Rock stardom and the dream

I was going to be a rock star, at least that’s what I’d planned. If you’d told the 19 year old me that later in life I’d be driving a VW estate with a roof box and holidaying on the Isle of Wight, I’d have told you that you don’t know me.

I’d had an adventurous childhood, one involving run ins with Police, a reputation with my brother at school (for the large scale pranks like locking the front gates with an industrial padlock) and some local fires requiring fire engines to put them out. I liked to be mischievous as long as people weren’t getting harmed. It felt natural for me to mature my rebelling to adulthood, and for me that meant rock stardom.

While in a band, the 2 songs that kick started any practice session were Rock n Roll star and Supersonic, both by Oasis. They are songs full of dreams, power, control and the feeling of being alive. Becoming a rock star was my ticket to all of them and on top of that I’d have continuous adventure and freedom along the way.

As a band, we’d recorded in a studio, done some gigs and had major fallings out, surely this meant we were headed for the big time?

Well, if only we’d focused more on practising and less on life style. Trying to live like a rock star doesn’t make you one.

I’d started to get advice from the pros, strangely all recommending the life of a rock star wasn’t for me. Conversations with bands like Blur and Manic Street Preachers ended in telling me it wasn’t my dream. I didn’t know famous people, I just wasn’t afraid to talk with them at gigs and bars. It turns out there’s one thing rock stars like more than groupies and that’s giving advice to wannabe rock stars over alcohol.

As a band we broke up, I wanted to experiment with different types of music, they didn’t, a common story. Other influences had introduced me to writing and poetry through movements like the beat generation. I was now writing my own stories and listening to the music of Bob Dylan & Tom Waits. I knew the rock star life wasn’t for me and if I was really honest, I wasn’t a good enough musician or songwriter anyway.

So how is this related to driving a VW estate and holidaying on the Isle of Wight?  Well, if people I’d met for one night could see my dream of rock stardom wouldn’t make me happy (Manic Street Preachers sussed me out in 2 hours) then what actually was my dream?

It was pretty simple really, it includes the essential ingredient of feeling alive. Last year I went even further by defining a 10 year plan for a remarkable life, it helped me visualise and see where I would be 10 years from now.

I screw up often. Either by not being the best person I could be, or not realising how important something is for those I love. I’m not perfect, none of us are. The important thing for me has been the realisation that my dream isn’t a goal, it’s the actual journey. A journey involving continuous improvement, learning and doing to make the best impact on not just me, those around me too.

So yeah, on the outside I might appear to have the life my old geography school teacher had (he had wool jumpers and an estate car too). What’s cool is that it turns out he most likely had an awesome life.

5 share – Friday 9 March 2018

1. Quote I’ve been pondering this week “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible!‘”- Audrey Hepburn

As part of international women’s day I looked back through the life of Audrey Hepburn, one of the most inspirational women to ever come out of Hollywood. If you haven’t read her life story by Alexander Walker I recommend it.

2. Article I’ve been reading– Found that incredible someone at the wrong time? Got an incredible job offer though can’t move? These and other things like them happen to us now and then. For me, although I’ve found taking control of my life essential, I’m also mellowing on the idea that if something is meant to be then maybe it will be, in its own time. Perhaps the universe is just prepping? Maybe it’s all woo woo? Either way, sometimes it’s worth just enjoying the ride and seeing where the universe takes you.

3. Most impactful purchase – I miss my stand up desk when I’m working from home. So I’ve been experimenting with different setups. I’ve decided on this cardboard one, it’s rough around the edges though perfect for what I need. It’s also under £20 and takes up little to no room when not in use (flat packs down).

4. Favourite drink – Throughout the arctic weather conditions here in the UK we’ve been making this homemade hot chocolate at home. It’s delicious and in the evening we’ve even added a little Irish whiskey to make it tastier! Try it and see (best results are with medjool dates).

5. What I’ve been listening too – While rifling through the attic a couple of weeks ago, I found my lost Kurt Cobain Journals, this book is incredible. He was an often misunderstood genius and ultimately a great poet and musician. So this week I’ve been listening to Nirvana (my most played has been Nirvana unplugged) and enjoying Kurt Cobain’s artwork and writing. 

Why we should all embrace lifestyle design

By now you might know I write in a gratitude journal everyday (I use the 5 minute journal). If you’d have told the 20 year old me that in my 40’s I’d be doing this along with meditation, I’d have known for sure you weren’t a time traveller. Choosing gratitude is part of a belief I have that we can rewire our brains and there’s plenty of scientific evidence to back this up.

For over a decade friends and coworkers had thought the self help journey I’d  chosen was all woo woo and hippie. Maybe it is? I’m cool with that as I like hippie and thanks to people like Tim Ferriss the self help movement (now more aptly coined life style design) appears to be fashionable. So it turns out the by product of my dedication to improve is I’m at the height of fashion, not something I’ve been very often..

Life style design takes huge dedication and effort. What isn’t often talked about is how dangerous the journey can be when you go it alone. 5 years ago I had first hand experience when my brain plugged in some wires to my mind that I’d unplugged as a child. The result was my life went wildly off course.

I had a difficult childhood. it wasn’t that I didn’t get the practical things in life. It was the other stuff, stuff I’ve only told a handful of people.

By the time I was 20 I was still troubled. My brother and I were forced to go it alone in the world and had found a house to share together. It felt sudden and I had a lot of anger to deal with. What I wanted more than anything was to feel free from the life I saw ahead of me. A life where I was a slave to a job during the week, drinking on a Friday / Saturday night and numbing my brain with TV in between. I wanted more, so while at college I rebelled against the status quo by joining a movement that was gaining traction.  The acid house, rave, indie music revolution. Those of you who’ve seen the movie 24 hour party people(an iconic movie) will be able to picture the culture I became a part of.  It was fantastic, though not a long term solution. Ironically what I hadn’t realised was the path I’d chosen would most likely lead me to the very life I wanted to avoid. A path of short term highs and long term lows.

A couple of years later I was spending my week evenings playing Noel Gallagher acoustic songs alone on my guitar. It felt therapeutic somehow. Singing the lyrics cemented different thinking for me and I became more creative. One day I remember singing and playing Sad Song, the lyrics kept whizzing around in my head. It was a rainy day in spring and I remember having an epiphany, over time the lyrics had rewired my thinking. I put the stash of weed I’d been smoking in the bin (I haven’t touched a drug since) and that night I wrote to my dad in Seattle. 2 months later I was in the USA and my life changed course forever.

It was another 10+ years before I became a husband and father. I want to be the best, most inspiring father I can be, so when my wife Mandie became pregnant I did what I do best, I read prolifically. Not your usual parenting books, I read about psychology and the human continuum. What I hadn’t accounted for was the power of 2 particular books. Books that almost crippled me (literally). They F*ck You Upand The Continuum Concept. Both incredible books I recommend for anyone considering parenthood, just be careful if you have unresolved issues.

The problem I now had was the trauma from the darkest depths of my mind. It kept coming and wouldn’t stop. These 2 books had surfaced stuff I had consciously and unconsciously locked away. Crying in private had become a thing and back pain had become part of my daily life. Back pain so bad that some mornings I couldn’t even ride my bike to the train station.

I was told I needed back surgery and I was considering therapy for my mental pain. WTF? I had spent years designing and making a positive life and now I’d been reduced to incoming depression and daily back pain. Where was the inspiring, engaging, active father and husband? I had hit a low right after I’d reached the happiest time of my life.

I wanted my good life back, the one where I had adventures rock climbing, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking and snow boarding. The one where I designed my days and life didn’t control me.

So I went back to what I do best again, reading prolifically. I revisited Stephen Covey, Tim Ferriss and found new inspiration from a doctor named John Sarno. His book Healing Back Pain had the keys to getting my life back. He described TMS and how our brain brings on neck and back pain to prevent focus on things such as childhood trauma. It took me 12 months of working through a new lifestyle design, one made up of the mind body experience (more woo woo). Surgeons told me I had spinal stenosis but it turns out thousands of people do who also don’t have pain, so I was going to fix myself by facing my trauma.

Long story short, it was hard. I publicly hid much of what I was going through as people have enough going on without me lowering their mood when asking me how I am. I really do thank the universe and life style design for the people I have in my life.

I made it through to the other side better than I could have hoped. The biggest thing I’d like to achieve is to make a positive dent in the universe. Life style design is helping make that a reality, I hope I’m doing it right.

So, the most pertinent lesson I’ve learned on my journey is that it’s important who you choose to spend time with. Not just in person but who you read, watch and listen to, it’s what put me where I am today, I am definitely feeling grateful.

5 share – Friday 2 March 2018

1. Quote I’ve been pondering this week – “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. “John Lennon

2. What I’ve been reading on the internet- I’ve been reading and re reading this article about how who we spend time with can change what we think is impossible to possible. It’s a really good read, helping you think about the people you surround yourself with and the effect they have on you and your view of the world.

3. Best health hack – standing on one leg brushing my teeth. A while back I discovered I’ve got an extra disc at the base of my spine. Apparently we used to have tails and so I’m part of the 10% that has a left over (proof that I’m special!). All this led me to researching spinal health where one of the outcomes was keeping my core in good shape. With so much to do each day I’ve started to merge activities. This is one of them. I use an electric toothbrush with a built in timer and do 60 seconds on each leg, try it, you’ll be amazed at the benefits.

4. I found my picture of the Imagine mosaic this week (I’d lost one since moving companies). I have one at home and one for my desk at the office. Whenever I visit NYC I make sure to sit and watch the world go by at Strawberry fields. Seeing the picture daily reminds me not to give up dreaming.

5. If you’re after a short form podcast you might want to listen to Adam Grants new one WorklifeEpisode 1 is about benefiting from criticism, it’s a fascinating listen. Historically it’s been hard for me to accept criticism, it’s really not that easy to hear and then act upon. I still find it hard, though thankfully reading and listening to Tim Ferriss and others has helped me see how it’s actually a gift. If you find criticism hard to take and act upon, listen to this podcast and see if you feel differently.