Focus on the foundations

We tend to focus on the small things & ignore the big things.

When building a product, we skip over the problem in our excitement to build a solution – any solution.

When building a team, we skip over the principles that we must share to keep us together on the journey.

When building a company, we skip over building a clear, long-term vision.

It stems from impatience. Everyone rushes ahead, worrying about the little things, willing things to move fast. Busying themselves because they lack the patience, to stop, to observe. They allocate time & resources in a flash, rather than approaching it as methodically as a chess grandmaster would.

Fear also plays a major part in this. It’s hard to face the big issues. The structural problems in your company. The toxic culture. The lack of leadership you have provided.

It takes some deep self-examination. It takes questioning your ego. It takes making hard decisions that are going to upset a lot of people.

It also means confronting the possibility that things might not work out. That the underlying problems have become too big.

But it’s got to be done. Those problems will rear their head at some point. And you’ll be unprepared for it. You’ll act surprised, shocked even, but you always knew they were there. You just tried to ignore them.

So be patient & build your foundations properly. Without strong foundations, it doesn’t matter how big you may get, at some point that first storm is going to head your way.

And it’s going to blow your company right over.

Little lies we tell ourselves

We set ourselves arbitrary goals. We make blanket statements that will determine the direction of the next few years of our life. We try to simplify & end up making no sense.

Before starting my last job, I clearly remember saying that I would join for two years. I was very specific on the 2 years.

Once I had made that mental decision, I moved on. Didn’t think about it again for a while.

2 months in, whilst having an open, honest conversation with a colleague about whether I enjoyed the work & what my plans for life were, I re-stated my commitment to 2 years at the company.

“But what do you mean? That’s just a number…”

 

And it struck me that I had just decided, on a whim, to dedicate commit myself to an arbitrary number.

That arbitrary number had been set to simplify a complex goal, a goal of gaining enough experience in product development, in a growing start-up to then start my own company.

So 2 years seemed reasonable.

But it’s a bit silly really. What does ‘2 years’ really mean? I could spend 10 years a in a dead-end job & learn the same amount – if not more – running my own start-up for 3 months.

But it’s pretty hard to quantify ‘experience’. When have you learnt ‘enough’? What type of experiences are you having? What are you learning? What are you not learning? So we set an arbitrary, more easily quantifiable figure on it, like a time period.

‘I’ll start that business once I’ve got 2 years experience. Once I’ve saved €10,000. Once I’ve been promoted.’

 

When starting a new business, it’s simply impossible to ever have enough experience. To be ready. To have everything under control.

What you are attempting to do is inherently risky, uncertain & unsolved. You start a new business to solve a problem there may not even be a solution for.

The only way to get experience for that is by doing it. Just starting it & seeing where it takes you.

 

Somewhere within me I knew that my 2-year goal was just a lie for these very reasons. ‘Experience’ & an arbitrary time period were just excuses to mask the fact that I was apprehensions, nervous, scared.

I refused to openly admit to myself that I needed to start taking steps towards working out what my new business would look like. Because without any idea of what you want to do, it’s hard to know where to start.

But you have to just accept that you’ll never feel ready. You’ll never be ready. You can make all the excuses you want, but, at the end of the day, you’ve got to just start.

 

 

Fear & doing hard things

I look around me & see people just going through the motions. It is action by rote, rather than by creating something new.

In a new startup, employees spend more time worrying about their Twitter profile than hunting down that first customer.

In bigger companies, meetings are organised to discuss things they will never put into action.

In our personal lives, we create problems out of nothing to avoid this self-examination that inevitably creeps in when we have nothing to worry about. We worry about what the traffic or weather will be like, more than why we are even going there in the first place.

But do not think that I look down, detached from this world. I find myself also susceptible to just going through the motions, rather than spending the time – or having the will – to go after one or two high-impact tasks.

We at punchinteface are building our new company out of a need to create world-class culture. We do not except low-impact work & work for the sake of it, yet we are also learning how to best use our time & maximise our impact.

 

Chasing after 80/20

Pareto’s principal states that 80% of the input tends to yield 20% of the outcome, & 20% of the input tends to yield 80% of the outcome. It is a general rule of thumb that tends to exist in life, whether looking at the yield of vegetables, investment or human capital.

In short, one or two of the tasks you do tends to have a disproportionately large impact, with most being largely ineffective or a complete waste of time.

Tim Ferriss, a hugely successful entrepreneur & self-experimentation extraordinaire, therefore performs a weekly analysis to weed out the ineffective from the effective.

Despite having read about Pareto’s principle numerous times, however, I still find myself struggling to follow it’s lessons.

Firstly, it is inherently difficult to separate the important from the urgent. What’s right in front of you tends to get assigned a disproportionate amount of importance purely because it seems so urgent.

Yes, using techniques such as meditation or writing prioritised to-do lists helps, but there will always be some difficulty in objectively analysing the impact of what you are doing when you are in the inevitably messy, day-to-day of a new business.

Secondly, fear as a driver of action is really underestimated. We usually know exactly what we should do & which tasks will be highly impactful, but we become paralysed by fear.

We find excuses. We organise meetings to discuss it. We try to convince ourselves that actually setting up Twitter or organising our files is essential to the success of the company & nothing should get in the way of it.

We do anything to avoid the foregone conclusion, that one, hard thing that sits waiting for us to tackle.

It hit me yesterday that all of this has been true of myself this week.

I am building the audience for this very blog, but have avoided the hard truth of what I must do.

I have busied myself with SEO changes, organising articles & creating artwork, rather than just building an audience.

Because building an audience is scary. It’s hard. It’s unknown. Building an audience requires hundreds of hours of commenting on other authors, of analysing my own work, of filtering through endless feedback to keep pushing myself to improve.

So last night I forced change upon myself.

 

I wrote down the following questions:

What are the hard tasks I am avoiding? What would I do if I only had two hours to work each day?

 

Just this simple, rough approach to 80/20 analysis worked effectively. It also took under 1 minute.

When you ask yourself tough questions, you force tough answers on yourself.

Immediately the answer I had known all along came to mind: that I must only focus on creating value for an audience.

Writing articles relevant to that audience & commenting with insightful thoughts on other articles relevant to my audience. As simple as that. Write articles. Write comments.

Yes, there are important things to consider outside of that, such as monetisation, long-term content strategy, etc., but none of them matter if there is no audience.

Without the audience there is no business, no value, no motivation.

 

Taking Action

So I urge you to ask yourself difficult questions. To stop hiding behind the guise of busyness. To just go through the motions like everyone else. If you do that, you’ll never create something new, something impactful.

Right now, just write down the 5-10 tasks that are taking up most of your time. Which are creating impact? Which would you complete if you only had 2 hours per day? What will happen if you don’t complete the low-impact tasks?

Add a calendar event at the same time every week to spend 5 minutes doing this. Just 5 minutes. If you don’t add it to your calendar, you will forget. You’ll get caught up, busy like the rest of us, just performing things by rote rather than by deliberate action.

Remember that just going through the motions won’t get you anywhere. Facing your fear & going after that hard thing will.

 

 

 

Being busy: stop taking the easy way out

Differentiating Urgency & Importance

The frustrating reality of work is that most of what you do is a complete waste of time. Even entrepreneurs, who slog away putting in 14-hour days to their company, will inevitably waste the majority of their time.

This is because we tend to be terrible at prioritisation.

Something seemingly urgent will come up & we divert all of our resources to solve the problem, without stopping to think whether it is important in the first place. Or whether it’s even a problem at all.

The problem of conflating the urgent with the important is the greatest drain on productivity in the workplace.

In a corporate environment, the greater complexity of larger teams working together causes further damage to productivity.

There tends to be a lot of people all doing different things, with no clear idea of which direction they are meant to be going, all protecting their own little corner of the company, all trying to get ahead of each other.

A pervasive, manic busyness tends to seep into the culture, with everyone rushing around trying to push through some urgent, but unimportant, change to a product or frenetically working to get an irrelevant report completed.

It’s not inaccurate to say that most companies just about survive despite having a load of headless chickens charging about the place, revved up on caffeine & adrenaline.

As you can imagine, this is not conducive to the long-term interests of the business or the employees themselves.

 

Human Limitations

There is also a huge amount of evidence supporting the idea that our window for highly productive work is very much limited.

Companies tend to push their employees into working 8- to 12-hour days, but are you really productive during that time? How much productive, important work do you really think you get done?

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that humans have a limit of 3-4 hours a day of intensive, focused work before we burn out.

This is capped even lower if you aren’t sleeping 7-8 hours, eating well, exercising or resting properly outside of work hours.

How productive are you after only sleeping 3-4 hours? What about when you’re a bit hungover? Or you’re hungry?

For me personally, these factors are hugely impactful on my productivity. If I haven’t slept properly, the next day is going to be almost entirely a waste of time. Maybe I’ll get 1-2 good hours of work in if I have a strong coffee before starting. But usually, I may as well just take the day off & catch up on sleep.

One of the issues, however, is that some people are so used to living in a constantly, tired, semi-burnt out state that what they think is a good, highly productive day is usually nowhere near it.

They are so used to a constant feeling of tiredness & of a state of low-impact work that whenever they manage to squeeze in 20+ minutes of focused, immersive work, they see that as the maximum limit of human capability.

 

## Stop being busy
Start approaching your days differently.

If colleagues put demands on your time, push back. Question the importance of what they are asking you to do? Is it important? Or is it just urgent? Are they doing it just because their boss wants them to do? Or because they believe it has merit?

If you work for yourself, then focus on maximising the 3-4 hours you are productive. Break them up throughout the day, block it out as focus time in the mornings, cut out the faffing around that tends to clutter your day. Take the rest of the day off for learning, coffee with friends or others in your industry, or finally starting the language lessons you always wanted to do.

The hard part comes next, however.

Where before you had problems to solve & urgent issues to attend to, you will be left with a void.

You can no longer comfort yourself with the sense of purpose & progress that comes from always doing, from always working away at some problem.

When you limit your working hours, you suddenly find yourself with 12 hours a day that seems like a void.

The insulation of busyness is stripped away & you will find yourself asking hard questions. You will find yourself putting yourself through rigorous self-examination. You will start examining the direction & purpose of your business on a much deeper level. You will be able to entertain the creative, outlandish ideas you never had time or energy to think about.

You will strip away all the urgent, clutter of a busy life & finally be able to differentiate the urgent from the important, the low-impact from the high impact work.

Anxiety will come, inevitably. You will worry about whether you’re getting enough done. Whether you’re working on the right thing. Whether all the psychology is just bullshit.

But you must push through.

The gravity of this change will hit you. When you only have limited time to work, you approach things differently. You finally start asking the important questions.

Is this important? How can I estimate the impact of this task?
What will happen if it doesn’t get done?
How can I get it done as efficiently as possible?
Has someone done it before? Is there an easier way?

The work you do end up doing will be great work. Work with the fat stripped away, without the comfort of busyness & urgency clouding your judgement & allowing you to hide from the hard truths you must face.

 

 

 

Taken advantage of in a foreign country

My belief in the start-up model has been on the rocks for a while. ‘The Mission‘ convinces us to dedicate ourselves in the interest of investors & being a ‘family’ makes us feel part of something greater than just a corporation. Yet this week has been the final nail in the coffin.

If I ever wanted evidence that founders & investors do not usually give a shit about employees, then the violation of my employment contract is a clear-cut example.

In short, I was fired on Friday via email, with no explanation of the cause.

Dismissal without explanation is not only a cowardly move, but one that, under German law, is illegal. You must provide 4 weeks notice in all cases other than exceptional circumstances. I’ve done nothing ‘exceptional’ recently, so can only interpret this immediate termination as an attempt to avoid paying earnings they are contractually obliged to pay.

Maybe it’s because I’m new to Germany & they think I am naïve enough to not have looked into German law?

Whatever the reason, any violation of the bedrock of workers’ rights, an employment contract, is legally & morally abhorrent. It is the one thing that protects us, the little people, from the superior power of a corporation.

Yet it doesn’t surprise me one bit. Neither the way it was enacted – just a short email – nor the violation of my contract.

Part of the reason I had been deciding to leave had been a previous violation of my contract: an attempt to short-change me on the number of holiday days allocated in my contract. I derided the claim that I had, in fact, signed an ‘old contract’ & was therefore not entitled to my full, contractual holiday quota. I was unaware that was how contracts worked.

So it would even be expected – rather than a surprise – that a contract violation would occur again.

 

The lesson I take away with me is this:

One action reveals a company’s true nature. Don’t allow yourself to excuse that behaviour as the exception. Be aware that it is probably the rule.

Trampling over my employment contract has happened twice to me, so it is likely to have happened to others. Yet no-one speaks out or knows what to do about it.

True, I was taking action to extricate myself by setting up a new business, but I should have cut ties immediately, rather than allow myself to be dragged along for another few months.

There is never a perfect time to start a business or quit your job, so when you know it’s time, you must take action.

Rather than a clean-break, I find myself caught up in legal worries & with a sense of disgust at my whole experience with the company.

 

 

 

I was fired without even a thank you note

Stage 1: Why?

I checked my inbox yesterday to find an email titled ‘Contract Termination’. I did a double-take. I read it, thought about it, a little bemused, read it again.

It surprised me because I thought this had been a one-way relationship of dissatisfaction so far. I thought I had managed to mask my disinterest & dislike well enough to keep doing a good enough job.

But then some decisions like this are not always ‘fair’. The problem is not the work, but my failure to submit to our autocracy. The small things, going against the culture that has been forced upon us, obviously became a problem.

The fact that it was a 9-5 for me, rather than a passion, meant I was out the door by 5.30pm. I wanted to spend as little time as possible in that toxic environment, true. But also, pressure to work long hours completely went against my belief in- & the science behind- peak productivity practices.

The fact that I didn’t participate in our monthly team events must also have been a problem. I knew this would be the case, but I refuse to acquiesce to something that does not strike at the root of the problem. We had a culture lacking empathy & genuine teamwork. A monthly fun evening out is a lazy attempt to just paste over the cracks.

The fact that I didn’t engage with our CEO. Rather than trying to get ahead, putting on a smile & charm & pretending everything was great, I refused. I wouldn’t say I looked hostile, but indifferent & disapproving would be pretty accurate descriptions.

The fact that I didn’t get behind “the vision” was clear. Despite not a single attempt to sell the vision – let alone present the vision – we were expected to throw on our company t-shirts & talk excitedly about the road ahead. Pretty hard to keep your motivation up when you can only see two inches in front of your face.

So I reasoned that it was probably fair to get rid of me. Whether I agree with the reasons or not is largely irrelevant.

 

Stage 2: Panic

“What am I gonna do about money? What do I tell my family? How do I even register as unemployed?! I don’t even speak German!”

Luckily this only lasted 5 minutes.

I had been building up to resignation for 2 months, so already had a detailed, day-by-day plan of what to do once I was finally out of work.

But irrationality, fear & panic are inevitable in these kind of situations. Once I had got the initial wave out of my system, I decided to do some fear-setting, a practice coined by Tim Ferriss for approaching problems rationally & quantifying your fears.

My fears:

“What about my CV? I only worked there for 4 months!”

Firstly, I am going into freelancing next, where all work is short-term. Therefore a perception that I seem to leave companies soon after joining is irrelevant. Secondly, I’m starting my own company in future. I don’t need a CV for that. I need a good story.

 

“What about my income?”

I have savings to cover my expenses for 6 months, my living costs are low in Berlin & I will be freelancing to generate income, which can be more lucrative than a contract role.

 

“How can I tell my friends & family I’ve been fired?”

My ego was its predictably irrational self in this case. I don’t think they would particularly care that much, first of all. I also think that training yourself to not give a shit about what others think is an essential skill to entrepreneurship & a happier life, as it tends to mean you do more of what you want to do, rather than what you think others want you to do.

 

“Maybe I’m just not that good at my work?”

The fact I found work relatively easily over the last year & a half, the fact my work was praised, even in this job, for the first few months, disproves this. I just lost interest & therefore motivation, so inevitably the quality of my work deteriorated.

 

“How do I navigate German bureaucracy?”

This one is a valid fear & one I will have to confront with all my strength (& limited German conversation skills).

 

Stage 3: A Wealth of Opportunity

This is my favourite stage. After realising my fears were largely irrational & unfounded, I decided to write down the opportunities that my firing now presented.

1) I will finally have the energy, time & focus to build up the long-term business, which has started with this blog. I’ll be able to develop the blog, a podcast, create in-depth content – maybe even a book – & eventually move towards providing online courses on entrepreneurship.

2) I will finally have the time to improve my German through an intensive language programme here in Berlin.

3) I finally have control over my time. I can experiment with productivity practices, try out new hobbies, read more & generally feel more free & happy with my life.

4) I can explore different business models over the next year & see which works. UX Design consultancy? Setting up a product development agency? Going into consultancy? Starting to specialise in organisational psychology?

5) I can escape the bleak German winter for a few months a year & work remotely again.

 

Stage 4: Selecting a plan & executing

Two days later, now that the irrational fears have faded & the giddy excitement of opportunity is slowly dissipating, it is time to put my plan into action.

On Monday, I’ll be signing myself up for an intensive German learning course until Christmas. As soon as that is sorted, I’ll execute my freelancing plan.

If you want to follow my journey, then sign up below for a weekly newsletter with my thoughts & learnings from the week.

If you want to help me on my journey, email me at henry@henrylatham.me to get access to my open-source business plans, where you can comment directly on what I am up to. Any help is appreciated!

 

 

 

Standing up for yourself

Decisions can be scary

There are times in life where you have to make hard decisions. Your goals come into conflict with someone else & you find yourself struggling to decide which path to take. When your goals come into conflict with someone with more power than you, such as your boss, then this struggle is exacerbated.

However, there comes a point in life when you have to make a decision. Will you spend the rest of your life following a path defined by others or will you stand up for yourself? Will you be ruthlessly honest? Will you have courage in the face of power? Will you stand up for what you believe in, regardless of the consequences? Even if it will be difficult – scary even – are you willing to make those decisions?

Decisions around resignation or breaking up with a partner are scary & have considerable consequences. However, when you live your life by a clear set of principles, constantly revisited & revised, then such decisions become easy. They are, in fact, already made. The decision is crystal clear: it either adheres to your principles or it does not.

By highlighting examples of my principles & how I have applied them in my own life, I hope that you too can apply these to improve your decision-making & decide for yourself what you are willing to stand up for.

 

“This goes against everything I believe in”

People look a little shocked when I say I am resigning without any concrete plan for what comes next. They think that I am brave. They admire me, even.

But they misunderstand how such decision-making works for me.

I don’t live my life by a definitive document of beliefs like a modern day ’10 Commandments’. Since reading Ray Dalio’s book, Principles (the inspiration for this post), I have started to.

But even before reading about Dalio’s use of written principles to guide all his – & his company’s – decision-making, I have always held firm to certain truths.

I tend to write about them, for example in Lying. They tend to come through in my conversations & writing in some form. They are clarified & reinforced through meditation & journaling.

With these principles, when I believe something to be true, I am rarely able to act in a way that comes into conflict with those truths, unless rationally convinced that I am in fact wrong.

Therefore, coming back to bravery, I do not see my actions as brave. I see them as an inevitable consequence of having strongly-held principles that are not easily changed.

I am not able to bend my own rules ‘just this once’ because truth is truth. It is not something that you can ignore when it is convenient.

So, later today, when our CEO asks me into one of our meeting rooms for a ‘quick chat’, I will not leave my truths at the door. They are part of me & I must stand up for them.

His belief in absolute rule comes directly into conflict with my core belief that radical honesty is the only way to develop the best ideas & to help each other grow.

Where he envisions everyone unquestioningly following his vision, I see that vision being formed from the amalgamation of innovative & revised ideas coming from a diverse, talented team.

So what can I really do in this situation? Lie & trash my beliefs? Or just simply accept that this is the situation I find myself in & that my truths must be adhered to.

There’s no point complaining. There’s no point hoping things might change. There’s no point questioning whether you might be wrong or not.

Trust your gut. You know what has to be done.

 

 

Live by principles

Take 2 minutes to write down 10 of your core principles. Maybe it’s something like, ‘I believe in people having honest relationships’.

Then write down 3 examples of where these core beliefs are in conflict with your own actions or the actions of others. Now that you have written these core beliefs out, what will you do to correct the situation? Are you able to continue being dishonest with yourself? Does that sit well with you?

 

 

If you’re struggling for an example, here’s mine:

Core belief: I believe in being honest with & fair to people at all times. This is a standard that I want to always hold myself to.

Conflicting action: I remember a year or two ago someone gave me extra change in a shop (I think it was around €10). I noticed this on the way out & happily went about my day thinking I’d ‘won’ in some way. This came directly into conflict with my belief in honesty (I essentially passively stole money) & fairness (the cashier probably had to pay for it from her pay cheque). Therefore when this happened again recently, when I noticed I had been given too much change I automatically handed it back. The pride & happiness of adhering to my beliefs was worth far more than the few extra Euros.

 

 

Leave a comment to let us know what your core beliefs are & when you’ve come into conflict with them.

 

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Stop lying to yourself

There’s a lot of talk around productivity hacks & advice on starting a business. Most tend to reference reliable psychological studies or renowned thinkers & the advice given tends to be objectively good advice.

Yet 99% of us will read whatever advice is given & immediately ignore it or forget about it.

Why is that?

 

Your situation isn’t bad enough

Most people lack the motivation to follow through by taking action because they just don’t care /enough/ about changing themselves. You may really want to start a business, but you also have an active social life & value your down time watching Netflix or similar.

I relish each day in my current job with a slightly masochistic anticipation as I know it’s going to be one of the most depressing days of my life. However, without this period of hating life, would I have the relentless motivation to build a side business?

Probably not.

I work really hard on my business plan & freelancing plan so that I can get out as soon as possible.

So, either find a job that you really fucking hate (hard to do deliberately) or confront the root of the problem.

 

Be honest with yourself

The root of the problem is that we’ve got too good at lying to ourselves.

I didn’t really, truly realise I was unhappy in my current job until I just wrote it down:

‘I am miserable.’

Our thoughts are so disparate & fleeting that when we feel a sense of dissatisfaction or start asking ourselves tough questions in our head (‘Is this job making me happy?’), we tend to jump to the next thing that’s distracted us.

We never stop, confront the reoccurring thought & find a solution.

You brush the dissatisfaction off as temporary – as just a one-off. Is it really just temporary if the thought comes back on a daily basis? If most of your working day it’s sitting there somewhere at the back of your mind, rearing it’s head in moments of quiet reflection?

 

Is it just me or…

The hardest thing about this is that most people around you are also in a permanent state of self-denial. Say you work in a big corporation where you know the work is bullshit, but everyone walks around as if a member of a cult – singing the virtues of the company & of it’s ‘mission’ with a fixed grin on their face & talk of promotion to the hallowed halls of the top floor.

Yet you find yourself thinking, ‘Do they really believe all this bullshit? Is it just me?’

You then start questioning yourself, thinking that you’re the odd one out. That you probably aren’t that unhappy & that it’s just a passing phase. ‘If everyone else seems to love the job, then surely I will too at some point’, you say to yourself.

But they are probably all lying to themselves as well. Too scared to admit the truth & take the hard path of working out what they do want to do in life. Easier to await your pay check & climb up the corporate ladder.

 

Don’t follow the crowd

So don’t follow what those around you do – do what you want to do. If other people find it easier – or are even happy – lying to themselves their entire lives, then that’s fine. If it works for them, it works for them. But does it work for you?

If not, just admit it to yourself. Take a pen & write down a clear statement. It could be ‘I hate my boss’, ‘I hate my job’, ’This relationship is making me deeply unhappy’.

Write down whatever is making you unhappy & confront it.

When you see it on the page, it’s unavoidable. You will no longer be able to hide from the truth. And when you’re honest with yourself this one time, you will find yourself unable to lie to yourself. You know the truth & there’s no escaping the truth.

‘Enough’.

You’ll find this one small act gives you far more direction & motivation than all the productivity hacks in the world.

 

 

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9 weeks to go

6.55am

I hate my job. I really, really hate it with a passion. I feel a sense of existential dread whenever I walk up those stairs. I feel the desire to just hide, rather than deal with anything related to it. If I wasn’t scared of getting dysentary, I’d eat under-cooked chicken just to legitimately take a few days off work.

I’ve lost my purpose & my passion for life. Temporarily at least.

Talk of salaries, promotions, mission, family, team, office, gin & tonic. All of it seems so vacuous.

I pray for the weekend & feel down on Sunday. That’s no way to live life.

9 weeks to go.

 

9.45pm

If morning felt like a kick in the teeth having to go into work, this afternoon was far worse.

I’m pretty sure I’ve hit my low point. Today was the final nail in the coffin; the little doubt left in me about sticking with it has been driven out.

I was a few seconds from crying today in the office. I’m also someone quite conscious of the fact that I’m not normally under-emotional. Therefore the fact that work – something so unimportant in life – brought me to that point is really quite telling.

I laugh at it now, but at 2pm this afternoon I felt physically sick: cold, shaking hands, near the point of vomiting. Purely from the prospect of having to work on a new project. That’s pretty fucked up, no?

It’s not like I sell crack cocaine to kids or anything. I just help build heating devices that no-one is ever going to use. It shouldn’t feel like the world is about to end when all I am obliged to do is design a few app screens.

Yet when you do something that fundamentally goes against everything you believe, your body & mind refuse it. It creates, at least in my case, a gut reaction; a rejection of what you are spending your time & energy doing.

Nothing is worth that feeling. The only benefit I see is that every moment of despair is fuelling me to get up earlier, to work harder, to think more deeply about my future.

Just 24 more work days until it’s done.

 

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Escape: Running away from it isn’t the answer

“Nowhere can man find a quiet or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul”

― Marcus Aurelius

 

Inner Turmoil

Every moment of every day, for your whole life, the greatest challenges you will face will come from within.

Inner turmoil will be your closed, most constant companion in life, dominating your thoughts & determining the actions you take.

Most people’s minds tend to be in a state of constant flux & conflict, with the past competing with the future, the positive with the negative, the rational with the instinctive.

If depression stems from looking into the past, & anxiety from looking towards the future, then to be at inner peace we must look to the present. Yet in the midst of this inner war of thoughts, the present gets forgotten.

We are either unable to focus on it, or are too afraid to confront our present reality.

 

Running Away

To escape, we run to beaches, spas, mountains – even other countries. We unquestioningly accept the belief that you can find respite in a few days away, free from the stressful demands of city life & a regular job.

In a sense, holidays are a way to desperately gulp in a breath of air before being plunged back into the waters of ‘real life’ – the stress, the lack of sleep, the depressed commuters, the grey office blocks.

It is normal to need to go & ‘re-charge your batteries’ for a few days.

But this norm is problematic.

All of our lives we build up to this certain view of what success looks like, generally wealth & social status. We get the ‘dream job’, yet find ourselves needing to escape from it every few months in order to keep ourselves motivated & energised enough to continue with it.

We spend thousands of Euros a year, earned from our ‘dream job’, in order to escape. The further away & more exotic, the better.

 

Should your ‘dream job’ not be one where you feel energised by it? Where you don’t feel the intermittent need to just get away from it? Where the lifestyle you desire is very much achievable?

 

Quell the inner turmoil

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Gandhi

 

It’s the hardest thing to do though, to align your actions with your inner mind, but it’s the most important thing you could do.

If you know your current job or lifestyle are incompatible with your beliefs, then you must take action. (You’ll know from that little niggling voice in your head & how much inner conflict you are experiencing.)

If you free yourself from the past & the future, then you will find your mind quietly at peace in the present.

If every day you do what you genuinely want to be doing in life, then you will find you don’t need a beach, fancy resort or weekend spa trip to make you happy & feel energised.

 

“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

 

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