Only three days of Mo left. It’s been prickly, itchy and spiky month but all for a worthy cause.

One thing I’ve learnt through all this is that 4 in every 5 suicides globally are men, that’s a scary statistic and the Movember Foundation are seeking to cut that be 25% by 2030. Every little counts.
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#mentalhealth #menshealth #movember #movember2016 #cancerawareness

Thankful for good WiFi in the coffee house while my internet at home is down meaning I can continue to work on exciting projects. #freelance #designer #selfemployed
Great to spend a few minutes on my own after church enjoying an excellent coffee in a very comfortable chair. Of course the fact that it’s a design classic also helped.
We Will Remember Them – We will remember them. I always have a poppy for Remembrance Day, to both remember and to support the British Legion who gave my Grandad a salute at his funeral.
My @movember moustache is taking root. Just updated my MoSpace! Link in my bio if you’d like to sponsor me.
#menshealth #movember #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #mentalillness #movemberuk #movember2016 #cancerawareness

My Movember Page

So tomorrow is the first day of November or Movember as it’s come to be known. It might not be as fashionable as it used to be but I’ve always been a fan of it, anything that raises the awareness of mens health. This year I noticed they also do work towards raising the awareness of mental health in men. As someone who has been affected by mental illness (depression specifically) I decided this year was the year I would take part.

If mental illness has affected you or someone you know please do consider sponsoring my moustache!

The Dedication Olympics

As I sit writing this the BBC are showing their roundup video of the Rio Olympics. Normally when it comes to the Olympics I’m pretty glued to it for the few weeks that it runs. This year, maybe due to the time difference, it took a week or so for me to get in to it.

It was only when the track cycling came on and Team GB started to win medals that I started to watch. The success of the British team on this field is mind-blowing, every four years the team hits form perfectly and brings home gold medal after gold medal. Similarly, the success of the Brownlee brothers in the Triathlon, so consistent year after year resulting this year in the first triathlete to retain the gold medal. Then there’s Andy Murray, only weeks after winning Wimbledon, retaining his gold medal. Not to mention the many other athletes who’ve won medals for Team GB, helping us as a nation to finish second in the medal table.

Most years by the end of the games I’m inspired. I want to try a new sport, or return to an old one I used to play. This year is a bit different. I’ve not been inspired to go and do sport, but instead by the dedication that unites these athletes. Each and every one of them has a level of dedication that blows me away. They are able to apply themselves for every single day between olympic cycles. For four years they are able to focus their energy on one thing so that they can give themselves the best possible shot to win that gold medal.

During one of the events one of the commentators picked up on this. I don’t think it was what he meant, but the way it came across as he spoke of it was that these athletes seem to have a gift none of the rest of the world does. Not in terms of their sporting prowess, but in their ability to apply themselves and dedicate themselves to their chosen discipline. It’s an easy mindset to fall into, but it’s also a dangerous one.

Discipline or dedication is not a thing that we just have, it’s something we can learn. Each and everyone of us can learn discipline and self control in order to focus on something. In order to grow and develop into a great writer it takes dedication and discipline to turn up and write each day. For the artist it takes hours of painting, the musician hours of playing their instrument. Dedication is something we can grow in and get better at. The more we dedicate ourselves to do something, the more likely we are to do it. For the olympic athlete, turning up to training on a wet Monday morning in November makes them more likely to turn up for training on a wet November Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Likewise, writing a post for this blog on a Sunday makes me more likely to want to write one for tomorrow. I don’t want to break the chain or waste the time I spent the day before.

As many people are want to say on the internet at the moment, the key to everything is showing up everyday. The key to winning a gold medal is showing up everyday with an unrelenting dedication to your sport. The key to growing in dedication to our chosen discipline is the same.

Depression Days

Sometimes a day hits you when things that are normally easy to do become the hardest things. I mean simple things like getting out of bed, going downstairs and making a coffee. That’s the nature of depression.

When it happens you have to find ways of getting through because giving in to it can be crippling. Giving in can be the start of a downward spiral, a spiral you don’t want to be in and that can take a long time to get out of. That’s a place you don’t want to go. Instead you have to find a way to push through, to stop the down from taking over. What that looks like is the tricky part, but for everyone there is way of doing it.

Tinker

The desire to tinker is strong in this one.

I have this problem when it comes to my blog. The more I start to post to it, the more I want to tinker. The more active I am on the site, the more I notice little things I don’t like and want to fix. The more I post to it, the more I want all my internet posting to originate on it. It’s like an illness.

It’s something I’ve always struggled with, and I confess it’s a side to blogging that I enjoy. The trouble is, the more I tinker the less I post. The more I craft the design, the less time I spend writing.

It’s a battle, although one I’m sure I do not face alone. It’s not just the battle of a blogger, it’s a battle of a designer. Most of the tinkering I do is design related, little details and quirks in my theme which I notice but very few others will. I also know from experience, that I will get to the point where I’ve caught the little tweaks I need to and they will be fixed. Then it’s just a case of resisting the bigger things I’d like to do. Or at least knocking off the major ones first, like finding a way to post photos here and on Instagram, displaying them in a way I’m happy with. The key though, is to keep the posts flowing. Keep to my challenge of posting everyday, and getting through the tinkering stage until I get to the point where I’m just posting each day and all my published content originates here.

Or is it just a pipe dream? Should I just keep posting and ignore the little bits that nag?

But I know I can’t just ignore the nagging. I’m a designer, I like details and its in my nature to keep refining bits until they’re gone. To keep crafting until they as close to perfect as can be, it’s just important to keep the perspective, to keep in mind that perfect doesn’t exist. It’s about getting things to good enough whilst keeping on posting each day and building momentum so that the writing takes over the tinkering and becomes a creative outlet in its own right.

Blogroll

Back when I first started writing on the internet – ok it’s called blogging, ugh – I discovered a lot of blogs through the sidebars of those I was reading. The trend at the time, way back in 2006, was for each blog to feature a Blogroll. A collection of links to the blogs of other people that the author of each site either knew personally or who simply enjoyed those other sites. It was a great way of finding new blogs to follow and it’s sad that the practice seems to have pretty much disappeard.

It might be ten years since I started my first blog, and with it my first Blogroll, but I figured it was time to revive it. What follows, in no particular order, is a list of blogs which I read regularly on a wide range of topics. I hope there are some you haven’t come across and that you to will enjoy reading.

Permission

At the start of last week I set myself the challenge to blog everyday between then and the end of the year. Yesterday I didn’t manage to post to this site, in some people’s eyes I’ve failed the challenge already. Maybe I have, but it’s not going to stop me carrying on.

These types of challenges are great to do, they add an extra bit of impetus to get going on something you want to do. A little bit of healthy competition goes a long way. But yesterday life happened, two friends got married and the day was rightly taken up celebrating that. There simply wasn’t time in the day to sit down and write a post for this site, it was an exception to the norm and that’s ok. I realised this early on and gave myself permission to have a day off.

A few years ago had I set myself this challenge I would’ve let it defeat me. The chain would’ve been broken and I would’ve let the day off turn into two, three or four days, before giving it one last effort and then stopping it. Over the last year and a half I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s ok to give myself permission to say, it’s just not going to happen today. As long as it doesn’t turn into a regular occurrence that’s perfectly OK, I just pick up where I left off the next day.

It’s been an important lesson for me to learn, perfect is unattainable and being somewhat of a perfectionist it’s a difficult thing to accept. Now in the context of this challenge, had I realised earlier in the week when I started it, I’d have written an extra post in the week so I had one in the bag and didn’t break the chain. In the context of real everyday life, it’s a far more important lesson to learn. I’ve had to learn how to give myself permission to say this is ok, this is good enough and I’m ok with putting it out there.

The Rules of Combat

In the words of Tyler Durden

Do not talk about Fight Club.
Do not talk about Fight Club.
DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB.

Ok… maybe not. This isn’t Fight Club and that’s a fairly old cliché. These rules are the rules of my little challenge. This is where I’m defining what counts and what doesn’t.

This site has a few different types of post that can appear on it, for the purposes of clarity they are

  • status
  • photo
  • quote
  • video
  • aside
  • link
  • standard article

Each one is designed for a specific type of content and has a custom style to help differentiate them.

Status Posts

Status posts, or snippets, are micro posts. They automatically share to my Twitter as a post there, I don’t always use them but I plan to start more, especially with the pending arrival of Manton’s snippets.today.

Photos and Videos

Meant for any photos or videos I create and want to share through this blog. Photos are cross posted to Instagram and Flickr.

Quote

Any pertinent quotes that I come across and wish to share without commentary.

Asides

Any short posts that don’t warrant a full post but are longer than a snippet. This type might be retired.

Links

Links to articles that I think are of interest and have something I want to add or highlight. The title of these types of posts point people away from this site to the article I’m linking too.

Standard Article Posts

These are the normal blog posts, the original content. These are the ones that I want to be the majority of my posts to be.

What Counts?

The posts that count the most will be the standard blog posts, the original content. When I say the most, I mean that the aim is for the majority of my posts to be these ones. Creatively they have more value since they are my own thoughts and ideas and serve as an alternative creative outlet to my design work. These aren’t the only posts that will count though. Posts that are a link will also count. However, there’s a bit of a rule to go with these. They must include a piece of commentary that either adds my own thoughts, or that highlights a particularly pertinent part of whatever is being linked to.

Snippets or status posts will not count. Since they’re like Twitter posts in nature, I don’t want to take the easy way out and fall back on them as my daily post. Likewise with quotes and photos, the aim is for these types of posts to supplement the longer form and curated linked content.

Why add these rules to the challenge? My aim is to write more, and as a designer I’m all too aware that a few constraints to a project make things a bit easier. Constraints bring clarity, focus and freedom to a project, it’s only natural they will also bring it to this one.

What Do You Write About?

I know what you’re thinking. It’s only the second day of the challenge I set myself, to post to my blog everyday from now until the end of the year, and already I’m asking the question of what do I write about.

I would imagine it’s a familiar story to anyone who’s decided to undertake such a challenge. Going from barely writing or posting to your blog to posting everyday it’s only natural to find yourself wondering what to write about. If I hadn’t been here before it would be a big worry, it might even be so discouraging that I would just abandon ship straight away. Whilst this morning when I decided it was time to write today’s post I didn’t have anything in particular I wanted to write about I know that if I keep going and posting each day I will eventually end up with too many subjects to write about. It’s the nature of the beast, the more you do it, the more ideas you have.

There are a number of different tactics that I’ve come across over the years that are aimed at helping you come up with subjects to write about. Unsurprisingly none of them have ever worked for me, but there is one thing that does. I know it works because I’ve demonstrated it in other parts of my life, be it reading my bible or doing the work for my freelance business.

Showing up every day.

So here I am, showing up. A new sheet in Ulysses, my headphones in and I’m writing. In fact through the course of writing this post I’ve already come up with the topic for tomorrow’s post. There it is in action. Showing up today has triggered the process. The more you do something the more idea’s you have, the first step is showing up.

A Blogging Challenge

I’ve written 442 posts on this site. The first one was written on 17th January 2011, that’s five and half years ago. It equates to around 80 posts per year and about 1.5 posts per week. It’s not bad going, but it could be better.

During those times there’s been many spells of inactivity and many spells of multiple posts per day, this is what I would like to change most about my site, the inconsistent posting patterns. Last night I found myself browsing the web in a way that I’ve not done for a long time. I ended up on a rabbit trail of personal blogs, one that started with a site I subscribe to that I kicked off into safari on my iPad. It felt like rediscovering the internet again. This was what got me into the blogging scene way back in 2005 when I started my first blog. There was a line in one of the articles I read that resonated with me. It was feedback that the author received regularly,

stopping blogging regularly was one of people’s biggest regrets
I certainly wish I hadn’t stopped. Or I should say, I wish I hadn’t let the habit slip.

Since I started blogging way back in 2005 I’ve had two main sites. The first site, which sadly is no longer in existence, lasted from 2006 until this site started in 2011. It was my first proper foray into internet publishing and as a result I didn’t really think too much about what I would post. Topics were wide in range but naturally reflected my personal interests, something which I feel has been lost a bit on this site. Which is somewhat ironic given that this is the site which bears my full name in the url.

With that in mind it’s time to declare that this is the first post in a new challenge I’m setting myself. I want to recapture the joy that I had when I first started publishing on the web. It was something I enjoyed and did everyday, and so, that’s my new challenge. I want to post to this site everyday until the end of the year. Some will be links, some will be original writing, but all of it will reflect me and my interests. I’m going to try my utmost not to pick and choose too much of what I write, I will simply write and post each day from now until December 31st.

iPad Working

This morning I gave something a try for the first time. I left my MacBook Pro at home and took my iPad and Bluetooth keyboard out to do a bit of work. Since the release of iOS 9 last September I’ve heard many people talking about it has enabled them to use their iPad to do a lot of work. Being a designer I just pushed them aside, no software is able to produce artwork to the that the Creative Cloud apps can on my Mac, and so I just marked it as not yet for me. I have noticed recently that I’ve been naturally reaching for my iPad to do certain bits of work, largely emails and admin. I decided it was time to give it a try. Interestingly I’ve really enjoyed it and I think with a little thinking through, I could switch some of my web site maintenance tasks to the iPad.

One Twelfth

We’ve done it. All of us. Good job everyone. We’ve made it through January and we’re into February.

I always find January a bit of an odd month, it’s full of the initial hopes and dreams of the year ahead, yet it’s a hard slog. We spend the first week getting back into the swing of things, the second week doing our utmost to get new patterns of behaviour, thinking and habits off the ground. The third week pushing through the struggles of motivation, or lack there of; and the final week looking towards pay day to give us a glimpse that the slog has been worth while; and then before we know it, we’re into February.

February always feels like a month of transition. The weather and days start to show glimpses of spring, the evenings get noticeably lighter and we start to look forward to summer. Those new habits we tried to establish in January either live or die. We either stick by them and they become established, or they whither and die while we slip into our old established ways. Admitting defeat we move on convinced we’re never going to accomplish what we want to this year, resigning ourselves to another year of nearly but not quite.

Let’s make this year different. We’re a twelfth of the way through the year, and there’s 11 more months to go. It’s never too late to establish new habits, or find the focus we need to move on and make the year live up to the hopes we had at the start of January. Change doesn’t happen in 4 weeks, it takes work and turning up everyday to make things happen. The 21 days that it takes to establish a habit has only just passed, keep turning up and those days will turn into 42 and a well established pattern of behaviour.

I write this post as encouragement to myself as much as to anyone who reads it. Don’t give up, focus and push through. Turn up and do the work, you never know what you can achieve,

I’ll leave you with the words of Chef Gusteau from the Pixar film Ratatouille

If you focus on what you left behind you will never see what lies ahead!

Holocaust Rememberence Day

Today marks the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a place which is known world wide for the atrocities that our Jewish brothers and sisters faced during the Second World War. Atrocities that I didn’t know the depth of fully until I visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on my first visit to Israel a few years ago. Reading through the account of the holocaust in that place made me feel physically sick, I knew from my history lessons at school that it was a massive operation but I had no clue of the depth of it. No clue of how far it went in terms of the dehumanising treatment the Jews had to endure.

Sadly in today’s society we are again seeing the rise of anti-semitism. It takes different forms, whether it’s through the BDS movement or jihadi attacks in both Israel and Europe, this is what they are and to call them anything else forgets the beginnings of moments in history like the holocaust.

Today is a day we must remember, especially in the current cultural climate, and stand side by side with our Jewish brothers and sisters. As a child of Christ I have an even greater responsibility to stand with Israel and show them the love their Messiah has for them.

Just Hit Command-N

Just hit Command-N. Those are the words I just read in a post from Manton Reece, and so that’s what I’m doing. I may not be a developer or someone who’s had much of an audience in my life on the Internet. However, for the last few weeks I’ve wanted to start posting to my site again but for whatever reason I’ve never known what to write. So here I am pressing the plus button in Ulysses on my iPad and writing.

I remember when I first got in to the whole blogging way of things. I wasn’t really selective about what I wrote about, I would just write whatever came to me. Of course there was a set of themes that would be covered, but they weren’t chosen with intention, there were just what my interests were. They were me. Since discovering Manton’s blog towards the end of last year I’ve been reminded of my early blog and the early blogs of those who I still follow. They were genuine and full of interesting things because they weren’t overly focused, they were just personal sites. Of course those sites, at least the ones that are still going, are still interesting but they’ve become more focused over time. Although that focus may have happened by a natural evolution as people found what really makes them tick, those sites are interesting in a different way now. Thankfully what I’m starting to see, and what I hope I continue to see, is more variety and new sites that are personal and reflect the whole of the person who writes them. That’s what drew me to this hobby we call blogging, and it’s what I hope will help me return.

So here’s to new beginnings, to starting to write more and to being less bothered about what I should write about and instead just posting what feels right.

The Week in Links

After a brief break last week, I was on a mini-holiday, The Week in links is back with it’s 26th edition. This weeks take a look at how we work and think, how the design of the web is pushed a bit more. And then some furter thoughts on Apple Watch, headphones, cameras, and the often speculated Apple Car.