5 Share Friday – 8th June 2018

1. Quote I’ve been pondering this week “You don’t get older, you get better.”– Shirley Bassey
2. It’s my birthday today –  I like to think I’m growing old gracefully, kind of like George Clooney, who’s in his late 50’s with baby twins. I’m only in my 40’s and don’t have a wife 16 years my junior, nor am I as cool as him, though he does say some nice things on getting older and does it gracefully. I’ve been pondering these a lot this week as I think it’s important to embrace age and all it’s benefits.
For my birthday we’re off to Tivoli Gardens, it’s the place that inspired Walt Disney to create the first Disneyland!
3. What I’ve been watchingNetflix’s Safe, a gripping, compelling crime drama about a father who’s daughter has gone missing. It’s main story arc is the murder of a recalcitrant teenager and the links that connect the whole neighbourhood with his daughter. The leading actor was the star in the terrific HBO series Dexter.  This series is hard to watch without wanting to see the next episode (8 in all), give it a try, you’ll be hooked.
4. What I’m looking at – I’m figuring out how best to update my LinkedIn profile and have found this useful Forbes page describing what to think about. Check it out if you want to update yours for the highest impact.
5. Diversity and parenting – I’ve found an amazing resource for finding children’s books that avoid bias. As this site describes, children’s books continue to be an invaluable source of information and values. They reflect the attitudes in our society about diversity, power relationships among different groups of people, and various social identities. If you’re a parent or interact with children in any way this site is a great place to check out books and what to consider when reading / buying for children. Let’s prevent the ridiculous bias we have today by changing the future.
I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

5 Share Friday – 1st June 2018

1. Quote I’ve been pondering this week“Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.”Brian Andreas

2. I’ve been trying different music for focus again this week.  I’ve found listening to The Study Music Project  has had a hugely positive impact, not just for focus but for feeling uplifted too. Try it for yourself and feel the benefits.

3. Article I’ve been reading – A compelling and at times shocking true story of the Xbox underground hackers. I have some memories of the chase while I worked at Microsoft and so it was fantastic to read in detail. You don’t need to be into games or tech to enjoy reading this crime story. It’s a gripping long form read of around 15 minutes.

4. What’s had the biggest impact on my thinking – Ingrid Fetell Lee’s 13 minute TED talk on Joy. This incredible talk highlights what could happen if we made simple changes to our environment, thus naturally creating joy in our lives where ennui can find no place.

5. Leaving the UK – By the time you read this I’ll either be at the airport, up in the skies, or in Denmark with my family. Friday 1st June is our own personal kind of Brexodus, where myself, my wife and our 2 children leave the UK for an unknown period of time. With work came the option to leave and we weren’t going to pass that by, and we’re grateful for such an opportunity.

I hope you have a great weekend!

Choosing freedom: How I’m escaping stress & anxiety with attitude

“You can have freedom without responsibility , but not for long. The first thing an irresponsible person will do with freedom is give it away.” – The Stoic Emperor – Twitter

I’m writing this as I whizz through the British country side on a train headed to London. It’s delayed and so whizz might be stretching it a bit, perhaps trundling is more apt? Either way I feel a complaint coming on as I’m not going to get to my hotel till late in the evening. Maybe I’ll use Twitter in an attempt to publicly shame? Or Facebook so it remains on their company page…or perhaps a DM via email will suffice in order to get a more personal response? I stop myself from thinking for a moment and listen to the passengers around me.

It’s standing room only since we stopped to pick up people at Milton Keynes, and despite me being in first class for peace and quiet, I have people’s bums in my face and the loud chatter of moans throughout the carriage. Those around me have been crammed in due to multiple train cancellations, with some families travelling for many hours on what was supposed to be a much shorter journey. Tensions are high and arguments erupt throughout the carriage like fireworks going off one after the other. I decide to offer my seat to the person standing near me, she seems particularly stressed and has two young children with her, but she declines, thanking me for the kind gesture.

So I stay in my seat, deciding to shake away my complaining mood, sip my tea, resume my writing and feel grateful I’m at least comfortable.

I’m feeling more philosophical recently, it’s my way of dealing with stress. With this feeling I’ve been turning to stoicism. In the last 4/5 months I’ve found the change in roles from Microsoft to Unity has brought unanticipated stress into my life. The kind where I commute long hours to the office, slowly losing connection and time with my family. It’s time for change and that change is Denmark, where family is king and my commute is an hour a day at most (there and back).

What is Stoicism? The Oxford living dictionary describes stoicism as “…the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint.” I’m actually ok at enduring pain or hardship without the display of feelings, it’s the without complaint part I’ve been failing at more recently.

This has all been rather timely, as this week my wife Mandie asked me if I was interested in living a life without complaint. Mandie is curious at how it could make our lives and our children’s lives more fulfilling, I’m all for it. She isn’t one to complain much, though I do complain now and then. Only when it’s warranted of course, the question is, is it ever warranted?

In the last few weeks we’ve had to put a lot of reliance on others (travel companies, removals, utility providers, public transport, banks, postal service etc.) all of whom we needed to deliver on their customer promise. Unfortunately that’s not always been the case and it’s in my reaction to these occurrences I’ve realised I have work to do.

In my chosen profession (software quality) I’m focused on preparing for everything and anything that’s bad, could go wrong, or is wrong, and then preventing / correcting if possible. This means I have a tendency to highlight potential problems in my day to day to life and not just work. What I’m realising is that this isn’t always needed. So I’m exploring ways to not lose my ability to see problems before they strike, yet also live a somewhat care free existence, only highlighting the truly important issues to those around me (like things that could go wrong with a move to a different country). A life of what some might call real freedom.

So how does stoicism fit into this? The stoic philosophy asserts that virtue (such as wisdom) is happiness and judgment, which should be based on behaviour rather than words. Stoics believe we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses. This then leads us to true freedom, though only when we remain responsible and take accountability for our lives.

This is very related to a life of no complaint. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl discovered those more likely to survive the POW camps of WWII were the ones who never gave up hope, the ones who chose their response to the atrocities bestowed upon them.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

So, I’m revisiting a famous book – A Complaint Free World, I’m teaching myself the deeper aspects of stoicism through the writings of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, and most of all I’m working hard at improving myself. None of us are perfect and it’s in times of trouble we see our true self. I need to make that true self a better version of me, and one I and everyone else can enjoy all the time, not just in times of trouble.

5 Share Friday – 25 May 2018

1. Quote I’ve been pondering this week“It’s never too late to be what you might have been”George Eliot aka Mary Ann Evans

2. It’s the penultimate Friday before myself and the family move to Denmark. We said goodbye to our neighbours yesterday (we’ve been so lucky with our neighbours, we worried about one in the beginning as they were quite loquacious and we could be kept talking for longer than planned, yet the conversation was always good!). While we thanked another for being such a nice neighbour, she replied saying “we’ll always have nice neighbours as we’re such nice people.”

I like to think I’ve always been nice, though the truth is I went through a long period of believing nice guys come last and being nice gets you nowhere. I was wrong, and 10 years ago I decided to become my authentic self again, the nice me that I liked. Since then my life has been more fulfilling and happier than any time before it. If you believe nice people get nowhere have a look at this, as it’s simply not true.

3. What I’ve been listening to –  the most calming piece of music you’re likely to find anywhere. It’s from the Dances with Wolves soundtrack (a fabulous soundtrack to listen to for focus and concentration). The last few weeks have involved extreme tiredness and pressure, this beautiful two minute tune has switched my brain to instant calm and relaxation. Try it for yourself, you’ll feel the calm spread throughout your body.

4. Most productive life hack this week – In my constant quest for life hacks to gain time, I’ve been setting my iPhone up for increased productivity. The biggest difference has come from using the text replacement for words or phrases feature. It’s something I’ve been doing for a couple of weeks now and it’s amazing. For those with an iPhone, read this and try it for yourself. Once you get the hang of it you’ll never go back.

5. Arrgghh GDPR! – If you’re signed up to this site and wondering why I haven’t sent an email asking you to consent again, then wonder no more…The answer is: it’s not necessary for GDPR and many of the emails you’ve received from companies may also not be necessary. Here is a good explanation. I actually love all the opt in emails I’m getting, as I can ignore them and receive less emails in the future.

Have a wonderful weekend!