We’re all a work in progress

When I was 15 I received career wisdom from a career adviser at my school. They told me I should be an engineer as I was great at making things, liked to take things apart and rebuild them and was always trying to put mathematics into real world situations. I actually preferred computers and electronics, though I was told to get a real future as a mechanical engineer. I took this advice as I didn’t know any better and my mum was just happy that I’d be able to use my brain and earn money at the same time (we were a low income single parent family).

I dutifully became an apprentice engineer, went to college twice a week, studied mechanical engineering and believed those around me when they told me (in different terms) that being a cog in the machine is what we are in life.

I’m grateful I stopped believing that, though it was a few years until I learned my mind was elastic and I could choose my life story. This realisation came to me from 2 powerful books. First as I crossed over the teenager milestone trying to seek answers on how to change my life. I found myself browsing a secondhand bookstore where I discovered Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Secondly when I was 23 and given a copy of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly effective people.

Reading Meditations showed me I could choose my thinking and Stephen Covey gave me a framework for action. After this realisation, I spent a large chunk of my twenties travelling around the world, sleeping on beaches in Asia and volunteering in the depths of Nigeria. Those experiences changed me forever, I realised success wasn’t what people thought of me, it was how I spent my time with people and whether I was continuously learning and choosing a path that made a positive difference to others and myself.

I returned to the UK and joined the video game industry, where I began a career spending much of my time with some of the smartest, most likeable people I’ve ever met, I continue in that industry today.

I still read Marcus’ meditations regularly and it receives frequent mentions on a few of my favourite podcasts (Stoicism is more popular than ever). I actually have a smaller well read copy I take with me to work every day and whenever I travel. It’s my preferred translation by Gregory Hays, my original secondhand copy was the A. S. L. Farquharson version from the 1940’s (a more difficult read).

I’m now a bit older and still consider my self a work in progress, a student who’s avidly curious and always learning. I don’t know what I don’t know and this guides my experiments and explorations in life.

None of us have to be a cog in the machine. I work for someone else like a lot of other people, though I don’t let this limit my dreams. I’ve taken risks with career moves and changes to my life, each one to get me closer to working with others who share my beliefs on wanting to make a positive, meaningful dent in the universe.

This may not have resulted in what society commonly deems successful (I don’t earn millions and I still have a mortgage), yet I’m grateful for my life and the people I spend it with.

You own your story, you’re the author, design your life.

For more inspiration and resources in this area I recommend Debbie Millmans Design Matters podcast and Carol Dwecks Mindset book (TED talk here)

Be curious, be grateful, be playful

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious” – Albert Einstein

My 4 year old son started school last month as he is a summer born. The legal requirement for attending school in the UK is 5 years old, and due to this there are many 4 year old children beginning their school life 6-12 months earlier than many of their peers. Interestingly it comes from a Victorian system designed in the late 1800’s to help women get into work, not look after the interests of the children.

My Scandinavian colleagues look at me with bewilderment when I explain this, as places such as Denmark and Sweden do not require children in full time education until 6 / 7 – a starting age proven to result in better academic achievement and well-being, an article in The New Scientist explains this well: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029435-000-too-much-too-young-should-schooling-start-at-age-7/

What surprises me the most about this early schooling in the UK is that if you attend a state run school they don’t spend the first 1 to 2 years learning solely through play. Learning through play is proven to be the most effective way a child can learn, why doesn’t our school system and society overall embrace this? I’m still trying to work this out.

If your child attends a Montesorri (such as Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs did) they use a system that expands on a childs curiosity not one that diminishes it by forcing wisdom. Children in the UK school system are on the receiving end of wisdom and have the curiosity taken from them, and not only that, they have KPI’s and other metrics that must be met, really quite bewildering. Free education should not be treated like a business.

Ken Robinson did a fabulous TED talk on the subject of killing creativity at schools: https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity/transcript if you’re a parent and haven’t seen this then it’s worth the 20 minutes.

As parents ourselves, my wife and I realise it’s not the actual schools that are the problem, it’s the system they use for education. From the above TED talk there are 2 key points that as parents we understand and reverse / make up for as best we can at home:

  1. They train people to become compliant workers, sit in straight rows, and do what they’re told.
  2. They teach kids that the best way to fit in is to want what others have / buy stuff.

One resounding quote from Kens talk is this “They churn out people who await instruction….but we don’t churn out people who are innovative, creative, and ask questions, who interrupt…who are by almost any any definition artists. We actually shun those people.”

Anyone here familiar with sticker charts? Way to go creating a culture of doing things only to receive, how did that become a thing? Just one example of our school system setting up our children for a more difficult adulthood.

Overall, if we continue on this destructive path where education branches away from learning, the gap that’s already felt between millenials and generation X & Y will continue to widen and get larger between future generations.

I’ll end with one of the most important influences on schooling for me personally, and that is Seth Godin’s thinking and action. As parents we absolutely have a duty of care to make up for the gaps and inadequacies our schooling brings into our children’s lives. Seth has some fabulous materials available here http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/09/the-shameful-fraud-of-sorting-for-youth-meritocracy.html

Money is a story

How does money make you feel? Society does it’s best to convince us that we need more money, how about a new car? That new 60 inch TV is a must, 50 inches just doesn’t cut it any more, how about that gadget you saw in the movies, everyone’s raving about it so you’ve got to have it.

The reality is that as long as you have money to put food on the table, a roof over your head and other items like clothing then you don’t really need more. Seth Godin says money is a story and I think he’s right http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/02/most-of-all-money-is-a-story.html

I’d like more money now so I don’t need to earn money in the future, that’s the only reason I work towards generating more. I want to get to financial freedom where I have a roof over my head and food on the table for myself and my family and I no longer have to spend time away from them to do it.

How is this possible? It really is, you just have to know who to learn from, how to do it and the difference between generating wealth and earning money.

Below are links to 3 amazing people that have achieved financial freedom in very different ways.  You can see that working for others isn’t a life sentence, it’s something to be grateful for, though primarily for a period of time and a stepping stone to being free in the future.

J L Collins has a blog that’s popular with financially free people and those who want to get there. It’s crucial reading for anyone who wants to commit to financial freedom: http://jlcollinsnh.com/

Mr Money Moustache is another person who’s done this and shares how he and his family continue to live a free life with enough money for everything they want and need: https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/

The 4 hour work week:  https://fourhourworkweek.com/ really is possible and it’s not just another self help book. I’m not living that dream yet though if I wasn’t trying to get there I’m not sure what other bigger and audacious goal would be worth working towards?

Going first

Gabby Reece, athlete, author, mum and wife often talks of  “going first.” I first heard it as part of a Tim Ferriss interview with Laird Hamilton (her husband and famously talented surfer) .  Going first means making the initial eye contact or being the first one to say “hello” as you pass someone or stand in a queue at the post office.

I’ve been doing this for a long while now and the results can be amazing, positive and mostly appreciated. It’s too easy to opt out of action, so making a conscious effort to go first is a great way to add confidence and positive tension to your life, all while spreading a little happiness along the way.

I’ve noticed the by-product and carry on of ‘going first’ has been my initiative. I’ve been more willing to initiate a difficult conversation, start that task I’ve been putting off and overcome phases of unhappiness.

I continue to write ‘go first’ in my daily journal each morning to remind me. It also sets me up with a daily approach focused on positive connection.

Try it, you’ll be amazed how it makes you (and others) feel.