A rhyme for the time

A brand new decade-
your time was here,
Surely this
Would be your year,

But who’d have guessed
What happened next
A global virus
Left you perplexed

You’ve locked your doors,
You’re lying low
Waiting for
This all to go

How spend the day?
That’s up to you,
No one can say
what to think or do.

May I suggest
you use it well,
For if you do
then time will tell,

It’s not the spot
to sit and weep,
But to sow the seeds
you’ll one day reap.

Trust

It’s a big word out there. Full of bandits. Often scary.

So it’s no wonder that we go through life with such a distrust to those we meet. I want to proposed a new attitude:

Trust everyone until they give you a reason not to.

Put another way: Trust as the default.

Now if the stakes are high and your safety or financial security are seriously at risk then sure, it pays to be diligent. But we’re talking about the small things- the hundreds of micro decisions we make each day.

Let me explain…

When we meet someone new, in business for example, we make an initial judgement about whether or not we trust them. If we decide we don’t, a game of mental chess ensues while we try and figure out how they’re trying to screw us.

Sometimes we’re right not to trust them but most the time we’re wrong. They have no ill intentions. And we have caused ourselves unnecessary worry.
What if we trusted everyone we met? Unconditionally. Until they gave us a reason not to.

How does it feel to do business with someone you trust over someone you don’t trust? It’s far more pleasant!

We could go about our business worry free. With a smile on our face! Now imagine if this was us all day every day? What a joy that would be.

Sure, you’ll be scammed from time to time. (I often am in fact). But if you take the right precautions so that the stakes are never too high then it is a small price to pay for the world opening up as a more joyful place for you to conduct your life.

Long on humanity

It’s 2020…

Global warming is accelerating at an alarming rate. The worst pandemic in a hundred years is sweeping the global. War, poverty and famine still sweep the global. And the President of the most powerful country on earth is regarded by many as the pantomime villain.

Lot’s to be worried about!

“We’ve broken our planet” one might say. Look at the situation we’ve got ourselves in”.

But let me suggest a different view…

First of all, take a moment to marvel at the path that got us here:

The ape that got up on two legs.

And left the forest for the plains.

Discovered fire.

Learnt to communicate and collaborate in large groups.

Spread across the globe.

Developed agriculture.

Built temples and cities.

Sparked the industrial and scientific revolutions.

Invented the computer.

And now, perhaps most remarkably of all: We’re recognising the damage we’ve caused.

It’s kind of humbling to consider the frantic evolution we’ve undertaken as a species in the last 100,000 years.

And sure, we broke a few things! We have no end of problems, and flaws. But it’s also pretty amazing that we’re starting to become aware of these short comings and do something about them.

I for one am long on humanity.

Will we be around for ever? No, of course not. We’re just a flash in the pan of history but that’s part of the magic! And rather than be bitter of all the things we’re still getting wrong, let’s celebrate this time and be grateful for what we’ve got right.

Spend time in the field

The Banana Man

You might not have heard of Sam “the Banana Man” Zemurray.

Many people haven’t.

But he has quite a story…

Sam came to the US in 1891, aged just 14, as a penniless Russian immigrant.

He worked a number of odd jobs in his local town until 1895 when he stumbled across his first banana. And the stage was set.

Sam saw the potential immediately. He got to work and began buying imported bananas at the dock and selling them on at markets.

Noticing a large portion of the bananas were being discarded, deemed too ripe, he seized the opportunity and snapped up this wasted fruit. From here, he grew the business steadily and before long had a thriving banana enterprise.

This success left him wanting more. Eying up the importing business he chartered a ship and set sale to the source, South America.

Empire

Over the next few decades Zemurray built an empire. He went toe to toe with United Fruits, the giant at the time, and ultimately ended up running them. Along the way he made a colossal dent in South and Central American history, even starting a civil war to protect his banana empire. And so, when all was said and done, Sam retired a rich man dubbed “the fish that ate the whale”.

How did Zemurray achieve all of this?

To understand, we can look at how Zemurray spent these years. Over a 60 year period he worked every job in the banana industry from unloading the ships to living in the jungles of Honduras and farming the bananas himself.

When the time came to do battle with the executives at United Fruits, they never stood a chance. Zemurray knew every inch of the business. They had barely stepped out of their glass offices.

Spend time in the field

Life is so complex. We’re constantly dumbing down the world around us to help comprehend it. It’s only when we get out in to the field and do the work ourselves that we truly understand whats going on.

If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and dive in you have a huge advantage against those stood on the sidelines.

The story of Sam Zemurray is told in Rich Cohen’s great book The Fish that Ate the Whale. Right up there with Shoe Dog as an entrepreneurial story.

Appreciation

7.5 billion people occupy this planet at time of writing. That’s a big number.

Each and everyone one of these people have a centre to their universe: Themselves.

We’re all stars in our own productions. And who can blame us? We’re the only character whose on stage every minute of everyday.

So how can we navigate life with these billions of different performances going on around us?

A good place to start: Appreciation.

We all want to feel important. And we all want to feel like we belong. As a result, appreciating those around us is perhaps the quickest way to make their day.

However… It’s not easy! Our default mode seems to be criticising and finding fault with the world around us. This is a hangover from the negative bias that kept our pre-historic ancestors safe from predators.

But the world is a safer place now! We’re unlikely to encounter a lion on our way to lunch.

So why not drop the negative bias. Crack a smile. And take a moment to appreciate those we meet.

Own the Morning

What marks a successful day?

Really it’s getting the one or two major tasks for the day ticked off. Usually there’s one task that if we can complete the day is a success.

But this is tough! We regularly fail.

We start the day with the best intentions. But as soon as we dip into our emails we get sucked down a rabbit hole.

Social media then gets involved.

Another hour slides by.

Time for lunch.

Gentle start to the afternoon. And the major task for the day is still burning a hole in our to do list.

We then complete a couple of the easier tasks we had planned.

Next, two hours spent batting back and forth emails.

And it’s 6pm. That’ll do.

Guess what? We didn’t do that one thing we needed to do.

This repeats day after day after day, and the important items pile up. As a result, we become busier and busier but somehow manage to get less done.

What if… Before we checked our emails in the morning. And before we even turned on our phone. We did the one thing. Everyday. As the first thing we do. What difference would that make?

I’d bet, if you did that for one week you would see a noticeable improvement in your quality of life. Do it for a month? A remarkably improvement. A year? The sky’s the limit.

Feeling good

We don’t get to choose what happens to us in this world. But we do get to choose how we feel about it. And why would you choose to feel anything other than good?

There’s a great story about Thomas Edison on the subject…

On 10th December, 1914 a huge explosion set fire to Edison’s factory. As the fire destroyed a lifetime of work, Edison calmly walked up to his son and said: “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.”

His son objected, in disbelief. To which Edison replied: “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”

The same resolve is available to us all. Yet we’re far too busy caught up in our own worries and anxieties to enjoy the view.

“We’ll look back and laugh at this” the saying goes… Well, why not laugh now?

Do the thing

We’ve all got that one thing, that we really need to do but never get round to.

The longer we wait, the more painful the idea of it becomes.

The solution:

Do the thing.

Make the call. Start the project. See the doctor. Quit the habit. Learn the skill.

And when that’s done? Do the next thing. And what will all this bring? Progress. If you can take this approach and apply it each morning, the days will lengthen, the worries will ease, and the smiles will return to our faces.

Everyone knows something you don’t

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” conventional wisdom tells us.

I’m not sure I agree.

There’s lots of different smarts: Book smart. High IQ. Emotionally intelligent. Street smart. Just to cover the common labels… There are also near infinite other smarts ranging from making-a-great-cup of tea smarts to driving-a-car smarts.

Our brains all work in different and wonderful ways. Each and every person we meet will be accomplished in many areas we are not and vice versa.

Remember, everyone knows something you don’t.

And through this lens that we can live a satisfied life. Grateful for our own smarts and quirks, and appreciative of the smarts and quirks of others. Never again must we worry if someone is more intelligent or possess a great vocabulary. Because the truth is: They’re different. Not better or worse. Just different.

Fasting as a reset

I recently completed a 5 day water fast, and honestly… It wasn’t fun. It was pretty miserable actually.

After reading extensively on the topic, on the benefits for longevity and even energy, I was excited to get started and push through the supposed hump in days two and three. These were indeed tough days, but day four was pretty tough too and on day five I still felt like I was moving in slow motion.

But I made it through. And as I broke the fast I was relieved. But also bemused at the lack of perceived benefits. It was only in the coming days that they started to come through:

  • My mood was fantastic after a good meal, and lasted for days.
  • I adopted a lot of good habits, post fast, that I’d previously let slip.
  • I became more in control of my time.

The fast worked as a brilliant reset, and has cemented itself as a positive experience in my mind despite five fairly bleak days. Bring on the next one…