevermind album tells people that’s who he is? I wonder why they chose Lithium as a title for a song. Not Argon or Beryllium. Menstrual Cycles should appear on the Periodic Table. Who were the first people to use tables to eat food off? And when did cutlery come into fashion? Who decides on the number of prongs on a fork, there are usually four, aren’t there? Maybe there’s some Satanic connotation in three prongs. Wouldn’t want to have to summon the Devil every time I eat. Bet he’d nick all the ketchup. I don’t think I could name all of Heinz’s 57 varieties. Unless I include ‘salt-free’ or ‘light’ versions of everything. Even then I’d struggle. Mmmmm, beans. If it weren’t so late, I could eat some right now. Odd term, Baked beans. They must bake them first, before sticking them in the tomato sauce. I wonder if celebrity chefs have made fancy beans on toast, what’d be in that? Heston Blumenthal probably uses liquid nitrogen to cryogenically ‘bake’ the beans somehow. Bet Nigella doesn’t. Ooh, Nigella…’

There we go. First thought about sex. Far longer than 6 seconds in.

Proof.

30 Things I’ve learnt – Part XXVIII

Are you ready for a profound statement? The answer to getting whatever it is you want?

You can have/be almost anything you want, if you’re prepared to sacrifice whatever it takes to achieve it.

This, again, is probably obvious.

There are, of course, some caveats. Pretty much the same ones the Genie tells Aladdin (Disney again!):

  • You can’t make anyone fall in love with you.
  • You can’t bring anyone back from the dead.
  • You can’t wish for more wishes.

I should explain. If you put enough, maybe all, of your concentration and energy into achieving something, you can make it happen.

You want a visible six-pack? You know exactly what you have to do. Eat clean, do the right exercises, get your body fat down to single digits and there you go.

You want to be a professional athlete? Put the hours in, study the game, practise every waking hour until your muscle memory knows exactly what to do with the ball/club/bat in any given situation, it’s yours (You may wish to have started this at a relatively young age).

You want to be a millionaire? Go ahead. Put business before anything else, learn from other millionaires, never give up in spite of hundreds of setbacks and doubters, you’ll get there.

Almost anything is possible. Except making someone love you. Except bringing people back from the dead. Most importantly, except having any other wishes. You see, to excel, truly excel, in any one area, you need to be willing to make sacrifices in almost every other part of your life.

That’s why most people don’t achieve these things. Most people want balance in their lives. You balance trying to get the perfect body with your love of beer, or ice cream, or pasta. You balance your passion to compete with your need for a loving family. You balance the amount of money you can make with having some sort of enjoyable life in which you can spend your money.

In short, if you really want something, you can get it. Just be sure that you’d be happy losing whatever it takes to get there.

30 Things I’ve learnt – Part XXVII

I’m glad you chose to read this. That you weren’t forced at gunpoint to click on the link. That, hopefully, you didn’t injure your index finger while clicking the mouse. It’s ok though, you could probably sue the mouse-makers as it’s probably their fault that you weren’t warned. Or even me, for not telling you that by reading this on your smart phone while walking you could fall down a manhole.

People should take responsibility for themselves.

Coffee made with hot water is going to be hot.
Packets of nuts are going to contain nuts.
Eating 17 Big Mac meals a day will make you fat.

Seriously, stating the bleeding obvious has become the norm on packages and warning signs. All because people are too willing, and it is far too easy, to blame someone else.

As William Ernest Henley said in hie poem, Invictus:

I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Yes, he bloody well was.

And so should you be.

30 Things I’ve learnt – Part XXVI

I don’t really have much to back up today’s post. Not much by way of ‘evidence’ anyway.

Trust your gut.

Sometimes, you just know. You know the right decision to make. Whether something ‘feels’ right or not.

Sometimes this is based on prior knowledge. Possibly something you only know, or recognise, subconsciously. In the cases of experts, they are so well educated in a field that they can tell immediately, almost without thinking, whether something looks right or not.

This is explored more fully in Malcolm Gladwell’s
Blink, in which he explores those things we ‘know’ without thinking about. That, sometimes, these gut feelings can be traced back to prior knowledge.

I think, it’s also important to recognise these gut reactions and differentiate them from mere impulses. Things we think we know, or want, from actual ‘gut feelings’. Like the difference between thinking you’ve seen something before, then actually experiencing a ‘deja vu’. You know there is a difference, but it’s difficult to explain.

So, I think what I’m trying to say is that trusting your gut is good. But only when you know your gut’s making the right choice. Simple, eh?

30 Things I’ve learnt – Part XXV

Now, I’m not just talking about this in a sense that it allowed us to invent stuff, like the microscope, the internet, or fax machines (which still amaze me, by the way. How do they work?! You put paper in one end, and an exact copy comes out on paper in a completely different location?! Email, I get. Telephones, great. But fax machines? Crazy.). Nor only in the sense that it allows us humans to make profound intellectual discoveries about far away things, or really tiny things, or to postulate the existence of dimensions we cannot even comprehend.

But, in an individual sense:

The mind is the most powerful tool we possess.

Well, in Chuck Norris’ case, it may be his right foot, but for the rest of us this holds true.

For example, when I was training for the half marathon a couple of years ago, I’d find early on that some sessions would go well and I would really struggle with others despite, physically, being in the same shape. I realised that it was all down to mental power. Physically, you are capable of much more than you believe, but it is very often the mental side that lets people down. Thinking ‘I can’t do that’, will inevitably lead to failure.

Achieving anything that doesn’t come naturally requires perseverance. Perseverance requires mental strength. Having the knowledge that you can do more than you initially believe, if only you allow yourself to believe it, makes the whole process easier.

In short, you can do amazing things, to use a fairly tired cliché, if you put your mind to it.

30 Things I’ve learnt – Part XXIV

I’m not great at making decisions. Mainly because, a lot of the time, I genuinely don’t mind. Being fairly laid back is usually a good way to be, unless you need to decide between A or B. Or C, obviously, although really, who chooses C?!

However, yes or no decisions are easier.

When in doubt, say Yes.

You know if you definitely do, or do not, want to do something. For example, if I were asked whether I would like to be in the background (or foreground for that matter) of the new James Bond film, my answer would be an unequivocal ‘Yes’. Possibly while doing backflips*.

(*I can’t actually do backflips by the way, in case you were wrongly impressed)

However, if it were suggested that I eat liquorice while listening to Madonna’s greatest hits then the answer would be a resounding ‘no’. Probably followed by physical violence.

I know my opinions on these matters. However, what happens when someone asks if I want to do something I haven’t done? Such as tightrope-walking, bungee-jumping or take a life drawing art class. I honestly wouldn’t know if I would enjoy these things. Well, I could give a fairly good answer on the drawing class based on whether the subject was Scarlett Johansson or Michael Winner, but that’s not the point. If I were to say ‘No’ to these new experiences without good reason, I would never find out if I was any good at them, nor if I would enjoy them. I could be missing out on a whole lot of fun by saying ‘No’. If I said ‘Yes’, I would know. I might not enjoy whatever it is I had agreed to do, but I’d know to say ‘No’ for good reason next time!

(There is a good post on the subject over at
Julien’s blog, which is always a good read.)