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.

How the X Files made my work / life perspective real

One of the problems I had with schooling and society while I was a kid was the idea we all have to aim at having a job. My mum was the same, conditioned that a good job should be a big goal in life. I’ve always rejected that thinking, I love working, I just don’t want a job.

While in between travels I was staying at my mum’s figuring out where to go next. I needed some money to get to Glastonbury festival and buy my next plane ticket, I also didn’t want to get a job in order to do either of those things.

So I had an idea. I wrote several proposals for different publications, ranging from travel, music, computer and sci-fi. I figured I could get paid to work on writing about the things I loved in life. It wasn’t a job I had to get out of bed for, in fact I did the majority of my proposals late at night after being out with friends, flexi-working before I even knew the term existed!

I got the money I needed, I even did some work for free (Melody Maker live gig reviews). My most successful and memorable paid work was an article on how to get on the set of the X Files, published in Starburst, a popular sci-fi magazine. It was one of their most popular articles that year and I made it into a book Fan Cultures because of this (Google books have an excerpt of mine here).

While in Vancouver BC I was at a youth hostel talking enthusiastically about my love of the show (yes I was an X Files nerd). At that time Gillian Anderson was known as ‘the thinking man’s crumpet’and as a thinker I definitely related to that. I loved the show and knew it was filmed in and around Vancouver, so I took any opportunity I could to ask people about it.

I had no luck with my fellow hostel stayers, so I went on a bus tour of the city. If you’re travelling alone in any city, want to learn, make friends and have a good time, get friendly with a tour guide. I hopped on a city tour bus that morning.

I made sure to sit by the front and get chatting to the driver, a friendly guy who was also a big fan of the beats, so we had great conversation. After the tour he invited me out with his friends, they were meeting up at Grouse Mountainfor beers, awesome!

It was during those drinks I asked about filming locations for the X Files. As it happened, one of the guys had just received a note through his apartment door telling him about a street closure that week for filming of the show, that was it! I had found a location..

A few days later I had successfully talked my way onto the set. Back then my British accent still did wonders in North America, especially if I exaggerated it subtly into a Hugh Grant Four Weddings and a Funeral type British.

I worked at getting teas and coffees for people. This enabled me to spend time in conversations with Gillian Anderson among others. It was a terrific experience, my first at being surrounded with smart creative people who were making something people around the world enjoyed.

I remember Gillian’s great humour the most, I’d been wearing my favourite cagoule by pervert(an East coast brand that people on the West coast weren’t familiar with..) it had almost stopped my chances of getting on set as staff thought the word pervert on my jacket meant I was on some form of day release, ha! Gillian joked about that more than once and I was fondly known as the Purv, kinda like the Fonz though not nearly as cool.

We should all work, I’m a great believer in that. As far as we know, we only get one stab at life, so merely doing a job isn’t enough.

My work at Unity is something I enjoy. Technically it’s also a job, though to me it’s about being surrounded by people smarter than me, people I can change the world with (we’re democratising game development as part of what we do).

My time at Xbox was the same, I came away from working on Xbox products so much happier and smarter than when I joined, I also know we changed many people’s lives, I will be forever grateful.

Try and make sure you’re working and not simply in a job, life will be so much more enjoyable.